New York Giants Showing Interest In Second Round Edge Rusher

New York Giants, Julian Okwara

Everyone knows by now that the New York Giants are likely focused in on a pass protector for Daniel Jones with their first round pick, although the possibility of a trade down has remained in the mix, but which position they’ll target in the second round is less clear. With the marquee prospects off the board in round two, the Giants are under less pressure to make a certain type of selection – but the second round is still a valuable time to fill some of the team’s holes, of which there are a number of.

One of the biggest holes is at the edge rusher position. The Giants will likely lose Markus Golden in free agency, and it remains to be seen if Kyler Fackrell will perform in his first season as a Giant. With the talk about Jadeveon Clowney to the Giants dying down, that leaves one main chance for the team to avoid a slide backwards in the pass rush – the draft.

There’s one player being linked to the Giants so far in the second round at the pass rusher position, and that’s Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara, the brother of former Giant Romeo Okwara. According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, Okwara is one of the players the Giants are interested in.

The Giants, however, apparently aren’t the only team interested. That’s not surprising, either. The Giants would be getting a decently consistent prospect in Okwara who had 5 sacks last season with Notre Dame and 8 the season before, and who appeared in the majority of the team’s games for the past three years.

Other teams may even think highly enough to draft Okwara in the first round, which is the prediction that the latest NFL.com mock draft made.

PROJECTED TRADE WITH 49ERS. Bill O’Brien is not afraid to go after (or send away) players. If he hadn’t broken his fibula in November, Okwara would have received much more first-round talk this year. If the medicals are fine, the Texans will view him as a strong and agile edge rusher for the foreseeable future.

There’s no guarantee that Okwara will be available when the Giants do select in the second round, though they won’t have to wait long to pick once round two begins. However, if Okwara is there to take, it’s an intriguing prospect for the Giants. Getting a first round quality player at a position the Giants need but can’t prioritize in the first round, after all, would undeniably be a win.

New York Liberty select Sabrina Ionescu with No. 1 Pick of WNBA Draft

The Oregon alumna will don the seafoam and black of the New York Liberty next season after a record-breaking career in Eugene.

The New York Liberty have chosen Sabrina Ionescu with the top overall pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Ionescu will bring a historic amount of hardware with her to New York City. The former Oregon Duck is the first player in NCAA history to earn a de facto triple-quadruple: she put over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists over her four seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s a historic night for the New York Liberty,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb. “Sabrina is a generational player whose resume speaks for itself and we are thrilled to have her as our first-ever No.1 pick. We look forward to adding her to the Liberty family, as we work to reestablish ourselves as one of the top teams in the league for years to come.”

“I’m blessed. I think I’ve been working on this for my entire basketball career,” Ionescu said in a conference call shortly after he selection. “Just to see that come to fruition, I’m very humbled and excited for the opportunity.”

Ionescu’s storied collegiate career ended prematurely thanks to the NCAA Tournament’s cancellation. Nonetheless, she will bring numerous trophies and accolades with her to the east coast including three Pac-12 Player of the Year Awards, two John Wooden Awards, and a Naismith Player of the Year Award.

However, the only thing Ionescu was focused on was improving before she made her New York entry.

“I’m looking to do everything that I possibly can to get better in every aspect,” she said. “Whether that’s scoring, defending, rebounding, passing. I’m really just excited to be playing against professionals and learning from them and just seeing where that takes me.”

The Liberty will play their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on a full-time basis starting with the 2020 season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Under Appreciated New York Mets: Fernando Tatis

When baseball fans hear the name Fernando Tatis, they automatically think of the young star, who plays for the Padres. New York Mets fans remember his father played for the Mets at the tail end of his career. The man who once hit two grand slams in the same inning provided the Mets with all the baseball left in his body.

Outside of one 34 home run season, Tatis was an average player during his career stops with the Rangers, Cardinals, and Expos. His career seemed finished four years before he arrived in Queens. Tatis left baseball for two years after the Rays cut him in 2004 spring training.

Journey Back to Baseball

After spending time in his native Dominican Republic, he signed a minor league contract with the Orioles. He came back to help raise money to build a church. Tatis only received 56 at-bats with the Orioles in 2006, where he hit .250 with two homers.

Tatis landed with the Mets on a minor league contract in 2007 after the Dodgers granted him his release. He spent the entire 2007 season in triple-A where he hit .276 with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs. Tatis started 2008 in triple-A but came up in May after Angel Pagan suffered an injury.

He struggled to find consistent playing time until July when the outfield injures piled up. From July  7 through the end of his season, he batted .311/.404/.544 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs. His situational stats were even better, .394 w/RISP and .357 in high leverage situations. The Mets were 36-19 during his hot streak.

Unfortunately, like 2008 did for the Mets, things came crashing down when Tatis separated his shoulder trying to make a catch in September. Sporting News named Tatis the Comeback Player of the Year after his miraculous season.

In 2009, Tatis did not see any consistent playing time until August, and in that month he hit .310. When he played every day through the last six games of the season, he hit 11-for-22, which gave hope he would be good for 2010. Overall he hit .282 in 125 games, the most he played in since 2002.

Things started slowly in 2010 and never picked back up. He only hit .185 through 41 games and lost time in the outfield. Tatis hung around the Caribbean leagues until 2014 when he would announce his retirement from baseball.

Incredible Story

To go along with his baseball comeback, he also reunited with his father as a Met. Then General Manager, Omar Minaya, had Murray Chass of the New York Times write an article on Tatis’ search for his father. Eventually, the two reunited for the first time since he was five.

Now we have Fernando Tatis Jr. to marvel over for the next decade. While he plays differently from his father, he carries the same swing Fernando Sr. displayed during his time in New York.

New York Jets Could Pursue CB Logan Ryan (Report)

New York Jets, Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans

The New York Jets reportedly have interest in cornerback, Logan Ryan:

The Jets have four pressing needs — offensive Line, cornerback, wide receiver & edge rusher. The Jets need another corner; however, they could really use a development guy to build around alongside Bless Austin, which makes the latest rumblings a bit confusing.

Per Manish Mehta, the Jets have internally discussed making a run at CB Logan Ryan. Manish has had his fair share of stories be debunked, so this can be taken with a grain of salt. Still, this is an interesting player for the Jets to have a case in.

Who is Logan Ryan?

Logan Ryan is a New Jersey kid who attended Rutgers University. After a stable career there, Ryan was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. When Ryan debuted, he immediately carved himself a role with the Pats.

Ryan was a very solid corner with them until he left in 2016. He then joined the Titans, where Mike Vrabel has coached him. The now-former Titan comes from an excellent background of coaches, and he holds a championship pedigree with two rings under his belt. Ryan is also 29 years old, so it’s fair to assume he still has a few years of good football left, so being unsigned has been a bit perplexing.

How Would Ryan Fit?

Logan Ryan has always been a stable corner. Last season he had one of his best seasons yet — 113 tackles, 4 INTs, and 4 TFLs. Ryan had an awe-inspiring season and was overshooting his potential market value.

Now the Jets are discussing how he’d fit financially and within the team. Ryan and Pierre Desir would be a great duo to pair with Poole, but it seems like more of a win-now move. If Ryan is cheap, and they believe it gives them more draft flexibility, than it’s a solid decision. You can never turn down a good player, but Ryan would likely pull some reps away from Bless Austin, and unless they don’t have much faith in Austin, this move would be a strange one.

I like Ryan, and I think adding him would make for a solid secondary, but he’s likely in the market for a multi-year deal. At the same time, teams are a bit concerned with his ability to hold up in coverage, allowing a dismal 66% completion rate against him in 2019. Also, the move may take opportunities away from younger guys like Austin and a potential draft pick at a time where their development is more crucial than adding a veteran with inconsistent coverage abilities. 

Where do sports fit into White House reopening plan?

New York Yankees

On Thursday, President Donald Trump and his staff unveiled a plan on criteria for reopening America from the COVID-19 crisis. There are three phases in the program, and states will enter each phase on their own. Where do sports fit into the entire equation?

Trump and his staff have said that sports should be safe enough to continue in a few months with guidelines. The most important guideline is that games and events will have no attendance, likely until a treatment or vaccine for coronavirus is discovered.

In phase one of Trump’s plan, large venues can “operate under strict physical distancing protocols.” For sports, this would likely mean just teams and staff are permitted at events. Gyms would also reopen during this phase.

Phase two says that large venues can “operate under moderate physical distancing protocols.” Maybe at this stage, teams could shift back to home cities instead of a centralized location and play games with limited attendance.

Phase three states that large venues can “operate under limited physical distancing protocols,” meaning a relatively full attendance at events would be permitted.

Again, each state has its discretion on when to transition into each phase. Many states are in alliances with other states and will put in protocols at the same time. For example, there is a mid-west alliance and a Northeast alliance.

To have fans be at games and teams return to their own stadiums, we would likely have to see all 50 states into phase two or three. Some states will enter the phases earlier than others, dependent on the COVID-19 situation in each state. California doesn’t expect large events to take place again this year, and its unlikely New York City allows fans to pack Yankee Stadium or MSG again this year.

But, we’ll have to see how the coming weeks play out and when each state will start to enter each phase.

Report: New York Jets S Jamal Adams will likely skip virtual offseason program

New York Jets, Jamal Adams

Lack of progress toward an immediate long-term deal is said to play a part in Adams skipping the New York Jets’ virtual proceedings.

Reports have surfaced that New York Jets safety Jamal Adams will skip the team’s virtual offseason program when it begins later this month.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported Adams’ rumored lack of participation on Friday morning. Schefter further hinted that Adams may be dissatisfied with the lack of progress toward a long-term contract and that the team could possibly field trade offers for him as the 2020 NFL Draft approaches.

Virtual offseason programs have been put in place as the NFL continues to navigate its return around restrictions put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adams is entering the final season of the four-year contract worth just over $22 million he signed after the Jets chose him in the first round of the 2017 draft. The safety was reportedly shopped as the 2019 trade deadline approached, but no deal was made despite rumored interest from the Dallas Cowboys. Tensions briefly rose, but Adams finished the year in New York.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in February that “preliminary talks” about a long-term deal had occurred with Adams’ representation. Douglas hesitated to call it true progress, but insisted that the team was planning to make Adams “a Jet for life”.

“Jamal is an unbelievable player. We’re excited about Jamal,” Douglas said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, per NewYorkJets.com. “We’ve had some preliminary talks with his agent. I’m not going to get into the specifics of that. But the plan is for Jamal to be here a long time.”

At least one of Adams’ secondary comrades wasn’t believing Schefter’s report. Cornerback Bless Austin told the ESPN insider to “relax” about a half-hour after his original report.

Adams, 24, has earned 273 tackles, 12 sacks, and two interceptions in his first three New York seasons. The 2019 campaign saw Adams earn First-Team All-Pro honors and his second consecutive Pro Bowl nomination.

The 2020 NFL Draft will begin on April 23 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

One player the New York Yankees must extend immediately

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

Taking a look at one significant player the New York Yankees must extend immediately:

If there’s any one player on the New York Yankees that deserves an extension, it is former Colorado Rockie infielder, DJ LeMahieu. Last season, LeMahieu was one of the most consistent players for the Bombers, and his first year with the team.

A 31 years old, nobody thought that LeMahieu would join the Yanks and perform the way he did. He posted a .327 batting average with 26 homers and 102 RBIs, both career-highs. He was an All-Star and finished fourth in MVP rankings.

The most exciting part about his season what his ability to fill roles that the Yankees desperately needed to supplement. Injuries at first base, shortstop, and even third base for a little while were held over by LeMahieu, who proved himself to be the ultimate utility man. With just one year left on his contract, retaining him should be a priority for general manager Brian Cashman. Not only has he established himself as a leader on the team, but with injuries piling up, the Yankees need to have healthy and consistent players on the roster, especially ones who can play multiple positions.

However, the Yankees will feature LeMahieu at his most comfortable spot, second base. With Gleyber Torres taking over the shortstop position, the former Rockie will start the season in his preferred position. In 2019, he posted a .993 fielding percentage with just two errors at second base over 75 games.

He played 52 games at third base and 40 games at first base, showing his diversity and quality all over the infield. His worst position by far was on the hot corner, where he posted a .963 fielding percentage. Compared to Gio Urshela, who took over the spot, he posted a .954 fielding percentage over 123 games. While that’s over double the number of games LeMahieu played, he showed his versatility and ability to hold down the position if need be.

His overall value is significant, and extending him for another two years is justified. I would expect them to find a deal in the coming months if not toward the end of the 2020 campaign if baseball even managers to return.

The Clutch Nature of the Islanders’ Thomas Hickey

New York Islanders, Thomas Hickey

Thomas Hickey has a special place in the history of the New York Islanders.

It was four years ago tonight when Hickey, then age 27, scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game Three against the Florida Panthers to complete the Isles’ comeback victory that evening and also help regain the series lead in their favor.

The moment still resonates with fans, but it was just one of several over Hickey’s seven-year tenure with the franchise, which enabled him as clutch.

When Hickey first became an Islander, he came with a chip on his shoulder.

Drafted fourth overall back in 2007 by the Los Angeles Kings, Hickey — a former captain of his world junior squad for Canada — never really flourished in the Kings’ organization. He played five seasons in the AHL before the Kings they unceremoniously placed him on waivers in January 2013. Former Islanders-gm Garth Snow decided to take a flyer on the Calgary, AB native as the lockout-shortened season was set to begin in January 2013.

It was one of the smarter calls that Snow made during the time he was running the organization. And that’s where the legend of Hickey’s clutch antics first came to be known. Or as Butch Goring, current broadcaster for MSG Networks and a former four-time Stanley Cup winner liked to refer to him “a mosquito on the ass of an elephant.”

In just his tenth NHL game, the first of Hickey’s heroics as an Islander came in Montreal in a game that was also a bit of a turning point for the Isles early on that season.

After the Islanders had fought back to force overtime, Hickey was in the right place at the right time, when he made the wise decision to go the side of the net after John Tavares was cutting to the middle. All alone in with a wide-open cage, Tavares lost an edge and fed Michael Grabner, who spotted Hickey. Hickey slammed home the pass and gave the Isles a huge 4-3 win. To make things even more unique, that goal was the first NHL goal of Hickey’s career.

That would be the only goal Hickey scored all year before he came up big again the following season in early December. Once again, it came in OT.

With just under two minutes left in the extra session and the Isles pressing, Hickey received a cross-ice pass and made the heads up decision to make a spin move to gain some room past Sens forward Kyle Turris. Wheeling it around the net, Hickey threw a backhander which banked of Ottawa d-man Cody Ceci past goalie Craig Anderson and into the back of the net.

It was another big goal for the Isles, who were red hot at the time and extended their winning streak on home ice to seven games.

Fast-forwarding to the end of the 2015-16 season and the Isles with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth for a second consecutive season. Who else but Hickey to score, without a doubt, the team’s most important goal of the year.

A lot of the credit should go to Tavares — who would usually be the player to set up Hickey –, but Hickey himself showed his awareness. Instead of getting right up in the rush into the offensive zone, Hickey instead trailed the play and put himself in the perfect position in the slot to receive the slick feed from Tavares and deposit it top corner past Capitals’ goaltender Braden Holtby.

After the goal against the Panthers a few weeks later, Hickey’s antics had garnered him the nickname, “Mr. Clutch.”

“There’s not a guy on our team that plays as big as Thomas Hickey,” former-Isles coach Jack Capuano said back then. “When you talk about toughness, I’ve always defined it as taking a hit to make a play. And that’s what he does. … It’s always good to see a guy like that get rewarded.”

The other two big-time markers — the last of his six total as an Islander — didn’t hold the same weight as the other previous ones. But they still showed Hickey continued to have a flair for the dramatic.

This season was probably one to forget for Hickey.

The 31-year-old was waived just before the start of this season — rookie Noah Dobson made the team over him — and ended up heading to Bridgeport. While there, the Calgary native, unfortunately, got hurt and spent a majority of the season rehabbing. He was called up before the whole COVID-19 pandemic took havoc on the NHL and the entire sports world for that matter. He didn’t suit up, though.

So if his time with the Isles is indeed over, it’s worth remembering Hickey’s clutch performances and the impact they had.

 

 

New York Mets were close to trading Zack Wheeler to the Yankees last season

New York Mets, Zack Wheeler

The New York Yankees were on the market for a starting pitcher last season, near the trade deadline. And, as it turns out, a rare deal with the New York Mets, the crosstown team, nearly materialized. It wasn’t meant to be, however.

Zack Wheeler, a pitcher the Mets considered trading last July to get something of value in return and not lose him for nothing in free agency – which is what happened anyway – was close to pitching with the Yankees, according to a Friday report from SNY Andy Martino.

However, the agreement fell through and Wheeler finished out the season with the Mets instead and ended up having a good season. In 31 starts and 195.1 innings, he had a 23.5 K%, a 6.0 BB% and a 3.96 ERA, with a 3.48 FIP and 4.7 WAR.

According to Martino, the reason why the deal fell through was an issue with a medical, but not Wheeler’s, but instead, one of another unspecified player. The identities of the players involved in the transaction are not known.

The Mets’ hurler was a priority for the Yankees

Additionally, the reports state that the Yankees were among the most aggressive pursuers of starting pitchers around last year’s deadline, and had the Mets righty as one of their priorities.

Wheeler had a very good five-year stint with the New York Mets, with a 44-38 record and a 3.77 ERA. He ended up leaving for the Philadelphia Phillies in the winter, when he signed a five-year, $118 million contract.

The Mets were awarded a compensatory pick in the draft at the moment of his signing with the Phils, since Wheeler turned down a $17.8 million, one-year qualifying offer.

Wheeler said back then that there was no approach made by the Mets to re-sign him. As a result, he will be pitching for a divisional rival for the next five years, although MLB is currently discussing the option of using spring training divisions. In that case, he will be in the same one as the Yankees.

New York Giants: What positions did Isaiah Simmons play in college?

New York Giants, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Taking a look at what positions Isaiah Simmons players in college and what the New York Giants would be getting in the defender:

Clemson standout defender Isaiah Simmons is one player that has been heavily linked to the Giants this NFL draft season. His versatile attributes make him one of the most exciting prospects in this draft class, and adding him to a lackluster defense would immediately reinforce the unit and provide them with a playmaker.

However, harnessing Simmons’s potential could be problematic if they don’t have the right coaches in place. I believe that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is the perfect guy for the job, considering his Yale education and incredibly unique and diverse scheme.

He plans to implement a 3-4 defense with a 4-3 base mixed in, utilizing heavy blitz rates from the linebacker and safety positions. This would fit perfectly with Simmons, who is reportedly telling teams he prefers to rush the passer on passing downs. While I can’t imagine a player of his size being a specific pass rusher, which would theoretically increase his price-tag down the road, a team like the Giants could use a blend of his skill-set.

In 2019, Simmons played 299 snaps at inside linebacker. As a traditional linebacker, he played sideline to sideline and also dropped back into coverage to cover tight ends. He was also stout against the run, earning 16.5 tackles for loss and 104 total tackles. His pass-rush aspirations came with eight sacks for Clemson last year, but he was also incredible in coverage, lining up to 162 times as a slot corner. He also played 132 Snaps at free safety, logging eight passes defended, and three interceptions.

His statistical output in each category is impressive, and that doesn’t even consider the 116 snaps he played at outside linebacker and 100 snaps at strong safety. He is the quintessential Swiss Army knife for any given defense, and Graham would have a field day utilizing his talents.

Now, this doesn’t belittle the concept that the Giants need to protect their investments and Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, drafting an offense of tackle. Still, Simmons’ talents stretch far beyond that of a regular linebacker. He is a self-proclaimed “defender” and rightfully so, considering the number of snaps he played at five different positions as a 20-year-old player in 2019.