5-at-10: Friday mailbag with college basketball, NFL draft, safest ESPN employees, Dale Jr.'s career in one word

5-at-10: Friday mailbag with college basketball, NFL draft, safest ESPN employees, Dale Jr.'s career in one word

April 28th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Breaking News
Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) drives against North Carolina forward Justin Jackson (44) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Friday, March 10, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) drives against North...

Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From Chas

A cbssports columnist has said Grayson Allen is by far the best known college basketball player of the past 20 years. I said "No way," but then I couldn't think of really big names like in days of yore.

Hansbrough? Jimmer? The Unibrow? Whadda ya think?

Chas —

Interesting question.

And your reaction was our reaction. There's no way the most famous tripper since "Three's Company" went off the air is the most well-known college basketball player of the last two decades. But then you start to look around.

LeBron didn't go to college. Carmelo was there one memorable year. Same with the Unibrow and Durant.

We think Tyler Hansbrough certainly is in the discussion, and Jimmer Fredette's lightning in a bottle run at the end of his career is another one. Heck, the careers of Adam Morrison and Steph Curry had more memories than a lot of the one-and-doners.

Would anyone off those Florida teams that went back-to-back make it?

If we had to do a Rushmore of the most well-known college basketball players since 1997, we'd likely go JJ Reddick, Tyler Hansbrough, Grayson Allen and maybe Shane Battier. Say what you want that three of those guys are from Duke — and three of them are white.

Thoughts? 

FILE - In this June 30, 2016, file photo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gestures as he speaks during a news conference before the start of a NASCAR Sprint Cup auto racing practice at Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Fla. NASCAR has a new sponsor, a new format and a familiar face this year in its bid to rebound from declining ratings and attendance. The next 11 months will show if Dale Earnhardt Jr., Monster Energy and different rules can provide the needed jolt.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Jomo

JG , I don't follow NASCAR closely (who does?) but is Dale Jr considered one of the most overrated athletes of all time?

Jomo —

We have thought a fair amount about the one word we'd use to describe Dale Eanrhardt Jr.'s career.

And overrated has to be among the choices. Here are our four options, on a fill-in-the-blank Friday.

Charismatic. This one is our leader, because of the way he connected with his fans. Sure, he had an inside track because of his daddy. But before Dale Sr. died at Daytona, the old man had as many haters as he did supporters. Everyone loved Jr., and his charisma and kindness had a lot to do with that.

Underachieving. Everyone expected multiple points titles from Junior. Would he have reached that level if his dad was still around to motivate him? Who knows? But we all can agree that we expected his career numbers to be better than 26 career wins, tied with Fred Lorenzen, jammed between Carl Edwards and Rex White (each with 28) and the 25 of Jim Paschal and Joe Weatherly.

Frustrating. This one is probably how Junior may describe it best. There were flashes, but the length of momentum never got going, especially considering the equipment he always was blessed with.

Overrated. This one must be discussed too. Those expectations were, like most expectations, were from those of us on the outside.    (We thought about offering "All of the above" but that's the easy way put.)

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016, file photo, Chris Berman introduces former Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith during his jersey retirement ceremony at halftime of an NFL football game, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Berman isn't disappearing from in front of the cameras or from behind the microphones. He's simply stepping to the side a bit. The longtime ESPN fixture is giving up his regular on-air NFL and baseball spots for a new role at the network.(AP Photo/Bill Wippert, File)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From Tike

Was thinking... maybe y'all talked about it today but who would be the safest ESPN employees IYO? Going with Herbstriet for sure.

Tike —

We have discussed the ESPN mass layoffs a lot on Press Row this week.

It's a sad time for a lot of folks who work very hard providing for their families and that is sad.

To your point, without knowing the financials involved with each person, here's our list. (And remember, you have to factor in the financials because that matters a lot. If a person just signed a contract extension, and you are still going to owe them a lot of money if you fire them, well, that does not make since in the bottom line machinations that scenarios like this demand.)

And those math movements are doubly important when folks start the "They fired so-and-so but so-and-so still has a job?"

You may not like the SC6 with Michael and Jemele— we have not seen it because that does not fit into our viewing time — and you may love the work of Jayson Stark, and we get that. But you have to believe the metric of cost and value is high on the criteria of the ESPN's muckety mucks. And before we get to our list, because this guy is on there, there was an interesting back and forth between Stephen A. Smith and Jeff Pearlman. From The Washington Post story

On Wednesday, Pearlman posted a short essay claiming that by firing so many reporters while keeping Smith and his "$3.5 million-per-year salary," ESPN was contributing to "the decline of good journalism."

"Our zest for a well-reported story has been overtaken for the mindless carnival barkings of hacks like Stephen A. and Skip Bayless," Pearlman wrote.

Smith's response was pretty excellent. More from the Washington Post story:

Smith began by saying that he hesitated to "address contemporaries in our business," adding, "I respect my colleagues too much to go tit-for-tat with anybody." But, he said, "I'm going to ask Mr. Jeff Pearlman, and all the Jeff Pearlmans of the world, a simple question: Why are you focusing on me? There are people in our business who actually get paid more, who do less and produce less. Why are you not talking about them?"

At that point, Smith began to get more agitated, his voice rising in a manner familiar to viewers of "First Take." His aim was to highlight what he saw as "hypocrisy."

"Like when they say to me, 'Screamin' A.' — I'm the only dude on the air who's loud?" Smith said. "I know plenty of white dudes who are screaming and going off. They're called passionate. I'm called loud."

He has a point. Stephen A. is not necessarily the founder or genesis of the screaming sports show. That title likely falls to the early days of Mad Dog and Mike on sports radio to be fair. Stephen A. is just better at it than everyone else.

As for Tike's question, here's our four — current Rushmore if you will — of those the most safe at ESPN.

Bob Ley. Dude is the most respected guy in the building by all accounts, and a glorious TV journalist to boot.

Kirk Herbstreit. We concur with Tike, and Herbstreit has done a great job of securing himself as the identifiable analyst of one of the most popular — and best value in broadcasting fees — sports on the network. (The value in broadcast fees can't be overstated, since ESPN no longer has NHL broadcasts and NASCAR races, and a lot of the layoffs found the people who specialize in those sports.)

Stephen A. He makes a ton of money, yes, but he's arguably the most recognized person on the network. Dude works his tail off — he has a daily TV show and a daily radio show that is pretty excellent — and his name recognition is worth great value. Simply put, he's a national media version of Finebaum. You may love him; you may hate him. But the fact that everyone has a feeling of him makes him very important in the realm of opinion and sports coverage.

Mike Greenberg. The opposite of Stephen A. He's almost universally liked (or tolerated) because other than the random Jets rant, he's very reserved. Plus, dude just signed a monster extension and will likely have his own morning TV show sooner rather than later.  

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, left, poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Chicago Bears during the first round of the 2017 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From a lot you guys

What are your thoughts are the draft?

Before we get neck deep in draft breakdown, major congrats to Cal S. for winning the "Dodging the Draft while Feeling the Draft and drinking a draft NFL Draft Contest" with a very impressive score of 4.

We had a lot of folks with 2s and a couple of 2.1s, but Cal drilled the first four categories with 11 SEC players, Mitch Trubisky, San Fran being the first team to trade and the Titans taking Corey Davis. Well played sir. Please email us and we'll set up a time to get you the loot.

As for draft thoughts, let's go three great moves; three surprises; three terrible moves and three things to watch today. Deal? Deal.

Great stuff:

Wow, John Lynch's first draft may be the first step toward the San Francisco 49ers becoming relevant again. Lynch dealt pick 2 for pick 3 and still got the defensive lineman he wanted in Solomon Thomas. Somehow he convinced the Bears to give him three additional picks to move up one spot to take quarterback Mitch Trubisky. San Fran used one of those newly founded picks (a fourth-rounder this year) and its second-rounder to move back into round one and get Reuben Foster. So, the 49ers got two of the seven or eight best defensive players in this draft, an extra third-rounder this year and an extra third-rounder next year. Well played Mr. Lynch. Very well-played indeed.

The Saints had the worst pass defensive in the NFL. Because of a strange run on other positions — more on this in a moment — the Saints stood still at 11 and got the best cover corner in the draft in Marshon Lattimore. Sometimes, being still and silent and patient can lead to greatness. (Although they could have had a home run day with a little more creativity at the end of round 1, considering some the names on the board. They theoretically traded big-play Brandin Cooks for Ryan Ramczyk, and offensive line is not really one of their needs.)

Speaking of being patient, it paid off for the Jets and the Redskins as well. New York landed the best player in the draft at No. 6 when Jamal Adams fell. (Here's betting a few teams will be remiss about that one sooner rather than later.) Washington at 17, and needing front seven defensive help just kept waiting and waiting, and poof, Jonathan Allen, the Alabama defensive lineman who at one time was considered a top-three lock, is there. Yes, the worries about the shoulder must be real for him to fall that far, but to get a lottery ticket with that big of a payoff in the back half of round one is great draft value.

Surprises

Cost of QBs. Man, teams were willing to overpay for quarterbacks and the teams willing to sell made the most of that. We already talked about the 49ers turning the Bears' desperation into two defensive studs and two more third-rounders. Now know that the Chiefs sold a 2017 first and third and a 2018 first to the Bills to go from 27 to 10 to get Patrick Mahomes, who was the second QB off the board. When that happened, Houston started to panic and dealt its 25th pick and its 2018 first rounder to Cleveland for the chance to take Deshaun Watson. We understand that move for the Texans, who are ready to win now, and we love the addition of Watson. (Feels like Cleveland could have gotten more for the pick, considering the 2018 first rounder will likely be back half. But we love the analytics the Browns are stockpiling. And they landed three upside dudes Thursday in Myles Garrett, Jabril Peppers and tight end David Njoku.) As for the Chiefs, selling next year's 1 for a quarterback of the future seems very high, especially considering the number of quarterback prospects in the 2018 draft.

Run on route-runners. Wow, when the run on wide outs started, it was a blur. The Titans took the guy they believed to be the best wide out on the board, and at this point, Jon Robinson has earned the benefit of the doubt. Hard to think that Corey Davis will be a better player than Jamal Adams (who went to NYC with the next pick), but again Robinson has some house money. After Davis went, Mike Williams went two spots later to San Diego and John Ross, arguably the most surprising pick of a very surprising start to the draft, went No. 9 overall to Cincinnati. So, to Robinson's credit, if people thought he could wait until 18 — or even trading with Cleveland at 12 — and still get a WR, well, apparently not.

Sliding Tide. Raise your hand if you had Marlon Humphrey as the first Alabama player drafted. Yeah, thought so. Allen dropped. Foster dropped. O.J. Howard dropped. Cam Robinson fell out of round one. Humphrey went to Baltimore at 16 with Allen going next and Howard going 19. And having four first-rounders — and at least one if not a few more who will hear their name tonight — is cool. But who would have thought it would have taken that long before a Tide player was picked.

Terrible

Chicago selling high. Unless Mitch Trubisky turns into Aaron Rodgers — and even if he does — the Bears overpaid to move up one spot. And who's to know if the 49ers were going to deal that pick anyway.

Jags being Jags. Hey, we like Leonard Fournette. A lot. But for a team picking in the top five for a record sixth consecutive season, there are so many needs that to over draft a running back is silly. In fact, do you know that Fournette is now the third-highest paid RB in the league in terms of guaranteed money? Top 10 picks for running backs is still too high. And please do not use the Zeek Elliott argument. That was the line not the back that generated that first-year splash. Fournette going to Jacksonville is way more Trent Richardson to Cleveland than Ezekiel Elliott to Dallas.

The teams that got caught in the WR and QB runs for whatever reasons will be plagued for years by the production of a lot of the high-end defenders taken outside of the top 10. We have covered Adams already, and we love that kid. Lattimore too. But Indy (safety Malik Hooker at 15), Philly (DE Derek Barnett at 14), Washington (Allen at 17) and Arizona (LB Haason Reddick at 13) got big-time defensive contributors.

To watch today

Green Bay in the driver's seat. The Packers dealt back with the Browns and got an extra fourth rounder to move back four spots. Green Bay's biggest need is running back and Dalvin Cook is still on the board. But if there is a team out there that wants to roll the QB dice on quarterbacked DeShone Kizer, the Packers can ask for a lot right now.

There will be some trades among the top three or four teams picking today. Whether it's for Kizer or Cook or even Forest Lamp, the Western Kentucky offensive lineman that a lot of people had atop his position board, there are coveted players on the board today.

Will Joe Mixon get picked today? The Raiders drafted a defensive back under investigation of rape, so who knows.    

This week's Rushmores and on this day.  

Rushmore of NBA players without a title: Karl Malone, Chuck Barkley, Elgin Baylor, and probably Patrick Ewing. We thought a lot about Allen Iverson and for personal reasons Bernard King, who behind Bird was our second-favorite player of the 1980s. That said, there are several active players who will make a push for this list. Guys like Vince Carter (won't get there), Kevin Durant (will jump to the top of the discussion if he doesn't get one this June), Russell Westbrook (will be heavy in the discussion after getting an MVP), Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

Rushmore of parks: Fenway Park, rock group Linkin Park, Glacier National Park (Road to the Sun is legit people), parallel park.

Rushmore of Burt Reynolds and cities with food names. Burt — Smokey and the Bandit, which still draws us in whenever it's on, Longest Yard, Boogie Nights, Deliverance, although it was tough to leave personal fav Hooper off the list. (Hooper, released in 1978, was the first movie in which a young 5-at-10 saw a bosom for the first time.) Cities with food in their name — We'll offer Tangier, Morocco which is the home of Tangerine; Kobe beef; Frankfurters and Vienna sausages. Although Sandwich (yes, after the Earl of Sandwich who was the lord of the city of Sandwich, Kent),  Neopolitan ice cream, Gorgonzola cheese (and Gouda cheese and Colby cheese for that matter) were tough to leave off. Chicken Keiv was also tough, but it's more of a dish than a specific food. Same with dishes like Boston clam chowder and New York-style pizza. And heck, all of the French stuff — French dip, French onion soup, French fries well you get the idea. But France is not a city. 

Rushmore of athletes known more by their nicknames: Magic Johnson, Babe Ruth, Refrigerator Perry, and Cy Young. (Notice we didn't say best or coolest, but nicknames that became more known than their real names. Because we'd best most casual sports would almost instantly recognize those stars listed but would have a much harder time with Earvin Johnson, George Ruth, William Perry and Denton Young. Cy was short for Cyclone, a nickname he earned because of his twisting delivery and how he blew hitters away.)    

On this day, April 28, in:

  • 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to join the U.S. Army and is stripped of his boxing title;
  • 1987, Vinny Testaverde was the top overall pick by the Buccaneers in the NFL draft;
  • 2007, JaMarcus Russell was the top overall pick by the Raiders in the NFL draft;
  • 2011, Cam Newton was the top overall pick in the NFL draft;
  • 1878, Lionel Barrymore — the patriarch of the famous Barrymore acting family and who famously played one of the great movie villains, Mr. Potter, in "It's a Wonderful Life" — was born;
  • 1908, Oskar Schindler, yes, he of Schindler's List fame, was born;
  • 1950, Jay Leno was born;
  • 1954, Ron Zook was born (this one is for Paschall — the Zooker);
  • 1966, Long John Daly was born;
  • 1974 and 1981, two smokeshows in Penelope Cruz and Jessica Alba, respectively, were born;
  • 1993, Jimmy Valvano died; 
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