By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and with the 2021 NFL Draft mere days away, some unexpected clarity seems to be developing with the San Francisco 49ers, the third overall selection owners. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are near locks to be selected by the Jaguars and Jets, respectively, to begin the draft. Following San Francisco’s blockbuster deal to move up to three, it was assumed the 49ers were looking to secure its franchise quarterback as well. However, despite Ohio State product Justin Fields seemingly being a perfect fit for coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, reports on Sunday have the 49ers deciding between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Should San Francisco decide to pass on Fields, there could be a trading frenzy between quarterback-needy teams to move up to select him.
On Friday, the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens completed a trade that went overlooked in the headlines but should reap dividends for both Super Bowl contenders. The Chiefs added star offensive tackle Orlando Brown to protect Patrick Mahomes’ blindside, sending Baltimore a package built around the team’s 2021 first, third, and fourth-round selections. Brown adds an elite-level piece to its rebuilt offensive line, addressing a glaring need for the franchise. Baltimore turns Brown, unhappy with his role, into the opportunity to bolster its depth and upside with three top 120 picks later this week. Two rivals rarely complete a trade in the NFL, and it is even rarer that both franchises emerge from the deal as winners. This trade is a rarity.
In the NBA, Denver’s wretched injury luck continued over the weekend, with guard Will Barton going down with a severe hamstring injury. Despite losing Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury, the Nuggets have won five of six to stay in the top four in the West; however, Barton’s injury will further test the team’s backcourt depth. On Saturday, P.J. Dozier benefitted with an uptick in playing time, and in a surprise development, he played like a star. Dozier scored a career-best 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting, showing great chemistry alongside point guard Facundo Campazzo, who had a career-best 13 dimes. Dozier and Campazzo will look to keep things going tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.
New York ran its winning streak to nine games with a weekend win over the Toronto Raptors. The team’s recent success has propelled the Knicks into fourth place in the East. In the team’s win on Saturday, Julius Randle scored 31 while grabbing a dozen boards, continuing to defy expectations despite a massive workload. Operating as New York’s second option on offense has been sophomore guard R.J. Barrett, who is quietly evolving into a much more efficient scoring weapon for the Knicks. New York will look to push its winning streak to double digits tonight against Phoenix, a game in which the Knicks will boast both home-court advantage and the benefit of facing the championship-hopeful Suns on the second night of a back-to-back.
Moving to the MLB, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres had himself a weekend against the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. A week after returning from the injured list, Tatis hit a pair of home runs on Friday night, two more on Saturday, and then another on Sunday. Sunday’s blast helped San Diego erase a six-run deficit to eventually defeat L.A. in extras. The Padres have been mild disappointments in the standings to start the season (13-11), but there is every reason to believe San Diego is a viable threat to the Dodgers in the NL West and a legitimate contender for the World Series. Despite the stint on the IL, Tatis is now tied for the league-lead with seven home runs.