New York Giants: Mel Kiper now sees Big Blue taking Jaylen Waddle at 11

New York Giants, Jaylen Waddle

The New York Giants need to add playmakers to the offense. But no one is quite sure yet how they’re going to go about it. They hold the number eleven pick in the draft, but there’s no guarantee the player they want is available. Even if there are high level players available, it’s also unknown if the Giants want to take a receiver or add further depth at tight end with Kyle Pitts.

According to Mel Kiper Jr., however, the Giants going receiver and taking Jaylen Waddle is the safest prediction. Waddle is, of course, the second biggest name coming out of Alabama at the position next to DeVonta Smith. But with Smith being one of the first receivers projected off the board, there’s a higher chance of Waddle being available by pick number eleven.

Can the Giants get Daniel Jones a No. 1 receiver? He has had Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram as his top targets the past two seasons, and they’ve struggled with inconsistency and staying on the field. Now is the time to get a full evaluation of Jones. If they don’t wade into the free-agent waters, Waddle is the best option at No. 11. He is the top deep threat in this class and is electric with the ball in his hands.

Interestingly, Kiper sees Pitts flying off the draft board to the Jets as one of the highest drafted tight ends ever, and DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase becoming high end draft picks too. With all of those players off the board, it would make a lot of sense for the Giants to take Waddle.

A player held back by injury

Waddle looks like a better prospect than his raw statistics might indicate. Last season, he played in six games and had 28 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. However, he was supposed to do more than that. He went out with a bad ankle injury and this prevented him from being able to add to his accomplishments in his final college season.

Even if Waddle’s injury pushes him down to number eleven, it’s important to realize the Giants would still be getting one of the top receivers from one of the most talented teams in the country. And if Waddle had been able to play a full season, his performance may very well have boosted him above other prospects to a higher draft value.

If most of the other top playmakers are off the board, it might come down to the Giants either taking Waddle or a defensive prospect like Gregory Rousseau – but with the offense struggling more than the defense last year, it’s hard to imagine the Giants not trying to address that through the draft.

Royal Beating: Knicks pounce on Kings, move up to 5th spot

new york knicks, immanuel quickley, obi toppin

Derrick Rose bloomed again as a starter. Immanuel Quickley regained his swagger. Alec Burks was a killer in the fourth quarter.

The backcourt trio took turns in presiding over the New York Knicks‘ royal beating of the Sacramento Kings, 140-121, on Thursday night in front of a limited but loud and animated home crowd.

The 2,000 fans who showed up had so much fun as the Knicks threw a party that rocked The Garden.

They serenaded Julius Randle and Quickley with M-V-P chants and went nuts when Frank Ntilikina, who hadn’t played since Dec. 29 last year, was finally unleashed from the doghouse.

Ntilikina was solid off the bench, collecting seven points, two assists, and three steals, and was tied for the second-highest net rating among the Knicks with +17.

But it was Rose who opened up the party with fireworks.

Rose replaced Elfrid Payton, who was out with a hamstring injury, in the starting lineup and instantly boosted the league’s worst offense. The former MVP hit his first seven shots en route to his most impressive outing — 18 points and six assists — since the trade.

With Rose’s promotion, Quickley was handed down the keys to the second unit offense, and the rookie guard snapped out of his slump.

After a dreadful three-game stretch where he shot 3-for-22 overall, Quickley scored 18 points in just 10 minutes in the opening half as the Knicks opened up a 77-62 lead.

The Kings, however, refused to hand the win on a silver platter and came within seven in the fourth quarter. That’s when Burks caught fire as the veteran guard scored 19 of his 24 points.

Burks and Quickley combined for 49 points off the bench, outscoring the entire Kings’ second unit, who put up 33.

Six players scored in double figures for the Knicks, led by Quickley’s 25 points.

“That’s the great part about this team,” Quickley said. “Whoever’s night it is, we roll with them. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other’s success. That’s what makes this journey so special. This team is so special.”

On nights like this, they indeed look special on the court.

Quickley had his third 25-point game on just 10 shots. It was his fourth game with at least 25 points leading all rookies. He went perfect from the line (12-12) and added three assists and two steals.

Randle, the newly-minted NBA All-Star, took the backseat but still came away with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. He shot 50 percent from the field.

The Knicks, who entered the game averaging a league-worst 103.6 points, already had 101 against the league’s worst defense by the end of the third quarter. They dropped their highest scoring total in almost two years on season-highs 58.6 percent shooting and 19-of-36 three-pointers.

“Offensively, when we share the ball and make the right plays, I’m very confident in our shooting ability,” Tom Thibodeau said.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings, who slumped to their ninth straight loss, with 29 points and 11 assists.

The Knicks moved up to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Toronto Raptors with a 16-17 record. They have another chance to reach .500 when they take on the Indiana Pacers on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at The Garden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Quinnen Williams would be “disappointed” if dealt from the New York Jets

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

After a breakout season in the midst of a brutal year for the New York Jets, Quinnen Williams wants to stick around for the long haul.

Armchair general managers of the New York Jets have routinely shipped off Quinnen Williams in hypothetical trades that often end with Deshaun Watson…or, after Thursday, Russell Wilson…wearing green (or, at least in Wilson’s case, a different shade of it).

But Williams made it clear this week that he would be the first to veto such a trade.

Appearing on The Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio, Williams expressed his wishes to keep wearing a Jets helmet after his breakout sophomore season.

“I’d be disappointed…I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York,” Williams told Gelb. He referred to Watson as an elite quarterback but reiterated his desire to play in Robert Saleh’s defense. Williams was one of the first players to praise the hire of Williams, joining his former San Francisco pupil Richard Sherman. The Jets’ top pick in the 2019 draft (third overall) understands a potential trade is a business decision out of his hands. But the praise for Saleh continued on Gelb’s program.

“I just handle what I can handle, just control what I can control. Just go out and work hard as I can for any team that I’m on. Hopefully, it’s the Jets so I can play with Coach (Robert) Saleh, but any team I’m on, I just work my hardest so that when that comes around I can be the best player I can be.”

“To get the chance to see that scheme and that front four and just the different things Coach Saleh brought to that defense, I can’t wait to get around him and pick his brain and get him to bring that to the New York Jets,” he continued. “You can tell he brings passion to the game, passion to where he’s coaching, just passion…You have to bring passion, you got to bring love and dedication to your job. So you could see he brings all of that into coaching.”

This isn’t the first time Williams has found himself in the middle of speculation. His name was previously the subject of rumors during the 2019 trade deadline, but the Jets opted to stand pat. Their patience paid off. In the midst of a brutal 2-14 season, Williams established himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in football. He led the Jets with seven sacks and ten tackles for a loss.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR: Three drivers in need of a strong run this weekend at Homestead-Miami

Through two races in the 2021 Cup Series season, we’ve seen some of NASCAR‘s top drivers have a mixed bag of results thus far. Denny Hamlin sits first in points after two top-5s to start the year, while Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick are right behind him.

However, there are a handful of drivers who have gotten off to brutal starts this year. Headlined by wrecks, Matt Dibenedetto, Tyler Reddick, and William Byron are already in a giant points hole and have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs. All three drivers need strong runs this weekend at Homestead-Miami to begin their points comeback.

Matt DiBenedetto

DiBenedetto has gotten off to a terrible start in 2021, getting caught up in wrecks during both the Daytona 500 and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 Road Course race. He’s received just five points all season and sits 37th in points.

Homestead hasn’t ever been a great track for DiBenedetto, but he’s only raced there once in good equipment. He finished 14th there last season but has otherwise never placed in the top-20. This weekend’s a great time for DiBenedetto to finally get a top-10 in South Beach.

Tyler Reddick

Reddick, like DiBenedetto, has wrecked in both races to start 2021. A 27th place in the Daytona 500 and a 38th place finish at the Daytona Road Course puts him 33rd in points heading to Homestead-Miami.

This race is definitely one of the events that Reddick has had circled on the calendar for this season. Homestead-Miami is one of Reddick’s best tracks and a place where he could contend for the win. Reddick finished fourth in Homestead last year and won the Xfinity Series race there in both 2018 and 2019. Expect Reddick to run up front all day and collect a lot of stage points.

William Byron

Byron has had tough sledding to start 2021, wrecking in the Daytona 500 and finishing a lap down on the Road Course. 26th and 33rd place finishes have him 29th in points and well outside the playoff line.

In three Cup Series starts at Homestead, Byron has one top-10 and two finishes outside the top-20. He does, however, have a win in South Beach in the Camping World Truck Series and a top-5 in the Xfinity Series. Expect Byron to run up front and contend for the win and stage points.

 

New York Islanders: Revisiting the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Islanders

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the New York Islanders trading for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. This trade may go down as one of the biggest highway robberies ever committed by any NHL team ever. Pageau has not only been a top performer on the Islanders, but he’s also one of the most annoying players to play against in the league. Pageau does it all, he’s on the penalty kill, he can dangle through 3 defenders, he can snipe in the toy department. It’s almost like having Mat Barzal, Casey Cizikas, and Brock Nelson combine into one complete center. No, I’m not saying that Pageau is the Islanders’ best or most complete center, but he has been undeniably great. What is Pageau’s impact? And what did the Islanders give away for him?

Pageau’s Impact

The New York Islanders had a huge problem last year and going into this year. They couldn’t score goals, and they had no money to get someone to do it. Enter Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who scores some of the best goals I’ve ever seen. It seems that he can score from almost anywhere. Currently, Pageau is tied for 2nd in points with 11 and tied 2nd in goals with 7. The fact that Pageau continues to play at the top of his game with new linemates every other game is something no other player an do. Not only can he score, but he’s insanely reliable on the faceoff. Pageau currently ranks 13th in the league in faceoff percentage with a 57.4% win rate. That’s why you see him double shift at the end of games and when the fourth line is out there late in the game.

What did the Islanders Trade Away?

The Islanders traded away their first and second-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft. They also had a conditional third going to the Senators if the Isles won the Stanley Cup. These picks ended up being late-round picks. I’m not going to say that good teams should trade away their first-rounders every year. But, if you are truly committed to the win now, you should definitely look into trading one or two of them. To put it simple, what did the first-rounder do in the NHL that the player you traded for hasn’t? The answer, nothing cause they haven’t played yet.

UFC books Andrea Lee – Antonina Shevchenko

The UFC is putting together a women’s flyweight showcase on in the month of May. MMA Junkie was the first to report that the promotion has finalized a flyweight matchup between top 15 contenders, Andrea Lee (11-5) and Antonina Shevchenko (9-2).

The matchup will take place at the UFC‘s Fight Night on May 15th. Worth noting that this is the second matchup of top fifteen flyweights on this card. Last week, it was announced that top ten contenders, Katlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo would also be meeting on the May 15th card.

On top of these announcements, we also learned yesterday that at UFC 261 in April, Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against Jessica Andrade. This is looking like it will be a pivotal few week’s for the women’s flyweight division.

Antonina Shevchenko is the older sister of the UFC‘s flyweight champion. She will be making the walk for the sixth time with the promotion and she’s 3-2 so far. Her only two losses came against top ten contenders, Roxanne Modafferi and Katlyn Chookagian.

Both of those fights showed an area of weakness for Shevchenko. That weakness was her ground game. Shevchenko is a former Muay Thai world champion, but her ground game has needed work. However, at UFC 255 she showed a lot of improvement on her way to getting a TKO over Ariane Lipski.

UFC flyweight matchup

Standing across from Shevchenko on May 15th will be KGB, Andrea Lee. There was a lot of hype surrounding Lee just a couple of years ago. At one point, Lee was 11-2 and looked like she was knocking on the door of a UFC title shot.

However, that is where things have taken a turn. Lee suffered back-to-back split decision losses to JoJo Calderwood and Lauren Murphy. After those two losses, Lee dropped another decision to Roxanne Modafferi.

While there’s no shame in losing to any of those top ten contenders, it showed that Andrea was no where ready for a UFC title shot. Having lost three fights in a row, this is a massive fight for Andrea Lee. If she’s able to knock off Antonina Shevchenko, it could be the start of a run back up the rankings. Should be a good one in May.

JD Davis shrugs off the rumors and is happy to be a member of the Mets

The New York Mets, according to some, have a glaring hole at third base and needed to go after Justin Turner (who ended up re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers) or Kris Bryant via trade. However, that is not the case.

Sure, JD Davis is not a good defensive third baseman. After all, the Mets’ slugger had a -8 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) mark in 2020 and wasn’t much better in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) or Outs Above Average (OAA.)

However, what he does carry is offensive potential. Last season, even after slashing an ugly .247/.371/.389 line, he had an above-average 116 wRC+. Most of his struggles hitting for power stem from the fact that his GB% increased from 47.0 in 2019 to 56.3 in 2020. You won’t hit many homers if you don’t lift the ball.

Thankfully, the Mets will have hitting coach Chili Davis available this time. Last season, he opted not to be with the team because of COVID-19.

The Davises worked together over the offseason to correct some issues in JD’s swing, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reported today.

Davis says he is not really a social media guy, but at some point, the rumors had to be hard to ignore.

The Mets’ plans for him

Although Mets’ manager Luis Rojas talked about Davis’ versatility and the possibility of him playing some outfield, general manager Zack Scott said the organization is “comfortable” entering the season with him at the top of the third base depth chart.

“I think it’s actually pretty cool to be in a package deal with Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman and Kris Bryant,” Davis said on Wednesday, shrugging off the rumors. “It says a lot where I’ve come from as a player, so it is what it is. I have full confidence in my capability. I’m a Major Leaguer, and I’m a big leaguer, and I know that, and I’m going to stand behind that. And I love these guys. I love this organization. … Am I happy to be a Met? Absolutely.”

It’s not easy to forget that Davis slugged 22 homers on his way to a .307/.369/.527 slash line over 453 plate appearances. The fact that he knows that he will play mostly third base for the Mets also helps.

“It’s huge when you go into a Spring Training where you know what position you’re going to play, or the majority of where you’re going to play,” he said.

All in all, the Mets are hoping for a big bounceback season from Davis.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Aaron Judge’s new smile, Yankees react to German’s apology, and more

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees‘ Aaron Judge showed up for an interview yesterday sporting a new smile. It looks like he’s had some dental work done. His smile now is broad and without the gap between his two front teeth.  Aaron Judge has always had an infectious smile, but not it’s perfect. This is not the first time Judge has had dental work done. In celebrating a game-winning home run by Brett Gardner in 2017, he was hit in the teeth by a flying helmet that chipped his tooth.

“It got me pretty good,” Judge said at the time. “It kind of shocked me at first. I thought both my teeth got knocked in. I just tried to cover it up as fast as I can and get out of there.”

Judge has certainly had his share of injuries in the past two years. Last season he only played in half the games and only garnered up a .257 batting average. Judge started the season on fire, hitting 9 home runs in just the first eighteen games. Upon returning to the team, he didn’t hit another home run for the rest of the regular season. This is an important year for the 28-year-old, who will try to stay healthy with a looming contract extension a possibility. He was asked about an extension but said there had been no meaningful discussions between him and the Yankees. At least now he can talk about it with a newly aligned smile.

Yankee players and Boone react to German’s apology

By now, we all know about Domingo German’s altercation with the mother of his child and the resulting 81 game suspension. After talks with management, he has been allowed back with the team, and previous to the recent revelations of the severity of his actions was to be the fifth in line in the New York Yankees starting rotation.

German took to Zoom to apologize to the New York Yankee organization, fans, and fellow players in a sincere play to repair his reputation. Players like Zack Britton were not impressed. But Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, and manager Boone himself came out in support of the pitcher.

“We have his back, but he’s skating on thin ice and he needs to get his life together.” For good measure, Voit added: “He messed up. A lot of guys look at him differently now, but I believe in second chances, and the guy deserves a second chance.”

“In the clubhouse, we all have difficult things go on, some a lot worse than others. But it’s our job to support in the right way when given the opportunity.” said Stanton.

“He has done enough to earn the opportunity to be here and compete and to be a part of this team,” manager Aaron Boone said of German. “Now the proof is in the daily life that he leads.

Gerrit Cole wants to try out the new baseball

Cole said he’s been unable to see if the balls being used this season will be any different than in years past. MLB earlier announced that a new ball would be used this season. MLB tried to make the baseball less bouncy. When the baseball is changed even minutely, it acts differently. Cole has been trying to get a straight answer if the balls he has used since training camp started were old balls or new ones. Because of changes in the ball, reportedly, there will be fewer home runs this season.

“I’ve been trying to get my hands on balls here [in camp] and no one can tell me if we’re using the balls from this year or last year,’’ Cole said. “I’m happy there was an [admission] there’s been some tinkering. All players have known it the last three or four years, at least. It’s another look behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz and smoke and mirrors. Let’s be a little more honest about that kind of stuff.”

Edson Barboza inks a new deal with the UFC

Edson Barboza

One of the more exciting strikers in the UFC isn’t going anywhere. Today, MMA Fighting was the first to report that Edson Barboza (21-9) has inked a new deal with the promotion that he’s called home for more than ten years.

According to Barboza’s management, the new deal is a multiple fight deal that will likely keep him in the UFC for the rest of his career. Barboza had one fight left on his current contract, but the UFC was able to renew the deal before Barboza hit the open market.

Earlier this month, Barboza had expressed his frustrations with the promotion. He’s been waiting to fight for months and there’s been nothing on the table. The 35 year old has been in a state of limbo over the past few months.

Last year, Barboza dropped down to the UFC‘s featherweight division after spending his career at lightweight. He felt that this would be the best move for his career and it would lead to a world title.

However, Barboza dropped his first fight to Dan Ige by split decision. He did bounce back in October to pick up his first win at 145 pounds. Barboza is currently 14th in the UFC‘s featherweight rankings and with a new deal in hand, Barboza is anxious to get back to work.

What’s next for Barboza in the UFC?

Now that the contract situation is figured out, the question becomes, who will Barboza face? The UFC is currently exploring options for his next fight and Barboza is getting anxious to get back into the octagon.

There have been a couple of names that have been thrown out there that I’m a fan of. One of those names is Jeremy Stephens (28-18, 1 NC). Stephens is just 0-4, 1 NC in his last five fights, however, he’s still ranked eighth in the featherweight division.

The UFC attempted to make this fight in 2020, however, Stephens had to pull out of the fight. The promotion still likes this fight and it’s certainly a possibility. Another name I’ve seen thrown out there is Shane Burgos (13-2).

Burgos had an incredible fight against Josh Emmett back in June. Ultimately, Burgos came up short, but he didn’t really lose any steam despite the loss. The only two men who have defeated Burgos are Emmett and Calvin Kattar.

Burgos and Barboza are in similar positions in terms of the UFC rankings. This would be another fun matchup for fight fans. Given the new contract and Barboza’s urgency to fight, I would expect a fight announcement sooner than later.

Is it time to retire the “Potvin Sucks” chant from the Islanders-Rangers rivalry?

For the last 42 years, there’s been a chant that has brought together and divided Islanders and Rangers fans — “Potvin Sucks”. Generations of supporters on both sides have heard that chant rang through Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, Barclays Center and the Coliseum again.

There’s always been a hot debate even for decades later about the play that started the iconic saying, which was Isles Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin taking out Blueshirts forward Ulf Nilsson’s knee. But as the years continue to pass by, many fans on both sides — more so from the Rangers — think the chant has lived past its due date.

And now with the two teams having played three times in this COVID-stricken season without either sides fans in the building, has the time come to put the chant to bed.

Blueshirts fans have used the chant at home games even when they aren’t playing the Islanders, which some don’t find necessary. Adam Bernstein, who goes by @bizzarospeak on Twitter, said “Yes, it’s completely overused. It needs to be saved only for Rangers-Islanders games only, maybe like twice a game.”

Jerry Silver, a longtime fan of the Rangers said he hates the chant and that, “Nothing would annoy me more then being in the Garden during a tight game in the 3rd and this stupid chant pops up.” Ryan Paulsen, an Isles fan but with several friends who root for the Rangers, said “As my Ranger season-ticket owning work friends regularly says “Anyone who tries to suggest anything other than the fact that the last thing that Denis Potvin did was ‘suck,’ knows absolutely nothing about the game of hockey.”

Islanders fans have a bit of a difference take.

Alex Lupo (alupo8897 on Twitter) commented by saying, “At this point they are just keeping the legend of Denis Potvin alive which is nice.” Michal Anderson, who is a fellow Islanders blogger, feels the chant should keep going.

“It’s the sign of a true rivalry that decades later they still hate the guy,” he tweeted.

A few other Isles fans find the war cry amusing to still hear. From Vincent Parricone (@VPerricone92), “As an Isles fan it’s funny to me that this fan base would want to continuously bring up a player that had more cups than their entire franchise through essentially 10 seasons. But that’s just me!” And this from Alec Rubenstein (alec_rubenstein), “Nah, Rangers chanting Potvin Sucks just means we will always own real estate in their minds.”

Another Isles supporter had a rational take on the current state of the chant. “When the fan base is transitioning to a group of people who weren’t around for when Potvin played, then yes it should,” said Sammy Smith on Twitter.

Both parties have strong arguments. As for me, I feel this season should be the chants’ last hurrah.

The Islanders are going to be moving into a new building for next season (UBS Arena) and my feeling is that the slogan won’t have the same luster as its had when the two teams have met at the Coliseum over the last number of decades. Even when fans from both sides are back — and there will be both in Nassau Coliseum later this season when the two teams faceoff now that arenas in the area are allowed 10% capacity — the atmosphere still won’t be what it was, neither will the chant.

The “Potvin Sucks” argument still invokes great emotion from those who were a part of it and those who witnessed it and the aftermath that came from it. A lot of those same people have admitted it was a clean hit, but that it’s the chant which makes the rivalry between the Isles and Rangers still special.

The question remains though when the unique chant will finally reach its demise.

Is it time for the “Potvin Sucks” chant to be retired?