AP photo by Darron Cummings / Former UTC offensive lineman Cole Strange had multiple chances to impress NFL representatives in person since the end of the Mocs' season last fall, including at the scouting combine last month in Indianapolis. Strange also participated in the Senior Bowl earlier this year and was the central figure at the Mocs' pro day.

Morning friends. Let's get straight to the mailbag.

(I will find a way to add the Rushmores in a few minutes. Stupid deadlines.)

From a slew of you folks

So, what did you think of the draft?

Gang  —

I love the draft. You know this.

What a night, and I think the best way to do this is winners and losers. And of course actual grades or analysis need time to be factual. Heck, I thought Josh Allen was a terrible pick, and now I'm not sure there are three players in the entire NFL that are more untouchable in a trade than Allen.

But where's the next-day fun in that? Perspective, smerspective.

Winner — Cole Strange and UTC. Wow what a moment for a great young man and the Mocs program. A first-rounder — to the Pats at No. 29 overall — is boss sauce. And then some. Life-changing money. Program-changing exposure. In truth, this has to be up there with the biggest moments in UTC sports history, with the '97 Sweet 16 trip, Fox winning the US Am, and a few others. Here's more from Mean Gene Henley on Strange's choice to come to UTC and his drive to get to the league.

Loser — "Falcons going to Falcon" was what I wrote on social media last night. And that was right after I wrote "Here comes Atlanta about to reach for a wide receiver" before the Falcons took USC WR Drake London. OK, the Falcons have needs all over the place, and receiver is one of them. But why go get a guy who is smaller and slower than the tight end you picked last year? A guy that had to make physical plays over undersized college Des because he did not get separation? If you are going WR, go get the home run hitter like Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams. (Side note: Yes, Williams is recovering from an ACL, but when he comes back, he's the bees' knees.) And like every top-10 pick, London will be judged as much as those after him as he is by what he does. But, big picture, with the future stars on the board, taking London was so Falcons.

Winner — Georgia's defense. Five dudes from the same side of the ball going in round one? And your best defensive player — Nakobe Dean — was not one of them? Yeah, that recruiting pitch will play well for Kirby and Co. in coming months and years. By the end of tonight — when Dean and Channing Tindall hear their names called — that will be seven defensive players from Athens in the first two days.

Loser — Arizona. Dealing your first-round pick for Hollywood Brown, who is good but far from great, is a big risk, especially when a first-round pick could have drawn interest for a Deep Samuel or AJ Brown.

Winner — Jalen Hurts. Speaking of Brown, the Titans dealt the disgruntled WR who wanted franchise-crippling money, to the Eagles, who can pay Brown because Hurts and running mate wideout DeVonta Smith are on rookie deals. Hurts now has a legit arsenal and the Eagles got a lot better. (Side note: Remember this come late summer, but Jalen Hurts will be no worse than the No. 2 fantasy football QB behind Josh Allen because he runs more than Patrick Mahomes and throws better — and now has more weapons — than Lamar Jackson.)

Loser — Malik Willis. So, about that yahoo who said he loved over 2.5 QBs in round one? Yeah, who was that clown show anyway? (Cough, cough.) But Willis falling out of round one is very telling because if anyone has huge interest in him, moving into the last part of last night's proceedings makes a whole lot of sense.

Winner — The Ravens, who got a big-time game-changer at 14 — after trading back — in Kyle Hamilton. Heck, winners to all the teams that did not overthink this thing. Houston got a dude at 3 with Derek Stingley. The Giants stayed committed to the plan and added DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and OT Evan Neal at 5 and 7 respectively and got two dudes who were at one point pegged to go 1 overall. Heck, Detroit got better with Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams at 2 and 12. Which brings us back to our first loser on the list. Hey Falcons, when the Lions and the Giants (and even the Jets) had better nights in the draft than you did, welp, as Noonan's girlfriend Maggie famously said in "Caddyshack" — "Tanks for nuttin'" Falcons.

From a few others

So what happens tonight?

Gang  —

Well, Tampa Bay has pick one and a 45-year-old QB and Malik Willis is on the board. That could be interesting.

Here are some of the rumored fits that make a lot of sense to me, and at least in one place, will continue a very surprisingly successful and impressive draft for the Giants.

Tennessee picks early in round 2 and some mocks had them really liking future QB Desmond Ridder late in round one. That could be a fit at 35.

Whoever gets Nakobe Dean is going to to get a true star, and now that star will have a monster chip on his shoulder that the rest of the league thought he was no better than the sixth best Georgia defensive player. (Giants at 36 seems like a very good place.)

Speaking of Georgia players, when George Pickens comes off the board, someone will be getting a guy that could very well be the next rookie record-breaker in the right opportunity. If I am the GM of the Packers, well, Pickens would be a prime target for me early in round 2. Same with the Chiefs too.

It will be interesting to see when the runs on QBs and RBs start in round 2.

And of course to see how the Falcons mess this up.



From Big A

Jay, I have started reading your morning column. You are not terrible.

Like you I am a fan of Ronald Acuna and I was wondering if you think he is the most popular athlete in Atlanta?

I do and I am not sure how many cities where a baseball player can say that.

I gather you to be a fan of Atlanta sports, so do you think Mister Acuna could be among the most popular ever in your hometown?

Big A  —

Thanks for reading and playing along, and thanks for the question. It's not terrible.

At the moment, with Freddie in L.A., Matty Ice in Indy and the Braves basking in the glow of winning it all, I would say yes, Ronald Acuña Jr. is currently the most popular athlete in the A-T-L. (Most popular sports figure at this moment would likely be Kirby Smart, because there are that many UGA fans in Atlanta.)

The really intriguing part is how few major sports cities could say baseball stars were the most popular athlete in their towns, because it has happened a bunch in Atlanta. Murphy was there for a while. So was Chipper.

Maybe in NYC with Jeter at the height of his powers and the rest of the Big Apple teams tanking.

Seattle has had a couple with Junior for a while and maybe even Ichiro. Boston and L.A. are big baseball towns, but the baseball stars take back seats to a Brady or the big basketball names of the moment.

Currently, would Jose Altuve count since the rest of the Houston sports team stink on ice?

And Acuña has miles to go before passing either of the beloved Braves players I mentioned above in the pantheon of favorite Atlanta athletes.

And even if he somehow passes Murph or Chipper, in my lifetime, there has never been a single athlete that city embraced more than Mike Vick.

Through it all, you will still see a large number of Vick 7s at Falcons games to this day. And even a few Ron Mexico jerseys too.

And for some of the best chatter this week in the old-school email feedback since the comments are kaput.

From J-Mac

Looking forward to the draft (Thursday). It is interesting to see the pics and wonder what were they thinking.

Larson and Hamlin are good friends and Larson even rides in Hamlin's plane to some of the races. Hamlin should have thought before posting it. That worries me about getting on twitter. I would be hesitant to say anything.

Thanks...good columns this week.

J-Mac  —

You are wise to be hesitant to say anything on Twitter. I wish I was.

From Bicycle Bob


Although I'm not a big viewer of the draft, I did, of course, find your comments yesterday interesting. There are some impressive players out there; not sure how they will ultimately pan out. But I can say one thing for certain: as it appears the draft coverage will pre-empt Jeopardy this evening, the Mrs. Bicycle Bob is not a happy camper. She does not understand why the draft has to be on three channels at once, and she would like to find a way to get in touch with Roger Goodell about this matter. LOL

BB  —

Here's hoping Mrs. BB gets Roger on the phone and gives him the what-for.

And since this thing is on 17 channels, for Pete Rozelle's sake why are the Mannings not available?


From Doug

A sign of the times: Miami's Isaiah Wong plans to enter the transfer portal this weekend if his NIL package is not improved, his agent told ESPN. Billionaire John Ruiz said Wong is "under contract" but added "I do not renegotiate!" Miami can't comment.

I knew this would start to happen. U. of Miami took a transfer in the portal that averaged 14 pts a game and gave him a 2-year $800,000 deal.

Malachi will probably get mid 6 to low 7 figure NIL deal to transfer.

Doug  —

Yep. Not sure what Malachi Smith will get (or what Lamont can raise at South Carolina) but I saw this story and thought, "Wow."

Just wow.

And the stories coming out about agents taking 15% (and more) of the NIL deals are just as crazy.

Good thing we can trust the NCAA to get this under control pronto, huh?


From Chas

Love your point about Peyton and character.

Leno, Kirk Douglas, Mitch McConnell (Mr.Burns), Wicked Witch of the West from Oz, Abe Lincoln, Dastardly Whiplash

Don't care about Sage Steele. Corporate America can hire or fire at will. And please don't say she's being canceled.

Chas  —

Impossible to say she was canceled. She still has a job at ESPN. But if she can prove her bosses allowed her to be bullied by her coworkers — at least in part to try to get Steele to leave — well that will be an expensive mistake.

And yes, corporate America can hire and fire at will, but firing a Black female because of what she said on a podcast seems like it could rile some feathers, no?

Have a great weekend friends.  

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Jay Greeson