Going into this offseason, everyone thought that the tight end position would be the biggest area of need for the New England Patriots. It appeared as if the Patriots heard these concerns loud and clear, signing Benjamin Watson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and signing undrafted free agent Andrew Beck out of Texas. Unfortunately, a few months later, this group looks significantly lighter. Watson will be serving a four-game suspension to start the season, and Seferian-Jenkins was recently released. The Patriots do have Matt LaCosse, who caught 24 passes for 250 yards with the Denver Broncos last season, but I do not think that anyone wants him taking first-team reps at this point, given where the Patriots hope to end up at the end of the season.
So what other options are out there? Could the Patriots trade for a player and fleece the opposition in the process? Well, not so fast.
The Patriots have been engaged in trade talks with the Minnesota Vikings since the rumors of Kyle Rudolph potentially being moved surfaced. Rudolph is in the final year of his deal with the Vikings and will be in for a big pay day once this season concludes. In 2018, Rudolph grabbed 64 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns. Now these aren't other-worldly numbers, but it would be a significant upgrade over anything the Patriots have on their roster right now. The only problem? The Vikings are rightfully asking for an arm and a leg for their star tight end. Adam Schefter has reported that the Vikings are looking for either a first round pick or an impact player, which just doesn't make sense for a team like the Patriots to give up, given his contract status.
If you look at the other areas of the Patriots offense, it is pretty clear that tight end is perhaps the only weak link on this team. While many believed that the wide receiving core was going to be mediocre at best to start the year, the Patriots were able to add Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, and N'Keal Harry to a group that already consisted of Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, and, if he can ever come back, Josh Gordon. At running back, the Patriots have perhaps one of the deepest groups in the entire NFL. In 2019, the Patriots will have the luxury of being able to roll out Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, and rookie Damien Harris. Could they perhaps use one of these running backs to grab a tight end? I guess time (and Bill Belichick) will tell us that.
And, of course, this article would not be complete without mentioning the potential return of one Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski has made it be known that he has no intentions of coming back to football, and at this point I truly believe him. He has taken a beating for his entire career and wants to move on in his life. However, what happens when November and December roll around and the Patriots are cruising to another AFC East title? Could a nice call from Belichick entice Gronkowski to lace them up for a few games for one more Super Bowl run? Now, I think all parties would be interested in that. But for now, let's put this rumor to bed.
At this point in their careers, I have complete trust in Belichick and Tom Brady. If they thought they needed an all-pro tight end in order to win another Super Bowl, they would have gotten one. Because the Patriots are so loaded offensively, perhaps they will be able to get away with rolling out a LaCosse or a Beck at tight end for long stretches in the upcoming season. As long as they can block well and pick up the offense quickly, they should be in a great position to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
With the season essentially over, the Celtics and the rest of the NBA are anxiously awaiting perhaps the biggest trade since Kevin Garnett almost a decade ago. Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin attempted to coerce Davis into staying in New Orleans, but it appears as if his efforts have again fallen short. Davis appears dead-set on leaving New Orleans for greener pastures, whether that be Los Angeles, New York, or Boston.
While most dubbed the Lakers as the likely landing spot, the latest rumors shed some doubt on this theory.
According to Fletcher Mackel of WDSU, the Celtics have emerged as the most likely landing spot for Davis, citing the Pelicans' infatuation with 21-year-old phenom Jayson Tatum. According to Mackel, a potential package for Davis would be Tatum, Marcus Smart, and the 14th overall pick in this year's NBA Draft. While this is clearly a great package, the Pelicans are also looking at LA's Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma as a great consolation prize.
Let's dive into this bad boy.
We should discuss the potential package that the Celtics would be giving up for Davis. While it is a steep price, I was always under the belief that the Celtics would have to give up the aforementioned Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If the Celtics could get away with having to give up only one of those players, I would consider that a win. While losing Marcus Smart would hurt, it makes the money work and makes this roster a little less crowded. Lastly, the 14th overall pick is essentially a non-factor. With so many picks in this upcoming NBA Draft, the Celtics have to trade some of them. No, seriously. They literally don't even have the roster space to take on all of these guys.
And, of course, as it has been talked about a million times, this is deeply tied in to the ongoing saga with Kyrie Irving. The latest reports have Irving deeply connected with the Brooklyn Nets, but he has also been linked to the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Most believe that he is not coming back to Boston after a sour season, but it would very Irving-esque to see the Celtics snag Davis, then sign the super max.
At this point, the Celtics are sort of at a crossroads. Yes, they have just about as much talent as anyone else in the NBA, but their roster simply did not gel this season. And to be honest, it started at the top with Irving being a BAD leader. If these guys could ever learn how to play together, the East would be a lock for the next decade. Sure, the Celtics have a ton of assets, but their current roster could be drastically different in as little as a few weeks. Should they build around Tatum and Brown, while telling Irving to go pound sand in New York? Possibly, but the prospect of having a team with Horford, Hayward, Irving, Brown, and Davis is about as good as the Celtics could get.
Danny Ainge is about to earn his paycheck....
(Via Christopher Winckenstein/USA Today Sports)
The first day of the draft is behind us, and 32 college football players have begun their journey into the NFL. So, let's look at every first round pick and grade them accordingly.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma. Grade: C
Murray is a great athlete. He's not that good of a quarterback. Does that mean he's a bad quarterback? No. But he'll need some adjustment in the NFL, when everyone is as fast as he is. I also hope that the Cardinals trade Josh Rosen and he becomes a superstar.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Grade: B+
Bosa is a consensus top 2 talent in this draft. His brother is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and Nick Bosa is probably better than Joey coming out of college. The only reason this gets a B+ is due to his injury situation from last season, so he may not be 100% when his rookie season begins.
3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama. Grade: A
The best player in this draft. What else is there to say? I can't imagine Williams not being great wherever he goes. He should've gone to Arizona, obviously.
4. Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Grade: D
What? Honestly, what? I mean, with Josh Allen and Ed Oliver on the board, you take Clelin Ferrell? Someone you could've had in the 20's? He's a good player, sure, but this is a reach and a half. This is why they haven't been relevant for 15 years.
5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU. Grade: B
White’s a solid linebacker, and should be a major contributor to the Tampa Bay defense. He led the SEC, the best defensive conference in the country, in tackles. He has good size and speed, and might even fit in as a hybrid player.
6. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke. Grade: C-
All signs pointed to the Giants drafting Jones, but at 17. Why take him here? I know, they want an heir apparent to Eli Manning since he is getting up there in age. But he would've been available if they waited and took a defensive player with this pick.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky. Grade: B+
I can't believe he fell this far. Honestly. He's done everything he could do in college. Set every major defensive record at Kentucky. Won every major defensive award his last season at Kentucky. He'll be a fine addition to a Jags defense looking to recapture its 2017 form.
8. Detroit Lions: TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa. Grade: A
They needed a tight end, so they went out and got the best one on the board. One of the Iowa boys, he can catch passes, he can block, and won everything he could've won in his final season as a Hawkeye.
9. Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. Grade: A
Oliver should've gone a long time ago. The only five-star recruit to go Group of Five, he has been an absolute beast in college. Was he going against competition lesser than him? Maybe, but that doesn't detract from him being an absolute athletic freak.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Denver Broncos): Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. Grade: C+
Our first draft day trade. Bush is pretty good. He's been nominated for the Butkus Award each of the past two seasons, led the Wolverines in tackles those years, and has blazing sideline to sideline speed. The only reason the grade is this low is because I believe they gave up too much for him, giving up a second and a future third.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. Grade: B
The best tackle in the SEC. He's been durable ever since he got to Alabama, having started every game in his college career. He's essentially a brick wall, having not allowed a sack all of his last season with the Tide. And, despite his arms being an eighth of an inch too short, he's a tackle, not a guard.
12. Green Bay Packers: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan. Grade: B-
He's an incredible athlete. He was the #1 player in his class back in 2016. Since then, he's been a bit inconsistent at Michigan, but despite that, the potential was always there. If he can tap into that in the NFL, he could be close to dominant.
13. Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. Grade: B
He's probably better than Ferrell. He's athletic, fast, and hey, he almost tackled Roger Goodell on the stage. He might even get some carries in the Fridge formation every now and then.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College. Grade: C+
This was an interesting pick to say the least. Not a bad one by any means however. He is solid as a rock, not allowing a sack all season for BC. Yes, he is the best guard on the board, but yes, he also could've been available much later.
15. Washington Redskins: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State. Grade: B
He's probably the best quarterback in the class, yes, even better than that Oklahoma guy. I wouldn't call him a franchise quarterback though. I'd call nobody in this class a franchise quarterback. But for what it was, it was a great pick.
16. Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns, DE, Florida State. Grade: C-
The big question with Brian Burns is his size. Sure, he's bulked up to around 250 pounds, but in college he was always around 235. His main thing is his speed, which he could lose by gaining weight. He was explosive at Florida State, but if he's not careful, he could get dominated by NFL linemen.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland Browns): Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. Grade: B-
As far as Clemson's defensive linemen go, Lawrence is the average one. Better than Ferrell, worse than Wilkins. He's incredibly athletic and fast for his size, being 342 pounds. In a division with Ezekiel Elliott and Adrian Peterson, he can stuff the run as well as rush the passer.
18. Minnesota Vikings: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State. Grade: B
Bradbury has amazing athleticism for a lineman. He's versatile, bouncing around from guard to center during his time at Raleigh. He's a converted tight end, which helps with his athleticism like many tight ends turned offensive linemen, and should protect their $84 million man.
19. Tennessee Titans: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. Grade: C+
If Simmons stays healthy, he will ball out. However, he'll probably miss his rookie season with a torn ACL. Outside of that, there's really no holes in his game. Just a classic high-risk, high-reward prospect.
20. Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. Grade: A
The other of the Iowa boys, Fant would've been the best tight end at any other school in the country, except Iowa. To get him twelve picks after his teammate TJ Hockenson is an absolute steal of a pick.
21. Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks): Darnell Savage Jr, S, Maryland. Grade: D+
Our second draft day trade, the Packers swapped firsts and gave up two fourths in order to get him. So, why did they do that? They could've stayed put and tried to draft him at 30. That's why his grade’s so low. Not that he's a bad player, not at all.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore Ravens): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State. Grade: A
Our third draft day trade, the Eagles swapped firsts, gave up a fourth, and gave up a sixth. And this is an absolute steal. There's no reason why Dillard should've dropped as far as he did. With the exception of Jonah Williams, Dillard is probably the best tackle in this class.
23. Houston Texans: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State. Grade: C+
Howard has perhaps the most unique story in the draft, going from high school quarterback to first round tackle. He also uses this athleticism and ability to read defenses to his advantage. The knock on him is his small school, being that Alabama State is in the SWAC in the FCS. But if he plays as good as he did against Auburn or in the Senior Bowl, bump this pick up to a B.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears): Josh Jacobs, HB, Alabama. Grade: B+
Jacobs doesn't really have the stats to get into the first round, but that was due to splitting carries with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. He does everything you want with running the ball, catching passes, even blocking. And don't count him out in the return game either.
25. Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles): Hollywood Brown, WR, Oklahoma. Grade: C
Hollywood is a beast athletically. He is Antonio Brown's cousin after all. The concerning thing about him for me is his size, being only 5’9”, 166. But he's fast, he's quick, even if he'll need adjustment to the size of NFL defensive backs.
26. Washington Redskins (from Indianapolis Colts): Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State. Grade: A
Yet another draft day trade, the Redskins gave up two second rounders to move up 20 spots to draft this guy. And it was a steal. Due to medical issues, he went from potential top 10 pick to someone who just kept falling. Due to a heart issue, he was removed from the board by many teams, but only recently news came out that his heart isn't as serious as once thought. What a pick.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys): Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State. Grade: B
It feels like the Raiders have needed a safety since Charles Woodson retired. Well, they just got one. And not just any one, not possibly the biggest hitter in the draft. They are definitely adding to their defense after the Khalil Mack trade, and Abram is a good addition to that.
28. San Diego Chargers: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame. Grade: C
Tillery is athletic. He can blow by tackles and use his natural speed to get to the quarterback. However, there's a few drawbacks, those being his injury history (being injured for part of 2018) and the fact that Notre Dame plays a mostly weak schedule due to their resiliency to remain FBS independent.
29. Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City Chiefs): LJ Collier, DE, TCU. Grade: D+
Yes, Collier was a First-Team All-Big 12 when he started, but he only started one season. This seems to be a bit of a reach, especially considering they just traded Frank Clark for this pick.
30. New York Giants (from New Orleans Saints via Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks): Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. Grade: A
A fifth trade today, we get our first cornerback. And what a pick it was. He was the top DB in the nation, a first team All-American, and was part of the defense that flustered the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide for much of the SEC Championship game this past season. Incredible value.
31. Atlanta Falcons (from Los Angeles Rams): Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington. Grade: B-
McGary has good size, speed, and strength for right tackle. He was voted the best lineman in all of the Pac-12 by his fellow players. This was the second lineman taken by the Falcons today, and he's probably better than their first one.
32. New England Patriots: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. Grade: A
Wow. I have personally been a fan of Harry's for a while, but I never expected the Patriots to draft him. He has great size, speed, hands, athleticism, similar to a clean Josh Gordon. What a pick to end the night.
On September 14, 2018, with no one on and no one out in the bottom of the second inning, Chris Davis doubled to right field off of James Shields of the White Sox. He would immediately get thrown out at third one batter later. To date, it is his last hit. But to anyone who has watched him play, his decline has been shocking to say the least. Sure, any athlete declines with age. But to decline as sharply as Davis did as quickly as Davis did? That's historic. How did he get here?
Out of Longview, Texas, Davis was drafted in the final round of the MLB draft by the Yankees. He declined them, and two seasons at Navarro Junior College later, he'd sign with the team he grew up just a couple hours away from: the Texas Rangers. His three and a half seasons in Texas would be up and down, both in his performance, having his OPS go from .880 as a rookie to only .726 his second season, and literally, since he'd be consistently called up to the majors or sent down to the minors depending on the injury situation at the major league level. He'd be shipped off to Baltimore at the deadline in 2011, where he would spend the rest of his career. He'd make the team despite his struggles with the 2012 Orioles, since the year prior they only won 69 games and had nothing to lose. Davis responded with a breakout season. 33 home runs, an OPS of .827, and 75 runs scored. The Orioles would break out as well, winning 93 games before falling to the Yankees in the ALDS. The best of Davis had yet to come. In 2013, he'd hit a franchise record 53 home runs, have an OPS of 1.004, lead the AL with 370 total bases, and finish third in the MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Just for good measure, he'd start at first base for the American League All-Star team. This was Chris Davis at his peak. Throughout this whole season, he'd brag about how clean he was, how if he managed to hit 62 homers he'd consider himself the all-time single-season record holder, all that stuff. This would turn out to be a lie, as just the next season he'd be suspended for 25 games for amphetamines. Due to the suspension and a couple injuries, his numbers would dip slightly. Playing in only 127 games, he'd hit only 23 home runs and post only a .704 OPS. But I wouldn't consider this the fall. Not yet, anyway. He'd rebound in 2015. Yes, he did strike out 208 times. But he returned to form doing what he did best: crushing pitches, with his 47 dingers leading the AL once again, and his .923 OPS didn't hurt either. The fall would come shortly thereafter.
Chris Davis was on top of the world. He was an All-Star, the American League’s most feared home run hitter, and he was about to get paid. Sure, he struck out a lot, and he didn't really walk enough to make up for it, but you can't teach power, and you can't get more powerful than the guy who led the AL in dingers two of the past three seasons. The Orioles made sure he'd be back once he hit the open market, so they gave him seven years and $161 million. This is where he began to fall. Sure, he hit 38 homers. But his OPS dropped to .792, over 130 points. More importantly than that, he also struck out 219 times. That is the third most in a single season, behind Mark Reynolds and his 223 in 2009 and Adam Dunn's 222 in 2012. Davis's 219 may even be worse though. For Reynolds, he still had an .892 OPS that season. For Dunn, he also led the league in walks and was named an All-Star. Davis wouldn't be anywhere close to that. His 2017 was even worse. His home runs dipped to only 26, which isn't bad by any means, but for a guy whose only real tool left is power, that won't cut it. His OPS dropped another 60 points. His OPS+, which is a good measurement of how much better or worse than average a player is, dipped below the league average of 100 for the first time in a non-suspension season since 2011. If it ended there, you could make the argument he'd declined and wasn't worth the money. But it didn't end there.
There is nothing to say about Chris Davis's 2018 season except bad things. He played rather fittingly for one of the worst teams in modern history, but his stats require context. Let's start with his batting average. Before Chris Davis, the lowest batting average in a season was .179 by Rob Deer in 1991 and Dan Uggla in 2013. Then Davis hit .168 in 2018. The lowest OBP in any season since integration was Vernon Wells, who put up a .248 OBP in 2011. Then Davis put up a .243 OBP in 2018. Add in a .296 slugging, and Davis put up a pitiful .539 OPS. For context, in the modern era, Babe Ruth in 1923, Ted Williams in 1941, and Barry Bonds in 2002 and 2004 all posted an OBP higher than Chris Davis's 2018 OPS. Davis's OPS+ in 2018 was 50. German Marquez, the Rockies pitcher, had an OPS+ of 65 that season. Of course, the season ended with the first part of his now 0 for 49 streak. He continued it into this season, and shows no sign of picking it up.
Nobody wants to trade for Chris Davis. Even if a team did for some reason, he has his 10/5 rights to decline all trades. He costs too much to release. The Orioles are paying him too much money to bench him. As it stands, Baltimore is stuck with him. Normally, I'd say to remember the good times. But Chris Davis doesn't deserve that. Instead, remember him as one of the worst players in major league history.
(Via Getty Images)
NASCAR is great. It's been kind of niche for a good while, but its fanbase is still there and still dedicated. Despite that, NASCAR is determined to get a new fanbase that probably isn't there, existing fans be damned. It has turned away so many actual fans you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for Major League Baseball. But NASCAR isn't a lost cause. At least, it isn't a lost cause yet. It can be fixed, and here's how.
Market your stars
For the love of everything this sport used to represent, please NASCAR, if you do nothing else on this list, market your superstars. Every other era of NASCAR has had a national superstar even non-racing fans knew, be it Richard Petty in the 70’s, Bill Elliott in the 80’s, Dale Earnhardt in the 90’s, or Dale Earnhardt Jr in the 2000’s. The 2010’s haven't really had that guy to be the face of NASCAR. Sure, guys like Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson tried to really fill that role, but by now, they're all retired or at least washed up. As we enter the 2020’s, find a star and market the hell out of him. Don't choose one of the old guys like Johnson, Kyle Busch, or Martin Truex Jr. Pick someone who will could define a decade. Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: market Chase Elliott. Please.
Like most other sports, NASCAR has a de facto “minor league” system, namely, the Truck Series and the Grand National Series. Now, unlike those other sports, NASCAR not only lets the drivers in the big leagues compete in the minors, up until 2011, they actually encouraged it, allowing full-time Cup Series drivers to win championships in the lower series. Even now, NASCAR still allows Cup Series drivers to race in the lower series. End this as soon as possible. I've said this before, but if the MLB allowed Mike Trout to play a season in Triple-A while he was in the majors or if the NFL allowed Tom Brady to play a full season in college while he was still with the Patriots, every fan of every team would have a problem with it. So, why is it okay for someone like Kyle Busch to race in all three series? Not only does it hurt the development of younger drivers in these series, it makes the races less entertaining to watch. For example, this weekend's Xfinity Series race at Bristol was awesome because the only Cup Series regular in that race, Ross Chastain, wrecked out early.
End the Dash for Cash
Let's stick with the minor leagues. The Dash for Cash is at best confusing and at worst is absolutely terrible. Basically, NASCAR has four races where four drivers compete for a cash bonus, with said bonus going to the top finisher among those four. That isn't so bad. Don't get me wrong, it's pointless, unnecessary, and changing something just to say you've changed something, but ultimately it's relatively harmless. The problem is that beginning in 2016, it also decided which of those four would make the playoffs. So, in theory, a driver could fail to qualify for 32 races but finish better than three other drivers in the last four races and make the playoffs. That's just wrong.
Stop messing with the schedule
In 2020, NASCAR has decided to shake up the schedule for… no reason in particular. Now, being fair to NASCAR, there are some changes they made that are actually positive. Martinsville getting a night race will be considered fun until it's proven otherwise. Pocono getting Cup races on back to back days was something I personally wasn't a fan of, but I'll admit that the novelty of it has grown on me and I'm excited to see how it turns out. My biggest problem with the whole schedule change is changing the location of the championship race for no reason. Nobody really had any problem with the season ending at Homestead. I will gladly admit that ISM Raceway will make a good racetrack to end the season at if it's a good racetrack to end the season at. Some, most notably reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano, thought it would be cool if the Championship race was at a different racetrack every season, like how the NFL plays the Super Bowl at a different stadium every season. I just think it's a pointless change and is trying to appeal to a fanbase who couldn't care about racing.
Bring back Dodge as a manufacturer
When Toyota joined NASCAR in 2007, some old school fans left, as a foreign manufacturer had invaded a distinctly American sport. However, due to the successes of drivers like Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone still vehemently anti-Toyota. However, when Team Penske made the move to switch back to Ford in 2012, it marked the first time since the late 1940’s that Dodge was not represented in the NASCAR Cup Series. As recently as late 2018, NASCAR has shown interest in adding a fourth manufacturer for the 2021 Cup Series season. And there have been multiple manufacturers that have expressed interest in being said fourth manufacturer, most notably Nissan and, you guessed it, Dodge. Re-adding Dodge, an American manufacturer, to the Cup Series would definitely bring back some of those fans who left when Toyota joined twelve years ago.
NASCAR is a long way away from coming back, and these are nowhere close to the sport's only problems. But these are a good start to bring back some of its former fans. I love NASCAR. I grew up watching it, and I've spent all of my life watching this sport. I don't want to see it die a slow, painful death. Unfortunately, given how the France family and NASCAR itself is handling things recently, it’s looking like we're much closer to the final race in the history of NASCAR than the first.