The end of the season for the New York Giants didn’t benefit them when it comes to draft position. The team won their final game but thanks to the result in Philadelphia versus Washington, they didn’t make it into the playoffs. With this combination of events, the Giants missed out on a playoff game and fell in draft position at the same time, and they’re now set to pick at number eleven overall.
However, that doesn’t mean the Giants can’t still snag a big impact player at this position. And while they won’t have the first pick from the best prospects at the position, they may be able to fix their need for a major player at wide receiver by taking this year’s Heisman winner. That’s the outcome predicted by CBS Sports in their latest mock draft.
New York graciously welcomes the Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most productive wide receivers that college football has ever seen. Devonta Smith is a polished performer and, by all accounts, a grounded young man that should pay immediate dividends for Joe Judge.
The Giants are mocked as taking Devonta Smith with the 11th pick, following his campaign that saw him crowned the top college football player in the country. While his draft profile isn’t as strong as LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Smith has still consistently been an impact player for Alabama who has made iconic plays in multiple years and most notably caught the national championship winning pass against Georgia.
There is, of course, a connection between Alabama and the Giants. Head coach Joe Judge is familiar with the way that Alabama does things, having coached there under Nick Saban. Judge will likely have a lot of say in who the Giants draft, and there’s a chance he might approve of drafting Smith. After all, Judge is familiar with exactly what the Giants are getting if they pick someone from Nick Saban’s system.
With 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, and an appearance in the national championship game coming up, Smith’s college numbers show that he’s ready to make an instant impact in the NFL. And with the Giants needing to turn the corner soon, such a receiver could be a crucial addition to their offense.
The New York Giants have been shut out of the 2020 NFL All-Pro team. This is now back-to-back years where the Giants have had zero All-Pro selections. Their last All-Pro selection came in 2018, with Saquon Barkley making the second team along with Aldrick Rosas.
No Giants made the All-Pro teams this year, despite having a number of worthy candidates. The Giants’ defense in particular saw numerous players put together standout seasons in the 2020-2021 regular season. Some Giants players received votes for the All-Pro teams, but no one received enough votes to actually earn a spot.
Who received votes?
Blake Martinez, Leonard Williams, James Bradberry, and Graham Gano all received votes for the 2020 All-Pro teams. Williams and Martinez received two votes each while Bradberry and Gano each received one vote.
Arguably the most confusing snub on the list of Giants snubs is cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants’ cornerback had a career-year and even made Pro Football Focus’s All-Pro team this season. Bradberry was second-team All-Pro via PFF, behind Jaire Alexander.
James Bradberry was phenomenal this season, totaling a combined 17 interceptions and pass breakups on the year, the third-most in the NFL. Bradberry was also selected to the Pro Bowl this year for the first time in his career. So he did receive some recognition, but one could argue that James deserves far more recognition than he is getting after seeing the 2020 All-Pro teams.
Leonard Williams also had a career-year in 2020, but he did not receive any recognition. Despite totaling a career-high 11.5 sacks and racking up an insane 62 pressures, Williams missed both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. Granted, there is a lot of strong competition amongst interior defensive linemen, but Big Cat had an elite season that should have seen him earn some recognition.
Graham Gano is another player that received no recognition, despite a phenomenal 2020 season. After missing all of 2019 with a hip injury, Gano came back strong with the Giants. Graham hit 30 straight field goals this year, a Giants record. He also missed just one kick (57-yards), making 31 of 32 attempts (97%). Gano was not selected to the Pro Bowl and only received one All-Pro vote, but he was truly dependable for the Giants this year.
Finally, Blake Martinez, one of the Giants’ biggest 2020 free-agent acquisitions, also received zero recognition from the league for his phenomenal season. Martinez totaled 151 combined tackles this season, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 0 touchdowns allowed in coverage. At the very least, Martinez should have made the Pro Bowl.
These Giants were snubbed but a good part of the reasoning why could be the team’s win-loss record. Finishing 6-10, the Giants were never a top team in the NFL. Many voters might have held the team’s lack of success against these individual players. Regardless, the Giants and their fans know the level of talent that these players possess. This All-Pro absence will only serve as motivation for these players as they look to build towards the 2021 season.
As the Buffalo Bills prepare for the postseason, five of their brightest start received All-Pro nominations.
The Buffalo Bills earned a bit of a morale boost as they prepare for their long-awaited AFC Wild Card matchup at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Five Buffalo representatives appeared on the NFL’s All-Pro teams, whose rosters were released on Friday. Stefon Diggs appeared on the first-team group, ending yet another dubious streak in Bills history, as he’s the first receiver to earn the honor in franchise history.
Diggs, 27, has proven to be well worth the four draft picks Buffalo sent west to obtain him from the Minnesota Vikings. Best known for his game-winning touchdown at the end of the 2018 NFC Divisional playoffs against New Orleans, Diggs set Buffalo records with 1,535 yards on 127 receptions, both of which led the league. He earned AFC Player of the Week honors for his Week 16 performance against New England, earning 145 yards and three scores on nine receptions.
Returning to the All-Pro list are returner Andre Roberts and cornerback Tre’Davious White, who were respective first-team members in 2018 and 2019. Roberts led the league with 30 yards per kick return and ranked seventh with a 9.9 average on punts. White is living up to a four-year, $70 million extension ($55 million guaranteed) bestowed to him in September and lived up to it with 57 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and three interceptions despite missing two games due to a back injury.
New to All-Pro lists are quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Cole Beasley, both second-teamers. Like Diggs, Allen spent this season rewriting the Bills’ record books, tallying 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air. Allen was responsible for 46 scores overall, picking up eight rushing tallies and one receiving through a trick play collaboration with John Brown. As for Beasley, he also set career-bests despite missing the last two games of the year with injuries of his own. The former Dallas Cowboy earned 967 yards on 82 receptions, four of which went for six.
This week I’ve gone through all of the men’s divisions in the UFC. From flyweight to heavyweight predicting who will walk out of 2021 with a title around their waste. Well, what about the women’s divisions?
Nunes reigns over the UFC‘s featherweight and bantamweight divisions. Shevchenko is the queen of the bantamweights while Weili Zhang is the champion at strawweight which is the best division in women’s MMA.
This year there plans to be a number of exciting female matchups in the UFC. As mentioned, the strawweight division is completely stacked and there is the potential of some super fights between champions in 2021.
The UFC is planning for a massive year in 2021 and the women figure to be a big part of that. The question then becomes, will any of the current champions lose their crowns in 2021?
UFC champions after 2021
Strawweight – Weili Zhang
In my opinion, the UFC champion that has the highest chance of losing in 2021 is Weili Zhang when it comes to the women. That’s not a knock on her at all, but it’s more of a testament to how good the strawweight division is.
That said, I believe that she will still be the UFC strawweight champion after 2021 is over. Weili only fought once in 2020 and it was the fight of the year. She defended her title against arguably the greatest strawweight of all time, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4).
At UFC 248, Weili showed me something we hadn’t seen from her yet. She showed that she can really dig down deep in a tough fight. Joanna pushed her to the limit, but Weili was game for five rounds and won a split decision.
Her first test of 2021 will likely come against Rose Namajunas (9-4). Thug Rose is the number one contender, but there have been hurdles in making the fight. Should it get made, I’m expecting another fantastic matchup.
However, in the end, I think that Weili Zhang is just the better fighter overall. If she loses in 2021, I really don’t believe it’ll be at strawweight. Her only loss would be if she moves up to take on the UFC’s flyweight champion.
Flyweight – Valentina Shevchenko
You can make the argument that the best female fighter in the UFC is Valentina Shevchenko. Of course as long as Amanda Nunes is the champ-champ, she will hold onto the number one spot in the pound-for-pound rankings.
However, you can make the argument that Shevchenko actually defeated Nunes the last time they fought at UFC 215. Nunes won by split decision in a fight that I actually scored for Shevchenko.
The reality is, there is no one at 125 pounds that I see posing a threat to Shevchenko. Her first title defense of 2021 will come against Jessica Andrade (21-8). The former strawweight champion made her flyweight debut with a bang in October.
She was able to stop Katlyn Chookagian in the first round with body shots. Andrade definitely has the power to make it interesting, however, I just don’t see her being able to hang with the overall skillset of Shevchenko.
Bantamweight & Featherweight – Amanda Nunes
This is another easy one. Outside of Valentina Shevchenko, who can really challenge Amanda Nunes in 2021? She’s defending her featherweight title against Megan Anderson (11-4) at UFC 259.
Anderson should give Nunes some interesting challenges given her height and range. However, does anyone really believe that Megan Anderson will be the one to dethrone Amanda Nunes?
Nunes is on another level from most of her competition. She is the greatest female fighter to ever live. Nunes holds two victories over Shevchenko, she’s knocked out Cris Cyborg, she’s knocked out Ronda Rousey, she’s knocked out Holly Holm, and I could go on.
It is truly something special to watch her compete inside the octagon. 2021 is going to be interesting in that I could see the UFC pairing Nunes and Shevchenko up a third time. The only way Nunes or Shevchenko lose in 2021 is if they fight each other.
Honestly, I don’t know how that fight would go. Of course you’d have to favor Nunes. However, Shevchenko has all the skill to be able to hang with her. It’s a superfight that I desperately want to see in 2021.
Michael Kay, known to the New York Yankees fans as the game caller for the New York Yankees, host of the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio and the YES Network, has lost it when it comes to the Yankee’s inaction this offseason. The Mets trade for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco finally caused Kay to criticize the Yankees. He seems equally as upset with LeMahieu as he is with the Yankees.
“Here’s the deal: I always felt a perfect Plan B if you didn’t sign DJ LeMahieu would be to pivot, get Francisco Lindor, move Gleyber Torres to second. Boom, you’ve improved your defense,” Kay said on his radio show, via NJ.com.
“I’ve always been very, very honest when people were saying, ‘Why aren’t they signing LeMahieu?’ I said, ‘Well, what’s the rush? The great (free agent) players are still out there. Trevor Bauer hasn’t signed. George Springer hasn’t signed. J.T. Realmuto hasn’t signed. And DJ hasn’t signed.’ Very slow-moving market. But if this slow-moving game of chicken that the Yankees and LeMahieu are playing with each other cost them the chance at Lindor, that’s a bad job.”
The Post’s Joel Sherman reported that the Yankees and LeMahieu were $25 million apart in contract negotiations in mid-December. The big sticking point is that the Yankees want three years for $75 million. Reportedly LeMahieu wants a five-year contract to protect his security through age 38, when he may retire. According to reports, the New York Yankees might be willing to go four years at $88 million, but it appears that at this point, LeMahieu won’t budge. Meanwhile, with glaring pitching needs, the Yankees sit on their hands, awaiting an outcome to the DJ deal.
“You can’t sit here until February and allow DJ LeMahieu to make a decision,” said Kay, who started his Thursday show an hour early to discuss the breaking Lindor news.
“And if you’re DJ LeMahieu, you can’t sit there and let the Yankees play their game. They both have to come together: ‘What’s your best offer for me right now?’ And if DJ’s agent said (to the Yankees), ‘The only way we’re going to get this done is five years’ when he knows he’ll take four … They have to come to a come-to-Jesus meeting and say exactly what the deal is because if all of this posturing cost you your plan B, not good.
“It’s at the point now where do it or get off the pot. ‘Are you going to sign with us or not? Are you going to make me an offer or not?’ Enough of the game.”
Michael Kay has to understand the Yankee fans and writers are just as frustrated by the stalemate as he is. The sad part of the whole situation is that the clock is ticking and many possible Yankee targets have already signed or been traded to other teams.
Eight events on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series docket will feature practice and qualifying, including the season-opening Daytona 500.
NASCAR confirmed on Friday that at least eight events at the Cup Series level will feature practice and qualifying.
These pre-race activities were previously eliminated last season to consolidate race weekends into a single-day after NASCAR became the first American sports league to make its return to action amidst the ongoing health crisis. Only one race since the return, the 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend, held qualifying to determine its race’s starting lineup, opting for mathematical formulas, random draws, or reversing the order of the top 20 in the previous race in all other cases.
The venues to hold practice and qualifying are mostly tracks that are new to the Cup Series circuit this year, including Circuit of the Americas (scheduled for May 23), Nashville Superspeedway (June 20), Road America (July 4), and Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course (August 15). Last season saw one new track added to the circuit without practice or qualifying, the road course at Daytona in August. The race was held without a major incident, with future Cup Series champion Chase Elliott taking home the win.
Practice and qualifying will also be held at high-profile events like the season-opening Daytona 500 (February 14), the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (May 30), and the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway (November 7). There will also be pre-race stagings at the spring event at Bristol Motor Speedway (March 28) which will be run on dirt for the first time.
Several drivers noted their comfort with the lack of qualifying and practice during the season, either through its practicality or convenience.
“We’ve been so good with it the rest of the season that it’s become the new normal, and I’m cool with that. I’m just ready to go,” Brad Keselowski, one of the final four drivers up for the 2020 Cup Series title, said in November. “It feels so old school to me. It feels like when we just started racing and you would just show up at your local short track Saturday at lunchtime and there would be a race at 5:00 or 7:00 at night or heat race and then a feature race and that was it, and then you loaded up and you were home by 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. It’s so much like that now.”
“I love everything that we’re doing right now,” Kevin Harvick added in August after a win at Michigan. “The shorter schedules, I think it mixes it up. I think it makes it exciting.”
Times and dates will these qualifying/practice sessions will be announced further down the line, as will the plans for any pre-race activities for NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series events.
Major League Baseball lost one of its icon MLB managers last night when Tommy Lasorda passed away. Lasorda was manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 21 years. Lasorda was recently hospitalized for an undisclosed illness that some believe was the coronavirus. Just three days ago, the Dodgers reported that Lasorda has been released from the hospital and was resting comfortably at his home.
Lasorda had a record of 1,599-1,439 while managing the Dodgers from 1976-96, guiding them to World Series championships in 1981 and ’88. The franchise won four National League pennants and eight division titles under Lasorda. The beloved manager was last seen in public on Oct. 27 in Texas during game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Dodgers won the World Series for the first time since 1988.
The 93-year-old Lasada was an icon with the Dodgers and an ambassador for the team and all of MLB. Everyone, even opponents, loved him. He had a heart attack in June 1996 and retired from managing the Dodgers the following month. In 2000, Lasorda managed the U.S. Olympic baseball team to a gold medal at the Sydney Games. Lasorda was also hospitalized in 2012 in New York after having a heart attack.
The ever-popular Tommy Lasorda was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. He was, before his death, the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame.
A Buffalo Bills postseason legend returns to Orchard Park on Sunday. But Frank Reich won’t receive a warm welcome.
If anyone knows what it’s like to be underestimated in the NFL playoffs, it’s Frank Reich.
Reich is best known for engineering perhaps the greatest comeback in football history, leading the Buffalo Bills back from 32 points down to top the Houston Oilers in the 1992-93 AFC Wild Card playoffs. The Bills were underdogs when Reich had to start the following weekend against Pittsburgh, but he scored two touchdowns in a 24-3 triumph. Reich’s long-awated Super Bowl title came when he was the offensive coordinator of the star-crossed Philadelphia Eagles…underdogs to the mighty New England Patriots in the game’s 52nd edition. Reich’s unit became the eighth team in Super Bowl history to put up at least 40 points in the 41-33 triumph. Surely there were some Bills fans that appreciated the fact that the veteran Buffalo thrower finally got a ring…and that it came against the hated Patriots.
A similar situation awaits Reich on Saturday afternoon. This time, though, no one in Western New York is going to be celebrating if Reich leaves the area with a victory.
Reich returns to Bills Stadium as the opposing head coach in Buffalo’s first playoff game in Orchard Park since December 1996. The Bills battle Reich’s Indianapolis Colts in the modern AFC Wild Card playoffs, officially kicking off the 2021 postseason on Saturday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
Obviously, Reich is business-focused as the Colts prepare to make their arrival. But it’s hard to deny the significance and irony of a former Bills postseason hero potentially spoiling a long-awaited party that will be open to just over 6,000 members of Bills Mafia (though Governor Andrew Cuomo will no longer be one).
“This is a business trip,” Reich said of Saturday’s showdown, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “Fortunately, I have been back to Buffalo a few times since (leaving in 1994) as a player and as a coach. I feel like I’ve gotten all of that out of my system. Love Buffalo, will always love Buffalo, will always be a Bills fan, except for this Saturday for sure.”
Bills fans more than likely hope that Reich’s latest visit ends like the one he made in November 1996, just over a month before they fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their most recent playoff staging at what was then known as Rich Stadium. Reich threw three interceptions as he and the one-win Jets fell in a one-sided 35-10 defeat to Buffalo. More recently, Reich holds the current bragging rights in the series, with his Colts dominating a 37-5 decision at Lucas Oil Stadium in October 2018.
Even if Reich is unwilling to give in to nostalgics, his impact is recognized by those who came after him in the Bills’ quarterback room.
“It’s a cool moment with coach Reich and what he meant here in Buffalo,” quarterback Josh Allen told Maiorana. “I saw his press conference on coming back and you know he was excited that we won on Sunday, but he’s not gonna be a fan of the Bills when he comes into town this time. The fans obviously love him and what he’s been able to do here so that’s a cool story in itself.”
A good part of Reich’s NFL story is written in blue and red ink. He was drafted by the Bills in the third round of the 1985 draft out of Maryland, spending a decade as Jim Kelly’s backup before he served as a mentor and fill-in thrower in Carolina, New York, and Detroit. Such a career made him ideal in a coach’s spot, and his career with a headset has come full circle. He was an offensive assistant for four years with the Colts (2008-11) before other deputy positions in Arizona and San Diego before his championship dream was finally fulfilled with the Eagles. Reich accepted his first head coaching job shortly after with the Colts. Philadelphia hasn’t reached 10 wins since his departure.
Reich’s tenure has been about stabilizing a franchise that could’ve been set back years by the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. The Colts won 10 games and a Wild Card contest during Reich and Luck’s one season of collaborating, but Luck’s departure during the ensuing preseason was a roadblock that could’ve set the franchise back several seasons.
But Reich made due with a fate that dealt him a Luck-free future, driving the Colts to a respectable seven-win season that fell two games short of the playoffs. With the addition of an experienced placeholder quarterback (Phillip Rivers) and the emergence of a day-two gem at the draft (Jonathan Taylor), the Colts won 11 games for the first time since 2014 and captured the final AFC Wild Card spot, leading to Reich’s date with destiny.
Even Reich’s most recent playoff clinch was sprinkled with a healthy dose of Buffalo-based irony: the Bills’ dominant 56-26 win over Miami during Sunday’s early window put the Colts in a win-and-in situation for their late afternoon game against Jacksonville. Indianapolis’ 28-14 triumph clinched the spot on the 28th anniversary of Reich’s dramatic comeback against Houston. Reich would later insist that he was unaware of the coincidence until the day before the game.
“Us coaches, we don’t know what day of the week it is or what the date is, we just know when we play and what the practice schedule is,” he remarked in Maiorana’s report. “It actually wasn’t until I was doing the production meeting with the TV crew and someone mentioned that did the thought even cross my mind.”
In preparing for the Bills, Reich was more willing to focus on the current incarnation of Buffalo’s gridiron endeavors. In another report from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com, Reich referred to them as “one of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team in the NFL” and to head coach Sean McDermott as “one of the (most) respected coaches in this league”.
First, let me say that if the New York Yankees can finally re-sign DJ LeMahieu, this story will be irrelevant because they, at that point, will not take on Trevor Story’s $18 million contract. Should the Yankees not sign DJ, it would free up money for a tremendous upgrade at shortstop. The Yankees have had success with Colorado Rockies players in the past, particularly and most recently DJ LeMahieu.
The Colorado Rockies have made it known that they will listen for offers from both Story and third baseman Nolan Arenado. Other than Story’s large contract, he will become a free agent after the 2022 season. For the Yankees to acquire the talented shortstop, they will have to give up something they don’t want to give up. The Yankees might have to give up a Clarke Schmidt, Adam Ottavino, the most underrated prospect for the Yankees Antony Volpe, or some combination of the three. The Yankees have no use for Arenado.
The Athletic’s Jim Bowden named Volpe one of the most underrated prospects in baseball with this statement:
“Volpe can flat-out hit with a short, compact swing, loud sweet-spot contact, above-average exit velocity and the ability to hit line drives from foul pole to foul pole. He can hit high velocity, breaking balls and off-speed pitches as well as any teenager in the minor leagues. Defensively, he’s an above-average defender with plus range to both sides, soft hands, good first-step quickness and an average quick-release arm from the hole. He’s an above-average base runner and has a chance to be the next long-term shortstop for the Yankees. He could also end up being a top prospect included in a blockbuster trade for a star player like Trevor Story or Nolan Arenado if the Yankees decide to go that route.”
So why would the Yankees want to make this trade? It’s pretty simple, without LeMahieu, the Yankees will need a second baseman, and Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada just won’t cut it and would be a tremendous downgrade from DJ. The obvious answer is to move Gleyber Torres to his natural position at second base, leaving a hole at short. Trevor Story could fill that position with excellent defense and with a hot bat. The New York Mets just upgraded their shortstop with Francisco Lindor; many compare Story to Lindor, who is generally regarded as the best shortstop in baseball.
Trevor Story is one of the few players that had an excellent campaign during the 2020 shortened season. He hit 11 home runs and had a batting average of .289 in 59 games played. Story also would not have to be an injury concern for the Yankees as he has played in at least 145 games per season in his last four seasons. So the Yankees would get a Silver Slugger player that stays on the field, hits for contact and power while providing All-Star quality defense at shortstop.
As I said, the New York Yankees won’t make this trade if they sign LeMahieu, but if they can’t, this is one trade they should at least kick the tires on.
The New York Mets made the statement of the year (so far) on Thursday, trading four players to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Francisco Lindor, an All-Star shortstop, and pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Despite the considerable additions to the payroll that both players represent, the New York Mets still aren’t done building their roster towards the 2021 season. So far, they have filled their starting catcher position with James McCann, brought a top reliever in Trevor May, and traded for Lindor and Carrasco. But they still could use a center fielder.
Thankfully for Mets’ fans, the Lindor and Carrasco blockbuster doesn’t mean anything regarding the pursuit of George Springer. The 31-year-old center fielder is still a target according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
Springer is perhaps the top offensive player available, along with catcher JT Realmuto. The former Houston Astro hit .265/.359/.540 (140 OPS+) with 13 homers in 222 plate appearances last season, with good defense. He was also spectacular in 2019, setting career highs in average, OBP, slugging, OPS+, WAR, home runs and RBI according to CBS Sports.
Another good center field option for the Mets: JBJ
JBJ, who has played his whole career with the Boston Red Sox to this point, is the second best center fielder on the free agent market. He is seen as a defensive wizard in center field, even moreso than Springer. He had a 118 OPS+ and 5 defensive runs saved in 2020.
With Springer said to be looking for at least $175 million this offseason, it is possible the Mets pivot to Bradley jr. He is not nearly as good with the bat as Springer, but wouldn’t cost as much and is a superior defensive player. Either way, the offseason is far from over for the hungry New York Mets.