Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas all set to play in Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise |
(4:57 pm ET) The Seahawks secondary starters are all active for Sunday's Super Bowl, the team announced. Cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safeties Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Kam Chancellor (knee) are all active for Sunday after being listed as probable for the contest throughout the week.

Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) is also set to play after being listed as probable.

The game is currently pick'em between Seattle and New England.

Jonas Gray among Patriots' inactives for Super Bowl 49
by Brandon Wise |
(4:41 pm ET) Patriots running back Jonas Gray will be inactive for Super Bowl 49 along with Zach Moore, Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms, Joe Vellano, Jordan Devey and James White, the team announced.

Gray, who ran for 412 yards on 89 carries in eight games this season, had four carries for four yards in the AFC Championship game for New England. It was his first action in a game since Dec. 21 againt the Jets when he had six carries for five yards.

The game is currently pick'em between Seattle and New England Sunday.

Report: Seahawks offer Marshawn Lynch huge extension
by Sean d'Oliveira |
(9:31 am ET) Wanting to keep Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch for the long haul, the Seahawks have offered Lynch a contract extension that could possibly keep him in Seattle for the rest of his career, sources told

Lynch is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season. If signed, the deal would pay Lynch $10 million in 2015 instead of the $5 million he is currently due next season.

Over the last four seasons, Lynch has amassed the most carries and rushing yards in the NFL. He has been in contract discussions with the Seahawks for several weeks with the team believing he has earned a hefty raise. 

Packers' Aaron Rodgers named NFL MVP at NFL Honors
by R.J. White |
(1/31/2015) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the 2015 NFL MVP at the NFL Honors awards show, held Saturday at the Phoenix Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Ariz.

Rodgers played all 16 regular-season games in 2014 for just the second time in the last five seasons, completing 65.6 percent of his passes while racking up 4,381 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added two more touchdowns on the ground while gaining 269 rushing yards on 43 carries.

Several other awards were handed out at the ceremony Saturday, as follows.

AP Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

AP Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham, Giants

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aaron Donald, Rams

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

AP Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals

AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Todd Bowles, Cardinals

Walter Payton Man of Year: Thomas Davis, Panthers

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

Salute to Service Award: Jared Allen, Bears Fantasy Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

FedEx Air Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

Deacon Jones Award: Justin Houston, Chiefs

Greatness on the Road Award: Tony Romo, Cowboys

Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year: Odell Beckham one-handed catch

Don Shula High School Coach of the Year: Bruce Larson, Somerset (Wisconsin) High School

In addition, eight finalists were voted into the Hall of Fame: running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, linebacker Junior Seau, guard Will Shields, center Mick Tingelhoff and executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.

Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise |
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.

Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello |
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.

Marijuana charges dropped against LeGarrette Blount in Pennsylvania
by Brandon Wise |
(1/30/2015) Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount will not face charges for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania, Blount’s attorney said Friday.

Blount and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell were pulled over and arrested for pot possession in August, a day before a preseason game. Blount satisfied his penalty by working community service in Boston. He will not have to appear in court in Pittsburgh next week. 

Vikings' Adrian Peterson to begin probation on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik |
(1/29/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will begin his probation on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson will begin community service, and will undergo counseling to determine whether he has a drug problem. Peterson will report to a probation officer once a month in order to take a drug test. The strict drug testing stems from an Oct. 8 pre-trail urinalysis. Peterson admitted to "smoking a little weed," though the results from the test were never disclosed. 

Probation officials will also determine whether Peterson needs to attend parenting classes. 

Per his plea agreement, Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He's required to perform at least 16 hours per month, which would allow him to complete to program prior to training camp.

Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million. The team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension. 

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: 'I don't want to take less money'
by R.J. White |
(1/29/2015) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reiterated Thursday that while he'd be willing to restructure his contract if asked, he would not accept a pay cut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don't want to take less money," McCoy said. "I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we're all together."

McCoy, who is due to count $11.95 million against the cap in 2015, turned in his fourth 1,000-yard season in the last five years in 2014, finishing with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions. All five of his touchdowns came on the ground.

Bills RB Fred Jackson excited to play for new coach Rex Ryan
by Michael Hurcomb |

All told -- even despite the way his collegiate career ended -- Robert Upshaw is one of the biggest success stories in college hoops this season. He went from being an afterthought prospect to becoming a borderline first-round pick, all in the span of two months. 

However, like I mentioned above, college basketball fans and Pac-12 opponents will not have to deal with him anymore, as Washington dismissed him from the program on Monday, making that the second time he's been dismissed from a collegiate basketball team. He's now considering jumping to the D-League before the draft (we'll talk about that later), and will certainly be up for selection in this upcoming NBA Draft.

Let's just go through a quick synopsis of his high school and college journey, in order to better understand what scouts and front offices will be trying to sort through. After all, with Upshaw the off-court questions are just as vital as his skills on the floor to his draft stock. 

Unfortunately for his sake, it didn't last for the full season. As mentioned above, Upshaw was dismissed for multiple violations of team rules. ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported that he has failed multiple drug tests at each school. So yes, it would be fair to say that very little has gone well for Upshaw during his time in college beyond this 20 game run with Washington, both with things in and out of his control. 

However, that 20-game run was good enough to legitimately get him into draft conversations due to his size. Let's take a look at why.

All draft conversations involving Robert Upshaw begin with his ability to protect the rim. And when it comes to protecting the rim, one has to start by discussing his size. Upshaw is somewhere around 7-feet tall (he was measured at 7-feet in 2011, but listed at 6-11 this year) with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. With that size comes actually pretty good athleticism that allows him to block even some of the most difficult shots. Just check out this play against Oregon.

Look at how high he gets to block that floater. Awfully tough to shoot over that. 

Very few players can get that high when blocking shots, and it's these elite tools that allowed him to become the best shot blocker in the NCAA this by just about any metric you want to use. 

Prior to his dismissal, Upshaw was averaging 4.4 blocks per game on a 17.2 block percentage. Those are pretty outrageous numbers any way that you slice them for a big college player. That block percentage is the highest number that has been registered in five years in the NCAA. In fact, Upshaw's block percentage by himself is a higher block percentage than all but five TEAMS nationally have registered.

Maybe you don't like tempo-free statistics though, so here's an easier one. Despite playing only 25 minutes per game this season, Upshaw has accumulated 84 total blocks. That number is more than 249 of the 351 teams in Division-I college hoops. That's a crazy total, and it goes to show just how dominant Upshaw is as a rim protector. 

It's not just his athletic tools though that make him effective. He's also a really smart instinctual defender around the rim with excellent timing when leaping to block shots.

Here, we see TaShawn Thomas try to take Shawn Kemp off the dribble from the top of the key. he gets around Kemp with a spin move and goes up for the shot. Upshaw swats it away with impunity, but there's more than meets the eye here. Upshaw is guarding Ryan Spanger here, and has to be aware of the potential dump off. Time his jump/help defense too early, and Thomas dumps it off. Time it too late, and Thomas finishes a layup. Here, Upshaw waits the perfect amount of time with Spangler, then times his leap to meet the ball at its highest point to block it. Perfect techinique and timing there.

Even when he's not blocking shots, Upshaw's mere presence not only forces bad shots, but it even forces turnovers. 

With Upshaw in the lineup this season, teams only shot 39 percent from 2-point range this season, which was fifth in the country. But his presence didn't only help to affect shots, it also helped to dissuade shooters from even taking them. Opponents have only taken 26.7 percent of their shots at the rim this season against Washington, which is the 25th-fewest total nationally. 

So yes, Upshaw is a legitimately elite rim protector. However, it's the rest of his defensive game that I have questions about.

First and foremost, Upshaw has a tendency to allow himself to get buried deep in the paint and sealed off against big guys posting up. This particularly showed up in his last game against Utah, where fellow first-round prospect Jakob Poeltl repeatedly was able to get position in the paint.


And another:

The common denominator here is that Poeltl consistently got lower than Upshaw, and either drove him back a bit or made himself immovable against the Washington big man. Upshaw needs to work on doing a better job of bending his legs and getting himself low in order to ward off offensive players in the paint. 

However, my biggest concern here is more his perimeter defense. Not only is Upshaw's movement on the perimeter concerning just laterally, but also his laziness and inexperience leads to problems for the rest of the defense. 

On this play, we get to see Upshaw, again guarding Spangler, react to multiple pick-and-rolls. On the first one, Upshaw overpursues and tries to contest a Buddy Hield 3-point attempt that never comes. Hield makes the pass to Spangler, who takes a wide open 20-footer and misses. Oklahoma then gets the offensive rebound, and Spangler again sets a screen at the top, this time for Jordan Woodard.

The defender ICEs the screen (denying the ball-handler to go middle). The goal of ICEing a side pick-and-roll is to force the inefficient mid-range jump shot, which happens here. But instead of contesting the midrange jump shot or attack the glass for a board, Upshaw is lost in the floor's open space. Thomas gets another offensive board. He kicks it out to Hield for another 3, and by this point Upshaw has no idea where his man is on the floor (still Spangler). That allows Spangler to crash the boards, get another offensive rebound, and kick out to jump start the offense again. 

Here's another example from the same game:

Here, Spangler again is his man. Upshaw just takes his eye off of his man and sort of drifts toward the rim despite the solid guard defense. One more example, this time from the Utah game:

That one just seems lazy, as Upshaw just takes a big lumbering step and puts his hand up. As he's going through the motions, Poeltl finds Chris Reyes wide open. Given that they're in zone this possession, that's Upshaw's man at the rim. He needs to be in position to both deny that pass, and potentially close out. It's just clear that he's not comfortable defending on the perimeter. It's something that may be fixable, but it's a problem for sure. 

Before switching gears to the other side of the ball, I'll make a quick note regarding Upshaw's rebounding ability. His numbers are solid both as far as counting stats and advanced metrics go. He was at 13.1 rebounds per-40 minutes, and his 23 percent defensive rebounding rate was good for third in the Pac-12 behind Washington State's Josh Hawkinson and Poeltl. As with his post defense, you'd like to see him get a bit lower and move people out of the way. In that way, he reminds a bit of Roy Hibbert in the way that he is overly reliant on his length. As with Hibbert, it could lead to some issues early in his career if he doesn't start making a concerted effort.

Let's get into his offense though, and first we'll talk about some of his better attributes. To start, he runs the floor really well for a big man when he wants to.

Once he gets going, he really starts moving. If he did that more consistently, he could have averaged a couple more points per game easily. 

The other thing that Upshaw has going for him is that he actually has a pretty soft touch around the rim.

Here, Upshaw sets a nice little screen, then rolls into the open area at the elbow. He receives the ball, takes one dribble into the middle and uses his length to elevate and finish with one hand. 

So where does that leave us? It's clear that Upshaw is a flawed prospect, but he's also one that is elite at one of the most coveted skills in the NBA right now: rim protection. His sheer presence, relative athleticism, and his ability to block shots shuts down the area within five feet of basket. Does that make up for everything else? 

Had this been a typical situation, I probably would have said yes. Despite his lazy tendencies on the perimeter, on the boards at times, and in the post, his skill around the rim would have made him worth a first-round pick. I still would have had him in the 7-8 range among centers (after Jahlil Okafor, Karl Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky and Poeltl, surely), but this is an exceedingly deep draft for big men. A selection in the 20-30 range wouldn't have been out of the question for me. It would be worth the risk to try and get him to play a bit harder away from the rim, and to harness his skills near it to strike gold. 

However, his situation has more questions than answers.

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