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Sweet 16 2019: Upset Meter for Every Game

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    Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura goes up for a dunk against Baylor.

    Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura goes up for a dunk against Baylor.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    In the Sweet 16, the competition becomes more concentrated. If you’ve made it this far, it doesn’t matter where you came from. You are a dangerous basketball team.

    Put another way, at this point you’re not sneaking up on anyone. Most seasons, that would refer most specifically to the mid-majors who’d reached the sport’s fifth-highest plateau. This year, however, the field is awfully chalky. That might mean fewer folk heroes, but it doesn’t mean fewer stories—or fewer opportunities for an interesting upset.

    In the upset meter that follows, we’re breaking down each game to see whether or to what extent underdogs have the proven tools to take down their numerical superiors. By the same token, we’ll identify the top dogs that appear immune to such a challenge.

    The likelihood of an upset in all eight Sweet 16 games is graded on a 1-10 scale, based on the matchup itself and performance in the tournament to date. We’ll also identify the challenge involved in knocking off the favorite, as well as some important statistics and factors to bear in mind. The games are ranked from least likely to most likely for an upset. Ready? Let’s get it on.

1 of 8

    Zion Williamson

    Zion WilliamsonStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: March 29, 9:39 p.m. ET

       

    The Challenge

    Duke is the favorite to win this tournament. Watching Zion Williamson crash into UCF’s 7’6″ Tacko Fall to get the layup and set up RJ Barrett’s go-ahead score was enough to dismay fans of any team other than the Blue Devils. Zion’s 32-point, 11-rebound performance helped push Duke to a 77-76 win and ended any chance of a Cinderella-style upset. Fall, Aubrey Dawkins and the Knights (haha) fought valiantly, but this time, the dragon swallowed them whole. 

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 75 and 52

    The first number is Duke guard Cam Reddish’s shooting percentage from beyond the arc against UCF on Sunday. Williamson rightly gets the lion’s share of the attention, with superfrosh Barrett a distant second. But Reddish is a quiet force for the team. He chipped in 13 points, four boards and two helpers against the Knights, but more importantly, he hit three of four three-pointers. Duke has taken barbs for being deficient in this area, and Reddish is no sharpshooter, but efficient performances like these mean a lot to the Blue Devils.

    The second is the number of years it’s been since the Virginia Tech Hokies reached the Sweet 16. This team has had a hell of a year, and coach Buzz Williams, top player Kerry Blackshear and the rest of the Hokies deserve recognition for that. They should be happy with their accomplishments. They will surely fight hard against Duke, but it feels like it will all be for naught. 

                 

    Difference-Makers

    Zion Williamson. Aside from the 6’10” Blackshear, Virginia has no one over 6’7″. He should be able to have his way in the post. Blackshear is the difference-maker for the Hokies. He won’t and couldn’t to it alone but it all starts with him, especially defensively.

              

    Upset Meter: 1.6

2 of 8

    Luke Maye

    Luke MayeAssociated Press

    When: March 29, 7:29 p.m. ET

          

    The Challenge

    North Carolina appears to be gaining power. After being pushed by No. 16 Iona before winning 88-73, the Tar Heels soundly defeated No. 9 Washington 81-59 on Sunday. Four players—Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Coby White and bench spark plug Nassir Little—scored in double figures, which more or less lines up with this season’s trend. It’s inside, it’s outside and it’s hard to deal with. And their defense isn’t half-bad, either, sitting 11th in the KenPom rankings.

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 15 and 16

    The first number is the number of double-doubles on the season for Maye, the most recent of which came over the Huskies. The 6’8″ senior isn’t the most physically imposing forward in the world, but he has no off switch.

    The second is the number of years since Auburn last made the Sweet 16. They did it by taking down a blue-blood program in Kansas. Could they take down another?

                           

    Difference-Makers

    Auburn’s offense is sixth in the KenPom rankings. They’re clearly a good team, but their firepower is a little concentrated in guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, who account for a combined 39 percent of the Tigers’ scoring. 

    That makes them vulnerable against a Tar Heels team that knows how to defend in the backcourt. North Carolina coach Roy Williams will probably use Little as his defensive stopper, and Johnson and White are solid, too. This could be a choke point for Auburn.

    That said, no one made more threes this season than Auburn, who put away 396. Can they got hot? Sure, and that’s their best chance.

             

    Upset Meter: 2.4

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    Cassius Winston

    Cassius WinstonJamie Squire/Getty Images

    When: March 29, 7:09 p.m. ET

          

    The Challenge

    That queasy feeling Spartans fans felt after their team’s tense 76-65 win over No. 15 Bradley in the opening round was quelled a bit by their 70-50 whipping of No. 10 Minnesota. The greatest rock-fighter in college basketball, Michigan State is more used to imposing adversity than surviving it, but it is pretty good at doing both.

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 57.1 and 36.9

    The first number is Michigan State’s team shooting percentage against Minnesota. It’s hard to beat a team shooting 28-of-49 from the floor, plus 6-of-15 (40 percent) from three to boot. 

    The second is LSU’s shooting percentage from its 69-67 win over Maryland. Bit of a discrepancy there. LSU’s win was a pretty sloppy affair in which the Tigers and Terps combined for 22 turnovers and 29 personal fouls. Thanks to clutch play from Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays, LSU survived, but it was the kind of win that generates more relief than momentum. 

                

    Difference-Makers

    LSU is mired in well-publicized controversy and an investigation that remains full of open questions even as LSU wended its way to this point. It may seem unfair to cast a shadow over the team because of what coach Will Wade is alleged to have done, but it has to be exhausting on one level or another, and it could make a difference as the miles of the tourney begin to pile up.

    Speaking of which, the Spartans have not shown immunity to sloppiness and even a bit of controversy of their own. Head coach Tom Izzo’s outburst during the Bradley game has been dissected frame by frame. Though it pales in comparison to the Wade situation, it’s still the kind of thing that can wear you down. Their 22 turnovers against Bradley were nine more than their season average.

             

    Upset Meter: 2.7

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    Corey Kispert (left) and Brandon Clarke

    Corey Kispert (left) and Brandon ClarkePatrick Smith/Getty Images

    When: March 28, 7:09 p.m. ET

       

    The Challenge

    Gonzaga did everything it could in its first two games to exonerate itself of that eye-popping loss to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference tournament final. Thanks to an 87-49 win over No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson and an 83-71 defeat of No. 9 Baylor, their average margin of victory thus far is a crisp, clean 25.

    That shouldn’t be shocking for the nation’s best offense, both according to the KenPom.com rankings and official NCAA statistics that have the Zags tops overall in efficiency (125.5) and points per game (88.8). They can score inside or from deep, in the half court or in transition. Their ball movement is a thing of beauty, and with four players—Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins—averaging double figures in scoring, it’s a pick-your-poison operation.

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 53.2 and 40.7

    The first number is Gonzaga’s team field-goal percentage. Just like in scoring, the Bulldogs lead the nation in this category.

    The second is the percentage Florida State has allowed. It’s not the nation’s best, but 31st in the nation isn’t too shabby either. 

                

    Difference-Makers

    Just ask Murray State about the Seminoles’ D. En route to a convincing 90-62 win, FSU allowed superstar Ja Morant to go for 28—but made a clear effort to lock up the other guys and force someone else to step up under pressure. The other Racers responded with 34 points on 12-of-40 (30 percent) shooting. Even Morant needed 21 shots to get his, which put his 38.1 percent shooting for the game well below his season average of 49.9 percent.

    In those data lie a potential advantage for Gonzaga: versatile big man Rui Hachimura. FSU makes a habit of taking out the other player’s best guy, but it excels at shutting down guards like Morant. The Seminoles are not quite as formidable inside and also are not the most transition-minded team. The Bulldogs could capitalize on both of those shortcomings, even if FSU does appear poised to put up a fight. 

             

    Upset Meter: 3.8

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    Charles Matthews

    Charles MatthewsJamie Squire/Getty Images

    When: March 28, 9:39 p.m. ET

       

    The Challenge

    Offense. No. 2 Michigan is second in the KenPom defensive rankings. No. 3 Texas Tech is first. Get out your coffee beans, because we are ready to grind.

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 37 and 37

    The first number is the lowest number of points the Wolverines surrendered this season, coming Nov. 10 against Holy Cross.

    The second is the number Texas Tech allowed Nov. 6 against Incarnate Word. That’s not a typo. These two defensive powerhouses share the same low mark—and set it four days apart from each other.

    Sure, both numbers came against overmatched opponents, but they were hardly outliers. Michigan held opponents under 60 on 19 occasions. The Red Raiders did it 18 times, including on Sunday against Buffalo.

              

    Difference-Makers

    Defense is unquestionably the deal here, but, obviously, points must be scored. For Texas Tech, guard Jarrett Culver leads the team in points (18.8), rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.7). Michigan is a little more diversified, with Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson all contributing in various capacities.

    The real difference-maker for Michigan, though, is guard Charles Matthews, who stepped on the March Madness court and instantly started playing the best basketball he’s played since suffering an ankle injury in February. His 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the first two games are making the Wolverines a different team. Texas Tech is legit, and this is a must-watch game.

    An upset is possible, but spurred by the booster rocket that is Matthews’ improved form, Michigan might not be quite the upset special it appears.

             

    Upset Meter: 3.9

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    Kyle Guy (left) and Mamadi Diakite

    Kyle Guy (left) and Mamadi DiakiteStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: March 28, 9:59 p.m. ET

       

    The Challenge

    Something clicked in UVA a few days ago. Perhaps it was the prospect of a permanent wing in the Sports Losers Hall of Fame. Since the 6:43 mark of the first half against No. 16 Gardner-Webb, when the Bulldogs led the Cavs 30-16, Virginia has outscored its two tourney opponents 118-77.

    The second team in that equation was No. 9 Oklahoma, who managed just 51 points to the Cavs’ 63 thanks to Virginia’s stellar defense—and this was despite the Sooners putting up 95 in the first round and receiving accolades for the best performance in the tournament’s first two days.

            

    Noteworthy Numbers: 39.4 and 36.0

    The first number is the combined field-goal percentage of Gardner-Webb and Oklahoma. That’s pretty good, especially considering how hot Gardner-Webb was early and how hot Oklahoma was in its entire first game (57.6 percent against Ole Miss). 

    The second is the field-goal percentage of Oregon’s two opponents (Wisconsin and UC Irvine). Though Virginia gets more acclaim for its defense, Oregon is outstanding on that end as well. 

                

    Difference-Makers

    Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, architect of this magical pack-line defense that will one day deliver us all from our enemies, gets a lot of credit when the Cavs win and a lot of blame when they lose. It’s a minor miracle he didn’t lose his job after last year’s historic loss to University of Maryland Baltimore County. But he did a great job steadying his team against Gardner-Webb when his nerves must have been just as shaky.

    This is an unusual team in several ways. Win or lose, Bennett is its beating heart. That can cut either way. Your opinion of Oregon’s upset chances depends on your opinion of the coach.

    On the Oregon side, it’s a no-brainer. Payton Pritchard leads the current roster in assists (4.6) and steals (1.9), and he’s second in points (12.9) After previous top scorer Bol Bol went down with an injury, it was Pritchard who carried them to the Pac-12 tourney title (he was tourney MVP).

    But don’t forget about Kenny Wooten. The 6’9″ sophomore is the Ducks’ biggest defensive weapon. He followed four blocks and six rebounds Friday against Wisconsin with a game-changing seven blocks and nine boards when Oregon defeated No. 13 UC Irvine on Sunday.

            

    Upset Meter: 4.9

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    Grant Williams

    Grant WilliamsJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    When: March 28, 7:29 p.m. ET

           

    The Challenge

    Tennessee has looked outstanding at times this tournament, but as was the case in the regular season, the Volunteers are prone to lapses. They needed overtime to stave off a comeback from No. 10 Iowa before winning 83-77, and that came after barely surviving No. 15 Colgate 77-70 in the opening round. Still, this is a tough test for Purdue.

    Tennessee is a deep team led by three legitimate NBA prospects in forward Grant Williams and guards Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone.

            

    Noteworthy Numbers: 25 and 42

    The first number is the deficit Iowa faced before storming back to push Tennessee into overtime. The Volunteers are the same team that spent several weeks atop the national polls and then finished the season with four losses in their last 10 games. This was against an incredibly tough SEC schedule, mind you, but it still illustrates a bona fide issue.

    The second is the scoring output from Purdue’s Carsen Edwards in the Boilermakers’ 87-61 dismissal of defending champion Villanova. This followed a 26-point effort against Old Dominion, which itself followed weeks of criticism over his shooting slump.

    And everyone was hyper-aware of that slump because Edwards scores more than twice as much per game (23.6) as the team’s second-leading scorer (Ryan Cline with 11.7) while taking an average of 19.3 shots per game.

                

    Difference-Makers

    Edwards, Edwards, Edwards. He doesn’t need to score 42 points to be a huge factor in this game. Two things are certain: (1) he will shoot and (2) he will never not shoot.

    If the slump is gone for good, that’s trouble for Tennessee. If it re-emerges, he could shoot Purdue right over the cliff. Without him, the Boilermakers probably don’t have the firepower to mount a big comeback if the Vols storm out to an early lead, as is their wont.

    For Tennessee, it’s Grant Williams. Tennessee’s best player pulled them back from the brink against Iowa. He’s their rock and he’ll be indispensible moving forward.

             

    Upset Meter: 5.5

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    Armoni Brooks

    Armoni BrooksHarry How/Getty Images

    When: March 29, 9:59 p.m. ET

           

    The Challenge

    Another likable underdog, another narrow escape by the perennial powerhouse. But when it held off No. 7 Wofford 62-56, Kentucky showed both vulnerability and strength.

    More on the vulnerability momentarily, but it would be hard not to notice Kentucky’s length and athleticism at every position. They may not be at full strength, but the Wildcats have plenty of fight left. They’ll need it.

         

    Noteworthy Numbers: 0 and 2

    The first number is the number of threes Wofford guard Fletcher Magee made against Kentucky. This is the same Magee who, in the first round against Seton Hall, went 7-of-12 from three en route to 24 points. Kentucky held him to eight points.

    Magee took the same amount of three-point attempts he did in the first round and made none of them. And this is a guy who hardly needs a clean look to get a good shot off. That says something about the Wildcats’ ability and focus.

    The second is the number of Houston Cougars who are both (1) in the team’s top seven for scoring and (2) over 6’5″. (It’s Fabian White Jr. and Breaon Brady, by the way.) This is as guard-heavy as a rotation can get. It’s obviously effective, but there are literal, observable limitations.

                   

    Difference-Makers

    Kentucky forward PJ Washington, who will impact the game whether he steps on the court or not. The Wildcats’ leading scorer recently suffered a foot injury. He didn’t play in either of the first two tournament games, and his status for this one is uncertain.

    Kentucky fans are surely looking for something to go their way. Poor guys. When will their program get a break? Just kidding. Best of luck, PJ.

    Houston’s second-leading scorer is Armoni Brooks, but this team moves as a group, like one of those clouds of birds where everyone moves in the same direction. They work the ball around, shoot from the perimeter and swarm the boards. Despite their lack of size, the Cougars are seventh nationally with 40.9 rebounds per contest. Brooks leads the team with 6.5 boards a game, so he’s clearly important to them in multiple areas.

             

    Upset Meter: 7.2

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It’s time to accept that maybe AirPower doesn’t exist after all

Only in our dreams.
Only in our dreams.

Image: JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

As the world got ready for another one of Apple’s two-hour-long announcement events, some people held out hope that we might finally hear more about AirPower, the company’s wireless charging pad. The product was first announced all the way back in 2017, but we haven’t heard much since then.

Hopes were dashed on Monday when Apple focused entirely on services rather than hardware. Original TV content, news and magazine subscriptions, and gaming took precedence over the kinds of things we’ve grown accustomed to at Apple press conferences. 

That meant there was no mention of AirPower at all. Monday marked the 559th day since the product was first announced and we still have no idea when it’s coming out. Apple’s original plan was to launch in 2018, but that whole year came and went without the company’s wireless charging solution.

Apple has held a handful of flashy stage shows to reveal new products or services since then, but AirPower has yet to show up at any of them

Apple's latest event was focused more on Hollywood than hardware.

Apple’s latest event was focused more on Hollywood than hardware.

Image: NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

In fairness to Apple, AirPower showing up at Monday’s event always seemed like a long-shot. Apple ran with the “showtime” motif in the week leading up to the entertainment-focused event and got minor hardware updates out of the way beforehand. There was a new round of rumors about AirPower’s long-awaited launch before the event, but they failed to come to fruition.

What makes the radio silence surrounding AirPower concerning is how unusual it is for Apple. Typically, Apple announces products shortly before they are ready to be shipped without massive delays like this. Some exceptions include the HomePod and AirPods, but still, those products eventually made it into people’s hands. 

Reports last year suggested Apple was having trouble getting AirPower to work without serious overheating. It makes sense that a serious hardware problem like that would be the source for such an extensive delay, but it doesn’t make the situation any less unusual for Apple.

It’s not the end of the world that one of Apple’s many product announcements from the last few years hasn’t made it to market yet. People have kept charging their phones, watches and headphones without any trouble in the meantime. Still, as long as Apple keeps saying nothing, we’re going to keep wondering just what happened to AirPower.

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Pentagon authorises transfer of $1bn for US-Mexico border wall

The Pentagon has authorised the transfer of $1bn to army engineers to build a portion of the wall along the US-Mexico border, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said.

Shanahan said late on Monday in a memo to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen that the Department of Defense had the authority to support counter-narcotics activities near international boundaries.

Shanahan authorised the engineers to begin planning and executing the project that would involve building 98 kilometres of five-metre-high fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lights within the Yuma and El Paso sections of the US-Mexico border.

The infrastructure was described as “fencing”, not a “wall”.

Building a wall along the two country’s border was a key campaign promise for Republican President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. The opposition Democrats have vehemently opposed the efforts to build a wall.

After weeks of bickering, Republicans and Democrats agreed to a compromise during budget talks in February that saw Trump allocate $5.7bn for building a wall – much less than he had hoped for.

In response, Trump declared a national emergency last month, clearing the way for the president to take money from the Pentagon’s construction budget and drug forfeitures and use it for wall construction.

Trump overruled a move by Congress to block the declaration of a national emergency on March 15, using the first veto of his presidency.

Democrats are hoping to block the veto in a vote on Tuesday, but they are not expected to muster the two-thirds majority required to do so.

Even if they are successful, they would require that same majority in a second vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Predicting the Most Surprising Picks of the 2019 NFL Draft

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Expect the unexpected, because the NFL draft never goes according to plan. 

    Even the very best outside talent evaluators and most informed analysts struggle to make predictions with any certainty. 

    Inevitably, teams fall in love with certain prospects, trades occur and one surprise pick changes the draft’s entire outlook. Once one of those eventualities occurs, everything thought throughout the predraft process will be blown to smithereens and a butterfly effect will commence. 

    Since team-building isn’t an exact science, there is no specific way to fill out an entire 53-man roster and just a few out-of-the-box first-round selections can change the entire draft’s complexion.

    All 32 teams bring different approaches and some are bound to make surprising decisions: Possibilities range from selecting a prospect much earlier than projected to filling a lesser need or simply targeting a position that’s already been addressed prior to the event.  

    Narrowing down the innumerable possibilities is impossible. As such, only a few potential first-round flash points are highlighted where organizations may go against the grain of traditional thinking. 

    These surprise picks will define the 2019 NFL draft in Nashville, Tennessee.  

          

1 of 10

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders built an impressive supporting cast for quarterback Derek Carr. Or…have they? 

    Carr has been a solid, albeit unspectacular option behind center. However, the 27-year-old quarterback counts for $86 million against the salary cap over the next four seasons. 

    “He’s our franchise quarterback, yes,” head coach Jon Gruden said, per the San Jose Mercury News‘ Matt Schneidman, “I’ll try to make that clear.” 

    Then again, the Raiders didn’t plan to trade Khalil Mack and Gruden, himself, denied reports the team was shopping Amari Cooper. 

    Circumstances change. At the very least, the Raiders organization has done its due diligence on top quarterback prospects. 

    Offensive coordinator Greg Olson came away impressed by Kyler Murray at Oklahoma’s pro day. 

    “That was impressive, really impressive,” Olson told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole. “He had a great workout.”

    But Murray is the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is in the mix at No. 4, though. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year had a private workout scheduled with the Raiders. 

    Financially, a quarterback swap makes sense since Oakland would eat only $7.5 million in a Carr trade, while last year’s fourth overall pick, Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, made $5.3 million in his first year. Thus, the Raiders could save over $9 million against the cap while giving Gruden his preferred option.

2 of 10

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The New York Giants have been spinning their wheels all offseason to make up for previous mistakes.

    The organization didn’t place the franchise tag on Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who signed a six-year, $84 million contract with the rival Washington Redskins. As a result, general manager Dave Gettleman demanded the Cleveland Browns include third-year safety Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. With Beckham no longer on the team, the Giants signed veteran wide receiver Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million contract. 

    Tate’s addition provides a weapon in the passing game, but he doesn’t completely solve the team’s issues at wide receiver. The Giants lack a true outside threat who can stretch opposing defenses. 

    Despite quarterback being at the forefront of every Giants draft conversation, the team seems content going into another season with the 38-year-old Eli Manning behind center. He needs more help, though. 

    Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf heads a stronger-than-expected wide receiver class with the profile to be an elite selection. The 6’3″, 228-pound target with 4.33-second 40-yard dash speed and a 40.5-inch vertical jump is an overwhelming physical presence. He’ll help open up the entire offense and allow Tate and Sterling Shepard to work underneath routes. 

    Gettleman already tried to cover up other poor decisions. Metcalf is the perfect move to reset and move on from Beckham. 

3 of 10

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    An NFL franchise is going to fall in love with Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. It’s inevitable. 

    Two quarterbacksOklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins—are treated as the only elite talents at the position, but this may very well be a three-horse race. 

    “Physically, he has a lot to like … an impressive combination of size (6’4″, 228 pounds), underrated mobility and a live arm,” an NFL evaluator said of Lock, per Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor

    Lock’s impressive arm talent and movement skills (4.69-second 40-yard dash) are only part of the equation. A franchise quarterback must have the right demeanor to become a team leader. 

    “Kid truly loves the game and carries himself much different than others,” another evaluator said. “He’s got a cool, calm and collected demeanor, and the AAU ball [basketball] he played growing up really helped him relate with different cultures. I think guys will naturally gravitate to him at the next level.”

    The Denver Broncos’ acquisition of Joe Flacco took pressure off the organization to select a quarterback early in the draft process. His presence doesn’t prevent the team from drafting a quarterback with the 10th overall pick, though.

    The 34-year-old Flacco is an ideal short-term bridge after serving the same role last season for the Baltimore Ravens, and he doesn’t have a single guaranteed dollar left on his contract. 

    According to Denver 9News’ Mike Klis, the Broncos will host Lock on a predraft visit. The 22-year-old prospect isn’t a polished passer—but he can learn from a Super Bowl-winning quarterback then take over the starting role once the Broncos decide to move past Flacco.

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    More often than not, Florida’s Jawaan Taylor is slotted to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the seventh overall pick. The position slotting may be correct, but a different player could interest the Jaguars. 

    Alabama’s Jonah Williams isn’t a sexy option even among offensive linemen. As a result, he’s been mistreated through the entire draft process. 

    The three-year starter and two-time All-SEC performer doesn’t fit traditional standards for a top-10 pick: He’s not the biggest, longest or most athletic blocker. He doesn’t present the most upside, either. These trains of thought are how draft mistakes occur. 

    Williams is not a guard; he’s an offensive tackle and a damn good one. His game is predicated on what really matters: technique and skill. He’s as consistent as any prospect in recent memory, with starting experience at both right and left tackle. 

    The final point is especially important to Jacksonville. The Jaguars released starting right tackle Jermey Parnell earlier this offseason. Four-fifths of the team’s offensive front appears set, but a final piece is needed to keep the team’s new quarterback, Nick Foles, upright. 

    If Jacksonville decides it wants a lineman with more upside and power at the point of attack, Taylor will be the choice. However, Williams is a plug-and-play blocker to solidify right tackle from the moment he’s drafted. He’s not going to be overwhelmed, because he can always rely on his technique to overcome. 

    With Williams off the board sooner rather than later, other top offensive line prospects like Taylor and Washington State’s Andre Dillard will be pushed down the board further than expected. 

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf isn’t the unchallenged top wide receiver prospect in this year’s draft class: Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler can make a strong case as well. 

    “He’s a freak show to me,’ former Iowa State teammate David Montgomery told NFL Draft Bible’s Ric Serritella. “You can’t teach that length. You can’t teach what he can do on the field. How he went out there and how confident he was every day, bringing that aura to the field and team was one of the best I’ve seen.”

    Butler became only the sixth 6’5″, 220-pound wide receiver since 2010 to run a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, per NFL Network’s Ben Fennell. More importantly, the massive target knows how to use his size. 

    According to NFL.com’s Graham Barfield55 percent of Butler’s receptions gained 20 or more yards. He also led the class in yards per route and an average of 22 yards per reception (among receivers with 40 or more catches). 

    If quarterbacks Kyle Murray, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock are off the board, Washington won’t be in a position to select a signal-caller who can challenge veteran Case Keenum. 

    Instead, the front office can do its best by surrounding the team’s new starter with an outstanding supporting cast. Butler has the potential to be everything the team originally envisioned when it used a first-round pick to draft Josh Doctson in 2016. 

    Granted, Butler may not be an ideal fit for Jay Gruden’s rhythm passing offense, but that’s not much of a concern since Washington’s front office only worries about talent and doesn’t take the team’s scheme into consideration. 

6 of 10

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    A combination of speed and potential scheme fit has Ohio State’s Parris Campbell rising into the first round after being considered a Day 2 prospect throughout most of the draft process. 

    More than ever, offensive football is reliant on creating chunk plays. 

    The Baltimore Ravens lacked this aspect, even though a spectacular run game orchestrated by quarterback Lamar Jackson led to a playoff berth. 

    As a result, Baltimore decided to repurpose their wide receiver corps. Right now, that group consists of Willie Snead IV, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott and Chris Moore. 

    Campbell automatically brings game-changing speed. The first-team All-Big Ten performer ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the combine. But he’s more than a straight-line athlete. As impressive as Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf was in Indianapolis, Campbell is a better overall athlete and tested in the 99th percentile among NFL wide receivers, according to Three Sigma Athlete’s Zach Whitman

    Campbell isn’t just a height-weight-speed prospect, though; he set an Ohio State single-season record last season with 90 receptions. 

    Furthermore, he can become an integral part of a Ravens offense with his ability to create with the ball in his hands, as he averaged 14.8 yards after catch on screen passes, according to Bleacher Report’s Ryan McCrystal (via Sports Info Solutions). Campbell ranked seventh overall with an average of 8.9 yards after catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus

    Baltimore doesn’t need a traditional outside target; the team needs someone who can be worked into the scheme and maximize touches.

7 of 10

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans going in any direction other than an offensive lineman in the first round after investing very little during free agency—no, Matt Kalil doesn’t count—will be the biggest surprise of the entire draft. 

    A potential tight end selection only adds to the confusion, even though the approach makes some sense. 

    The team signed free agent Darren Fells and still sports a pair of talented young tight ends in Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. Plus, Ryan Griffin and Jerell Adams remain on the roster. 

    None of the aforementioned options should prevent the Texans from selecting a tight end if an outstanding talent is available. Houston utilized 12 personnel more than any other team last season, according to Sharp Football’s Warren Sharp. The Texans had a least two tight ends on the field 36 percent of the time.

    The position is important to the entire offensive scheme, but it lacks a difference-maker. 

    Noah Fant’s skill set is unlike anything found on Houston’s roster. The Iowa product is an elite athlete, who tested among the 98th percentile for NFL tight ends, according to Three Sigma Athlete’s Zach Whitman. He’s a mismatch waiting to happen. 

    Fant is a move tight end who can be used in a manner of ways to complement the weapons already on the roster. Plus, he’s been well-coached by Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa staff to contribute as a blocker, even though it’s not a strong suit.

8 of 10

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    A major knee injury doesn’t derail a prospect’s future like it once did. 

    Jeffery Simmons looked like a future top-10 selection, despite pleading no-contest to simple assault in 2016 for repeatedly striking a woman, until he suffered a torn ACL while training for the NFL combine.

    The timing of the injury is unfortunate because the Mississippi State defensive tackle won’t be ready for the start of the regular season. But an already established squad at the back end of the first round could take a chance on a top talent, who may be ready to play during the final month of the regular season. 

    The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t entirely settled at 1-technique. Haloti Ngata retired and the organization declined Timmy Jernigan’s option so he became a free agent.

    General manager Howie Roseman reloaded along the defensive front by re-signing Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. Malik Jackson’s free-agent signing provides another option along the interior. But the group lacks a true point-of-attack nose tackle. 

    According to Pro Football Focus, the 6’4″, 300-pound Simmons finished third among interior defenders last season with an 11.8 run-stop percentage and finished fifth with an 89.7 pass-rush grade. 

    The Eagles’ defensive success is built upon attacking opposing quarterbacks in waves. However, the group is aging. Graham, Curry, Jackson, Chris Long and Fletcher Cox will be 29 or older by the end of the year. 

    The chance to draft a top defensive line talent at a discount price is the type of investment that will keep the Eagles’ front effective for an extended period.

9 of 10

    George Frey/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers placed themselves in a position every organization wants to be in: The franchise will enter the draft with no glaring holes and a pair of first-round picks to use. 

    Free-agent signings of Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner addressed the team’s issues at pass-rush, safety and guard. As a result, the Packers can now let the draft come to them without forcing a pick based on significant need. 

    A little foresight will allow the team to address a position beyond the upcoming campaign. For example, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who has been a starter since the team selected him with a 2010 first-round pick, just turned 30 years old, missed 13 games over the last two seasons and enters the final season on his contract. 

    Washington’s Kaleb McGary quietly went about his business during the predraft process and may have worked his way up to a first-round prospect when the career right tackle wasn’t originally considered a top offensive line prospect.  

    First, McGary more than held his own at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, against the draft class’ top defenders. He then performed well at the NFL combine with top-10 performances among offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (5.05 seconds), vertical jump (33.5 inches), broad jump (9’3″) and short shuttle (4.58 seconds). 

    David Bakhtiari and a healthy Bulaga form arguably the league’s best offensive tackle tandem, but the Packers have reached the point where alternatives are necessary to protect Aaron Rodgers.

10 of 10

    Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots don’t make forced or short-sighted decisions during the draft. They’re not going to take a quarterback at the end of the first round just because they’re worried about Tom Brady’s eventual decline. 

    If the right prospect is available, the Patriots will select Brady’s heir apparent. West Virginia’s Will Grier has a chance to be that prospect. 

    Generally speaking, four quarterbacksOklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s  Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones—are considered first-round prospects with Grier on the outside looking in, and understandably so. 

    Physically, the one-time Florida transfer isn’t the most impressive option. He’s not the biggest or most athletic and his arm talent isn’t as explosive as others in the class. Grier turns 24 years old before the draft as well.

    Yet, he’s impressive in two vital areas. According to Pro Football Focus, Grier graded best against the blitz, with a 22-0 touchdown-interception ratio, and finished fifth in deep passing grade. Grier then “put on a show” during West Virginia’s pro day and has a scheduled meeting with the Patriots, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter

    Grier isn’t likely to be available with the 56th or 64th picks since multiple quarterback-needy teams are in play at the top of the second round. And a quarterback selection with the final pick of the first round will provide the Patriots with the all-important fifth-year option on the prospect’s rookie contract. 

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Kevin Smith responds to Stan Lee’s ‘Captain Marvel’ cameo with sweet tribute

Kevin Smith has a great tribute planned for his late friend Stan Lee.
Kevin Smith has a great tribute planned for his late friend Stan Lee.

Image: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for IMDb

Kevin Smith was “a blubbering mess” after seeing Stan Lee’s cameo in Captain Marvel, and he’s planning quite the multi-levelled tribute in return.

The late Marvel legend’s cameo occurred in the film during a scene when Captain Marvel (a.k.a Carol Danvers) is searching for a Skrull among human passengers on a train.

Lee sits in one of the carriages, muttering the words “Trust me, true believer,” as read from a script for Smith’s 1995 cult classic Mallrats. Danvers pulls the script down to check Lee for Skrull signs, smiles knowingly in tribute to the Marvel legend, then moves on.

So, why Mallrats? Lee made a cameo in Smith’s film as himself, offering up sage love advice to comic book nerd Brodie (played by Jason Lee). Captain Marvel, being set in 1995, had Lee ‘preparing’ for the role.

On Mar. 9, Smith posted on Instagram after having just seen Captain Marvel, and described himself as “a blubbering mess.”

“After a lifetime spent referencing the movies, the movies just referenced me!” he wrote, thanking Marvel Studios, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and “my friend” Stan Lee for the shoutout.

“But if I’m now part of the @marvel Universe, I have only one question: Did I survive The Snap?”

Since then, Smith has been busy, announcing on Monday his intention to get Marvel back for Lee’s Captain Marvel cameo with a tribute set to appear in his Jay and Silent Bob reboot, which is currently filming.

Smith posted a film still on Instagram depicting Jason Lee, who has stepped back into his role of Brodie Bruce, picking up a Captain Marvel comic, which Stan Lee created with Gene Colan. Phew.

So many levels. So many references. Sounds about right for Kevin Smith.

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Your iPhone addiction is about to get even more expensive

Apple's new services means yur iPhone addiction is going to cost even more.
Apple’s new services means yur iPhone addiction is going to cost even more.

Image: michael short / Getty Images

As Apple spent nearly two hours breathlessly detailing its many new services, I slowly got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

No, not because I’m inherently creeped out by the idea of Apple owning even more of my life (though it’s certainly a valid concern), but because I already know I’m going to sign up, and it’s not going to be cheap.

Monday’s celebrity-filled event marks a huge turning point for Apple. The tech giant, which became the most valuable company in the world thanks to the iPhone, can no longer rely on $1000+ phones alone. Instead, Cupertino must now figure out how to squeeze money out of services that have long been free, like its News and TV apps. 

Much has been said about how we got to this point, but the company’s big services event made clear just how much more this change will cost us. 

Consider my own spending habits: I already fork over more than sixty bucks a month to Apple thanks to the iPhone upgrade program, which locks me into a full two years of monthly payments, and iCloud. But Apple News+, the $9.99/month bundle that includes 300 magazines, The Wall Street Journal, and a handful of premium digital subscriptions is hard to resist — even if it puts my monthly Apple bill at more than $70. 

We don’t yet know how much Apple Arcade, the company’s new subscription gaming service, or Apple TV+, its premium video streaming service, will cost, but consider Apple’s silence a good sign they’ll get premium price tags to match the content. 

Put it all together and the amount I could end up spending just to maintain my iPhone addiction is getting alarmingly high. And that doesn’t even include Apple Music (which I no longer pay for), or the $20 a month I spend in the App Store on app subscriptions and one-off app purchases (of which Apple gets a sizable cut).

Yes, I know I don’t have to pay for any of these services, but that’s the whole point. I’m already hooked on my iPhone, why wouldn’t I want to make it even better by having more magazines than I could ever read at my fingertips, or access to the very best mobile games I can’t get anywhere else?

Whether or not these services are actually the best-in-class experiences Tim Cook has promised is almost besides the point. Apple’s entire services business has long been predicated not on the fact that its services are necessarily superior to everyone else’s, but that they’re so much more convenient. 

Consider iCloud, one of Apple’s oldest (and most mundane) services. There are tons of cloud storage companies, many of which are far less buggy and offer more features than iCloud. But the nature of Apple’s walled garden means iCloud is the by far the easiest option, particularly if you want to back up iMessages and other essential parts of your iPhone. 

Likewise with TV+, News+, and Apple Arcade — these pricey services aren’t necessarily unique, but they’ll be far easier to set up and use than any of their competitors. And, most importantly, they’re meant to make your already expensive iPhone that much better. Maybe you’ll even feel like you’re sorely missing out if you don’t pay for them. 

Just consider it part of the cost of your iPhone.

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‘Egg boy’ believes what he did ‘united people,’ even if he admits it was wrong

It’s the crack of an egg that was heard around the world.

Australian 17-year-old Will Connolly, known as “egg boy” for cracking an egg over the head of an Islamophobic senator, has finally spoken — and he wasn’t apologetic.

Speaking to TV program The Project on Monday night, Connolly said he did it because he was “flat out disgusted” with Australian senator Fraser Anning’s comments.

“After that tragedy in Christchurch, I thought the world should be supporting all those victims,” Connolly said. “And the senator released a statement which was pretty much a divisive hate speech.”

Connolly also revealed that he had turned up to the event at which Anning was appearing, a political meeting in Melbourne, to listen to him speak, and see if his mind would be changed. 

He didn’t expect Anning to lash out, and thought he’d be able to walk out after the incident. Regardless, Connolly didn’t apologise for what he had done.

“I understand what I did was not the right thing to do, however this egg has united people, and money has been raised — tens of thousands of dollars has been raised for those victims,” he said.

Connolly confirmed the money donated to him through a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign would go to victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack, and that he hadn’t really thought about what do with the offers of lifetime free concert and festival tickets just yet.

Oh, and he does like eggs (boiled ones, that is), but for the time being, Connolly won’t be touching them.

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