Did the New York Giants uncover a gem in fourth-round pick Dane Belton?

dane belton, giants, iowa

The New York Giants lost a number of key pieces in their secondary this offseason. Three starters in the Giants’ 2021 defensive backfield have moved on to new teams. The Giants have attempted to supplement these losses through the 2022 NFL Draft. New York drafted two defensive backs in this year’s draft, including a potential “gem” in fourth-round pick Dane Belton.

Pro Football Focus recently named Dane Belton the Giants’ “Biggest Draft Gem” from their 2022 class. New York selected the Iowa safety in the fourth round with the 114th overall pick in the draft. Dane Belton is a playmaker that lined up in a variety of positions for Iowa’s defense. New York Giants defensive coordinator will need to move Belton around his defense to maximize the rookie’s skill set and potential.

What Dane Belton is bringing to the Giants

Dane Belton is also a superior athlete. His relative athletic score (RAS) was an elite 9.41 after an impressive day of athletic testing at the Scouting Combine. Belton ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash with a blazing-fast 1.49s 10-yard split. The versatile defensive back has the straight-line speed to make the break on passes and make plays.

Making plays is what Dane Belton was all about during his collegiate career. He totaled 5 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2021. Belton was constantly popping up around the football, being a pest to opposing quarterbacks. In the NFL, Dane Belton should see early playing time on special teams. His role defensively, though, would likely be as a nickel safety.

Playing as Iowa’s “cash” defender, Belton thrived as a slot safety, allowing a 66.0 passer rating across 315 coverage snaps. He packs a powerful punch at 6-foot-1 and has shown an ability to thrive in a zone coverage slot role when given the opportunity (89.4 zone coverage grade in 2021). – Pro Football Focus on Dane Belton

Dane Belton’s skill set is similar to that of Giants defensive back Julian Love. Both players have the ability to line up just about anywhere in the secondary. Belton could potentially serve as an upgrade to Love, though. lt will be an interesting summer as training camp should ultimately determine which of the two players sees more playing time in the regular season.

Nets GM looks forward to crucial meeting with Kyrie to see if it’s the ‘right fit’

The Brooklyn Nets are fed up with off-the-court drama.

Nets general manager Sean Marks doubled down on this in a taped interview aired over YES Network on Monday, a few days after his end-of-the-season press conference with reporters.

Once the rising star GM for plucking the Nets out of the mud, Marks is taking the flak for acceding power to superstars who have fulfilled their part of the bargain. He is hell-bent on bringing the culture back that he sold to superstars who have yet to deliver a championship for the franchise. Recalibrating their vision would include a total buy-in from their mercurial star guard Kyrie Irving.

“You want people here to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a team sports team game. It’s not individuals,” Marks said. “We want people to be here for the right reasons, and buy into their roles, find their roles, high-character guys.”

“We want to avoid the drama; we want to avoid the distractions. These last couple years here, whether it was expectations set on the team or some of the outside circumstances that were going on in the world, they affected our guys, both individually and as a group, really poorly, unfortunately.”

Irving, who recruited Kevin Durant to come with him in Brooklyn, is in hot water after missing a chunk of games in his first three seasons with the team for personal reasons. His refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine cost the Nets their title window this season as he was only limited to 29 games.

While Irving wants to remain with the Nets, the organization is not too keen to commit right away. Irving’s long-term future with the team remains a big question mark as both parties are at a crossroads.

The 30-year-old Irving has a $36.9 million player option which he could decline to sign a more lucrative, long-term extension with the Nets. He is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million, which other teams could also offer. But he could earn more with the Nets as they could sign him up to five years, $247.6 million.

“We have not had any conversation yet [about contract extension],” Mark said. “I look forward to getting in a room with him and Joe (Tsai) and his team, and we will. We’ll see what it looks like for Kyrie moving forward here, what he needs from us, and so forth.”

“So, again, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on what hypothetical could happen because we don’t know. We haven’t had those conversations with Kyrie yet. But when they do, we’ll see if it’s the right fit for both sides.”

In other words, shape up or get ready to be shipped out.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees get bad injury news on developing catcher acquired from Twins

Ben Rortvedt, yankees

The New York Yankees have been extremely healthy this season for the most part. However, when they acquired Ben Rortvedt from the Minnesota Twins, they knew he was carrying an oblique injury that would keep him out for a few weeks.

Rortvedt eventually overcame the issue but picked up a knee injury recently. His knee had been bothering him in the defensive stance. Unfortunately, that injury has become problematic and required surgery.

According to Yankees PR, Rortvedt will miss a bit of time after surgery:

On Tuesday, C Ben Rortvedt underwent arthroscopic surgery (a partial meniscectomy or “meniscus clean-up”) on his left knee. The surgery, which went as expected, was performed by Yankees Head Team Physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Recovery time to begin playing in games is expected to be 6-8 weeks.

Rortvedt will miss 6–8 weeks after getting his meniscus cleaned up in his left knee.

The Yankees had been making solid progress with Ben Rortvedt:

The former Twin made two appearances this year at the Single-A level, enjoying just five plate appearances. He tallied a home run and single, good for a .500 average. The Yankees anticipated Rortvedt being a more significant part of the team this season, with Gary Sanchez heading to Minnesota in the trade. Instead, they had to sign Jose Trevino to fill the platoon role alongside Kyle Higashioka.

Trevino and Higashioka have struggled offensively this season, but there’s no guarantee Rortvedt would’ve offered much more, despite performing well at the Triple-A level with the Twins in 2021. Over 39 games last year at the MLB level, he posted a .169 average and .229 on-base percentage. He was having a bit of trouble adjusting to better competition, but who’s to say more reps wouldn’t have curated further development.

Nonetheless, the Yankees will have to wait quite a while before Rortvedt makes his first appearance with the top squad, but I wouldn’t rule out a comeback in the 2nd half of the season.

Knicks work out under-the-radar prospects in hopes of finding another Jericho Sims

knicks, jericho sims

The New York Knicks NBA Draft Lottery curse continued Tuesday night in Chicago. For the 18th straight time, the Knicks failed to move up as they got stuck at No. 11.

They will have plenty of options at No. 11 though none of them would be a surefire franchise-altering talent.

Major NBA mock drafts are divided on who the Knicks should select in the first round.

ESPN pegs Arizona’s All-American wing Bennedict Mathurin. Bleacher Report sees them taking a flier on versatile G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels. The Ringer views Duke’s talented scorer AJ Griffin as the right pick. Basketball News has Kentucky’s point guard Tyty Washington Jr. as their selection.

With the projections all over the place, there’s also a big chance that the Knicks would kick the can further down the road as they did last year, especially with a glut of young players already on their roster.

In the 2020 NBA Draft, the Knicks traded their 19th pick for a future heavily protected first-round pick, which they used in the package to acquire former lottery selection Cam Reddish before the February trade deadline. They also swapped their other first-rounder — No. 21 for Quentin Grimes at No. 25.

The Knicks have been solid in the draft since Leon Rose took over as the team president, bringing with him former Utah Jazz draft guru Walt Perrin. While they missed out on rising stars Tyrese Haliburton, Tyrese Maxey, Desmond Bane and defensive stud Herb Jones, the Knicks’ picks in the previous two drafts are developing at their own pace.

They are all out in Chicago with a strong contingent led by Rose, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau as the NBA Draft Combine got underway Wednesday.

But they are also leaving no stone unturned as they check out under-the-radar prospects back home. The Knicks also have the 42nd pick in the second round.

So far, the Knicks have worked out Bryant’s Peter Kiss, Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar, Michigan State’s Gabe Brown, LSU’s Darius Days, Kansas’ Jalen Wilson, Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden and Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim.

Rhoden moved from to the Draft Combine after an impressive run in the G League Elite camp. Meanwhile, Boeheim, the son of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, reportedly shot the lights out in his private workout with the Knicks. Boeheim shot 71 of 80 three-pointers, according to Forbes Sports’ Adam Zagoria.

The Knicks are scheduled to work out the Philippines’ 7-4 phenom Kai Sotto on Monday.

None of these prospects are projected to be drafted. But this current Knicks regime unearthed a diamond in the rough in Jericho Sims toward the end of the draft last year.

They also worked out Jose Alvarado and Aaron Wiggins — two players who went undrafted but became solid rotation players in New Orleans and Oklahoma City, respectively, last season.

So, maybe one of these under-the-radar prospects could sneak their way into the NBA.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

PFL announces second lightweight and light heavyweight card; Clay Collard headlining

Today, the PFL announced their fourth card of the season which will be a continuation for the lightweights and light heavyweights. The card will go down on June 17th and the headliner will feature Clay Collard (21-9) taking on Alex Martinez (9-2).

This fourth card of the season is pairing together many of the winners from the PFL season opener that took place last month. Clay Collard is headlining his second straight card when he meets Alex Martinez.

In the season’s first card, Collard took on Jeremy Stephens (28-20). The two men had a brutal war with Collard picking up the decision win and racking up three points. Alex Martinez also picked up a win over Stevie Ray on that card and it was also a decision win.

Heading into PFL 4, Collard is third and Martinez is fourth in the season standings. I mentioned Jeremy Stephens above, he will also be returning on this card for his second appearance of the PFL season.

After losing his first bout and getting no points, Lil Heathen will have his opportunity at retribution. He will be taking on Myles Price (11-8) to kick off the main card. Last year’s lightweight champion Raush Manfio (16-3) is also on the card as he takes on Olivier Aubin-Mercier (14-5).

Worth noting that Anthony Pettis is not on this card. Showtime is expected to be on one of the cards following this one in June.

PFL Light Heavyweights

In addition to the lightweights, the PFL light heavyweights will be back in action on June 17th. In the co-main event, 2021 champion Antonio Carlos Junior (14-5) takes on fellow Brazilian Bruce Souto (15-4).

Unlike the lightweight matchups which pairs winners against each other, we won’t see that in this one. Souto lost his first bout of the season while the defending champion scored a submission victory in 29 seconds back at PFL 1.

Omari Akhmedov (22-7-1) will be making his second appearance under the PFL banner as he takes on Teodoras Aukstuolis (11-6) on the featured prelim. The former UFC middleweight scored a first round knockout in his PFL debut back in April.

The rest of the June 17th card can be viewed in the tweet below.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 54, what’s next for Ion Cutelaba?

Ion Cutelaba

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 54, we saw a matchup between two solid contenders in the light heavyweight division. Ryan Spann (20-7) was looking to defend his ranking against Ion Cutelaba (16-7-1).

A big key going into this matchup would be where the fight would take place. For Cutelaba, he wanted to mix in his wrestling with his power striking. This was a strategy that worked perfectly when he fought Devin Clark back in September.

However, it was evident from the opening bell at UFC Vegas 54 that the strategy wouldn’t work against Spann. Cutelaba was able to get some a couple of takedowns, however, he couldn’t do anything with them.

When they were on the feet, it was Spann that was showing off his power. Spann was able to wobble Cutelaba which forced “The Hulk” to lean heavily on his wrestling. Near the halfway point, Cutelaba was able to get another takedown.

However, Spann was able to get back to his feet before Cutelaba shot again. When he did, Spann locked in a deep guillotine and the fight went to the ground. The choke was incredibly deep and Cutelaba was forced to tap and take the loss at UFC Vegas 54.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 54?

Back in 2016, Cutelaba signed with the UFC and had a professional record of 11-1. He looked like a very solid prospect and someone that the promotion could push should he have some success inside the octagon.

However, he lost his debut and started out 1-2. After winning back-to-back fights, he was given a big fight with Glover Teixeira and was stopped in the second round. However, he bounced back in a huge way with a knockout win over Khalil Rountree.

At this point in his UFC career, Cutelaba was 4-3. Since that win over Rountree, he’s gone 1-3-1 in his five trips inside the octagon. He’s always struggled when he’s faced ranked opponents and that’s becoming a troubling sign for his career.

After this latest loss, what should be the next fight for him? Well, call me crazy, but I like him against another ranked opponent and that opponent is Jimmy Crute. Crute was being looked at as one of the brightest prospects in the UFC.

However, he’s suffered back-to-back losses and now is barely holding on to a ranking. Both men would need a win badly and I think it would make for a very solid fight.

UFC targeting Paris card for Whittaker – Vettori showdown

It appears that the UFC has locked in a date for a highly anticipated matchup in the middleweight division. Next month, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (23-6) was set to return and take on “The Italian Dream” Marvin Vettori (18-4-1).

However, Whittaker sustained an injury and was forced out of the UFC 275 contest. It would’ve been a quick turnaround for Whittaker, but given the short proximity of the UFC 275 location, he wanted in on the card. However, it wasn’t meant to be.

Marvin Vettori wanted to stay on the card because he is itching to fight. However, the promotion wanted to keep the fight together with Robert Whittaker. Whittaker is close to being fully healthy and the UFC seems to have found a new date for the fight.

It appears that Whittaker and Vettori will fight on the promotion’s first ever card in Paris. The UFC is planning on having a Fight Night in Paris on September 3rd. French heavyweight and former interim champion Ciryl Gane is expected to headline the card against Tai Tuivasa.

UFC Fight Night Paris

Overnight, Vettori took to Twitter and said that he was fighting Whittaker in Paris. Whittaker followed up by tweeting out himself that he would be fighting at UFC Paris which means an agreement is likely in place for the fight.

Vettori will be looking for his second straight win when he fights Whittaker in September. Last October, Vettori won a decision over Paulo Costa. That win over Costa came on the heels of his title loss to Israel Adesanya.

Speaking of title losses to Israel Adesanya, that is what Whittaker is coming off of. Whittaker had his rematch with the champion back at UFC 271 in February. It was a very competitive fight, but the judges gave the fight to Adesanya.

Adesanya is still the only man to defeat Whittaker at 185 pounds. Outside of Adesanya, Whittaker is 11-0 in the UFC’s middleweight division. Marvin Vettori will try to be the first man outside the champion to beat Bobby Knuckles at middleweight.

Both men are in an interesting spot considering they are a combined 0-4 against the champion. However, they are still two of the very best in the world and they will want another shot at Adesanya. Their path to him starts in September when the UFC lands in Paris.

Yankees price tag for Aaron Judge continues to rise

yankees, aaron judge

Another week of dominance for the New York Yankees and another week where Aaron Judge is playing like the best player in baseball. Last night, the Yanks defeated the Baltimore Orioles and Aaron Judge was once again on fire.

After getting the night off on Monday, Judge torched the O’s for two bombs last night. It should have been three home runs if it wasn’t for the monstrosity of a ballpark in Baltimore. Judge’s first inning double would’ve been a home run in 29 out of 30 ballparks.

However, due to Baltimore moving their left field wall back to fit unrealistic proportions, Judge missed a homer by inches. The Yankees superstar would still get two homers to bring his major league leading total to 14, but he should’ve woke up this morning with 15 homers in the bag.

Judge is off to arguably the best start of his career in the most important season of his career with the Yankees. Last week, I wrote about how Judge bet on himself and as a result, the Yankees were really going to have to pay up.

Well, a week later, nothing has changed and it still feels like the price tag is going up. Before the season, Judge and his reps rejected an extension offer from New York that would’ve been for seven years and $213.5 million. An AAV of $30.5 million.

Judge’s 2022 Gamble

At the time, it was a risky move by Judge to decline the deal from the Yankees. Sure, Judge is one of the best players in baseball when healthy, but health has been a concern. In his previous five seasons, three of them had significants stints where Judge was hurt and missed time.

His production when on the field has never been in question. Questions only surrounded his health. Right now, the 30-year old slugger is healthy and he’s playing at the highest level of his entire career.

In addition to his gold-glove level defense, Judge is slashing .315/.384/.692 and has an OPS of 1.076. He’s leading the league in homers, he’s third in RBIs and third in OPS. Simply put, the Yankees superstar is showing just how special he is.

After Judge rejected the deal, it was leaked that he was seeking Mike Trout money for an extension. Trout’s extension with the Angels gave him an AAV of $36 million which is the same AAV and Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.

Yankees’ Approach

Now, I personally believe that if the Yankees upped the years on the deal they were offering, they might’ve gotten a deal done. I think Judge and his team wanted to see a contract where the total number started with a three instead of a two.

I’ve seen some concern from fans that this situation is like the Robinson Cano situation. However, to me, this is much different. When Robinson Cano was entering free agency, he was the best player on the team.

However, he wasn’t the face of the franchise for the Yankees. Derek Jeter played through the entirety of Cano’s time with New York. Because of that, Robbie Cano was never the face of the franchise. While his production was insanely good, his overall value wasn’t as high because of that. Aaron Judge is the face of the franchise.

Aaron Judge is more valuable to New York than he is to any other team in baseball. Sure, teams will want to line up and pay Judge for his on-field production. However, it’s the entire package of Judge and what he means to New York that makes him so valuable to the Yankees.

Simply put, they can’t let him walk and have to get a deal done before he fields other offers. So, what would a new deal potentially look like? Well, they can’t make the Cano mistake. If Judge wants a deal to keep him in New York for the entirety of his career, you make it happen.

Potential Offer

If I was running the show, I would front-load the contract. Perhaps you start with 10 years at $300 million. For years 1-5, you give Judge the $36 million a year that he’s seeking. Then give him an opt out. If he opts in, years 6-10 would pay him $24 million to finish his career.

Yes, $24 million might be a lot for the end of his career, but it’s worth it to keep the face of the franchise in a Yankees uniform for the rest of his career. I’m not even sure that would get it done at this point, but that’s where I would start.

What do you all think? If you’re Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, what kind of offer do you give to Judge? Sound off in the comments!

Yankees SP Nestor Cortes bombarded with hate after racial slur tweets emerge, looks to clean up image

nestor cortes, yankees

There always seems to be someone on social media looking to take down an individual person, player, or figure. New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes wasn’t an exemption to the trend of cancel culture, as old tweets emerged from when Cortes was just 17 years old that included a racial slur.

Cortes mentioned the N-word multiple times in the tweets, which he expressed sincere embarrassment over after they were discovered.

“Those aren’t the messages I want to send out,” Cortes said Monday, via the New York Post. “I deleted my Twitter to clean stuff up. Hopefully I can make a better impact in the world for the people that look up to me to give a better example.”

Cortes has been nothing but a positive influence for the Yankees this season, bringing happiness to fans and spreading positivity through his social media accounts. However, this undoubtedly leaves a stain on his image in the short term, but he vowed to correct his mistake and continue spreading good energy.

“I’m not gonna say I don’t [remember tweeting it], but I didn’t realize they were still there,” he said, via the New York Post. “It’s unacceptable. I could have managed myself better and said stuff differently.”

“I like to attract all the kids and maybe people who look at themselves like me, not the prototype, not the 6-foot-5, the 97 mph,” he said, via NJ.com. “Hopefully I can start sending better messages.

Nestor Cortes has been a revelation for the Yankees this season:

So far this season, the 27-year-old starter hosts the best ERA on the Yankees at 1.35. He has a career-best 11.03 strikeouts per nine rate, and a 90.6 left on-base percentage. Nestor is the best starter on the team right now, despite Gerrit Cole picking up his game tremendously after a tumultuous start to the 2022 season.

Despite his dominant season, Cortes was impacted emotionally by the emergence of those tweets.

“I was mad at myself to still see that on my Twitter. I think the last two years I’ve been pretty positive on Twitter, sending good messages. When I saw that, I was a little pissed off at myself for that stuff.”

Clearly, he holds himself to a much higher standard all these years later.

After dominant win at UFC Vegas 54, what’s next for Ryan “Superman” Spann?

This past Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 54, we saw a light heavyweight battle between two men fighting for a spot in the rankings. Ryan “Superman” Spann (20-7) was trying to hold onto his ranking and Ion Cutelaba (16-7) was trying to fight his way in.

After earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Ryan Spann started perfect in the UFC. He was 4-0 when he got his first big fight against Johnny Walker. He hurt Walker in the first round, but was ultimately stopped by the Brazilian later in that same round.

After that, he dominated and finished Misha Cirkunov which earned him a headlining fight against former title challenger Anthony Smith. Spann was stopped in the first round by Smith and went back to the drawing board. He looked much improved at UFC Vegas 54.

Cutelaba was able to get a takedown in the first round, but Spann was also able to hurt Cutelaba on the feet. Just before the halfway point of the first Spann worked his way up from a takedown. He was able to lock in a deep guillotine choke and the two men went to the ground.

Spann had a mounted guillotine and Cutelaba was forced to tap. A huge win for Spann and it was his fourth win by stoppage in his UFC career.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 54?

After this latest win, Spann finds himself 12th in the light heavyweight rankings. Make no mistake about it, Spann needs a ranked opponent in his next fight and I think there are some viable options out there.

One fight I would look at is the showdown at UFC London between Alexander Gustafsson and Nikita Krylov. Gustafsson is not currently ranked, but he’s established and making a comeback at light heavyweight.

Krylov is currently ranked one spot ahead of Spann. Whoever wins that matchup would make for a great fight for Spann. Another option could potentially former UFC title challenger Dominick Reyes.

Reyes hasn’t fought since last year when he was knocked out by Jiri Prochazka. He said he’s targeting a comeback later this year and Spann could be a good opponent for him to return to. If I’m the UFC, those are the options I would look at next for Superman Spann.