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FILE - Alabama quarterback Mac Jones passes against Ohio State during the second half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game in New Orleans, in this Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, file photo. Jones is a likely first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 29-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Merry Draft Day

Race in America is everywhere. Case in point, the question J-Mac asked yesterday about whether prohibiting some kinds of cigarettes is racist. (My answer will come Friday. Deal? Deal.)

But the complete and rather sudden shift in the most important position in sports with regard to race is pretty cool, right? And it happened rather quickly and kind of subtly.

Case in point: Mac Jones — who has been a long favorite to go third overall tonight — is being questioned because of his lack of athleticism. More over, several ESPN talking heads have said that if Jones does not go 3, he could slide and several QB-hungry teams may not be clamoring to move up for Jones.

(Side quote: As Fat Vader asked earlier this week, do we know that Mac Jones is good or not, or whether he was the trigger man of an NFL team playing on Saturdays?)

But in terms of race, it was not that long ago that 'athletic quarterback' was a euphemism for a Black QB who could run but had questionable skills. Not unlike 'game manager' was a white dude with limited skills.

Now more than ever, the color of the QB is immaterial. And that's a good thing.

Well unless you're Mac Jones and you start spiraling down the first-round board because you're viewed not to be athletic enough for today's NFL. That said, Todd McShay's final mock draft has Jones falling all the way to 15 to the New England Patriots, which would be a dream scenario for Pats fans, right Spy?

 

Draft storylines

I thought about doing a mock draft, but why?

Rather than be the 17,403rd person to have Lawrence-Wilson-QB du jour and go to 10 where the draft room overrules Jerry Jones and they rightly take Patrick Surtain II rather than Johnny Manziel.

So rather than trying to line up the dominoes in a jigsaw puzzle wrapped in an enigma crafted in a riddle, let's review the five (or so) questions that will craft tonight's action.

First, what do the 49ers do at 3? Yes it seems almost certain that the position is decided. You don't move three 1s to go from 12 to 3 unless you are looking at a QB. (Yes, I think Kyle Pitts is worth that investment but for a San Fran team that has the best or second-best TE in the league.) But the name matters of the 49ers QB of the future, because a) if it's Mac Jones, he appears ready to start now so Jimmy G is on then going to be on the move, b) if it's Trey Lance, well, who knows if they plan to ease him in or not considering the lack of quality reps (he played at ND State and has played one game in the last 18 months, c) if it's Justin Fields, then the rest of the QB starved teams are going to blow up the Falcons' phone to get to 4.

Second, what do the Falcons do at 4 and who do they deal? Second part first, the Falcons have to make a deal. HAVE TO. Not the pick, although they may do that too if the offer is right. (Side note: I love Pitts and love the idea of him in Arthur Smith's play-action system. But, with first-year coach and first-year GM — guys who are not on the hot seat — acquiring a slew of picks down the road is mighty attractive.) The Falcons have a smidge over $915,000 in cap space, and they are slotted to pay this rookie class more than $11 million. So, that's either dealing some salary or cutting it. And if it's Julio, it may not get announced until June for cap reasons, but a deal — or deals — must be made.

Where does Justin Fields land? It appears he's the fifth QB in the eyes of teams and evaluators. I love the kid. Love him. Know the folks who coached him in high school and they rave about the kid. Did we mention 4.4 40. That's cooking. If he drops all the way to the Pats at 15 and gets a chance to learn under a system designed for Cam Newton, well, get ready for another decade-plus of Pats in the playoffs.

Which team moves up for a QB? I think Chicago — a team with Andy Dalton atop the depth chart and a coach and a GM on a scalding seat — is on the phone as we speak. I think there a slew of others too, like the Pats. And don't sleep on the Lions and the Panthers in the latter part of the top 10. Or even the Broncos, despite their trade for Teddy Bridgewater.

Finally, will a running back be picked in round 1? I think yes, and I think the Steelers at 24 will be forever tickled if they pick Najee Harris, who is a dude.

In the end, here's the best piece of draft advice I can offer:

Vontae Mack, no matter what. (Yes, that's from Draft Day, the wickedly rewatchable Kevin Costner vehicle. I love the draft. You know this.)

 

Kudos to the Ks kids, young and old

Baseball has a slew of surefire Hall of Famers (barring injury) at an array of ages in the game right now.

There are vets like Pujols and no-doubters like Mike Trout. Too many young kids to name — hi Ronald — and we have mentioned them more than a few times. (Seriously, I love watching Ronald Acuña hit more than anything I can remember in baseball in a long time. Yes, Bonds in the early 2000s was wicked fun and we all remember the chase in '98. I loved to watch Gary Sheffield's quick wrists against hard-throwers too. But maybe since peak Pedro or even mid-1980s Dwight Gooden, Acuña is the most-fun baseball viewing around.)

But with all those dudes, and with all apologies to the career résumé of Albert Pujols, Clayton Kershaw is right there as a lead-pipe cinch too.

Last night he spun seven scoreless innings and found himself on a very interesting list. And you know my view on lists, the names on them matter more than the title of it.    

Pitchers in the live ball era with a scoreless start more: Nolan Ryan 116, Greg Maddux 108, Roger Clemens 106,  Tom Seaver and Don Sutton 86, Randy Johnson and Clayton Kershaw 83.

And speaking of Hall of Famers pitching at a Hall of Fame level, egad Jacob deGrom is absolutely filthy right now. Unfair even.

Here's his April stat line after his second loss of the season last night. (Seriously, that deGrom is only 2-2 is the worst show of support since what Hickory showed Coach Dale before Jimmy joined the fold and the Huskers made a run.)

The Mets ace allowed three hits and one run in a 1-0 loss to Boston last night. He had nine Ks and one walk. His April totals are sick: Five starters, 35 innings pitched two earned runs — that's a 0.51 ERA — and 59 Ks.

Yes, 59. At this pace he would top 500 strikeouts if he stays healthy. It's the 279th times since earned runs became a stat that a MLB pitcher had 55 or more Ks in a month, and according to ESPN stats and info, deGrom's ERA was the lowest of all of them.

 

This and that

— Speaking of stats and impressive lists, did you see that Chris Paul — and yes, the Phoenix Suns are legit — had his 215th game with at least 20 points and 10 assists? Only four dudes ever have done it more. The Big O, Magic, LeBron and Russell Westbrook.  

— Speaking of deGrom's lack of support, how about this stat: Last night was the 33rd time deGrom pitched at least six innings, allowed one run or fewer and failed to get a W.

— Former UTC football coach Chris Malone is suing the school after he and the school parted ways after he made fun of Stacey Abrams' weight on social media earlier this year. Here's more from Mean Gene Henley. Buckle up.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on UT hoping vaccinations among the Big Orange faithful will be widespread and they can have a full Neyland this fall. I hope so too. But even if they can, considering the lack of talent, not sure they will, if you know what I mean.

— Gang, the Derby is right around the corner. Send me your picks for the winner and the horse to finish DFL. Let's have some fun.

 

Today's questions

Lots to get to:

Got a prediction for the draft tonight?

Side question: Will you make a prop bet on it? There are a lot of interesting ones out there for sure.

Also, thoughts on Chris Malone's lawsuit? Discuss, because there are a lot of layers there. Would he have been fired for making fun of a conservative's weight, like a Roseanne or even Donald Trump?

Big picture, what's your favorite 'bad' sports movie, because I have watched Draft Day far too many times. I love the draft; you know this.

As for today, April 29, let's review. Some bona fide A-listers like Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis celebrate birthdays.

Also, my personal all-time favorite Willie Nelson is 88 today. He's on the Country Music Rushmore, right?

Let's do Pfeiffer's Rushmore. Go, and remember the mailbag and the Derby contest.

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