With the sporting world having pretty much shut down due to COVID -19 – marble racing and premier league soccer in Belarus not withstanding – it is important to look forward to some event that can bring some sense of normalcy back to the sporting calendar. The NFL have confirmed that the 2020 NFL Draft will be going ahead as scheduled, though the event will be held remotely instead of in Las Vegas as was originally planned. This means we can look forward to seeing where the next wave of premier players in the NFL will (eventually) be taking their talents and there is no player in this draft better than Ohio State Buckeyes superstar Chase Young.
Young – an EDGE rusher in NFL terms – may not be the first player selected in this draft because of the value that NFL teams put on elite quarterbacks. That is why the likes of LSU QB Joe Burrow and Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa may well be chosen before Young. If we were to draft purely on talent, production, and fit at the NFL level, however, there is no doubt that this premier player would be the first one snatched off of the 2020 board.
Young has the prototypical build of an EDGE rusher in the modern game. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds. He has explosive speed off of the edge that shows in every game tape that you will watch of this premier player, though with individual workouts curtailed by the pandemic we will not see a recent 40-yard-dash time from Young after he decided his tape did enough talking for him and he skipped the drills/workouts portion of the combine.
Young is an immediate impact kind of player. He will not take a year of seasoning and study to become the kind of game-changing player that he was in college. This is a guy that spent most of the last two seasons facing double and triple teams on a down-by-down basis and was still productive enough to take over games. In 12 starts in 2019 he led the FBS with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles as a player who knows not only how to get to the quarterback, but also how to create a momentum shifting turnover with his sacking technique.
Young finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season – exceptionally high for a defensive player – and he can work as either a stand up rusher or with his hand in the dirt. The best pass rushing prospect of the last decade (at least), Young is a game wrecker who knows how talented he is and who backs it up every time out on the field.
The country is going to need a new breed of premier players to get behind after this crisis and inject life and energy into sports as they resume. Young is one of those stars poised to breakout at the next level whenever sports begin again.
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The premier players on the diamond were supposed to begin their season on March 26, 2020. All opening days in sports are important, but there is something special about the beginning of a baseball season that isn’t replicated in other sports.
On the purely athletic level it is important because baseball – despite its challenges in a world of instant gratification – is a sport with a rich history that has endured wars and depressions and come out strong. There is a pomp and circumstance to Major League Basketball’s opening day that just doesn’t happen with other sports, from ceremonial first pitches through to the peanuts and Cracker Jack in the stands.
But it’s so much more than all that.
Baseballs opening day has always meant the end of winter and the knowledge that summer is just around the corner. It means we are a step closer to long nights of grilling in the backyard, of vacations to far flung places, and to doing nothing by the pool for hours. These are not thoughts and dreams that are part of the core of what baseball is, but they are much needed releases that opening day always brought as a sort of hopeful look to the future and the next six months of life.
It’s almost certain that in 2020 the boys of summer will be playing a limited schedule do to COVID-19. Exactly what – and when – that will be we have no clue at this point, but when those premier players take to the diamond it is going to be a joyous day all across America. Sports fans are suffering right now, but the surge in interest and pride that will come out on the back end of this will be like nothing we have seen in a couple of decades.
The premier players of baseball will eventually have their opening day and it will be an opening day for the world to prove we have all come together. Also, we are putting it out there right now that the Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series in six games thanks to a shortened season bringing down the workload of veteran starters like David Price and Clayton Kershaw.
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Sports are an essential escape to the sometimes mundane march of everyday life. That is why the shutting down of sports as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak has been so hard for people to take. At a time where sports are needed to lift us emotionally, they are gone.
While the premier leagues in many sports will not return for an undisclosed period of time – albeit a period which doesn’t seem likely to be any time soon – there is one premier competition that is looking to get set up and bring sports to the American public as soon as this April.
The Big3 is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that gained some traction last year as the premier competition of its type in the country. Big3 executives Josh Kwatinetz and Ice Cube have been in the entertainment business for over 30 years and they see both the opportunity to create something for themselves and – more importantly – a chance to entertain people in a way they think will help with everything the world is currently going through.
Their concept is certainly intriguing. Essentially the tournament would take place in a quarantined house somewhere in the LA area with 16 to 22 players involved. These players – who would only be allowed in after testing negative for Coronavirus – would then take place in something that would be part reality TV show and part premier competition for 3-on-3 basketball.
The Big Brother meets Big3 concept would have to pass some hurdles given the shelter-in-place order that has been announced in California, but the prospect of live sports is one that any American that enjoys competition would be happy to hear. The league lowered its age limit for its regular season from 27 to 22 in January and it would be very interesting to see which players would sign up and take part in a format that would – if this goes as reported – feature seven rounds of games with a player being eliminated after losing three times.
It is a watch-this-space situation – as is the entire sports world – but the sooner we can get sports back on TV (health permitting of course) the better.
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DeAndre Hopkins is now an Arizona Cardinal. That is going to take some time to get used to seeing on the field on a Sunday afternoon. In this sport-free world we currently live in it is nice to have something to talk (write) about again, but you have to feel a little for fans of the Houston Texans who saw arguably the biggest icon in the history of the franchise – and a premier player who is one of the very elite at his position in the league – be traded away for what seems like pittance in return.
The Texans walk away from this trade with a combination of running back David Johnson and a second round draft pick in their pocket. That does not feel like something that Texans fans should be good with given that they gave up a premier player in the prime of his career. Johnson is a solid player – he had a monster season in 2016 and was solid in 2018 – but he is injured too often and regressed to a player with 715 total yards and six total touchdowns last season.
Hopkins – by comparison – finished third in the league last season with 104 receptions. He also had 1,165 yards – good for 11th in the league – and he caught seven touchdowns. These numbers were down from his 1,5 72 yards and 11 touchdowns from 2018 and his 1,378 yards and 13 scores in 2017, but there were mitigating factors such as the health of wide receiver partner Will Fuller and how his lack of play would often lead to Hopkins playing an entire game in double coverage. Even then, he still was third in the NFL in catches.
This is not the first time that Texans’ GM Bill O’Brien has leaned towards the unconventional with his moves. Even by his standards though, this one is shocking. It is the most lopsided trade of the 2020 offseason already and it is arguably the most lopsided deal we have seen made in more than a decade.
That the Cardinals got better immediately when Johnson was replaced by Kenyan Drake – who Arizona plucked from the Dolphins for a sixth-round pick midseason last year – should tell you everything you need to know about why this premier player and elite WR should have had more value than this.
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It is pretty obvious that Tom Brady is a premier player. He might even be the greatest player in his position – or any position for that matter – in the history of the NFL, but that is a debate for another day. What we know right now is that this premier player is coming off of a season where – after a monster start – he started to show signs of decline. With that in mind, and with Brady testing the free agent market for the first time in his career, we have to look at the possibility that the Brady/Belichick combination that created a dynasty in New England as a premier player and a premier coach, could have already reached its end.
The future comes fast at the back of a career. That Brady was still playing lights-out football in his forties is a compliment to everything the 42-year-old has done to extend his playing career. If there is one thing we know about Brady, it’s his ultimate competitor streak that the greatest athletes all have and, as such, he will not want his 2019 season to be the one that defines his legacy. This is a premier player doing what premier players do; they don’t go out like that.
When looking at the future for Brady it is important to look at the mitigating factors that made last season such a mess. His wide receiver corps was never consistent as it was blitzed by injuries and drama all season long. Those players that were catching balls from Brady were players who, by and large, he had no history with and they were unable to connect consistently. Add in an offensive line that was among the worst the Pats have had in a decade and the reasons quickly mount as to why Brady wasn’t Brady last season.
Odds are Brady will be in New England next year. The Pats have the cap space to keep their legend in town and build something a little more competitive around him. There are options that Brady could chase and there are players out there that the team could bring in, but can you really see Brady wearing the powder blue of the Chargers or the red and gold of San Francisco?
Peyton Manning – Brady’s longtime rival – left the Colts and found a Super Bowl in Denver. Could this premier player do the same for a different franchise and get yet another leg up in their head-to-head battle to be classed as the best of their generation?
For now there are so many more questions than answers, but with Tom Brady – even at 42 – whichever team he suits up for will feel like they have a chance of winning the Super Bowl when the season kicks off. That is just what premiers players do.
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