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Lou Will And Strip Club Chicken Wings

The story about Lou Will making a detour to a strip club for wings while outside the NBA bubble is absolutely ridiculous. Why would a seasoned veteran risk hurting his team if he really believed that they had a chance to win it all this year. My thoughts are that the only reason Lou Will would take that kind of risk is because he really doesn’t believe that the Los Angeles Clippers have what it takes to win it all this year.

Watching the Clippers and seeing how out of sync they have been this season in many game, players going in out and out of the lineup, rumors of chemistry issues, injuries, etc.; they lack the playing time needed to build chemistry. They had great chemistry with Mo Harkless and then they traded him away for Marcus Morris. If you notice, they started losing to everyone after the Harkless trade before finding a way to get back to winning. I think that the Harkless trade really hurt their chemistry. On top of all of that, Paul George has missed half of the season due to injuries and we can’t forget about Kawhi Leonard’s load management. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has openly talked about the small amount of practice time by the full team. It really doesn’t bode well for Clippers fans.

Unless Doc Rivers is saving all of his coaching skills and lineup for the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers are a serious risk of being sent home early. Considering the high expectations that so many had for the Clippers for this year, it would be another disappointment for Clippers fans, not to mention, owner Steve Ballmer.

If you are basing it purely on the eye test, Lakers and Bucks look much hungrier and focused to go all the way. Lakers and Bucks seem to have better chemistry as well. Unless Kawhi Leonard and Paul George go Super Saiyan in the playoffs, Clips will likely go home early. This might be LeBron’s year to finally win a ring after all of these years of failure. Given that he has Anthony Davis, another top 5 player on his team vs Giannis Antetokounmpo and a bunch of role players (if that ends up being the Finals matchup), I would have to give the edge to the Lakers to win it all.

NBA Restart: Who Will Win It All?

NBA teams will soon be headed to Orlando, Florida, and the Walt Disney World Resort where the league will complete the 2019-20 season. The league selected 22 teams to join the restart which will begin with games on July 30.

The teams chosen all had legitimate chances to make the top eight in their respective conference. In the West, there were five teams all within six games of current eighth-place Memphis. Any of the five could potentially replace the Grizzlies as the eighth seed in the West.

In the East, Washington is 4.5 games behind eighth-place Orlando. The Magic are just half a game behind Brooklyn, which is currently seventh.

Teams will play eight “seeding” games, which is essentially the remainder of the regular season. After those eight games, there will be the potential for a play-in tournament to decide the No. 8 seed in each conference.

If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team, the two teams will play a two-game tournament. The No. 8 team must win one game and the No. 9 seed will have to win twice in order to advance to the postseason.

The question then is, “Who will win it all?”

 

The Favorites

Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, there have been three teams that have stood out among the rest as favorites to win this year’s NBA title. Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Los Angeles Clippers were favored to win it all this year and the coronavirus pandemic has not changed this. The three teams are still heading into the restart.

The Bucks, who had the league’s best record last year, once again lead the NBA with a 53-12 mark. They have the reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose numbers this season are even better than last. Milwaukee is the league’s highest-scoring team and the Bucks are also a top-5 team in both points allowed and defensive efficiency.

The Lakers have the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James, at 35 years of age, is enjoying one of his best seasons. He’s averaging 25.7 points per game and leads the league in assists (10.6). Davis leads the Lakers in scoring at 26.7 points a game and also averages 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

The Clippers (44-20) trail the Lakers by 5.5 games in the Western Conference race.  Last year’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leads the Clippers with 26.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Paul George, who should be completely healthy, adds 21.0 points a game and Lou Williams (18.7 ppg, 5.7 apg) is the best sixth man in basketball.

The Lakers will play the Clippers in the opener of the restart on July 30. The Clippers have beaten their rivals in two of three games thus far this season.

 

Tier 2 Favorites

Too many people want to overlook the Toronto Raptors, the defending NBA champ. The Raptors, of course, lost Leonard to the Clippers, but they are still a team not to be taken lightly.

Toronto will likely wind up the second seed in the East. Pascal Siakam, last year’s Most Improved Player of the Year, has taken over as the team’s star. He averages 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry (19.7 ppg) and Fred VanVleet (17.6 ppg) is as good as any and the Toronto bench might be the best in the league averaging over 44 points and 20 rebounds per game.

Boston (43-21) is another contender in the East featuring a young, talented lineup. Jayson Tatum (23.6 ppg) continues to develop as does Jaylen Brown (20.4 ppg). They are led by veteran point guard Kemba Walker (21.2 ppg, 4.9 apg).

The real threats to the Big Three of Milwaukee and the two L.A. teams come from the West. Denver and Utah both play outstanding defense which will keep them in games in the postseason. The Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic is one of the league’s most underrated players. He did test positive for the coronavirus but is expected to be fully recovered for the restart.

Jokic averages 20.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He also shoots 52.8 percent from the floor. He and point guard Jamal Murray will be the keys to the Nuggets success in Orlando.

Utah (41-23) is similar to Denver with its stout defense, an outstanding big man, and strong guard play. Defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert (15.1 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg) is a presence inside. Donovan Mitchell is the Jazz’s leading scorer averaging 24.2 points a game.

The other intriguing upset could come from Houston. The reasons why are simply James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The Rockets backcourt is outstanding and can score at will. Harden leads the league in scoring with 34.4 points per game and Westbrook is in the top-10 averaging 27.5.

The big question for Houston is on defense. While the Rockets score in bunches, they also give up a lot of points. They rank 22nd in the league in points allowed per game (114.4).

The QB Hand Size Myth in the NFL

The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Joe Burrow, contemplated retiring from football before he had ever played a down in the league. The reason? His hands are too small.

As humorous and ridiculous as it may sound, the NFL measures the hands of all its prospective quarterbacks. The thinking goes like this – the bigger a quarterback prospect’s hands; the better (for a number of reasons most related to ball control).

The problem with that thinking is simple. It’s a myth.

Measuring Hands

On the day of arrival at the annual NFL Combine, quarterbacks are put through a series of physical tests, some of those involving measurements. Height and weight are recorded and, for quarterbacks, a measurement of the throwing hand is taken.

Hands are measured from the tip of the thumb, across the palm, and to the end of the pinky. At least that is how it’s done at the combine. There is no universal method for measuring hands, which might be one of the problems. Hand size is also measured at pro day workouts and at events like the Senior Bowl. The numbers can vary wildly.

The Strange Case of Brandon “Small Hands” Allen

Brandon Allen was a three-year starter at Arkansas. He was considered one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks and proved it in his senior year. He threw for a school record six touchdown passes in a 53-52 win over Ole Miss. Two weeks later, he broke that record with seven scoring tosses against Mississippi State.

Allen was projected to be a late-round NFL draft pick in 2016. He thought his career might be dead before it started once he learned that his 8.5-inch hand measurement would scare away potential NFL suitors. NFL teams like quarterbacks with bigger hands, Allen was told.

The hands didn’t scare the Jacksonville Jaguars away. They drafted the former Razorback in the sixth round. He spent 2016 with Jacksonville and 2017 and 2018 with the Los Angeles Rams. Signed by the Denver Broncos in 2019, Allen went 1-2 in his three starts for the Broncos.

Even with his tiny hands, Allen managed 68.3 QB rating, three touchdown passes, and exactly zero fumbles. That’s right. Despite his so-called “small” hands, Allen has not recorded an NFL fumble.

Brett Favre’s Man Hands

In 1991, the Atlanta Falcons took a chance on a quarterback from Southern Mississippi and selected him in the second round of that year’s draft. A year later, the Falcons traded him to Green Bay where he became a three-time NFL MVP. It must have been the hands.

Brett Favre’s hands measured 10⅜ inches, seemingly gigantic in the world of hand size. While he did win three MVPs and lead the Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI, Favre and his big hands also set an NFL record for fumbles by a quarterback. Favre fumbled 166 times, or 0.55 times per game, during his career. Maybe big hands don’t have anything to do with ball control.

“Small” Hands & No. 1 Draft Picks

With the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams selected California quarterback Jared Goff. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Goff had all the tools to become an outstanding NFL quarterback. Except one.

At the 2016 NFL Combine, Goff’s hand size checked in at a measly nine inches. How could a team draft a player with such “small” hands? Goff would lead the Rams to a Super Bowl in just his second season in the league.

A year later, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to the No. 10 slot in the draft to take a quarterback out of Texas Tech. The selection, of course, was last year’s Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. Prior to the draft, one article about Mahomes and his draft chances read: “Will Patrick Mahomes’ Small Hands Tank His NFL Draft Stock?”

Mahomes hand size measured 9¼ inches at the 2017 combine. In his first full year as an NFL starter, Mahomes became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards and 50-plus touchdowns in the same season. Peyton Manning, whose hands measure a shade over 10 inches, is the other.

In 2019, the Arizona Cardinals appeared ready to take Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the first pick in the draft. There was concern about his height, which was measured at 5-feet-10⅛-inches at the NFL combine. The bigger concern was his hand size – 9½ inches.

Murray had the smallest hands of any quarterback taken in the first round that year. He also had the lowest fumble rate (0.31) and highest QB rating (55.7). Oh, and he won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Epilogue

Before Allen was drafted by Jacksonville, he continued his pre-draft preparation. Part of it included receiving deep tissue massages to relax. The massages also elongated the connective tissue in his right hand.

After measuring 8½ inches at the Senior Bowl, Allen’s right hand measured a whopping 8⅞ inches. That is actually the same measurement as former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. He had a fairly successful career. Romo also only lost 29 total fumbles in his 14-year NFL career.

Maybe size doesn’t matter.

Biggest Draft Busts in NFL History

Each year, the National Football League conducts its annual draft with teams selecting 250-plus players who each have the dream of becoming a star. Unfortunately, most of those players will never achieve any amount of success.

Some players enter the draft with extremely high expectations. Those drafted in Round 1 are supposed to be the best of the best. Sadly, several have been among the biggest draft busts of all-time.

1998 No. 2 QB Ryan Leaf

Leaf or Manning? It was the question that the Indianapolis Colts dealt with prior to the 1998 NFL draft. The Colts, of course, went with Peyton Manning which was a good choice considering Leaf is probably the biggest draft bust of all-time.

Leaf went 4-17 as the San Diego Chargers starter. He threw more interceptions (36) than touchdowns (14) in his short-lived career. It would later come out that Leaf had a history of addiction issues that cost him the opportunity to capitalize on the talent he displayed at Washington State.

1989 No. 2 OT Tony Mandarich

Four of the top five picks in the 1989 NFL draft ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Michigan State’s Mandarich was the only one that wasn’t. Drafted second overall, steroids and drug use prevented Mandarich from amounting to anything. The Colts took a chance on him, but he would eventually finish his career with Green Bay and play only six seasons in the league.

2007 No. 1 QB JaMarcus Russell

He was a man among boys. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Russell could easily throw a football 70 yards downfield. Russell’s “best” season was 2008 when he went 5-10 as the starter in Oakland, completed 53.8 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdowns to eight interceptions.

His 2007 and 2009 seasons were awful and Russell ended his career with a 7-18 record as a starter with 18 career touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His failure is further magnified because of his massive contract – $61 million total with $32 million guaranteed.

2003 No. 2 WR Charles Rogers

Rogers won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the best wide receiver in college football in 2002. Raised in Saginaw, Michigan, the hometown Detroit Lions selected him with the second pick in the 2003 draft. Rogers’ NFL career lasted just three seasons and was full of multiple violations of team and league policy. He played a grand total of 15 games and caught a total of four NFL touchdown passes.

1999 No. 3 QB Akili Smith

The 1999 NFL Draft was loaded with quarterback talent. It was the last draft to have quarterbacks selected with each of the first three picks. Cleveland went all-in on another bust, Tim Couch, before the Philadelphia Eagles scored a winner in Donovan McNabb.

At pick No. 3, Cincinnati took Smith who had thrown for 45 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions in his two seasons at Oregon. Smith played in just 22 games and went 3-14 as a starter. He ended up as a backup to Jon Kitna and never made another team because of a poor work ethic. The next pick in the draft after Smith was RB Edgerrin James who ended up in the Hall of Fame.

1994 No. 3 QB Heath Shuler

Shuler was supposed to be the Washington Redskins quarterback of the future. He was not. Shuler finished his career with a completion percentage of just 49.2 percent. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was equally abysmal – 15 touchdown passes to 33 picks.

He went 8-14 as a starter in Washington and was traded after three seasons. Shuler never started another game and finished his NFL career with a 54.3 QB rating.

1993 No. 2 QB Rick Mirer

It’s pretty easy to see that NFL teams gamble on big-time college quarterbacks. The Seattle Seahawks though Notre Dame product Rick Mirer would be their guy for many years. It didn’t happen.

Unlike many of the quarterbacks on this list, Mirer actually played 12 years in the league. He didn’t do anything outstanding and finished with a 24-44 record as a starter. Mirer played for five different teams primarily as a backup, which is not what teams expect in return for a No. 2 overall pick.

1999 No. 1 QB Tim Couch

After throwing the ball all over the yard in Hal Mumme’s and Mike Leach’s Kentucky offense, Couch was picked first in 1999 by Cleveland. The Browns thought so much of him they stuck with him for five years. In those five seasons, Couch managed 11,131 yards, 64 touchdowns, and 67 interceptions. He missed 18 games in those five years mostly due to injury since he was forced to run for his life so often behind a suspect Browns offensive line.

2012 No. 3 RB Trent Richardson

The Browns lack of success over the past few decades is evident in the number high draft picks they have had. The 2012 draft was no exception and Cleveland went with wrecking-ball running back Richardson out of Alabama.

The Browns actually redeemed themselves when they traded Richardson to Indianapolis the following year. Richardson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry over his awful four-year career. His best season was his rookie year when he gained 950 yards. He needed 267 carries to get there though.

1992 No. 1 DE Steve Emtman

At 6-4 and 290 pounds, Emtman was one of the most feared college pass rushers ever. He was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of Year twice, won the Outland and Lombardi Trophies, and was even a Heisman Trophy finalist. The one thing Emtman was not was a good NFL player.

Drafted first overall, Emtman suffered through a six-year NFL career marred by injuries. In those six seasons, Emtman started just 19 games.

Biggest Potential 2020 NFL Draft Busts

Drafting players for an NFL team has never been an exact science. Coaches and personnel staffs pore over mounds of data, conduct interviews, and watch hours of film in an attempt to determine which athletes they should add to their rosters.

Despite their best efforts, some of the picks never pan out. That may happen with the 2020 NFL draft. Time will tell, but there are a few players that could potentially become draft busts.

Jalen Reagor

Fans in Philadelphia are still trying to catch their breath after hearing their team’s first-round draft pick – TCU’s Reagor. At TCU, Reagor had a 1,000-yard season as a junior in 2018, but last year his production fell way off as he caught just 43 passes for 611 yards and five touchdowns. Plus, he ran a rather average 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

What makes the pick hard to swallow for Eagles fans is that LSU’s Justin Jefferson and his 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, and 18 touchdowns in 2019 was still available. Yes, Reagor is a playmaker, but the Eagles have had issues in developing wide receiver talent over the years. If Reagor doesn’t pan out, he will be a huge bust.

Henry Ruggs III

The NFL loves speed at the wide receiver position and Ruggs has plenty of it. His 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the combine resulted in Ruggs being the very first wide receiver taken in the 2020 draft. Most experts believed Ruggs’ teammate Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb would be the first off the board.

While Ruggs is fast, he was not nearly as productive as Jeudy, Lamb, or any of the other receivers taken in the first round. He never had a season at Alabama with more than 800 yards receiving. Jeudy, who was selected three picks after Ruggs, had back-to-back 1,100-yard-plus seasons for the Crimson Tide.

The last time a team took a risk on a speedy wide receiver the Cincinnati Bengals drafted John Ross at No. 9 in 2017. Ross’s career totals? Forty-nine receptions, 716 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Yes, Ruggs has the potential to be a big-play threat for the Raiders, but he also has the potential to be a bust.

Tua Tagovailoa

When the Miami Dolphins started the 2019 NFL season 0-7, “Tank for Tua” became a favored mantra among fans of the team. While Miami didn’t completely tank the season, they did end up with the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft. There was no question about where the team was going with their first pick – Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa.

It’s always a risk drafting a quarterback in the first round, but head coach Brian Flores and his staff studied enough of Tagovailoa to know that he can be the face of the franchise. Or can he?

Tagovailoa is just 6-foot-1 and weighs 215 pounds. He has battled numerous ankle injuries at Alabama, which led to a surgery done last October. His 2019 season was ended when he suffered a dislocated hip. Of course, the Dolphins and the rest of the league did their due diligence and believe that he is completely healed.

Last year before the hip injury, Tagovailoa had thrown 33 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. There is no doubting his talent, but his injury history makes him a potential bust candidate.

Justin Herbert

Many thought Herbert would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft had he decided to forego his senior season at Oregon. Herbert, of course, stayed and had an outstanding season for the Ducks. He completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,471 yards and 32 touchdowns.

The Chargers selected Herbert with the No. 6 pick and if veteran Tyrod Taylor doesn’t perform well the starting job will likely be turned over to Herbert. That could prove disastrous. Herbert is the type of individual that needs a year or two in a system to become a quality NFL starter.

While there is no doubting his physical characteristics and ability, there were concerns heading into the draft about Herbert’s personality. An admitted introvert, Herbert was not named the Oregon starter in 2017 because then-Head Coach Willie Taggart didn’t believe Herbert could get his teammates to rally around him.

Don’t forget, some of the biggest quarterback draft busts in NFL history have come from Oregon. Both Joey Harrington and Akili Smith were the No. 3 overall picks in their respective drafts (2002, 1999). Both were huge flops.

Damon Arnette

Jon Gruden was in desperate need of help at cornerback, so when the Raiders selected one with the 19th pick of this year’s first round it was no surprise. What was a surprise was the Raiders drafting of Ohio State CB Damon Arnette.

Arnette (6-0, 195) was projected as a third round selection by most NFL talent evaluators. Jeff Gladney of TCU, who would be picked by Minnesota at No. 31 was still on the board at the time. Gladney was viewed as a first-rounder. Arnette was not.

With the rookie salary pool, Arnette will be entitled to a contract worth roughly $13.4 million, of which $7.3 million will be in the form of a bonus. Arnette was a solid player at Ohio State, but it’s going to take a lot to live up to that $13.4 million.

Winners of the 2020 NFL Draft

The NFL wrapped up its annual draft with three full days, seven rounds, and 255 picks of football-lover’s paradise. And, the league did it all virtually.

With Commissioner Roger Goodell calling out picks from his basement, the NFL stuck to its schedule and held the 2020 draft during a public health crisis. In doing so, the league set a new TV ratings record for Round 1. The league was a definite winner this year. Here’s who else prospered at the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals

With the first overall pick in the draft, the Bengals got the face of the franchise for the next decade – quarterback Joe Burrow. The Heisman Trophy winner is a likely Day 1 starter and he’ll have plenty of weapons.

Cincinnati got wide receiver Tee Higgins (6-4) out of Clemson with the first pick in the second round. The Bengals added some defensive depth with LB Logan Wilson, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, and DE Khalid Kareem.

America’s Team

Sitting at No. 17, Dallas somehow came away with what many regarded as the best wide receiver in the draft – Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb. The 6-2, 198-pound Lamb is a skilled route runner with great ball skills and enough speed to be able to average 11.0 yards per reception after the catch.

The Cowboys then got CB Trevon Diggs and DT Neville Gallimore in Rounds 2 and 3. Both players were rated much higher. The same was true of fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz, an offensive lineman, and DE Bradlee Anae, who was selected in the fifth round.

Wide Receivers

It wasn’t until pick No. 12 that the first wide receiver, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, was taken. The wide receiver flood gates then opened up as five more were selected in Round 1 and a total of 13 were taken in the first two rounds.

The second round kicked off with Higgins to Cincinnati followed by USC’s Michael Pittman who was selected by Indianapolis. A total of seven receivers were picked in Round 2. They were part of a total of 37 taken in the draft. That means a full 15 percent of all players chosen in the 2020 draft were wide receivers.

The Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens made the most of their draft with 10 selections, six of them coming in the first three rounds. Linebacker Patrick Queen from LSU will be an instant star. Baltimore had four picks in the third round and acquired DT Justin Madubuike, WR Devin Duvernay, LB Malik Harrison, and OG Tyre Phillips. All four were projected to go earlier than Round 3.

Then, Baltimore pulled off one of the steals of the draft. Iowa S Geno Stone (5-10, 207) fell to the seventh round likely due to his 4.62 40 time. The Ravens scooped up the super-productive Stone, who had one of the highest coverage grades in the nation last year.

The SEC

It is the nation’s premier conference for a reason. The SEC continues to produce NFL talent and did so this year in record fashion. Of the first 64 picks – Rounds 1 & 2 – the SEC produced 25, or 39 percent, of them.

The conference had a total of 63 draftees, tops of all the conferences in the country. The Big Ten was a distant second with 48. National champion LSU accounted for 14 picks itself. Alabama followed with nine and Florida and Georgia each produced seven draft picks.

Tampa Bay

Head coach Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going all-in on winning now. The Bucs acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and his former New England teammate TE Rob Gronkowski before this year’s draft.

Then, the Bucs went to work surrounding Brady with a number of weapons, the first being the uber-athletic Tristan Wirfs. The former Iowa tackle produced some of the best combine numbers ever for an offensive lineman with a 4.85 40-yard dash and a 36.5-inch vertical jump. He recorded those numbers at 6-foot-5-inches and 320 pounds.

With Wirfs protecting Brady’s blind side, he will have new offensive weapons in RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB Raymond Calais, and WR Tyler Johnson. The Bucs also added depth to the secondary picking safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round.

15 Vikings

Minnesota amassed a total of 15 picks in this year’s draft. They had multiple picks in each round except for Rounds 2 and 3. They started the onslaught in the first round with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who will help make up for the loss of Stefon Diggs in the offseason.

With their second first-round pick, the Vikings took CB Jeff Gladney out of TCU. They selected two more corners – Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand – in Rounds 3 and 4, respectively. Head coach Mike Zimmer, a defensive guy, loaded up on edge rushers in the fourth round with D.J. Wonnum at pick No. 117 and Baylor’s James Lynch at No. 130. Two picks later, Zimmer and company took Oregon LB Troy Dye.

Can Gronkowski Help Tampa Bay Win?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has a few favorite sayings. One is “no risk it, no biscuit.” The Bucs have apparently taken Arians’ words to heart.

Former New England All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was lured out of retirement and acquired by Tampa Bay via trade. The Bucs sent a measly fourth-round draft pick to the Patriots for the rights to Gronkowski, arguably one of the best to every play his position.

Remember, this is after Arians and the Bucs went out and acquired QB Tom Brady in free agency. Brady and Gronkowski, of course, have a long history from their time in New England.

While the NFL world is abuzz because of the trade, the big question is “Can Gronkowski, who will turn 31 on May 14, help the Bucs win?”

Absolutely!

There is no question that Gronkowski is a future Hall of Fame tight end. He played all nine of his NFL seasons with New England and Brady. He has totaled 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. All but one of those regular season touchdowns was thrown by Brady.

In just his second season, Gronkowski established career highs in receptions, 90, and receiving yards, 1,327. He also led the entire NFL in receiving touchdowns with 17. Gronkowski would earn his first of four first-team All-Pro honors and the first of five Pro Bowl berths.

More importantly, Gronkowski would team with Brady to win three Super Bowls. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Gronkowski did miss Super Bowl LI after the 2016 season due to injury. He played in just eight games that season ending the season on injured reserve after needing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.

Does Gronk Have Anything Left?

There are some who surely do not see the value in Tampa Bay acquiring Gronkowski. The last time the tight end was on an NFL field was in Super Bowl LIII where he caught six passes for 87 yards. That was after a 2018 season that was not one of Gronkowski’s best.

He started just 11 games during the regular season and was clearly not healthy. He averaged a career-low 52.5 receiving yards per game and scored just three touchdowns. Taking away his first two NFL seasons, Gronkowski missed an average of four games over his final seven seasons. Can he make it through a 16-game season?

The injuries have piled up through his career. There have been nearly a dozen, including his years in college at Arizona. There was a back surgery in 2009, a broken forearm in 2012, and then multiple injuries in 2013. Gronkowski suffered a back injury, a concussion, and tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee that season.

He has had three back surgeries already and was on his way to a fourth in 2018 before he retired. Clearly, injuries will be a concern, but Arians and the Bucs believe Gronkowski can help them win now.

Gronk’s Real Value

Sure, Gronkowski is a skilled receiver. He is big and moves well for his size. He creates serious matchup issues when he is split out wide or lined up in the slot. Opposing defenses usually put a much smaller safety on Gronkowski in man coverage and attempt to bracket him with two or more smaller defenders in zone coverages.

What many forget about Gronkowski is that he retired as possibly the NFL’s best blocking tight end. The Bucs offensive line has some holes particularly at right tackle. Tampa Bay’s running game needs improvement too. The Bucs finished 24th in the league last year averaging 95.1 yards a game.

Pairing Gronkowski with current Buc TE O.J. Howard in two-tight end sets would give opposing defenses fits. Two-tight end sets create an extra gap in the running game and Gronkowski and Howard are two skilled pass receivers. Last season, San Francisco had a great deal of success on offense pairing George Kittle (85 receptions, 1,053 yards) with Ross Dwelley.

Arians is a master play-caller. Against opponents’ base defenses, the Bucs head coach can split out both Howard and Gronkowski along with wide receivers Chris Godwin (86 catches, 1,333 yards) and Mike Evans (67 catches, 1,157 yards). When teams get into a nickel or even a dime defense, the Bucs end up with the 260-pound Gronkowski and the 6-6, 250-pound Howard blocking defensive backs.

Bucs All-In on Win Now

When Tampa Bay hired Arians, they envisioned winning…and doing so quickly. Bringing in a six-time Super Bowl winner at quarterback was just the start. In addition, Tampa Bay re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul and Nkdamukong Suh to anchor the Bucs defensive line.

The franchise tag was used on 2019 NFL sacks leader Shaq Barrett and the Bucs have some promising youth in the secondary. While they gave up a fourth-round pick to obtain Gronkowski, it will be worth it when Arians guides the Bucs to their first playoff berth since 2007. Even if Gronkowski plays just 10 to 12 games, he gives them a chance to win…and win now.

Losers of the 2020 NFL Draft

The NFL’s annual draft gives teams an opportunity to meet some immediate needs as well as build a roster for the future. Plenty of teams have used the draft to their benefit. The Chiefs, for example, traded up to draft Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes in 2017. That one worked out for Kansas City.

For every pick that goes as planned, there are many others that do not. Some picks are puzzling and others just don’t seem to make sense. Here’s a look at those picks and the losers of the 2020 NFL draft.

Green Bay

Did the Packers need a quarterback in Round 1? Current starter Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger at 36, but he is still one of the elite passers in the league. Even so, Green Bay felt the need to take Utah State QB Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick.

Of the top four quarterbacks in the draft, Love was the wild card. Joe Burrow, who went No. 1 to Cincinnati, and Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) and Justin Herbert (Chargers) were all sure-fire first-rounders. Love, on the other hand, has all the raw skills – size, athletic ability, arm talent – but saw his production dip in 2019. Plus, he threw an FBS-high 17 interceptions last year against primarily Group of 5 talent.

With what seemed like a glaring need at receiver, the Packers didn’t draft one in their nine picks. This coming in a draft where 37 wide receivers were taken.

The Two Jakes

In 2017, Georgia starting quarterback Jacob Eason suffered a knee injury in the Bulldogs’ season opener. He was replaced by true freshman Jake Fromm. Fromm, of course, would take over as the starter even as Eason healed.

Eason, at 6-6 and 230, decided to transfer back home to Washington where he would take over as the starter in 2019. Both Fromm and Eason were considered potential first-round draft picks. Both slipped with the rise of Burrow and the others, but Fromm and Eason were still viewed as solid Day 2 picks.

Neither would be called until Day 3. Eason went first going in the fourth round to Indianapolis. Fromm took an even bigger dive as he fell to the fifth round to Buffalo. Both will have an opportunity to become backups with their respective teams.

A Stockpile of Tight Ends

The Chicago Bears didn’t have a first-round, but they had two in the second round. They used the first on TE Cole Kmet of Notre Dame. Kmet is definitely worthy of being a second-round pick, but one must wonder why the Bears would select another tight end. They had nine on their roster already.

Yes, nine. That includes veteran Jimmy Graham, the projected starter and 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen. Kmet will probably contribute to the Bears offense, but the Bears had a huge need for a quality offensive lineman. Chicago addressed that need but not until Round 7 when they selected Colorado OT Arlington Hambright and Tennessee State guard Lachavious Simmons.

Eagles Reach

With two weeks to go before the draft got underway, the Philadelphia Eagles appeared ready to address a need for a big-time wide receiver. The situation was perfect. The Eagles would pick at No. 21 and despite Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb all being off the board there was still plenty of talent remaining.

Then, the Eagles took TCU WR Jalen Reagor. On most draft boards, Reagor was a Day 2 pick. Built more like a running back at 5-11 and 206 pounds, Reagor had a 1,000-yard season in 2018 but caught just 43 passes for 611 yards last season. There is no doubt that Reagor has the physical skills to be a solid receiver in the league. He ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, recorded a 42-inch vertical jump, and an 11-foot-6-inch broad jump at the NFL combine.

What makes the pick seem even more like a reach was the fact that LSU receiver Justin Jefferson (6-1, 202) was still available. Jefferson is bigger than and just as fast as Reagor. Jefferson also had a much more productive 2019 catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for the national champion Tigers.

Houston, We Have a Problem

The Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien bungled the 2020 draft long before it actually took place. Houston sent two first-round picks, one of those in 2020, to Miami for OT Laremy Tunsil. The Jadeveon Clowney trade to Seattle netted Houston exactly one draft pick…in the third round. Then, to top it all off, O’Brien traded one of the game’s elite receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, and did not receive a first-round pick in return.

Houston’s only pick in the first 90 selections was at No. 40 where Houston got a solid defensive tackle in TCU’s Ross Blacklock. Houston addressed a need at wide receiver but waited until Round 7 to do so picking Isaiah Coulter from FCS Rhode Island. In the end, the Texans would end up with a total of just five draft picks.

Biggest Surprise Picks of the 2020 NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books and, as was projected, LSU’s Joe Burrow was the first overall pick going to the Cincinnati Bengals. Fellow quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were projected to go in the first round and did to Miami and the Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.

As is usually the case with the NFL draft, there were some surprises. Here’s a look at the most surprising selections from the 2020 NFL draft.

Seattle Takes Brooks

It was a big surprise when Seattle elected to hold onto its first-round pick. The Seahawks have traded out of the first round in four of the past seven drafts. It was an even bigger surprise when head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks brass decided to take Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks.

The 6-feet, 240 pound Brooks was not projected to be a first-round draft choice, Carroll and Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. love Brooks’ run-stuffing abilities. Brooks has good speed – 4.52 in the 40-yard dash – and has penchant for making tackles. He led Texas Tech in tackles last year with 108 and ranked in the Top 10 nationally with 20 tackles for loss.

1st RB Off Board not D’Andre Swift

In today’s NFL, running backs are no longer a priority. Most teams are not willing to invest heavily in a position whose NFL life expectancy is barely three years. It would have not been a surprise if no running backs were selected in Round 1 of the draft.

If a running back was going to go in the first round, experts thought the pick would be Georgia RB D’Andre Swift. The surprise came with the very last pick of the first round. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs selected not Swift, but LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Hellaire.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid envisions Edwards-Hellaire as another Brian Westbrook, who Reid coached in Philadelphia. Like Westbrook, Edwards-Hellaire is an outstanding receiver and that is why he was picked in Round 1.

No WR for Packers Fans

Green Bay was one game away from last year’s Super Bowl and the collective thought was that the Packers would grab another weapon for QB Aaron Rodgers in the draft. There were plenty of wide receivers from which to choose.

The Packers decided to make a move trading the 30th pick to Miami to move up four spots. To the surprise of many, the pick was not a receiver but QB Jordan Love out of Utah State. Rodgers is 36 coming off a season where he threw for 26 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He is among the elite passers in the NFL.

Green Bay also needed to address the linebacking corps, but instead took a quarterback who threw the most interceptions (17) of any starting quarterback in the FBS. The selection of Love in the first round was a huge surprise, but the fact that the Packers didn’t take a wide receiver with any of their nine selections might be an even bigger one.

New England Drafts Kicker

The Patriots lost QB Tom Brady to Tampa Bay leaving them with Jarrett Stidham and the recently signed Brian Hoyer. One would have thought that New England head coach Bill Belichick would have taken a quarterback somewhere in the 2020 NFL draft.

He didn’t. Instead, Belichick used his fifth-round draft pick to take a kicker. Yes, a kicker. Justin Rohrwasser made 85.7 percent of his field goals with a long of 53 yards and converted 35-of-36 extra-point attempts.

It’s not the first time Belichick has drafted a kicker. In 2006, the Patriots selected Stephen Gostkowski, who was released by New England just a few weeks before the draft.

Since Belichick did not take a quarterback in the draft, it appears he is prepared to go with either Stidham or Hoyer. The though was also that he might take a look at free agents like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, who was just released by the Cincinnati Bengals. It has since been reported that the Patriots aren’t interested in Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton has already signed a 1-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

Top 10 Surprise

For the first time since the 2015 draft, none of the first ten teams to pick executed a trade. It has become common for teams drafting in the top ten to trade down and acquire more draft capital. Not this year.

Last year’s only move involved Pittsburgh and Denver. The Steelers traded up to No. 10 giving the Broncos their first- and second-round picks last year and a third-rounder this year.

This year, the first draft day trade didn’t occur until pick No. 13. San Francisco, which had acquired Indianapolis’s first-round pick in a trade for DeForest Buckner, traded that pick plus another to Tampa Bay. The Bucs received the No. 13 pick which they used to select OT Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa.

Jalen Hurts

The first four quarterbacks to go in the 2020 draft went as expected in the order that most had envisioned. Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert, and Love all went in the first round. Most figured the next two off the board would be Washington’s Jacob Eason and Georgia’s Jake Fromm, who ironically had been teammates at Georgia in 2017.

The surprise came at pick No. 53 in Round 2 when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts. Last year, Hurts totaled over 5,000 all-purpose yards and 52 touchdowns. That led to him being selected ahead of Eason (4th round, Colts) and Fromm (5th round, Buffalo).

The G.O.A.T. Argument

I was arguing with a friend earlier today about sports and he made a comment that the G.O.A.T. argument is just opinion based. I, like the majority of sports fans, think that Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. QB in the NFL. I also think that Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T. when it comes to the NBA. He said that he doesn’t believe that anyone is the G.O.A.T. of anything. He said that he might believe that Joe Montana is the greatest QB of all time. He said that an argument can even be made for Kobe or even LeBron to be considered the G.O.A.T. along with Michael Jordan. Ladies and gentlemen, my mind was officially blown 🤯

I told him that I had to disagree with his comment about being able to make a case for Kobe or even LeBron as the G.O.AT. You can make an argument about Bill Russell being the GOAT with 11 rings. But you can’t make an argument that LeBron with only 3 rings and 6 losses, who is playing in an era where hand-checking isn’t allowed, is better than MJ with 6 rings – who earned his rings in one of the toughest eras of the sport. I was fortunate enough to watch MJ play in his prime and LeBron is no MJ. Not even close! Kobe is the closest to MJ that we have ever seen and probably will ever see.

Before the LeBron Stans start losing their minds, I think that LeBron is a great player, but you can’t put him in the conversation with MJ. In the words of Rob Parker – No Way, No How! LeBron has been promoted by the media to become the face of the NBA, but no one who is knowledgeable about sports should be drinking that Kool-Aid and calling him the G.OA.T. That is unless you are in the media trying to get eyes and comments on your show…ESPN 👀

MJ played in an era where players were much more physical and literally tried to hurt him every time he went to the hoop. LeBron and other players today cry over little ticky tack fouls. In today’s NBA, if you even look at a player wrong, you can get ejected from a game. 😂😂😂 I saw a game where San Antonio Spurs DeMar DeRozan had a vicious dunk on Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors, and just barely glanced at him afterwards, and the refs T’d him up. 🤯 It was a glance that barely lasted a second. I have also seen LeBron James dunk on multiple players and stare them down for what some would consider a lifetime and the refs pretended not to see anything 🧑‍🦯

Kobe has 5 rings! I remember one All-Star game when Kobe terrorized LeBron. He blocked LeBron on a play and then dared him to shoot the ball on another play and LeBron didn’t seem to know what to do. The fans were cheering and trying to get LeBron to (in the words of the late Prince as parodied by Dave Chappelle) “shoot the J” and LeBron predictably passed it off, much to everyone’s disappointment. I even saw LeBron calling Kobe the best player in the league around the same time when some in the media were hyping Lebron as the best. Kobe is an unbelievable player and I think that he’s the closest to MJ that we’ll probably ever see, but I wouldn’t make an argument that Kobe is better than MJ.

While I do agree with my friend’s comment that people can disagree about who the G.O.A.T. is, you just can’t put a guy who won 3 finals and lost 6 in the same conversation as someone who won 6 championships! In what universe can you make an argument that 3 rings is greater than 6? Especially when those 6 rings were earned in an era where the game was much more difficult? Even if you say that LeBron has better stats than MJ in multiple categories, LeBron has dominated the ball on every team he’s ever played on. That allows him to pad his stats more easily. And if you want to go on stats alone, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for 3 years. Why isn’t anyone calling Westbrook the G.O.A.T.? 

The Worst Trades In NFL History

NFL teams work trades all the time in an attempt to put together a roster that can lead to the ultimate goal – a Super Bowl victory. Not all NFL trades work out for the best. Some are simply disastrous. This article reviews some of the more disastrous trades in NFL history.

Ricky Williams to New Orleans

In 1999, New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka mortgaged the team’s future for the rights to draft RB Ricky Williams at No. 5 Ditka traded all of the Saints drafts picks, including first- and third-round picks the following year, for Williams.

Williams ran for 884 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie and New Orleans went 3-13. Ditka, not surprisingly, was fired. Williams played just two more seasons in New Orleans before being traded to Miami.

The Ryan Leaf Deal

Talk about a trade that didn’t work out for either team. In 1998, the Arizona Cardinal held the second overall pick in the draft. The Cardinals decided to drop down one spot trading it to the San Diego Chargers. In return, Arizona received the No. 3 pick overall, another first-round pick in 1999, a second-round pick, LB Patrick Sapp, and RB Eric Metcalf.

The Chargers would select Washington State QB Ryan Leaf, one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. The Cardinals netted David Boston, Corey Chavous, and Andre Wadsworth. Neither team netted very much from the trade.

Marshall Faulk & The Greatest Show on Turf

In five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Marshall Faulk proved he was one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL. He had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons and caught at least 47 passes in all five seasons.

In 1999, the Colts decided to move on without the future Hall of Fame running back. Indianapolis traded Faulk to the Rams for second- and fifth-round draft picks. Those two picks ended up being LB Mike Peterson and DE Brad Scioli neither of whom became a household NFL name.

Faulk, meanwhile, would win the first of three straight NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards the very next season. He was the NFL’s MVP in 2000 and helped the “Greatest Show on Turf” win the Super Bowl after the 1999 season. Faulk became one of just three (Roger Craig and Christian McCaffrey) players to rush for over 1,000 yards and have 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

How Randy White Ended Up in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys can thank the New York Giants for Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White. In 1975, the Giants needed a quarterback. New York decided they would go after Cowboys’ backup Craig Morton. The Giants even gave up their first-round pick the following year to get Morton.

Unfortunately, Morton would lead New York to just two wins that season meaning the pick that Dallas would receive from the Giants would be at No. 2. The Cowboys used that pick on White who would anchor the Dallas defensive line for 14 years.

White would win a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP in Dallas. The Giants would trade Morton to Denver for two draft picks that never played a down for the Giants. Morton did lead Denver to Super Bowl XII where they lost to…you guessed…White and the Dallas Cowboys!

Gunslinger to Green Bay

The Atlanta Falcons took a chance on a quarterback from Southern Mississippi in the second round of the 1991 draft. Favre didn’t play much as a rookie attempting just four passes, two of which were picked off.

The following year, the Falcons decided to unload Favre for the 19th overall pick in the 1992 draft. Atlanta would take running back Tony Smith who spent three seasons with the team and then was gone. Favre, of course, would go on to rewrite the NFL record books, earn 11 Pro Bowl berths, three consecutive NFL MVP awards, and a Super Bowl ring.

Oakland Got Mossed

Moss didn’t really do much in his two years in Oakland and the Raiders got tired of him hanging around. Oakland traded Moss to New England for a fourth-round draft pick in 2007. Moss would go on to team up with QB Tom Brady to have one of the best seasons ever by an NFL wide receiver. Moss totaled 1,493 yards receiving and an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions.  He would have two more 1,000-yard seasons with New England.

Oh, the Raiders went on to use that fourth-round draft pick on a cornerback out of the University of Cincinnati named John Bowie. Bowie’s NFL career statistics include two tackles. That’s it.

The Worst Ever – Herschel Walker to Minnesota

Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys can thank the Minnesota Vikings for America’s Team’s dynasty of the 1990s. Johnson had taken over as head coach of the Cowboys and in 1989 went 1-15. After the season, Johnson and his good friend, Dallas owner Jerry Jones, put together a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings wanted RB Herschel Walker, arguably one of the best college running back ever. After some time in the USFL, Walker had a good, but not great NFL career. Johnson and Jones shipped Walker off to Minnesota in return for six draft picks.  Those six picks were used to take Hall of Fame RB Emmitt Smith, WR Alexander Wright, DT Russell Maryland, WR Alvin Harper, LB Dixon Edwards, LB Robert Jones, CB Kevin Smith, and S Darren Woodson.

The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s. Walker played just two and half seasons with the Vikings who won zero Super Bowls in the ‘90s.

The Worst Trades in NHL History

There have been plenty of great trades in NHL history. The problem is that when one team experiences the results of a great trade there is often a team on the other end left shaking its head. For every outstanding NHL trade, there have been some equally abysmal ones. Here’s a look at the worst.

Toronto Blows It in 1990

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. There are plenty of reasons why and one of them happened in 1990. With the Leafs off to a poor start in the 1989-90 season, Toronto general manager Cliff Fletcher felt Toronto needed more defensive depth. He decided to trade the Maple Leafs first-round pick in 1991 to New Jersey for Tom Kurvers.

Kurvers had a respectable 52-point season with Toronto, but that draft pick turned into something special for New Jersey. Scott Neidermayer went on to win three of his four Stanley Cups in New Jersey. He also won two Olympic gold medals.

Wings to Kings

The Detroit Red Wings were pretty average in the early and mid-1970s, but they had an outstanding young center in Marcel Dionne. After scoring 47 goals and 121 points in the 1974-75 season, Dionne’s contract was set to expire. Dionne was tired of losing and wanted more money to stay in Detroit.

Instead of keeping him, Detroit traded him to Los Angeles for three players no one has ever heard of (Terry Harper, Bart Crashley, and Dan Maloney), cash and the Kings second-round draft pick in 1976. Needless to say, Dionne went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Kings. He is sixth on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1,771.

Vancouver’s Blunder

In 1985-86, Cam Neely was a 20-year-old right wing playing for Vancouver. He had scored 51 goals during his three seasons there when the Canucks decided to send him and a first-round draft pick to Boston for C Barry Pederson.

Neely would go on to eclipse the 50-goal mark three times and become the Bruins all-time leading playoff scorer. If not for injuries, his Hall of Fame career would have been even better.

Pederson? He scored 24 goals in his first season with the Canucks and never hit that mark again. Four years later, he was out of Vancouver.

Flames Put Out

Halfway through the 1987-88 NHL season, Calgary decided to trade young star Brett Hull to St. Louis. The Flames got Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley and would win the Stanley Cup the following season. After that, the ramifications of the Hull trade left the Flames one of the worst teams in the NHL for the next 14 seasons.

Hull would go on to greatness. In his third full season with the Blues, the “Golden Brett” as he was known scored an amazing 86 goals. He had seasons of 41, 72, 86, 70, 54, and 57 in St. Louis before starting to decline. He scored no less than 24 goals in any of his remaining seasons. After 20 years in the league, Hull recorded 741 goals, the fourth-highest in history.

Along with his father Bobby, Hull became the first father-son tandem to be enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Great One to the City of Angels

August 9, 1988, is a day that is not forgotten in Canadian history. It was the day the Edmonton Oilers, winners of four of the previous five Stanley Cups, traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. A team owner in financial difficulty was the reason for the trade which netted Edmonton Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round draft picks, and $15 million. It also led to one of the great demises in NHL history.

Edmonton would win the 1990 Stanley Cup without the Great One, but would begin a long, slow downturn. The Oilers have been back to the Cup finals just once, losing in 2006 to Carolina. Beginning the following season, Edmonton began a string of 10 consecutive non-playoff seasons.

The Worst Ever – Eric Lindros

If not for injuries, it could have been a very even trade. Eric Lindros was picked No. 1 overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 entry draft. After he refused to play in Quebec, the Nordiques shipped him to Philadelphia. Lindros was such a high-valued prospect that it took six players, a draft pick, and $15 million from the Flyers to get him.

Now, Lindros had an exceptional career which was capped off with his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the Flyers never won a Stanley Cup. On the other side of that trade, players like Peter Forsberg and Steve Duchesne later helped the newly-relocated Colorado Avalanche to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.

The draft pick in that trade became G Jocelyn Thibault who was eventually shipped to Montreal for Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, who was in net for both Colorado Stanley Cup victories.

Worst Trades in NBA History

Sometimes, NBA teams gamble on a trade in an attempt to better their franchise. There are times when those trades work out for the best. Some trades can help teams get to the playoffs or even make a run to an NBA title. This article is not about those trades. This is about the trades that will be remembered as the worst in the history of the league.

Pippen for Polynice

Before Oklahoma City moved from Seattle, the old Supersonics made a huge mistake in the 1987 draft. The Sonics had the fifth overall pick which they used on a relative unknown out of Central Arkansas – Scottie Pippen. Instead of holding on to Pippen, the Sonics decided they would rather have 6-11 Olden Polynice. So, Seattle traded Pippen to Chicago where he became a seven-time All-Star and would win six NBA titles alongside a guy named Michael Jordan.

Polynice started seven games in three years for Seattle. Though the trade didn’t work out for the Sonics, Polynice did play 17 years in the league but his career averages of 5.0 points and 4.5 rebounds pale in comparison to the success of Pippen.

Dirk Nowitzki for a Tractor?

The Milwaukee Bucks drafted German star Dirk Nowitzki in 1998 with the ninth overall pick. In one of the most lopsided moves in NBA trade history, the Bucks sent Nowitzki to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. The 6-foot-9-inch Traylor would bounce around three different teams over eight years in the league.

Nowitzki would go on to become the only NBA player ever to play for a single franchise for 21 seasons. In those 21 years, Nowitzki was a 14-time NBA All-Star. He won the league’s MVP in 2007 and the NBA Finals MVP in 2011 when he led the Mavericks to a league title. Nowitzki will wind up in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. Traylor will never even come close.

The Big O

Long before they were the Sacramento Kings, the franchise was located in Cincinnati and was known as the Royals. They had an outstanding guard by the name of Oscar Robertson. The Big O, as he was known, averaged no less than 24.7 points, 8.1 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per season for the Royals, but Cincinnati decided to trade him to Milwaukee in 1970. In return, the Royals received two players – Charlie Paulk and Flynn Robinson – that are long forgotten in NBA history.

Moses Out of Portland & Buffalo

The Portland Trail Blazers have a history of strong draft picks. In 1975-76 they had finished 37-45 and had a star in Bill Walton (when he was healthy) whom they drafted No. 1 overall in 1974. The following season, the Trail Blazers were able to pick two future stars in the dispersal draft, which was made up of players from the old ABA.

Portland got Maurice Lucas and Moses Malone. The team decided to keep Lucas but trade Malone to the Buffalo Braves for a draft pick and Rick Robey. The Braves were then dumb enough to trade Malone to Houston. Malone would go on to play 19 years in the league, win three NBA MVPs, and the 1983 NBA Finals MVP.

Wilt to L.A.

Fresh off averaging 24.3 points, 23.8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game, Wilt Chamberlain was part of a blockbuster deal that sent him from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Why the 76ers would give up a player of Chamberlain’s abilities is still unknown, but Philadelphia received Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark, and Jerry Chambers. Chamberlain would go on to win another NBA title and an NBA Finals MVP in 1972 on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Kareem to L.A.

The Lakers have a history of obtaining big men in one-sided trades. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had led Milwaukee to the 1970-71 NBA title while averaging 31.7 points and 16.0 rebounds per game. Despite being one of the league’s dominant players, the Bucks shipped him off to Los Angeles in 1975 for four players that never delivered in Milwaukee – Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters.

Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers to five NBA championships and won the NBA Finals MVP award in 1985. He retired in 1989 and is in both the College and Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Worst Trade Ever

Bill Russell played 13 years in the NBA all with the Boston Celtics. Boston was not the team that drafted him though. That honor goes to the St. Louis Hawks, now located in Atlanta. The Hawks drafted Russell second overall in the 1956 NBA draft. St. Louis quickly traded Russell to Boston for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley, both of whom were white.

Russell would go on to help Boston win 11 NBA championships in his 13 seasons. Hagan and Macauley would both go on to Hall of Fame careers, but between the pair they totaled just two NBA championships.

The Worst Trades in MLB History

Trades are one way that MLB teams can build a roster that can lead to a World Series. There are times when MLB teams think a trade will pay off in the long run. Sometimes for whatever reason, trades just don’t work out. Here’s a look at the worst of those trades.

“Not a Young 30” Robinson Sent to Orioles

Cincinnati Reds owner Bill DeWitt claimed Frank Robinson was “not a young 30” when he decided to trade him to the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. That season at the age of 30, Robinson would win the AL Triple Crown leading the league in batting average (.316), home runs (49), and RBIs (122). Robinson captured the league MVP, led the Orioles to a World Series victory, and was the World Series MVP all in one season.

Robinson went on to become the only player in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues. He also became the first black manager in MLB. His No. 20 was retired by three teams and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

The Reds got pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and OF Dick Simpson. Needless to say, none of the three ever had much of a career in Cincinnati.

Mets Trade Tom Seaver

New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver had won three National League Cy Young awards and had four 20-win seasons before the team decided to trade him to Cincinnati in 1977. The Mets got P Pat Zachry, utility infielder Doug Flynn, and two minor league prospects in Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

None of the four players panned out for the Mets. Seaver went on to record four winning seasons, including a 14-2 record in 1981, in his five years with the Reds. Seaver, of course, went on to win 300 MLB games and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cardinals Make a Rare Bad Trade

After a 20-9 season with St. Louis, the Cardinals decided to get rid of a 26-year-old Steve Carlton. The Cards shipped Carlton to Philadelphia for Rick Wise, who was an average pitcher during his two-year stay in St. Louis.

Carlton, on the other hand, would go on to win four NL Cy Young awards and in 15 years with the Phillies went 241-161 with a 3.09 ERA. He finished his career with 329 wins. Carlton, a Hall of Famer, is fourth on the all-time MLB strikeout list with 4,136.

Cardinals Get a “Steal”

The average baseball fan has surely never heard of Ernie Broglio. He was a right-handed pitcher who was on the other end of a trade for the legendary Lou Brock. Brock began his career with the Cubs and after a couple of so-so seasons, Chicago sent him to St. Louis for Broglio.

Brock’s career took off after that and he became MLB’s all-time stolen base leader in 1977, a record since broken. Brock finished with a career .293 batting average and is a member of the 3,000-hit club. He led the NL in stolen bases eight times, won two World Series titles, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Tigers Give Away Hall of Fame Pitcher

The Detroit Tigers needed some pitching help late in 1987, so they traded a young pitching prospect to Atlanta for veteran Doyle Alexander. The right-handed Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA to help the Tigers win a division title. In the ALCS, he was absolutely awful going 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA. Over his 19-year MLB career, Alexander went 0-5 with an 8.38 ERA in the postseason.

Whatever happened to the young pitching prospect Atlanta received? Well, John Smoltz pitched his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was an eight-time All-Star who helped the Braves win the World Series in 1996. He won the NL Cy Young award in 1996 and finished his career with 213 wins.

The Worst Trade Ever – The Curse of the Bambino

Babe Ruth was an outstanding player for the Boston Red Sox. He hit .308 but only had 49 home runs in his six seasons in Boston. His real value though was as a pitcher where he went 89-46 for the Red Sox with a 2.19 ERA.

Boston owner Harry Frazee could have cared less about winning. What he really wanted was money to fund his musical productions. For the grand sum of $25,000 cash (there were also three promissory notes for $25,000 each and a loan for $300,000 involved), Babe Ruth became the property of the New York Yankees. The rest is history.

In his very first year in New York, Ruth hit .376 with 54 homers and 135 RBIs. He would lead the Yankees to four more World Series championships, lead the AL in home runs 12 times, and become what many believe is the greatest baseball player of all-time.

Cam vs. Jameis, Who You Got?

Cam Newton and Jameis Winston have a lot in common. Both were Heisman Trophy-winning college quarterbacks. Both were the No. 1 selection in their respective NFL draft.

Now in 2020, both are without a job.

The Carolina Panthers have tired of Newton’s injuries and antics and went out and signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract. The Panthers weren’t offering Bridgewater $21 million a year to be a backup.

The same thing happened in Tampa Bay, Winston’s old home, where the Buccaneers went out and got Tom Brady. On top of Brady’s signing, the Bucs also re-signed Blaine Gabbert, a former first-round pick, to be Brady’s backup.

The results of those signings leave Newton, who was released by Carolina, and Winston as free agents looking for a new home. The question now is which quarterback – Newton or Winston – is the better candidate?

The Case for Cam

Newton was selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL draft by Carolina. He proved right away that he was worth it. He won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing for what is now a career-high 4,576 yards. He also ran for 706 yards and scored 35 total touchdowns.

In 2015, Newton was the NFL MVP. He threw for 3,837 yards and a career-best 35 touchdowns. On the ground, he averaged 4.8 yards a carry and ran for 636 yards and 10 scores. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 where they lost to Denver.

Still, in nine seasons in the NFL, Newton has thrown for over 29,000 yards, 182 touchdowns, and has an overall record of 68-55-1 as a starter. That’s a winning percentage of 54 percent, which is much higher than Winston’s 39 percent.

The Case for Winston

While he doesn’t have as many wins as Newton, there is still hope for the five-year NFL veteran. There are a few areas where Winston actually holds an edge over Newton. Take completion percentage as an example. Winston’s career completion percentage of 61.3 is better than Newton’s 59.6. Winston also holds the advantage in yard per attempt – 7.7 versus 7.3. – and has a higher yards per game average – 274.1 to Newton’s 232.3.

For a better look at Winston and his abilities, one can look at his offensive share metric (OSM). The OSM accounts for factors that a player can control. For example, a quarterback throws a short pass to a running back who takes the ball 90 yards for a touchdown. The running back was responsible for more of that touchdown than the quarterback.

Now, Winston led the NFL in passing in 2019 with 5,109 yards, but he also threw 30 interceptions. Some, of course, were not his fault. Using the OSM, one will find that Winston has graded higher than Newton in each of the past four seasons. In 2018 for example – the last season in which both Newton and Winston played full seasons – the Tampa Bay quarterback graded out at 32.00. Newton’s grade was 23.94.

Interestingly, before the start of the new league year in March, only one available free agent quarterback had a higher OSM than Winston in 2019. That was Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill who signed a new $119 million deal to stay with the Titans.

Where Will Cam Go?

Over the past two seasons, Newton has missed 16 games. If he can stay healthy, Newton could be a starter somewhere like Los Angeles (Chargers) or Miami. Both teams need quarterbacks, but it appears both will draft one.

The most logical place for Newton is in Washington. There, he would be reunited with his former head coach Ron Rivera who took over for the Redskins this offseason. Newton’s best years in Carolina were under Rivera.

The Redskins drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round last year with the intent of developing him into the starting position. He took over last year around midseason and wound up going 2-5 overall. He completed just 58.6 percent of his passes and threw as many interceptions (7) as touchdowns (7).

Newton could come in and be the bridge to having Haskins as the future starter. Newton could mentor Haskins in the interim and give the Redskins a good two or three years. Realistically, it’s really the only option Newton may have for 2020.

What about Jameis?

Winston is probably the better free agent candidate. Teammates love him. He’s got a great arm, but he struggles with poor judgment. Winston could easily sign with somebody as a backup in 2020 and compete for the job in 2021. He’s only 26 and has several good years left.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many teams willing to spend a bunch on a guy that threw 30 interceptions last year. As mentioned in Newton’s case, teams like Miami and the Chargers are likely to draft their next quarterbacks. The best bet for Winston is to spend 2020 – and possibly longer – as a backup. Winston should look to sign a one-year deal in the $7 to $10 million range, similar to what Bridgewater did last year in New Orleans (one year, $7.25 million).

How the Toronto Raptors Can Repeat as NBA Champs

A year ago, Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title. With an NBA Finals MVP in hand, Leonard checked out of Toronto and headed west to the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2019-20 season. The move leaves many wondering if Toronto can repeat as the NBA champion.

While Leonard’s loss was a big blow, it appears the Raptors were well on their way to making a case for a repeat run to the NBA finals. They put the rest of the league on notice. There is no reason to doubt that Toronto can win back-to-back NBA titles.

Team Performance

Prior to the league’s shutting down due to the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., Toronto was headed for the Eastern Conference’s second seed in the playoffs. The Raptors have won 46 of their 64 games thus far in the regular season.

Toronto is 12th in the league in scoring averaging 113 points per game. Where they really shine is on defense. The Raptors give up 106.5 points per game. That figure is the fewest points allowed per game in the league.

While Toronto wouldn’t likely have caught Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference lead, the Raptors had a strong hold of the second seed. They were also very hot heading into the “break” having won four straight before the NBA stopped play in early March.

Pascal Siakam

Siakam was the NBA’s Most Improved Player a year ago. With the loss of Leonard this offseason, Siakam has emerged into a star. He started his first All-Star game this year and rightfully so. The 6’ 9” Siakam is averaging 23.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while shooting 46 percent from the field.

Compare that to what Leonard is doing currently in L.A. He is averaging 27.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists while also shooting 46 percent from the field. For the most part, Siakam stepped in and took over where Leonard left off.

The Backcourt

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Raptors had just one All-Star – Kyle Lowry. The veteran point guard continues to live up to his star status by scoring nearly 20 points per game (19.9) to go with 7.3 assists. It is Lowry’s highest season scoring average since a career best in 2016-17.

What really makes the Raptors go is Lowry and Fred VanVleet. The combination is deadly. VanVleet averages 18.0 points and 6.9 assists per game. His 3-point shooting is outstanding. VanVleet is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.

Both Lowry and VanVleet, a former undrafted free agent, are excellent on-ball defenders. Not only can they score, but they provide solid defense on the other end. The Raptors backcourt is one of the reasons why Toronto is No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed per game.

The Bench

When Leonard jumped ship and headed to Los Angeles in the offseason, the Raptors were left with a decision to make. Would they go out and find another star to add to the roster? Ultimately, Toronto decided against it, and that decision has paid off.

The Raptors decided to keep together a rotation of bench players that have played with each other for some time. Toronto head coach Nick Nurse can go 10 deep in his rotation. In fact, 11 Raptors average at least 13 minutes playing time.

The foursome of Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell are as good a bench crew as any in the league. Combined, the four average 44.6 points, 20.3 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. That doesn’t include sixth-man O.G. Anunoby who average 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.

The Toronto bench may be the best in the NBA. Teams that can go that deep are the ones poised to win games down the stretch.

Bottom Line

The Raptors rank in the NBA’s Top-5 in defensive rating, defensive efficiency, and points allowed per game. While offense puts fans in the stands, defense wins championships. Toronto’s is very good.

One facet of strong defense is rebounding and the Raptors are very good at it. The 7-foot Ibaka is the team leader at 8.3 rebounds per game. Siakam is next averaging 7.5.

Toronto is talented, deep, and a defensive-minded team. They are extremely well-coached, and ultimately, have overcome the loss of Leonard.

The one difficulty the Raptors have in repeating is simply the strength of the Eastern Conference. Toronto would likely have to face either Boston or Miami in the postseason and then take on Milwaukee in the conference final, which holds the best record in the NBA.

At 53-12 before the league suspended play, Milwaukee is the NBA’s team to beat. The one team that can match up and beat the Bucks is Toronto. In addition to his improved scoring ability, Siakam is a solid defender who can take on reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The bottom line is that, yes, Toronto can repeat as NBA champion in 2019-20.

2020 NFL Mock Draft – Top 10

While most of the sports world remains on lockdown, one event will take place as scheduled – the 2020 NFL Draft. League commissioner Roger Goodell agreed to hold the draft in Paradise, Nevada, as originally planned on April 23 and continuing through April 25.

The league did cancel all public activities associated with the draft, which means prospects will not get to ride the boat to the main stage in front of the Bellagio’s fountain. The final plans on how the league will conduct the draft have not yet been released, but it will go on.

With the draft less than a month away, here’s a look at the projected top ten selections.      

1. Cincinnati – QB Joe Burrow

There is simply no question the Bengals are going to draft their quarterback of the future. Head coach Zac Taylor was moving away from veteran QB Andy Dalton at the end of last season anyway. Now, Taylor has a chance to select a Heisman Trophy-winning national champion to run his offense.

Burrow is also from Ohio and Cincinnati placed the franchise tag on wide receiver A.J. Green. The Bengals are building their offense and drafting Burrow as the cornerstone.

2. Washington – DE Chase Young

If not for the Bengals need of a quarterback, Young could easily be the first pick. The Ohio State product is an absolute beast of an edge rusher. Young is big at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds and is an amazing athlete for his size.

Despite missing two games last season, Young still led the nation in sacks with 16.5. The Redskins might not be sold on last year’s first-round pick, QB Dwayne Haskins, but Young is too good to pass up.

3. Miami (trade with Detroit) – QB Tua Tagovailoa

The first drama of the 2020 draft will come at No. 3 where the Dolphins, in desperate need of a quarterback of the future, trade up to acquire Detroit’s pick. The Dolphins will take a chance on Tagovailoa, the former Alabama star who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship as a freshman.

4. NY Giants – OT Tristan Wirfs

The Giants got their quarterback last year in the first round. With Daniel Jones firmly entrenched as the team’s starter, the Giants fill a need on the offensive line with former Iowa star, Wirfs. He is big at 6’ 5” and 320 pounds, but his athleticism is unmatched at the offensive tackle position.

At the NFL Combine in February, Wirfs ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds, an almost unheard of time for an offensive tackle. He also recorded a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-feet-1-inch broad jump.

5. Detroit (trade with Miami) – CB Jeff Okudah

The Lions can still get their guy by making the trade with Miami. Detroit needs to add a strong cover corner with the loss of Darius Slay to Philadelphia. The Lions get exactly that with Okudah. The former Ohio State star is big enough at 6’ 1” and 200 pounds to take on bigger receivers yet fast enough (4.48 in the 40-yard dash) to cover.

6. LA Chargers – QB Justin Herbert

The Chargers are another team that might look into trading up. The loss of veteran QB Philip Rivers prompts head coach Anthony Lynn to take Herbert, the former Oregon quarterback. Lynn likes the bigger and more athletic Herbert as opposed to Tagovailoa. The Chargers get their guy at No. 6.

7. Carolina – LB Isaiah Simmons

The Panthers need to replace the retired Luke Kuechly at linebacker and get a future All-Pro in the making in Simmons. With a couple national titles under his belt at Clemson, Simmons is just the guy Carolina needs to slow down the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

8. Arizona – WR CeeDee Lamb

The surprises start at No. 8 where the Cardinals decide to reunite starting QB Kyler Murray with his former Oklahoma teammate. Lamb has good size at 6’ 2” and enough speed (4.5 in the 40) to be a consistent playmaker in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. Lamb is also versatile enough to play on the outside or in the slot.

9. Jacksonville – WR Henry Ruggs III

Arizona’s pick at No. 8 begins a flurry of surprising wide receiver picks that continues with the speedy Ruggs at No. 9. With Gardner Minshew the starter at quarterback, the Jags add another weapon to his arsenal. Ruggs ran the fastest 40 at the NFL Combine, 4.27 seconds. That will help Minshew and Jacksonville stretch defenses.

10. Cleveland – OT Mekhi Becton

The Browns think about taking Ruggs’ teammate at Alabama, WR Jerry Jeudy, but with two 1,000-yard receivers (Jarvis Landry & Odell Beckham Jr.) already on the roster, Cleveland goes for some help on the offensive front.

Becton, who played collegiately at Louisville, is a mammoth offensive tackle at 6’ 7” and 364 pounds. Becton is a unique prospect who ran a 5.1 40-yard dash at the combine.

Will Dallas Overpay for QB Dak Prescott?

Minus a long-term contract heading into the 2020 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys decided to place the exclusive franchise tag on their quarterback – Dak Prescott. The exclusive tag is not used all that often. The Washington Redskins were the last to do so applying the designation to QB Kirk Cousins.

By making the move, a few things are certain. One, Prescott cannot negotiate with any other teams this year. Two, if Dallas and their quarterback cannot come to an agreement on a new contract, the Cowboys will be forced to pay Prescott roughly $33 million for this season. The $33 million comes from the average of the top-5 NFL quarterback salaries, which is what any player designated with the franchise tag is due to earn.

It appears that Prescott would like to remain in Dallas and the Cowboys are sold on their four-year starter as their guy for the future. Dallas and Prescott have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or the quarterback will become a free agent again at the end of the 2020 league year.

Regardless of whether or not a long-term contract is signed by Prescott, will the Cowboys end up paying too much for their quarterback?

The Most Overpaid QB in NFL History

Before the NFL instituted the rookie wage scale, a successful college career could lead to a huge rookie contract. Take former LSU QB JaMarcus Russell as an example. He parlayed a phenomenal junior season in 2006 into a six-year, $68 million contract.

That contract included $39 million in guaranteed money, which the Raiders would love to have back. Russell went 7-18 in three seasons as a starter. After being selected No. 1 in the 2007 draft, Russell was out of football by 2010. He is one of the biggest busts of all-time.

Prescott is surely no JaMarcus Russell, but is he worthy of $33 million per season? A look at current quarterback salaries can lend some insight. The following are the top five quarterbacks in terms of average salary for the 2020 NFL season.

  1. Russell Wilson (SEA)                  $35,000,000
  2. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)            $34,000,000
  3. Aaron Rodgers (GB)                   $33,500,000
  4. Jared Goff (LAR)                         $33,500,000
  5. Kirk Cousins (MIN)                      $33,000,000

With the exception of Cousins, the top four members of the list have all played in at least one Super Bowl. The top three all have at least one Super Bowl ring. Does Prescott’s current track record put him in the same discussion as these five quarterbacks?

How Prescott Rates

In four years as the Cowboys’ starter, Prescott is 40-24 during the regular season. The 2019 season marked the first in which he surpassed the 4,000-yard mark. Prescott finished second in passing yards in the league with a career-high 4,902 yards. His 30 touchdowns were also a career best.

Prescott’s quarterback rating was a solid 104.9 as a rookie due, in large part, to his throwing just four interceptions the entire season. Since his rookie year, Prescott’s rating numbers decreased to a low of 86.6 in Year 2 before rising to 99.7 in Year 4.

The really important number to look at in terms of where Prescott belongs compared to his peers is playoff record. In four years as a starter, the Dallas quarterback has led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles and two trips to the postseason. Prescott’s playoff record as a starter? 1-2.

Comparing Prescott to Wilson leads to questions about whether or not the Cowboys quarterback is really deserving of a similar contract. Wilson has never had a losing regular season record in Seattle. He is 9-6 in the postseason, has played in two Super Bowls and won one of them.

Wilson holds the NFL record for most wins by a quarterback through seven seasons (75). He is one of just two quarterbacks in the history of the league with a career passer rating over 100. The bottom line is that Russell Wilson is well worth the $35 million the Seahawks will pay him in 2020. Should Prescott make roughly the same?

Cowboys Options

With Dallas using the franchise tag on Prescott, they have opened themselves up to paying Prescott a bundle. It has been reported that Prescott turned down a contract that would have been worth roughly $33 million per season. The big deal, of course, is guaranteed money. NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed and those seeking new deals want to insure their futures as much as possible.

When it comes to Prescott, Dallas now has a few options in negotiating a new contract. They can go the traditional route and offer a four- or five-year deal with roughly 70 to 75 percent of the money guaranteed. The most recent examples are Wilson who signed a four-year, $140 million contract with Seattle. A total of $107 million of the contract is guaranteed.

Other deals include Goff’s four-year, $134 million ($110 million guaranteed) deal in Los Angeles and Carson Wentz’s contract in Philadelphia worth $128 million ($107.9 million guaranteed) over four years. Dallas could give Prescott what he wants at five years, $170 million ($130 million guaranteed).

Another option is a shorter term deal like Cousins signed in Minnesota. A three-year deal worth $102 million ($34 million per season) that is fully guaranteed would give the Cowboys another three years and allow Prescott to test the free agent market again when he is just 29 years old.

Regardless of what happens, time will tell if Dallas overpays for their quarterback. Prescott will have to reach some lofty expectations to prove he is worthy of $34 million-plus per season.

St. Louis Cardinals 2020 Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central Division in 2019 finishing 91-71 before knocking off the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. After falling to eventual World Series champion Washington in the NLCS, the Cardinals are looking to get right back into the pennant race in 2020.

St. Louis was not particularly busy in the offseason and said goodbye to OF Marcell Ozuna in free agency. Ozuna hit 29 homers and drove in 89 runs for the Cardinals in 2019. Ozuna signed a one-year contract with Atlanta.

Do the Cardinals still have what it takes to win another division title and qualify for the postseason? St. Louis has had just one losing season since 1999 and has 10 division titles in the same time span. The Cardinals do a great job of building quality teams and 2020 should be no different.

Pitching Staff Still Strong

St. Louis returns the bulk of one of the better pitching staffs in the National League. Adam Wainright (14-10) and Dakota Hudson (16-7) are as good as any and Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) is a great example of a Cardinals draft pick that was developed by the organization.

The current coronavirus scare in the U.S. which delayed the beginning of the 2020 season might be a bit of good news for the Cardinals pitching rotation. Miles Mikolas, who went 9-14 last season, was scheduled to begin the season on the injured list due to a right flexor tendon strain. With the extra time off, Mikolas might be ready for the start of the season.

Carlos Martinez led the Cards with 24 saves last year, but he is eyeing the starting rotation. If that is the case, St. Louis needs a strong closer to emerge. St. Louis also acquired Kwang-Hyun Kim, a left-hander that has played the last 12 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.

St. Louis is also high on 25-year-old Alex Reyes, who is finally healthy. Reyes, a right-hander, has been hurt in each of the past three seasons. He had his first normal offseason with St. Louis this year.

Offense: The Big Storyline

The reason why the Cardinals weren’t as active as they could have been in free agency might have something to do with the core of their offensive lineup. The trio of Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, and Dexter Fowler is deadly for opposing pitchers. All three need to have a 2020 season that matches up to their career norms.

Last season was more of an anomaly for the Cardinals trio of hitters. Goldschmidt, a career .292 hitter, batted just .260. He did hit a team-high 34 home runs and drove in 97, also a team best. Fowler was even worse hitting .238 with 19 homers and 67 RBIs. Carpenter spent a lot of time on the injured list last year and hit just .226 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. It was statistically the worst season of Carpenter’s career.

Goldschmidt, Carpenter, and Fowler are not the only pieces of the Cardinals offensive puzzle. Shortstop Paul DeJong is starting to develop into a star. DeJong hit 30 homers last year. Second baseman Kolten Wong is another star in the making. Wong hit a team-high .285 and was tied for second (with Goldschmidt) on the team in doubles (25). It was DeJong who led the team with 31 doubles.

The Difference – Defense

What will set the Cardinals apart from the rest of a very strong division in 2020 is defense. St. Louis just plays outstanding defense. Take 2019 as an example. The Cards allowed the second-fewest runs in the National League a year ago. They also ranked third in defensive efficiency. All that despite the fact that St. Louis pitchers put up some rather unimpressive strikeout and walk ratios.

There is also the ground ball defense. St. Louis allowed the fewest runners to reach base on ground balls in 2019. That is exceptional considering Cardinals pitchers had the fourth-highest ground ball rate in the majors.

The Cardinals also had three of the 22 MLB players that saved at least 10 outs above average. Center-fielder Harrison Baker (13), DeJong (13), and Wong (10) all saved at least 10 outs above average. Wong won a Gold Glove for his defensive efforts.

The Final Word

If the Cardinals get the kind of consistency they need from their stars – Goldschmidt, Wong, Fowler, Wainwright – they can be every bit as good as a year ago. The pitching staff is solid. If the Cards find a quality closer, the pitching will be even better.

The difficult thing for St. Louis is simply the schedule. The NL Central is perennially one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball. Over the past seven seasons, the only teams to win the division crown are the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee returns former NL MVP Christian Yelich (.329, 44 HR) and Mike Moustakas (35 HR) as well as three others with at least 20 home runs. The Cubs have a lineup full of All-Stars, Kris Bryant (31 HR), Kyle Schwarber (38 HR), and Anthony Rizzo (27 HR, 94 RBI) among them. Cincinnati has upgraded immensely, which will make things difficult for St. Louis in 2020.

Can Tom Brady Take Tampa Bay to Super Bowl LV?

And just like that, the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick-Tom Brady dynasty was no more. Brady’s recent signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brings an era in New England to an end. It also begins what could be an exciting chapter in Tampa.

Brady is the owner of six Super Bowl rings. Remember, those are given to winners. Is it possible that Brady can guide the Buccaneers to Super Bowl LV? Anything is possible.

Remember the 49ers?

In 2018, San Francisco finished the regular season 4-12. A year later, they went 13-3, won the NFC West Division title for the first time since 2012, and played in the Super Bowl. The Bucs went a respectable 7-9 in head coach Bruce Arians first season in Tampa.

What makes the 7-9 mark even more formidable is the fact that Arians led the Bucs to five wins in their last eight games. Sitting at 7-7 after a Week 15 win over Detroit, Tampa Bay still had a shot, albeit a long one, at the postseason. The Bucs would lose their final two games by three points (23-20) to Houston and by six (28-22) to Atlanta in overtime.

The 49ers rebuilt their team over the course of a few years and eventually put together a Super Bowl-worthy unit. Arians is doing the same in Tampa Bay. Could the Bucs go from 7-9 to the Super Bowl? Absolutely. Especially with a guy named Brady at quarterback.

Defense Wins Championships

During the Dirk Koetter regime prior to Arians’ arrival in Tampa, the Buccaneers defense was a train wreck. In 2018 for example, the Bucs finished 31st in scoring defense allowing an average of 29 points per game. Tampa Bay also finished 27th in total defense allowing 383.4 yards per game to opponents.

In Arians first season, the Tampa Bay defense made some serious improvements. The Bucs actually led the NFL in run defense giving up just 73.8 yards per game on the ground. Arians’ front seven is one of the better units in the league and should only get better.

Five-year veteran Shaq Barrett was a backup in Denver who turned into a star in Tampa. Barrett led the NFL in sacks with 19.5. He also forced six fumbles and intercepted four passes on his way to the first Pro Bowl selection of his career.

The Bucs also re-signed LB Jason Pierre-Paul, who recorded 8.5 sacks in 10 games last season. Safety Andrew Adams, who started 11 games last year, was also retained in free agency. Safety Mike Edwards now has a year of experience under his belt and CB Sean Murphy-Bunting is a rising star.

If the Bucs defense continues to improve, there is no question they can compete for a postseason berth. Can they make it to a Super Bowl?

The Schedule Gods

The 2020 NFL schedule has yet to be released, but the Bucs know six games that will definitely be on that schedule. Tampa Bay will play each of its NFC South Division rivals twice. That means two games each against Carolina, Atlanta, and three-time defending division champion New Orleans.

The Saints will be heavily favored to win the division again. New Orleans won both games against the Bucs last season and have won 13 of the last 17 meetings between the two teams. It will be a tough task to dethrone the Saints.

Beating the Falcons and Panthers is another story. Carolina will have a new head coach in former Baylor mentor Matt Rhule. The Panthers also have a new quarterback with former Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater taking over for Cam Newton. Carolina struggled to a 5-11 mark last year.

The Falcons went 7-9 in 2019 and could be poised to vault themselves into the division race after a busy offseason. Thus far, Atlanta has signed former Rams RB Todd Gurley, pass rusher Dante Fowler, and worked a trade for young TE Hayden Hurst. Remember, the Falcons have one of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the league in Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones.

Depending upon the rest of the Bucs’ schedule, Tampa Bay should be in line to compete for at least a wild card berth in the 2020 playoffs.

New Playoff Format

The Bucs saving grace in qualifying for the 2020 postseason might be the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement. The new contract, which was ratified with a vote by the league’s players’ association, will adopt a new playoff format which goes into effect in 2020.

The new postseason system adds one team per conference to the existing playoff format. Seven teams in each conference will make the postseason in 2020 – the four division winners and three wild cards. That additional wild card will make things interesting and gives the Bucs hope of extending their 2020 season.

Reality

In reality, Tampa Bay might be a year or two away from having a Super Bowl caliber team. The defense continues to improve, but the offensive line is nothing like the one Brady played behind in New England. Plus, the Bucs do not yet have the type of running game needed to be a Super Bowl team.

While it is certainly possible Tampa Bay, led by Brady, plays in Super Bowl LV; it is highly unlikely.

Should Cincinnati Trade Down?

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor had a rough first year. It took 13 weeks to earn his first NFL coaching victory. The season ended with a dismal 2-14 record.

That finish does afford the Bengals the opportunity to select first in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. The question looming as the draft approaches is should Cincinnati trade the first pick in an attempt to acquire more picks and build their roster?

Yes, Trade Down

It is almost a foregone conclusion that former LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow will be the first pick in the draft. With the emphasis on the quarterback position in the NFL, having a very good one is a must for teams with their eyes on the Super Bowl.

There are a number of teams that would be willing to give up a lot in order to obtain that first pick. Take the Raiders as an example. Head Coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock own two first-round draft picks this year and have roughly $55 million in available salary cap space.

The Raiders watched as their division rival Kansas City stomped all over everyone with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Gruden might be tempted to give up those two picks to obtain Burrow.

The Chargers are another team in need of a quarterback after veteran Philip Rivers signed with Indianapolis. The Chargers, unfortunately, may not have as much to offer for the No. 1 pick.

Miami, on the other hand, has the resources to make the trade, but they might be more interested in former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert than Burrow. The Dolphins have three first-round picks and two second-rounders in the 2020 draft and if Miami comes knocking, the Bengals may want to listen.

Remember, Tagovailoa and Herbert as well as Utah State’s Jordan Love are all potential first-round quarterbacks. Acquiring another first-round pick or two later in the round would still give Cincinnati the opportunity to select a quarterback.

Then, there is the issue of Cincinnati simply not having enough talent to compete in the AFC North and with the rest of the league. In addition to the quarterback issue, the Bengals are in need of a quality offensive tackle and likely another receiver since A.J. Green is a free agent.

That doesn’t even begin to address the Bengals defensive needs which include cornerback and linebacker. William Jackson could be a star at corner, but he is getting near the end of his rookie contract. Germaine Pratt was a solid third-round pick a year ago, but the rest of the unit is average at best.

A pile of draft picks obtained in a trade for the first pick would allow Cincinnati to address more than just the quarterback position.

No, Draft First

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The best teams over the last decade have been the teams with the best quarterbacks.

Take last year’s Lombardi Trophy winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. They have arguably the best quarterback in the game right now in Patrick Mahomes. The New England Patriots won six Super Bowls during the reign of Tom Brady at quarterback.

Teams like New Orleans and Seattle continue to win division titles and battle for trips to the Super Bowl because they have quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

The point is that the key to winning championships is dependent upon having an elite quarterback. That is why Cincinnati should hold onto the first pick in the draft and select Burrow.  

Of the four quarterbacks in the draft viewed as potential first-rounders, Burrow is by far the one that could make the most impact from Day 1. Tagovailoa presents a number of problems. The first being that he is left-handed. There hasn’t been a quality left-handed quarterback in the NFL since Mark Brunell.

Many don’t realize how a left-handed quarterback impacts things like play-calling. An offensive coordinator has to develop a left-handed mindset. It’s much harder than it appears.

The second reason Tagovailoa presents a problem is his injury history. Sure, he won a ton of games for Alabama head coach Nick Saban, but he also spent his share of time on the sideline with injuries. The most recent was a hip injury that ended his 2019 season prematurely.

Of the remaining two prospects – Herbert and Love – Oregon’s Herbert is surer candidate. Love is a stretch. At 6-foot-4-inches tall and 225 pounds, Love surely has the physical characteristics. He is athletic and possesses a strong arm, but he also threw a ton of interceptions in the Mountain West Conference. Facing New Mexico and Wyoming isn’t the same as playing Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and the like every week.

Cincinnati’s rebuilding process will take more than a single season. It did for San Francisco. The 49ers suffered through a series of losing seasons, including 4-12 in 2018, before going 13-3 and winning the NFC West last year.

The Bengals need time to build a roster and develop a quarterback, which should be the best prospect available and that is Joe Burrow.

Ranking NFL QBs from Best to Worst

There is no question that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The best teams are usually led by the best quarterbacks in the game. There is a reason why the New England Patriots have won so many games over the past two decades – Tom Brady.

Brady will move on from the Patriots in 2020, but he remains one of the best in the game. Here’s how he and the rest of the league’s signal-callers rank heading into the new season.

TIER 1

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City

The big reason why the Chiefs were able to capture Super Bowl LIV was Mahomes. In his first full season as the team’s quarterback in 2018, Mahomes became one of just two – Peyton Manning is the other – players to throw for 5,000 yards-plus and 50 or more touchdowns in the same season. He was rewarded with the NFL MVP.

Kansas City didn’t make the Super Bowl in 2018, but Mahomes came back last year and finished the job. Trailing San Francisco late in Super Bowl LIV, Mahomes threw two touchdown passes, earned the game’s MVP, and led the Chiefs to a thrilling 31-20 victory.

Russell Wilson, Seattle

Wilson was the big reason why the Seahawks made the postseason 2019. Behind a so-so offensive line, the former Super Bowl winner threw for 4,110 yards and 31 touchdowns. He was pressured on nearly 40 percent of his dropbacks and finished with the third-best passer rating (89.7) while under pressure. Underneath it all, Wilson is simply a winner. He led five game-winning drives last season, best in the NFL.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore

Jackson redefined the quarterback position in 2019. He led the Ravens in rushing with an NFL record for quarterbacks, 1,206 yards. He also completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 36 touchdowns against only six interceptions. He will continue to be the most difficult player to defend in the league.

Drew Brees, New Orleans

Brees missed five games last year but still proved he is the most accurate passer in the league. The 40-year-old completed 74.3 percent of his passes, threw 27 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. Like other Tier 1 quarterbacks, Brees wins. He led the Saints to a third straight NFC South Division title.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay

After 20 seasons in New England, Brady and his six Super Bowl rings will play for Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay. Even at 41 years of age, Brady showed he is still an elite quarterback. He led the Patriots to their 17th AFC East title last year and will likely make the Bucs an immediate contender in the NFC South.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Sure, Rodgers is closer to the end of his career than the start, but he is still the big reason why Green Bay won 13 games last year. His quarterback rating of 53.5 was the lowest of his career, but there are plenty of big plays left in Rodgers’ tank. He threw for 4,002 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2019.

TIER 2

Atlanta’s Matt Ryan threw for 4,466 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, but his Falcons disappointed with a 7-9 record. Ryan still has one of the game’s best receivers in Julio Jones, but a suspect offensive line could lead to more disappointment in 2020.

Deshaun Watson continues to prove his value leading Houston to a division title while throwing for 3,852 yards, running for 413 more, and totaling 33 touchdowns. He needs to improve in the turnover department where he lost 10 fumbles and threw 12 interceptions.

Philadelphia almost backed its way into the playoffs last year riding the play of Carson Wentz, who threw for 4,039 yards and 27 touchdowns. Injuries to the Eagles offense were simply too much to overcome. Wentz finished ninth in passer rating and could enter the elite category with a few more quality seasons under center.

Dak Prescott finished second in the NFL in passing yards with 4,902. He tossed 30 touchdowns and earned himself a nice contract – Dallas placed the franchise tag on him – in the process. If he can lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, he can move into the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.

The one thing keeping Matthew Stafford from being an elite NFL quarterback is simply his team – Detroit. The Lions are not a perennial playoff contender and, as a result, Stafford gets lost in the shuffle. In 11 seasons with Detroit, Stafford has over 41,000 yards passing and 256 touchdowns.

THE MIDDLE

There are a number of quarterbacks that are either nearing the end of their careers or have just gotten started. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, for example, missed almost all of last season with an injury. He has led the Steelers to Super Bowls and is a quality NFL quarterback even though he is 38 years old heading into the 2020 season.

Kirk Cousins has had some outstanding seasons in the league as has Philip Rivers, who has found a new home in Indianapolis. Cam Newton was a No. 1 overall draft choice, but his days in Carolina are probably over. The same fate likely awaits Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.

Many probably thought Ryan Tannehill was headed for career backup until he led Tennessee to the AFC title game. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota appear headed out of Tampa Bay and Tennessee, respectively, and likely to become backups somewhere else.

San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo and Arizona’s Kyler Murray are at the other end of the spectrum. Garoppolo led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Murray was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and now he’ll have WR DeAndre Hopkins as a receiving threat.

THE REST

The rest of the league’s starting quarterbacks are simply looking for ways to move up the NFL food chain. These include:

  • Jared Goff (LA Rams)
  • Baker Mayfield (Cleveland)
  • Josh Allen (Buffalo)
  • Daniel Jones (NY Giants)
  • Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville)
  • Drew Lock (Denver)
  • Sam Darnold (NY Jets)
  • Dwayne Haskins (Washington)
  • Derek Carr (Oakland)
  • Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago)

Draymond Green: The NBA’s Most Overrated Player

After helping Michigan State to two Final Fours, Draymond Green was a second-round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 2012. Eight years later, Green has been to three NBA All-Star games, won three NBA titles, and earned the 2017 league Defensive Player of the Year award.

And, he’s the NBA’s most overrated player.

Not a Shooter

Green has never been and will never be a long-range jump shooter. In today’s modern game, the 3-pointer rules, but Green’s jump shot leaves much to be desired. He is a career 32 percent shooter from behind the 3-point arc. By contrast, Green’s teammate Stephen Curry is a career 40-plus-percent 3-point shooter.

Much of Green’s scoring – he was averaging just 8.0 points per game when the NBA suspended play in 2019-20 due to the coronavirus – comes from around the basket. He is a capable scorer from inside the paint. Not so much from outside.

Star Power

When the Warriors had a bevy of stars on their roster, Green’s role was well-defined and he fit it perfectly. Sure, he’s not really a shooter, but when you’re surrounded by Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson; who needs another shooter?

That was the old Golden State. The one that made five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. After last year’s loss to Toronto, it was all but guaranteed the Warriors dynasty would come to a halt. It’s likely no one saw it falling off the rails as quickly as it did.

Durant, of course, signed in the offseason with Brooklyn. He was recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon anyway and wouldn’t have played this season if he were still a Warrior. Thompson went down with a torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the game that decided it all. He was set not to play in 2019-20 either.

Just like that, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr was down two stars to start the 2019-20 campaign. When it rains, it pours and the Warriors then lost Curry just four games into the season with a broken hand. In a matter of a few months, Golden State was down three stars.

Reality Check

Green was at his best when the Warriors – with Curry, Durant, and Thompson – were at their best. From the 2014-15 season through the 2017-18 campaign, Golden State won three NBA titles. Green averaged in double figures in points and averaged over seven rebounds and seven assists all four seasons but one. His best year was the 2015-16 season when he averaged career-highs in points (14.0), rebounds (9.5), and assists (7.4).

Since that season, Green’s numbers have faded each season. In 2018-19, the Warriors still played for the NBA title, but Green scored just 7.4 points a game and averaged 6.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists. After 65 games of the 2019-20 season, Green’s numbers were equally bad.

With no stars to feed off of in the Golden State lineup, Green started 43 games and scored 8.0 points, grabbed 6.2 rebounds, and dished out 6.2 assists per game. Those are hardly All-Star worthy numbers, especially at a time when his team needed much more.

The Vote

The Athletic conducted a poll of over 100 current NBA players during the 2018-19 regular season. The players were asked a variety of questions, including which player they believed was the league’s most overrated. Only 47 of the players polled took the bait and answered the question. The overwhelming favorite? Green…and Russell Westbrook, who is a completely different discussion.

While it is a small sample, enough of Green’s own peers believe he is the most overrated player in the NBA. Why is that?

Most believe that Green is an elite defender. Elite might not be the right word, but Green does play pretty good defense. He should because for the bulk of his Golden State career, the Warriors haven’t needed him to perform on offense. With Durant, Curry, and Thompson each averaging over 20 points per game for several seasons, all Green had to do was play defense.

Green is also a very good passer, a skill that many NBA players possess. Many rave about how Green has averaged nearly seven assists a game for the past several years. There are plenty of other power forwards in the league with equal, if not better, skills when it comes to passing or playmaking.

Blake Griffin is just as skilled as Green in the passing department. The reason he has never averaged seven assists a game is because he wasn’t surrounded by Durant, Curry, and Thompson.

When it comes down to it, Green happened to be in the right place in the right time in basketball history. The emergence of small-ball and his ability to do the things that the Warriors stars didn’t do were the only reasons Draymond Green ever became an All-Star.

The Impact of Coronavirus on the NFL Draft

The global pandemic known as coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to the postponement or cancellation of numerous sporting events around the world. With the National Football League in its offseason, the coronavirus may have an impact on the league’s upcoming draft. Scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas, Nevada, this year’s draft may be unlike any other.

Annual League Meeting

The 2020 NFL season officially begins on March 18. On that day, free agency starts as a number of big-name players are able to negotiate with teams around the league. The league’s annual meeting, which was scheduled for March 29 through April 1, has been cancelled.

Items that were on the table, including rules issues and other business matters, will be placed on the agenda for the NFL’s Spring Meeting, which is presently scheduled for May 19-20. General managers and head coaches will participate in the Spring Meeting.

Draft Decision

The NFL’s front office sent all non-essential personnel to work from home beginning on March 13. The league decided on Monday, March 16, to go ahead with the 2020 NFL Draft as scheduled but will do so without any scheduled public events. Any and all public events tied to the NFL draft have been cancelled. The league is currently working out how the draft process itself will continue.

This year’s annual college draft will be held as originally scheduled on April 23-25. With the NFL decision to hold its draft in different locations each year, attendance has been increasing rapidly. The 2020 draft in Las Vegas was anticipated to eclipse last year’s attendance but will now be relegated to a television-only event.

Impact on NFL Teams

Teams around the league will feel the impact of the coronavirus as they head into a period where they normally dig deep into vetting potential draft picks. On Friday, March 13, the NFL drafted a memo that was sent to all 32 teams restricting the process of how teams scout college prospects.

All team personnel are prohibited from traveling to any location – including college campuses – to visit with a player that is eligible for this year’s draft. On the other end, any player that is draft-eligible is not permitted to visit with any NFL team’s personnel at any location, including a team’s facility.

What this means for NFL teams is that they are restricted from attending the numerous Pro Days that they normally attend. NFL teams will also not be allowed to hold any private workouts for prospects they would like to further vet.

Teams may communicate with prospects, but the league does have some restrictions on those communications. Teams may call or video conference with a draft-eligible player no more than three times per week. Each contact can last up to one hour and cannot interfere with a prospect’s school schedule.

The 2020 NFL Draft will go on as scheduled and the league has said it will stick to its season schedule. That means OTAs (organized team activities) and mini-camps are still on for May and June.

Most NFL teams had already pulled all of their scouts off the road, but the league decision made it mandatory for all 32 franchises. Teams will now have much less information on their prospective draftees than in year’s past.

Impact on Prospective Players

Pro days can make or break a career for many prospects. A successful pro day can be the difference between several thousand dollars and several million. With NFL scouts restricted from attending any such events, pro days around the country have been cancelled.

Many of the country’s biggest college football programs, such as Michigan and Ohio State, had cancelled their pro days anyway. National power Clemson was one of the few that was able to hold its pro day before the coronavirus crisis led to the cancellation of all sorts of sporting events. Now, many prospects are scrambling as they try and find a way to impress NFL teams.

There were reportedly 191 pro days scheduled for this year and 138 of them were to take place after March 13. The cancellations will particularly hurt the small school and late-round type of prospect. Many prospects were afforded the opportunity to play in one of the three major postseason All-Star games – Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, NFLPA. Prospects that will now have to search for alternatives.

Some have resorted to filming their own workouts. They record and document such necessary items as a 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press. Included on the tape is the athlete going through a number of positional drills that help scouts assess a prospect’s athletic ability and how well he moves.

The idea is to force scouts to go back and review game film of a prospect in hopes of getting drafted higher than projected, or – for some – simply getting drafted at all. The monetary rewards are somewhat greater for a draft pick than for the typical undrafted free agent.

Bill O’Brien Is No Bill Belichick

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is a branch off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. O’Brien served under the New England head coach beginning in 2007 as an offensive assistant eventually assuming the role of offensive coordinator in 2011.

After navigating Penn State through the whole Jerry Sandusky ordeal, O’Brien took over as the head coach in Houston in 2014. In early 2020, O’Brien assumed the role of general manager as well, just like his mentor in New England.

O’Brien actually made many personnel decisions in Houston last year as the Texans left the job vacant after firing Brian Gaine in June 2019. Some of those decisions have left many wondering if O’Brien is fit to handle both the head coach and general manager positions.

Bad Trade

Anyone wondering about O’Brien’s abilities as a general manager can take a look at his track record so far. It is questionable at best and begins with the bungling of former Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney. O’Brien, acting as general manager during August 2019, held on to Clowney far too long and eventually traded him to Seattle.

A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Clowney did struggle early in his career but was one of only four NFL players with 20-plus sacks and 50-plus tackles for loss over the previous three seasons. In exchange for the defensive end, O’Brien and Houston received linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin and a third-round draft pick.

The Mingo-Martin tandem combined for a whopping 17 tackles and 3.5 sacks (all by Martin).Clowney wasn’t exactly Pro Bowl material in Seattle, but he was more productive than Mingo and Martin combined. That was O’Brien’s first bad trade.

Bad Trade Part II

It got worse not long after Clowney had been shipped off to the Seahawks. Needing wide receiver depth and an elite offensive lineman, O’Brien offered two first-round draft picks and second-rounder in exchange for OT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills.

Houston QB Deshaun Watson had been sacked a league-high 62 times in 2018. The addition of Tunsil helped, but the Texans still allowed Watson to go down 44 times. Tunsil is a good offensive tackle, but according to most experts he does not belong in the elite category.

The only thing that saves this trade from being a complete disaster is the acquisition of Stills. The veteran receiver stepped in admirably for Will Fuller when he was hurt during the 2019 season. 

Houston ends up without a first-round draft pick this year and in 2021. That was simply far too much to give up for an average receiver and an above average offensive lineman.

Even Worse Trade Part III

It’s almost hard to imagine O’Brien getting any worse as a general manager, but that is exactly what happened after his new job title was made official in January of 2020. Just after the start of the 2020 league season in March, O’Brien raised eyebrows across the league by trading away star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The trade might have made sense had Houston received anything of value. Instead, for one of the NFL’s elite receivers, Houston got a second-round draft pick in 2020, a fourth-round selection in 2021, and a salary cap nightmare in RB David Johnson.

Hopkins has totaled over 1,100 yards receiving in each of the last three seasons. He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2017 with 13 and has made four of the last five Pro Bowls. Last season, Hopkins caught 104 passes for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns.

On the contrary, Johnson has had one Pro Bowl season and that was four years ago. He hasn’t come close to his statistics that season – 1,239 yards rushing, 80 receptions, 879 yards receiving, and 20 total touchdowns. What Houston gets is a running back that ran for a grand total of 345 yards last season.

Oh, and Johnson’s salary cap hit for 2020 is a mere $14.2 million. Even Hopkins cap number wasn’t that high for 2020. Houston owes Johnson a base salary of $10.2 million for this season and $8 million next season.

Don’t forget that O’Brien went out last year and acquired running backs Carlos Hyde – who recorded his first 1,000-yard season – and Duke Johnson. Sure, Hyde and Lamar Miller, who missed last season with a torn ACL, are currently free agents; but wouldn’t a better general manager find a more efficient solution?

Belichick has done it for years. Take the 2018 Super Bowl season as an example. The Patriots had four running backs on their final roster (five counting Jeremy Hill who was placed on injured reserve). The total of all four running backs’ salaries was only $3.2 million. Add in Hill, who received his $1 million salary, and that is still only $4.2 million. That is far less than what O’Brien will have to pay Johnson in 2020.

The Grand Scheme

In six seasons, O’Brien has led the Texans to four AFC South Division titles. Last season, Houston won its first playoff game, but then allowed a 24-0 lead over Kansas City to evaporate quickly in the divisional round.

If O’Brien doesn’t produce at least a trip to the Super Bowl soon, it’s likely he loses both titles – general manager and head coach.

Where Will Jameis Winston End Up?

Jameis Winston’s career in Tampa Bay was over long before the Bucs went out and signed Tom Brady in free agency. You simply don’t throw 30 interceptions for the quarterback-whispering Bruce Arians and automatically get your starting job back.

Winston’s contract with the Buccaneers expired and there was no way Tampa Bay was using the franchise tag on a guy who will likely be an NFL backup in 2020. With returning to Tampa Bay now definitely out of the equation, where will Winston end up next season?

Then There Were 7

Surveying the 32 teams around the league, 23 have a starting quarterback in place for the 2020 season. Teams like Carolina, where Cam Newton was released, have already gone out into the free agent market to sign their next starter. The Panthers picked up former Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater.

There are seven teams that either do not have a clear-cut starter or are searching for an upgrade at quarterback. It starts in New England, which lost 20-year veteran Brady to the Bucs. Also in the AFC East, Miami will likely look to draft a quarterback after having acquired former Arizona QB Josh Rosen prior to last season.

Cincinnati is looking to move on from Andy Dalton and the Chargers decided to part ways with veteran Philip Rivers who has signed with Indianapolis. Two other AFC West teams may be in search of an upgrade. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden may be tiring of Derek Carr, and Denver, which drafted Drew Lock last year, released veteran Joe Flacco recently.

The other franchise in search of a quarterback might be the Washington Redskins. They did draft Dwayne Haskins in the first round last season, but the Redskins are not sold on the former Ohio State quarterback just yet.

Unlikely Spots

The Bengals hold the overall No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. It appears that Cincinnati is going to hold onto that pick so they can draft Ohio native Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner out of LSU. Cincinnati likes Ryan Finley as a backup and is still open to keeping Dalton, if at all possible. In all likelihood, Winston is not heading to Cincinnati.

The same is true in Miami. The Dolphins now show veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rosen, and Jake Rudock on their depth chart. Miami is expected to draft just their third first-round quarterback since 1979. They will probably hold on to Rosen or Fitzpatrick as a bridge quarterback or a backup.

As much as Gruden was displeased with Carr’s performance last year, Gruden can win with him. Remember, Carr led the Raiders to the playoffs in 2016. The Raiders also just signed Marcus Mariota, who was drafted No. 2 right after Winston in the 2015 NFL draft.

Even though Washington isn’t sold on Haskins just yet, they still have veteran Alex Smith and Kyle Allen on the roster. Smith is attempting to come back from a horrific leg injury suffered two seasons ago. Adding Winston, who will probably command somewhere in the area of $20 million per season, is just not likely in the nation’s capital.

The Possibilities

That leaves Winston with just a handful of potential landing spots. Denver is one. The Broncos, as stated earlier, drafted Lock last season. He eventually became the starter, but Winston could come in and compete for the job.

Denver released Flacco in the offseason. The former Super Bowl MVP suffered a neck injury that ended his 2019 season. The Broncos did sign Jeff Driskel, who wound up starting a few games for Detroit last season. Brett Rypien is also on the roster.

Los Angeles is another possible destination for Winston. With Rivers gone, the Chargers are down to Tyrod Taylor and backup Easton Stick. You can bet the Chargers didn’t sign Taylor to start. The team could still draft a quarterback, but Winston could come in and start right away.

The only other possible location where Winston could compete for a starting job is New England. The Patriots, of course, lost Brady and, in turn, left Winston expendable in Tampa Bay. Head coach Bill Belichick and his staff have Jarrett Stidham, who they drafted in the fourth round last year. The Patriots like the former Auburn quarterback, but he has thrown a grand total of four NFL passes.

The only other quarterback on the roster is Cody Kessler. Winston could compete and win the job in New England making it a likely destination. Remember, Winston led the NFL in passing last year with 5,109 yards. He also threw a whopping 30 interceptions. You can bet that Belichick and offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels would work their magic on Winston.

There is also the possibility that Winston could wind up in Tennessee. He would not be the starter there. Ryan Tannehill came on strong last year and supplanted Mariota as the starter. Winston would make an outstanding backup for the Titans who have only one other quarterback on the roster – Logan Woodside.

The NCAA’s Handling of March Madness

For the first time since the NCAA began playing an end-of-season basketball tournament to determine its champion, college sports’ governing body decided to cancel what has become one of the premier sporting events in the United States.

Every year since 1939, the NCAA tournament had been held. However, in 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) was deemed too much of a threat and NCAA president Mark Emmert shut both the men’s and women’s tournaments down.

Early Discussions

As news of the coronavirus spread throughout the world in February and early March, there were reports that conference tournaments and the NCAA tourney might continue to be played but without fans.

In the first week of March, there were reports that the NCAA would be holding its tournament in 14 cities throughout the U.S. and there would be fans in attendance at every game. With more news regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how its spread could be curtailed, Emmert and the NCAA were prepared to continue forward with the tournament, but with some changes.

Games would go on as scheduled but would be played only with essential personnel – coaches, players, television crews, etc. – and some limited family members. At the time, the only conference that had cancelled its year-end tournament was the Ivy League.

Within days, many other conferences around the nation decided to follow the Ivy League and cancelled their tournaments as well. With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, its spread, and its effects; Emmert scrambled to make the tournament a go.

Postponing March Madness

Emmert dug in deep and researched a possible postponement of the tournament. He ran into some difficulties with playing the tournament in May or June. Most of those difficulties were related to academic calendars.

Most colleges and universities around the country also decided to close due to the virus and go to online coursework. Some institutions complete their spring semester before May. Michigan, for example, is done with their semester at the end of April. Seniors would be looking to move on, some to go professional in their sport and others to job interviews to begin their careers. Attempting to coordinate the schedules of the 68 schools that would be involved in March Madness was simply too difficult a task.

Modified Format

Emmert and the NCAA Selection Committee then explored a solution that involved changing the format of the tournament. The plan was to reduce the field to 16 teams meaning the automatic qualifier bid was out. All 16 teams would be chosen based on their overall profiles for at-large consideration.

The list would include additional teams to be seeded No. 17, 18, and so on, just in case a team decided not to travel to the tournament. The entire tournament was planned to be held in Atlanta, the site of the Final Four.

Play would be held over a five-day period in which the No. 1 seed would have played No. 16, No. 2 versus No. 15, and so on. The plan ultimately met some criticism since it left out 52 teams that deserved to be there. More importantly, the spread of the virus and the announcement that NBA star of the Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert had tested positive, left Emmert and the NCAA with no alternative.

No Bracket

With the decision made to cancel March Madness – both men’s and women’s – the Selection Committee decided not to release its 68-team bracket. Kansas was the likely overall No. 1 seed for the men’s tournament. South Carolina, which finished 32-1 for the season, was the projected No. 1 seed in the women’s tournament.

The cancellation was especially hard for the following men’s teams:

  • Utah State
  • Belmont
  • Winthrop
  • Bradley
  • Liberty
  • East Tennessee State
  • Yale
  • Robert Morris
  • Hofstra
  • Northern Kentucky
  • North Dakota State
  • Gonzaga
  • Boston University

Twelve of the thirteen had won their respective conference tournament thereby earning an automatic bid. Yale was declared the Ivy League champion after league officials cancelled their year-end conference tournament due to the virus.

The Right Move

The NCAA clearly made the right move in shutting down the NCAA tournament. Emmert went even further and cancelled championships in all winter and spring sports for the 2019-20 season. That includes such events as the College World Series which was scheduled for June 13 through June 24.

With health and government officials urging people to limit their contact with others, holding sporting events with thousands of people in attendance was simply not feasible. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has continued its spread through the U.S. in March and the only way to slow it down is through limiting human contact. It may take several weeks, but calling off March Madness was a necessary precaution in halting the advancement of the coronavirus.

The NCAA has said that it will grant another year of eligibility to athletes whose seasons were halted by the virus. The extra year will apply to all athletes who participated in a spring sport during the 2019-20 academic year.

Ranking Atlanta’s Julio Jones & Todd Gurley Duo

With the acquisition of running back Todd Gurley in the free agent market, the Atlanta Falcons may now have the best running back-wide receiver tandem in the National Football League.

Some NFL teams have outstanding receivers, Tampa Bay for example, but lack star power in the backfield. Others may have, say a Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, but do not have an elite pass catcher.

What makes Gurley and Jones the NFL’s best?

Jones’ Domination

The sixth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Jones is one of the elite all-around athletes in the league. In high school, Jones was a two-time state champion in Alabama in both the long jump (24-feet-2-inches) and the triple jump (47-5). He won a state title in the indoor high jump (6-6) as a senior and was the state’s track and field athlete of the year in 2007.

Jones possesses an eerie blend of size (6-3, 220) and speed (4.39 in the 40-yard dash). At the NFL combine in 2011, he also recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches.

His route running skills and ability as a pass catcher may be unrivaled in the NFL. In nine seasons, Jones has accumulated 12,125 receiving yards and 57 touchdowns. He reached the 12,000-yard mark faster than any other receiver in NFL history.

Jones has recorded 1,000-yard-plus receiving years in all but two seasons in the NFL. He has had at least 1,300 yards in each of the last six seasons. In each of those seasons, plus 2012, Jones earned Pro Bowl berths.

His honors and awards go on, but it is safe to assume that Jones is one of the NFL’s best at his position.

Go Gurley Go

Like Jones, Gurley was an outstanding track athlete in high school. He was so good that he competed for Team USA in the 2011 World Youth Championships where he finished with a career-best 13.66 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles. As a senior in high school in 2011, he finished second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.7 seconds.

Despite a knee injury that ended his junior season at Georgia prematurely, Gurley was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2015 NFL draft. He would rush for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns to earn the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

In 2017, Gurley rushed for 1,307 yards and led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 64 passes for another 788 yards and six scores. As a result, he was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

His final season with the Rams didn’t go as well last year and the team released him. The Rams’ loss is the Falcons’ gain as they now have one of the league’s premier running backs in the backfield. He is a top-5 running back and is equally capable as a receiver for Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.

In five seasons, Gurley has rushed for 5,404 yards and 58 touchdowns. That’s an average of over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns per season.

Other Tandems

The Kansas City Chiefs were Super Bowl champions last year and they have quite the receiving corps with Tyreek Hill (860 yards) and TE Travis Kelce (1,229 yards). What the Chiefs lack is a running back of Gurley’s stature.

Damien Williams came on strong last season rushing for 389 of his 489 yards in the last five regular season games. Still, he’s not on the same level as Gurley.

One pair that may rival Gurley and Jones is Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper in Dallas. Elliott has ranked at or near the top of leading rushers in each of his four NFL seasons. He ran for 1,357 yards last year to finish fourth after winning the rushing title in 2018.

Cooper, who just signed a new five-year, $100 million contract with the Cowboys, wound up eighth in the league in receiving yards (1,189). It was Cooper’s second straight 1,000-yard season and the fourth in his five-year career.

The only other running back-wide receiver duo that comes close to Gurley and Jones plays for division rival New Orleans. Michael Thomas has been virtually unstoppable at wide receiver for the Saints. Last season he caught 149 passes, a new NFL record, for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.

It was the second straight season in which Thomas led the league in receptions. His yardage total was also the NFL’s best. In the backfield, RB Alvin Kamara is one of the league’s most dynamic weapons. He rushed for a team-high 797 yards and caught 81 passes for 533 more.

Kamara shared carries with Latavius Murray, who rushed for 637 yards, but Kamara is still not the same caliber as Gurley as a runner. Likewise, Elliott is not the same weapon that Gurley is as a pass catcher.

While Elliott-Cooper and Kamara-Thomas are close, they are simply no comparison to the top running back-wide receiver duo in the NFL – Atlanta’s Todd Gurley and Julio Jones.

Kevin Durant Is The Best Player In The World

Kevin Durant is only 31, but he already has a hall of fame resume. The man formerly known as “The Slim Reaper” is a 10x NBA All-Star, 4x scoring champion, 2014 MVP and most importantly a 2x NBA champion with 2 Finals MVP.

KD may be sidelined this season while he recovers from an Achilles injury, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about him. When people debate the best player in the world LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard are usual names that are mentioned. But what if I told you the Durant is the best player in the league right now even while injured?

Durant had a great run in OKC with the Thunder, but his departure left much to be desired. KD had a hand in creating the Warriors dynasty before he even joined the team. The Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. That summer Kevin Durant made the decision to join the same team that took him out in the playoffs. This created what seemed like universal hate for Kevin Durant, but also gave us a look at the ultimate version of Durant. KD’s burner account and off the court antics have puzzled fans and critics alike, but when the game starts, KD turns into Shakespeare on the basketball court and it’s as if he is trying to create a masterpiece with every stroke of the wrist.

Every night on the court it looked like Durant wanted to prove he was the all-around best player in the world. He was already an amazing scorer, but his defense was more on display with the Warriors. In his first season with the Warriors KD averaged 25 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 4.8 APG. On the defensive end he added 1.1 STL and 1.6 BLK. The Warriors were a super team and the narrative around them was that Durant needed the Warriors to succeed, but the Warriors were the ones who needed Durant to get to the next level. Steve Kerr knew this and has even been quoted saying, “Kevin took us to a different level. We were a championship team before he got here. I think we became a historic team after his arrival.”

Kevin Durant turned up his play a few notches when it was playoff time. Durant seemed to have a cold-blooded factor to him that we’ve seen from other greats like Kobe and MJ. In his two injury free finals appearances, Durant was the best player on a court that he shared with LeBron James. In his first NBA Finals with Golden State, he was their top scorer in every game. He averaged 35.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.4 APG on 55% shooting. In both of his NBA Finals appearances Durant hit iconic shots to cap their championship run. Surrounded by amazing shooters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, it was Durant who the Warriors consistently looked to close games down the stretch. Durant never looked like the moment was too big for him.

While it is true that KD suffered a devastating Achilles injury, and there hasn’t really been a player who has come back the same after this type of injury, KD’s thin frame and advanced medical knowledge gives us hope that KD will continue to be the anomaly that he has been his entire NBA career. If anyone can do it, I believe Kevin Durant can. He might not be as explosive as he was in the past, but his game was not dependent on his athleticism. When he came back against the Toronto Raptors in game 5, KD stood behind the 3-point line and dropped 12 points with Kawhi Leonard guarding him. He might not have as many highlight dunks as he had in the past. Then again, KD is 7 feet tall and you don’t have to be very athletic in order to be able to dunk at that height.

During Durant’s time on the Golden State Warriors, we as fans did not take the time to really appreciate his greatness. KD was playing as the best player on the planet, but we were distracted by the media doing everything that they could to downplay his greatness and pushing for the breakup of the Warriors.

Durant’s most iconic line came in the 2018-19 NBA playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers. Journalists were questioning Durant’s play after Clippers came back from a 30 point deficit in game 2 to beat the Golden State Warriors. KD provided a detailed explanation of his mindset and towards the end of the interview he said, “I’m Kevin Durant! You know who I am! Y’all know who I am!” He then went on to back up that most epic statement by dropping 38 points in game 3, 33 points in game 4, 45 points in game 5 and closed out the Clippers in game 6 with a 50 point game. Kevin Durant reminds me of the basketball version of Bruce Banner. He isn’t someone that you want to make angry because you won’t like him when he’s angry.

Sports analysts talk about how James Harden might be the best scorer in the history of the NBA. This is blasphemous. Harden is allowed to shoot as much as he wants. KD has always played in a system where he never had unlimited shots. If Durant was given that same level of freedom as Harden, he would absolutely destroy Harden’s numbers.

KD is a prolific scorer and always has been. His defense is undeniable. He is also a great playmaker. Even if his athleticism is somewhat hampered after his return from his injury, he is tall enough to shoot over any defender in the league and will still be able to dominate. His lighter frame will make it easier for actually return to his pre-injury form. Sports analysts claim that superstars like Giannis, Kawhi and LeBron are the best players in the NBA. Before his injury Durant had claimed the title as best player on the planet and he deserves a shot at getting back that title when he returns to the court.

Doc Rivers: The Most Overrated Coach In NBA History

If you took a poll around the NBA, you could probably win a lot of money betting that there is a belief that Doc Rivers is a future hall of famer. When most think of him they probably think of the NBA championship back in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. Despite that one championship, Rivers hasn’t had as great of a career as everyone seems to think he has had. That Celtics team had a roster that consisted of three shoe-in hall of fame players (Allen, Pierce, Garnett), and a plethora of good role players. However, prior to Boston, during his time in Orlando, Rivers only put together a 171-168 (.504) record. 

In Doc’s first year with the Magic he went 41-41, posting an exact .500 winning percentage, while finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. In his second season in Orlando, the Magic signed Tracy Mcgrady, giving Doc his first taste of coaching an All-Star talent. With the improved roster Doc still finished fourth in the Atlantic winning just 2 more games than the year prior. However that was still good enough for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Bowing out in the first round after the five game defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Doc spent his last two full years in Orlando posting a mediocre .524 win percentage and never making it out of the first round of the playoffs. In what some call early success in his coaching career, you could make an argument that Doc was simply what his record showed, average. 

After a 1-10 start to the 2003 NBA season, Doc was fired by Orlando and subsequently hired by the Celtics the following year. The luck for Doc continued, inheriting a Celtics team that already had perennial All-Star Paul Pierce in the prime of his career. Despite this, Rivers only made the playoffs in one of his first three years with the Celtics, and still never making it out of the first round. Once again, Doc struggled to finish above .500 with an uninspiring record of 102-246 (.414) in his first three years in Boston. Finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference for the 06-07 season, the Celtics still decided to bring Rivers Back the next year. 

The 07-08 season is where all the fun began for Doc in his coaching career. The Celtics revamped their roster, bringing in both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in trades. Doc was now tasked with coaching a roster that originated the big three format that Lebron James brought to Miami and Cleveland. A starting five that consisted of three All-Stars and an up and coming point guard in Rajon Rondo. With his new roster Doc coached the Celtics to first place in the Atlantic, earning the number one seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Doc finally was able to make it out of the first round, in fact the Celtics would eventually become that year’s NBA Champions.

Doc would spend four more years coaching the roster centered around the stars that brought the title to Boston. However, Rivers and the Celtics would only make the NBA Finals once more, falling short to Kobe’s Lakers squad for the NBA crown in 2010. In his second to last season in Boston, Rivers had a final stab at the Playoffs with his championship roster fully intact. The Celtics were able to make the conference finals, but lost to the Miami Heat and their own version of the big three with James, Wade, and Bosh. Following the season, Ray Allen left for the Miami Heat. Doc and the Celtics were still optimistic for the following season, bringing back three of their top four players. However, in what would become his final season in Boston, the squad finished just a half game over .500 and suffered a first round exit in the postseason. The band had finally broken up in Boston, and the Celtics were only able to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy once. 

With Rivers now done with Boston it was time for him to move on to another squad. With the championship as a resume padder, Doc had multiple suitors. What better place was there to go that was looking for a coach than the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013. Doc somehow inherited another star-studded roster with Los Angeles. A roster centered around annual All-Star Chris Paul along with a young Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. Once more Rivers had a roster built to compete year after year for NBA championships. 

Rivers was able to get the Clippers to the playoffs in his first year, but saw a second round failure at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the future looking bright after the team’s first year together, the Clippers had confidence the team was on the right path moving forward. The 2014-2015 season marks the last time Rivers has sniffed any action passed the first round of the playoffs in his ongoing coaching career. Rivers spent his first four years in Los Angeles with that roster intact before losing Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. Following Paul’s exit the Clippers missed the postseason the following year, despite still having two of the three players in their own big three still in the fold for the first half of the season. The team traded Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in January of 2018, finishing out the season with only Deandre Jordan left from the three. Jordan’s exit did not come until the offseason, signing with the Dallas Mavericks prior to the 2018-2019 season. 

Rivers was headed towards the first unpredictable season of his time with the Clippers. It was the first time he would start the season with zero All-Stars on the roster in Los Angeles. To the surprise of everyone around the NBA the Clippers were still able to make the postseason behind fantastic seasons from veterans Lou Williams and Tobias Harris. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander burst onto the scene late in the year to help the Clippers make the postseason push before pushing the defending champion Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round. Despite making the playoffs, rumors swirled that Doc and the Clippers were set to move on from each other following the season. 

Despite the future not looking too bright for the Clippers heading towards this season, Doc was still in place as the Head Coach. The Clippers once again went through a roster makeover, thanks to superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard hand picking his destination following his title run with the Toronto Raptors. Not only were the Clippers able to bring Leonard to Los Angeles, in a turn of events they were able to get Paul George in a trade with the Thunder. The Clipper only brought seven of twenty players from last year’s team back for this year’s team. Optimism was once again high for Doc, but why wouldn’t it be now that he has inherited yet another championship caliber roster?

To the average fan most of what you just read probably screams success, but to anyone that takes a closer look at Doc in totality would only describe it as luck. Glen “Big Baby” Davis on Chris Broussard’s “In The Zone” podcast said, “Lucky as Hell” in reference to Rivers and the Celtics winning the title in 2008. Davis also said, “And he was lucky as hell. Lucky as hell. The year before that they were wearing trash bags (in the crowd)”. Davis went on to say, “But then the next year they win it, now he’s one of the best coaches ever? I’m just not feeling that, you know what I mean?” 

Davis was then asked if Rivers was overrated as a head coach, to which Davis responded “I think so, yeah”. Davis was consistent during the entire portion of the interview about Doc being lucky to have the guys he had in 2008. Even going so far as to say that Danny Ainge should be the one getting the credit. Davis cited multiple meetings between Ainge and Rivers, where the GM told Doc to just “leave them alone” and “ease up”. 

When you look at Doc’s accomplishments since his time in Boston, the best he has done is reach the second round. Since “Lob City” was disbanded, all Rivers has done is exit the playoffs once again in the first round. And once again, Doc has been blessed by the basketball gods. He has inherited another roster full of All-Stars and significant role players.  

Doc has been coaching for 21 years and holds a combined record of 936-678 (.580), with only 130 wins above .500. In Contrast, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has 224 more wins, 188.5 more wins above .500, and a combined record of 1,162-525 in that same span. Rivers has only spent two years during his coaching career without All-Star talent in his lineup, only getting to the playoffs as the eighth seed in 2019. Rivers has been blessed with an embarrassment of riches that he has failed to do anything with outside of Boston in ‘08. So is Doc Rivers really that good of a coach, or is he the most overrated coach in NBA History?

Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects

 

With the NFL Combine officially over and players receiving their grades, it’s time to once again list out the top 10 NFL draft eligible prospects. This is not a list of where guys should be drafted, just a list of the top overall prospects in the draft. Let’s get started!

  1. Joe Burrow

    What an incredible journey for Joe Burrow. To go from an afterthought at Ohio State, to an average SEC QB at LSU his junior year, finally ending up as a Heisman winner and national champion is truly remarkable. Here are Burrow’s stats during his junior year: 13 games, 2894 yards, 16 TDs, and 6 interceptions. Those stats are fine, especially in the SEC. Here are Burrow’s stats from this past year: 15 games, 5671 yards, 60 TDs, and 6 interceptions.

    What impressed most NFL scouts, besides having a 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio, is how unafraid Burrow is. That dude is not afraid to make any throw, which is huge at the next level. During the combine, some people had an issue with Joe only having 9-inch hands. That doesn’t have any effect on his play except for gripping the ball. Plus, if that’s the only concern about Burrow, then he’s going to be just fine.

  2. Chase Young

    The term freak gets thrown around a lot today. Chase Young isn’t a freak, he’s an alien. He’s what you would make in a lab when designing a modern day pass rusher. During his two year stretch as a starter at Ohio State, Young had 27 sacks…in two seasons! That’s just ridiculous in any conference, much more in the Big 10 where they pride themselves on offensive line play.

    The question NFL teams are asking is, can Chase Young be more than just a pass rusher? The answer is yes! Along with 27 sacks, Chase had 40 tackles for loss during his time at Ohio State. If it wasn’t for the Bengals needing a QB, Chase Young would be the number 1 pick in this draft.

  3. Tua Tagovailoa

    Before the season, Tua was viewed as the prospect to beat for the #1 overall pick. If he didn’t get hurt, you could argue that Tua would be headed to Cincinnati instead of Joe Burrow. The only question in Tua’s game is can he stay healthy? With two lower body surgeries in two years, he’s already been under the knife enough to worry teams. Teams have a right to be worried. Health is an asset, and once your body is broken down enough, it’s hard to get that stability back.

    Health questions aside, Tua is one of the best QB prospects to come from Alabama. With over 7,000 passing yards in 32 career games, there’s no question that Tagovailoa has major NFL upside. If you can get a stable offensive line in front of him, with some decent skill position players, you’ll have a franchise QB that can produce for a number of years.

  4. Derrick Brown

    The moment you begin watching tape on Derrick Brown, you notice something instantly. This is a baaaaad man! A man who has no regards for your thoughts or feelings and will impose his will on you on every play. Interior defensive linemen don’t usually go this high in the draft unless they’re really special. Derrick Brown is that special.

    During his time at Auburn, Brown faced constant double teams in the middle. None of it mattered! Brown continued to blaze ahead to the QB. In a game against LSU in his senior season, Derrick picked up the center and drove him into Joe Burrow, in what was surely the scariest moment of Burrow’s playing career. Any team that drafts Derrick Brown is getting an automatic contributor from day one.

  5. Isaiah Simmons

    If Chase Young is an alien, then Isaiah Simmons is a robot. That dude was built to be the perfect modern day linebacker. A three year starter at Clemson, Simmons played both safety and linebacker during his time in a Tiger uniform, logging over 200 tackles, 11 sacks, and 4 interceptions in his career.

    In addition to all that, Simmons ran a sub 4.4 forty yard dash at the NFL Combine. Out of everyone that was invited to the combine, Isaiah is the one benefiting from it the most. He is skyrocketing up draft boards and rankings, including this one! Whichever team decides to draft Simmons will have a dynamite playmaker in the middle of the field.

  6. Jeff Okudah

    If you like old fashioned corners who rely on excellent form and footwork, then Jeff Okudah is your dude. Okudah locked down every opposing number one receiver for two years during his time at Ohio State. Jeff did not have a lot of interceptions in his collegiate career, but he erased dudes on offense.

    Any team at the top of the draft that needs a corner, Okudah can step into your locker room and become an instant impact player on the backend of a defense.

  7. Jerry Jeudy

    Some have called this year’s group of receivers one of the deepest in recent league history. Well, it starts with this man right here in Jerry Jeudy. Jerry is an absolute terror to try and cover. Here are his career stats at Alabama: 159 receptions, 2,742, and 26 touchdowns. Almost one out of every five catches in college for Jeudy was going for a touchdown…just think about that for a second.

    What’s most impressive about Jeudy is his route running ability. A lot of receivers in today’s college game are raw, but not Jerry. Some of the routes he ran would make NFL DB’s lose him. If Jeudy gets to a team with a competent QB situation, there’s no reason he can’t have 1,000 receiving yards his rookie year.

  8. Jedrick Wills Jr.

    This class isn’t deep at offensive line, but it doesn’t lack talent, and Jedrick Wills is certainly a top talent. Wills started almost 40 games for the Crimson Tide, during that time he played right tackle. Even though Jedrick is considered short for a tackle, he makes up for it with brute force and flexibility in the run game.

    The size is a concern for Wills, as is his ability in pass protection. But his ability in the run game make up for that, and with the proper coaching, Jedrick projects to be a longtime starter in the NFL.

  9. Justin Herbert

    This spot came down to either Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. Herbert won because he played against better competition than Jordan Love, and his arm is just a tad better. What surprised scouts most at the combine was that Herbert ran a 4.64 40-yard dash. At 6’6″ that’s a great tool to have if you get flushed out of the pocket, just ask Josh Allen.

    Even with his big arm, scouts are worried about Herbert’s touch and feel in the pocket. He was better in 2019, but Herbert still showed a tendency to rush throws and not trust his protection. During the combine process, some teams also questioned if he could be a good leader in the locker room, having said in his interview that he isn’t a vocal leader.


  10. Javon Kinlaw

    If you didn’t watch the SEC consistently, you probably aren’t familiar with Javon Kinlaw. He started his career in junior college before going to South Carolina and becoming an absolute terror in the SEC East. Kinlaw started three seasons in Columbia. By the time he was a senior he earned All-American honors along with defensive MVP for the Gamecock team.

    Whatever team that drafts Kinlaw is getting an absolute force on the defensive line. Javon has the ability to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme. A good defensive line coach will need to help Kinlaw out with getting his pad level down, and teaching him some pass rushing counter moves, but he has enough natural ability to get on the field from day one.

 

Most Entertaining NBA Playoff Matchups

East:

Milwaukee vs Washington

If you like points – and let’s be honest who doesn’t? – then this matchup would be for you. Milwaukee and Washington both rank in the top 10 in points per game. Milwaukee ranks top 5 in the league in three pointers taken per game. With Giannis being a creator, it’s hard to not get open looks when that man is going to the lane.

Washington ranks top 10 in points, but they rank in the bottom half of the league in threes. They prefer to get this done from two point range. Getting the Wizards into the playoffs would also mean getting my guy, Bradley Beal, into the postseason, and off of the internet as a meme.

Giannis vs Beal for 3-5 games would just be spectacular. Milwaukee would take care of business, but it would be way more entertaining for the fans to see the Bucks play the Wizards than someone like Charlotte or Orlando.

Toronto vs Indiana

We’ll call this the “nobody expected us to be this good” matchup. Toronto and Indiana have both had to overcome low expectations to start out the season. When Kawhi Leonard left Toronto for L.A., most experts picked the Raptors as a team that would try and blow it up, and who could really blame them? After winning a title it would have been easy for Toronto General Manager Masai Ujiri to close up shop and trade away all his good players. Four months into the season, the Raptors are two-seed in the East, and talks of tearing down this team seem like a distant memory.

Indiana had struggles of their own to deal with. When Victor Oladipo went down late last season, it was a guess when he would make his return. Until then, Indiana was expected to just keep the ship afloat until Victor’s return. Well, they did more than that. Without Oladipo, Indiana went on a run to get as high as the three seed in the East, before settling back down in the sixth spot. With Indiana back at full strength, this playoff matchup would be fun to watch.

Boston vs Brooklyn

We could call this the “Where in the world is Kyrie Irving” series. The ultimate irony is Kyrie won’t be playing in this series after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this month. Even without Kyrie, this series would still be super entertaining.

The Celtics started out slow to start the new year, but have gone 9-2 in the month of February, everyone really looks to be hitting their stride at the perfect time. Jayson Tatum has taken the next step in his development and has emerged as the two way star that Boston needs him to be. Gordon Hayward has looked more like Utah Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown continues to make strides.

Brooklyn has been up and down this season. Granted, no one really expected anything out of the Nets this season with the loss of Kevin Durant for the year. Still, this team was a shoe in to make the playoffs with the benefit of just playing in the Eastern Conference.

Having Kyrie say that the Nets still needed more guys to contend for a championship isn’t the greatest team building strategy in the world. Especially when the players on your team are still young and can improve.

This series would more than likely be a short one, but seeing Kyrie talking with his old Celtics teammates would be a nice news story for everyone to follow.

Philadelphia vs Miami

What an awesome series this would be! Jimmy Butler vs his old squad! Joel Embiid vs Bam Adebayo. This series might come down to which team gets home court for Game 5, because the heat and 76ers both struggle away from home.

Miami has again overachieved. They have good pieces, Jimmy Butler is a top 15 player, Bam is an All-Star, but outside of that the rest of their players are just good. What makes Miami go from good to great is Coach Spoelstra. He’s really good at getting his players in a position to succeed.

Talent-wise, Philly was expected to be the #1 seed in the East. With Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid plus a cast of Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle, many experts had picked Philadelphia to be the team with the best odds to win it all this season. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, their team has underperformed all year.

West:

Los Angeles Lakers vs New Orleans

Executives at ESPN won’t say this out loud, but if this playoff matchup came to pass, ratings would be through the roof. Zion + LeBron would just be too good to pass up. It would also mean the former Laker cornerstones Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball would be playing against their former team for at least a week or two.

New Orleans has been fun to watch. Before Zion’s return, the Pelicans were still exciting because they averaged over 110 points per game. Sure, they gave up more than that on defense, but when you’re a bad team, it’s better to be bad on defense than on offense. With Zion, the Pelicans will be a tough out for any opponent.

The Lakers have thrived all season. But it really shouldn’t be a surprise when you have 2 of the top 5 best players in the NBA. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka has managed to surround both Anthony Davis and LeBron James with some really great complimentary pieces. Even in his 17th season, LeBron is leading the league in assists per game. Anthony Davis is averaging 26.6 points (9th), 9.5 rebounds (15th), 3.2 assists (71st), 28.34 PER (3rd) after 53 games played this season.

Denver vs Dallas

This series would be sneaky good. Both teams love to get up and down the floor, and both teams have dominant international players! This series would have the best potential of it going the full seven games in the first round.

Denver was a team that everyone said was a trade away from really being special. Jrue Holiday, Bradley Beal, and a few other big names were often linked to Denver in trade rumors. The Nuggets ended up staying pat, largely because of the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. Nikola Jokic has been a top 10 player in the entire league since Christmas.

The Mavericks are one of the most fun teams in the NBA to watch this season. Watching Luka Doncic on a nightly basis is such a treat. Combine that with Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. and you got yourself a solid squad. Could they upset Denver? Anything is possible. Luka would have to be playing at an MVP-level with Porzingis returning to his former All-Star form.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City

A matchup full of nostalgia, CP3 back in L.A. playing against the Clippers, Paul George playing against the Thunder after requesting a trade over the summer.

OKC might be the surprise team in the NBA this season. All the experts picked the Thunder to be among the worst squads in the Western Conference after trading away Paul George and Russell Westbrook this offseason. Instead, CP3, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari have led this squad to a playoff berth, and they are stacked to the brim with a treasure chest full of draft picks. SGA should be in the discussion for most improved player in the league. His game has really come together in year 2 for the Kentucky product. Chris Paul has been an amazing addition to the Thunder this season. Even the Clippers would be the overwhelming favorite, it would still be a fun series.

The Los Angeles Clippers began the season as one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals when they signed Two-Time Finals MVP Kahwi Leonard and traded for Paul George. Some have claimed that the Clippers have gotten even better with the addition of Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris. However, Paul George’s numbers have fallen off a cliff from last season when he was an MVP candidate. Throw in the fact that George can’t seem to stay healthy and there are a lot of questions about this Clippers team and how far they can go. That being said, the Clippers’ depth and the reigning Finals MVP will make them a tough out against any opponent.

Houston vs Utah

For those of you who are really into the X’s and O’s of basketball, this series would be for you. Quinn Snyder has been called one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, and he would really have a test in this matchup. How would he defend against what’s been dubbed as Houston’s style of “small ball”?

Utah was everyone’s sleeper team before the season began. With the addition of point guard Mike Conley in the offseason, some thought this would bring more than enough offensive fire power to guide the Jazz through the post season. Well…that hasn’t exactly worked out, Conley just hasn’t looked like the same player. We’ve seen with point guards that once they push past their prime, there’s no going back, and we might be seeing that with Mike. However, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have been excellent this season, and may be enough to lift the Jazz past Houston.

Houston was criticized for trading out Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in the offseason. But Darrell Morey is known for taking risks and not caring what anyone else has to say about it. Despite many analysts saying that the pairing wouldn’t work, Russell and Harden have been a great duo this season. Westbrook in particular has been spectacular during the past month, and he could give the Rockets a much needed boost in the playoffs, especially if Harden has his annual slump in April and May.

Biggest Draft Needs For Every NFL Team

With the combine officially over, it’s officially draft season! A time where mock drafts will change every week, and analysts will tell you a guy who was dominant in college should go lower in the draft because his 3-cone drill wasn’t great.

Today, we’ll be taking a dive into every team’s biggest needs headed into the draft! Some teams have multiple picks, while others won’t have any, and those situations will be addressed when the time comes. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Cincinnati Bengals

Needs: Literally anything

When you’re as bad as the Bengals were last year, the only real bright side is that almost any pick is a good pick. Now, it might be considered foolish if they pick anyone other than Joe Burrow with the #1 pick in the upcoming draft. With a defense that was among the worst in the league, and an offensive line that almost got Andy Dalton killed last year, it wouldn’t be a shock if they drafted Chase Young #1 overall to try and turn around the defense.

Washington Redskins

Needs: Defense, a new nickname, and also defense

Good news Washington fans! Your organization brought in a coach that is a proven winner, and your rookie QB a season ago had a nice year, and Trent Williams might actually return! Here’s the bad news, the defense was terrible a season ago, and your skill position players on offense are lack luster to put it kindly. The Redskins are a prime candidate to trade down from the two spot if they want to pick up more picks in this draft. If the choice is between drafting Chase Young or trading down, it would make more sense for the Redskins to take Young.

Detroit Lions

Needs: Pass Rusher, a healthy QB, Secondary help

This is actually a great spot for Detroit to be in. The Lions weren’t as bad as their record showed last season. Matthew Stafford and Kerryon Johnson were hurt for a good portion of the season, and that really slowed down the Lion’s offense. With the #3 pick, Detroit has a lot of flexibility. They can trade down if a team wants to try and snag a QB, they can keep the pick if Chase Young slips to them, or they can take another position of need.

New York Giants

Needs: Offensive line, Pass Rusher, Receiver

The Daniel Jones era in New York started off in typical Giants fashion, it started out with a bang and quickly came back to reality. The Giants rookie QB had a fine season. It definitely helps when you have Saquon Barkley in the backfield. New York needs to work on protecting Jones and Barkley, which is why offensive line makes a lot of sense here for the Giants. However, if they went defense, New York had a bottom five secondary last season, this could be a great spot for Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah.

Miami Dolphins

Needs: QB, RB, Defensive Line

Outside of Cincinnati at #1, Miami at #5 seems like the easiest choice. Just take Tua Tagovailoa and let him cook in the AFC East. Miami has three first-round picks in this year’s draft, and can use the other two to get Tua some help.

Los Angeles Chargers

Needs: QB, Offensive Line, Defensive Line

With the decision to not bring Phillip Rivers back, Los Angeles now becomes an obvious QB needy team in the draft. If the draft falls the way it’s going right now, the Chargers will be able to pick between Justin Herbert and Jordan Love. Honestly it will come to who Los Angeles prefers, and that could change by the hour. The nice part for Los Angeles is no matter which QB they pick, that player will walk into an offensive huddle with Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, and Keenan Allen. Not a bad spot to be in.

Carolina Panthers

Needs: Healthy Cam Newton, Linebacker, Receiver

New Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has his work cut out for him in Carolina. With Cam Newton still recovering from injury, Luke Kuechly retiring and Greg Olsen getting released, Carolina has Christian McCaffrey and not much else on offense. The Panthers could go out and take a receiver to help out Cam, but their linebacker core needs a shot in the arm too. The Panthers would be a great landing spot for Isaiah Simmons at #7. Simmons is everything you could ever want out of a modern-day linebacker, and would be an impact player on day 1 for the Panthers.

Arizona Cardinals

Needs: Receiver, Defensive Line, Offensive Line

Look on the bright side Cardinals fans, you went from the #1 pick in the draft last year to the #8 pick this year. Kyler Murray looks great, and you were in a ton of games last year. The other good news is that you have some definite holes to fill. The offense needs another receiver; Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting any younger and it would make Murray more dangerous in the passing game. It would also make sense for Arizona to draft an offensive lineman to try and protect their franchise QB.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Needs: Stable QB situation, Receiver, Defense

Whether the future is Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew, the Jaguars need a steady presence at QB if they want to compete in the AFC South. Once they figure that out, Jacksonville can work on getting help to one of those QB’s. If they didn’t want to address offense here, the defensive line, specifically the interior, needs some help. Derrick Brown would be a great player at this spot for the Jaguars if they decided to go defense.

Cleveland Browns

Needs: No more Baker Mayfield commercials, Offensive Line, Linebacker

The Browns need to protect Baker Mayfield better. With Greg Robinson getting caught running drugs on the border, it’s pretty safe to say he won’t be in their plans. This opens up the opportunity for the Browns to draft an offensive lineman. With defense and QBs crowding the top 10, the Browns could get some great value if they’re able to take a guy Jedrick Wills out of Alabama or Tristan Wirfs from Iowa.

New York Jets

Needs: Offensive Line, Receiver, Defensive Line

Another team that needs offensive help, the Jets have a good young QB in Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell who can still be effective if he wants to be. The Jets just really need to get better upfront. Taking an offensive lineman here will help keep Darnold upright and get the offense back on track.

Las Vegas Raiders

Needs: QB, Defensive Line, Secondary

It would be a real surprise if Derek Carr was in Las Vegas next season. It’s a possibility but highly unlikely. Without a trade, the Raiders are looking at picking from Jordan Love and Justin Herbert, whichever QB Los Angeles doesn’t select. If the Raiders decided to not go QB, they desperately need help on the defensive line and in the secondary.

Indianapolis Colts

Needs: Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Secondary

All things considered; the Colts did a great job of salvaging their season after Andrew Luck retired during the pre-season. Jacoby Brissett looked like a serviceable QB playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Indy just needs to get him some receiving help. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, Brissett was throwing to a different bunch of receivers every week. If Indianapolis can lock down another playmaker, they will be well on their way to competing in the AFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Needs: Offensive Line, QB, Secondary

Whatever happens with the QB situation in Tampa, the Bucs need to address their O-line situation. The Bucs ranked in the bottom ten of the league in run and pass blocking. No QB can operate in that kind of environment. Andrew Thomas would be a great pick here. He’s one of the best run blockers in this class, and has quick feet in the passing game.

Denver Broncos

Needs: Secondary, Offensive Line, Receiver

John Elway is in a unique spot here. He can go in a few different directions in this draft. He can trade up to try and get a top receiver for Drew Lock. He could stay put and take an offensive lineman, or he could take a secondary player with Chris Harris Jr. possibly leaving Denver in free agency this summer. The broncos could even trade down to pick up additional draft capital.

Atlanta Falcons

Needs: Defensive Line, Secondary, RB

The Atlanta defense has been the Achilles heel for years for the Falcons. Addressing it here would be beneficial for head coach Dan Quinn. Either on the defensive line, or in the secondary, the Falcons need help on the defensive side of the ball, where they ranked 25th against the pass last season.

Dallas Cowboys

Needs: Secondary, Receiver, Linebacker

This analysis hangs on the logic that the Cowboys bring back Dak Prescott. If they don’t then it’s a whole new ball game. But for now, let’s assume Dak is back. It would behoove the Cowboys to try and take a secondary player here. With Byron Jones entering free agency, Dallas will need to replace him. They could also take a safety here. However, if they want to go offense, they could go receiver with an Amari Cooper extension still not yet complete.

Philadelphia Eagles

Needs: Receiver, Receiver, Receiver

If the Eagles don’t take a receiver here, then what’s the point of a front office? The Eagles need help BAD in the passing game. Zach Ertz had a good year, but it’s just him and a hobbled Alshon Jefferey out there. CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs would be a great fit here for Philly.

Buffalo Bills

Needs: Receiver, Offensive Line, Tight End

Another offensive needy team, Buffalo survived last year because their defense was legit. Josh Allen could use another weapon in the passing game. Buffalo should go receiver here, but if they don’t, they could address the offensive line.

New England Patriots

Needs: Offensive Line, Receiver, Pass Rusher

Once again, let’s assume that Tom Brady comes back. It’s up in the air right now, but for this exercise we’re going to assume the G.O.A.T. is back in a Patriot uniform. New England has to address the offense here. Julian Edelman was the only reliable pass catcher last season for the Pats, and with Mohammad Sanu getting surgery on his ankle, who knows when he will be one hundred percent again. New England could also beef up the offensive line, or even go with a pass rusher.

New Orleans Saints

Needs: Receiver, Secondary, Linebacker

When Drew Brees is your QB, he makes everyone look good, but even he needs a little help. As good as Michael Thomas was last year, adding a second receiver will only open up the offense more. Justin Jefferson from LSU is a nice fit here if New Orleans goes receiver. They also could use another linebacker and secondary player to beef up the defense.

Minnesota Vikings

Needs: Secondary, Defensive Line

The time is now for Minnesota! With the Lions and Bears struggling, and Aaron Rodgers getting older, the Vikings need to take advantage of this window. The offense played well last year, but the defense needs to step it up. The Vikings ranked 30th against the rush last year, and need to beef up on the defensive line. Minnesota also has two of their starting corners due for a contract extension. If they decline, Minnesota could also address that need in the draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Needs: Defensive Line, Offensive Line, RB

For years, Seattle was known for their ferocious defense. While the defense is still good, it’s not as elite as it once was. The Seahawks ranked in the bottom half of the league in defending the run and pass rush. For Seattle to get back to its dominating ways, they need to add a pass rusher who can create havoc.

Baltimore Ravens

Needs: Pass Rusher, Linebacker, Secondary

When you have the MVP of the whole league at QB in Lamar Jackson, he covers up a whole bunch of holes. The Ravens have the luxury of just focusing on retooling the defense. Saying that, Baltimore could use another playmaker at linebacker. They haven’t taken a true edge rusher since Terrell Suggs; this could be a great draft to try another one.

Tennessee Titans

Needs: Offensive Line, Receiver, QB

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important off-seasons in franchise history for Nashville. Both of their QB’s in Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill will be free agents, along with star running back Derrick Henry. The Titans will have to make a decision on if they want to sign one of veteran QB’s in free agency, or take a chance and sign one in the draft. If they sign a QB in free agency, look for the Titans to add another stud on the offensive line, or get another playmaker at receiver.

Green Bay Packers

Needs: Receiver, Secondary, Linebacker

As mentioned above, Aaron Rodgers is getting older. He’s still making more than enough plays, but he needs some help. Davante Adams draws so much attention from the opposing defense, that any number two receiver will have an easier time getting open. It would also make sense for Green Bay to go secondary here.

San Francisco 49ers

Needs: Linebacker, Receiver, Kyle Shanahan not calling plays in the Super Bowl

After the epic collapse in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs, the 49ers will look to bounce back starting with the NFL Draft. It would make sense for the 49ers to take another playmaker at linebacker to play alongside Fred Warner. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if San Francisco were to pick up another receiver or offensive lineman.

Kansas City Chiefs

Needs: Secondary, RB, Linebacker

Hard to find any holes when you win the Super Bowl. But that’s what you have to do in the NFL if you want to stay on top. Look for Kansas City to add pieces to the defense in the draft. The Chiefs have been tied to corners Kristian Fulton and Noah Igbinoghene in several mock drafts. Kansas City could also look at a running back in round 2, after Damien Williams missed a good portion of the year with an injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs: QB, Receiver, Defensive Line

Without a first-round pick in this year’s draft, the Steelers will have to really hit on their other picks. Ben Roethlisberger should be back next season, but Pittsburgh will have to look at a contingency plan if he’s not the same guy. A start would be getting Ben another receiver to throw to, and this class is super deep at receiver.

Chicago Bears

Needs: Receiver, QB, a QB not named MitchTrubisky

It’s tough to evaluate the Bears offense with Mitch Trubisky at the helm. The former North Carolina QB just hasn’t been good in the NFL, and without a first-round pick, it’ll be tough for Chicago to upgrade that position. The Bears could also take a flyer on a guy like Jake Fromm if he falls to the second or third round, to at least give Mitch someone to compete with.

Los Angeles Rams

Needs: Linebacker, Secondary, Offensive Line

The Rams are a prime example of what happens when going all in on a Super Bowl goes wrong. Los Angeles has its back up against a wall, and no real avenues to get better. The Rams will be without a first-round pick for the foreseeable future. With their later picks, look for the Rams to get a playmaker at linebacker, along with another secondary piece.

Houston Texans

Needs: Offensive Line, Secondary, Defensive Line

The Texans actually made an effort to protect Deshaun Watson by trading for Laremy Tunsil. However, you need more than just one guy, and Houston still needs to invest in its O-line. That’ll be tough in this draft considering the Texans don’t have a first round pick, and this offensive line class isn’t particularly deep. That being said, Houston still needs to find a way to keep Deshaun upright.

Five Mid-Majors Who Could Bust Your Brackets

 

  1. Vermont Catamounts

    Along with having a fantastic nickname, Vermont has a great product on the court. The Catamounts are first in the America East conference. If you can’t remember where you heard America East from, Vermont shares the conference with the NCAA Tournament darling UMBC Retrievers.

    What makes the Catamounts a great bracket buster is that they excel on the defense end of the floor. Vermont is 5th in the entire country in defense points per game, only giving up an average of 59.3 points a contest.

    Vermont is also tough because they have multiple guys that can score, not just one superstar. Anthony Lamb is the “guy” for the Catamounts, leading the team in scoring, rebounds and blocks. But he’s just one of the many talented players on this squad. Ten players on Vermont average more than twenty minutes a game. Stef Smith shoots 44.5% from three-point land, Ryan Davis shoots over 50% from the field while also almost averaging 10 points a game.

    Defense travels in the NCAA tournament. The Catamounts almost won at Virginia early in the year by playing the same slugfest that the Cavaliers are known for. If Vermont is in your team’s bracket, watch out!

  2. Liberty Flames

    Another team known for their defense, Liberty gives up 53 points a game, good for second in the entire country. The Flames have wins against Vanderbilt, Akron, and two conference foe victories against Lipscomb that really helped build the Flames’ case for potential bracket buster.

    If Liberty is going to get anywhere in the tournament, they’ll need to find a way to score points. Caleb Homesley leads the team in scoring with just over 14 points a game. That’s all fine and good when your squad doesn’t give up 60, but to beat some of these high powered offenses in the NCAA Tournament, the Flames will need to find a way to make shots.

    One way the Flames can try and generate more offense is from the three point line. As a team, Liberty shoots just under 36% from deep. Once tournament time rolls around, expect them to shoot more threes and let the defense win games against the big boys.

  3. Wright State Raiders

    If you like points, this Wright State team is for you. The Raiders are top ten in the country in scoring, averaging almost 82 points a game. Wright State also gets it done old school with center Loudon Love leading the Raiders in scoring with 16.2 points a contest. But he’s not the only one, three more Raiders average more than 10 points a game including: Bill Wampler, Tanner Holden, and Cole Gentry.

    The Raiders are also top 40 in the country in rebounding, with Love once again leading Wright State in that category. If Love can be a dominant presence in the NCAA Tournament, his team will have a great chance to upset a team in round 1 and beyond.

    The main issue with Wright State is outside of conference play, they really didn’t play a competitive non-conference schedule. That being said, you don’t just walk into averaging over 80 points a game as a team, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders respond against Power Five talent.

  4. Belmont Bruins

    Another mid-major that can put the ball in the basket, Belmont is no stranger to busting brackets. The Bruins once again have a stranglehold on the Ohio Valley Conference, and look forward to playing spoiler in the NCAA Tournament.

    The Bruins are top 20 in America in points per game, averaging just over 80 points. Most of that damage is done by the big three in Belmont: Adam Kunkel, Nick Muszynski, and Tyler Scanlon who all average more than 11 points a contest. Grayson Murphy is also a killer on the offensive end of the floor, almost averaging a double-double in points and assists.

    The schedule for Belmont was decent in the non-conference, with wins coming against Boston College and Lipscomb. What’s most impressive about Belmont is that they went 11-5 on the road, which is huge come NCAA Tournament time. The Bruins don’t care what building they are playing in, if it has a hardwood floor and a hoop, Belmont comes ready to ball.

  5. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

    The rules were no top 25 teams on this list, and Stephen F. Austin is coming real close to breaking that rule. The Lumberjacks are receiving votes in the AP poll, and they’re well deserved. Early in the year, the Lumberjacks went into Cameron Indoor and beat then #1 Duke. If that doesn’t show you how dangerous Stephen F. Austin can be, then nothing will.

    Led by Keveon Harris, the Lumberjacks average 81 points a game, good for ninth best in the country. Gavin Kensmil and Cameron Johnson also average double digit points for SFA. A big difference in the Lumberjacks and other mid-majors is that 10 guys for SFA average more than 10 minutes of playing time. That’s huge in the NCAA tournament because if someone gets in foul trouble it’s not as big of a deal as it would be for other teams.

    Outside of beating Duke, the Lumberjacks have been close to beating other Power Five schools, including losses at Rutgers and at Alabama. Combine that with a dominant stretch during Conference Play, and Stephen F. Austin is well on their way to upsetting a few teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Los Angeles Lakers Finally Win A Game Against The L.A. Clippers!!!

My take away from the Lakers vs Clippers game III – Lakers may have just solidified their position as the best team in the NBA. Not only did the beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who hold the best record in the NBA, they also beat the biggest nemesis, whom they share a stadium with – the Los Angeles Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard underwhelmed and seemed to disappear in crucial moments of the game. Yes, he scored 27 points on 9-18 shooting, but he was 2-9 from 3 and seemed disinterested at times. PG was clearly the best player for the Clippers today. Paul George shot 9-16 for 31 points and was 3-7 from the 3-point line.

Zubac was playing amazing defense and protecting the rim, but Doc Rivers, the most overrated coach in the NBA, failed to give him any minutes in the 4th quarter. Without any rim protection, A.D. looked unstoppable out there.

Pat Beverly was pretty trash out there. Got stripped twice, back to back for quick points for the Lakers.  Lou Williams didn’t show up. He shot 3-11 for 7 points. The biggest disappointment was Marcus Morris. Clippers gave up their 1st round pick and Mo Harkless, who was playing quite well for the Clips, to get Morris. Morris was 0-9 with his single point coming from a 1 made free throw. Morris’ defense was subpar as well. Doc Rivers should have pulled Morris from the lineup and replaced him with someone to help the team generate some offense.

There was so much that was made about Clips getting better by trading for Morris. The truth of the matter is that the Los Angeles Clippers were a much better team with Mo Harkless.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 30 points on 11-19 shooting. LeBron James added 28 points on 7-17 shooting. Avery Bradley went crazy from the 3-point line and torched the Clippers for 24 points on 9-17 shooting.

LeBron seemed to be invigorated out there. Both he and AD were taking charges and playing defense like it was game 7 of the NBA playoffs. Kuzma made some great defensive plays to justify why the Lakers didn’t trade him. Lakers handed the Clippers their first loss as  a completely healthy team and sent a loud message across the league they, and not the Clippers are the team to beat this year.

Clippers will have to go back to the drawing board to figure things out, but based on Docs inability and unwillingness to make in-game adjustments, this might be a sign of things to come for Clippers fans.

 

NFL vs. XFL Comparison

 

It’s no secret that the NFL is still the top dog in terms of professional football, but the XFL is looking to compete. If you want to attract viewers, you need to bring something new to the table. It can’t just be, “Hey, we’re kind of like the NFL, but we play in the spring.” It needs to be fresh, and that’s just what the XFL has done.

We’ll be going over all the ways that the XFL has differentiated itself from the NFL, in terms of rule changes, (don’t worry, we won’t bore you to death). Almost all of these have to do with what’s going down on the field, and some of these XFL rule changes actually add more excitement compared to their NFL counterpart. Let’s dive in!

Point-After Conversations

If you’ve ever watched football, you know that after every touchdown, teams usually go for the extra point field goal. Occasionally teams will go for the two-point conversation if they are down late or are trying to make their lead uncatchable. The XFL is completely different. There are no extra point kicks! After a touchdown in the XFL, teams have three options: run a play at the 2-yard line for 1 point; run a play at the 5-yard line for 2 points; or run a play from the 10-yard line for 3 points. This adds a ton of excitement to an already exciting sequence after scoring a touchdown. It also makes comebacks easier for teams late in games.

Kickoffs

We’ve all heard how dangerous kickoffs are, and it’s true! Kickoffs are the most dangerous plays in football. The NFL has revised their rules to where kickers now kick from the 35-yard line, allowing for more touchbacks. The XFL rule on kickoffs is a little different, they try to kick the exciting play that is the kickoff return, but still find a way to make it safer.

For an XFL kickoff, the kicker lines up at the 30-yard line and the other 10 defenders are lined up on either side. The opposing team has all of their players lined up in a line at their own 35-yard line. Players cannot move until either the returner catches the ball, or the ball has been in play for 3 seconds. This eliminates players running at each other from 30 yards out, and still provides a level of excitement to the kickoffs.

Play Clock

If you haven’t caught on yet, a big theme for the XFL is to keep the game as exciting as possible. This rule does just that. The play clock in the XFL is only 25 seconds compared to the 40 second play clock that the NFL has established. This leaves less time for teams to huddle up and more time playing football.

The XFL also has what they call a “Comeback Period”. This occurs after the two-minute warning in each half. When a play ends with a play in bounds, the clock will stop until the ball has been reset and 5 seconds have come off the play clock. Compare this to the NFL, where in the final two minutes the only way to stop the clock is to either call a timeout or have a play result in an incomplete pass or a player running out of bounds. This rule will help keep the end of half action exciting, and it gives teams more of an opportunity to score.

Overtime

The NFL has the worst set of overtime rules in professional sports and it’s not even close. One team could go down and score a touchdown and the opposing offense gets to just look on. The XFL does overtime a little different. If you’re a fan of soccer, this format will look pretty familiar. Each team gets 1 play to score from the 5-yard line. After 5 rounds of this, the team with the most points win, and if it ends in a tie, we go one round at a time, and whoever has more points at the end of a single round will win the game.

This works way better than the NFL overtime rule. Each team gets multiple chances to stop the opponent, and it’s more exciting seeing multiple plays from the 5-yard line.

Welcome to the XFL

 

Between College Football and the NFL, it would make sense for people to get their natural fill for the sport from the action that takes place from August to February. And yet, every time March rolls around, people fall into a deep state of football depression.

But have no fear, the XFL has arrived! The new spring football league will provide people even more football until summertime. With 8 franchises, and likely more on the way, the XFL will look to dominate the spring television hours. This isn’t a developmental league like the now folded Alliance of American Football once was. The XFL will look to compete with the NFL for football talent and viewership from fans.

Why should you care about the XFL? If you’re already fans of a college team and an NFL team, you might feel your fanhood to be a little strained. Have no fear, we’re going to make a case of why you should care about this league. Once you decide you care, we’ll be going through the next process, picking your favorite team! With all that said, let’s get started.

Why You Should Care About The XFL

It’s Fun!

The NFL has sometimes been called the “no fun league”, with good reason. Even though the NFL has come around on certain areas of the game, it’s definitely still conservative in nature. The XFL just wants people to have fun! From casual sideline reports to open talk of gambling, the new league has really put an emphasis on people enjoying their product.

The XFL also has some rules in place to make the game more fun for their players on the field. We will go into more detail in our NFL Comparison piece, but we’ll list them here just so you’re aware. The XFL has different rules on kickoffs, point-afters, and of course, the double forward pass. Rules like these make watching the XFL fun because you’ll virtually be getting something new every game.

It’s Innovative!

From new rules to creative ways to get closer to the action, the XFL is really trying to branch out from traditional football. Some aspects of the broadcast are a bit rough around the edges, but it’s good to see that they are at least making an effort to explore new things.

The most unique about the XFL is the television broadcast. This is totally different from the NFL television broadcast. The coaches are all mic’d up during the game and can be heard on the broadcast. It’s enjoyable because now fans can get into the mindset of a coach on game day. It also leaves less room for the broadcasters to ramble on about unimportant topics.

The only “complaint” one might make could be the sideline interviews. After every fumble or interception, the crew will interview the player responsible for the turnover. It seems a little over the top, but maybe they’re trying to spice things up by getting a reaction from the players.

It’s Football In The Spring

Like we mentioned earlier, people love football, plain and simple. The offseason used to run from March to August and it sucks! Now, the XFL gives fans an opportunity to enjoy football until May, which leaves really only June and July. By that time, NFL minicamps are starting to pick up and fantasy football mock drafts are firing on all cylinders.

Is it a perfect league? No, of course not! The NFL has been around for over 100 years and they still get stuff wrong all the time. But the XFL is a lot of fun, and with the television revenue coming from ESPN and FOX, the league is in good shape for the next couple of years to prove that they can be a mainstay in the springtime.

So, are you starting to care about the XFL? Fantastic! Now comes the fun part, picking a team to pull for.

Picking An XFL Team

With the XFL underway, it’s time for fans to pick their teams. There are a few methods to picking a team, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at the different teams in the XFL!

The new league has eight teams in the inaugural season:

  • The Dallas Renegades
  • The DC Defenders
  • The Houston Roughnecks
  • The L.A. Wildcats
  • The New York Guardians
  • The St. Louis BattleHawks
  • The Seattle Dragons
  • The Tampa Bay Vikings

The first method in choosing a team is geography! If you find yourself living in one of the cities that have a team or you’re originally from one of those cities, an easy choice would be to adopt that team! The second is if you’re a fan of a college team or an NFL team that has an abundance of players on one of these rosters. For example, if your college team is the Auburn Tigers; the Houston Roughnecks have three Auburn alumni on their roster. The final way you could choose a team is through their fashion. In this case, you can pick whichever squad has the most stylish uniforms. Any of these reasons are a great way to put your support behind an XFL team. Whatever team you choose, just love that team, and have fun with your new spring football league.

XFL Team Introduction: Los Angeles Wildcats


Coach: Winston Moss

Winston Moss has been in football for a long time, going back to his playing days in the 80’s. Moss had a 10-year career in the NFL before moving on to coaching. Moss was the Linebackers Coach/Assistant Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2007-2018. Before that, he was the linebacker’s coach for the Saints and Buccaneers. Moss also serves as the team’s General Manager.

Players:

QB: Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson was an electric college quarterback, passing for almost 10,000 yards in 4 years at San Diego University. Johnson still holds several records at San Diego including career passing yards, passing yards, and completions.

Johnson was drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He would go on to play for 13 different NFL Teams and in the AAF before being signed by the Wildcats.

Offensive Line: Storm Norton (LT), Fred Lauina (LG), Patrick Vahe (C), Nico Siragusa (RG), Jaelin Robinson (RT)

Storm Norton played his college ball at Toledo, where he was a multi-year starter. He was later signed as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Lions following the 2017 NFL Draft. Norton also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings before being drafted by Los Angeles in the XFL Draft.

Fred Lauina was a three-year starter at Oregon State, playing multiple positions along the offensive line. After his time at Oregon State, Lauina spent time with the Cleveland Browns and in the AAF before being signed by the Wildcats.

Patrick Vahe was highly touted prospect coming out of high school in 2013. He went on to start 45 games at Texas while also being named to the Outland Trophy watchlist. Vahe was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, but ultimately did not make the roster. Patrick was later drafted by the Wildcats in the XFL Draft.

Nico Siragusa played and started all four years at San Diego State. Siragusa was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Nico would also spend time with the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, and Buffalo Bills before being drafted in the 6th round of the XFL by the L.A. Wildcats.

Jaelin Robinson played his college ball at Temple University, a multi-year starter, Robinson anchored the Temple offensive line for 4 years. Robinson had a brief stint with the Atlanta Falcons following the 2018 season, but did not make the team. Robinson was drafted later on in the XFL Draft by the Wildcats.

TE: Brandon Barnes

Brandon Barnes went to school at Alabama State, where he was a big part of the Yellow Jacket offense. After college, Barnes signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent. He also spent time with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders before being signed by the Los Angeles Wildcats.

WR: Jordan Smallwood

Jordan Smallwood played sparingly during his four years at Oklahoma, appearing in 18 games. The wide receiver had a career stat line of 18 catches for 140 yards. This didn’t stop Smallwood from getting a shot with the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2017 season. Smallwood was later signed by the Wildcats.

WR: Adonis Jennings

Adonis Jennings played three years at Temple University after transferring from Pittsburgh. During his time at Temple, Jennings compiled more than 1100 receiving yards. Jennings was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Draft after the 2018 NFL Draft before being picked up by the Wildcats.

WR: Nelson Spruce

Spruce was one of the most decorated wide receivers in Colorado University history. He set over 40 school and conference records during his time in Boulder. Nelson went on to signing an undrafted free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams after the 2016 NFL Draft. In addition to Los Angeles, Spruce had stints with the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, and time in the AAF. The Wildcats drafted Spruce in the 3rd round of the XFL Draft.

RB: Elijah Hood

Elijah Hood was the #1 running back in the country coming out of high school in 2014, which makes it all the more surprising when he chose to attend college at North Carolina. Hood claimed multiple All-ACC honors during his time in Chapel Hill before being drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Hood also had stops with the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars before being drafted by the Wildcats in the XFL Draft.

Defensive Line: Boogie Robert, Roderick Henderson, Latarius Brady

Boogie Robert played four years at San Jose State, where he started 36 games in his college career. He earned All-MWC honors during his senior season. He also had a rushing touchdown. After the 2018 season, Boogie was signed by the Los Angeles Rams but did not have any success before being picked up by L.A.

Roderick Henderson played his college ball at Alabama State, where he was a big problem in the SWAC conference. Henderson wrecked offensive lines on his way to 39 career tackles for loss. After his senior season, Henderson went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft but did sign a deal with the Tennessee Titans before being picked up by the Wildcats.

Latarius Brady spent his collegiate career at the University of Memphis, where he was a force on the defensive line. After tearing his ACL in 2016, Brady was out of football for a couple of years until the AAF came around. After the league folded, Brady was picked up by the Wildcats.

Linebackers: Willie Mayes, Tre Williams, Will Smith

Willie Mayes played college football at Tiffin University. Mayes spent time in the Canadian Football League before being drafted by the L.A. Wildcats.

Tre Williams was a member of the Auburn Tigers during his time in college where he appeared in almost 50 games. The linebacker made over 150 tackles in his career. Williams spent some time with the Detroit Lions before being picked up by the Wildcats.

Will Smith played two seasons at Texas Tech after transferring from Junior College, where he started 26 games for the Red Raiders. Smith would go on to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 NFL Draft. Smith also spent time in the Canadian Football League before being picked up by the Wildcats.

Defensive Backs: Jaylen Dunlap, Harlan Miller, Jack Tocho, Ahmad Dixon

Jaylen Dunlap was a force to be reckoned with in the Big 10 during his time at Illinois. The defensive back spent five seasons in Champagne, where he earned All Big-10 honorable mention in 2017. Jaylen couldn’t find a home in professional football until the Wildcats picked him up.

Harlan Miller played collegiately at Southeastern Louisiana. The Louisiana native was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Washington Redskins also gave Miller a look, but ultimately, he did not make the team. Harlan was drafted by L.A. in the 7th round of the XFL Draft.

Jack Tocho played his college ball at North Carolina State, where he was often viewed as an underrated player. After his final season, Tocho was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Jack also had stints with the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and in the AAF before joining the L.A. Wildcats.

Ahmad Dixon was a talent during his time at Baylor, playing 11 games as a true freshman. During his final season in 2012, Dixon was named to the 2nd Team All-American squad. Ahmad ended up being drafted in the 7th round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 NFL Draft. He also spent time with several other NFL teams, and the Canadian Football League before being signed by the Wildcats.

XFL Team Introduction: New York Guardians


Coach: Kevin Gilbride

Kevin Gilbride has spent more time in coaching than most anyone, going back to 1974. Gilbride has coaching experience in the NCAA ranks, in the Canadian Football League, and also in the NFL. During his time in the NFL, Kevin coached for the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. Gilbride also serves as the Guardian’s General Manager.

Players:

QB: Matt McGloin

McGloin played all four years at Penn State. McGloin became the first walk on quarterback to start at Penn State. After his time as a Nittany Lion, McGloin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Raiders following the 2013 NFL Draft. During Matt’s time in the NFL, he went on to spend time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs before being picked up by the Guardians.

RB: Tim Cook

Cook started two seasons at Oregon State University. During his time as a Beaver, Cook was one of the better running backs in the Pac 12. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook was signed to a free agent contract by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also spent time in the AAF before being drafted by New York in the XFL Draft.

WR: Mekale McKay

Mekale McKay spent his college playing days at the University of Cincinnati. After going undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, McKay signed a free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts. He also spent time with the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bears. Mekale also had a stint in the AAF before being picked up by the Guardians.

WR: Austin Duke

Austin Duke had a historic career at UNC Charlotte. After four years in a 49er uniform, Duke left Charlotte top 5 all-time in career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. After his senior season, Duke signed a free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers. Austin also spent time in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Guardians.

TE: Jake Powell

Jake Powell played his college ball at Monmouth College. Following his college playing days, Powell signed with the Saints following the 2019 NFL draft. Jake also saw time with the New York Giants before being picked up by New York.

Offensive Line: Jarron Jones (LT), Anthony Coyle (LG), Ian Silberman (C), Garrett Brumfield (RG), John Kling (RT)

Jarron Jones was originally a defensive lineman during his college days at Notre Dame. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones was signed by the New York Giants and converted into an offensive lineman. Jarron also saw time with the Buffalo Bills before being signed by the Guardians.

Anthony Coyle played at Tottenville, a small school in the Patriot League. After going undrafted, Coyle signed with the Houston Texans. Coyle also spent time with the Green Bay Packers before being signed by the Guardians.

Ian Silberman began his college career at Florida, where he started almost 15 games in three seasons. He transferred his final season to Boston College where he started all 13 games for the Golden Eagles. Silberman was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Silberman would also spend time with the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals before being signed by the Guardians.

Garrett Brumfield played his college football at LSU as a member of the Tigers. Brumfield was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2018 season before being drafted by New York in the XFL Draft.

John Kling played at the University starting multiple years for the Bulls. Kling was signed by the Chicago Bears, but also spent time with the Washington Redskins and in the AAF before being drafted by the Guardians.

Defensive Line: Bunmi Rotimi, Joey Mbu, Cavon Walker

Bunmi Rotimi played college football at Old Dominion University. Rotimi was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL draft before being signed by the Guardians.

Mbu played college football at Houston, where he played in 50 games over the course of his career. The defensive lineman earned All-AAC honors his senior season. Mbu was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons following the 2015 NFL Draft. He also had stints with the Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, and in the AAF before being taken by the Guardians.

Cavon Walker was a multi-year starter at the University of Maryland. Walker played in 50 games during his Terrapin career, registering 90 tackles, and 4.5 sacks. Walker went on to sign a deal with the Chicago Bears in 2017 before being picked up by New York in the XFL Draft.

Linebackers: D’Juan Hines, Ben Heeney, Garrett Dooley

D’Juan Hines was originally recruited by Houston to play wide receiver, but switched to linebacker after his freshman season. Hines went on to lead the Cougar defense in tackles in back to back seasons while also earning All-Conference honors. D’Juan signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers following the 2018 NFL Draft. Hines also spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs before being drafted by the Guardians.

Ben Heeney was a four-time starter at Kansas University, where he accumulated over 125 tackles in his career. Heeney was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Ben also spent time with the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans before being drafted by the Guardians.

Garrett Dooley was a three-year starter at the University of Wisconsin, playing both linebacker and defensive end. Dooley ended his Badger career with 84 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Following the 2018 NFL Draft Dooley was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings. Garrett also spent time with the Detroit Lions before being drafted by the Guardians.

Defensive Backs: Bryce Jones, Jamar Summers, Andrew Soroh, AJ Hendy

Bryce Jones spent his college days at Boston College. After college, Jones was signed by the Houston Texans before being selected by New York in the XFL Draft.

Summers was a four-year starter at the University of Connecticut, registering over 200 tackles in his career. Following the 2018 season, Summers was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent. Jamar spent time with the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, and in the AAF before being taken by the Guardians.

Andrew Soroh split his time between linebacker and safety during his time at Florida Atlantic, showing his versatility. Soroh was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs before being drafted by New York in the XFL Draft.

AJ Hendy became the first freshman safety to start for Maryland in 2011. Hendy went on to be a four-year starter before going undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was signed to a free agent deal with the Miami dolphins. Hendy also had stints with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Houston Texans before being signed by the Guardians.

XFL Team Introductions: Seattle Dragons


Coach: Jim Zorn

Jim Zorn had a 12-year professional football career. Zorn played QB in the NFL and CFL before transitioning into coaching. Jim coached at the collegiate level and professional level, ultimately peaking as the head coach of the Washington Redskins. After a couple other stops, he was hired as the head coach and general manager of the Dragons.

Players:

QB: Brandon Silvers

Silvers was a four-year player at Troy University. During his time in a Trojan uniform, Brandon passed for over 10,000 yards. Following the 2018 NFL Draft, Silvers received a look by the New Orleans Saints but was ultimately not signed. Brandon went on to play in the AAF, and had a couple other short stints in the NFL before signing with Seattle.

RB: Ja’Quan Gardner

Ja’Quan Gardner played for Humboldt University, where he broke almost every rushing record they had. Following his stellar collegiate career, Gardner went on to play in the AAF before being drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

WR: Kasen Williams

Kasen William spent his college days playing for the Washington Huskies. After his freshman season, Williams received All Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Williams broke his Fibula halfway through his junior season and was never the same. Following the 2015 NFL Draft, Kasen signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals but did not make the team. Williams went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, and Indianapolis Colts before being picked up by Seattle.

WR: Keenan Reynolds

Keenan Reynolds played four-years at Navy, where he broke the all-time FBS record for rushing yards in a career by a QB with 4,559. Reynolds ended up with more rushing yards than passing yards in his collegiate career. Keenan was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, but he did not make the roster. Reynolds spent time with the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks before being drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

TE: Colin Jeter

Colin Jeter played his college football in the SEC at LSU. Following his collegiate career, Jeter signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts but ended up having surgery on his foot. Jeter was later picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but was waived shortly after suffering a concussion. Jeter spent time in the AAF before being signed by the Seahawks.

Offensive Line: Isaiah Battle (LT), William Campbell (LG), Dillon Day (C), Michael Dunn (RG), Quinterrius Eatmon (RT)

Isaiah Battle was a multi-year starter at Clemson University. Battle was kicked off the team after his junior year, but this didn’t stop him from being drafted. Battle was taken in the 5th round of the NFL Supplemental Draft by the then St. Louis Rams. Isaiah would go on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers before being drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

William Campbell spent time on both the offensive and defensive line during his time at Michigan. Campbell was taken in the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New York Jets but was released before the season began. William also went on to play for several more NFL teams, and In the CFL before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL Draft and then traded to the Dragons.

Dillon Day was a four-year starter at Mississippi State at center, where he was charged with protecting Dak Prescott. Following his Bulldog career, Day signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Denver Broncos following the 2015 NFL Draft. Dillon also had stints with the Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers before being drafted by Seattle in the XFL Draft.

Michael Dunn started 4 years on the offensive line at Maryland University. Following as time as a Terrapin, Dunn went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, but went on to sign a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams. Michael also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and in the AAF before being signed by the Dragons.

Quinterrius Eatmon played 4 years at South Florida. Following his playing career as a Bull, Eatmon signed a free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers after the 2015 NFL Draft. Eatmon never saw the field but was signed by the Dragons.

Defensive Line: Stansly Maponga, Will Sutton, Anthony Moten, Jacquies Smith

Stansly Maponga played his college football at Texas Christian University. Following his collegiate career, Maponga was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. During his time in the NFL, Stansly also had stints with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Denver Broncos before being drafted by Seattle in the XFL Draft.

Will Sutton is one of the more decorated defensive ends in Arizona State history. Sutton earned multiple All-Pac 12 honors, two-time Pac 12 Defensive End of the Year, and first team All-American. The Arizona State grad would go on to be drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Sutton played four years in Chicago before being picked up by the Minnesota Vikings. Will would also spend time with the San Francisco 49ers and in the AAF before being drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

Anthony Moten appeared in over 35 games during his time as a Miami Hurricane. Following his senior season, Moten signed an undrafted free agent deal after the 2018 NFL Draft with the Miami Dolphins before being drafted by Seattle in the XFL Draft.

Jacquies Smith played football at Missouri. During his Junior and Senior seasons, Smith earned All-Big 12 honors. Following his collegiate career, Jacquies went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. However, he signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins soon after. Smith would go on to play for several NFL teams and in the CFL before being picked up in the XFL Draft.

Linebackers: Steven Johnson, Kyle Queiro, Nick Temple

Steven Johnson originally walked on to the Kansas University football team before earning a scholarship just before his junior season. Johnson ended his Jayhawk career with over 200 tackles. Following the 2012 NFL Draft, Steven signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Denver Broncos. During his time in the NFL, Steven spent time with the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Johnson also spent time in the AAF before being drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

Kyle Queiro played in almost 30 games during his time at Northwestern. Following the 2018 NFL Draft, Queiro signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys. After being signed to the practice squad, Kyle was drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

Nick Temple spent his college days at the University of Cincinnati. Following his career as a Bearcat, Temple went on to play in the CFL and AAF before being picked up by the Dragons.

Defensive Backs: Jeremy Clark, Channing Stribling, Godwin Igwebuike, Jordan Martin

Jeremy Clark was a multi-year starter at the University of Michigan. Following his Wolverine career, Clark was drafted in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. After his stint with the Jets, Jeremy was drafted by the Dragons in the XFL Draft.

Channing Stribling joins his college teammate Jeremy Clark in Seattle. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Stribling was signed to an undrafted free agent deal by the Cleveland Browns. During his time in the NFL, Channing spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Chargers. Stribling also drew interest from the CFL and AAF before being drafted by the Dragons.

Godwin Igwebuike spent his college career at Northwestern University. Following his collegiate career, Godwin went undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft, but was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent. Igwebuike spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York jets before being picked up by the Dragons.

Jordan Martin played two years at Toledo and two years at Syracuse. Martin went undrafted, but spent time in the NFL and AAF before being picked up by the Dragons.

XFL Team Introduction: Dallas Renegades


Coach: Bob Stoops

Big Game Bob is back in football! After a historic run at the University of Oklahoma, Bob Stoops has come out of retirement to coach the Dallas Renegades. They also made Stoops the General Manager of the club.

Players:

QB: Landry Jones

The former Oklahoma Sooner and NFL player leads the Renegades on offense. Landry Jones had a really nice career at Oklahoma, where he backed up Heisman winner Sam Bradford and threw for 16,000 yards once Bradford went pro.

Jones also made his way into the NFL, being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4th round of the 2013 draft. Landry was viewed by many as a career backup in the NFL, but he did get a few chances to prove himself. Jones appeared in 18 games during his time with the Steelers, starting 5 of them in place for the injured starter Ben Roethlisberger.

Landry was the first player to sign with the XFL when the league formed, but is currently out with a knee injury and should be back in late February or early March.

RB: Cameron Artis-Payne

The Running Back position for Dallas is held down by former All-SEC first-team running back Cameron Artis-Payne. The former Auburn Tiger played two years on The Plains, rushing for over two thousand yards and 19 touchdowns.

Artis-Payne was drafted in the 5th round by the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 NFL Draft. After 4 years in Carolina, it was clear CAP was not going to make it in the league, only rushing for 491 yards in 32 appearances. Cameron Artis-Payne was selected in the 3rd round of the 2020 XFL Draft.

WR: Jeff Badet

Jeff Badet played two years at Kentucky, and led the team in receiving in the 2017 season. After the 2017 season, he transferred to Oklahoma, where he had a secondary role in the Sooners 12-2 season in 2018.

After the 2018 season, Badet declared for the draft. He went undrafted but was signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an Undrafted Free Agent. Jeff was placed on the practice squad for Minnesota before declaring for the XFL Draft a year later.

Renegade Scouts were impressed with Badet’s natural route running and his sub 4.30 speed, and selected him 4th overall in the 2020 XFL Draft.

 

WR: Flynn Nagel

Nagel played all four years of his college ball at Northwestern, where he racked up over 700 receiving yards his senior year. After college, Nagel received some looks in rookie minicamps but was unable to make a roster. The Renegades selected Nagel in the 5th round of the 2020 XFL Draft.

WR: Freddie Martino

Freddie Martino has really jumped around. After playing his college ball at North Greenville University, Martino went on to have stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and also spent time in the failed AAF league.
Martino actually began his XFL career with the Tampa Bay Vipers before being traded to Dallas.

TE: Sean Price

Sean Price broke several records for Tight End during his time at South Florida, including receptions and yards in a season. After his college playing career, Price went on to playing briefly in the AAF for Orlando. Price was selected in the 5th round of the XFL Draft.

Offensive Line: Pace Murphy, Alex Balducci, Maurquice Shakir, Salesi Uhatafe, Willie Beavers

The Renegade offensive line is anchored by Pace Murphy (RT), Alex Balducci (RG), Marquice Shakir (C), Salesi Uhatafe LG), and Willie Beavers (LT).

Murphy played at Northwestern State before signing with the Los Angeles Rams as an Undrafted Free Agent. Murphy later on had stints on the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs respective practice squads before being drafted in the 2nd round of the XFL Draft.

Balducci played collegiately at Oregon before signing with the San Francisco 49ers as an Undrafted Free Agent. The guard also spent time with the New York Jets, Washington Redskins, and the AAF before being drafted by Dallas in the 5th round of the XFL Draft.

Shakir played College Football at Middle Tennessee, later signing with the Baltimore Ravens as an Undrafted Free Agent. Maurquice also spent time with the Houston Texans before being drafted by the Dallas Renegades in the 3rd round of the XFL Draft.

Uhatafe played at Utah before getting picked up in the AAF. After the league folded, he signed with Dallas in the XFL.

Willie Beavers played at Western Michigan before being drafted in the 4th round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. During his time in the NFL, Beavers also played for New England, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco before making his way to the Renegades.

Defensive Line: Frank Alexander, Gelen Robinson, Winston Craig

Frank Alexander played at the University of Oklahoma before being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Alexander also spent time in the Canadian Football League before being brought in by the Renegades.

Gelen Robinson spent his college days playing at Purdue, where he was a key part of the Boilermakers defensive line. Robinson also spent time in the Canadian Football League and AAF before being drafted by Dallas.

Winston Craig is a defensive end who played at Richmond College. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an Undrafted Free Agent, where he was waived soon after and played in the AAF before being picked up by Dallas.

Linebackers: Johnathan Calvin, Ray Ray Davison, Greer Martini, Hau’oli Kikaha

Jonathan Calvin
spent his college playing days in the SEC at Mississippi State. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an Undrafted Free Agent, and also spent time with the Indianapolis Colts on their practice squad before getting drafted by the Renegades.

Ray Ray Davison played at Cal for four years, later being signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an Undrafted Free Agent. Davison never played in the NFL, and was drafted by Dallas in the XFL Draft. Greer Martini played at Notre Dame before getting drafted by the Renegades in the 5th round of the XFL Draft.

Kikaha played collegiately at the University of Washington where he was named a first team All-America selection in 2014. Hau’oli was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, where he suffered multiple injuries that set back his career before being drafted by Dallas in the XFL Draft.

Defensive Backs: Josh Hawkins, Treston Decoud, Tenny Adewusi, Derron Smith

Josh Hawkins played at East Carolina. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an Undrafted Free Agent. Hawkins also spent time with the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles before being drafted by the Renegades in the XFL Draft.

Treston Decoud played at Oregon State before being drafted by the Houston Texans in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Decoud was waived after one season and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys practice squad before being drafted by the Dallas Renegades in the XFL Draft.

Tenny Adewusi is a physical safety from the University of Delaware. Adewusi was given the opportunity to try out with the New York Giants in minicamp, but chose to go to the XFL where he was drafted by the Renegades.

Derron Smith played collegiately at Fresno State; he was later drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Smith also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, and in the AAF before being drafted by the Renegades in the XFL Draft.

XFL Team Introduction: DC Defenders


Coach: Pep Hamilton

Pep Hamilton has had a fascinating coaching journey so far. Hamilton has coaching experience at the College level and in the NFL. In college, Hamilton coached at New Mexico, Stanford and Michigan. During his time with Stanford, he coached Andrew Luck.

At the NFL Level, Hamilton was the OC for the Indianapolis Colts from 2013-2015, and in 2016 Hamilton coached with the Cleveland Browns.

In addition to the title of head coach, Pep Hamilton is also the GM of the DC Defenders.

Players:

QB: Cardale Jones

It’s great to see Cardale “we ain’t come to play school” Jones back in our lives. The Ohio State legend signed with DC back in December after several failed attempts in the NFL.

After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jones only appeared in one game that season. After the season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers. Cardale stuck in Los Angeles for a couple of years before being released in August of 2019.

The Seattle Seahawks signed Jones to their practice squad, but Cardale ultimately chose the DC Defenders where he could actually play.

RB: Jhurrel Pressley

Jhurrel Presley played 4 years at New Mexico, gaining more than 2700 yards on the ground in his career. Even though Pressley went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was given a shot by the Minnesota Vikings. He failed to make the team, and bounced around to several NFL teams including the Green Bay Pakckers, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants.

Presley also spent time in the AAF before being taken in the 3rd round of the XFL draft by the Defenders.

WR: Malachi Dupre

Dupree spent three seasons in Baton Rouge playing for LSU. He decided to forgo his senior season and was selected in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Dupree was on six different NFL squads in two seasons before finally being signed by DC.

WR: DeAndre Thompkins

Thompkins played his college ball at Penn State University, where he amassed more than 1200 receiving yards during his time as a Nittany Lion. Thompkins was known more for his dangerous ability as a returner, where he had multiple punt returns for touchdowns in his career.

DeAndre was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2019 NFL Draft but failed to make the team. The speedy returner was later drafted in the 4th round of the XFL draft by DC.

TE: Khari Lee

Lee played four years at Bowie State, yes that’s correct, Bowie State. After triple checking, I can confirm that Bowie State is a real college, and not just a misspelling of Boise State.

Khari was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Houston Texans in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was later traded to the Chicago Bears in 2017.

During his time in the NFL, Lee also played for the Detroit Lions and Buffallo Bills before being drafted in the 5th round by the Defenders.

Offensive Line: De’Ondre Wesley, Dorian Johnson, Jon Toth, Rishard Cook, Malcolm Bunche

The group in charge of protecting Cardale Jones are as follows: De’Ondre Wesley (LT), Dorian Johnson (LG), Jon Toth (C), Rishard Cook (RG), Malcolm Bunche (RT).

De’Ondre Wesley played two years at Brigham Young after spending two years at a community college. The left tackle was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2015 by the Baltimore Ravens after not being drafted in the NFL draft. Wesley also spent time with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts before being drafted by the Defenders in the XFL Draft.

Dorian Johnson was a top recruit coming out of high school when he committed to Pittsburgh. Johnson went on to be a four-year starter with the Panthers, and earning First Team All-ACC and All-American in 2016. Dorian was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 NF Draft, he also spent time with the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers before being drafted by DC in the XFL Draft.

Jon Toth played his college ball at Kentucky, where he earned All-SEC honors as a Center while starting 48 consecutive games. Toth went on to be signed to the Philadelphia Eagle’s practice squad following the 2016 season. He also spent time with the New York Jets before being drafted by the Defenders in the XFL Draft.

Rishard Cook played college football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Cook was taken in the 5th round by the Defenders.

Malcolm Bunche spent his first three seasons at the University of Miami before transferring to Cal in 2014. Bunche went on to be undrafted at the 2015 NFL Draft but was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Malcolm went on to play with several NFL teams, and had a stint in the Canadian Football League and the AAF before being drafted by DC in the XFL Draft.

Defensive Line: Tracy Sprinkle, Elijah Qualls, Jay Bromley

Tracy Sprinkle played college football at Ohio State before being signed by the Carolina Panthers following the 2018 NFL Draft. Sprinkle did not make the team, but did spend time in the AAF before being drafted the Defenders in XFL Draft.

Elijah Qualls played his college football at the University of Washington. Qualls earned all PAC-12 honors in his final season with the Huskies before deciding to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Elijah was drafted in the 6th round by the Philadelphia Eagles, but he also spent time with the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being drafted by DC.

Jay Bromley had a stellar career at the university of Syracuse, racking up 10 sacks his senior year while earning All-ACC Honors. After college, Jay was drafted in the third round by the New York Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft. Jay also spent time with the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers before being drafted by DC.

Linebackers: Antwione Williams, A.J. Tarpley, Jameer Thurman, KeShun Freeman

Antwione Williams played linebacker at Georgia Southern University where he earned multiple All-Sun Belt honorable mentions. After his college days, Williams was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. In addition to this, Antwione also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers before being picked up by the Defenders.

A.J. Tarpley was a four-year starter at Stanford before being signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Buffalo Bills in 2015. After the 2016 season, Tarpley announced that he would be retiring from football because of his history with concussions. However, A.J. made his return to football in the AAF in 2019, when the league folded, Tarpley was later signed by DC.

Jameer Thurman played his college ball at Indiana State University. Afterwards, he played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, eventually getting signed by the Chicago Bears in 2019. He did not make the roster but was drafted by the Defenders in the XFL Draft.

KeShun Freeman was an AP Freshman All-American in 2014 with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He went on to have a nice collegiate career but was not picked up by any NFL squads. Later, he was signed by DC.

 

Defensive Backs: Elijah Campbell, Desmond Lawrence, Matt Elam, Carlos Merritt

Elijah Campbell played for the University of Northern Iowa, where he was known for his blazing speed on defense. Campbell earned a camp invite with the Browns in 2018 but was cut from the 53-man roster. Campbell was picked in the first round of the XFL Draft by the DC Defenders.

Desmond Lawrence spent his college career at North Carolina. The Tarheel defensive back had a stint in the NFL with the Detroit Lions but was later drafted by DC in the XFL Draft.

Matt Elam is by far and away the most decorated prospect on the Defenders, earning All-American honors at the University of Florida. Elam would go on to be a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, he also spent time in the Canadian Football League before being drafted by DC.

Carlos Merritt played his college football at Campbell University, earning multiple All-Conference honors. After his collegiate playing days were finished, Merritt spent time in the AAF before being drafted by the Defenders.

XFL Team Introduction: Houston Roughnecks


Coach: June Jones

June Jones has coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional level. Jones would coach at the Atlanta Falcons and the then San Diego Chargers before becoming the head coach at Hawaii. Jones would also coach at SMU. In addition, Jones had stints coaching High School Football and in the Canadian Football League before being hired by Houston as head coach. June Jones also serves as the General Manager for the Roughnecks.

Players:

QB: P.J. Walker

Walker played all four years of college football at Temple University. P.J. earned the starting job halfway through his freshman season. By the team he left Temple, Walker had become the school’s all-time leader in career passing yards with almost 11,000.

Walker was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts following the 2017 NFL Draft, and was placed on their practice squad. P.J. was then signed by the Houston Roughnecks, where he earned Star player of the week in week 1 of the new XFL season.

RB: Andre Williams

Andre Williams had a storied career at Boston College. The running back was a Heisman Finalist during his senior season. He was also named first team All-ACC and first team All-American. Williams also ranks top 10 in the FBS for career rushing yards.

Williams was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, where he rushed for over 700 yards as a rookie. Andre was released by the Giants in 2017, and later spent time with the Los Angeles Chargers before being drafted by the Roughnecks in the 9th round of the XFL Draft.

WR: Cam Phillips

Cam Phillips was a four-year starter at Virginia Tech, where he earned All-ACC honors in 2017 as a senior. The receiver racked up more than 2800 yards receiving during his Hokie career. Phillips was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. The Bills later sent Phillips to their practice squad. Cam was drafted in the 6th round of the XFL Draft by Houston.

WR: Kahlil Lewis

Kahlil Lewis played college ball at the University of Cincinnati. A backup for the first couple of seasons, Kahlil emerged as the Bearcats primary receiver during his junior season. After college, Lewis had brief stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Lewis would later be drafted by the Roughnecks in the first round of the XFL Draft.

WR: Nick Holley

Nick Holley was a Swiss Army Knife during his time at Kent State. Holley’s primary position in college was running back, but he was so good in the passing game that he would often line up in the slot to catch passes as well. The more remarkable thing about Holley is that he has overcome three torn ACL’s.

Holly had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams before being signed by Houston.

WR: Sammie Coates

Sammie Coates spent four years on the plains at Auburn. The wide receiver missed his freshman season due to injury but was quickly involved in the rotation as a redshirt freshman. During his junior year, Coates set the single game record for receiving yards in a game with 206 against Alabama in 2013. Coates also earned 2nd team All-SEC honors that year.

Coates was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coates also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs before being drafted by the Roughnecks.

Offensive Line: Kelvin Palmer (RT), Avery Gennesy (RG), Tejan Koroma (C), Sebestian Tretola (LG), Terry Poole (LT)

Kelvin Palmer played his college ball at Baylor, before being signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent following the 2014 NFL Draft. Palmer also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in the Canadian Football League before being signed by the Houston Roughnecks.

Avery Gennesy played two years at Texas A&M, where he was a part of a group that set offensive records. Gennesy was named 1st team All-SEC in 2016. Following the 2016 season, Gennesy was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars for a short stint; after which, he was signed by the Roughnecks.

Tejan Koroma was a four-year starter at Brigham Young University, starting 51 games for the Cougars. During his time in college, Koroma was named to the Freshman All-American team and was on the Remington Trophy watch list three times. Tejan was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs before being signed by Houston.

Sebestian Tretola bounced around during his time in college, playing for Arkansas, Iowa Western and Nevada. Tretola was drafted in the 6th round by the Tennesee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft. Sebastian spent one season in Nashville before being waived. He was later drafted by Houston in the XFL Draft.

Terry Poole played his college football at San Diego State and Monterey Peninsula College. Following his collegiate career, Poole was selected in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Poole would also spend time with the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, along with time in the AAF before being drafted in the XFL Draft by Houston.

Defensive Line: Gabe Wright, Walter Palmore, Caushaud Lyons

Gabe Wright played college football with Sammie Coates at Auburn. After a decent collegiate career, Wright was drafted in the 4th round by the Detroit Lions in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gabe also spent time with several other NFL teams including the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, and Oakland Raiders before being drafted by the Roughnecks.

Walter Palmore played his college football for the Missouri Tigers after transferring from Junior College. After his collegiate career came to an end, Palmore had a brief stint with the Houston Texans before being signed by the Roughnecks.

Caushaud Lyons played college football at Tusculum. He was later signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2015 NFL Draft. Lyons would go on to be on 9 different NFL rosters in five years before being drafted by Houston in the XFL Draft.

Linebackers: Edmond Robinson, DeMarquis Gates, Beniquex Brown, Kaelin Burnett

Edmond Robinson played all four years of college football at Newberry College, a division II school. Robison was named first team All-South Atlantic Conference in 2013. He was drafted in the 7th round in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Robinson would go on to spend time with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, and also in the AAF before being signed by the Roughnecks.

DeMarquis Gates was a force during his time at Ole Miss. Gates led the Rebel defense in tackles 3 out of his 4 years on the team. After the 2018 season, DeMarquis was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cleveland Browns. Gates would go on to play in the AAF and also have a brief stint with the Washington Redskins before being picked up by the Houston Roughnecks.

Beniquex Brown spent three seasons at Mississippi State, starting for the Bulldogs in two of those three seasons. Brown was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft. Brown would go to sign with the AAF before being drafted in the 6th round of the XFL Draft by Houston.

Defensive Backs: Jeremiah Johnson, Ajene Harris, Deatrick Nichols, Corrian Ballard

Jeremiah Johnson had quite the college career at Concord University, where he drew All-Mountain East Conference First Team four times! No matter what conference you’re in that’s just plain incredible! After his college playing days were done, Johnson was signed by the Indianapolis Colts during their spring mini-camp. Johnson did not make the team, but was picked up by the AAF before being drafted by the Roughnecks.

Ajene Harris originally signed as a wide receiver at USC before making the switch to defensive back. Harris would go on to play a vital role in that Trojan defense his final two seasons, returning multiple interceptions for touchdowns. Harris would go on to have a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles before being signed by the Roughnecks.

Deatrick Nichols spent all four years at the University of South Florida, where he would start three out of his four seasons at defensive back. Nichols would later be signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft. Deatrick was drafted in the 39th round by the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL Draft.

Corrian Ballard spent his final two years of college eligibility at the Utah, where he received All-Conference honorable mentions as a senior. Ballard spent time with the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Roughnecks.

XFL Team Introductions: Tampa Bay Vipers


Coach: Marc Trestman

Even though Marc Trestman doesn’t have the illustrious playing career that some of the other head coaches have in the XFL, he still has a lot of coaching experience. Trestman began coaching in 1981 at Miami University. From there, Trestman launched himself into the NFL, coaching for multiple NFL teams, and receiving stints in the NCAA and CFL before becoming the head coach of the Vipers. Trestman also serves as the General Manager for Tampa Bay.

 

Players:

QB: Aaron Murray

Aaoron Murray had a wonderful career at the University of Georgia, throwing for over 13,000 yards during his time in a Bulldog uniform. Murray became the first SEC quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in four straight seasons. Following his collegiate career, Aaron was drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Georgia alum also had stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, and in the AAF before being drafted by the Vipers in the XFL Draft.

 

RB: De’Veon Smith

De’Veon Smith was a three-year starter at the University of Michigan, running for over 2,000 yards as a Wolverine. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Smith signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins. De’Veon also spent time with the Washington Redskins and in the AAF before being signed by Tampa Bay.

 

WR: Jalen Tolliver

Jalen Tolliver played four years at Arkansas-Monticello, where he caught almost 200 passes for over 3,000 yards in his college career. Following the 2018 NFL Draft, Tolliver signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. Tolliver would go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs before being drafted by the Vipers.

 

WR: Reece Horn

Reece Horn played Division II football at the University of Indianapolis, where appeared in over 45 games over his career. During his time in college, Horn caught over 270 passes for over 3500 yards and 31 touchdowns. Reece went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, but did spend time in the NFL, and AAF before being picked up by the Vipers.

 

TE: Nick Truesdell

Nick Truesdell played football at Cincinnati University and Grand Rapids Community College. Although he did not perform well in college, his large frame and speed at tight end earned him a spot in the Arena Football League. After several NFL tryouts, Truesdell spent time in the Indoor Football League, and AAF before being signed by Tampa Bay.

 

Offensive Line: Martez Ivey (LT), Jerald Foster (LG), Jordan McCray (C), Daronte Bouldin (RG), Isaiah Williams (RT)

Martez Ivey spent his college days in the SEC playing for the Florida Gators. Following his time in Gainesville, Ivey went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft, but did sign a free agent deal with the New England Patriots. Ivey was drafted in the 2nd round of the XFL Draft by the Vipers.

Jerald Foster started more than 40 games in his time at Nebraska, where he also was 1 of 11 players in the history of the program to be named Team Captain multiple times. Foster went undrafted at the 2019 NFL Draft, but did sign an undrafted free agent deal with the Washington Redskins before being picked up by the Vipers.

 

Jordan McCray played his college football at Central Florida. After his collegiate career came to an end, McCray spent time in the NFL, and AAF before being signed by Tampa Bay.

 

Daronte Bouldin playing sparingly during his time at Ole Miss, but this didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams of playing professional football. Following his time at Oxford, Bouldin signed an undrafted free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints before heading to the AAF. Once the AAF folded, Daronte was picked up by the Vipers.

 

Isaiah Williams was a multi-year starter at Akron University. Following his collegiate career, Williams was signed to an undrafted free agent deal with the Washington Redskins. During his time in the NFL, Isaiah had stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens, before being signed by the Vipers.

 

Defensive Line: Jason Neill, Josh Banks, Nikita Whitlock, Deiontrez Mount

Jason Neill spent five seasons at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Following his Roadrunner career, Neill went undrafted at the 2016 NFL Draft, but signed a free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys soon after. Jason also spent time in the CFL before being drafted by the Vipers.

 

Josh Banks started 33 games during his time at Wake Forest, where he racked up over 100 tackles and 10 sacks in his career. Following his time as a Demon Deacon, Banks signed an undrafted free agent deal with the New York Giants before being drafted by the Vipers in the XFL Draft.

 

Nikita Whitlock joins his former college teammate Josh Banks on the defensive line. Whitlock started 45 games at Wake Forest, where he ranks second all time in school history with 49 career tackles for loss. Nikita has seen time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants before being drafted by Tampa Bay.

 

Deiontrez Mount played his college football at the University of Louisville. Following his Cardinal career, Mount was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. During his time in the NFL, Deiontrez spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Vipers.

 

Linebackers: Lucas Wacha, Terrance Plummer

Lucas Wacha was a two-year starter at Wyoming University, where he racked up more than 100 career tackles. Wacha spent time in the NFL, CFL, and coaching high school football before being signed by the Vipers.

 

Terrance Plummer spent his college days playing at Central Florida. Following the 2015 NFL Draft, Plummer signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Washington Redskins. Terrance also spent time in the CFL and AAF before being drafted by the Vipers in the XFL.

 

Defensive Backs: Shelton Lewis, Anthoula Kelly, Micah Hanneemann, Robert Priester, Marcelis Branch

Shelton Lewis appeared in just under 50 games during his time at Florida Atlantic, registering 6 interceptions in his career. Lewis went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft but was picked up by the Vipers soon after.

 

Anthoula Kelly appeared in over 40 games during the course of his Fresno State career, while tacking on over 100 tackles and 5 interceptions. Kelly went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, but did earn a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens before being drafted by Tampa in the XFL Draft.

 

Micah Hannemann was a force on the back end while on the BYU Cougar defense. Following his playing career, Micah signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Cleveland Browns after the 2018 NFL Draft. Hannemann also spent time with the Los Angeles Chargers and in the AAF before being drafted by the Vipers.

 

Robert Priester joins his fellow Wyoming alum Lucas Wacha on the Tampa defense. During his time as a Cowboy, Priester had over 130 tackles and 1 interception. Priester spent some time in the CFL before being picked up by the Vipers.

 

Marcelis Branch was a multi-year starter at Robert Morris University. Following his collegiate career, Branch signed an undrafted free agent deal after the 2017 NFL Draft with the Atlanta Falcons. Marcelis also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons before getting drafted by the Vipers in the XFL Draft.

XFL Team Introductions: St. Louis BattleHawks


Coach: Jonathan Hayes

Jonathan Hayes is a former Tight End from the University of Iowa. Hayes was drafted in the 2nd round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Jonathan played a total of 11 years in the NFL, before going into coaching at Oklahoma. Hayes also coached Tight Ends for the Cincinnati Bengals for over a decade. He also serves as the GM for the BattleHawks.

Players:

QB: Jordan Ta’amu

Ta’amu was a two-year starter at Ole Miss where he finished his senior season second in the SEC in passing yards. Following the 2019 NFL Draft, Jordan was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent. After not making the team, Ta’amu signed with the Battlehawks.

RB: Christine Michael

Christine Michael was a four-year starter at Texas A&M, where he was one of the more effective backs in the conference. Following a successful college career, Michael was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. After seeing limited action, Michael was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in the NFL, Christine also had stints with the Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, and Indianapolis Colts before being drafted by the BattleHawks in the XFL Draft.

WR: L’Damian Washington

L’Damian Washington played college football at the University of Missouri, where he battled injuries for a majority of his career. Following the 2014 NFL Draft, Washington signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Washington also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Kansas City Chiefs. L’Damian also had stints in the CFL and the AAF before being drafted by St. Louis.

WR: Alonzo Russell

Russell spent his college days playing for Akron University. Following the 2016 NFL Draft, Russell signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Alonzo also had short stints with the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants before being drafted by the BattleHawks.

TE: Marcus Lucas

Lucas played college football at Missouri, appearing in 49 games for the Tigers, amassing more than 1300 receiving yards in his career. Marcus signed with the Carolina Panthers following the 2014 NFL Draft. During his time in the NFL, Lucas played with the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys before making his way to the BattleHawks.

Offensive Line: Jake Campos (LT), Bruno Reagan (LG), Brian Folkerts (C), Kent Perkins (RG), Matt McCants (RT)

Jake Campos was a force on the offensive line at Iowa State University, where he earned conference honors multiple years. Following the 2018 NFL Draft, Campos signed a free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys before being picked up by St. Louis.

Bruno Reagan is a versatile offensive lineman from Vanderbilt University, playing left guard, right guard, and center at some point during his college career. Following the 2019 NFL Draft, Reagan signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs before being picked up by the BattleHawks.

Brian Folkerts spent four years at Washburn College, earning multiple All-MIAA honors. Following the 2012 NFL Draft, Folkerts signed an undrafted free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints. Brian went on to have a stint with several NFL teams as well as being a fullback in the Arena Football League and a short time in the AAF before making his way to the BattleHawks.

Kent Perkins spent his college days at Texas University as one of the anchors for the Longhorns offensive line. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Perkins signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent. Kent was later drafted by the BattleHawks in the XFL Draft.

Matt McCants started over 40 games at Left Tackle for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. McCants was drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Matt also spent time with the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, and in the AAF before being picked up by St. Louis.

Defensive Line: Will Clarke, Casey Sayles, Channing Ward, Andrew Ankrah

Will Clarke was a three-year starter at the University of West Virginia, earning 2nd team All-Big 12 his senior season. Clarke was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 of the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Following his stint in Cincinnati, Clarke signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being picked up by the BattleHawks.

Casey Sayles appeared in 50 games over his four-year career at Ohio University. His senior season, Casey earned 2nd team All-MAC honors. Following the 2017 NFL Draft, Sayles was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Rams. Sayles also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and in the AAF before being drafted by St. Louis in the XFL Draft.

Channing Ward played his college football in the SEC at Ole Miss. Following the 2016 NFL Draft, Ward signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. Following his time in Tampa, Ward was signed by the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Andrew Ankrah started more than 50 game at James Madison University where he earned FCS First Team All-American honors along with a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Ankrah was signed by the Washington Redskins before being picked up by the BattleHawks.

 

Linebackers: Terence Garvin, Dexter McCoil

Terrance Garvin was a linebacker at West Virginia University. During his time in Morgantown, Garvin started over 40 games while registering over 200 tackles. Following the 2013 NFL Draft, Terence signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Garvin also spent time with the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, and in the AAF before being signed by St. Louis.

Dexter McCoil was a force during his time at Tulsa University, registering more than 300 tackles and 15 interceptions in his illustrious college career. McCoil spent time in the Arena Football League, the CFL, and the NFL before being signed by the BattleHawks.

Defensive Backs: Darius Hillary, David Rivers, D’Montre Wade, Kenny Robinson, Will Hill

Darius Hillary played defensive back for the Wisconsin Badgers. During his time on campus, Hillary appeared in a school record 54 games, and also earned All-Big 10 Honorable Mention during his senior season. Following the 2016 NFL Draft, Darius signed a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals but failed to make the team. Hillary also spent time with several other teams in the NFL and the AAF before being signed by St. Louis.

David Rivers played his college ball at Youngstown State. Following his collegiate career, Rivers was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2017. After his stint at Green Bay, Rivers went on to play for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and in the AAF. David was drafted by the New York Guardians in the XFL Draft but was traded before the season began.

D’Montre Wade started in over 40 games during his collegiate career at Murry State University. Wade was awarded first team All-OVC honors and currently holds the school record for most pass breakups and passes defended. Wade signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2017 season before being picked up by the BattleHawks.

Kenny Robinson is possibly the most interesting player in the XFL. After two years at West Virginia, Robison was dismissed from the program. Instead of transferring, Robinson decided to train for the XFL to try and raise his professional stock. Robinson was drafted by St. Louis in the XFL Draft, where he hopes to start a trend among younger players to play professionally instead of going to college.

Will Hill started three-years at the University of Florida, where he won a national title under head coach Urban Meyer. Following the 2011 NFL Draft, Hill was not picked up by any teams, but he did get signed by the Arena Football League. Following his one season in the Arena Football League, Will spent time in the CFL, NFL, and AAF before being picked up by St. Louis.

The Impact Of The Astros Cheating Scandal


By now, most baseball fans, even casual ones, are aware of the biggest Major League Baseball story of the year so far. That is the cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros, specifically during the 2017 season, a year in which they were crowned World Series Champions. Now that teams have reported to their spring training homes, reporters are swarming to get feedback, not just from the Astros but from others teams players and coaches. But before we look forward, let’s look back and recap what actually happened.

It all began with a November 12th, 2019 article in The Athletic. In the story, it was reported that the Houston Astros electronically stole signs from opposing catchers during the 2017 season. The article alleged that the team used a camera from the outfield to capture signs flashed by the opposing team’s catcher. That camera was connected to a television monitor that was located just steps from the Astros dugout at Minute Maid Park, the Astros home field.

It was stated that team employees would watch the monitor in an attempt to decode which signs indicated the type of pitch the catcher was calling for. Once they felt they had decoded the signs, the expected pitch was communicated to the hitter via a loud noise, specifically the banging on a trash can, which was placed in the same tunnel as the television monitor, and within hearing range of the batter. Normally, the banging was to indicate that a breaking ball or an off speed pitch was coming.

The story said that The Athletic spoke to four sources who worked for the Astros during the 2017 season, however only one of them went on the record for the story. That person was former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers. He said that he informed subsequent teams he played for, including the Tigers and Athletics, about Houston’s alleged sign stealing.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said.

“I had to let my team know so that we were prepared when we went to go play them at Minute Maid.”

Based on the allegations, Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred began an investigation into the incident. On Jan. 13, the league announced the Astros had in fact been electronically stealing signs during their World Series title run in 2017 and into part of the 2018 season.


One of the first things that the MLB did was to suspend both Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season. The Astros team owner Jim Crane stepped in quickly and fired both Luhnow and Hinch. Two other major league managers, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets were also fired just days later.

Cora was the bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season and was found to be involved in the scheme. Beltran was a player for the Astros that season and was recently named the manager for the Mets, a position he would never actually perform.

In addition to the punishments listed above, MLB also took away the Astros first and second-round draft picks for both 2020 and 2021, and assessed the team a fine of $5 million dollars, the most allowed under MLBs constitution.

However, one thing missing was any punishment for any of the Astros players. Although players may not have been at the heart of the scandal, they surely were the ones who benefitted from it. There is truth to the fact that if coaches and management did not approve of the deception, it would not have happened. But if you were a player and truly cared about the integrity of the game, don’t you think you would push back or say something?

Well, that’s what Mike Fiers and a couple of other people from within the organization did, but not until they were no longer with the team. In some pre-spring training interviews with some of the Astros players, they were hesitant to say much of anything but to quote the company line. Which was that the incident was being investigated and that they would accept whatever the punishment was.

But now that all of the teams have reported to spring training camps, reporters have been anxious to get feedback from players from other teams. And so far, there appears to be a lot of anger and resentment. Here are a few of the quotes.

From one of baseball’s best players, Mike Trout of the Angels, he had this to say:

“It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments. The players are not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected. A lot of people lost their jobs. It was tough.”

He went on to say, “Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming? It would be fun up there. A lot of guys lost respect for some of the guys.”

A couple of players were downright angry and upset when asked about the scandal.

Trevor Bauer – “I’m not going to let them forget the fact that they are hypocrites, they are cheaters, they’ve stolen from a lot of people and the game itself.”

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers – “These guys were cheating for three years,” he said, “I think what people don’t realize is that Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

Kris Bryant of the Cubs – “What a disgrace; just watching their apology. There’s no sincerity, no genuineness when it comes to it.”

And it’s not just the Astros players who are being asked about the scandal. Astros owner Jim Crane spoke from a microphone in the early days of spring training and made a comment that he didn’t think what they did had an effect on the games. When pressed about his comment, he walked it back and said he hadn’t said that. It is those kinds of comments and the fact that the players don’t appear to be totally forthright that is fueling the fire around the league.

Because Manfred did not impose punishment on the Astros players, there are murmurs that players may take the punishment into their own hands, such as throwing at Astros players. That prompted Manfred to come out and issue a harsh warning that doing so will be cause for punishment or suspensions.

Manfred also decided not to take away the 2017 World Series Trophy and Championship from the Astros. In an interview with ESPN, Manfed’s comments provided even more pushback from MLB players.

“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act. People will always know that something was different about the 2017 season, and whether we made that decision right or wrong, we undertook a thorough investigation, and had the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.”

Calling the trophy that signifies a World Championship in baseball a “piece of metal” didn’t sit well with the majority of players who work so hard to get one. Add to that the fact that the league acknowledges cheating by the team that won the title that year, and many people are left scratching their heads.

So where does that leave the state of the great game of baseball as we head into the 2020 season? That’s a tough question to answer. This is a game where players and teams have always looked for an advantage in order to win. Think about corked bats, foreign substances used by pitchers, and performance enhancing drugs. All of these things were illegal and teams and players were punished for them.

And stealing catchers’ signs is really not anything new. The big difference is that the Astros used electronics and technology to do so. Previously, teams had to be aware that a runner on second base would figure out the signs and find a way to signal the hitter. This was much less scientific and also harder to do. The scary part for today’s baseball, is that several other teams are still being looked at for doing something similar to what the Astros pulled off.

But whatever the method used, this is cheating at its core. And the impact to the game going forward is something that all fans should be concerned about. For a team to get an illegal advantage that can determine the outcome of a game, has wide ranging implications.

Not only can it help a team to win more games and a possible championship, it also has an impact on individual players’ performances and can dictate winners of a variety of postseason awards. Say for instance, a player who benefits greatly from sign stealing, pads his statistics to a point where he wins an MVP award. That could mean an added financial bonus to that player. But to the player who played by the rules and finished second, he loses out on the award as well as any possible bonus.

How about on the flip side of things? A pitcher who is trying to make a living and stay at the major league level, gives up some game losing hits to a team that was tipped off to his pitches. It could mean a trip back to the minor leagues and a loss of his MLB career.

The disturbing part about all of this is that the Astros intentionally and as a team, decided they were going to cheat. They developed the plan, executed it, and kept it in-house. At least until Fiers outed them. The fact that so far the team, including players, are not showing much contrition, is also a problem. Does that mean they’ll figure out a way to do it again? That remains to be seen.

To me, one of the biggest fallouts of this is the need for MLB to do a much deeper investigation into the cheating issue. My guess is this is not one time or one team. With the money at stake for team owners and players, any advantage could create a windfall, and have them looking for different ways to cheat and not get caught.

Major League Baseball needs to take this seriously going forward, and add as many resources to police problems such as this in the future. The honesty and believability of the game is at risk. You may not agree with the punishments handed out, and if retaliations happen, the league will need to step up and take action. But for the future of baseball, it’s the governing body of baseball that needs to step up to ensure this type of thing never happens again.

The Chiefs Won The Super Bowl, Now What?

As confetti falls on the great city of Kansas City, Missouri, there will be fans who look up to the heavens thinking of loved ones who never got to see this moment. There will be Chiefs players looking at the crowd with pride and joy. Then there’s people like me, staring at a computer thinking about where the Chiefs go from here. Sure, winning a Super Bowl is great; there are lots of teams in the NFL who haven’t even won one. But what comes after that? How does a team go from Super Bowl champion to a dynasty like the Patriots?

Step One is getting a top flight Quarterback, which I would say Kansas City has in a young Patrick Mahomes. Step Two is just winning one Super Bowl, so you can put a check on that box as well. Step Three is tough; staying at the top. We see these teams that win one Super Bowl and just fade away…the Broncos and Eagles come to mind. It’s so tough staying at the top of the mountain, but I believe the Chiefs can stay there with just a few steps.

Spending Money in Free Agency Wisely:

It’s so easy to get caught up in signing the best players in Free Agency to try and get the easy turnaround. For the Chiefs, they don’t have to worry too much about that because they don’t have a gargantuan amount of cap space. Kansas City will have about $20 million in space this off season at this point. Of course, they could move on from some players to create more, but that’s where they sit as of right now.

I would have to imagine the Chiefs will spend that money trying to re-sign some of their own guys. Chris Jones and Kendall Fuller are both free agents this off season, and I would assume KC would want to lock those guys up long term if possible.

The elephant in the room is the Patrick Mahomes extension. According to Spottrac.com, Mahomes’s market value is just above $36 million. I’ll break this news right now; he’s going to get more than that. He’s arguably the best young QB in the league, he’s going to shatter the ceiling on contracts for QBs. $40 million a year is what gets this conversation started. But if you’re the Chiefs, you have to do it. The alternative is to let a Super Bowl MVP and generational talent walk. Plus, we’ve seen with these QB deals that as the cap keeps going up, these deals look more and more friendly as the years go on.

Hitting on Draft Picks: 

You know the expression sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good? That’s the NFL draft in a nutshell baby! Hitting on those 2nd – 5th round picks are so important because you’re getting talent at an extremely reduced cost. That’s how Seattle and Dallas were able to remake their teams because they hit on their QB’s in the middle rounds of the draft.

The Chiefs currently have most of their own picks, except for their 6th and 7th round picks. Depending on what Kansas City wants to do in free agency and retaining their own players, KC could be looking at a defense heavy draft. Several early mock drafts have KC either taking a defensive lineman or offensive lineman.

Don’t be too surprised if the Chiefs draft another running back. I know Damien Williams was good this season, but he was rarely healthy. Bringing in a rookie could help ease the load off Damien.

Being in a Bad Division:

This final step is one that’s completely out of the Chief’s hands. You can’t control what the other teams in your division do, you just need to get lucky. That’s why a big part of the Pats dominance is because they play in the AFC East. It’s so much easier when the other three teams in your division are a virtual dumpster fire year after year. The Chiefs aren’t in a division that’s quite that bad, but they’re still in a very favorable position.

The Broncos are still reeling from their Super Bowl victory a few years ago, and shockingly, Joe Flacco was not the answer. Denver has some pieces, Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are still a force, but they just don’t have the firepower on offense right now to compete in the division.

The Chargers are…um…well they’re doing something! No one knows what it is, but they’re doing it. After not texting Philip Rivers back, L.A. is deciding to move on and find another QB. I could see them trying to make a play for Tom Brady if he doesn’t decide to go back to the Patriots. But I believe the most likely scenario is them drafting a QB in April. Would the Chargers try to trade up for one of the top QB’s? We’ll have to wait and see. A young QB, plus Melvin Gordon and that defense would be a force to reckon with. But let’s remember, they’re the Chargers…something’s going to go wrong.

And that leaves the Raiders. Hitting on Josh Jacobs was huge for Jon Gruden and the Raider offense, but they also have a QB problem to deal with. I would not re-sign Derek Carr if I was Las Vegas (boy that’s going to be weird). I would also try and draft a QB in the upcoming NFL Draft. For the Raiders, they can actually sit back at their pick and wait to see which QB falls to them. Or they can be aggressive and try to move up. Either way, when Jon Gruden is the wildcard in your division, you’re sitting in a nice spot.

Conclusion:

The Chiefs are in a great spot to build a dynasty. The QB is there, the Hall of Fame Coach is there…now they just need some smart transactions and a little bit of luck in order to keep this thing going.

Super Bowl LIV Review

 

Another season of football is in the books, and now we enter the dark period that is the off season. But let’s try not to think about that just yet because this NFL season was truly wild! Lamar Jackson became only the second player to win a unanimous MVP award, the Browns returned true to form with another laughable season, and we all saw the cracks beginning to form in the Patriots’ dynasty. And that’s even before talking about whatever happened with Antonio Brown this season. The NBA is known for its drama, but the NFL did a great job rivaling that this year.

But before we dive in to the off season, free agency rumors, and the draft, let’s take a look at the last game played, the Super Bowl! Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs for their first Super Bowl victory in over 50 years. After being such an innovative coach for a majority of his career, it was good to see Andy Reid finally win a Super Bowl. I know it’s something he will remember for the rest of his days, and this firmly cements his walk to the NFL Hall of Fame. With that being said, let’s dive into the game one last time, and review what actually happened in Super Bowl LIV.

The Chiefs beat the 49ers by a score of 31-20 in what amounted to be a fun Super Bowl. At the end of the third quarter, the 49ers were leading by a score of 20-10. San Francisco’s defense did a phenomenal job of containing the explosive Chiefs offense up to that point. But that’s the key, up to that point…the final quarter saw Kansas City surge for 21 points and the Super Bowl victory.

Kyle Shanahan will look back at this game and have a multitude of regrets because his team had a really nice game plan. The 49ers had to get some sort of rushing attack going against the Kansas City defense, and attacking the perimeter with Deebo Samuel on the edge was just the perfect way to do it. This opened up holes on the inside for Mostert and Tevin Coleman.

The big question going in was could Jimmy Garoppolo provide enough of a spark in the passing game to keep Kansas City honest. Jimmy G went 20-31 for 219 yards and 1 touchdown, but he had 2 brutal interceptions. Was that enough to keep his team in the game? Yes! But the second half game plan for San Francisco seemed to be just trying to not lose the game instead of trying to win. This strategy has been implemented time and time again at all levels of football, and it’s so frustrating to watch. I get wanting to rely on your defense, but when the other team has Patrick mother effing Mahomes, no lead is safe!

I also questioned the usage of George Kittle. I would consider Kittle the best tight end (TE) in the league, just because what he can do as a blocker. But for him to have only 4 catches for 36 yards in the biggest game of the season is bizarre. Kittle is a matchup nightmare that even the best of defenders struggles against. I would have force fed Kittle all game, especially in the second half when you’re trying to expand on your double-digit lead.

I would categorize this game as more of a 49ers collapse than a Chiefs victory, which doesn’t matter in the end because Kansas City is the one holding the trophy. Andy Reid made some great second half adjustments, but it also helps when you have arguably the best QB in football on your team.

Patrick Mahomes was incredible in the 4th quarter of Sunday’s game, throwing for around 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in order to get his team back in the fight. It really wasn’t a great game for Mahomes, who accounted for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Part of that could be the nerves from being in his first Super Bowl, and also he was playing the best defense in the entire league.

Patrick may have won Super Bowl MVP, but Damien Williams was the key to the game for Kansas City. He had over 100 yards rushing, caught a TD pass and ran for the backbreaking score in the 4th quarter. Williams has played well when healthy for the Chiefs, and he came through in a big way on Sunday.

Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce all played well against the 49ers secondary. Hill went over 100 yards, Watkins almost met him there, and Kelce caught a huge touchdown in the second half. Kelce was in a similar spot to Kittle where I thought they would use him more in the passing game, but most of Travis’s damage came in that second half comeback.

Well folks, that’s about it. Time to go read up on NFL mock drafts and watch paint dry. It’s been real, it’s been fun, and ya know what, it’s been a real fun season. I can’t wait to see what the offseason brings us.

How The 49ers Can Rebound From A Horrible Super Bowl Loss

 

Kyle Shanahan is now 0-2 in the Super Bowl. That’s not unheard of. Heck, the Bills lost 4 Super Bowls in a row! But to lose two times in only what can be described as collapses…it makes it feel like more than just 2 losses. Teams losing the Super Bowl have not had great success the following season. Ironically the Falcons have never been the same after their historic collapse to the Patriots. The Panthers haven’t recovered from losing against Denver. The Rams didn’t even make the playoffs this past year after making the Super Bowl the previous season.

It’s a tough road getting back to the big game after a loss. Personnel changes, coaching turnover, and just the fog of the past season can hold a team back from reaching their full potential. All that being said, I believe the 49ers have the infrastructure to withstand that kind of slide. They are surrounded by great young players, a stable of veterans who have played in big games, and an innovative head coach who is great at getting his offensive players in a position to succeed.

Below are three easy steps that San Francisco can follow to try and not fall into the pit of recent Super Bowl runner ups.

Trust the Infrastructure:

It takes years to build a Super Bowl contender. A team has to be hit on multiple drafts, sign key free agents, and be wise on when to pull the trigger to go all in. The 49ers have done a great job over the past couple of seasons in all three phases. Nick Bosa looks like a bona fide super star on the defensive line, and he might be better than his brother Joey, sooner than later. Signing Tevin Coleman, Richard Sherman, and trading for Emmanuel Sanders all looked like home run transactions. Fred Warner is one of the best young linebackers in the league. All of those transactions have helped San Francisco make a run. There’s really only one thing that you can question.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jimmy GQ, Jimmy Geezus as he’s been called. The 49ers’ QB is one of the more polarizing players in the entire league. You have to look at both sides of the argument. Jimmy didn’t really do a whole lot this season because he wasn’t asked to. The lingering question is, “Can you win a Super Bowl with Jimmy G as your Quarterback?” I think that answer is yes. Why? Because if a team can win a QB with freaking Joe Flacco and Eli Manning twice, you can win with Jimmy. If you’re committed to Jimmy, which San Fran is, then you need to have a good supporting cast, and a top 5 defense.

Take Calculated Risks:

When you lose a Super Bowl, sometimes you need to spice things up. There’s a ton of turnover in the NFL every year, but it’s especially important for teams that lost the Super Bowl to still be aggressive. The 49ers have three important free agents this summer: Kyle Juszczyk, Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders. I would wager that they re-sign Juszczyk. He’s very important to what they try to do in the run game. The other two I could see San Francisco going either way. I would try to keep both of them, but the 49ers have just under $20 million in cap space and I’m not sure if that’s enough for all three players.

That being said, there are some great wide receivers in this draft, and Deebo Samuel looks like he could be a star in this offense. I wouldn’t be scared to let Sanders walk and take another WR in the first or second round. I could also see San Francisco taking another defensive back if they do let Jimmie Ward walk as well.

Don’t Re-invent the Wheel:

It’s easy for a team to panic after losing the Super Bowl. The 49ers need to remember what got them there in the first place; a great run game, and an even better defense. As long as the defense doesn’t drop off, there’s no reason that San Francisco can’t make another run at the Super Bowl next spring. The offensive line played really well throughout the entire season, and George Kittle is the best tight end in the league when you account for his blocking ability. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play callers in the entire NFL. He’s really good at getting guys in different positions to succeed.

It’s easy to worry about your team after a Super Bowl loss. The 49ers should not. They have a great infrastructure, an excellent coach, and a clear game plan that will put the team in a position to win every game.


 

Do The Boston Bruins Have The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Number?

1st Period

When a team has another team’s number, it means that one team usually wins the head-to-head matchup. In the case of the Boston Bruins versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins own the Leafs’ number. Whether it is in the regular season or playoffs, Boston has routinely dominated Toronto physically and mentally.

Playoff History

With apologies to those in Leafs Nation who may read this column, there is no better place to start than in the year 2013, when chronicling the Bruins and Leafs rivalry. Toronto had brought Boston to the brink of elimination in their 1st round matchup during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs were leading 4-1 in the 3rd period of the 7th and deciding game of the series. All indications were that if Toronto could hang on for roughly 8 minutes more, they would have eliminated Boston, and all the talk about being


inferior to the Bruins would never have started. Unfortunately, the Leafs coughed up the lead in that game 7, and lost the series in overtime.

The collapse of 2013 started an avalanche of losses in the postseason for the blue and white. In fact, 3 seasons out of 6, Boston has bounced Toronto from the 1st round of the playoffs. The Maple Leafs could not figure out how to win against their biggest nemesis in the postseason in 2013, 2018, and 2019. Should the fact that their team endured seven games in each of those series mean anything to the fans of Toronto? Probably not.

The manner in which the Bruins would eliminate the Leafs in every series is a bigger topic of discussion among fans and media than the results. In the playoffs, the intensity is ratcheted up ten-fold. Mistakes are magnified, mismatches are exploited, and the overall physical play increases in the playoffs. All the more reason to not take penalties.

In the 2019 playoff series, Boston scored 7 power play goals in 16 power play opportunities. Special teams was the deciding factor in an otherwise even series. Discipline between the ears was needed but was repeatedly ignored by various Leafs’ players in the last 6 playoff series between them. No player lost his cool more between the rivals than former Leafs Forward Nazem Kadri, who was suspended in both of the 2018 and 2019 playoffs series.


What about the regular season?

The playoff history is all that anyone seems to care about when discussing their rivalry, but there are no playoffs without a regular season. These original 6 NHL hockey teams have squared off 677 times with the Bruins winning 301 games. Nobody will ever accuse the Leafs of wanting to avoid Boston in the playoffs, but maybe they should. In 2019, Toronto was all but guaranteed a 1st round date with the B’s as far back as January.

The parody in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, where Toronto and Boston both play, has been constant. The leaders have remained constant, and the bottom-feeders have been climbing all over each other for a berth in the postseason. As soon as the Bruins lead the Leafs in the standings, both teams are basically locked in their positions for the 2nd half of the season. Winning and losing streaks have separated the teams and narrowed the gaps in the division standings throughout each of the last 6 regular seasons.


Boston also has a mental edge over Toronto. Eliminating a team from the playoffs in the 1st round, three times in the last 6 years can break any team’s spirit. Players have tried to ignore the chatter, but there is no escaping the media and fans in hockey’s largest market. Radio call-in shows, social media accounts, all are avenues for spreading the hype surrounding the Bruins having the Leafs’ number in the playoffs. The “experts” all agree that without a tougher approach to the game, a lack of any safe and puck-moving defensemen, and performances in net by the backup goalie (Michael Hutchinson) that are sometimes hard to watch, Toronto is in an uphill battle on their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Adding to the intrigue of the rivalry is that if the playoffs were to start today, they would face each other for the 3rd consecutive year. These are all things to consider as a member of either side. The Bruins know that they can overpower the Leafs, and Toronto has admitted to watching the standings, and hearing the chatter about their lack of grit. How can that not weigh on a player?

Overtime

Boston has Toronto’s number with respect to their historic rivalry. The Leafs should look no further than being bounced out of the playoffs 3 out of 6 years, 2 in a row, by the same team. Their 1st meeting was in 1924, they have faced-off 759 times overall, 83 times in the playoffs. The Bruins and Leafs are very familiar with each other to say the least. Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans should be wary of familiarity breeding contempt.

Is Kyrie Irving Toxic?

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving is known for his exceptional ball handling skills, artistry and creativeness of his shots and the game 7 shot against the Golden State Warriors that sealed the win for the Cleveland Cavaliers and brought the Cavaliers their first championship title.

While in Cleveland, he was known as an assassin. He was a scoring machine and most believe the biggest reason that LeBron left Miami return “home” to Cleveland. LeBron’s gamble was rewarded when his return to Cleveland culminated in a 2016 championship. The championship would not have been possible had it not been for Kyrie’s amazing 3-point shot in game 7 of the finals over Steph Curry’s extended hand to seal the championship for Cleveland. No one can argue that this was Kyrie’s finest moment of his NBA career. Since that amazing shot, it’s been all downhill for Kyrie.

When Kyrie requested a trade from Cleveland, most fans were understanding, with the exception of many of the LeBron James fans who saw it as a sign of disrespect. Nonetheless, the general consensus was that Kyrie was taking his future into his own hands and spreading his wings.

Boston Celtics, Here I Come

When Kyrie landed in Boston, it seemed like a match made in NBA heaven, and for a time it was. Then Kyrie got injured and the Celtics that were counted out ended up going to the Eastern Conference Finals only to lose in game 7 to the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

Speculation of Boston’s future were sky high after that season. Fans and analysts alike felt that when Kyrie and Gordon Hayward returned, the Celtics could make the finals and possibly win it all. When Kyrie returned the following season, the chemistry that had been built up from the previous playoff run seemed to go out the window. Based on rumors, it seemed that Kyrie wanted to ignore the steps that the young core had taken and wanted to dominate the ball and have every play run through him. Kyrie seemed unable to hold his tongue and would throw his teammates under the bus at every opportunity.

It’s one thing to provide constructive criticism to your teammates in private when they do something wrong. And it’s a whole other matter calling out every flaw of your teammates in public. Kyrie made it a habit to constantly call out his teammates in public. It’s not difficult to see how this could rub his teammates the wrong way.

“Don’t Know What It Takes To Be A Championship Level Team”

Kyrie was on record saying that Boston’s young players “Don’t Know What It Takes To Be A Championship Level Team”. This comment came the season after the young Celtics team missing both Irving and Gordon Hayward due to injury, went to the Eastern Conference Finals. In that run, the Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers. Their inexperience showed in the ECF against the LeBron-led Cavaliers and they choked away their lead and lost at home in game 7.

During the Celtics playoff run while Kyrie was injured, there were rumors that Kyrie was unhappy that his teammates were playing so well without him.

When Kyrie returned in the 2018-2019 season, it was reported that he wanted everyone to go back to their original roles before his injury and this didn’t sit well with a young core that had played their hearts out and seemingly taken a step forward in their development.

There was a lot of grumbling from the Celtic’s locker room and Kyrie was always somehow involved. A great leader would have applauded the growth of the young players and then figured out a way to infuse himself in the lineup without disrupting the growth that his teammates had made in the previous postseason. Unfortunately for Boston, Kyrie always wants to be the focal point of all attention.

Can’t Wait For The Playoffs

After one of their losses during the regular season, Irving said, “I don’t think anybody in the Eastern Conference can really compete with us at a high level when we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing.” When asked about the playoffs, he often responded “Can’t wait”.

Unfortunately for the Celtics and Celtics’ fans, when the playoffs arrived, Kyrie forgot to show up. The Celtics swept the Indiana Pacers, whose best player Victor Oladipo was out due to injury. In the second round Boston had to face the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston beat Milwaukee in the first game, but lost the next four games and got knocked out of the playoffs.

Making Celtics Playoff History

In game 1 against the Bucks, Kyrie went 12-for-21 shooting for 26 points and Celtics won that game. It was all downhill from there. Kyrie shot 30 percent in the next 4 games. Kyrie became the first player in Celtic’s history to take at least 15 shots and shoot less than 40 percent in 4 straight playoff games since Sam Jones in 1966, as per ESPN Stats & Info.

In game 4 to the Milwaukee Bucks series, Bucks won and Kyrie was 7-of-22. Kyrie left the floor early. During the press conference after the game Kyrie said that he had left the floor because “The game was over”. When asked about his performance, Kyrie replied, “For me, the 22 shots, I should have shot 30. Really, I’m that great of a shooter.” These are not signs of a good leader or a team player.

Welcome To Brooklyn

Kyrie signed with the Brooklyn Nets and there were rumors about how happy the Boston Celtic players were that Kyrie left. There were rumors that some of his Celtics teammates said that they would gladly help him pack.

Even in preseason, there were rumors about Kyrie not wanting to remove his hat for a group photo with his teammates while in China. When he was asked if he could remove his hat for the photo, Kyrie told the Nets organization to photoshop the hat out. There have also been reports of mood swings.

“It’s Pretty Glaring We Need One More Piece Or Two More Pieces”

One would think that after the criticism that he endured in Boston that Kyrie would have learned a bit more tact when speaking to the media. However, based on his recent diarrhea of the mouth, team-killer Kyrie is back at it. This time his target is his Brooklyn Nets teammates.

Kyrie sat out 26 games due to a shoulder injury. After only 3 games in from his return, the Nets lose a game to the Philadelphia 76ers. In the game, Kyrie shot 6-for-21 and had a (+/-. In a postgame interview a reporter asks Kyrie how much work his team needed to do in order to compete while awaiting Kevin Durant’s return. Kyrie responded:

“I mean, it’s transparent. It’s out there. It’s glaring, in terms of the pieces that we need in order to be at that next level. I’m going to continue to reiterate it. We’re going to do the best with the guys that we have in our locker room now, and we’ll worry about all the other stuff, in terms of moving pieces and everything else, as an organization down the line in the summer. It’s just something that we signed up for. We knew what we were coming into at the beginning of the season. Guys were going down left and right. GT is out, DJ just got hurt tonight, Wilson is coming back. We’ve got complimentary young guys, as well, that have done a great job the last three years. Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will compliment myself, KD, DJ, GT, Spence, Caris, and we’ll see how that evolves.”

How can a leader who had a poor shooting night himself, so easily throw his teammates under the bus while taking zero responsibility on his own failings? This further proves that Kyrie is a locker room cancer.

What’s The Solution?

While Kyrie Irving is an offensively gifted basketball player, it’s glaringly obvious that he is a terrible teammate. There is no questions that Kyrie can become toxic to any team’s locker room at any given moment. As terrible of a teammate as Kyrie is, when his team is winning, he tends to be happy and says great things about his teammates. When Kyrie scores a lot of points in a game, he also seems to be satisfied. It is when he plays poorly or his team is losing that he begins to throw all of his teammates under the bus.

The best solution is for the Nets organization to try to keep Kyrie happy for the rest of the season by letting him dominate the ball as much as he wants. Brooklyn should allow Kyrie to dribble as much as he wants, shoot as much as he wants and entertain the paying fans. We all know that the Brooklyn Nets aren’t going to make any noise in the league until KD returns to the lineup.

The moment KD returns to the court, the Nets will become his team. Because Kyrie and KD are such good friends, there shouldn’t be any issues with them playing together. With the added defensive and offensive firepower from KD, the Brooklyn Nets will become a top 2 team in the East if not the outright best team. The KD and Kyrie duo will make Brooklyn must see TV. Brooklyn will begin to win games and as the saying goes, “Winning cures all ills”.

Why Are NFL Players Retiring Early?

 

Winning the Super Bowl is a dream of every single player who makes it into the NFL. Health, Coaching, and Talent are the main ingredients when constructing a team to compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Salaries are almost as large as the egos that are competing on the gridiron. The NFL’s television ratings and overall fan attendance, leads the 4 major professional sports leagues in North America (NBA, MLB, NBA, and NHL). Life has never been better or more profitable for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners.

The league annually puts on the most exciting season and postseason of action that fans can handle. Yet, lately there have been a number of players who have walked away from the sport, retiring while still in the prime of their careers. Concussions and Injuries are the 2 major reasons for the current rash of early retirements by NFL players. In this article, we will deep dive into this phenomenon, beginning with the most prominent reason…Concussions.


Injuries

Daily Ice baths, massages, application of athletic tape, sessions in the hyperbaric chamber, sessions with physical therapists, sessions in the weight room; these are among the long laundry list of methods that players have used to cope with nagging injuries. Helmets hitting body parts that are exposed or barely protected, taking and delivering hits in practice, practicing long hours in the sun, cold, rain or snow, are normal workplace hazards that come with the job of being a professional football player.


The most shocking story of an NFL player retiring early is former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck, who retired from the sport at only 29 years old. A torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood were the 2 most severe injuries that Luck suffered. The recovery from missing an entire season, rehab, combined with the mental


and physical exhaustion year after year of trying to get back to 100% health, finally broke Luck. Tearfully announcing his retirement, Luck said the constant grind of extraordinary measures that he had to apply daily simply to function were too much for him to handle. Luck walked away from the remaining $58.1 million left on his contract.

Rob Gronkowski is a former New England Patriots’ Tight End, who retired in March of 2019 after 9 seasons. Gronk knew his time was up when the toll of multiple injuries to his forearm, back, and knees, kept him from being able to keep up with rookies in practice. Gronkowski’s resume includes, but not limited to:

  1. 3-time Super Bowl champion
  2. 5 Pro-Bowl selections
  3. 4 First-Team All-Pro selections

With a spot in the Hall of Fame waiting for him, Gronk cited the numerous injuries taking too much happiness away from him and draining him mentally and physically, as the reasons for his early retirement.

Concussions

Concussions have jumped to the top of the headlines. The NFL has spent millions on research and lawsuit payouts in an effort to reduce the amount of concussions that are being suffered by their players. Studies have linked repeated blows to the head with the debilitating brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

Players suffering from CTE can exhibit symptoms such as:

  1. Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  2. Temporary loss of consciousness
  3. Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  4. Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  5. Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  6. Ringing in the ears

That is not the end of a player’s issues once they have been cleared to return to game action.


There are several post-injury symptoms that follow a player and can reappear out of nowhere.

Post-concussion symptoms players continue to suffer after retirement:

  1. Concentration and memory complaints
  2. Irritability and other personality changes
  3. Sensitivity to light and noise
  4. Sleep disturbances
  5. Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  6. Disorders of taste and smell


Joshua Perry retired at the age of 24. This might rank as the shortest but best retirement decision made by a player. Perry suffered 6 concussions dating from his college years, to his 2 seasons in the NFL. Perry expressed a growing concern about his health long-term as the reason for his retirement.

The most recent case of an NFL player retiring early is the former Carolina Panther linebacker, Luke Kuechly. Kuechly called it quits on January 14, 2020, at the age of 28; after only playing for 8 seasons. Kuechly suffered 3 concussions in his career, the most severe was a grade 3 concussion in 2016, which left him crying and gasping for breath during a nationally televised game. It is largely suspected that the former Panthers’ linebacker had enough after his last concussion. He still wanted to keep playing, but he knew that it was the right time for him to hang up his cleats.

Luke Kuechly accomplishments include:

  1. 7-time Pro Bowler
  2. 5-time first-team NFL All-Pro
  3. Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012

Registration of children in football programs across North America has declined. Many experts attribute the drop to the violent nature of the sport. Parents are no longer willing to watch their sons being carried off of the field, bodies limp and concussed. Today, several NFL players have made the important decision to leave millions of dollars on the table and retire from the NFL early, in order to live longer and healthier lives with their families.

The challenges of recovery after dealing with injuries and concussions and the long term side effects of these of injuries have left many players more willing to walk away from the sport that they love while they still have their wits about them. Do you agree with this take? Are players making the right decision by retiring early or is this generation just soft?

NHL Trade Deadline Moves

 

Monday, February 24th, is the NHL trade deadline. Fans and media will gather around their televisions or mobile devices, hoping to witness all of the action. Which teams are buyers (teams in search of players), and which are sellers, (teams that are getting rid of high-priced contracts and talent)? Which teams are in the hunt and looking for that championship piece(s)? What NHL teams are trading away their talent, playing their young talent, essentially tanking their season, in order to land that high draft pick?

Teams have stockpiled draft picks and cleared salary-cap space, in hopes that they might be the team that secures the player(s) that will help them lift the Stanley Cup in June.

In this article we will attempt to identify:

  1. the buyers
  2. the sellers
  3. the latest trade rumors that are floating around the NHL


Buyers

So far, the Arizona Coyotes have made the biggest splash before the trade deadline. On December 16, 2019, the Coyotes acquired Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for conditional picks and a few role players. Arizona is currently in 7th place in the Western Conference standings and looking to move up.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been seeking to avenge their 1st round playoff sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Lightning won the President’s Trophy, an award given to the team that registered the most regular season points. Tampa started very slowly this season, but after making some minor moves, they vaulted themselves into a playoff spot.

The Lightning have traded for some role players from the lowly New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks, as well as stocked up on draft picks for the next few years. The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently occupy the 8th and final playoff spot available. The Knights are only in their 3rd year of existence; however, coming off of an impressive run


to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season, Las Vegas is not just looking to squeak into the playoffs, they want to get back to the Cup Finals, and prove that their rookie season was no fluke. The Knights surrendered a 2021 5th round draft pick so they could land Forward Chandler Stephenson from the Washington Capitals, and bolster an already potent offensive lineup.

Sellers

The New Jersey Devils are among the bottom feeders in the NHL, making them sellers at the deadline. The Devils have the 3rd worst record in the league (17-24-7) and sit 15th in the Eastern Conference standings. New Jersey is 20 points out of the last Wild Card playoff spot. As a result, the team has been getting rid of assets and taking losses in order to be in a position to draft high. Taylor Hall’s exit from New Jersey is the biggest move of the season so far. The Devils have made 10 trades since January of 2019.

The Detroit Red Wings are also sellers again this season. The Red Wings are at the bottom of the NHL overall standings with only 28 points after 51 games. If Detroit continues to lose at this rate, they will be put themselves in a great position to get the #1 draft pick in next year’s draft.


The Red Wings once held a record for the longest streak of postseason appearances (25) in all of North American professional sports, but that streak came to an end in 2016. 2019 came and went with Detroit being involved in 7 trades with more to come.


Spicy Trade Rumors

The Calgary Flames are believed to be interested in forward Tyler Toffoli. The 27-year old Toffoli is set to be an unrestricted free-agent this summer, and the Flames have cleared cap space for such a move. On January 2nd, Calgary traded away Michael Frolik’s $4.8 million contract to the Buffalo Sabres. The Flames are currently 6th in the Western Conference standings but have been grossly underachieving this season.

A lack of scoring is a key reason why Calgary would be interested in the services of Toffoli. Toffoli has had 20 and 30 goal seasons but has sputtered out of the gates early on in this season. Who knows? A change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered for both the Flames and Toffoli.

The rebuilding New Jersey Devils have their name swirling around the rumor mill too. It is no secret that the Devils have been unloading contracts, but the latest rumor suggests that they are not finished dumping salaries. Even though he has expressed a desire to remain with the club, Wayne Simmonds, and his expiring contract are potentially on the move. However, Kyle Palmieri is New Jersey’s most prized trade asset, thanks in part to his almost annual 30-goal per season output in each of his first 5 seasons in the NHL. The only stumbling block could be that Palmieri is currently injured, possibly lowering his value.

Overtime

The February 24th NHL trade deadline is right around the corner. There are teams on the brink of securing a playoff spot that are looking for talent that will lead them to the 2020 Stanley Cup. Salacious trade rumors, accusations of “tanking” on purpose for higher draft positions, and teams either going all in or all out, make up the formula for what fans of the NHL will be salivating over in the coming weeks, and into the offseason.

Are The Los Angeles Clippers Having Chemistry Issues?

 

The NBA world has been going crazy after a report was released about “sources” citing that some Los Angeles Clippers’ players were unhappy with the star treatment that Kawhi and PG have been getting since joining the team. The media networks have been having a field day covering this topic. When you think of drama and dysfunction in Los Angeles, you tend to think of the L.A. Lakers. So the possibility that there might be any type of drama coming from the Clippers organization has NBA fans and members of the media going crazy.

“FAKE fake fake NEWS!!!”

Clippers’ guard Patrick Beverly responded on his Twitter account “FAKE fake fake NEWS!!!” His teammate guard Lou Williams also responded on his Twitter, “Out your source. Put a address on it lol.”

Can Sources Be Trusted?

The problem with sources is that they aren’t always reliable. How many of you remember when Chris Broussard’s sources told him that the Los Angeles Lakers were Kawhi Leonard’s first choice during Kawhi’s free agency? Thanks to his sources, Jalen Rose was “99% sure” that Kawhi would sign with the Raptors. How did those sources work out?

Miami Heat Are Tough At Home

Having just suffered a loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, the Clippers were facing a Miami Heat team that had been very tough to beat at home. Paul George would also not be available for this game.

Rumors like this have a tendency to put extra strain on a team’s locker room. The Los Angeles Clippers had to field speculations of team members not being happy while trying to prepare for their game against the Miami Heat. The Heat were the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Prior to their loss to the Clippers, Miami had only lost once at home to the Los Angeles Lakers. No one expected Miami to be playing this well at this point of the season. The table was set for a potential disaster for the Clippers to suffer a loss at the hands of Miami.

A Tale Of Two Halves

The game started and Miami drew first blood. Miami went up by as much as 15 point in the first quarter. Kawhi only mustered 7 points on 2-11 shots in the first half. Being down a lot of points is not new territory for Los Angeles. The Clippers were down as much as 15 points in their second game against the Lakers and they came back to beat them. History would repeat itself again on this night.

It was a tale of two halves. In the first half Kawhi managed to only score 7 points. In the second half Kawhi went 7-11 for 26 points and scored the final 7 points for the Clippers. Not only did Kawhi put up points, but he became a distributor as well with 10 assists for the game. Kawhi’s motto is “The board man gets paid”, so you know that Kawhi had to grab some rebounds as well. He ended up with 10 rebounds for the game and in his 9th season in the NBA notched his first triple-double.

Kawhi’s scored 33 points (9-22 FG, 4-9 3Pt, 11-11 FT), dished out 10 assists, pulled down 10 rebounds, and recorded 2 steals and 1 block in 39 minutes of play. Most importantly, he led the Clippers to a 122-117 victory over a very good Miami Heat team.

Landry Shamet had a strong game with 22 points (8-15 FG, 6-12 3Pt), 2 rebounds and 6 assists. Patrick Patterson added 12 points (4-5 FG, 2-3 3Pt) and JaMychal Green added 14 points (6-7 FG, 1-2 3Pt). Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell had a solid first half but struggled in the 2nd half.

I’m A Player That Wants To Win”

When asked after the game if never having gotten a triple double was something that bothered him, Kawhi responded, “Not at all. That’s not my goal. My goal isn’t to come out and get triple-doubles or get stats. I’m a player that wants to win”.

Team Chemistry

The report by The Athletic has been generating waves. It is believed that the “lack of team chemistry” rumor came from Clippers’ Center Montrezl Harrell. After the Clippers suffered a blowout loss to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, Harrell said, “We are not a great team!” He was obviously frustrated with the loss, as was all of Clippers Nation. No one expected a loss to the lowly Grizzlies, much less get a blowout loss. That was a hard pill to swallow. It is likely that Harrell aired his frustration to someone he knew and word got out from there.

Kawhi on the other hand had chalked up the Memphis loss to “No defense, no communication, no energy”. Then again, Kawhi never seems to get overly rattled by anything. He thinks of a loss or poor performance as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is what makes Kawhi such a great leader. No one wants a leader who is overly emotional and overreacts at every loss.

The Clippers prior to Kawhi were basically the laughing stock of the league. No one took them seriously even after making the playoffs and taking a fully stacked Golden State Warriors team to a game 6 in the first round of the playoffs last season. They have always had to claw and scratch just to stay relevant. The addition of a Top 5 player like Kawhi Leonard and a Top 10 player like Paul George elevated the status of the organization instantly. It also elevated the expectations of the returning players into the stratosphere.

During the Miami Heat game, there were a few times when Kawhi signaled for the ball from Lou Williams and Lou held on, shot it and bricked it. While he had a good first half, he struggled in the second half. It looked almost as if he was trying to show his value by waving off Kawhi and trying to score himself. Many of those attempts turned into bricked shots. If there was any aspect of chemistry issues during the game, this is where it was most obvious. Lou Williams misses and turnovers were the biggest reason that Miami Heat was able to come back from being down double digits. This could be problematic should Lou try this during the playoffs.

Missed Games

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have missed more than 30 combined games so far this season. This in itself has had a negative effect on the team’s chemistry. Kawhi’s load management has been the talk of the league. Paul George had surgeries on both shoulders during the offseason and missed the first 11 games of the season. He then sat out a lot of games due to hamstring issues. Patrick Beverly has suffered injuries, Landry Shamet missed 17 games, as well as other Clippers players. It’s as if the Clippers can’t catch a break this season with all of the injuries that they’ve had to endure. And yet, the Clippers are now sitting with the 2nd best record in the Western Conference. If this is what poor chemistry looks like, then every other team should be really nervous because eventually the Clippers will get healthy.

The Bottom Line

Is there chemistry issues in the Clippers’ locker room? It’s very possible. Does load management cause frustration with the players who play every night? Definitely! Does having your star player in an out of the lineup affect the play of the role players? Quite possibly! Do stars get preferential treatment over role players? ABSOLUTELY! Should this come as a surprise to anyone? Absolutely not! Just like stars get the calls on the court over role players, stars will always get preferential treatment because they are the ones who determine the fate of a franchise. The success and failure of a franchise hinges on the health of its stars.

The Clippers are on a mission to win a championship. Based on how much they gave up to get Paul George, they can’t afford for him not to be healthy for the playoffs. Based on how special of a player Kawhi Leonard is, the Clippers want to make sure that Kawhi is healthy for the playoffs. The entire league and NBA fans bore witness to what a healthy Kawhi Leonard could accomplish last season from his playoff run with the Toronto Raptors. It goes without saying that Kawhi being healthy for the playoffs is much more important than a few extra wins during the regular season.

Winning cures all ills. The destination of the Clippers organization is a championship. Anyone who is unhappy now will be jumping for joy “IF” the Clippers are able to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in June. Until then, the jury is out.

5 Reasons Why Kobe Bryant Is Better Than Lebron James

Introduction

Who is better? Kobe or LeBron? This is a debate that has raged on for the last decade. Better at what? Better in the sense of who you would rather draft and build a team around or better when it comes to needing that last second clutch shot? There are very few categories that these two players can be compared to one another mostly because they did not play the same position on the floor.

It has been argued that Kobe had more support, namely Shaquille O’Neal that helped him to win 3 of his 5 NBA championships. Those that make that claim fail to mention that the Mamba went on to make the Finals 3 more times post-Shaq; winning two additional championships.

Here are 5 reasons why Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James:

  1. Championships
  2. Anatomy
  3. Kobe’s On-the-ball defense
  4. Kobe is a more dangerous offensive threat
  5. Kobe was more clutch than LeBron in key moments


Championships

Men lie, women lie but the numbers do not. Kobe Bryant has a better record in his NBA Finals appearances than LeBron and he has also won more titles than. While it should be pointed out that Bryant is retired and James is still currently playing, James still has a chance to catch and/or pass Kobe in the number of championships.

The Black Mamba is 5-2 in his 7 NBA Finals appearances. LeBron has been to the Finals 8 straight times and 9 appearances overall. Despite making it to the NBA Finals 9 different times, James has only been able to win 3 times with 2 different teams (Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers). In addition, LeBron’s teams were able to reach the NBA Finals so many consecutive times because of the terrible level of competition in the Eastern Conference. Most notably, in James’ last appearance in the Finals, he took a team of unestablished players through the Eastern Conference to the NBA Finals and easily swept by the Western Conference Finals Champs (Golden State Warriors).

Kobe on the other hand has always had to battle through the tough Western Conference to make the Finals. While the media and LeBron’s fans never fail to repeat LeBron’s feat of consecutive trips to the Finals, there is absolutely no doubt that Kobe, had he been in the Eastern Conference, would have been able to accomplish a similar feat. The question is whether LeBron would have been able to accomplish a similar feat as Kobe in the difficult Western Conference?


Anatomy of a Killer

Kobe Bryant has always had a “take no prisoners” mentality. LeBron James has always had a pass first mentality. Both characteristics have their moments, but they can also have their downsides. Leading a team to multiple championships takes a special type of DNA.

Figuratively speaking, winning takes a tremendous amount of heart and balls. Both players have the heart to want the ball in their hands in crunch time, particularly late in the 4th quarter. However, only one of these players has had the “cajones” to take the game-winning shot time and time again.

Historically, LeBron isolates, drives, gets into the paint, and when the defense collapses in on him, he kicks the ball out to the open shooter. This is has generally been lauded as the right basketball play by most critics and analysts. However, there are times when LeBron should take the shot and he turns down the opportunity, opting to pass the ball to a teammate.

Even when Shaq on the same court, when the clock was under 10 seconds, everyone knew that Kobe was going to take the game-winning shot. Kobe was once quoted saying, “I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself…” That is the primary difference between LeBron and Kobe. Kobe wanted to be personally responsible for ripping out the heart of his opponent and watching it beat in his hands. You don’t get that type of satisfaction by passing off the shot and hoping that a teammate makes it.


Danger!!!

LeBron has always had a tendency to pass the ball. Unfortunately for LeBron, many of those end of game passes ended up being missed shots. In many of those circumstances, LeBron should have taken the shots himself, but was afraid of missing. This fear of failure is one of the biggest criticisms that has followed LeBron throughout his illustrious career. The fear of the big moment might boil down to the fact that he is only an average shooter. Every now and then he gets hot, but generally, there is no one who fears LeBron’s perimeter shooting.

Defenses tend to game plan on allowing LeBron to shoot jumpers. Where LeBron is dangerous is on the fast break or once he gets a foot into the paint. Otherwise, opponents are willing to live with the results on the rare occasion that they are beaten by a LeBron James jump shot.

Recently, the 12th anniversary (January 22nd, 2008) of Kobe’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors was celebrated. In that game, Kobe scored the 2nd most points scored ever scored in a game by a single player in NBA history. Kobe’s shot 28/46 in that game against the Raptors. That’s nearly 61% shooting. Jalen Rose took the brunt of the offensive abuse, but at one point, Toronto had a quadruple-team on him and he still managed to draw a foul.

In The Clutch

When you are the star of the team, the responsibility of shooting, whether it swishes or bricks, falls on your shoulders. LeBron has shown that even he is capable of hitting big shots every now and then, so why not take the biggest one in the game? No team has really felt the need to take the ball out of LeBron’s hands 30 feet away from the basket. Defenses have relied on the fact that when approached with a double team, LeBron will look to pass.

What statistic speaks louder than this? 36 career game-winners for Kobe, the MOST in NBA history. Yes, he has a lot more misses in those situations than makes, but that was a risk that Kobe Bean Bryant was willing to take. The greatest mind possibly among coaches in NBA history, Phil Jackson, rolled the dice with Kobe every time.

Kobe’s favorite player, Michael Jordan, had a quote saying that you miss 100% of the shots that you do not take. At no time ever during his fabulous 20-year career did Kobe have to leave the court wondering what would have happened if he took the final shot.


DEFENSE! DEFENSE! DEFENSE!

There also was a period of time when there could not be a night of highlights without a LeBron chase-down block on an attempted layup. While spectacular to watch, most people only remember his monumental block in the 2016 NBA Finals against the Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors (Disclaimer: Iguodala was playing injured in that series). Every other time, it was a been there, done that moment for fans watching game highlights.

Even with some of LeBron’s defensive highlights, Kobe was a better defender. Kobe’s mentality of wanting to be the best was displayed on both ends of the court. The Killer Instinct, the “Mamba Mentality” that fans and media associate with his name is not only reserved for his offensive talents.

Bryant took a sense of pride and accomplishment in stopping the other team’s best player. Kobe made the NBA First Team All-defensive team 9 times, a feat that only 3 other players have done (Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett and Gary Payton).

At the Buzzer!

In today’s NBA with all of the talk about analytics, most GMs would probably opt to draft LeBron over Kobe. However, how many players in basketball or any other sport do you see trying to be like LeBron James? How many players do you see talking about the “LeBron Mentality”? If there is a knock on LeBron’s legacy it comes down to his mentality. His apparent fear of embracing the big moment and owning it. In the case of LeBron, his mentality is to let someone else take that big shot and be happy with the outcome no matter what. If the shot goes in, his fanboys will shower him with praises for “making the right play”. If the shot misses, his fanboys will criticize the person that LeBron passed the ball to for missing the shot. It’s a win-win situation for LeBron.

This approach might be fine for LeBron, but it was not acceptable for Kobe. Kobe wanted that last shot to come from him. He wanted to be the architect of his own destiny. This is how “Mamba Mentality” came to be. Kobe had the belief that he could make any shot from anywhere on the court. He felt that if he missed the first shot the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. would eventually go in. He had the ultimate confidence in his shot and in himself.

Thanks to Kobe, “Mamba Mentality” has expanded to every aspect of life, not just sports. His approach to the game, his mindset, his training, his belief, and his confidence all came together to create what we all know today as “Mamba Mentality”.

Kobe has missed more shots than any other player in the history of the NBA, but his failures are what make him so special. Kobe Bryant is also the holder of the record for game-winners at 36. Who are players wanting to be like? It’s Kobe Bryant. And that is the greatest compliment a player can ask for. LeBron may have the more efficient career statistics, but Kobe has more rings, greater defensive accomplishments and has motivated an entire generation of people from all walks of life, to approach life with the “Mamba Mentality”.

Buyers And Sellers At The NBA Trade Deadline

Every year, there are two seasons in every NBA season. One happens on the basketball court, AND the other is the TRADE SEASON BABY!!! It’s officially trade season once again, which means it’s time to fire up the ESPN trade machine and close your office door.

But who’s getting involved in this year’s trade season? I’m glad you asked. We’ll be taking a look at which teams should be looking to add pieces for a playoff run, and which ones should be looking to the future.

BUYERS: 

Portland:

    

Boy, it feels like a lifetime ago that the Blazers were in the Western Conference Finals doesn’t it? If the playoffs were to start today, Portland wouldn’t even be an 8th seed. The Western Conference is a blood bath again this year, and Portland is going to need some extra fire power if they want back in the post season.

It’s no secret that Kevin Love has wanted to come back home to the Pacific Northwest. It would be a match made in heaven. Once Jusif Nurkic comes back from injury, a frontcourt of him and Kevin Love would light the rest of the league on fire.

 

Miami:

    

What the Miami Heat have done to start this season is nothing short of extraordinary. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that no one thought that Miami would be sitting at #2 in the Eastern Conference at this point of the season. One could argue that Miami shouldn’t do anything and just roll with the guys they currently have. Despite how well the Heat have been playing, there is still room for improvement.

There are plenty of great players available. Jrue Holiday is one name that comes to mind. Jrue would be such a great fit on this Miami squad, especially playing next to Jimmy Butler. The defensive tenacity would make any backcourt in the league extremely nervous.

Houston:

    

When Russell Westbrook was traded to the Rockets, people were skeptical and for good reason. Could two ball dominant guards coexist on the same team? Most thought that they couldn’t coexist, but a few thought that they could, and those who thought that they could have been right so far. They’ve hit some rough patches, but it looks like Houston has found their groove.

The Rockets still need more fire power to contend with the likes of the Lakers and Clippers. That makes them a potential destination for Kevin Love destination or maybe even a guy like Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic. Gordon’s defensive ability next to Clint Capela would be electric.

SELLERS:

Orlando:

             

Poor Orlando Magic. Ever since Dwight Howard skipped town, it just feels like they can’t get it right. To their credit, they have tried to compete, but they just haven’t had much success. Their ceiling is being the 6-8 seed in the East, and getting swept by whoever they face. They now have a weird roster of guys who don’t really fit together. It might be time to tear it all down and start over. 

Thankfully, the Magic do have a few intriguing players they could ship off for draft picks. That way if they wanted to jumpstart on a rebuild, they would be able to load up their war chest with assets.

Aaron Gordon has been a name we’ve been hearing about for the past year as a potential trade piece. And Nikola Vucivic could really help a playoff team get over the hump. It’s doubtful that the Magic would consider trading Markel Fultz, but you never know. There’s always a chance that Orlando could convince a team that Fultz has totally gotten over the issues that he’s been dealing with since entering the league.

Chicago:


What really needs to happen for the Chicago Bulls is for the owner to fire the GM and Jim Boylin. They might just be the worst duo in the league. Chicago does have some great young talent, for example Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markinen. But none of that matters if the coaching is terrible.

If the Bulls are content where they are, they might as well just try and get rid of Zach Lavine and anyone else on the roster who has any talent. Plenty of teams would pay a premium for any of the players mentioned above and it would give ownership time to find a competent coach and general manager.

New York:


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the Knicks are bad. The Knicks have a bottom 5 record. They fired David Fizdale and the team has been playing better. However, the Knicks are not a free agent destination. It seems that one wants to play in New York. Most people lay the blame at the feet of their owner, James Dolan.

The Knicks should really consider trading everyone that is 25 and older. There’s no reason Marcus Morris and Julius Randle should be on this roster. They could provide minutes for playoff teams and it would give the young guys more playing time and allow them to develop.

Ultimately, what Dolan needs to realize is that free agents are not going to come to New York, so the organization needs to focus on developing their own young talent. Until he realizes this, the Knicks will be in the same place they’ve been this whole decade, in the basement of the Eastern Conference. 

Why College Basketball Needs To Get Rid Of The One And Done Rule

    

With the announcement that Memphis star freshman James Wiseman will leave school in order to prepare for the NBA Draft, he’s another reminder that college basketball is the most broken collegiate sport. Star players come to school for a year, then leave for the NBA. Is it fun having one of those players on your team? Absolutely! But one and done players aren’t the reason people love college basketball.

If the NCAA doesn’t make a change soon, I predict that more and more American players will start taking the international route, like LaMelo Ball did. Another prospect that decided to play overseas instead of attending college is Emannuel Mudiay. If the NCAA wants to keep these players at home, they need to look at making a rule change.

Given the choice of playing for free for college/university or playing internationally and making a lot of money, more and more players are probably going to start opting for the international route. Taking the international route is certainly helping LaMelo Ball’s case at being the #1 pick because he is dominating in the Australian League.

We’ve seen an influx of international talent coming into the league the past few years. Some well-known examples are the current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the current MVP candidate Luka Doncic, and All Star big man Kristaps Porzingis. Four time NBA champion Manu Ginobili was drafted from Argentina. Four time NBA champion Tony Parker was drafted from France. These players have proven that you can play internationally and then perform with the best of them in the NBA.

What’s the point of attending college for 9 months and then leaving? If you know that you are going to leaving college after 9 months regardless of your grades, are you actually going to learn anything in those 9 months? Ben Simmons is on record saying that he never attended classes during his time in college.

Here is a list of some top NBA players who were one and done in college:

  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Ben Simmons
  • Kevin Love
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Trae Young
  • Jason Tatum
  • Anthony Davis

Why should any of these guys ever step foot on a college campus?

The system that works best is the MLB system. You can get drafted out of high school and enter the league right away. You can also choose to go to college and get your degree or and then hope that you get drafted again in your junior or senior year.

David McCarty successfully played in the MLB for 11 years. He says that he wasn’t drafted out of high school because he was committed to attending Stanford. He ended up being drafted out of Stanford in the 1st round and went on to play professionally for 15 years. He recommends that players attend college and get their education unless they receive life changing money.

This would work great for college basketball. The top high school players would be able to go straight into the NBA where they belong. The league could arrange for those players to go straight to the G-League, and if they are good enough they could get called up to play in the NBA.

If the high school players aren’t good enough to make it to the league right away, they could go to college for a few years or more in order to refine their skills. Having these guys stay in college longer would allow them to hone their skills and ultimately be better players when they enter the NBA.

What we see now is basically college super teams. Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina all have multiple NBA-level players on their roster. This is great for those schools but it causes a lot of turnover. The one and done era has caused the college game to become really watered down.

Imagine if coaches could get guys to stay for a couple years and be able to build up their squads. It used to be if you had a bunch of upperclassmen on your roster you would be one of the best teams in America, now having upperclassmen can be seen as a weakness. It would be great if we could see teams keep good players around and have more competitive college basketball.

Are The Milwaukee Bucks The Best Team In The NBA?

 

Are The Milwaukee Bucks The Best Team In The NBA?

Criteria for Best Team

In sports, what makes a team the best? Winning more than anyone else? Scoring more than your opponents every game? Maybe it is defense, after all, if you can stop the other side from scoring at crucial moments in the game, a win is most likely in the cards. There are many important ingredients that go into creating the best team in basketball. Where a team ranks in offense and defense, winning streaks, and individual improvement of players’ skills during the off-season, are all key to the success of the best teams in the NBA.

At 38-6, the Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the NBA, but their record is only half of the reason for them being considered the best team in the league. The Bucks domination at home and on the road, being 1st overall in point differential, leading the league in rebounding and FG percentage, and Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast elevating their games this season, all must be taken into the equation when trying to determine who really is the best team in the NBA.

Red-Hot Bucks

Men lie, Women lie, Numbers don’t lie. Nothing separates the contenders from the pretenders like a team’s ability to dominate their opponents at home or as a visitor. Statistically, there is no denying the total league domination by the Bucks. Fresh off of having the best record, the best offense, and the best defense last season, “The Deer” are once again the leaders of the pack. Milwaukee has exploded out of the gates this season winning 38 of their first 44 games.

The Bucks have only lost 6 games at slightly past the midpoint of the season. They are showing that they can win against any team in the league. Milwaukee has swept the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and they’ve beaten the Los Angeles Lakers in their only meeting so far. Both of those teams are believed by many to have the best chances of making the NBA Finals from the Western Confernce. During the playoffs, home-court advantage can come in very handy, especially if the series goes to a game 7. By leading the league in wins, Milwaukee is positioning themselves to have home-court advantage throughout the entire playoffs.

Offense and Defense

If a team can control the pace of a game, it usually leads to wins. Defense leads to offense, which can dictate the pace of play. Steals lead to fast breaks, which prevent the opposition from getting back on defense. Defensive pressure disrupts a team from executing their offensive plays in a timely fashion, resulting in a defensive stop, shot-clock violation, or turnover, when pressure is properly applied.

Being the best is not only scoring more than the other team, but it is also in combination with how little defensively a team surrenders, that makes a team elite.

The Bucks are dominating the league offensively out-scoring their opponents by an average of 12.7 points per game. They are scoring at a blistering 120.3 points per game. They also boast the best team field goal percentage in the league at 48.1%.

Milwaukee is tops in the NBA in rebounding, averaging 51.2 rebounds per game. The Bucks currently are 4th in the league in blocks averaging 6.2 blocks per game. Let us truly appreciate the greatness of Milwaukee’s defense because they are in the top 5 in the NBA in 2 defensive categories. Blocked, altered, or closely contested shots, results in rebounding opportunities, leading to the fast break attack of the Bucks, which has been lethal thus far.


Individual Improvement/Domination

Antetokounmpo is the reigning MVP and has picked up his game from last season. The Toronto Raptors created a blueprint on how to defend Giannis, by crowding the paint and daring him to shoot from 20 feet and beyond. This past summer during the FIBA qualifying tournament for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, teams that faced Greece employed the Raptors defensive strategy quite effectively against Giannis.

Disheartened, but determined to get better, Antetokounmpo worked tirelessly during his off-season, in particular, his shot from behind the arc. Although it is early in the season, and nothing matters until the playoffs, there have been drastic improvements in Giannis’ shooting from behind the arc. This season, Giannis is shooting 32.7% from the three-point line. This is forcing teams to respect his touch from distance, paving the way for easier penetration into the paint, resulting in an easy basket for him, or a pass out to a waiting shooter. Giannis is 2nd in the league in scoring (behind James Harden’s 38.1


PPG), averaging 30.5 points per game, but he is not the only one on the team who has stepped up this season. Center Brook Lopez is 4th in the NBA in blocks with 2.4 blocks per game.

At The Buzzer

Although we have not yet reached the halfway point of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the discussion about who is the best team in the NBA has hit a boiling point. Big trades and free-agent signings in the off-season, made the Clippers, Lakers, and Rockets the early picks to be among the best in the league. In 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks had the best regular season record, and despite losing Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers, they find themselves at the top of the mountain early in the 2019-2020 season. Refusing to live off of their last season success and refusing to let their playoff defeat define them, the Bucks have found a way to return to the top of the pack so far this season. An impressive winning streak, stifling defense, the best offense, and the stars of the team getting better in their off-season, makes an airtight case for the Milwaukee Bucks to be considered the best team in the NBA.

5 Things The Toronto Maple Leafs Need To Do To Make The Playoffs

 

1st Period

Did you hear that? That was a huge collective sigh of relief by Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans. From the puck drop on opening night of the 2020 regular season until now, Leafs Nation has not so quietly been expressing their frustration with how the team started the season. Toronto currently has a record of 21-14-4, good for 46 points, and 7th place in the Eastern Conference. Therefore, the overwhelming concern for the team’s well-being is extremely premature. If the playoffs were to start today, the Leafs would face a very familiar foe in the 1st round in the Boston Bruins.

The playoffs, however, do not officially get underway until April. Although they currently reside in a playoff position, Toronto has to do these 5 things in order to secure a spot in the postseason; play with more physical intensity, work on improving the position players currently on their roster, find a reliable backup goaltender, continue to iron out the struggling special teams, and eliminate as many unforced errors in their own zone as possible.


Physicality and Truculence

With the exception of the 2019 playoff series in the 1st round versus Boston, Toronto has been absolutely physically dominated by the Bruins in both the regular season and in the extra season. The Leafs were outshot, outchanced, and subsequently outplayed by the Bruins in almost every game that the two sides have faced off in their playoff history. Is the solution for Toronto to simply go out and start punching people randomly? Or perhaps they should be wildly flying around the ice hitting anything that moves wearing the opposing jersey?

The answer to both questions is, not exactly. However, the blue and white can pick up their overall physical intensity with hard work and effort. Hardly any of the current players show the effort night in and night out that is required to win games when their skills are not producing results. The Leafs have plenty of fast forwards who can back check, and stick their noses into the corners when chasing pucks in the offensive zone.

Whether it be running into the goalie, or running at their stars, Toronto never reacts to the liberties other teams are taking with them, even when a response of some sort is expected. In the playoffs, the physicality is ramped up ten-fold, so it would behoove them to use the regular season as practice on implementing a more physical style of play.


If It Ain’t Broke

From last season to this past offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up their 4 best players to long term, big money deals. The problem with that is none of the 4 are known for their physical play and the team lacks a solid defense. These two issues can no longer be addressed with any free-agent signings because the team has spent the majority of the money under their salary cap. Simply put, the Leafs cannot afford to acquire any talent that would immediately impact their needs on defense. So Toronto has to run with the horses that they already have.

Toronto has shown flashes of being capable of increasing their intensity, taking on some of the NHL’s more well-known physical teams, matching their physicality, and in fact winning certain games that they had no business winning. Every win in the playoffs against the Bruins last season was a result of Toronto taking the rough play to them. 3 seasons ago, the Leafs just came up short in the seventh and deciding game versus the very truculent Washington Capitals. It is in their DNA, it just needs to be brought out.


Goaltending

No team with aspirations of a berth in the NHL playoffs, has ever qualified with suspect goaltending. While their main goalie, Frederik Anderson has been his usual steady self between the pipes, it has been the poor play of their backup goaltender that has been a point of contention.

Michael Hutchinson is the backup to Anderson in net for Toronto. In 8 games played this season, Hutchinson sports a record of 2-5-1. His goals against average is 4.03, and he has surrendered 33 goals in less than 10 games as a reserve. It can’t be denied that the use of Hutchinson by the former head coach Mike Babcock in the second of back to back games, when the team was obviously tired, played a major factor in his less than stellar record of wins and losses.

Babcock even realized that Hutchinson was not ready and sent him down to the waivers. Babcock is not there anymore, and Hutchinson has continued to struggle in the net, giving up untimely goals when his teammates could use him to make a big save and extend their chances of getting a win when he is called upon.

In the playoffs, benches are shortened and the only reason to play your backup goalie is an injury to your starter. Toronto will not even make the postseason with current state of their backup goaltending situation. In the event of an unfortunate injury to Anderson, the Leafs need to be confident that they have a suitable replacement. They once thought that Hutchinson was that player, but this season he has proven that he cannot handle the role, and is clearly not ready for the big stage.

Due to being financially handcuffed from paying out all of their money to their forwards (Marner, Mattews, Nylander, and Tavares), the Leafs cannot get a good backup to Anderson. They are simply going to have to make due with Hutchinson and play better in front of him. Toronto cannot play the same way that they do when Anderson is in net, because Frederik bails them out of many games that they would have otherwise lost. Smart, disciplined, and low-risk, is how they will have to play when Hutchinson is in goal. Otherwise, the playoffs will just be a dream this year.


Not-so Special Teams

To make up for the lack of physical toughness, the Leafs have maintained that they will rely on their power plays to take advantage of teams. There is a slight hitch in that plan. Toronto is 6th in the NHL for power play percentage (23.4%), but that statistic is misleading because the Leafs do not draw nearly as many penalties as they are capable of. By applying more pressure, hitting, floor-checking and increasing their overall level of physicality, Toronto will draw more penalties.

Toronto cannot afford to take penalties either. The Leafs sit near the bottom of the league in penalty kill percentage (26th at 75.9%). As long as Toronto can find a balance between physical play and disciplined pressure, they will stay out of the penalty box, have a greater chance of winning games, and punch their own tickets into the playoffs.

Comedy of Errors

With the Leafs’ high-priced talent of their forwards comes risk taking creativity. Long stretch passes from their own defensive zone are often anticipated and intercepted, leaving their poor goalie to fend for himself. Defensive turnovers and mental lapses lead to scrambling around and eventually taking a bad penalty, and as previously mentioned, Toronto is among the worst in the league at killing penalties.

What is the solution? It’s easy. Stay focused and disciplined. By moving their feet and having their sticks in the right defensive position, the Leafs’ players can avoid reaching and taking unnecessary risks.

The 3rd Period

The Toronto Maple Leafs are talented enough to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. The road to lifting Lord Stanley’s mug is paved with plenty of pitfalls for the Leafs. Discipline, intelligence, and some grit is all that is required for Toronto to enter the postseason. The Leafs will make the playoffs as long as they get tougher, work with what they already have, perform better in front of their goalies, improve their special teams play, and stay disciplined and focused to the goal at hand, which is the playoffs.

5 Teams That Could Win The 2020 Stanley Cup

 

The race to lift the 2020 Stanley Cup is now picking up steam approaching the All-Star break in January. Trades, demotions, free-agency, all occur in an effort of making a successful run through the playoffs. 12 games is what one team out of 31 in the NHL must win in order to lift the Holy Grail of Hockey. The Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning, all made the playoffs last season. It is these 5 teams that are most likely to contend for the Stanley Cup, but how each individual team will get there may not be so obvious.

Washington Capitals (27-8-5)


This season the Washington Capitals are looking like the team that won it all in 2018. The Capitals sit high above the NHL’s overall standings in 1st place with 59 points. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a safe 9 points behind in the Metropolitan division standings in 2nd place.

Washington is the best in the league at scoring goals, leading with 143 goals in 40 games. Their captain and resident sniper Alexander Ovechkin (#8), is off to a hot start scoring 24 goals and he has 14 assists. Ovechkin has 12 points on the power play, 9 of which are goals. The march to the Stanley Cup for the Caps starts and ends with #8.

The only real blemish thus far is Washington’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. The Capitals have been penalized a league-best 144 times.

There is no doubt that Washington has the best odds of winning the Stanley Cup. The team has virtually the same roster as their Stanley Cup winning team in 2018, however, in the playoffs, the officiating tightens up and if the Capitals have championship dreams, they will have to stop taking so many penalties.

St. Louis Blues (25-8-6)


The Blues are the defending Stanley Cup champions. Automatically, they get a vote as a contender to lift Lord Stanley’s mug. It was quite a dramatic run to and through the playoffs last year for St. Louis. The Blues finished the 2018/2019 regular season ranked 12th overall, with a record of 45-28-9, but the real story was how they got to the playoffs. St. Louis became the first team since 1967/1968 to make the playoffs after being in last place in the NHL on January 1st.

After 39 games this season, the Blues are ranked 2nd overall in the standings with 56 points. Recently the team has won 7 out of their last 10 games and is on a 7 game winning streak.

Defensively, the Blues are 4th in the NHL in goals allowed, giving up a stingy 2.56 goals per game. St. Louis is also among the top 10 teams allowing the fewest amount of shots per game (31.1). Blues goalies, Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington, have combined for a 918% save percentage, 4th in the league.

Not moved yet? What about the special teams rankings? The Blues are 5th overall in Power Play %, scoring on 24.1% of their PP chances. The team is also 5th in the league Penalty Kill %, killing off 83.5% of the penalties that have been called against them.

So why is the St. Louis Blues a very serious threat to win the 2020 Stanley Cup? 2nd overall ranking, 7 consecutive wins, magnificent goaltending, and top 5 special teams in the NHL.

Boston Bruins (23-7-9)


It seems that every year the Boston Bruins get mentioned among the contenders to win it all. Boston lost to the Blues in last season’s Stanley Cup Final and appears ready to return to the dance this coming June.

Currently the Bruins are 3rd in the NHL’s overall standings with 55 points. Not known for their offensive prowess, Boston is 7th in the league in scoring, lighting the goal lamp 3.4 times per game. The Bruins are tops in the NHL in Goal Differential at +38.

Behind their own blue line, Boston lives up to their tough, gritty, blue-collar city image that they represent. The Bruins give up the fewest amount of goals per game, 2.44, and have the most shutouts (5) this season.

The engine that drives Boston, however, is their Special Teams play. In last year’s postseason, the Bruins won the majority of their games where they had the lion’s share of the power plays. At 26.4%, 3rd in the NHL, Boston has not missed a beat with their power play domination this season. Add to that the fact that the B’s are 4th overall in Penalty Kill %, escaping 84.3% of the time they spend in short-handed situations.

If the Bruins can remain healthy throughout the regular season and playoffs, continue riding their red-hot goaltending and their superior special teams, their fans can expect a return trip to the Stanley Cup in 2020.

Toronto Maple Leafs (21-14-5)


At first glance, there may be some slight hesitation before believing that Toronto is among the 5 teams that could win the 2020 Stanley Cup. Toronto is positioned comfortably 10th overall in the NHL standings. 10th place may not move the needle for you yet, but the team has built some momentum after firing head coach Mike Babcock earlier this season.

Paying 4 Forwards the top salaries in the league has translated into the Leafs ranking 3rd overall in Goals Per Game, scoring 3.5 times a night. Toronto shoots almost 34 times per game, which is 5th in the league.

The Leafs win 52.7% of their faceoffs, 3rd best in the league, and this particular stat could prove to be extremely useful in their quest to win the Stanley Cup. Winning most of the faceoffs, especially in the offensive zone, allows one of the league’s deadliest offensive teams, most notably when on the power play, to set up their offense, and dictate the pace.

Did I mention that the Leafs have a killer power play? No? Then let me bring it up now. Toronto is ranked in the top 10 in Power Play % and Power Play Goals Per Game.

A more than capable starting goalie, plus the ability to control the play in their opponents’ end of the rink by winning most of the faceoffs, add in a top 10 power play, and you’ve got all of the necessary ingredients for Toronto to be lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.

Tampa Bay Lightning


Of the top 5 teams with the best shot of hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2020, the Tampa Bay Lightning is the most controversial pick of them all. Despite winning the President’s Trophy last season (The President’s Trophy is awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL), with 128 points, the Lightning exited the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 1st round. Let’s see how they measure up against the NHL’s elite contenders.

Tampa is literally in the middle of the pack, residing in the 15th overall position, however, they are currently 3 points out of the last Wild Card spot. They struggled at the beginning of the season, but Tampa is now on a roll. Part of this turnaround is due to their high octane offense.

The Lightning is tied for 1st overall with the Colorado Avalanche for scoring the most Goals Per Game (3.6). Tampa is 10th in the number of Shots Per Game (33) taken, just so we are clear, shots do not count as a statistic unless they are on goal. Their 50.8% faceoff percentage is good enough to land them 9th in the league.

The Lightning is starting to remember how to play like the Stanley Cup contenders that they were last season. Less pressure by not being 1st overall, and scoring the most goals in the league, all while taking more shots per game than 21 other teams, means that Tampa only needs to get into the playoffs. It is in the playoffs that anything can happen, including an upset or two, something they are all too familiar with.

3rd Period

Washington, Boston, St. Louis, Toronto, and Tampa Bay are more than just 5 exciting teams to watch. These teams have shown that they are the best in the categories needed to win a championship. These 5 all rank in the top 10 overall in generating offense, stopping the opposition with great defense and solid goaltending, as well as special teams play that can decide a series. These are the components that very much could result in one of those teams winning the 2020 Stanley Cup.

 

Boston vs Toronto

Do the Boston Bruins Have The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Number?

1st Period

When a team has another team’s number, it means that one team usually wins the head-to-head matchup. In the case of the Boston Bruins versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins own the Leafs’ number. Whether it is in the regular season or playoffs, Boston has routinely dominated Toronto physically and mentally.

Playoff History

With apologies to those in Leafs Nation who may read this column, there is no better place to start than in the year 2013, when chronicling the Bruins and Leafs rivalry. Toronto had brought Boston to the brink of elimination in their 1st round matchup during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs were leading 4-1 in the 3rd period of the 7th and deciding game of the series. All indications were that if Toronto could hang on for roughly 8 minutes more, they would have eliminated Boston, and all the talk about being


inferior to the Bruins would never have started. Unfortunately, the Leafs coughed up the lead in that game 7, and lost the series in overtime.

The collapse of 2013 started an avalanche of losses in the postseason for the blue and white. In fact, 3 seasons out of 6, Boston has bounced Toronto from the 1st round of the playoffs. The Maple Leafs could not figure out how to win against their biggest nemesis in the postseason in 2013, 2018, and 2019. Should the fact that their team endured seven games in each of those series mean anything to the fans of Toronto? Probably not.

The manner in which the Bruins would eliminate the Leafs in every series is a bigger topic of discussion among fans and media than the results. In the playoffs, the intensity is ratcheted up ten-fold. Mistakes are magnified, mismatches are exploited, and the overall physical play increases in the playoffs. All the more reason to not take penalties.

In the 2019 playoff series, Boston scored 7 power play goals in 16 power play opportunities. Special teams was the deciding factor in an otherwise even series. Discipline between the ears was needed but was repeatedly ignored by various Leafs’ players in the last 6 playoff series between them. No player lost his cool more between the rivals than former Leafs Forward Nazem Kadri, who was suspended in both of the 2018 and 2019 playoffs series.


What about the regular season?

The playoff history is all that anyone seems to care about when discussing their rivalry, but there are no playoffs without a regular season. These original 6 NHL hockey teams have squared off 677 times with the Bruins winning 301 games. Nobody will ever accuse the Leafs of wanting to avoid Boston in the playoffs, but maybe they should. In 2019, Toronto was all but guaranteed a 1st round date with the B’s as far back as January.

The parody in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, where Toronto and Boston both play, has been consistent. The leaders have remained constant, and the bottom-feeders have been climbing all over each other for a berth in the postseason. As soon as the Bruins lead the Leafs in the standings, both teams are basically locked in their positions for the 2nd half of the season. Winning and losing streaks have separated the teams and narrowed the gaps in the division standings throughout each of the last 6 regular seasons.


Boston also has a mental edge over Toronto. Eliminating a team from the playoffs in the 1st round, three times in the last 6 years can break any team’s spirit. Players have tried to ignore the chatter, but there is no escaping the media and fans in hockey’s largest market. Radio call-in shows, social media accounts, all are avenues for spreading the hype surrounding the Bruins having the Leafs’ number in the playoffs. The “experts” all agree that without a tougher approach to the game, a lack of any safe and puck-moving defensemen, and performances in net by the backup goalie (Michael Hutchinson) that are sometimes hard to watch, Toronto is in an uphill battle on their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Adding to the intrigue of the rivalry is that if the playoffs were to start today, they would face each other for the 3rd consecutive year. These are all things to consider as a member of either side. The Bruins know that they can overpower the Leafs, and Toronto has admitted to watching the standings, and hearing the chatter about their lack of grit. How can that not weigh on a player?

Overtime

Boston has Toronto’s number with respect to their historic rivalry. The Leafs should look no further than being bounced out of the playoffs 3 out of 6 years, 2 in a row, by the same team. Their 1st meeting was in 1924, they have faced-off 759 times overall, 83 times in the playoffs. The Bruins and Leafs are very familiar with each other to say the least. Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans should be wary of familiarity breeding contempt.

Brightest And Darkest Futures In The NFL

The NFL can change on a dime. There is no greater example than the Indianapolis Colts. One minute, they’re a sexy pick to win their division, then Andrew Luck retires and now they’re just fighting to stay relevant. That’s why having an infrastructure is so important.

Some teams have a great plan for the future while others do not. We plan to examine this more closely. We want to figure out which NFL team could survive if disaster strikes.

Brightest Futures:

Ravens


Lamar Jackson is only 23 years old. 32 teams passed on him in the draft, including his the Baltimore Ravens, his current team! Baltimore used their earlier 1st round pick on their now back up Tight End.

Lamar Jackson looks like an even better version of Michael Vick, which should terrify the rest of the league. Baltimore has done a great job building around Lamar, and not trying to make him become something that he’s not. Mark Ingram has been a great addition on the field and in the locker room. Hollywood Brown already looks like a top young receiver when he’s healthy, and that defense has really stepped up the second half of the season.

As long as Baltimore keeps maximizing Lamar Jackson, there’s no reason the Ravens won’t be a Super Bowl contender for the foreseeable future.

Dolphins:    

It might seem odd that a team with more Dead Cap ($65.2 Million) than Active Cap ($58.9 Million) be put on the brightest futures list, but the Miami Dolphins have a plan and they are executing it to perfection. The Laremy Tunsil trade landed Miami with the Texans 2020 and 2021 first and second round picks. The Dolphins will also have multiple mid round picks in both drafts as well.

It sucks to be a Dolphins fan right now, but every NFL team has to go through a rebuilding phase, and if you’re going to be bad, you might as well be really bad. Miami will end up with a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, and will be able to either select their QB of the future, or a defensive cornerstone.

For this plan to really work, the Dolphins need to hit on all their picks, which is much easier said than done. But if they can hit on even half of their picks that will ramp up their rebuilding process and Miami will begin the climb to the top of the AFC East.

Raiders:

I didn’t expect to be saying this sentence ever, but Jon Gruden has actually done a nice job with the Raiders. Josh Jacobs looks like a possible top 10 running back and Oakland has a nice receiving group with Tyrell Williams and Tay Waller.

The biggest question marks for the Raiders are what to do at QB and how can Oakland get a pass rusher? Both of these answers can be found in the draft. With two top 20 picks, Jon Gruden will be able to dictate the future of Las Vegas’ new NFL franchise.

There are also several QB options in this free agency class if Gruden wants to wait on the QB of the future. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers are all free agents this summer, along with current Raiders QB Derek Carr. I would be surprised if Carr got a new deal with the Raiders, but stranger things have happened.

Darkest Futures:

Rams:


A nice recipe for success is getting productive players on cheap deals and using that cap space to build around said young players. The Rams are doing the exact opposite of that. Paying Aaron Donald was smart, anyone would have done the same. But giving all that money to Todd Gurley and Jared Goff is already looking like a disaster, not to mention they still have to extend Jalen Ramsey.

It wouldn’t be as big of a problem if they had draft picks to replace that top talent, but they don’t. The Rams treat draft picks like they’re your mother’s fruit cake recipe, they just throw them away. With no cap relief in sight or future draft picks, the Rams will have to get creative if they want to stay in the mix in the NFC.

Browns:


Is having no plan better than a bad plan? Because the Browns have no plan whatsoever. Was Freddie Kitchens a better coach than Hue Jackson? Considering that the Browns just fired Kitchens and they’re now searching for a new coach that question has already been answered. A roster that has all the talent in the world and they still can’t get it done in a year where the Bengals will have the worst record in the league, and the Steelers are starting a QB named Duck.

The Browns are on the dark list because it’s not clear if any coach can repair the damage done this season. ESPN reported that Jarvis Landry wants out of Cleveland, along with several other Brown’s players. Baker Mayfield didn’t take a significant leap forward in year 2, Nick Chubb was inconsistently used, and the duo of Jarvis and OBJ didn’t light up the league like everyone was expecting. One has to wonder, if the Browns will repeat as the worst team of this decade just like it was in the last?

Jets:

 

Speaking of bad coaches, Adam Gase has Jedi mind-tricked the whole Jets organization into giving him more power!

The Jets are an absolute disaster, Sam Darnold is either running for his life or running from mono. The offensive line is the worst in the league and the receivers aren’t great. They also paid a lot of money in the off season for Le’Veon Bell and now they’re already talking about trading him.

In a division with both the Dolphins and Bills with solid futures, the Jets are like nomads wandering aimlessly. They better figure things out quickly or they’ll be left by the wayside.

Why College Football Needs An Eight Team Playoff

Ten years ago, a college football playoff was only a pipe dream. The thought of a playoff was only a topic buddies talked about in a bar. Now we have a playoff committee that decides who gets the chance to go to the playoffs. Who would have ever thought we’d get to this point?

While the four-team playoff is good, it’s not perfect. You know what would be perfect? An eight-team playoff. You might be thinking that if we give people eight, everyone will want ten, maybe even twelve. And then before you know it the tournament will have evolved into a March Madness style abomination.

How It Would Work

Eight teams would make it into the new College Football Playoff. Five of the eight spots would be reserved for the Power Five conference champions. This does two things:

  1. It makes winning your conference much more important.
  2. It eliminates the argument about a one loss team who didn’t make their conference title, or a two loss conference champion.

The final three spots would be at large bids. These spots could go to the teams that just missed out on their conference title, the independents, and the Group Five schools. As it stands right now, no Group Five school is going to even come close to sniffing a four team playoff, but the committee could give them the 8 seed and have them face off against the best conference champion.

Once we have our eight teams, the next issue we would need to solve is where the teams are going to play? The answer is very simple. The top four seeds would play at home with the lower four seeds traveling. The playoff committee won’t have to worry about tie-ins to certain bowls, and we can keep the semi-final games as scheduled.

The first round of the playoffs would take place two weeks after the conference title games. This gives teams enough time to prep for their opponents and to make travel arrangements. The games would be played the third week in December, which means that everyone could get home before Christmas. This also provides the bowl slate with a few great early games. ESPN, FOX, CBS, and ABC will all get to host a bowl game on their own Network throughout the day, or make two games on Saturday and two games on Sunday.

After the first round of games have been played, we would take another two weeks off to play the semi-final games on January 2nd. This way the big time New Year’s Day bowl games won’t be affected by the playoff games, and fans can still enjoy those classic matchups. After the semi-final games, the championship game would be played a week later, and just like that, we would be done with the college football playoff.

Why It Would Work

The reason this plan works is simple. It takes a lot of pressure off of the committee. The lesson that we’ve all learned from the first few years of the College Football playoff is that it’s really hard to find the best four teams. How many of you haven’t believed at least once that the best four teams did not get in?

Do you know what’s even easier than trying to find the four best teams? Finding eight really good teams. Usually the top two or three teams in college football will separate themselves from the rest of the pack. It can get a little murky for the other teams, but people usually find it easier to agree on the top ten teams.

Making conference championship games matter also helps out the committee because they already have five guaranteed spots, all they have to do is figure out three at-large bids. Conference championship games should matter. Alabama and Ohio State have benefited from not playing in their own conference title game. This was essentially a bye week for those teams, which isn’t really fair for the other teams that made it to their respective conference championship games, even if they lost. 

Having the first round playoff games being hosted by the higher seeded teams rewards those teams even more for having a great season. This also gives fans an additional home game, creating extra revenue for those schools and conferences. It also just makes scheduling way easier than trying to tie in these first round games to bowl games. 

Why The NCAA Should Adopt The 8 Team Playoff ASAP

Adopting the eight team playoff will make everyone’s lives easier. That should be the goal, to make the committee’s lives as easy as possible because we’ve seen that they can overthink and ignore the obvious. With this new system the only problem they have to solve is who gets the three at-large bids. That’s it. 

The fans will love the fact that more teams get in and that we have more college football games to watch. The schools, conferences, and television networks will love it because they all make more money by having more games. It’s an easy solution. 

Clippers Overcome 15-Point Deficit To Beat Lakers On Christmas Day Game

The Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers met for the second time in the 2019-2020 season on Christmas day and boy did they not disappoint! Both teams came to play and the environment was electric. This was must see tv! The game was a home game for the Lakers, but let’s be honest, every game at the Staple Center between these two teams is a home game for the Lakers.

Going into the game, Lakers had the second best record in the NBA, but were on a 3-game losing streak after suffering loses to the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets. The Clippers had lost to the Houston Rockets, beaten the San Antonio Spurs and lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Lakers were in control for the majority of the game. They maintained the lead for most of the game and had taken a 15-point lead in the 3rd quarter before Clippers mounted their comeback. By the end of the 3rd quarter Clippers had tied the game.  Clippers didn’t take the lead until around the 3 minute mark in the 4th quarter. Once Clippers took the lead they never gave it up. Clippers are now 2-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers in what the media has labeled Battle for LA.

Patrick Beverly Came To Play

Patrick Beverly only scored 8 points on 3-7 shooting, but he grabbed 9 rebounds. 5 of his rebounds came in the 4th quarter. Beverly is also credited with the block of the night. With the Clippers leading by 3 points and the ball in LeBron James’ hands, Beverly played magnificent defense on LeBron and knocked the ball loose and it went out off of LeBron’s fingertips causing a turnover for the Lakers and preventing a potential game tying 3-point attempt by LeBron James. Lakers were forced to foul after that and the game was over after Paul George made both of his free throws.

A Game Of Two Halves

We witnessed a game of two halves. The first half belonged to the Los Angeles Lakers. To be honest, the Lakers seemed in control for most of the game. They seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Despite the fact that LeBron was being kept in check by the Clippers in that first half, he was able to grab rebounds and get assists for his teammates. Anthony Davis was playing well during the first half and unsuccessfully tried to defend Kawhi but Kawhi was unstoppable.

The Clippers were being fouled and getting to the free throw line, but with the exception of Kawhi, the rest of the team was shooting an abysmal percentage. At one point, Clippers were 4 of 11 from the free throw line. Nothing seemed to be going their way. The Clippers were discombobulated. The Lakers used their size to control the game and build on their lead. Thanks to the wizardry of the 2-Time Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers were able to stay within striking distance.

After falling behind by as much as 15 points in the 3rd quarter, the Clippers went on a 33-18 run to tie the game up at the end of the 3rd quarter. Even after tying up the game, the Clippers just couldn’t seem to take the lead. They would tie the score and then the Lakers would make a run and go up 5 or 6 points. 33 games into the season and this is the first game that the entire Clippers roster were fully healthy and on the court together. So one can see why they seemed disjointed at times.

The Kawhi-led Clippers was able to lead a charge in the final minutes of the 4th quarter that resulted in the Clippers taking the lead and ultimately winning their second game against the Western Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers.

 It’s Just A Game

After the game, Kawhi provided us with several gems in the postgame interview.

“Yeah. I mean, even if it’s a championship and you’re down to the wire, it still feels like a game. But tonight (there were) two great teams battling on Christmas, I hope the fans enjoyed.” Kawhi when asked if it was just a game.

“I told everyone to stop worrying about the score. Just play every possession and play hard, so we can keep building on something and get better and I think we did that tonight.” Kawhi when asked about being down 15 points in the 3rd quarter.

“It does nothing. It’s one game out of the season. Whoever won this game isn’t going to win an LA championship or anything. Both teams have their eyes on the biggest prize.” Kawhi on what this win does for the Battle for LA rivalry.

“It’s not going to be easy. If we’re losing don’t look up (at the scoreboard). Just keep doing what we have to do to win.” Kawhi on his pep talk to his teammates before their comeback win.

What Did We Learn About the Clippers?

We learned that Kawhi Leonard is who we thought he was. Despite what most analysts on FOX and ESPN will tell you, Kawhi is the best player in the NBA when he’s fully dialed in and he was definitely the best player on the floor on Christmas Day. Kawhi’s FG was 11-19 and 5-7 from 3-PT for 35 points. He grabbed 12 rebounds and had 5 assists. 11 of his points game in the 4th quarter.

We learned that the Clippers are a resilient bunch. Early in the 3rd quarter, it looked as if the Lakers might run the Clippers out of the building. Lakers fans which were the majority of fans in the building were celebrating. It seemed as if everything was going their way. And before you know it, Clippers were back in it. Paul George didn’t have a great offensive game shooting just 5 for 18 for 17 points, but his defense was spectacular. His defense played a key factor in this win for the Clippers.

Patrick Beverly proved that it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. We saw this in his game winning block against LeBron James. We saw this in his 9 rebounds for the game.

We learned that the Clippers are a really good team and that their opening night win over the Lakers was not a fluke. We learned that the Clippers can become a truly great team, but that they still have a lot of work to do to become the team that they want to be.

We also learned that Doc Rivers has a lot of work to do in figuring out how to get everyone minutes on this team. If Clippers can continue on their evolution and they stay healthy, this team will be must see basketball by the time the playoffs arrive.

OWL Free Agency Winners and Losers

OWL Free Agency Winners and Losers

If you are like me, then you love free agency and the offseason as much as you do the regular season. This was the second year of free agency and it definitely did not disappoint. There were shocking trades, underrated signings, and heart-breaking releases. Many of the original 12 teams had a lot of contracts ending and were faced with some tough decisions on who to keep and who to let go.

I looked at every single offseason move leading up to the 2020 season and compiled my thoughts on some of the most impactful signings and trades, while also looking at the most impactful losses. Let’s go back in time and take a dive into the winners and losers of free agency.

*All statistics are average per 10 minutes unless otherwise stated

 Free Agency Winners

Dallas Fuel trades for Decay

Think of the best DPS players in the league and who comes to mind? Profit, JinMu, Architect, and sinatraa all come to mind but nobody ever talks about Decay. Top 15 in hero damage done and top 15 eliminations makes you one of the best damage dealers in the entire league and that is exactly the stat line Decay posted in the 2019 season. Dallas traded away OGE in the process and while he was a favorite of Fuel fans, he wasn’t the best player in the field. He had his popping off moments but overall is not someone the team needed. OGE was top 30 in most deaths in the league throughout the 2019 season and really only excels at Reinhardt. He also plays a solid Winston but with how powerful

Reaper currently is, it may be tough to see Winston come to the forefront anytime soon.

Dallas Fuel sign Gamsu

What’s one way to help combat losing your main tank? Go out and sign a much better one. Dallas trades away OGE and signs Gamsu who, in my opinion, is one of the best main tanks in the entire league. He already has chemistry with Dallas’s off-tank NotE from their time together in Boston and it amazes me this will be his third team in three seasons. He was a top tier main tank in Season 1 of OWL and he proved to still be dominant while also showing versatility in Season 2.  Gamsu ranks towards the top of the league for tank players in eliminations at 16.84, but he is top 25 throughout the entire league in most deaths at 6.08. I rate this as such a great move because of Gamsu’s wide hero pool of Reinhardt, Wrecking Ball, and Winston and because of his prior chemistry with NotE. They are very good friends away from the game and that only helps them once they put the headset on.

Los Angeles Gladiators sign SPACE

Best off-tank in the world? Best off-tank in the world. SPACE goes from one Los Angeles to the other and I am still in shock the Valiant let him walk away. This is the best signing of the entire offseason and there is not much that will change my mind on that. Space is by far the best D. Va in the entire league but also showed how strong he was on Sigma throughout the 2019 Overwatch World Cup. Along with Corey and sinatraa, he was truly a carry for Team USA. Looking at the Overwatch League, he is top 25 in fewest deaths and top 50 in eliminations as a tank player. His D. Va bombs are incredibly clutch and his Gravitic Fluxes strike fear into opposing DPS player’s hearts.

 

Other notable signings:

Guangzhou Charge sign Support Player neptuNo, formerly of Philadelphia Fusion and re-sign Damage Player Nero

Houston Outlaws trade for Flex Player Hydration from Los Angeles Gladiators and Flex Player Blasé from Boston Uprising

Seoul Dynasty trade for Tank Player Gesture and Damage Player Profit from London Spitfire

Philadelphia Fusion trade for Tank Player Fury from London Spitfire

New York Excelsior sign Tank Player BiaNcA, formerly of XL2 Academy, a Contenders NA team

Paris Eternal sign Damage Player Sp9rk1e, formerly of Element Mystic, a Contenders Korea team

Shanghai Dragons trade for Damage Player Fleta from Seoul Dynasty

Toronto Defiant sign Support Player KariV and Damage Player Agilities, formerly of Los Angeles Valiant, Damage Player Surefour, formerly of Los Angeles Gladiators, Tank Player Nevix, formerly of San Francisco Shock, and Support Player Kellex, formerly of Boston Uprising.

Vancouver Titans sign Support Player Ryujehong, formerly of Seoul Dynasty

Washington Justice re-sign Damage Player Corey

 

Free Agency Losers

Paris Eternal release ShaDowBurn

Yes, Paris did sign Sp9rk1e in the offseason but he is not eligible to play until May when he turns 18, rendering him pointless for about half the season. ShaDowBurn was on Philadelphia during the inaugural season of the Overwatch League and played closer to his home of Russia with the Paris Eternal in season 2. He showed out on multiple DPS heroes, such as Pharah, but is also known for being one of the best Genji’s in the entire world. I feel what would have been best for Paris is keeping ShaDowBurn for at least half the season until Sp9rk1e is eligible for play; that way they have someone to pair along with SoOn, who is one of the best Widowmakers in the entire league. ShaDowBurn may have a somewhat limited hero pool but he would have been a better option to start the season than NiCOgdh or Xzi, who spent last year on Element Mystic with Sp9rk1e.

Shanghai Dragons release CoMa and YOUNGJIN retires

Both of these two came to Shanghai in the 2018 offseason from a Contenders Korea team named KongDoo Panthera. Many of you may see the name YOUNGJIN and immediately think of his classic C-9 on Dorado while playing Brigitte but everyone should know him for his scary Doomfist play. The two returning DPS for Shanghai include DDing and diem, two players who do not have as elite a Doomfist in their hero pool as YOUNGJIN. DDing is known for his Pharah and Sombra while diem is one of the best hit scan players in the entire world on Widowmaker and McCree.

YOUNGJIN can also show out on the Reaper and that is something the current DPS of the Dragons do not have in their hero pool. Fleta, whom they acquired via trade with the Seoul Dynasty, is a Genji, Pharah, and Widowmaker player while LIP, a former member of BlossoM, is a Sombra and Widowmaker player. This team might be in major trouble if they need some DPS to flex to roles they aren’t comfortable on.

CoMa, on the other hand, is a strong Mercy player who also dabbles in a little bit of Ana and Lucio. He is not as big a loss as YOUNGJIN but he truly is a great Mercy and with multiple Pharah players on the team, that makes his release a huge loss for the team. Their Support line consists of Luffy and Izayaki, two Overwatch League veterans, and an OWL rookie in LeeJaeGon.

Luffy and Izayaki are both Flex Support players who specialize in Ana and Zenyatta, two of the most skilled support heroes to master, while LeeJaeGon is a Main Support whose hero pool includes Lucio and Mercy. Releasing CoMa for LeeJaeGon makes sense because I do believe LeeJaeGon can make the leap from Contenders to OWL but how will he gel with the rest of the team?

Boston Uprising release Kellex and AimGod

While the Boston Uprising were everything besides a powerhouse team last season, losing your entire Support line is not good. Yes, they lost Persia and alemao as well but neither of them deserve to be in the league in my opinion. Kellex was a mainstay for the Uprising, appearing in almost every game for them as a Main Support during his two seasons there. He played the majority of his time on Lucio in 2019 but showed up on Mercy and Baptiste when the situation called for it. Kellex is not a player people think of when talking about the top tier Support Players in the league, but he is someone who is very reliable and his comms help keep his team focused and together.

AimGod was Kellex brethren on the Support line for Boston but for some strange reason, the coaching staff were reluctant to play him later in the season, which is why his release should come as no shock. How good is he? Just look directly at his gamer tag. He truly is an aim god, especially on Zenyatta, and that’s why he was only a free agent for less than three weeks. To replace Kellex and AimGod, Boston brought in Swimmer and Myunbong, two players who were in Contenders last season. Swimmer will be the Main Support with Myunbong being the Flex.

 Other notable losses:

Guangzhou Charge release Tank Player Fragi

Los Angeles Valiant release Damage Player Agilities, Tank Player FCTFCTN, Support Player KariV, and Tank Player SPACE

Washington Justice release Tank Player Janus

Is Anthony Davis the The Real “King Of LA”?

Will the real “King of LA” please stand up?  No, not you Kawhi, you have some catching up to do.  Lebron?  He may not even be the king on his own team.  Anthony Davis has not only emerged as a new contestant in the royalty sweepstakes, he has solidified the argument that he is in fact the new King of LA!

AD has elevated his play in almost every statistical category, leading to Lebron having an outstanding start to the season, and the Lakers looking every bit like the NBA Finals contenders that they were predicted to be.  Kawhi Leonard is having himself quite the season for LA’s other team, but that is all that they are to the rest of the league, LA’s other team.  The spotlight in Los Angeles is only big enough for the Lakers.

AD’s Stats

In his last season as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis averaged under 26 points per game in 54 games played.  Even though the season is still young, Davis is averaging more points per game, 27.2, than he has in the past 3 seasons.  AD is playing 34.5 minutes per game, grabbing 9.2 rebounds per game, and dishing out 3.4 assists per game.

Let us not forget that at 2.6 blocked shots per game so far, if he were to maintain this pace AD would tie his career high in blocks per game.  Davis’ increase in minutes and blocks have absolutely nothing to do with Lebron.  Opponents are not afraid of Lebron’s defense, but they are afraid of running into the arms of the NBA’s 2nd best shot blockers this season, Anthony Davis.  Only Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic at 2.8 blocks per game, is ahead of Davis, but with all due respect to Isaac, AD has had a lot more of a load on both ends of the court to carry, while accomplishing this impressive statistic.

Davis’ three-point shooting is improving, but more importantly, he is attempting more from distance than he has in his career.  A 33% (from 3) shooting percentage is very respectable, and allows other facets of his game to flourish.  For example, at his height and position (Power Forward), he would likely be guarded by a player who is slower.  The player in that scenario, has to at least respect Davis’ touch from outside the arc and guard him closely, making it easy for him to drive by his man to the basket for an easy finish.

The Lebron Factor

Take it easy Lebron stans!  There is no question that a major reason for the early regular season success of Davis is thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers’ newest point guard, the 6’8” Lebron James.  As of the date of this article, James is 10th in the NBA in scoring, and 1st in the league in assists, with 10.8 assists per game.

Those stats are impressive, but when you take Lebron’s age into consideration, they’re even more impressive. But one must ask the question, “Who is Lebron passing the ball to?”  Dwight Howard, and Danny Green are not putting up the kind of numbers off of the assists of the Lakers’ #23 that Anthony Davis is.  Social media, NBA fans, and sports analysts all attribute the Lakers’ amazing record to Lebron’s exceptional play.  While this is somewhat understandable, it is misguided.  Anthony Davis has been eating off of the cooking of Lebron, but make no mistake about it, Lebron would not putting up these stats without the elevated play of Davis.

The Clippers Play in LA Too

 Believe it or not, Los Angeles has two professional basketball teams.  For their entire existence in Los Angeles, the Clippers have always played second fiddle to the Lakers, even though they have had a better record in recent years.  While their record is pretty good so far this season, it is less than impressive for a team that many forecasted to win the 2019-2020 NBA Finals.

The Clippers and Lakers both play in the Staples Center.  The Clippers have changed their court, created a new third jersey, lowered the lights in the stands, (except around courtside and over the court like the Lakers and Nets do), and took additional steps to enhance the overall atmosphere for fans of their team.  Why would they do this?  Simple, Los Angeles is Lakers town! Lakers have one of the largest fan bases in the NBA and most people in Los Angeles are Lakers fans.

There is always more representation by Lakers fans whenever the two teams meet up. There were even a large number of boos for Kawhi in their season opener against the Lakers, which was listed as a home game for the Clippers.  For over 4 decades, the Los Angeles Clippers has dealt with being declared the little brother of the Lakers. Even worse, they are behind the Dodgers (MLB) and Kings (NHL) when it comes to receiving attention from fans.  On the bright side, the signing of Kawhi and PG has provided a jolt of interest for the team. Clippers have managed to sell out every home game so far this season. That being said, it still hasn’t changed the fact that Los Angeles is Lakers town.

While Kawhi has played well overall, he has had several poor performances already. The Toronto Raptors were able to hold Kawhi to only 12 points in their first meeting. The Portland Trail Blazers were able to hold Kawhi to 11 points in their second meeting. The Spurs were able to hold Kawhi to 19 points on 23 shots in their second meeting. The Bucks were able to hold Kawhi to only 17 points in their blowout victory over the Clippers. These are not the type of numbers one can claim as representative of the “King Of LA”. The nail in the coffin for Kawhi’s claim to royalty is that he never plays back to back games.

In the case of Anthony Davis, his stellar stats have led to open looks for last season’s leader in 3-point percentage, Danny Green.  Lebron is averaging almost a triple-double season thanks in part to AD’s dominance. Furthermore, Dwight Howard and Javale McGee are looking like All-Stars when playing alongside Davis.

Final Thoughts

To crown a “king” or hold a coronation ceremony for Anthony Davis this early in the season is obviously premature.  What makes it even more challenging is that Lebron is already the self-proclaimed king everywhere he plays.  Nonetheless, the conversation is already being had and Davis’ name is already on the lips of league pundits due to his play on the court.

It cannot be denied that Davis is tearing up the league at an outstanding pace in both offensive and defensive statistical categories.  This is only half of the equation.  Davis has not-so-quietly exploded out of the gates this season to raise his game to career levels in minutes, blocks and points per game.  The Lakers currently boast the best record in the Western Conference, which we can credit to a deadly combination of the wizardry of Lebron’s passing abilities and Davis’ domination on both ends of the court.

Kawhi Leonard and his numbers do not lift the Clippers statistically the way Davis’ domination has done on both ends of the hardwood for the Lakers.  Lebron has upped his level of play from last season, but we have to credit Anthony Davis’ domination for making it easier for him. For these reasons, Anthony Davis gets my nod as the KING OF LA!