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How a ‘Hard Quarantine’ Benefited a Player at the Australian Open

The discussion of the Australian Open isn’t exactly who made the strenuous excursion to the subsequent week, however whether a supposed “hard isolate” has negatively affected players who didn’t.

Several had to remain in their hotel rooms around the clock — deprived of a five-hour break for training and treatment afforded to everyone else — for 14 days after arriving if a passenger on their flight had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Though Tennis Australia has not released a complete list of the players who were in hard quarantine, at least 26 players in the women’s singles draw were in the stiffer quarantine, including 12 of the 32 seeded players.

Two former Australian Open champions, Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, lost their first-round matches after going through the hard quarantine. Six other women who had endured it reached the third round, but all lost in decisive straight sets.

“I mean, there’s no escaping the fact that we were in the room for two weeks before a Slam — that’s not how you prepare for a Slam,” said the 21st-seeded Anett Kontaveit, who lost on Saturday evening to Shelby Rogers.

Brady said she believed a strict quarantine benefited her physically and mentally. Credit : Matt King/Getty Images

Yet consider the case of Jennifer Brady, the only woman who was in hard quarantine to advance to the second week.

Seeded 22nd, Brady has not only survived, but soared: She defeated Aliona Bolsova, 6-1, 6-3, in the first round on Tuesday and went on to victories over Madison Brengle (6-1, 6-2) in the second round on Thursday and Kaja Juvan (6-1, 6-3) in the third round on Saturday.

“At first I was a little bummed, and then I was like, OK, I’m fine,” Brady, of Pennsylvania, said of the hard quarantine in an interview on Saturday. “There’s worse things out there in the world than being stuck in a room for 14 days. It’s not the ideal preparation before a Grand Slam, but if you looked at it, you’d see you still have eight days before your first match at the Grand Slam.”

Brady said she slept more than usual during the 14 days, often not waking up until around 11 a.m. She worked out twice a day, at noon and around 5 p.m. Brady’s coach, Michael Geserer, said that while Brady used tennis balls, a stationary bicycle and weights, her most important work was mental.

“We couldn’t simulate on-court practice, but we tried as best we could to adapt to this new situation,” Geserer said. “The most important thing was the mind-set. We were not complaining. We were taking it.”

Geserer said he admired Brady’s positive attitude.

“She has bad days, but she tries to make the best out of her bad days,” he said. “That’s also important in matches: You won’t play your best tennis, but she tries to find a way to win.”

For Brady, who surged up the rankings last season as she won her first WTA title and reached the United States Open semifinals, the forced confinement proved a welcome respite.

“Coming out of the quarantine, speaking for myself, I was definitely a lot fresher mentally,” Brady said. “It was a long year for me last year. I didn’t really take a break. Deep down inside, I was a little bit fortunate that I had the 14 days in lockdown. It kind of helped me reset mentally — and physically, also.”

As she eased herself back into physical activity when the quarantine ended, Brady was relieved by how she felt on the court.

“The first two hits I had I was trying to feel the ball, and just get my feel for the court and moving, not trying to overdo it because I didn’t want to risk injury,” Brady said. “I was afraid I was going to be super-sore, which I actually wasn’t.”

Far from being sore, Brady has been craving more time on the court. After her win over Juvan, which was straightforward except for an 18-minute service game midway through the second set, Brady immediately booked herself a practice court to hone her technique.

Brady admitted, ultimately, that she did not expect things to work out as they had, finding herself in the second week of the Australian Open after her compromised confinement.

“Yeah, I’m a little bit surprised,” she said.

One aspect of this unusual Open for which Brady may be uniquely prepared is the lack of spectators. Because of a five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown enacted by the state of Victoria, matches are being played before empty stands, as they were at the United States Open in September.

“I think especially in the first couple games of the match, having that atmosphere of having people cheer for you and wanting you to win, you put a little extra pressure on yourself,” Brady said. “Having no fans, it’s just you and your opponent out there.”

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Alistair Overeem issues explanation on UFC discharge: ‘The last run has reached a conclusion’

Alistair Overeem has released his first statement since parting ways with the UFC.

On Thursday via a statement on Instagram, the longtime heavyweight contender confirmed reports of his release from the organization he’s competed for since 2011, stating that “The final run has come to an end, but what a run it has been.”

Overeem’s release came in the wake of a second-round TKO loss to Alexander Volkov in February, which snapped a two-fight win streak for “The Reem.” During his time with the UFC, Overeem compiled a 12-8 record and competed once for the promotion’s heavyweight title, losing to Stipe Miocic at UFC 213. He holds notable wins inside the octagon over Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir, and Brock Lesnar, in addition to numerous high-profile victories competing for Strikeforce, DREAM, PRIDE, and RINGS.

In recent years, he had stated in interviews that his goal was to earn another shot at a UFC title, a goal that was derailed by losses to Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

“Glancing back at my 10 years in the UFC, this has been a truly mind-blowing experience,” Overeem composed. “Much obliged to you to the whole UFC staff, the fans and all the contenders I ran over. Couldn’t have wanted for some other better vocation way.

“Battling for every one of you has been such an honor, Overeem added.”

Overeem, 40, has likewise had achievement in kickboxing, having won a K-1 World Grand Prix competition in 2010.

The assertion doesn’t seem to address Overeem perhaps resigning or vieing for another battle sports association. His master MMA record presently remains at 47-19 (1 NC).

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Brian Gutekunst expects Preston Smith back with Packers next season

Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday that he expects outside linebacker Preston Smith to remain with the team for next season.

Preston has played a lot of really good football for us, and certainly we’d like to have him back next year. He’s under contract, so we certainly expect him to be back,” Gutekunst said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Smith has two years staying on the four-year contract he endorsed with the Packers in 2019. Be that as it may, the Packers have some compensation cap issues to address and Smith appeared to be at any rate doable to be a potential cap setback. In the wake of posting 12 sacks in his first year in Green Bay, Smith had only four last season for the Packers. Notwithstanding, that dunk in sack yield isn’t something that is unsettling to Gutekunst.

“While those numbers might’ve been down, I think he influenced out football crew in an extremely certain manner,” Gutekunst said. “So I think there are a few things between the numbers there that his worth doesn’t generally show. He’s sort of been that way the entirety of his profession. On the off chance that you return to Washington, his sack numbers were consistently a smidgen all over, yet the manner in which he influenced the game with his length as a pass protector as well as in the run game too. So he’s a great player for us, and he has a ton of good years left, that is without a doubt.”

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Blue Devils Start Final Road Swing Tuesday Night at Georgia Tech

THE OPENING TIP

  • Duke wraps up the regular season with two consecutive road games, beginning Tuesday night with a crucial ACC matchup at Georgia Tech.
  • The Blue Devils are just one game back in the loss column to the Yellow Jackets, who are 7-1 at McCamish Pavilion this season.
  • The game tips at 8 p.m. ET on ACC Network with Rece Davis and Jon Crispin on the call. On the radio, David Shumate and John Roth have the call on the Blue Devil Sports Network from Learfield IMG College (96.5FM & 610AM in Durham).
  • Duke has won 14 straight in the series versus Georgia Tech, its longest active winning streak over an ACC opponent. Tuesday is the 99th meeting in the series which favors the Blue Devils, 75-23.
  • Duke is 11-5 since the start of the 2017-18 season when playing an ACC opponent in the regular season for a second time.
  • Over the last seven games, Duke is averaging 19.0 assists and has assisted on 61.8 percent of its made field goals.
  • On a late-season tear, sophomore sharpshooter Matthew Hurt enters the game averaging 24.0 points over his last five contests, which includes a career-high 37-point effort Saturday vs. Louisville.
  • A candidate for ACC Player of the Year and Most Improved Player, Hurt joins Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert as the only players in college basketball shooting better than 56 percent from the field, better than 46 percent from three-point range and making more than six field goals per game.
  • Hurt leads the ACC and is 41st nationally is scoring (19.3), while ranking second in the conference in field goal percentage (.569) and fourth in most made 3-point field goals per game (2.5). He also leads the ACC in conference-only scoring (19.3).
  • A Blue Devil has been the ACC’s leading freshman scorer in six of the last seven seasons, and freshman DJ Steward is on pace to make it seven of the last eight. Steward leads all ACC freshmen at 13.1 points.
  • Senior Jordan Goldwire leads the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (+2.6), is second in the league in steals (2.5 — 13th in the NCAA) and is seventh in the ACC in assists (3.9).
  • Duke and Georgia Tech each rank among the ACC’s top five in scoring, assists, steals, turnover margin, assist/turnover ratio and field goal percentage.

DUKE VS. GEORGIA TECH

Tuesday’s game is the 99th meeting between Duke and Georgia Tech, with the Blue Devils leading 75-23 … In Atlanta, Duke leads 29-15, including 23-15 at McCamish Pavilion … The Blue Devils’ 14-game winning streak in the series is the team’s longest active streak against ACC opponents … The Blue Devils took last year’s meeting on the Flats, 73-64, behind 16 points from Tre Jones on Jan. 8, 2020 … When the teams met Jan. 26 at Cameron, DJ Steward scored 19 and Matthew Hurt added 17 in a 75-68 Duke victory.

ON THIS DATE

Duke is 17-10 all-time when playing on March 2, but just 1-5 in road games on this date … Duke is 8-5 in ACC games on this date … The first game in program history occurred on March 2 — a 24-10 loss to Wake Forest in Durham in 1906.

A HELPING HAND

As Duke’s young roster has gained confidence and experience, the Blue Devils are playing better team basketball as a result … Duke is second to Georgia Tech in the ACC in assists at (16.1) — 36th nationally, and is fifth in assist/turnover ratio (+1.26) — 46th nationally … Duke’s 141 assists in eight games (17.6) in the month of February led the ACC, were 14th-most nationally, and the third-most by any power conference team behind Nebraska (144) and Iowa (143) … While increasing their assists, the Blue Devils also took better care of the ball in February with a +1.47 assist/turnover ratio for the month … Over the last five games, Duke has 94 dimes and 56 turnovers (+1.68) … This season, Duke has improved both its assists per game and assist/turnover ratio each month.

HURT AVERAGING 24.0 PPG IN LAST 5 GAMES

Sophomore Matthew Hurt has scored 20+ points in four of the last five games and has averaged 24.0 over that stretch … He’s coming off a monster game against Louisville that saw the Rochester, Minn., native pour in 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting — his first career 30-point game and the most points by a Blue Devil since Grayson Allen’s 37 vs. Michigan State in the 2017 Champions Classic … He scored 20+ for three straight games for the first time in his career — 24 at NC State, 22 at Wake, 22 vs. Virginia — while shooting 14-of-19 (.736) from three and 24-of-32 (.750) from the field in that span … Over the last five games, he is 44-of-64 (.688) from the field and 18-of-30 (.600) from three-point range … He has 10 20-point games this season — 14 in his career … His 6-of-7 from downtown at NC State tied the second-best three-point accuracy for a game in Duke history, and marked the first time a Blue Devil has made 6+ threes in multiple games since both Gary Trent Jr., and Grayson Allen in 2017-18.

STEWARD LEADS ALL ACC FRESHMEN IN SCORING

A Blue Devil has been the ACC’s freshman scoring leader in six of the last seven seasons and seven of the last nine … Freshman DJ Steward is looking to keep that run going in 2020-21, as Steward is ranked first in scoring among the conference’s freshman corps at 13.1 points per game (ranked 20th overall in the ACC) … The Chicago native posted a 19-point, five-rebound, three-assist effort against Georgia Tech, with his ACC career-high of 21 coming in home wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse … In the win at Wake, he posted a 16-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, two-steal effort in 30 minutes … Against Virginia, Steward nailed a clutch corner three to tie the game at 56-56 with 5:49 to play, and his pull-up jumper pulled Duke within one (65-64) with 2:41 left … Steward has hit at least one three-pointer in 17 consecutive games — he’s also started in each of the 17 … He has scored in double figures 15 times this season, including in 14 of the last 17 games.

GOLDWIRE AMONG NCAA STEAL LEADERS

Senior Jordan Goldwire leads the ACC in assist/turnover ratio this season (+2.60), while ranking second in steals (2.45) and seventh in assists (3.9). He is 13th nationally in steals per game … A tenacious on-ball defender that has come off the bench nine times this season (eight in ACC play), Goldwire has 2+ steals in 18 of 20 games this season and his 18 multi-steal games are tied for second-most in the NCAA … Only Georgia Tech senior Jose Alvarado (114) has more steals over the last two seasons than Goldwire’s 96 … At 2.45 steals per game this season, Goldwire is on pace for a top-five steals per game season in Duke history … His career-high five steals came against Winthrop last year and he has recorded four steals four times this season … Not just known for his defense, Goldwire has recorded 4+ assists in seven consecutive games with 30 assists and just 12 turnovers (+2.5) in that span … After nine turnovers over the first four games this season, Goldwire has just 21 turnovers over the last 16 games. His assist/turnover ratio over the last 16 games is +3.00.

MOORE WAYS THAN ONE

Sophomore Wendell Moore Jr., came off the bench at Pitt on Jan. 19, giving Duke 31 minutes and hitting 5-of-10 from the field, including a career-high three made three-pointers, for 15 points … He has started the 11 games since Pitt, and making contributions all over the box score for the Blue Devils … Scoring: went for 24 and 10 — his second career double-double versus Notre Dame to cap a three-game stretch that saw him average 19.0 points … Rebounds: is Duke’s second-leading rebounder in ACC play (5.1), and has 4+ rebounds in 15 of the last 16 games … Assists: Set a then-career-high six assists at NC State and followed that with a career-high seven vs. Virginia … Has 3+ assists in 11 of the last 12 games and is averaging 3.6 dimes over that span.

DUKE AWAY FROM CAMERON

In the Coach K era, Duke is 263-150 (.636) in true road games and 275-77 (.781) in neutral site games, for a combined mark of 538-227 (.704) in all games outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium … In ACC regular season play, Duke is 192-125 (.605) away from home under Coach K. The Blue Devils are 136-72 (.656) in ACC road games since the 1996-97 season … In ACC Tournament play, Duke’s .696 winning percentage and 103 wins each lead the conference … Coach K’s 192 ACC road wins are a conference record … Coach K has also won 16 road games against AP top five teams, the most in the history of the AP poll.

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Jon Jones issues reminder to Daniel Cormier after rival questions knockout power

The rivalry between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was reignited on Monday.

Cormier, said on the most recent scene of his webcast, “DC and Helwani,” that he didn’t believe Jones’ (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC) knockout force would make an interpretation of proficiently to the heavyweight division as “Bones” runs after climbing a weight class following long stretches of predominance at light heavyweight, incorporating two sessions with his main foe.

“Jon Jones won’t take out anyone (at heavyweight),” Cormier said. “He doesn’t hit hard enough. In the event that he was unable to take these fellows out at 205 (pounds), he’s not taking these heavyweights out.”

The remarks for Cormier immediately arrived at Jones’ radar and unmistakably didn’t agree with him. Jones’ latest updates have guaranteed he’s right now weighing 252 pounds, and all signs highlight “Bones” making his heavyweight debut against the victor of the Stipe Miocic versus Francis Ngannou rematch occurring at UFC 260 on March 27.

Jones apparently did not feel the need to offer any words in response, instead simply posting video of Cormier’s post-fight interview from UFC 214 in July 2017, as well as the sequence preceding it. Cormier shed tears after he was stopped by Jones in the third round via head kick (via Instagram):

The glaring hole in Jones’ response is that while he did finish Cormier with strikes at UFC 214, the result doesn’t stand as an official win on his record. Jones tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the aftermath of the fight, and his win was overturned to a no contest.

Cormier has since said that while the records don’t reflect what happened in the octagon that night, he does feel he went 0-2 against Jones in their rivalry. But of course, he wouldn’t let Jones get away without reminding him of his missteps (via Twitter):

There have been ups and downs in the feud between the two sides in the years since they last shared the octagon, but the latest exchange proves again that the sour feelings may never completely diffuse.

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The PGA Tour just achieved this curious financial milestone, courtesy of Tommy Fleetwood and Branden Grace

It’s unclear exactly when the money earned this past weekend at the WGC-Workday Championship and the Puerto Rico Open hit the bank accounts of the PGA Tour pros. But on Sunday night, Tommy Fleetwood and Branden Grace earned paychecks at the respective tour events to share in achieving a curious financial milestone.

In some order, the pair became the 199th and 200th players to break the $10 million mark in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

Fleetwood had been just shy of $10M—$765 to be exact—since his last PGA Tour start at the RSM Classic in November. So long as he finished all four rounds at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., he was going to earn enough to put him into eight figures in prize money earned. A T-44 finish did the trick then, $47,500 going into Fleetwood’s account.

Video: What Your Golf Clubs Can Say About Your Swing (Golf Digest)

Meanwhile, Grace had been roughly $448,000 shy of $10M (sitting at 208th on the all-time money list). But when he finished eagle-birdie at Grand Reserve in Rio Grande to take the Puerto Rico Open title, and its accompanying $540,000 first-place winnings, it pushed him over the top.

Grace now sits 196th all time, Fleetwood 199th. Craig Stadler is No. 200 at $10.021 million.

And who’s the next most likely to join the $10 million club? Cameron Beckman is next closest at ($9.87 million) but isn’t a tour regular any more. Sung Kang is 207th on the money list with ($9.586 million). But the player to watch has to be another young elite golfer rising quickly on tour. With his victory at the WGC-Workday Championship on Sunday (and the $1.85 million he earned for the effort), Collin Morikawa jumped from 250th in the all-time ranking to 209, finding himself less than $500,000 shy of the mark with $9.95 million in the bank.

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Mel Kiper compares Alabama QB Mac Jones to Tom Brady

Tom Brady just demonstrated by and by that he’s the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks, winning his seventh Super Bowl in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As all other teams in the group looks for the second happening to Brady, ESPN’s Mel Kiper thinks there are similitudes between the incredible quarterback and one of the top passers in the 2021 NFL draft class, Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Kiper says Jones has some of the intangible traits that have made Brady successful over the past two-plus decades:

I would rather not say, however he sort of has a smidgen of [Tom] Brady in him. I’m not saying he’s always going to be Tom Brady. He wouldn’t be close, likely. Yet, he has that intensity, and he’s so brilliant — he got that offense [at the Senior Bowl] like it was nothing. Different quarterbacks were battling with the verbiage and — ‘blast!’ — he was in and out of the cluster faster than anyone I’ve at any point seen.

At that point he sees the field. He’s hugely precise to all levels. He doesn’t have the ‘amazing’ arm, similar to Brady didn’t either coming into the group. What’s more, similar to Brady, he’s not genuine portable, not a sprinter. In any case, awaiting chance, slipping and sliding, he did it in the title game. So there are a few likenesses there.

Kiper’s proviso is the significant part here, on the grounds that anticipating that any prospect should at any point become what Brady has is a waste of time. All things considered, some NFL chiefs make certain to experience passionate feelings for the encouraging points in Jones’ exploring report, and the way that they lead experts like Kiper to draw these sorts of examinations between the two.

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Roy Williams has hilarious response to question about UNC’s decision to schedule Marquette

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Marquette Golden Eagles recently announced the scheduling of a nonconference basketball game for Wednesday in Chapel Hill. It was a decision that left many people confused, with North Carolina a bubble team (entered Wednesday 33rd in the NET rankings) that wouldn’t get much reward out of beating Marquette (100th in the NET) in what would be a Quad 3 game for the Tar Heels. Additionally, while just 10-12 entering the game, Marquette is a talented team that has wins over Wisconsin (19th in the NET) and Creighton (24th in the NET) this season. Marquette has shown that they’re very capable of beating teams that have been even better than North Carolina this season.

Along these lines, with such minimal likely prize out of winning a Quad 3 nonconference game at home, and genuine danger in the chance of losing to Marquette, it was a truly problematic choice for the Tar Heels to plan this game. All things considered, sure enough, Marquette won, and rather convincingly. The Golden Eagles left away with a 83-70 success in Chapel Hill.

During his postgame public interview, North Carolina lead trainer Roy Williams was gotten some information about the choice to plan Marquette.

Reporter: “What would you say to Carolina fans who are questioning whether or not it made sense to schedule this game considering the result?”

It would’ve been a good idea to stop the question before “considering the result.” There’s a big difference in what you think of an idea before it happens vs after you know how it went!

And that led to a hilarious response from Williams, before he walked out:

 

Williams: “Indeed, in the event that I’d realized we were going to lose, God all-powerful, I wouldn’t have booked them. Please. We can’t work in damn knowing the past. God omnipotent. In the event that you revealed to me we were going to lose, damnation better believe it, we wouldn’t have played the game. On the off chance that you revealed to me we were going to beat the Lakers, I’d have planned them. Carolina fans, they’re not excessively moronic. On the off chance that they are, I have no responses for them.”

Exemplary, and the Lakers line is especially awesome.

Obviously Williams presently wishes they hadn’t planned the game (all things considered, “we can’t work in damn knowing the past,” as he so expressively put it). It’s a beautiful fierce shortfall for the Tar Heels (14-8) that squeezes them to do well in extreme impending games — versus Florida State (twelfth in NET), at Syracuse (on the air pocket; 57th in NET), and versus Duke (on the air pocket and scorching; 48th in NET ) — and in the ACC Tournament to get an everywhere offered.

All things considered, even prior to knowing the outcome, it didn’t bode well for North Carolina to consent to play Marquette, and the school circles Twitter world had a ton to say after the Tar Heels’ misfortune.

Either way, Williams’ press conference was great.

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Buccaneers.com 2021 Mock Draft 1.0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Five quarterbacks go in the first round and the Buccaneers get help for a position that could take a hit in free agency Scott Smith

If you’re skipping this intro and scrolling down to see who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get, be warned that you’re going to have to do a lot of scrolling. By virtue of their 31-9 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers earned a surprisingly aerodynamic Lombardi Trophy and the last pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

That Super Bowl win was just over two weeks ago, but the team has already shifted from celebration mode into preparations for the 2021 offseason. And, of course, the single biggest event of the NFL offseason is the draft, which this year kicks off on April 29. Though it seems hard to believe, that is just a little more than nine weeks away.

Thus, we here at Buccaneers.com have arrived squarely in Mock Draft Season, maybe a bit later than usual because, again, Super Bowl. Better late than never! Beginning this Tuesday and continuing each week, we will be mocking up the first round of the draft every week until the real thing arrives, each one ending with the Buccaneers’ own selection at number 32 (barring trade predictions). Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I will be taking turns from week to week to give you a couple different perspectives. I drew the first assignment, so let’s dive right in!

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

You know, when the Jaguars are helping Lawrence coordinate his Pro Day workout and his left shoulder surgery, I think it’s pretty safe to say the two are going to be a match in April. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jacksonville already has the nameplate ready for his locker. Not much more to say here other than that this is the second straight year in which virtually every mock draft you see will be in agreement on the first pick.

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU

The reason you don’t sit on the first mock draft you do in January or February is that circumstances change and a team’s motivation sometimes becomes more clear. If the Jets get in on the veteran QB carousel that has already started with Stafford, Goff and Wentz (Deshaun Watson, maybe?), then this pick will obviously change. If they end up trading their own guy, Sam Darnold, this pick will seem much more likely, if you like Wilson over Justin Fields or Trey Lance. For now, I’m going with the theory that a new coaching staff is going to want to start fresh with their own choice at quarterback.

3. Miami Dolphins: T Penei Sewell, Oregon

What a marvelous position the Dolphins are in. They can take the first receiver out of a very talented class, they can address a real need on their offensive line – both of which would help Tua Tagovailoa reach his potential – or they could trade down a bit if the other quarterbacks become even more coveted. That lattermost option might be the best, but I’m not forecasting trades in this first mock version, so instead the Dolphins choose to address the line with the top-rated tackle in the draft. Yes, Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith are very tempting, but there is also a robust wide receiver free agent market and the Dolphins have a pretty good cap situation. Miami also owns the 18th pick in the first round (their own) and might still be able to land a much-needed playmaker there.

4. Atlanta Falcons: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

The big consideration with this pick, obviously, is whether the Falcons, who also have a new head coach, want to take this opportunity to get their successor to Matt Ryan, under the assumption they won’t be picking this high again anytime soon. This seems a bit high for Surtain and for whomever you consider the top edge rusher – both big needs for the Falcons – which is why I fully expect Arthur Smith and company to be fielding a lot of phone calls in the first hour of the draft. A trade down makes a ton of sense if they aren’t going for a quarterback. (Yeah, it could definitely be a quarterback.)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

The Bengals would have liked Sewell but if the Dolphins are going to pass on receiver the Bengals will jump at the chance to get a much-needed replacement for the great but now frequently-injured A.J. Green. It’s Chase over Smith by a hair due to the former’s bigger frame. Florida TE Kyle Pitts is also a consideration here, which is the classic mock drafter’s trick of trying to make two picks at once.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

I happen to know that this would not be the highest a Northwestern player was ever drafted, but it would be the highest since another tackle, Chris Hinton, went fourth in 1983. The Eagles, who desperately need help on their front line after a disastrous and injury-plagued 2020, can only hope Slater has as good of a career as Hinton, who went to seven Pro Bowls.

7. Detroit Lions: WR Devonta Smith, Alabama

The Lions haven’t drafted a receiver in the first round since Matt Millen was running the show and they did so in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. They really went one for four (or 1.5 for four; Roy Williams was okay) in that crazy five-year span but that’s not new G.M. Brad Holmes’ burden. What Holmes has is his top three receivers potentially heading to free agency, and Kenny Golladay in particular would be a tough loss.

8. Carolina Panthers: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Unlike Atlanta, Carolina is going to be targeting a new franchise quarterback, I believe. When it’s all said and done, Trey Lance may leapfrog Fields on mock draft boards, but Fields is the pick right now. Both Fields and Lance have some things to clean up in order to succeed at the next level but Fields is probably a little closer to starting and I think the Panthers want to make the transition to their new signal-caller as quickly as possible.

9. Denver Broncos: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

Denver might prefer a dynamic edge rusher for their eventual (maybe soon) life without Von Miller, but this is not a great draft for that. Parsons gives them a playmaking off-ball linebacker who can do it all, excelling in coverage, against the run and even rushing off the edge. A recent Super Bowl team you may have heard of found out how much difference it can make to have a player like that in the middle of your defense.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

The Cowboys went into last year’s draft with a lot of needs on defense but understandably couldn’t pass when wide receiver CeeDee Lamb surprisingly fell to them at number 17. They did get a few defensive pieces in later rounds but still gave up nearly 30 points per game, so it’s time to use a first-rounder on a corner, down lineman or edge rusher. The best value here is at corner with Farley, who is fast, loose and long and has the hands of the receiver he was before converting to defense.

11. New York Giants: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

The Giants could really use a receiver but we all know that G.M. Dave Gettleman likes to go with big men in the first round. How about we split the difference and give them one of the best tight end prospects to come along in a while? Blocking isn’t Pitts’ top strength but he’s an absolute matchup nightmare who can line up all over the formation. This is as good for Daniel Jones as drafting a wide receiver.

12. San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

I don’t think the 49ers are completely sold on Jimmy Garoppolo and there’s no more guaranteed money on his deal, which runs through 2022. San Francisco can get out of it with a relatively small dead cap charge either this year or next, but they can also keep him around for at least one more season to give Lance time to develop. Lance only started 17 games in college but he’s got the physical tools and showed excellent decision-making skills at NDSU. In addition, he adds a running element (1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019) that a lot of NFL teams are looking for these days.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

Bryan Bulaga is 31 and has had a bit of trouble staying healthy in recent years, and Sam Tevi is a pending unrestricted free agent. The Chargers hit a grand slam with quarterback Justin Herbert last year and now the top priority should be keeping him upright and clean. Darrisaw is big, athletic and nimble and can play left tackle at the next level.

14. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami

The Vikings once had a fierce pass rush but most of that is gone now; their sack leader in 2020 was Yannick Ngakoue, who had 5.0 but was traded at midseason. Rousseau has great length and a nice array of moves, and scouts think he has a lot of room to develop into a much better player. He can also rush off the edge or from inside, which gives the Vikings some versatility up front.

15. New England Patriots: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

It still feels weird to project a receiver to the Patriots in the first round, but they did go that route just two years ago, albeit at the end of the round. I think they would like to see Pitts fall this far, but you can’t deny that they have a serious need at receiver and Waddle is the last of the top-tier trio available. I would not be at all surprised by a trade down, however, after which the Patriots could target a linebacker or a defensive tackle.

16. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

Kyler Murray throws his remote at the television when the Patriots take Waddle, and the Cards’ (possibly virtual) draft room is disappointed as well, but they quickly shift gears and get a much-needed edge rusher. This year’s draft didn’t include any edge rushers teams were clamoring to get in the top five but, like Rousseau, Paye is a talented player with a lot of room to grow.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

After the 2020 season, Raiders G.M. Mike Mayock said his team’s defense “did not have a dynamic playmaker at any level.” Let’s get them one! Las Vegas has potential up front with Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell and has some recent high picks in the secondary, so it’s the middle level that gets the boost here with Owusu-Koramoah, who is another one of the new breed of versatile defenders that every defense wants to be able to play schematic chess.

18. Miami Dolphins: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

I think this is a win for Miami after they went offensive tackle over receiver with the third pick. Alternately, you might prefer Chase at three and, say, tackle Jalen Mayfield here. Anyway, Toney is quick, shifty and dynamic with the ball in his hands and he can also have an impact on end-arounds and in the return game.

19. Washington Football Team: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

Taylor Heinicke may be as revelatory as he seemed for one night in the Wild Card round but I don’t think Washington is going to bank on that, or on Alex Smith having much left. It’s a pretty good turn of events for the Football Team, which made the playoffs but was still in position to get a quarterback in the first round thanks to the depth at the position this year.

20. Chicago Bears: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

I’m not convinced the Bears were after a quarterback in this draft but once Jones came off the board it became a moot point in the first round anyway. Vera-Tucker might be able to stick at tackle in the NFL and if so he would be an upgrade over Bobby Massie on the right side. If, as some scouts expect, Vera-Tucker ends up at guard, the Bears have an opening at right guard with Germain Ifedi a free agent.

21. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Jaelen Phillips, Miami

The Colts need to replace retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo but Texas tackle Jalen Mayfield might have to stay on the right side. Meanwhile, both Justin Houston and Denico Autry are pending free agents, and while the Colts have plenty of cap space to bring either or both back they could use that in other ways (a receiver if T.Y. Hilton departs?) and get younger no the edge. Phillips is yet another pass-rusher in this draft who may not have scratched the surface of his potential yet.

22. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

Tennessee’s pass rush was almost non-existent last season, producing only 19 sacks despite trying to address the problem with Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney. Beasley is already gone and Clowney probably won’t be back. General Manager Jon Robinson has agreed that pass rusher is a position the Titans are “definitely interested in,” and fortunately the well hasn’t quite run dry yet. Ojulari is a little undersized but he has a quick first step and agility to get around the edge.

23. New York Jets: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

The Jets need a receiver, too, but I don’t love the value here. Of course, some analysts would suggest that running backs are rarely a good value in the first round, and I concede the point. Still, teams keep drafting them in the first round and Etienne is a very exciting prospect. Lamical Perine is currently at the top of the Jets’ RB depth chart. Etienne would change that quickly with his speed, pass-catching ability and big-play potential.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

Pittsburgh’s pass defense was good in 2020 but Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton are pending free agents and Joe Haden turns 32 two weeks before the draft. Horn’s scouting report makes me think of Carlton Davis, who might be a late first-round pick if the 2018 draft were re-run. Horn is big and physical and has great route-matching ability.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Travon Moehrig, TCU

Jacksonville’s once-loaded secondary is pretty bereft of top-end talent at this point and could use help at corner or safety, but the value is clearly here in the top safety off the board. He could be the Jaguars’ Antoine Winfield, Jr., an immediate playmaker who can be moved all over the formation and even cover slot receivers.

26. Cleveland Browns: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington

I had hoped Tryon would make it to the end of the round for the Buccaneers but the Browns need to replace Olivier Vernon and the pickings are getting a little thin here. Tryon is a power rusher who plays with all-out effort and can stop the run as well. Cleveland has Myles Garrett but its pass rush was middle-of-the-pack in 2020.

27. Baltimore Ravens: DL Christian Barmore, Alabama

Baltimore is in decent cap shape but has a whole lot of front-seven defensive players who could hit free agency. Assuming they can’t, or don’t want to, bring them all back, Barmore would be a nice youth infusion next to Calais Campbell on the interior line.

28. New Orleans Saints: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri

The Saints need another off-ball linebacker to pair with Demario Davis and they have two to choose from here in Mizzou’s Bolton and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins. Bolton is a little undersized while Collins is huge for a modern linebacker. I think the Saints opt for Bolton’s speed and range.

29. Green Bay Packers: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington

Here’s another player I was hoping the Bucs would get a shot to draft. Green Bay probably needs a cornerback more but I don’t like the value here. And I think they proved that wide receiver wasn’t the all-possessing need many thought it was heading into last year’s draft. Kenny Clark is great but he needs help inside and Onwuzurike is a proven run-stopper with some raw skills to possibly develop into a strong pass-rusher.

30. Buffalo Bills: T Jalen Mayfield, Texas

I’m basing this on the Bills potentially losing right tackle Daryl Williams. Buffalo’s cap situation is a little tight and they also have defensive leader Matt Milano and cornerback Josh Norman to re-sign, potentially. If Williams gets a big paycheck elsewhere, the Bills could plug Mayfield directly in at right tackle.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Terrace Marshall, LSU

After watching the Super Bowl, I want to give the Chiefs offensive line help but a lot of their problems were due to injury and the opt-out by guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. They could use a guard but I don’t that can be addressed in the next couple rounds. Instead, let’s prepare for the likely departure of Sammy Watkins and give the Chiefs a physical but fast wideout who can catch the ball over the middle and also get deep.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DL Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

The near-impossibility of predicting the 32nd pick in the draft is compounded by the fact that we’re still a month away from free agency and the comings and goings thereof will surely affect this decision. So I’m making this pick based on the (ugly) possibility of the champs losing Ndamukong Suh and/or Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Nixon is an intriguing interior talent who could create a dominant inside force next to Vita Vea.

Courtesy of Buccaneers.com

Categories
Sports

Zach Wilson heavy favorite to go No. 2 over Justin Fields

Zach Wilson’s steady rise up draft boards has the BYU quarterback the heavy favorite to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had long held that position behind presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. But Wilson’s surge that began while BYU was routing most opponents last season has continued into the pre-draft process.

Lawrence is still being offered at -5000 by PointsBet and -2000 by DraftKings to be the No. 1 overall pick, currently held by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Wilson now holds the second-shortest odds at both sportsbooks (1000 and 800, respectfully), and is being offered at -167 by DraftKings to be the No. 2 overall pick. Fields is next at 260, followed by North Dakota quarterback Trey Lance (700).

Wilson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound Utah native, is considered the most accurate passer in the class while having enough arm strength to make every necessary NFL throw. Compared to the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield by Lindy’s Draft magazine, Wilson is a more dynamic athlete but will need to learn how to quickly work through his progressions at the next level.

Fields is still the higher-rated overall prospect by some analysts. His raw talent and toughness is unquestioned after playing through a rib injury to lead Ohio State to the national title game last month.

Most of the concern with Fields is that he comes from a loaded program at Ohio State that featured a bevvy of playmakers around him. However, he’s a dynamic dual-threat quarterback capable of becoming the face of a franchise, drawing comparisons to Dallas’ Dak Prescott with his combination of arm talent and competitiveness.

The New York Jets currently hold the No. 2 overall pick, followed by the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons.

Oregon’s Penei Sewell (-715) is the heavy favorite by DraftKings to be the first offensive lineman drafted. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase (-150) continues to lead Alabama teammates DeVonta Smith (125) and Jaylen Waddle (700) to be the first wide receiver off the board.

Clemson’s Travis Etienne is -200 to be the first running back selected, followed by Alabama’s Najee Harris (125).

NFL Draft order:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-15

2. New York Jets, 2-14

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans), 4-12

4. Atlanta Falcons, 4-12

5. Cincinnati Bengals, 4-11-1

6. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-11-1

7. Detroit Lions, 5-11

8. Carolina Panthers, 5-11

9. Denver Broncos, 5-11

10. Dallas Cowboys, 6-10

11. New York Giants, 6-10

12. San Francisco 49ers, 6-10

13. Los Angeles Chargers, 7-9

14. Minnesota Vikings, 7-9

15. New England Patriots, 7-9

16. Arizona Cardinals, 8-8

17. Las Vegas Raiders, 8-8

18. Miami Dolphins, 10-6

19. Washington Football Team, 7-9

20. Chicago Bears, 8-8

21. Indianapolis Colts, 11-5

22. Tennessee Titans, 11-5

23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks), 2-14

24. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-4

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams), 1-15

26. Cleveland Browns, 11-5

27. Baltimore Ravens, 11-5

28. New Orleans Saints, 12-4

29. Green Bay Packers, 13-3

30. Buffalo Bills, 13-3

31. Kansas City Chiefs, 14-2

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11-5

–Field Level Media