🎉 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 2,030 words (8 minutes).
The virtual NFL draft went off without any major hitches (hats off to the ESPN production team), and while it was certainly low-energy at times, it was the closest thing we've had to live sports in over a month and a welcome distraction.
By the numbers: The night belonged to the SEC, which produced 15 of the 32 first-round picks, breaking the previous common draft era record of 12 (ACC in 2006; SEC in 2013 and 2017).
Here's how it went down...
1. Bengals → QB Joe Burrow, LSU: No surprise here. Coming off his historic season at LSU, Burrow was considered a potential franchise-altering QB. Considering the Bengals scored 21+ points just four times last year, he'll have to be.
5. Dolphins → QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: After starting last season 0-7 and trading away several top players, it was widely assumed that the Dolphins were "tanking for Tua." When the team finished the season at 5-11, it looked like the plan had fallen apart, but one hip injury later, everything worked out.
17. Cowboys → WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: Drafting from his $250 million mega-yacht, Jerry Jones pulled the trigger on Lamb, a slippery route-runner with elite body control who will compete for targets with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Suddenly, last season's top offense just got even scarier.
26. Packers → QB Jordan Love, Utah State: 15 years after Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers to eventually replace Brett Favre, they drafted Love to eventually replace Rodgers. The Utah State product was already a gamble. With the Packers, that gamble has even higher stakes given the awkwardness this will inevitably cause.
What's next: The vast majority of NFL players aren't first-round picks, so the next two days are even more important to a team's long-term success than the moves they made in Round 1.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The NCAA is moving closer to allowing Division I athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness (NIL) as early as next year.
Driving the news: Recommended rule changes will be reviewed by college sports administrators this week before being sent to the NCAA Board of Governors, which meets next Monday and Tuesday, AP's Ralph Russo reports.
Why it matters: "If adopted, the rules would allow athletes to make sponsorship and endorsement deals with all kinds of companies and third parties, from car dealerships to concert promoters to pizza shops, according to a person who has reviewed the recommendations," writes Russo.
The backdrop: California and Colorado have passed legislation to allow college athletes to earn endorsement money starting in 2023, and 32 other states have introduced similar bills, including one in Florida that would take effect next July.
The bottom line: The NCAA appears to have finally realized that there's no stopping this train and looks poised to pass sweeping reform, but as ESPN's Ivan Maisel puts it, "let's not confuse belated acceptance of responsibility with leadership."
Major League Soccer should be celebrating its 25th season right now. Instead, the league is waiting out this pandemic like the rest of us with a tentative return date of June 8, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
Why it matters: Despite rising team valuations and soccer's growing popularity among young people, MLS attendance has declined for two straight seasons and the league faces an uncertain future heading into the 2022 World Cup cycle.
The backdrop: Like any startup, MLS has seen its share of peaks and valleys since launching in 1996.
The big picture: The last two decades of MLS attendance growth — including its ebbs and flows — is a result of a variety of factors, but can also be neatly tied to how the USMNT has performed at the World Cup.
The bottom line: The next couple years were an opportunity for MLS to flex its way to a new level of popularity alongside an improving USMNT team powered by established, young stars like Christian Pulisic.
Australian soccer player Leigh Broxham training in isolation at his Melbourne home with his children, triplets Billie, Sonny and Mila.
SB Nation's Michael Pina went deep on one of the NBA's most challenging issues: how to create team chemistry amid accelerated player movement and roster turnover.
"The constant shuffle [has] sparked an existential question among hundreds of affected players, coaches and front office executives: How can chemistry be fostered in an increasingly erratic era of impatience, load management, reduced practice time and youthful inexperience?"
A side effect of so much player movement may be the thinning of playbooks and a simplification of the overall product.
"Right now with the influx of new players, you're having to really keep your playbook and your schemes at a basic level because you are teaching more. You're just starting almost at a ground level every single year."— Hornets coach James Borrego
Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
16 years ago today, the Chargers selected Eli Manning with the first pick in the 2004 NFL draft, then traded him to the Giants for Philip Rivers.
What they said: To this day, confusion abounds regarding who among Eli, his father Archie and his agent Tom Condon was most responsible for the anti-Chargers sentiment, though it appears their prior handling of 1998's No. 2 pick, Ryan Leaf, had something to do with it.
"Archie and his family had called my father and wanted to know how they treated his son, and that was a huge part of [Eli demanding a trade]. Because, even as poorly as I behaved, there was no support."— Ryan Leaf, during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show last month
By the numbers: Aside from the (obviously extremely important) two Giants Super Bowl victories, Rivers and Manning — and by extension, the Chargers and Giants — have followed similar paths.
Trying out a new section called "Rabbit hole," where we travel down an internet rabbit hole and explore the most random sports topics imaginable.
So I stumbled upon this commercial yesterday that is apparently well known in Canada, where it ran for several years in the 1980s.
Rabbit hole complete. See you next time.
Skatercross is awesome. How did this never take off?
This is the first time since 1999 that three of the top six picks in the NFL draft were used on QBs.
Answer at the bottom.
Phoebe G. (Hoboken, N.J.) writes:
"2011 was a really hard year for me on a personal level. I'd been struggling with bipolar disorder for years, but it had never been as bad as it was that spring. Nobody even knew that I was suffering from anything (I was very good at hiding it), which meant that I was all alone.
"Things came to a head in May, and suffice it to say that my most painful secret was out in the open. I spent the summer dealing with psychiatry, and everybody treated me like I was a ticking time bomb, or made of glass. It sucked, and I felt even more lonely. And even sports felt hopeless.
"But then that summer, my medication started to work better and my St. Louis Cardinals went on the most magical run I could have imagined, turning what had once seemed like a lost season into a playoff berth and eventual World Series title. I still consider Game 6 of that 2011 World Series the greatest day of my life, and I wasn't even there in person.
"It's hard to explain to people how much that season means to me. It felt like a sign of hope. Hope that things could be OK again. Hope that I wouldn't be suffering forever. Hope that the seemingly impossible might be possible.
"Sometimes I still watch the 'Some Nights You Win the World Series' video to relive that beautiful feeling because it's just that powerful for me.
"They just won't go away." (-Joe Buck) ... and they didn't. The Cardinals kept fighting. And it made me think that I should keep fighting too. So I do."
✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or an example of sports having a positive impact on your life? If you'd like to share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories all month.
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "Steelers nailed their pick" Baker
Trivia answer: Tim Couch (No. 1 to the Browns), Donovan McNabb, (No. 2 to the Eagles), Akili Smith (No. 3 to the Bengals)