It’s NFL Draft Day and that is sure to dominate the news cycle for April 30. There is some other news to discuss, of course, including the NHL and NBA playoffs, along with the NFL Draft and what happened last night in Major League Baseball. It’s also a good day to talk about the NFL Draft and maybe look at some of the top players that will be selected in the NFL Draft. Crack open a Six Pack with us and peruse the top six sports stories for April 30.
A Life-Changing Event
The NFL Draft begins tonight as the first 32 selections will be announced. The rumor mill is rapidly churning as smokescreens, actual rumors, leaks from agents, leaks from teams, and all sorts of other clickbait dominates the sports landscape. Who knows what will actually happen? About the only certainty so far is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will draft Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Beyond that, it’s a complete guessing game.
The Tennessee Titans have reportedly been shopping their second overall pick, where some team would probably take Marcus Mariota. There are some other stories that aren’t related to quarterbacks that are grabbing headlines. Updating yesterday’s look at projected first-rounder La’el Collins, some NFL insiders are reporting that NFL teams have completely removed Collins from their draft boards in light of the ongoing investigation that involves the murder of Collins’s pregnant ex-girlfriend, Brittney Mills. Collins is cooperating with investigators and is not considered to be a suspect, but NFL teams seem to be taking a cautious approach.
The Chicago Bears are interested in trading Marcellus Bennett, which could shift the outlook of the draft for some teams. Bennett would likely command some mid-round picks, but it could alter the plan for both the Bears and the acquiring team. The Houston Texans added safety depth with Stevie Brown, so it’s unlikely that they will look to draft a safety. The New York Giants, Brown’s former employer, could use a safety, however. That could be the area they address with their first-round selection.
There have been lingering rumors that the Chargers may try to trade Philip Rivers to move up in the draft and acquire one of the top quarterbacks, but those have largely been put to bed over the last couple of days. Anything could happen between now and tonight, though, so nothing is fully off the table.
Tomorrow’s Six Pack will have a look at some of the surprising first-round selections and a look at what’s still available for Day Two.
Home Sweet Home
The home team was victorious in both NBA playoff games last night. The Atlanta Hawks managed to cover 9.5 against the Brooklyn Nets with a 10-point win and the Memphis Grizzlies dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers by recommitting to playing defense. Al Horford led the Hawks with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while DeMarre Carroll had 24 to lead all scorers. The biggest difference for the Hawks is that they did a better job of defending the perimeter. Outside of Alan Anderson’s surprise performance with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, the Hawks were able to hold Deron Williams and Bojan Bogdanovic in check. Williams and Bogdanovic combined for 5-of-16 shooting and 12 points in 61 combined minutes. Jarrett Jack had 18 off the bench but also three costly turnovers.
Every Atlanta starter was in double figures and Kyle Korver found his shooting stroke going 5-of-12 from deep for 17 points. The concern for the Hawks remains their lack of depth. This series is guaranteed to go six games and could very well go seven games and that is not a good thing for the rest of the playoffs. Every starter played at least 35 minutes in Game 5. The Hawks will try to finish the series off in Brooklyn in Game 6.
As for the Grizzlies, they kept LaMarcus Aldridge in check and that was the big key to finishing off the series. Aldridge was just 5-of-18 shooting for 14 points. It helped that Damian Lillard was just 1-of-8 from deep. Eleven of Portland’s 13 three-pointers came from the bench. Marc Gasol was a force with 26 and 14 and Courtney Lee came alive with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The Grizzlies will meet the Golden State Warriors on Sunday in Game 1. This will be an interesting series because of the differences in pace of play. If Conley cannot come back from the facial surgery he underwent earlier this week, the Warriors could make this a quick series, though Memphis has a potential advantage on the inside with Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph.
Red Wings Struck by Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning made the most of their opportunities in the third period and advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs. Ben Bishop was outstanding with 31 stops and his team advanced with a 2-0 win. Braydon Coburn, one of the big Trade Deadline acquisitions for Tampa Bay was injured shortly after he was acquired. He returned in time for the playoffs and scored a huge goal just under four minutes into the third period. Anton Stralman’s empty netter with 1:18 left sealed the deal and sent Amalie Arena into a frenzy.
The Lightning now face the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.
NHL Second Round Playoff Preview
The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers begin their series tonight and so do the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks. The Capitals needed seven games to eliminate the Islanders and the Rangers needed just five games to send the Penguins to the golf course. The Rangers won three of the four regular season meetings and look like the most complete team in the Eastern Conference right now.
The Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets and have been idle since April 22 while waiting for the other Western Conference series to finish. The Flames knocked off the Canucks in six games with a seven-goal outburst in Game 6. It will be interesting to see if the layoff will be a factor for the Ducks, though the Flames have not played since Saturday.
The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks start up their series on Friday night. Both teams were involved in exciting series in the first round. The Wild knocked off the St. Louis Blues and the Blackhawks bested the Nashville Predators. This should be the most exciting series of the second round.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens were neck and neck in the Atlantic Division all season long. The Canadiens have the best player in the series in goaltender Carey Price, but Tampa Bay is definitely the more talented team overall. This series could live up to some high expectations as well.
Busy Day in MLB
All sorts of news came out of Major League Baseball on Wednesday. The Orioles won big in front of a loud crowd of nobody on Wednesday afternoon. The biggest highlight from the game was the excellent play-by-play job done by Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne, who channeled his inner Jim Nantz on a double by Adam Jones. Thorne called the hit as if it was a golf shot during the Masters. The video is way too good not to post here.
In empty Camden Yards, Gary Thorne does his best Jim Nantz at the Masters. An imitation unlike any other. pic.twitter.com/fdIqSx2r8N
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) April 29, 2015
The Cleveland Indians snapped yet another losing streak, but there was a very scary moment in the game. A fastball got away from Danny Salazar and struck Alcides Escobar in the head. The force of the pitch knocked off Escobar’s helmet and he was on the ground dazed for several minutes before he was helped to the dugout by trainers. Escobar is reportedly okay, but it was a scary situation.
The Cubs were cleared of any wrongdoing in their hiring of Joe Maddon. The Tampa Bay Rays filed a tampering complaint with Major League Baseball, but no evidence of tampering was found.
Carlos Gomez is going to return this weekend for the Milwaukee Brewers, who desperately need a spark.
Big 12 Moves to 13
No, not teams. Thirteen games. After the lack of a conference championship game kept both Baylor and TCU out of the College Football Playoff, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the member schools are unanimously in favor of a conference championship game. Currently, NCAA bylaws prohibit a team from having a conference championship game with fewer than 12 teams. The Big 12 has 10 teams. A proposal to remove that requirement is set to be enforced beginning in 2016.
As it turned out, the final team in, Ohio State, went and won the College Football Playoff Championship. Earlier this month, the CFP Committee said that it would not expand the playoff from four teams to eight teams anytime soon.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.