Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets at New England Patriots

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Can the New York Jets kick off their post-bye slate on the right note? ESM’s experts of green endeavors share their thoughts.

  • What: New York Jets (1-4) @ New England Patriots (2-4)
  • Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS
zach wilson, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

Though one of the quieter games of a relatively sparse NFL Sunday (six teams are taking Week 6 off), Sunday’s AFC East divisional showdown between the Jets and Patriots showcase (an admittedly uglier case of) the unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object trope.

The Jets are coming out of a bye hoping to cling to the momentum of a decent second half against Atlanta in London, one that would’ve been flawless from a defensive perspective if not for a crucial touchdown drive allowed in the dying stages. Their hosts, the developing New England Patriots, have a prime opportunity to feast: they sandwiched an unfashionable win over the lowly Texans with highly respectable losing efforts against the NFC’s finest (Tampa Bay and Dallas). It’s certainly not the heights fans of the Flying Elvises are used to after they were spoiled by Tom Brady and Co. for nearly two decades, but it’s a sign that the franchise is heading in the right direction after last season’s meandering 7-9 effort.

Whether it’s fair or not, both the Jets and Patriots’ progress in their respective rebuilds, embarked upon under the supervision of a Western New York overlord, is going to be judged solely upon the performances of their rookie quarterbacks. Zach Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance but the British-based effort against the Falcons was undoubtedly a step backward. Mac Jones, on the other hand, has steadily improved with each passing (pun intended) week. The results have yet to make themselves known in the win column, but the proof is in the pudding of freshman statistics: the Alabama alum has found familiar footing, as he’s the top-ranked first-year passer in completion rate, yardage, rating, and touchdown passes. Turnovers have been a problem, but the Jets (the only team in the NFL without an interception) have done little to inspire the idea that they’re capable of forcing consistent, momentum-shifting turnovers.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Jets to grow as they resume play after their week off. But there still isn’t a lot of evidence that they’re ready to compete with the middling Patriots. Despite a resilient defensive effort, they were soundly beaten by three possessions in the MetLife Stadium portion of the yearly series. The Foxboro affair should be closer…surely Wilson can’t throw four first-half interceptions again…but the Patriots have only gotten better since that September showdown.

The Patriots’ stranglehold of supremacy over their rivalry with the Jets is one of the final remnants of their dynasty; as they slowly mount a march toward another, don’t expect that to dissipate.

Patriots 27, Jets 16

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Dylan Price

This week the Jets travel to New England for their second matchup with the Patriots. The Patriots are coming off a tightly contested battle against the Cowboys this past weekend, one that ended in a heartbreaking overtime defeat. Mac Jones played a good game against America’s team going 15-for-21 for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Jones made some sloppy plays, but that’s to be expected from a rookie thrower. The killer for the Patriots was Bill Belichick getting outcoached by Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys: Belichick was too reluctant to take chances and called too conservative of a game, calls that ultimately cost his team a high-profile win.

Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off a bye and remain 1-4, but the team went into its week off on a sour note: Just when everything was thought to be clicking after Week 4 win over Tennessee, they lost in London to the Falcons.

These are two teams looking to regain some semblance of momentum. In the last meeting, Belichick had Zach Wilson looking like Nathan Peterman. I think Wilson performs better after having extra time to prepare, and the defense likely does well. But the Patriots will likely still force the Jets to shoot themselves in the foot, so I reluctantly go with New England to win this one.

Patriots 23, Jets 10

michael carter, jets

Brendan Carpenter

The Jets have had more than enough time to decompress from their subpar trip to London as they’re coming off of a bye week. They now have to travel to Foxboro to face the Patriots for the second time this season.

This could be a game where both offenses struggle and the defenses prevail. The Patriots don’t have an explosive offense and the Jets offense is…inconsistent, to say the least. To their credit, the unit has been playing somewhat better over their past few games.

If neither offense gets in a groove early, this is going to be a tight, low-scoring game. If that’s the case, homefield will play a large enough role for the Patriots to sweep the season series, no matter how much it pains me to say.

Patriots 17, Jets 14

Best of the Rest

MagliocchettiPriceCarpenter
Denver @ Cleveland (Thu.)BroncosBroncosBroncos
Atlanta @ MiamiFalconsDolphinsFalcons
Carolina @ NY GiantsPanthersPanthersPanthers
Cincinnati @ BaltimoreRavensRavensBengals
Kansas City @ TennesseeChiefsChiefsChiefs
Washington @ Green BayPackersPackersPackers
Detroit @ LA RamsRamsRamsRams
Philadelphia @ Las VegasRaidersRaidersRaiders
Chicago @ Tampa BayBuccaneersBuccaneersBuccaneers
Houston @ ArizonaCardinalsCardinalsCardinals
Indianapolis @ San FranciscoColts49ersColts
New Orleans @ Seattle (Mon.)SaintsSaintsSaints
Last Week11-310-47-7
Overall59-3559-3555-39

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
Dylan Price is on Twitter @dylanprice27
Brendan Carpenter is on Twitter @brendan_carp

New York Jets: A mock draft for the bye week

New York Jets

How has the New York Jets’ performance over the first five weeks affected a fateful draft? ESM investigates.

Football fans and analysts alike will find any excuse to make a mock draft, no matter how soon or how far away the legitimate selection meeting is. With the New York Jets having reach their league-mandated open date, now might be one of the few times an in-season mock draft will hit the spot for both casual and die-hard observers alike.

Using the draft board determined by Tankathon, as dictated by the standings entering Week 6 action, ESM unveils a fall mock draft with a special focus on the Jets’ hypothetical selections…

4th overall: RT Evan Neal, Alabama

Joe Douglas’ offensive line revolution has produced mixed results from an inconsistent veteran class (Connor McGovern, George Fant, Greg Van Roten) and rookie arrivals full of promise (Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker).

The pre-bye slate has made it clear that the wall in front of Zach Wilson (sacked 18 times so far) isn’t complete. A combination of a surprisingly stout defense and medical developments abroad allows the Jets to continue construction to continue. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has been a popular projection to the Jets’ first slot, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding Marcus Maye. But the uncertain future ahead of Jeff Okudah and his ruptured Achillies may have Detroit (current holders of the No. 2 pick that yielded Wilson last spring) looking into his services.

While the Jets seem to be set on Wilson’s blind side through the first-round selections Becton and Vera-Tucker, drafting the massive Neal (6 feet 7 inches, 360 lbs.) would help fortify the right side. Morgan Moses has held down the fort well but is signed to only a one-year deal. Adding a homegrown talent on the right side for the long-term would welcome in the next step of the offense’s maturity. Already ranking as one of the top blockers in the class of 2022 (a battle staged with fellow SEC rep Kenyon Green and Iowa interior man Tyler Linderbaum), Neal has united size with strong athetlicism in Tuscaloosa. Such nimbleness should help him quickly adjust to the NFL game.

12th overall (from Seattle): EDGE Drake Jackson, USC

The Seahawks’ surprisingly slow start has afforded the Jets two picks among the first dozen after the first five weeks. Time will tell if the final yield from the Jamal Adams trade remains this high, but such a posting in the early going affords the Jets an opportunity to address needs on both sides of the ball. They took care of the Great Wall of Wilson at No. 4, so which defensive area should be addressed eight picks later?

The early stages of this season has revealed the defensive identity the Jets are hoping to create: one that makes quarterbacks uncomfortable and invades backfields. Such a cause could’ve been delayed by the loss of Carl Lawson, but several names have stepped up in his absence. Nothing has driven the point home better than the shiny, new, expensive contract extension bestowed to John Franklin-Myers. With some pleasant surprises peppered in the secondary (i.e. Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols), they can continue bolstering the front seven.

Drafting a USC pass rusher could conjured some sour green memories: the last such Trojan to be drafted in the first round is 2015 arrival Leonard Williams. He’s still in New York, albeit in blue rather than green. Jackson is powerful enough to risk re-opening those wounds as one of the most versatile edge men in the class. His strength and speed (boasting a 4.5 40-time) make him an attractive option, as does his ability to cover receivers in the slot.

The Full First Round

TeamPick
1. JacksonvilleEDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
2. DetroitS Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
3. HoustonQB Malik Willis, Liberty
4. JETST Evan Neal, Alabama
5. Philadelphia (from MIA)CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
6. Philadelpha (from IND)G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
7. NY GiantsIOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
8. PhiladelphiaLB Christian Harris, Alabama
9. AtlantaQB Matt Corral, Mississippi
10. New EnglandCB Kaiir Elam, Florida
11. Miami (from SF)T Sean Rhyan, UCLA
12. JETSEDGE Drake Jackson, USC
13. WashingtonQB Sam Howell, North Carolina
14. MinnesotaEDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
15. PittsburghCB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
16. Kansas CityEDGE Geroge Karlaftis, Purdue
17. CincinnatiT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
18. New OrleansWR Chris Olave, Ohio State
19. TennesseeTE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
20. DenverEDGE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
21. CarolinaS Jordan Battle, Alabama
22. NY Giants (from CHI)EDGE Zach Harrison, Ohio State
23. ClevelandDT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
24. Detroit (from LAR)WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
25. Las VegasCB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
26. BuffaloRB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
27. Tampa BayEDGE Adam Anderson, Georgia
28. Green BayWR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
29. LA ChargersG Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
30. DallasS Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
31. BaltimoreT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
32. ArizonaT Zion Nelson, Miami (FL)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: TE Kenny Yeboah to make NFL debut on Sunday

New York Jets

The New York Jets’ undrafted rookie, who will sub in for the injured Tyler Kroft, became a preseason folk hero last summer.

A New York Jets summer hero is about to make his autumn debut.

Tight end Kenny Yeboah will partake in his first NFL regular season game on Sunday as the Jets battle the Atlanta Falcons in London (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network). Yeboah, an undrafted free agent out of Temple and Mississippi, is perhaps best known as the recipient of a 50-yard Hail Mary at the end of the Jets’ preseason finale against Philadelphia in August. It capped off an evening that saw Yeboah earned 100 yards on four receptions, half of which went for touchdowns.

Yeboah’s debut comes in the absence of primary tight end Tyler Kroft, who is out for Sunday’s contest with a back injury. Safeties Marcus Maye and Adrian Colbert are out with concussions, as is receiver Jeff Smith.

The Jets (1-3) face off against an Atlanta team that will be missing several primary contributors. Top receiver Calvin Ridley is missing the game due to personal reasons as will fellow catcher Russell Gage and defensive lineman Marlon Davidson, each of whom are dealing with ankle issues.

While Ridley (1,374 receiving yards in 2020) is a major part of Atlanta’s attack, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said that his absence won’t make a difference in the metropolitan defensive game plan.

“We may see some different personnel groupings, (but it) doesn’t really affect our game plan, it came in so late,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “Ridley is a heck of a football player. But at the same time, they’ve still got a lot of weapons with (running back/receiver) Cordarrelle Patterson, he’s rejuvenated, (quarterback) Matt Ryan can get the ball to anyone. Their draft pick, (tight end) Kyle Pitts, is pretty freaking good. It’s a challenge, they got a lot of weapons over there.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Three New York Jets records in danger of falling this season

michael carter, jets

The playoffs might still be a pipe dream, but several New York Jets have the potential to make history this season.

Last year’s New York Jets team made history…albeit by sinking to depths that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid (i.e. a 13-game losing streak to open the season). This time around, the Jets have a prime opportunity to earn some more positive accomplishments thanks to a lucrative offseason that brought in several talented names and the addition of a 17th game to the traditional NFL schedule.

Which chapters of the green record book should prepare for a rewrite? ESM investigates…

Zach Wilson: Rookie Touchdown Passes (18) and Passing Yards (3,046)

Current holders: Joe Namath (1965)/Geno Smith (2013)

The Jets’ star-crossed history with quarterbacks is often apparent right from the get-go. No freshman thrower in franchise history has thrown more than 20 touchdown passes and only Smith has eclipsed 3,000 yards.

There’s a prime opportunity for Wilson, who healthily passed the aforementioned yardage plateau in his last season at BYU (3.692), to set freshman history in New York. As a whole, subpar quarterback play has been one of the many reasons why the Jets have failed to keep pace with the rest of the league: NFL passers averaged just over 240 yards a game last season (third-best tally in league history) but the Jets mustered only 194. Those same passers averaged just over 27 touchdown passes while New York could barely earn over half of that (16).

Early indications, particularly the pair of preseason games overseen by Wilson, hint that the Jets won’t hesitate to let their new franchise savior air it out. If all pans out, Wilson could realistically have these marks beat by Christmas (possibly Thanksgiving, but the kid has enough expectations placed on him as is).

Elijah Moore: Rookie Receptions (66) and Receiving Yards (844)

Current Holders: Wayne Chrebet (1995)/Keyshawn Johnson (1996) 

Injuries cost Elijah Moore a chance to create some later summer fireworks, but there’s no doubt that the Jets have big plans for him. As it stands, the Ole Miss alum is the closest thing the Jets have had to a homegrown big-play threat since Santana Moss.

Moore’s training camp showings gave off anything but rookie vibes, according to head coach Robert Saleh, indicating that he will take on a large role in the offense immediately.

“He is so deliberate in the way he goes about his business,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “He’s kind of like an old soul, he’s been here for five or six years already…When you have that ability, especially at such a young age, he’s impressive. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, he’s a quick learner, he’s always trying to find an edge.”

“He’s set a bar for sure and we’re just excited to see him grow through the season.”

Jamison Crowder’s cloudy forecast for Sunday’s opener in Carolina (due to placement of the COVID-19 list) should only give Moore a bigger chance to make an impact in the Jets’ offense.

Michael Carer: Rookie Rushing Touchdowns (7)

Current Holder: Tony Paige (1984)

The Jets are in the midst of enjoying a bit of a rushing surplus: the team added redemption-seeking Super Bowl alum Tevin Coleman on an affordable one-year deal while effective depth men Ty Johnson and Josh Adams are back.

But many envision rookie Michael Carter eventually earning the primary rushing duties before the year lets out. Carter was chosen in the fourth round out of North Carolina and was able to contribute in both the Tar Heels’ rushing and aerial endeavors. That made him a perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.

The Jets’ presumed rushing attack by committee in the early going should keep Matt Snell’s long-standing freshman yardage record (948) from 1964 safe for yet another year. But Carter has some potential in the red zone, as the scorer of 28 six-pointers during his time in Chapel Hill.

“Michael’s got great vision as a runner,” UNC head coach Mack Brown said of Carter during Senior Bowl prep in Mobile, per Eric J. Wallace of the Pensacola News Journal. “He can catch the ball, but he’s got the speed to go score and run over people.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets select Jamien Sherwood with 146th pick of 2021 NFL Draft

The early entrant Sherwood, a safety out of Auburn, became the New York Jets’ first Saturday selection at No. 146.

With the 146th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets chose Auburn safety Jamien Sherwood. The pick was the Jets’ regularly scheduled fifth-round selection

Sherwood was an early entrant to the draft and partook in 34 games with the Tigers, earning 140 tackles (8.5 for a loss) and 10 pass breakups. He ranked ninth in the SEC in solo tackles (44) this past season.

Some have seen Sherwood as versatile, with some believing he could move to outside linebacker. He developed a strong reputation as a hard-hitter, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. calling one of the “best tacklers” in the draft after the Jets made the selection. Sherwood’s speed and hard-hitting should also allow him to contribute on special teams.

“He can intimidate receivers working into the middle of the field and has the size to cover tight ends,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about Sherwood, comparing him to Clayton Geathers and Nate Gerry. “He must play down safety or in a robber role as his speed and athletic ability will get him into too many binds and get him beat in the pros. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a team eventually look to move him from safety to linebacker, where his athletic ability would go from hindrance to help.”

The safety is the Jets’ first defensive selection of the 2021 draft, the longest they’ve waited before taking a defender since 1969 (DE Jimmie Jones, 156th). He’ll join a young secondary working its way back from the post-Jamal Adams era, one set to be headlined by franchise-tagged veteran Marcus Maye. Other safeties on the current roster include free agent newcomer Lamarcus Joyner and returning Saquan Hampton.

New York’s next selection to set to be the 154th overall, obtained from the New York Giants in exchange for Leonard Williams.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets select Elijah Moore with 34th overall pick

New York Jets

With the second overall pick on Friday, the New York Jets chose Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, a consensus All-American.

If the 34th overall pick is the New York Jets’ only selection on Friday, they made the most of it in the form of Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, the 34th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Moore, 21, is coming off an illustrious career in Oxford, earning 2,441 yards on 189 catches (good for fourth in each respective category in school history), scoring 16 touchdowns. He earned consensus All-American honors and first-team All-SEC honors in his senior year.

Moore was welcomed in by former Laveranues Coles, who announced his selection to the crowd gathered in Cleveland. Before revealing his name, Coles called him a “future Pro Bowler”, predicting he would follow in his 2003 footsteps.

Despite playing in only eight games, Moore earned 1,193 yards on 86 receptions in his junior season before opting to join the 2021 draft class. Though his size (5’9) scared some teams off, he earned positive reviews for his separation and route-running.

“He’s not very big, but he’s stronger than his measurables might suggest and he’s shown a fearlessness to make the catch despite impending punishment,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said of the former Rebel, comparing him to Antonio Brown. “Moore has the short-area quickness to snap off crisp routes underneath for separation and the play speed to challenge over the top as well as work the deep middle. He has soft, sure hands and above-average ball skills with a great feel for spatial awareness to hit the sweet spots when working against zone.”

Moore joins a talented and young receiver class that includes incumbents Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder and veteran free agent newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole.

Barring any trades, the Jets’ next pick will come in the fourth round, the second selection, and 108th overall.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Meet the 2021 New York Liberty draft class

ESM keeps track of all the New York Liberty’s happenings at the 2021 WNBA Draft, where they will first choose in the sixth slot.

The New York Liberty have four selections in Thursday night’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN). ESM has the live tally below, as well as any Liberty-related draft happenings.

1st Round (6th overall): F Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA 

Onyenwere, standing at 6’0, could help at least partially fill the interior void Amanda Zahui B left behind and with Han Xu’s status in question. The former Bruins was second in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.1 per game) and fifth in rebounding (7.2). If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youth movement, Onyenwere could work her way into the lineup fairly quickly. For her junior efforts, Onyenwere was named to the all-conference team alongside teammate Japreece Dean. She also has three-on-three experience and was part of Team USA’s Pan-American Games efforts in Lima. If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youthful revolt, Onyenwere could well find herself a place in the starting lineup.

2nd Round (17th overall): G Didi Richards, Baylor

However long her stay in New York becomes, Richards hauls over a sizable trophy case, including the Big 12 and Naismith Committee’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Though Richard’s shooting leaves something to be desired, she can be a decent offensive facilitator. In terms of training camp bodies, Richards should certainly keep things interesting on the practice courts.

3rd Round (25th overall): F Valerie Higgins, Pacific

The Liberty brought in yet another conference’s defensive heroine, with Higgins hailing from the West Coast Conference after spending her first year at USC. She led the conference with 99 steals, cementing her status as a strong ball defender and placing ninth in the nation.

3rd Round (29th overall): G Marine Fauthoux, France

The few, the proud, the Marines? That appears to be the case, as Fauthoux joins her fellow French national star Marine Johannes. The two previously collaborated on the team’s run to a silver medal EuroBasket Women’s 2019 in Latvia and Serbia.

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb and select picks will speak at approximately 9:15 p.m. Follow @GeoffJMags for updates.

Four NCAA Women’s Basketball prospects for New York Liberty fans

As the 2021 NCAA Tournament gets underway in Texas, ESM has a player from each region for New York Liberty fans to watch.

The 2021 WNBA Draft will be a little more difficult for the New York Liberty this time around.

When the last selection meetings were held last spring, the Liberty had the luxury of taking consensus top pick and college basketball record book author Sabrina Ionescu out of Oregon. This year, however, with the draft far more wide open and no agreeable top overall choice, the Liberty must do their due diligence, especially with the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament underway in Texas settings. The Final Four will be held on April 2 at The Alamodome in San Antonio with the national title game coming two days later. For the first time, every game of the women’s tournament will be nationally televised, with the games airing on the ESPN family of networks starting on Sunday.

ESM has a player from each region for New Yorkers to keep an eye on as the tournament gets underway…

(For the full NCAAW bracket, click here)

Alamo: G Dana Evans, Louisville

In the midst of this successful Cardinals run, having won at least one tournament game in each of the last nine editions (including a runner-up finish in 2013), the Liberty have more or less viewed them as a de facto farm team. They drafted Asia Durr second overall in 2019 and added Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook with consecutive picks in last year’s selections. Jones rose to the occasion at the one when Ionescu went down, earning All-Rookie Team honors at the end of the year.

Ideally, the Liberty will welcome back 2020 opt-outs Asia Durr and Marine Johannes, but Evans can provide some insurance at the spot. The ACC’s leading scorer would immediately help a Liberty team that finished dead-last in points per game (71.9, nearly nine full points behind 11th-place Washington) and her propensity for three-point shooting would undoubtedly fit in Walt Hopkins’ vision. Evans’ speed, particularly in transition, has also earned positive reviews, and immediately working with familiar faces like Jones and Shook could help her make an immediate impact.

See her in action: Monday vs. No. 15 Marist (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Hemisfair: F Jasmine Walker, Alabama

Walker has made her WNBA intentions abundantly clear. In a heartfelt piece on FanWord, Walker mentioned that despite a self-described late entry into the game, making the WNBA has become the ultimate dream.

“I started late in the sport, but everything just came so natural,” Walker wrote. “I continued to improve every year, and by the time I was in high school, I had already made up in my mind that I wanted to play in the WNBA. So I always set a goal in whatever I did to be productive in accomplishing that dream.”

Accomplished on and off the court as an SEC Academic Honor Roll member, Walker fulfills not only the Liberty’s scoring requirements but their issues in the interior as well after the departure of Amanda Zahui B. Bringing in veteran free agent Natasha Howard certainly helps, but Walker can provide interior depth. The Liberty are apparently pleased with Kiah Stokes’ attempts to become an outside threat…having attempted 85 tiples after only three in her first four years…but they must make up for the paint deficiencies that may come with Stokes’ new role.

See her in action: Monday vs. No. 10 North Carolina (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Mercado: G Arella Guirantes, Rutgers

In this unusual season, perhaps no fifth-year senior has upped their stock more than Guirantes. Formerly of Texas Tech, Guirantes led the Big Ten in scoring and finished ninth in the nation in the same category. Of note, Guirantes put up 22.1 points against opponents ranked in the RPI’s top 50. In a happening one can almost view as fateful, Guirantes know what it’s like to work with Liberty royalty, at least indirectly. This season, she broke Sue Wicks’ record for most successful free throws in the program’s illustrious history. The Liberty managed to get to the line 18.4 times a game last season, good for seventh in the league.

Legendary Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer called out Guirantes’ leadership skills and locker room prescience upon her decision to return for the fifth year.

“Arella is the perfect leader to bring Rutgers women’s basketball to the next level as we continue our resurgence as a national power,” Stringer said, per ESPN’s Graham Hays. “We appreciate her dedication to our program and her commitment to excellence. Her work ethic and competitive drive is second to none, and we are excited to welcome her back for her senior season.”

See her in action: Monday vs. No. 11 BYU (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

River Walk: F Rennia Davis, Tennessee

A two-way player, Davis’ drop in three-point production (27 percent this season) might scare some teams off, but the new-look Liberty have been shown to appreciate players unafraid to capitalize on open looks. Davis also fulfills the Liberty’s requirements of searching for rebounding help in the post-Zahui B era, as she has earned 37 double-doubles in her Knoxville career.

She has also appeared to have fulfilled her preseason goals of controlling the ball better and her conditioning. Davis had 11 games in which she had two or fewer turnovers and played at least 35 minutes in 11 more, the best tally being 41 minutes in an overtime tilt against fellow tournament participant West Virginia. Her ultimate resiliency was on display during the SEC Tournament festivities in Greenville. Davis twisted her ankle in the first half but returned to earn a career-best 33 points in the 77-72 quarterfinal victory over Ole Miss. In another notable performance, Davis tallied 24 second-half points when the Lady Vols ended South Carolina’s SEC winning streak on February 18.

See her in action: Sunday vs. No. 14 Middle Tennessee (2 p.m. ET, ABC)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: New York Liberty win No. 1 draft pick for 2021

For the second straight year, the New York Liberty will choose first in the WNBA’s draft proceedings, set to be held next spring.

The New York Liberty hit the jackpot at the WNBA Draft Lottery for the second consecutive season, earning the top overall pick for a selection process set to be staged next spring.

New York cashed in on their top odds (44.2 percent), coming out on top of the four-team sweepstakes amongst the non-playoff participants. The Dallas Wings will choose second, while the Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever round out the top quartet. Last season, the Liberty chose Oregon recordbreaker Sabrina Ionescu with the topic pick. She was limited to three games due to an ankle injury, but managed to briefly impress, scoring 33 points in her second career game.

The lottery was held during halftime of the nationally televised matchup between No. 5 Louisville and No. 20 DePaul. Louisville, which has three representatives on the Liberty roster (Asia Durr, Jazmine Jones, and Kylee Shook), took control in a 116-75 victory in a game held at Mohegan Sun Arena.

General manager Jonathan Kolb represented the team for the second straight season. Upon earning the top overall pick, Kolb said the first thing he envisioned was “Sabrina jumping up and down on her healed ankle”.

“I was trying to contain my own excitement,” Kolb said with a smile in a Zoom press conference call after the reveal. “I was mostly happy for the fans, the fans that have been ride or die with this team since 1997 deserve this. They deserved it last year. I think if you really look at the trajectory of this franchise, where it’s going from an ownership, front office, coaching standpoint, now player acquisition standpoint. This is exciting, it’s an exciting time to be a fan.”

Inside the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble, the Liberty finished a league-worst 2-20 sans Ionescu for a majority of the year, but enjoyed contributions from several rookies. Jazmine Jones, the final pick of last season’s first round, was named to the league’s All-Rookie team while filling in for Ionescu at point guard. Seven rookies partook in at least one game for the Liberty, a situation brought upon by several regular players (including Rebecca Allen, Marine Johannes, Han Xu, and 2019 second overall pick Asia Durr) opt-out of the proceedings. Several players have moved on overseas, where they’re competing in foreign leagues.

Kolb remained in a celebratory mood, but he expressed hope that draft lottery night would not be the only be the only time that the Liberty would be in the headlines far more often.

“We have an exciting opportunity for a hybrid rebuild…we can be super competitive while bringing the Liberty down the road for the future,” Kolb said. “In free agency, we’re going to be really aggressive…I don’t think tonight is the only night we’re going to be in the news over the next few months.”

The date for the 2021 draft has yet to be determined.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Denzel Mims earns positive reviews in NFL debut

The ache of yet another New York Jets loss was somewhat soothed by the emergence of Denzel Mims, who made his NFL debut on Sunday.

It’s bad enough that the New York Jets have subjected their fans to such a brutal season in the midst of uncertain times. But for the first six games of this cursed trek to provide little in terms of hope for the future, it was downright cruel to a supporter base that has dealt with countless examples of football malarkey over the last five decades.

Entering Sunday’s MetLife Stadium tilt against the Buffalo Bills, the Jets had lost their first six games by an average margin of just over 18 points. Even the promise of showcasing young talent fell by the wayside in these early games. Punter Braden Mann has certainly been busy (leading the NFL with 39 kick-aways), but injuries (Mekhi Becton, Cameron Clark on the line) and mismanagement (La’Mical Perine still struggling to earn more carries that Frank Gore) have prevented other members of the Jets’ 2020 draft class from getting opportunities in relatively consequence-free situations.

Up until the buildup to Buffalo’s visit, Mims was stuck in the former category, sidelined by a hamstring issue that cost him the majority of his debut NFL training camp. The second-round pick out of Baylor was activated on Saturday and granted his first NFL action a day later in East Rutherford. While a victory was once again too much to ask for, Mims made the most of his new opportunity.

The Jets fell by an 18-10 final to their divisional rival, but Mims led the team with 42 yards on a quartet of receptions, his longest being a 16-yard gain up the middle in the second quarter. Mims was shut out, along with the rest of the Jets’ offense, as the unit gained only four years in the second half while they watched a 10-0 lead evaporate. But the rookie nonetheless earned positive reviews after his first four quarters of NFL action.

“Denzel did some really good things out there for us,’’ quarterback Sam Darnold said, per Mark Cannizaro of the New York Post. “He’s a big body, a fast dude who can go up and make plays, make contested catches. We’re going to continue to use him in ways that provide us opportunities for that.’’

“Early it looked like there was some good stuff there. He showed up, he made some plays, made some catches,” head coach Adam Gase added in a report from Christine Watkins of Sports Grind Entertainment. “You could tell his length is real, he uses his body to his advantage.”

Mims was sure to soak up all the intensity an NFL setting had to offer, but even he took a moment to be starstruck upon earning his catch as a professional.

“I had a big grin on my face,” Mims said, according to Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “I knew that I was getting the ball that play and when I made the catch, I was very excited. … I knew that all I had to do was look the ball in and make the first catch.”

Mims did a solid job getting open throughout the afternoon. He made two big grabs on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the day and later provided a crucial block on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White on the score, punched in by Perine.

“It was a little faster than what I’m used to in college,” Mims said of the game’s tempo, per Vazquez. “But I adjusted quick. I knew that I had to play at that speed, or faster to make something happen on offense.”

Mims and the Jets (0-7) face a bigger challenge next weekend, as they’re set to battle the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags