New York Giants could target physical James Bradberry replacement in second round

It seems inevitable at this point that the New York Giants will be moving on from Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry. According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, the Giants are “desperate” to move Bradberry. So desperate, in fact, that they are willing to take on a portion of his salary in any trade that could be made. But of course, trading James Bradberry means trading away one of the best and most talented players on the Giants’ roster. This is a hole the team would need to fill in the 2022 NFL Draft. Could Florida cornerback prospect Kaiir Elam fill that void in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft?

The Giants have two top-ten picks in the first round of this year’s draft. There is some buzz that the Giants are interested in using one of those picks on top cornerback prospect Ahmad Gardner. But if the Giants opt to go offensive line and pass-rusher in the first round, they could look to bolster their secondary in round two.

What could Kaiir Elam bring to the New York Giants?

New defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale runs a fast-paced, physical defensive scheme. He likes his linebackers to be enforcers in the running game, his edge rushers to be active pass-rushers, and his cornerbacks to be physical in press-man. Kaiir Elam out of Florida is an uber-physical cornerback prospect that could fall in the Giants’ lap in round two.

Kaiir Elam ranks 39th overall on The Draft Network’s 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings. He also ranks 29th on Pro Football Focus’s Big Board. Elam is a 6-foot-2, 191-pound cornerback. He plays physical in coverage and stood out against some of the best schools in the SEC.

Kaiir Elam allowed 19 catches from 36 targets for 191 yards last season. He has that size/length combo that NFL teams drool over, along with a competitive attitude that seems bound to pay off in the pros. The Giants would be able to fit Elam perfectly in their new man-heavy defensive scheme.

If Elam has somewhere to improve, though, it would be his tendency to get grabby in coverage. Kaiir conceded seven penalties in 2021. This is something that a good coach can fix, though. NFL coaches will see past his penalties and appreciate the physicality with which Kaiir Elam plays. If the New York Giants do indeed trade James Bradberry, Kaiir Elam seems like a perfect replacement in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Paige VanZant headlines BKFC London in July

Paige VanZant

This year is expected to be a big year for BKFC. The promotion’s president David Feldman has already announced that Triller has purchased a majority stake in the promotion and they are expected to host more events than ever before this year.

In addition to hosting more events, BKFC is wanting to have some international showcases. They have had their eyes on Dublin and London as two places that they really wanted to host big events.

Well, the promotion has announced that they are heading to London in July. On July 9th, BKFC will host their first event in London and they are bringing one of their biggest stars for the main event.

David Feldman announced that Paige VanZant (0-2 BKFC) will be headlining the event in July. It’s worth noting that this fight will be the final fight on PVZ’s Bare Knuckle contract.

PVZ’s BKFC Run

In 2020, BKFC went all out on the free agent market when they signed Paige VanZant. The UFC veteran who had become even more popular online was one of the biggest free agents in MMA and in boxing. Bellator also tried hard for PVZ, but BKFC came forward with a huge offer.

The goal was to have PVZ lead Bare Knuckle into the main stream. However, the desired result hasn’t come to fruition. VanZant has lost both of her Bare Knuckle fights and neither did particularly well on PPV in terms of buy rates.

The deal that VanZant signed was for three fights and by all indications, this will be her final fight in BKFC. PVZ relied a lot on her kicks and grappling in the UFC which made the Bare Knuckle decision perplexing at the time. This was strictly a money-move that both sides were hoping would pan out.

VanZant has expressed interest in returning to MMA, but her primary focus is on professional wrestling. VanZant has recently signed a wrestling contract with AEW and is planning on focusing on that full time after this fight in July.

She’s already made several appearances for AEW. Now, there is no opponent yet for the July fight, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they try to give her an easy opponent to let her go out on a win. If she goes 0-3 in BKFC with little promotional growth, it’ll go down as one of the worst signings in MMA free agency history.

Evan Fournier breaks John Starks’ 3-pt record: Will it be enough for Knicks to keep him?

It was pretty clear for Evan Fournier during the free agency that the New York Knicks would be his next team. But little did he know that he would make his mark on his new team right in his first season.

On Wednesday, Fournier shattered a 27-year old franchise record when he hit his 218th three-pointer of the season. He surpassed John Starks, a Knicks legend he hasn’t met personally.

To his surprise, it was Starks on the screen, congratulating him for breaking his record.

“Hey Evan, this is John Starks. I just want to say congratulations on breaking my record, holding down the Knicks’ most three-pointers in a season. Congratulations, my man! Keep shooting, alright?” Starks said in the video message.

Fournier’s record-breaking three-pointer came at a perfect time when the Charlotte Hornets rallied and cut the Knicks’ lead to six.

Fournier sized up Hornets Miles Plumlee and shook him off the dribble for a step-back jumper from beyond the arc with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

Achievement unlocked.

But more importantly, the shot doused cold water on the Hornets’ fiery rally from a 20-point deficit.

“I have a lot of emotions. I’m proud. I’m happy. I’m thankful for all the assists that I got from my teammates — those guys put me in a situation to break that kind of a record. The fact that it’s in such a big, historical franchise and takes the record from John Starks, a famous guy, famous player,” Fournier said. “I don’t know, man. It’s hard to put into words exactly how I feel, but I’m going to call my friends, parents, and family. It’s going to be a great night.”

Fournier was only three years old when Starks hit the record in 1995, making him the first NBA player to his 200 three-pointers in a single season. Today that has been the norm rather than the exception. A dozen players have already accomplished that feat with a few games left. That list will only grow in the next couple of weeks.

Fournier is currently fifth in that list behind Stephen Curry (285), Buddy Hield (232), Malik Beasly (224), and Fred Van Vleet (223). It took him 549 three-point attempts, the most he’s ever taken in a single season throughout a 10-year NBA career. Before this, the most three-point attempts he’s taken were 450 during the 2018-19 season.

It wasn’t on his mind when he agreed to sign with the Knicks this offseason. At the time of his signing, along with Kemba Walker, they were viewed as shotmakers who can score off the dribble to ease the load of last season’s All-Star forward Julius Randle.

Fournier had an up-and-down season that contributed to the Knicks’ removal from the playoff picture after breaking an eight-year drought last season. So, the accomplishment came as a bittersweet moment for Fournier.

“It really took me a couple of months to figure out how I was going to be able to help this team,” Fournier said. “I want to thank Thibs (Thibodeau) for putting me in that position because I think that’s what he really expected from me.”

“It took me a couple of months to understand that because I’ve always been an aggressive player just going to the rim and playing off curls and stuff. [But] we have guys that do that already.”

Fournier has settled in his new role. He is on pace to doubling Reggie Bullocks’ 117 three-pointers made last season. Despite his defensive flaws, Fournier has become a reliable shooter and scorer as the season went. He’s become a complementary piece next to Randle and RJ Barrett, carving out space for them to attack the rim.

“Since January, I think I’ve played a lot better, and I really understand my role and how I’m going to be able to impact winning.”

Fournier was right.

Before January, Fournier was only shooting 36.6 percent from deep on 6.8 attempts. He averaged 12.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. The Knicks have been outscored by 2.6 points when he was on the floor.

But since January, the Knicks’ starting shooting guard had been shooting 42.1 percent (7th-best in the league over that stretch) from the three-point territory on 8.6 attempts. His numbers except for rebounds — 15.8 points in 36 games while adding 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists and had 0.0 net rating — dramatically increased.

Will this be enough to convince the Knicks front office to keep Fournier beyond this season?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Kyrie Irving set for home debut after NYC Mayor Eric Adams expands vaccine mandate exemption

It’s official!

The unvaccinated Kyrie Irving will be making his home debut this season on Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets host LaMelo Ball and his Charlotte Hornets. The Barclays Center is expected to have an electric atmosphere to welcome back Irving on the floor after a near season-long standoff with New York City regarding its strict vaccine mandate.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams finally relented Thursday. He officially announced the exemption of the city-based athletes and performers from the private employer vaccine mandate “to level the playing field” and boost the economy.

“Day one as a mayor, I looked at the rule that stated that hometown players had an unfair disadvantage for those who are coming to visit. Immediately, I felt we needed to look at that, but my medical professionals said, ‘Eric, we’re in a different place. We have to wait until we have a place where we are in a low area, and we can re-examine the mandates.’ We’re here today,” Adams said in a press conference Thursday at Citi Field.

Irving and the Nets aren’t only the beneficiaries of Adams’ latest decision. The exemption will also allow unvaccinated members of the New York Yankees and New York Mets to rejoin their clubs in time for the Major League Baseball Opening Day two weeks from now.

Shortly after Adams’ announcement, the NBA and NBA Players Association released a joint statement throwing support to Adams’ decision.

“The NBA and NBPA have achieved a 97% vaccination and 75% booster rate among players, required both for league staff, team staff, and referees, and will continue to be strong advocates for vaccination and boosters. With today’s announcement, we support the Mayor’s determination that the old rules treating hometown and visiting players differently no longer made sense, particularly because unvaccinated NBA players will continue to test daily. We applaud the Mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans, and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents,” the statement said.

The timing of Adams’s decision couldn’t be more perfect as Irving celebrated his 30th birthday Wednesday. But Irving’s birthday celebration was spoiled by a 132-120 road loss in Memphis against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies. Irving scored 43 points but still was not enough to lift the Nets, who are 2.5 games behind the seventh seed Toronto Raptors and 3.5 games behind the sixth seed Cleveland Cavaliers with nine games remaining.

The Nets will visit the slumping Miami Heat on Saturday, the front end of a back-to-back schedule. Irving will have little turnaround time for his much-awaited home debut on Sunday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees Update: Newly Acquired Twins catcher making great injury progress

Ben Rortvedt, yankees

When the New York Yankees acquired Minnesota Twins catcher Ben Rortvedt, they knew he was dealing with an oblique injury that would keep them out for a few weeks. In the deal that sent Gary Sanchez West along with Gio Urshela, the team injected new shortstop talent into the roster. Isiah Kiner-Falefa will take over for Gleyber Torres, who will transition back to second base.

Despite acquiring Kiner-Falefa, the Yankees’ catcher position has come under question, especially with Kyle Higashioka being the only healthy starter on the roster. Higashioka is a phenomenal defensive catcher, but his offense lacks in some areas.

Last season, the 31-year-old recorded a .181 average with 10 homers and 29 RBIs. General manager Brian Cashman has strategized around the home run, but Higashioka’s batting average is far too low, requiring a significant increase this upcoming season.

The expectation is that the Yankees will deploy a platoon at catcher with Higgy and Rortvedt.

Having spent 39 games with the Twins last year, Rortvedt recorded a .169 average with three homers and seven RBIs. Despite being absolutely jacked, he’s not known for his power-hitting. He does host a phenomenal work ethic, making him prone to overworking himself, which led to his oblique injury. Luckily, things are trending in the right direction, with Opening Day quickly approaching on April 7.

“It’s going well,” Boone said of the catcher’s recovery. “I think it was a wise decision to back him off a little bit because we’re learning that he’s the type of guy that’s a go, go, go. I think when he did this, he probably overdid it a little bit to continue to aggravate it. So, in talking with him (Wednesday), I think we came to the realization that we’re glad we backed him off a little bit because he’s seen the progress he’s made now in the last five or six days.”

The Yankees do have a bit of veteran support, with Max McDowell and David Freitas offering experience.

“We’ll see. I think all of those guys are in the mix. We love what (Max) McDowell is behind the plate. (David) Freitas is in there with experience,” Boone said.

Bellator announces return to Dublin with Benson Henderson – Peter Queally headlining

Benson Henderson

Bellator took to Twitter yesterday to announce that they were returning to Dublin, Ireland. The promotion also announced the headliner of the show which will be a lightweight battle between Ireland’s Peter Queally (13-6-1) and former UFC champion Benson Henderson (29-11).

What’s interesting about the announcement is how far out it is. Bellator will not be hosting this event until September 23rd so the fight was announced six months in advance. Nevertheless, Dublin is getting a solid lightweight contest in the main event.

The last time we saw Peter Queally was back at Bellator 270 last November. That night, he fought Patricky Pitbull for the vacant lightweight title. Pibull was able to stop Queally in the second round by TKO.

This fight came on the heels of the two men fighting at Bellator 258 last May with Queally winning by doctor stoppage. Queally is getting right back at it and hopes that a win over Benson Henderson will get him another shot at Pitbull.

Henderson’s Final Bellator Run?

Back in 2016, Bellator made waves when they signed Benson Henderson away from the UFC. Henderson had moved to welterweight just before leaving the UFC and was coming off of a win against Jorge Masvidal when he joined the promotion.

Immediately, he went into a title shot at welterweight, but he came up short. Henderson started his Bellator career 1-3 to the surprise of everyone. Many, including myself, pegged him to be a future champion in the promotion.

After the rough start, Henderson rattled off three consecutive wins that led him to a second fight with Michael Chandler in 2020. Chandler knocked Henderson out in the first round which started a three-fight losing streak for Henderson.

He snapped that losing streak in January at Bellator 273 when he defeated Islam Mamedov by decision. Now, Henderson is back to 500 in Bellator with a record of 6-6 in 12 fights. Given his current stature and age, this might be his final run towards that elusive Bellator lightweight title.

If he’s able to defeat Queally in Dublin, I would expect a title shot to happen in early 2023. Look at this fight as a title eliminator in the lightweight division.

Yankees get huge COVID unvaccinated news as NYC mayor preparing to change laws

yankees, aaron judge

The New York Yankees were facing a potential disaster at home this season, with New York City still implementing strict Covid rules. Down in Brooklyn, star point guard Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets has been forced to play in only away games, disrupting the team’s flow.

There was a good chance the Yankees and Mets would have to face similar problems, especially with a myriad of players unvaccinated. Mayor Eric Adams had proclaimed his focus on all 9 million inhabitants of the city, disregarding pleas from teams for their players to have access to home games. Given baseball is played outside, it’s not an unreasonable request.

However, with Covid largely being silenced in recent weeks, Mayor Adams is shifting his approach, preparing to amend the rules with opening day quickly approaching on April 7.

Teams with unvaccinated players will still be barred from playing in Canada, but the Yankees should have their full squad available. Slugger Aaron Judge didn’t seem too worried about the issue, but he can completely forget about any shortcomings with the mayor shifting his strategy.

“I’m so focused on just getting through the first game of spring training,” Judge said. “I think we’ll cross that bridge whenever the time comes. But right now, so many things could change. I’m not really too worried about that right now.”

One of Mayor Adams’s biggest contributors and donors is Mets owner Steve Cohen, so there could’ve been a bit of help on that end.

UFC Match Maker: Anthony Smith – Paul Craig

Anthony Smith

Last weekend on the prelims of UFC London, there was a very intriguing matchup in the light heavyweight division. Top fifteen contenders battled it out as Paul Craig (16-4-1) took on Nikita Krylov (27-9). Craig entered the contest looking to pick up his fourth straight victory.

Paul Craig is such an interesting contender in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. In a way, he’s a pure specialist, yet, he’s oddly effective. In today’s MMA scene, specialist fighters are becoming less and less effective, yet Paul Craig is surging up the light heavyweight latter purely on his jiu jitsu.

Case and point, let’s take a look at UFC London. The fight was not going well for Craig and Krylov was landing big shots. Craig found himself on his back with shots raining down from Krylov. However, this is a spot that Craig is oddly very comfortable.

Before you could blink, Craig threw up his legs and caught Krylov in a triangle choke. Krylov was forced to tap and Craig got the win at UFC London. It was Craig’s seventh career win via the triangle choke which has become his signature move.

UFC Fight to Make

When Paul Craig joined the UFC, he was 8-0 and he won his first fight. However, Craig would go just 2-4 in his next six fights. Now, he’s on a stretch where he’s gone 5-0-1 in six fights with the lone draw coming against former champion Shogun Rua.

Craig and Shogun rematched in 2020 with Craig scoring the TKO win. After his latest win, there was one guy that Craig wanted to fight and that was former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16). Lionheart is currently ranked fifth in the division and he’s looking for a fight himself.

Both men are now inside the top eight and they both are looking for opponents. They also have styles that would make for a very compelling matchup and I’d be very interested to see how the fight would go if it touches the ground. Lionheart has incredible jiu jitsu himself.

Smith told Michael Bisping that he would definitely accept the fight if that’s what the UFC wanted. With both men needing a fight and both men interested, I don’t see any reason why this fight won’t be made and I think you’ll see it over the summer.

Giants Mock Trade: Schoen leverages James Bradberry to the Kansas City Chiefs

new york giants, adoree jackson, james bradberry

One way or another, the New York Giants need to clear some salary space to fit their 2022 draft class under the cap. Currently, Big Blue has about $2 million in cap space, but that is not including the signings of multiple players over the past few days. Realistically, they’re around even, but that isn’t nearly enough.

Trading Bradberry has been in the cards for quite some time, but general manager Joe Schoen is buying his time, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. On Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs traded All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, providing them with insane draft capital. Reports have indicated that the Chiefs could be looking for a cornerback with their new money and assets.

In the trade that sent Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, the Chiefs brought in:

-2022 1st-round pick (No. 29)

-2nd-round pick (No. 50)

-4th-round pick

-4th and 6th-round picks in the 2023 draft

What can the New York Giants get from Bradberry in a trade?

The Giants realistically may be able to get a fourth-round pick for Bradberry, who had a down season in 2021, allowing 729 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. With Kansas City losing star safety Tyrann Mathieu, adding more defensive back help is essential to their off-season strategy. The cornerback market has thinned out tremendously in recent days, so KC’s best chance may be to prove for a proven player with another team taking on some of the guaranteed money.

Clearing Bradberry off the books would save the Giants $11.7 million this off-season, making his contract nearly irrelevant in 2023. That money would be just enough to sign the draft class and maybe land a few minimum-level players.

Schoen and new management have been extremely conservative with their approach, filling holes in the roster with plenty of former Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens players. The Giants are looking at their current situation as a long-term build, laying the foundation with a strong 2022 draft class. But first things first, they need the money to sign them, and it ultimately will come from James Bradberry’s contract.

Good news and bad news after Yankees’ young pitchers steal the show against Orioles

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia

The New York Yankees took on the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon, with Deivi Garcia getting his first action of the preseason.

Garcia had a problematic 2021, making just two appearances, tallying 8.1 innings pitched. Back in 2020, the Bombers relied on Garcia far more frequently, making six appearances and posting a 4.98 ERA. He’s only 22 years old, so Garcia has plenty of time to reach his potential at the MLB level.

The Yankees will be excited about his first preseason appearance of the campaign.

Good news for the Yankees:

With the team’s starting pitching struggling to open spring training, Garcia came to play, posting two innings of near-perfect performance, allowing one hit and striking out one batter. However, he wasn’t the only young pitcher to showcase his quality, as Luis Gil, at 23 years old, picked up two strikeouts and allowed one hit over two innings as well.

The Yankees need Garcia and Gil to make strides this season, potentially utilizing them at some point to fill injury roles or supplement deficiencies in some way. Aside from the team pitching, the Yankees also recorded 12 hits and seven runs. Joey Gallo posted two hits on three at-bats, and DJ LeMahieu also scored a run and RBI (solo shot). Giancarlo Stanton homered to left field, driving in Gallo in the 5th inning.

The Bombers are finally getting the hang of things after a tough few games recently, but the sign of good starting pitching is probably the biggest positive to consider.

Bad news for the Yankees:

There isn’t too much bad news from the win over Baltimore, aside from some minor considerations. Anthony Volpe struck out in his lone at-bat, making him hitless the spring so far.

Other than that, the pitching was sufficient on all levels, and the Yankees batted Baltimore around with ease. Unfortunately, former Minnesota Twins and new Yankees catcher Ben Rortvedt is still dealing with an oblique injury that will sideline him for the next few weeks. He has been participating in catching drills but simply can’t swing the bat, giving Kyle Higashioka the keys to the kingdom for the time being.