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Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Draft Day

Merry Draftmas everyone.

I am stoked. I also will offer a pledge for one of my full-fledged Twitter barrages tonight. You can follow along at @jgreesontfp if you so desire.

We have covered a slew of draft angles this week. The changing tenor of the league's view on draft capital and the willingness to trade picks for established players. We have covered the Falcons and the Titans and some betting angles that are quite intriguing.

Those combined views were turned into a sports section column here.

So now, let's explore what I think will happen. And feel free to send along your predictions for picks tonight to jgreeson@timesfreepress.com. Since the comments corrections are crawling right along, we'll keep a record for accuracy in our email, and we'll continue to use Friday's mailbag for both questions and the insightful comments you thoughtful folks share along the way.

Here are my five predictions for tonight, and at least two I am not too happy about:

— Travon Walker, the fast-rising Georgia defensive end/edge rusher, will go 1 overall. Dude has put together a historic rise, to be honest. Last month, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Walker's combine showing — 6-foot-5, 270-plus pounds, 4.51 40, 35-plus-inch arm length — was among the best ever. That said, man, Walker has more than a little risk considering that he was what, the fourth- or fifth-best player on that Georgia defense.

— Speaking of that Georgia defense, whoever drafts Jordan Davis — another combine superstar that McShay raved about since he weighs like 17 tons and ran a 4.78 40 which is not that much slower than Emmitt Smith or Mark Ingram at 6-6, 340 — will be tickled. (And along those lines, Paschall did his annual interview with Buddy Nix and the former NFL exec and UTC head football coach loves the massive Georgia defensive tackle as much as I do.) Side note: How impressive was Jordan Davis at the combine? Well, a mathematician named Kent Lee Platte developed a Relative Athletic Score metric on combine stats. In the history of the combine, according to Platte's metric, Davis had the second-best combine showing ever. At any position. Only Calvin Johnson — yeah, Megatron — was more impressive of the almost 18,000 football stars who have participated in the modern combine.   

— Someone will take a third QB. Malik Willis is going to go in the first round, and if he falls to Pittsburgh, everyone will say the Steelers won the draft. Kenny Pickett will go in the first round, and if he falls to Pittsburgh, everyone will say the Steelers won the draft. So there's that. (Side note: If both are on the board when the Steelers pick at 21, well, who knows, but as Fat Vader passed along earlier this week, Pickett's pee-wee hands are a concern. And Vader being Vader also passed along an informational website put together by the Barstool boys on Pickett's mitts. Enjoy.) But a third QB will be plucked by a team willing to move into the latter part of round one. And that's a great risk considering that if it pans out, the first-round selection means a fifth year of team-friendly contracts. And if you are the Falcons or another QB-needy team — like the Panthers — and don't want to spend a super high pick on a QB reach, doesn't moving some pieces or picks to get No. 30 (or whatever) for Sam Howell or Desmond Ritter or Matt Corral make a ton of sense?

— If the Falcons have the chance to take Derek Stingley Jr. or Kyle Hamilton and don't, they will regret it for the foreseeable future. That said, if for some inexplicable reason Kayvon Thibodeaux falls to them at 8, and they do not address the franchise's biggest glaring weakness of the last decade with a guy that many thought for the last 24 months was the best player in this class, well, then the new Falcons leadership will be on the clock and just as reckless as the previous Falcons regimes. And we've already covered Davis, who is bigger and faster than Aaron Donald. That's four potential generational players at four defensive spots, and here's betting more than one of them will be on the board when the Falcons are set to pick. (Anyone want to take odds that in that scenario, the Falcons reach on a QB or roll the dice on WR, which may be the deepest position in this draft?)

— Finally, the trend of dealing players for picks really picks up steam tonight as the 49ers deal Deebo Samuel (maybe to Philly) and Jimmy G (maybe to Atlanta) and the Browns deal Baker Mayfield. And that's just in round 1. And that's not even counting the deals for picks, since there are eight teams — Lions (2, 32), Texans (3, 13), Jets (4, 10), Giants (5, 7), Eagles (15, 18), Saints (16, 19), Packers (22, 28), and Chiefs (29, 30) — that have multiple first-round selections. And as you can see those teams either have a huge array of needs (draft back for even more picks), a monster glaring hole to fill (trade picks to move up or package for stars) or are a legit Super Bowl contender who could move picks for a big-time difference maker.

Merry Draftmas everyone.  
 

Do what?

And if Draft Day was not enough — and for those wondering and remembering that former UTC coach Russ Huesman loves the draft as much as I do, yes we have already chatted this morning; and we are both stoked — there's more great news trickling down the pike.

According to the official social media account of the Braves, one Ronald Acuña Jr. has been reinstated to the big-league club.

Goosebumps.

Acuña atop that lineup is a complete game-changer. It also opens a world of possibilities for Brian "The Snit" Snitker.

Because Acuña likes hitting 1 and keeping Ronald happy and productive is in everyone's best interests. (Just ask Freddie.)

And Matt Olson has been crushing in the 2 hole, but he also has not been able to do a lot of run-producing because of a lack of folks on base in front of him.

Would you, on a free-for-Thursday (remember, email me at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com since the comments are kaput) go Acuña, Olson, Riley, Ozuna, Albies, or go Acuña, Albies, Riley, Olson, Ozuna?

In truth, I kind of prefer the second one, considering the right-switch-right-left-right balance and the extra speed up top. Plus, Acuña on base means more fastballs for everyone.

Good times.

Everyone start humming the Mr. Kotter theme — "Welcome back, welcome back, welcome baaaaaaaack."

Lawyer up

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Sage Steele is suing ESPN.

Buckle up.

Steele claims she was taken off the air and denied some plum assignments because of her statements and opinions on Jay Cutler's podcast last year.

Among Steele's comments were questions about former President Barack Obama classifying himself as Black on the US Census saying it was, "fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found" and statements about women in sports media shouldn't "play coy and put it all on the guys" when they are being harassed or objectified on Twitter or Facebook.

Steele also blasted ESPN's vaccine mandate in the interview.

She claims to have been taken off the network and that ESPN refused to stop the workplace bullying Steele received after her comments and that ESPN forced her to apologize.

ESPN countered that Steele was never suspended and is still the noon host of SportsCenter.

But her attorney said in a statement, "Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don't get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced."

Game on.

This and that

— One more draft note/prediction, because I was getting a little overly full on Georgia defensive love, but I already said someone will trade into the late part of round one for a QB. The team that trades into the late part of round one for Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean will be forever glad they did. No he did not become a combine all-timer like Walker or Davis. But Dean was the absolute A1 dude on a historic defense filled with future Sunday stars. If he's on the board come Friday, and Jacksonville can add Walker and Dean. Honey hush. (Side prediction: It would 100% be a Belichickian move to deal a couple of 2s to the Lions for pick 32 and scoops up Dean.)

— We mentioned earlier that WR is the deepest position in this draft. I believe that this year, and likely for a lot of years to come. And here's my theory behind it. This generation's most dynamic playmakers are on the perimeter of more pass-first attacks. A generation or two ago, those dudes would have been running backs from middle to high school. But RBs are interchangeable and in the crosshairs of injuries, so the superstars see the money and the longer careers on the perimeter and gravitate there.

— We've said multiple times that if sports stars would just embrace being decent people, we'd love them for it. Look at the back-half of Tiger's career for crying out loud. But then, maybe a handful of sports stars are truly better people than they are pitchers, point guards or pocket passers. And Peyton Manning falls into the crew. Here's a story of Manning funding a scholarship in memory of former Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas.   

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on some UT football portal news.

— Speaking of the portal, here's Mean Gene Henley with some moves for the Mocs hoops collective as Jamal Johnson joins and Malachi Smith enters the portal.

— Holy half-cocked headlines Batman, how about this one? "Tickets for the first Saudi rebel golf event in the St Albans more expensive than the Masters." Man, to paraphrase Mickelson, those are some pricey mother(bleepers).

Today's questions

Lots of questions up there folks. Fire away at jgreeson@timesfreepress. And remember the mailbag.

As for today, Harper Lee would have been 96. Saddam Hussein would have been 85.  Think we all prefer the former to the latter, no?

John Daly is 56 today. So there's that. That Daly has more major titles than Fred Couples or David Duvall is kind of staggering, no?

Barry Larkin is 58 today.  

Jay Leno is 72 today. Rushmore of most famous chins. Go.

And enjoy the draft.

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