Apr 26, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

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1 big thing: ๐Ÿˆ The many roads to the NFL draft
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Data: NFL, 247Sports; Logos: SportsLogos.Net; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Millions of Americans watched Daniel Jones and Josh Allen become top-10 NFL draft picks last night, just four years after both players were barely even recruited.

  • Jones was ranked as the nation's 2,544th best prospect coming out of high school and arrived at Duke as a walk-on. Allen, ranked 2,368th, was set to attend FCS school Monmouth before Kentucky took a flier on him.

Why it matters: Jones and Allen represent a similar path to the NFL โ€” one that involves toiling in obscurity as teenagers before leapfrogging their peers in college.

  • But that is just one of the many roads taken by last night's draftees. For some, this was a day they always knew would come. For others, it was a day that had been merely a pipe dream as recently as two years ago. For all, it must have been surreal.

By the numbers: Including in last night's first-round picks wereโ€ฆ

  • 10 top-50 recruits, including four defensive linemen who were all in the top 10 of their respective classes: Rashan Gary (1), Dexter Lawrence (2), Ed Oliver (6) and Nick Bosa (8).
  • 9 recruits ranked outside the top 1,000: Darnell Savage Jr. (1,055), Chris Lindstrom (1,146), L.J. Collier (1,209), Andre Dillard (1,505), T.J. Hockenson (1,645), Garrett Bradbury (1,981), Josh Allen (2,368), Daniel Jones (2,544) and Tytus Howard (unranked).

Field notes:

  • Biggest winner: The board fell perfectly for the Redskins at No. 15, where they took local QB product Dwayne Haskins. They later traded up to No. 26 to get DE Montez Sweat, who was a top-1o pick in a decent number of mock drafts.
  • Biggest loser: The Giants are getting destroyed for taking Jones at No. 6. Kind of ridiculous considering he's yet to play a game, but if the Giants could have gotten him at No. 17, as some analysts are suggesting, it's fair to question if they got good value.

What's next: Second-round mock draft

P.S. ... In much darker NFL news, leaked audio of a conversation between Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill and his fiancรฉe, Crystal Espinal, has been released and the details are disturbing.

2. โšพ๏ธ Here comes Vlad Jr.

Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The wait is finally over: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the top prospect in all of baseball, will make his big league debut when the Blue Jays host the Athletics tonight.

Why it matters: Vlad Jr. is baseball's most anticipated young player in years, generating the same kind of buzz that Bryce Harper did earlier this decade.

  • Major League Baseball, ever in need of superstars, is ecstatic that a young, marketable stud will be gracing TVs and highlight reels for the rest of the season.
  • Proof: The MLB At-Bat app sent me so many push notifications about this on Wednesday night that I literally went into the app's settings and disabled them. Had to be at least seven.

The backdrop: Vlad Jr. was born in Montreal during his father's stint with the Expos. He grew up in MLB clubhouses and honed his baseball skills by playing against much older kids. In 2015, he signed with Toronto at the age of 16.

  • How he's like his dad: He hits the ball extremely hard and rarely goes down on strikes. Last year, he walked nearly as often (37 times) as he struck out (38).
  • How he's different: While Vlad Sr. was known for swinging at almost anything, Vlad Jr. "has plate discipline for days," writes SI's Jon Tayler. "It's a terrifying thought: a version of Vlad Sr. who doesn't chase junk outside."

The bottom line: Vlad Jr.'s combination of raw power and plate discipline make him a rare talent. And after years hype, he has finally made it to The Show.

3. ๐Ÿ€ NBA: Best everything
DeMar DeRozan (25 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points) led the way as the Spurs forced Game 7. Photo: Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Best game this weekend: The Spurs channeled Gregg Popovich's "calm" to beat the Nuggets 120-103 last night and force a Game 7 in Denver on Saturday. ... The Nuggets will be trying to win their first winner-take-all game since 1994 when they famously upset the top-seeded SuperSonics.

Best performance in a loss: Nuggets do-it-all big man Nikola Jokic finished with 43 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in the loss to push his postseason averages to 23.5 pts (12th in NBA), 11.7 reb (4th) and 9.0 ast (2nd).

Best bulletin board material: The Rockets are flying to the Bay Area today to watch Warriors-Clippers Game 6 and prepare for a potential Game 1 vs. Golden State on Sunday. If the Clippers win, they'll have to fly home, but are reportedly willing to take their chances. I'll let you take it from here, Doc Rivers.

Best thing I read: The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry, who spent years covering the Thunder, wrote an incredibly good piece about where the franchise goes from here. Fascinating look at all the people involved, from the mercurial Russell Westbrook to the pragmatic Sam Presti (subscription).

4. ๐Ÿ’ The NHL playoff landscape

The Bruins picked up a huge Game 1 victory over the Blue Jackets last night. Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a wacky opening round in which five of the eight teams with home-ice advantage were eliminated, the NHL postseason is down to eight teams and four series:

  • Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Boston Bruins (up 1-0)
  • Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues (up 1-0)
  • Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks
  • Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders

By the numbers: With so many contenders already eliminated, the Bruins find themselves as the team to beat. Here's how the field stacks up based on regular season stats (which could of course mean very little given what happened last round).

  • Points: Bruins (2nd most in NHL); Islanders (5th); Sharks (6th); Hurricanes (11th); Blues (10th); Blue Jackets (13th); Stars (15th); Avalanche (17th)
  • Goals scored: Sharks (2nd most); Avalanche (10th); Bruins (11th); Blue Jackets (12th); Blues (11th); Hurricanes (16th); Islanders (22); Stars (29th)
  • Goals allowed: Islanders (1st fewest); Stars (2nd); Bruins (3rd); Blues (5th); Hurricanes (8th); Blue Jackets (11th); Avalanche (16th); Sharks (21st)
  • Power play: Bruins (3rd best); Sharks (6th); Avalanche (7th); Blues (10th); Stars (11th); Hurricanes (20th); Blue Jackets (28th); Islanders (29th)
  • Penalty kill: Blue Jackets (2nd best); Stars (5th); Hurricanes (8th); Blues (9th); Sharks (15th); Bruins (16th); Islanders (18th); Avalanche (25th)
5. ๐Ÿ“ธ No. 1 NFL draft picks through the years
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last night: With the first pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select QB Kyler Murray out Oklahoma.

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

10 years ago: With the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select QB Matthew Stafford out of Georgia.

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

20 years ago: With the first pick in the 1999 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select QB Tim Couch out of Kentucky.

Photo: B. Bennett/Getty Images

50 years ago: With the first pick in the 1969 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills select RB O.J. Simpson out of USC.

6. โšพ๏ธ April 26, 1941: A baseball tradition is born

Photo: Matt Kosterman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

78 years ago today, an organ was played at Wrigley Field, marking the first-ever performance of live organ music during a Major League Baseball game.

The big picture: Stadium organs steadily grew in popularity over the next two decades. Then, in 1970, the White Sox hired the legendary Nancy Faust, who began the tradition of playing as the batter heads to the plate.

  • "Faust was an innovator, choosing songs that played off names like a musical Chris Berman," NYT's Karen Crouse wrote in 2010, shortly before Faust's retirement.
  • Organs began being phased out of ballparks earlier this decade, with teams opting instead for pre-packaged music and DJs. But, thankfully, that trend has reversed in recent years. Organs are back, baby.

Go deeper: Ballparks and organ music โ€” a match made in Chicago

7. ๐Ÿˆ NFL draft trivia

Kyler Murray became the third Oklahoma player since 1985 to be drafted with the No. 1 pick, joining fellow QBs Sam Bradford (2010) and Baker Mayfield (2018).

  • Question: Since 1985, only one other school has produced three No. 1 picks. Name that school.
  • Hint: QB, RB, LB.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: Sepak takraw
Source: Giphy

"Sepak takraw," or kick volleyball, is a sport in which competitors volley a small woven ball over a five-foot high net, using any body part except for their arms and hands.

  • The sport is native to Southeast Asia and dates all the way back to 15th-century Malaysia.

Watch: The flexibility is insane

9. ๐Ÿ€ RIP, John Havlicek
John Havlicek circa 1973. Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics announced last night that NBA legend John Havlicek died at age 79.

Remembering John: The Celtics took Havlicek out of Ohio State with the seventh pick in the 1962 NBA draft. He played all 16 of his seasons with Boston, where he won eight titles (third-most ever) and made 13 straight All-Star teams (one of nine players to do so).

  • Elite company: Havlicek is one of 10 players to make at least eight All-NBA teams and eight All-Defensive teams. The other nine: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Gary Payton.

What they're saying: John's former Celtics teammates shared memories of the all-time great.

  • Dave Cowens: "John was always overlooked. ... I used to ask people, 'Why don't you talk about John Havlicek?' It was always Magic and Jerry West and Dr. J, but John belonged in those conversations."
  • Paul Silas: "He really was one of the greatest shooters I ever saw. When we needed a big basket, he was always the guy we wanted to take the shot."
  • Cedric Maxwell: "The dude ran all day. Never stopped. He wouldn't take long strides โ€” they were little, choppy steps โ€” but he was gone. When people used to say, 'You cannot hit a moving target,' that made me think of John."

๐ŸŽฅ Watch: In Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, Havlicek made one of the most iconic plays in NBA history, which has been immortalized by the famous radio call: "Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over!"

10. ๐ŸŽฐ Tonight's Pick 3
Illustration: The Action Network/Axios

Today's contest will be held within The Action Network app.

Yesterday's results: 37.9% correctly predicted that over 2.5 Clemson defensive linemen would be drafted in the first round ... 58.9% correctly predicted that there would be under 1.5 top-1o trades ... 5.7% correctly predicted that the Giants would draft Daniel Jones.

  • Two players were perfect: Michael Mangiapane (North Brunswick, N.J.) and Chase Alexander (Charlotte, N.C.).
Kendall Baker


Kendall "Vlad Sr. hitting EVERYTHING" Baker

Trivia answer: Auburn: QB Cam Newton (2011); LB Aundray Bruce (1988); RB Bo Jackson (1986)