Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 2014 NFL Season is Here! A Few Announcements...

Amazingly, the 2014 NFL season is about to start. 

In the past, I've written extensively on how the anticipation for a new NFL season is kind of like Christmas Eve...or Hanukkah Eve for my Jewish readers...or Ramadan Eve for my Muslim readers...although I don't know if they look forward to a month of fasting or not...


At any rate, NFL season is one of my favorite times of year since I both really like watching football, and enjoy covering it, as well. Before I go too far, I'm happy to announce that I'll be writing a weekly column for CBSSports 920 and insideSTL.com this fall, and appearing as a guest on a show here and there (namely "Prime Time with Joe Roderick") in anticipation of another visit to cover Super Bowl media week in 2015.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'll be at Rams practice every day, like I was back in 2011. Frankly, I think it's best for everyone if I'm not out there daily--much like this year, that 2011 season started out with the blinding glare of optimism for the hometown 53, and ended in a bloodbath of awful football and cornerback injuries, with Steve Spagnuolo on his knees screaming at the heavens "WHYYYYYYY?!? WHHYYYYYYY!?" like Nancy Kerrigan. Jim Thomas is already the best insider the station could hope for--he's one of the best football reporters in the biz. I don't think there's anything I could really add to the excellent job he already does covering the team day-to-day with class, wisdom, and insight.

What I can do that JT doesn't have the luxury of doing, though, is attend the odd practice or two, watch the games, and comment on what I see from afar
I hope to be as successful as "Eddie" one
of these days...
, hopefully with the entertainment to which you've become accustomed...and potentially a little snark if it's warranted...which it shouldn't be this year because OMG GREATEST RAMS TEAM EVER, AMIRITE?!?

(I'm not so sure about that, but we'll save that column for another day...)

Besides, since I'm trying to follow the Mike Matheny blueprint to a T, I've accepted a gig as an assistant coach for the John Burroughs Bombers "C" football coaching staff. Hey, if Mike can make the jump, and Jeff Fisher decides to retire after an improbable Super Bowl run...

Well...I would say stranger things have happened, but outside of a Whoopi Goldberg movie, that's just not the case.  

Between coaching, writing Rams columns, appearing as a guest on the radio from time-to-time, and my freelance business, I'm booked pretty solid for the fall. But hey, you wanted me to get back to football, SO HERE YOU GO! All football, all the time, baby! 

Of course, I kid--so far, coaching has been great, and I always look forward to covering the Rams, despite my love / hate / anger / frustration / utter despair / mourning / "What the hell happened this year?" / winter of discontent / undue hope after the draft / love roller coaster I've been on with this team over the past five seasons or so.

But I just thought I'd pass this along to you all so that you know to check out insideSTL for my column every Monday, and to prepare yourselves for some hot takes this fall over the airwaves.

Hope this is as good of news for you all as it is for me, and I look forward to my "Year of Football" and the insane emotional swings from week-to-week with every Rams win and loss good times it will produce for all!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Quantum Zoo" Has Launched!

I'm thrilled to announce that the anthology that I've been co-editing, Quantum Zoo, is now available for Kindle!

This project has been a labor of love for me and my good friend and fantastic co-editor, J.M. Ney-Grimm, not to mention all of the wonderful authors who contributed gripping, fascinating, edge-of-your-seat sci-fi and fantasy stories to the collection.

Plus, it's the only place you'll find my new story, "Echoes of Earth."

"What's 'Echoes of Earth' about?" In short, it's about a guy named Bill who gets abducted by aliens while out jogging, put on display in an alien zoo, and tormented mercilessly by all of the disgusting, "hoosier-ish" aliens that come through to see him.

It's a laugh riot.

Also, did I mention dinosaurs? We have dinosaurs. We have disgusting, evil aliens. We have demons. We have Egyptian gods. We have more disgusting, evil aliens that control people through orgasmic pleasure (?!?).

We even have Jack the Ripper himself.

Best of all, for being loyal fans, followers, or obsessive internet stalkers/haters, I have a very special offer for you:

You ready?

You sure?

It's a BIG one...

Here goes:

Because you've cared enough to click on this link...

Because that means you're at least a little bit curious about this anthology...


I'm thrilled to announce that Quantum Zoo will be available for the low, low introductory price of $0.99 for a limited time ONLY!

$0.99? That's less than a deck of cards! Less than the cheapest thing you can find at Starbucks! LESS THAN A DOLLAR for twelve awesome, fantastic stories that will have you wincing with fear one minute, and crying your eyes out the next?

Are we on crazy pills here?

I guess we are! So grab your copy for Kindle today.

More of a fan of paper books? That version's coming soon...

But for now, I do want to sincerely thank you for reading, and please, do check out Quantum Zoo over at Amazon.

Happy reading, everyone...


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Announcing "Quantum Zoo"

A lot of folks have been wondering what I've been up to lately.

The answer might surprise some of you.

Actually, it might surprise a lot of you.

A good friend of mine, J.M. Ney-Grimm, and I have been editing a science fiction and fantasy anthology for the past several months!

It's called Quantum Zoo. Why Quantum Zoo? Because all of the stories spring from a common prompt:


(What? Were you expecting "Quantum Theory?")

Out of a bunch of submissions, we selected ten of the best stories submitted, in addition to one each of our own, and have been working with the authors on refining them, providing feedback, and otherwise...err...."editing" them.

The result is an anthology that we're both very proud of, one that will whisk you away to a starship, humanity's last gasp on its way to another star system one minute, then have you confront an amicable-enough-seeming demon the next. You'll encounter foul-smelling, disgusting aliens manipulating peoples' minds and Egyptian gods and goddesses. Jack the Ripper even makes an appearance.

Did I mention the dinosaur terrorizing the countryside in Jolly Ol' England?

(If you haven't been able to tell yet, I have an irrational love of dinosaurs running around terrorizing humans).

Each story is designed to send you on a fantastic journey away from the mundane day-to-day, an invitation to explore twelve very talented authors' worlds, an excuse to exercise your imagination and ponder strange, wonderful new possibilities.

Plus, like I said, it's the only place you'll find my newest work, "Echoes of Earth."

We'll be releasing Quantum Zoo in the next couple of weeks. For now, if you want to be reminded when it comes out, simply leave your email address in the box below. Who knows? Maybe you'll even get it for nothing...

J.M. and I are both extremely proud of this anthology, amazed at the quality of submissions we received, and almost bursting with anticipation at its release.

Thanks--I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed facilitating its creation!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Could the Rams Be Fooling Everyone?

I've been flipping between ESPN and NFL Network while (barely) getting some work done today. Despite what embedded reporters Mike Silver (NFLNet) and Josina Anderson (ESPN) are reporting about Greg Robinson being "the guy" for the Rams at number 2, I think there's a chance they do something totally off the board.

It might be a case of wishful thinking on my part, but reading between the lines on some of this stuff, I'm wondering if they might just shock everyone and take Mike Evans at 2.

It's based on a few reports, namely the following:

1. Silver comes out and says that "The Rams might just take 2 OL in the first round if the board stacks up a certain way."

Uh...okay, Mike. Sure they would. Yeah, I guess if Jake Matthews fell to 13, they could take him there, but it seems like over-the-top hyperbole to cement the idea that the Rams are taking at least one offensive lineman in the minds of other teams.

2. Ian Rappaport on the NFL Network notes that he's heard that the Rams are looking to take "a superstar player" at 2, a guy who will be seen as "the centerpiece" of the RGIII deal. Rappaport made the connection here to Robinson, but how many o-linemen are true "superstars" to that degree? Essentially, you'd have to be talking about a sure-fire Hall of Fame talent...and I'm not sure that either Greg Robinson (may require some development) or Jake Matthews (polished, but low-ceiling) is that guy.

3. There have been rumors over the past few weeks from numerous sources that the Rams have Mike Evans rated higher than Sammy Watkins on their draft board. Based on their current mix at WR, I could totally see that; Evans is a physical freak who can go up and get jump balls, and fight off the Richard Shermans of the NFC West. Not to mention that by occupying those types of CBs, he'd open up some room for Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey underneath, or Chris Givens and Kenny Britt in the second level, much like a nose tackle occupying blockers so that the linebackers are free to make plays.

4. What really topped it off for me was Adam Schefter's report that a "top ten" team had Evans ahead of Watkins on their draft board, "and could floor the league by taking him."

5. The Rams have so far been connected with players that other teams have expressed interest in trading up to get: Clowney, their "love affair" with Khalil Mack, reported by Walter Football, Robinson (Atlanta has been rumored to be interested in trading up to number one for him), and even Johnny Manziel.

Bungled smokescreen with Manziel aside, it sure seems like the players that they've been connected to are the ones they should be connected to in order to induce trades. That doesn't mean that they don't have genuine interest in Robinson, but if you really like him, why crow to sources about it with the Number One pick still in play?

Now to me, what Schefter has as a "top-ten team" has to be a top-five team; how else could picking Evans over Watkins "floor the league?" Evans is expected to go in the 5-10 range, so if Watkins would drop, I could see teams being justified taking him anywhere in that part of the draft without "flooring the league."

Based on the whole picture, the only teams that fit the bill are:

1. The Raiders. Everyone expects them to take Sammy Watkins if he's there, but they might want a guy who can go up and get jump balls in the red zone.

2. The Rams.

Think about it: despite their various praise and "attaboy"s heaped on Brian Quick, the Rams don't have anyone who can play the "X" or "split end" spot. Evans would slide right in and could be that bull the Rams need to tear through the big defensive backs in the NFC West.

A lot of folks would advocate taking a tackle at 2 and trading up to get Evans. The problem with that is that it could be cost-prohibitive--Evans appears to be rising quickly, and now seems like a lock for that "top tier" of seven players or so at the top of the draft. The Rams might have to move back up to 4 or 5 to be sure to have the chance to take Evans if they like him that much--wouldn't it be easier to hope that a Zack Martin falls to 13, or trade up just a couple of spots to get him?

Of course, Schefter could be talking about the Raiders' interest in Evans. And I'd be "okay" with the Rams taking Robinson, provided that they really think he can be that "Hall of Fame"-type player.

But as Jim Thomas pointed out on Twitter an hour or so ago, the one thing that we've been able to expect in the draft under Fisher and Snead's regime has been the unexpected, some kind of a surprise. I think it's possible that Fisher and Snead have a big, BIG surprise tonight...right at the top of the draft.

Hey, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong--I'm just making the case here. It sure would be nice to have an exciting, unique offensive piece to build around going forward.

D.J. Gelner is a writer in St. Louis, Missouri. If he's wrong about this, it'll thankfully be buried on the internet in years to come.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

D.J.'s 2014 NFL Mock Draft

This year's build up to the NFL draft has been the ultimate tease. Even though it's only like two weeks later than usual, that's like the difference between hooking up with a girl on the third date and the fifth date: if she makes you wait until the fifth date, then that must be some pretty premium juice that's worth the squeeze. 

Fortunately for me, the Draft is like a second Christmas of sorts--the intersection of futility and hope for the worst teams in the league, and blah blah blah. 

The fact that the Hometown 53 are perhaps the most intriguing team in the top ten this year only adds to the intrigue. I honestly don't know what to make about all of the Johnny Football intrigue with the Rams--personally, the fan in me wants to see them pull the trigger on him just because the Rams are just so damned boring to watch on a week-to-week basis. The defense is damned good--and figures to be better with "Show Me The Money" Gregg Williams running it this year--but they gas out pretty quickly when the offense can't sustain drives for any length of time.

But I digress--this is taking a look at all 32 teams. Though the Rams figure prominently, I'm going to look at the draft from each team's perspective and take the guy that I think they should take, influenced a healthy amount by my reporter's intuition, even if I'm not truly a reporter anymore. Whatever--even after a few years of this, you start to develop a pretty good B.S. filter based on interviews.

Of course, last season, I think the only pick I got right was the Rams trading up to 8 to pick Tavon Austin, so what the fuck do I know?

On that note, here's my take on how the first round is likely to pan out tomorrow night:

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE/RLB, South Carolina
All signs point to the Texans taking the only "generational" talent in the draft in Clowney. While they've flirted a bit with Buffalo RLB (rush LB) Khalil Mack, I don't think they got their hand very far up the skirt before they took notice of the fetching Clowney across the room...

Man, this analogy got creepy quickly...

There are late reports that Buffalo RLB Khalil Mack is quickly becoming the Texans' pick as the draft approaches--Houston is apparently pretty concerned about Clowney's off-field issues. If that's the case, this obviously changes things entirely. I just don't think you pass on a guy like Clowney for alleged "character concerns" when there are already a good number of guys in each locker room that have some kind of skeletons in their closets.

2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

I'm not a huge fan of this pick given the alternatives: I think this is the Rams' best chance to either give Sam Bradford the number one wideout he's never had in Clemson's Sammy Watkins, or to cut bait with Bradford entirely and inject a little life into the offense and the fan base with Johnny Manziel.

Honestly, though, it comes down to one thing: balls. I honestly don't know if the Rams, as an entire organization, have the stones to dump Bradford and take the ensuing fallout, given how they've fawned over and coddled him the past four calendar years, despite their lukewarm endorsement of him during Tuesday's pre-draft presser. And for some reason, I keep hearing that the Rams have Mike Evans rated over Watkins on their board, which makes sense in a certain regard--they need a big, strong red zone target with soft hands (sorry, Jared Cook--you didn't quite fill that position). But not in the "clearly the top wideout in a very strong wideout class" sense that Watkins fills.

Would love to see Manziel or Watkins here, but Robinson has the potential to be a plug-and-play Pro Bowler for the next 10 years. IF (big "if" for a reason) you stick with Bradford as your QB, you need a top-notch o-line at all five spots to hide his limited mobility coming off an injury. Robinson would be fine, but he's totally a "Rams Pick," too--with some bust potential.

The other consideration: various outlets have linked the Rams to three big-time players at the top of the draft: Manziel, Robinson, and Khalil Mack. Coincidentally, these are the three players most often mentioned as guys that other teams might trade up to get. Could their interest in these three be a HUGE smokescreen? Might they be interested in Watkins or Evans here if they don't trade down? Hmm...

Now watch Houston blow up the whole damned draft by taking Mack at 1--if that's the case, I think the Rams burn Back to the Future-style flaming tire tracks to the podium to take Clowney unless someone makes a Ricky Williams-level trade offer. Besides, if anyone knows how to motivate players in unconventional ways, it's new Rams d-coordinator Gregg Williams...

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

I'm a big Watkins fan--this guy has everything that a Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones has minus the size, but plus some instincts and after-the-catch ability. This is a guy who was not only hauling in passes that were chronically thrown behind him by Taj Boyd, but also turning them into chunk yardage and touchdowns. Gus Bradley, a defensive guy, will be tempted by Mack here, but with Justin Blackmon out, I think they go with the number one wideout to develop while they figure out when they want to take their next franchise QB.

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

I'm reluctant to mock Manziel here because of the report by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer that the Browns absolutely aren't targeting Manziel at 4. Glazer is by far the most accurate pundit I know: his information is impeccable.

At the same time, his reasoning on this one goes something like Browns owner Jimmy Haslem III is keeping up the whole "Aw shucks, I don't know anything about this game, and you fellas have been scouting it your whole lives, so may as well trust y'all..." act. For some reason, I just don't trust Jimmy Haslem. Maybe it's the Grantland piece they did last year, or maybe it's the fact that he's under federal investigation for fraud. Regardless, there's a whole Phil Hartman-as-Reagan "Mastermind" skit vibe about his whole ownership. I don't trust the guy--if he loves Johnny Fuckin' Football, he'll absolutely take him.

(By the way, MY GOD LOOK AT JFF's GIRLFRIEND! Unbelievable that a guy who looks like Ray Vinson's long-lost son could pull down a girl like that. Man, I went to the wrong school...and was way, WAY too bad at football...and don't look rat-faced enough...)

5. Oakland Raiders: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Who knows what the Raiders are thinking here? I could see them going with fellow Aggie Jake Matthews here. I could also see them trading down from this spot (if the Rams could swing a Manziel-Evans combo, they should throw a parade down Market Street).

I just think given this scenario, the Raiders should go out and get a wideout who's light years different than their cadre of smaller, faster, vertical threats. Evans would give the Raiders a red zone threat outside of "That Backup Tight End Who's The Brother of That Chick on Glee." Is Glee even a thing anymore? God, I hope not...

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, RLB, Buffalo
This board breaks perfectly for the Falcons without them having to move at all! They desperately want a pass rusher, and Mack fits perfectly in their hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme. I suppose this is where I should issue my first "better to take the proven SEC defender instead of the minor conference guy" spiel, but by all accounts, teams (including the Texans) are becoming infatuated with Mack. He could go as high as 1 overall. I'll pretty much guarantee he doesn't get past 6 no matter what kinds of deals are made on draft day.

7. Tampa Bay Bucs: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

A lot of Bucs fans would probably be disappointed with this scenario. Uh...you shouldn't be...Donald is a dominant interior d-lineman. He's a fantastic three-technique tackle--the key to running new HC Lovie Smith's Tampa Two system. Pair him with Gerald McCoy, and you can collapse the pocket from right up the middle. In the NFC South, that's incredibly important to be able to pressure the Matt Ryans and Drew Brees...s...of the world from a lot of different angles. It's a blessing in disguise--trust me!

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
This is a damned shame. A team, ready to take Sam Bradford off the Rams' hands, a semi-capable NFL QB in the 20-ish range, and they take a guy with huge bust potential in Bortles.

I've watched a good amount of tape on Bortles, and I don't know what everyone sees in him. He checks down a lot, and though he has a big arm, he doesn't seem to have a lot of deep accuracy. A lot of his yards came from YAC, which is a bit of a red flag as a QB transitions from college to the pros. Why they'd ditch Christian Ponder to draft...Christian Ponder...is beyond me. Still, fuck it, what do I know? I could have them taking Willie Beamon and I'd probably be as dead-on as in this.

By the way, has anyone seen the Vikings' GM, Rick Spielman? He looks like a bizzare cross between NFL Red Zone guy Scott Hanson and Robert Evans! Easy with the rose-colored glasses, baby--though in his case, I'm not sure if they're supposed to be a metaphor, or the result of some hideous eye disease.

9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Bills have to be doing cartwheels if Jake Matthews is available here. They always seem like the they're keeping this whole thing together with duct tape and bubble gum. Lose a guy here, plug in a marginal guy there...etc. Matthews is actually a very solid pick here--he'll at least give them an anchor for their line...so that E.J. Manuel actually has a chance to prove himself.

10. Detroit Lions: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Sucks to your off-field issues! For all of the noise the Lions are making about trading up to get Sammy Watkins, again, it comes down to "balls." I don't think they're willing to give up the future first round pick it'll cost to come up to 2 or 3 in this draft. Lewan will help to solidify their line and protect Matt Stafford now that they have Golden Tate to complement Calvin Johnson.

11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
In this scenario, the QBs are going fairly fast and furious. New Tennessee coach Ken Wisenhunt is an offensive guy, and apparently is pretty sour on "incumbent" QB Jake Locker. Bridgewater actually makes a lot of sense here--he would give them a new QB to build around. I'm not totally sold on him, but it's a lot better than taking a tight end (Eric Ebron--terrible) this high in an incredibly deep draft.

12. New York Giants: Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
The G-Men need to solidify their aging offensive line; it seems like only yesterday that G Chris Snee was drafted, allegedly in part because he was the father of coach Tom Coughlin's grandson. Personally, I'd like them to take an alien ass-kicking Master-Chief type with this pick juuuuusssst in case the Power Rankings make their triumphant return this season (stay tuned for updates...). Aw, who the fuck am I kidding--I'll probably just use whomever they take here as the "Master Chief" character in my ridiculous rantings on all 32 teams...or maybe I'll sit another year out. Who knows? I'm liking this smokescreen business more by the day!

13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

I think the Rams have been deflecting attention from Pryor for a while in the hopes that he'll slip here unnoticed. Of course, this is all assuming that JFF has already been taken; if not, things could get very interesting right around these parts. Despite playing in a minor conference (subtle dig...), Pryor is really what the Rams need here--a badass motherfucker who can punish receivers over the middle. With the vast majority of other options already off the board here, Pryor (or CB Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State) becomes the only options for the Rams...unless you seem to think that fast-riser WR Odell Beckham out of LSU is a real possibility here. If so, all bets are off...

14. Chicago Bears: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Really, these two picks play off of each other--I think the Bears take which one of these the Rams don't. I don't get the sense that either team is huge on S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (presumably also the title of Monica Lewinsky's recently-announced memoir), so one goes in one spot, the other in the other. Really, the Rams are in control, unless the Bears or someone else moves up.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

I really like this pick for the Steelers, but it's getting increasingly tough to see Beckham falling this far. He's rising maybe the fastest out of anyone in the entire draft; I wouldn't be shocked to see a team trade into the top ten to get him because so many teams have been linked to him. As far as the Steelers are concerned, Antonio Brown can't do it alone forever. Beckham would give whomever eventually takes over for Ben Roethlisberger a couple of fine weapons to work with. The day that happens isn't quite as far off as a lot of people think.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

A dream scenario for the Cowboys; Jerry Jones might smile so wide that he permanently disfigures his already-permanently-disfigured face even further. The Cowboys need a safety in the worst way, and they get their man in this scenario.

17. Baltimore Ravens: JaWuan James, OT, Tennessee

It always seems like the Ravens catch a falling prospect here--always. And, without fail, the guy ends up being at least an above-average pro, if not a Pro-Bowler.

In this scenario, though, the Ravens can't ignore their gaping hole at RT. James has steadily risen from the third round into the late first in a lot of mock drafts, so the ever-shrewd Ozzie Newsome could easily hop on the James bandwagon and pick him. Now watch them somehow come out of this with Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and watch him become an all-pro. Ridiculous!

18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The Jets need offensive weapons in the worst possible way. Cooks brings the "swiss army knife" skillset that the Rams got in Tavon Austin last season--small, shifty, fast as hell. He'd immediately improve a pretty decrepit Jets wideout situation. Plus, who knows what kinds of alien-hunting adventures Head Coach Rex Ryan will get into this season...word has it that he just LOVES the taste of grey alien meat. Just LOVES it. Stay tuned...

19. Carolina Panthers (from Miami): Marquise Lee, WR, USC

The Panthers dodge a bullet with the Jets taking Cooks. They can't afford to wait any longer, so they make a move to pick up an exciting (if enigmatic) wideout in Lee, whose main concerns are a lack of size and hands. Since when do wideouts need either of those!?

20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
"Hey, let's take a quarterback from Fresno State named D. Carr--what could possibly go wrong?"

(By the way, that pic is the number one result for "Derek and David Carr" on Google images. Absolutely perfect! "Come on now, Derek, let big bro Dave show you how it's done..." The look of complete disinterest on Derek's face--good luck with that one, Cardinals!)

21. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Shazier, ILB, THE Ohio State University

Apparently the Packers need inside linebacker help, despite seemingly taking one in the first round every...single...year...Shazier is rising quickly, so he might be gone by here, but if not, he sure seems like a Packers-type of player. The Packers could also reach for a wideout here, but I assume GM Ted Thompson has already brought his Nostradamus mirror out of storage and foreseen which 2nd or 3rd round wideout will be the next big Packers star, so I doubt they go wideout here.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

There's a less-than-zero chance that mad scientist coach Chip Kelly starts mixing together all sorts of different-colored chemicals, creating smoke and explosions, and picks up another toy for his offense here.

But people seem to forget that his national champion runner-up Ducks also had an insane number of NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball. Makes sense; I'm sure Kelly's thought process goes something like: "Me want ball! When offense no have ball, DEFENSE goes and gets ball! Need good defense to get ball!"

Unfortunately, that made Kelly seem like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, but I digress...the Eagles' defense was terrible last season. Barr, once thought to be a sure-fire top ten pick, could easily drop this far given how this draft is shaping up. He'd be a good start to get the Iggles' defense back on the right track.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

The Chiefs need playmakers in the worst possible way: their current No. 2 receiver is old friend Donnie Avery. First round TEs are always a bit of a gamble, but after featuring Tony Gonzalez for over a decade as the centerpiece of their offense, the Chiefs were pulling guys off the street and onto the field during a spate of TE injuries last season. If Ebron falls this far, he could solidify the position for the next 5-7 years. The only other pick here would be FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin, but as freakishly athletic as he is, he might be considered "too slow" these days to be paired with Dwayne Bowe, who probably would be clocked in the 4.8 range.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert has AFC North written all over him, one way or another. He's a perfect fit for the division, and the Bengals know they need a little bit more depth on their otherwise excellent defense after an injury-plagued 2013. Gilbert has the size, toughness, and athletic ability to keep up with the Torrey Smiths, Josh Gordons, and Antonio Browns of the world.  

25. San Diego Chargers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

I actually originally had Benjamin going to the Chiefs--typed out a nice long explanation and everything. Then I realized that Ebron was still on the board, and he could be more of a game-changer for the Chiefs.

If Benjamin goes to the Chargers, though, it would give them a pair of receivers (along with WR Keenan Allen) that could possibly rival the Bears' tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. I mean, how do you cover these two guys in the red zone with shifty Eddie Royal zig-zagging underneath to exploit the holes that open up in the defense? Back-From-The-Dead Phil Rivers would love to have a target of Benjamin's size.

26. Cleveland Browns: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The Browns complete their offensive overhaul by getting Latimer to operate opposite Josh Gordon. Latimer probably is more of a second round guy, but fuck it--in this scenario, WRs are flying off the shelves like milk, bread, and eggs before a St. Louis snowstorm. With Manziel and Latimer, the Browns might have a shot at getting back to offensive respectability. The key word is "might."

27. New Orleans Saints: Jason Varrett, CB, TCU
Varrett has amazing cover skills; really the only reason he would fall this far is because of his size. He can't necessarily go up against the Julio Jones's of the world, which could be a problem in the NFC South. But no matter; he'll lock down smaller receivers, which should allow Rob Ryan to blitz more...which he loves.

28. Miami Dolphins: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Dolphins trade down and still get the guy they would've taken at 19 in Moses, who has been all over "best value in round 2" lists leading up to the draft. In this case, he has enough value to sneak into the first round, and potentially continue the long tradition of outstanding Virginia tackles in the NFL.

29. New England Patriots: Kony Ealy, DL, Missouri
Ealy could be the perfect fit at the five technique spot in Bill Belichick's scheme, a spot that Richard Seymour used to dominate. He has enough versatility to drop back in a zone blitz or even move around as the rush guy if need be, as well. It's a bit of a shock that he lasted this long, but the Pats would be thankful that he did.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
What do you get the team that has it all? While the Niners are prime candidates to move up to get another impact receiver, the one piece that they've never quite been able to find for their outstanding defense is the space-eating, dominant nose guy that could REALLY open things up for ILBs NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Nix could be that player. With LB Aldon Smith's NFL future in doubt, they're going to need their dominant guys in the middle to carry even more of the playmaking load going forward. Grabbing Nix allows them to do that.

31. Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosely, LB, Alabama
In an earlier iteration of this mock, I had the Broncos trading into the mid-20s to pick up Mosely, but as this scenario plays out, they stay put and grab him anyway. Really, the main thing that the Broncos need is defensive depth for some of the aging and/or injured players they have on the roster. Mosely will shore up the poor run defense that allowed the Seahawks to gash them so badly in the Super Bowl, while giving them a defensive quarterback of the future.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame

The Seahawks made their Super Bowl run in large part due to their extremely deep defensive line rotation, which featured 8 starting-caliber players. Unfortunately for them, 3 of those guys realized as much, and went elsewhere this offseason to be paid as starters for other clubs. They can begin replenishing some of that depth by taking Tuitt, who some have ranked as the second-best DE in the entire draft behind Clowney. The other spot I could see them upgrading is at WR, but there isn't quite the value at the position here, with roughly 537 of them taken in this scenario. 

So there you have it: 32 picks, (I'm sure) 32 hits. Take it to the bank.

Happy Draft Day, everyone...

D.J. Gelner is a writer in St. Louis, MO. If you feel like helping him out, check out his books on the right side of the page. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lyft in St. Louis, or "Our Messed-Up Holy Roman Empire of a Cow Town"

I'm sick and tired of all of the shit that the city is putting Lyft through.

For those who don't know, Lyft is like Uber--a crowdsourced ride-share service coordinated by a very sophisticated smartphone app. Anyone with a decent-enough car can sign up to be a driver and make some extra cash, but riders and drivers rate one another on a five-star scale, presumably to keep any would-be axe murderers/ Deliverance wannabes at bay. The rides cost a lot less than taxis do (60% of taxi fares in most cases), and show up a lot more quickly than the "might show up if I feel like it" licensed cabs sent out by rude/idiotic dispatchers on any given weekend.

Unfortunately, Lyft didn't realize how backward and corrupt St. Louis is. The company didn't understand the complexity of the provincialism that consistently holds this town back from moving into the 21st-century. No, in this town, beaks MUST get wet, and there are a WHOLE lot of thirsty birdies out there.

For example, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC)--these jokers obviously feel threatened. After all, if they lose their monopoly on for-hire car transportation in this town, how can they keep up the exorbitant fares that we're usually forced to pay? Why would anyone put up with being shit on and laughed at by a dispatcher when a smartphone app can get you from point-A to point-B in a lot less time, for a lot less cash?

Of course, Lyft didn't register with these folks, so they got all pissy. The MTC and St. Louis cops started pulling Lyft cars over and citing their drivers almost immediately. Never mind that these people are just trying to make a little extra cash. Never mind that they're probably shuttling around folks who had some booze, and might otherwise try to drive themselves and hope for the best, putting peoples' lives at risk.

No, the cops don't care about that, because they're in on the hustle. DWIs mean more revenue for the cities that catch the offenders. They mean more attorneys fees defending these citations and hefty settlements. All of this is subsumed under the catch-all reason of "safety"--THAT's why Lyft and Uber are no good--we need the MTC and the cops to protect us from those devilishly unsafe drivers and vehicles...so that we can ride around in the "officially-sanctioned"1995 Crown Vics that smell like cheap aftershave and B.O.

Don't get me wrong--I understand why something like the MTC once served a purpose. Even ten years ago, I would've felt a lot more comfortable with a MTC-vetted and licensed driver than some stranger in a Prius.

But times change. The feedback system is absolutely crucial--it helps riders avoid poorly-rated drivers, and vice-versa. Because the app takes care of this, it's incredibly unlikely that someone who's built up a sterling reputation on either side would one day go nuts and decide to veer into oncoming traffic, or indulge in said Deliverance fantasy.

The worst part about it? These backward institutions don't even know what they're regulating. 

You see, they may think they're regulating "taxicabs." Some of the more enlightened individuals with these agencies may think they have a hand in controlling "car transportation." But what they're really overseeing (and in this instance, limiting) is the movement of people around the city.

And that has real consequences.

For example, if I'm going somewhere where I know I'll have a few cocktails, I'll try my damnedest to either get a ride there, or take public transportation. Unfortunately, I've been burned too many times by the awful, MTC-sanctioned cab companies out there in the past to rely on them to get me or pick me up from anywhere in this city, especially when my personal well-being may be at stake late at night.

Either of these options limit where I can go and spend my money. For example, I don't tend to go to Soulard very often. Not because I don't like the area--I actually think it's pretty cool and have several friends who live around there. But rather because there's no good option for getting there from Clayton. Even if you or a DD ends up driving, the parking is horrendous. A traditional cab simply isn't cost-effective or reliable enough to even consider going that kind of distance.

But with a robust ride-share infrastructure in place? Suddenly, I'm more willing to go to different parts of the city. I might decide to go out and spend money on a night where I'd normally stay in and watch Netflix because the hassle and cost have both been lessened. With a lot of Lyft or Uber cars around, I would have greater peace of mind that I wouldn't end up stranded wherever I went at 1 am (Talk about safety issues! What if I was a young lady? Think about that, MTC...).

In short, these services are breaking down barriers between neighborhoods, and facilitating the free flow of people around town. More area businesses could make A LOT more income from the larger pool of people who would be willing to access their establishments. The city gets a cut of all of that sweet, sweet cash in the form of sales tax.

I guess that's just too forward-thinking for this cow town, though...

It speaks to a larger point--all of the graft, all of the corruption, all of the "we need to examine this" and "there need to be studies done" that--it's all hot, steaming, grade-A quality bullshit. A quick-and-easy shorthand for "we need to figure out how we can keep getting our taste."

I'm sick of it. I'm tired of all of the efforts to modernize this city getting swept to the side in the name of keeping things "the way they've always been." Governments at all levels having to stick their nose in everything to make sure that their self-sustaining inflow of cash, over or under-the-table, keeps pouring in.

Where are all of the good people in local politics these days? Where are the decent people willing to stand up and call these idiots on their idiocy? My guess is we could iron out this Lyft thing by next weekend if it was as simple as writing a new ordinance and letting sane people vote on it.

But which sane people? Aldermen and women who may or may not be on the take? Take it to the citizens, who would likely be buffeted by a P.R. campaign on both sides?

The sad thing is, I can't even do anything like that if I wanted to, since I live in Clayton, and I'm pretty sure you have to be a city resident to propose those kind of changes. Dumb-ass rules made in one of the little fiefdoms of our Holy Roman Empire of a city impact me as a resident of another. No recourse for this citizen.

So I pick up this tiniest of bullhorns to try to rally the few troops I can--YOU, dear readers. This blatant cash-grab by the MTC is another idiotic relic of a bygone era choking this city and its surrounding little kingdoms to death. We need some well-intentioned folks in the city to say "enough is enough!", to make a stand here and get the government out of our lives. To wake these people up to the fact that they lament the boarded-up storefronts downtown in one breath, then take steps to prevent paying customers from making it downtown in the next.
Are you ready to help save St. Louis from itself? Are you ready to stand up and proclaim "enough is enough?"

If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments, or email me directly at djgelbooks@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading...


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Rams Could Leave St. Louis...and It'd Be Easier Than You Think...

Note: I left this reply on a post referencing Shane Gray's column on STLtoday's Rams Talk message board. Shane does fantastic work, but his post finally got me to lay out, clearly, why the Rams could easily leave St. Louis after next season. Because I'm a toddler and NO ONE PAID ATTENTION TO ME, I decided to syndicate my reply here. Sorry--sometimes the truth hurts...

Shane, love you man, you do great work, but I think you're a bit off on this one.

Everyone says that it doesn't matter where an NFL team is located due to revenue sharing. On the most shallow level, that's absolutely true.

Howevah, what a lot of people don't seem to realize is that teams get to keep luxury box and club seat revenue for themselves. Otherwise, why would Jerry Jones build his palace in the desert? It wasn't so that he could feel like "more of a man," but rather so that he could double-deck those boxes, charge them insane amounts for pizzas and sixers, and keep all of it for himself per NFL rules.

Ever taken a look at the club level or boxes at a Rams game? Depressingly empty. You know what the worst part about it is? We, as the common folk, can't do anything to change it. We know deep in our guts that the 1%s in this town don't give a flying care about the Rams, and we can't buy spots in their boxes and club seats.

In L.A., there would be a waiting list for these seats, starting with the movie studios and moving on to trans-Pacific ventures. We can complain all we want about how "great the lease is for Stan!" and how "he's from here, so how can he betray us?", but all Stan cares about (sadly for him) is cold, hard, cash.

Not to mention that an L.A. stadium could host a variety of music headliners year-round outside of football games. These would pump millions into Stan's pocket with little-to-no risk.

Think Sam has a sweetheart deal here? Try squaring that away with a stadium on which he owes NOTHING once it's built, combined with a development outside of it from which he takes a fraction of every dollar spent.

"Oh, but what about a relocation fee?" $700 million to triple your franchise value from $750 mill to $2.2 billion--this is a problem because...? If nothing else, the increase in franchise value would cover the stadium, to boot!

"But he can't move the team without the approval of the league!" Actually, yes he can. Al Davis (of all people!) laid the groundwork in the 90s with his antitrust suit against the NFL. He won. I don't care what the owners have contracted with one another for with regard to the LA market, if Stan moved the team, it would end up as an antitrust suit, because of the horizontal allocation of territories. The LAST thing the NFL wants is an antitrust suit--antitrust suits allow the prevailing party to recover triple (3x) damages, in addition to wearing down various legal protections that the NFL has enjoyed to this point, including its "non-profit" status.

That doesn't mean that such a move will be a lock--there are permits to obtain, EISs to get, etc. This is more of a procedural speed bump than anything else, though--any team of halfway-decent lawyers should be able to hammer those out. The only one that could REALLY hold up a stadium is the FAA approval for a stadium so close to LAX, but Al Davis apparently got that approval years ago.

My guess? Stan is looking out for himself. If he can persuade Missouri taxpayers to foot the bill for a new stadium, he'll (perhaps reluctantly) take it. If not, he'll have those Mayflower trucks backing up to Rams Park before you can say "2nd overall pick in the draft."

I don't write these things to scare people, but rather to educate them. I think Stan's counting on the Missouri legislature to rebuff any stadium proposal put forward, leaving him free to move wherever.

What you can do is start to contact your state representatives--let them know that you WILL NOT vote for them if the Rams leave town. You become a single-issue voter on the Rams stadium issue. They may not "want" to move, but if a vote in the legislature fails, they'll be "left with little choice."
If not, don't blame me when they move out to L.A....