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WWE WrestleMania 37: Predictions for Night Two

Last night was a historic night in wrestling – blank, blank and of course – fans finally returned to WrestleMania.

Tonight should be even bigger. While yesterday featured some fantastic matches, tonight’s card has potential to be timeless. We could see the end of a journey a decade in the making, the return of a movement or the head of the table stay the course on a history-making run.

Enough talk – I can’t wait to see what happens tonight, let’s predict these matches.

United States Championship: Riddle (c) vs. Sheamus

Riddle’s WrestleMania entrance is going to be one of the most um, unique (?) moments of the night. Scooters, bro chants and flip-flops on the biggest stage in sports entertainment will be a sight to see. Another sight to see will be Sheamus’ mohawk – which he’s said will make a return tonight. Give me the scooter over the mohawk – always the safe choice.

The Pick: Riddle

Women’s Tag Team Championship: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Natalya & Tamina

Perhaps the most shocking moment of WrestleMania’s first night was that Natalya and Tamina escaped the tag team turmoil match victorious. While they may have left night one victors, I’ll be shocked if they leave night two the same way. WWE might opt to give the generational superstars their WrestleMania moment, but it would be a surprise to see them take the belts off of Jax & Baszler.

The Pick: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (w/Logan Paul)

When Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were tearing it up, wrestling all over America on the indies, do you think they ever thought they would have a YouTube star involved in their match? While Owens and Zayn certainly deserve the Mania spotlight to highlight their abilities, you know Paul is getting involved in this somehow. It will actually be more shocking if he doesn’t cost Zayn the match.

The Pick: Kevin Owens

Intercontinental Championship: Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews (Nigerian Drum)

I’m not even going to pretend to know what a Nigerian Drum match is – but I hope it’s good. Since Paul Heyman ripped him on Talkin’ Smack, Crews has been a different animal. The WWE has finally made the artist formerly known as Uhaa Nation interesting. Big E has charisma for days, and this rivalry has actually been one of the better ones in WWE in 2021. While the New Day member certainly deserves a victory at Mania, I think it’s Crews who gets the win here.

The Pick: Apollo Crews

‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton

Well, we get Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania again. There first encounter was so much fun – the projections of various bugs and animals onto the ring made for some great entertainment – did that sarcasm get across? I don’t believe this is going to be a version of the Firefly Funhouse match Wyatt had with John Cena last year, but that would be so much better than having to watch these two face-off again. A one-on-one, traditional wrestling match for these two makes almost no sense – but it would make even less sense for The Fiend to lose.

The Pick: ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt

Raw Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Rhea Ripley

Rhea Ripley is going to get her WrestleMania moment. After losing her NXT Championship at WrestleMania 36 to Charlotte, the challenger was relegated back to NXT. Now, firmly entrenched on WWE’s main roster, she’ll get the gold. Asuka’s been a great champion, holding the belt since taking it from Becky Lynch – but her long reign comes to the end. In what could be a show-stealer, The Nightmare makes her dreams come true.

The Pick: Rhea Ripley

Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan

This is the match that feels like on we’ll be talking about for years to come. Three stories intertwined into making one of the most interesting WrestleMania main-events ever. It’s been easily the best built match on the road to the show – and that’s no surprise when you think of the three participants in the match. Roman Reigns has been the best thing about WWE since the pandemic started – his heel run has been legendary. Edge has returned from a career-ending neck injury to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Reigns – and he’s brought all of that grit he’s promised since January 2020. Did I say career-ending neck injury? Yeah, Daniel Bryan came back from one of those too – and he’s on his best face run since. Instead of derailing the build between two legends, his addition has enhanced it – adding layers to the match. The best matches are the ones you watch and have no idea who’s going to win – any of these three men can walk away Universal Champion. This match alone is worth the price of admission (and Peacock). Personally, I see the chance to bookend a ten year journey with a title win in the main event of WrestleMania too good to pass up.

The Pick: Edge

WWE WrestleMania 37: Predictions for Night One

Last year iteration of WrestleMania was different in ways we never imagined it would be. Instead of emanating from a raucous Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Bay, the WWE Performance Center housed the event.

While the superstars did what they could with the conditions, the silence that fell on the event with no crowd present severely hurt the event. Drew McIntyre’s coronation, a hard-hitting ladder match and Kevin Owen’s death-defying leap all falling on deaf ears – Michael Cole’s commentary echoing like never before.

We were still treated to supreme efforts and memorable moments – the Boneyard and Firefly Funhouse matches sticking out the most. The fans may not have been with McIntyre in the biggest moment of his career, but the moment still mesmerizing as he looked into the camera and said to the fans, “This is for us.”

Finally, for the first time in over a year – fans return to make-up a capacity crowd at a wrestling show. While other sports like baseball and basketball were definitely different with no crowd, there’s no form of entertainment in the world that plays off the crowd quite like the world of pro wrestling.

It’ll be one of the biggest nights in WWE history – 25,000 fans will sound like 100,000 as they cheer, boo and chant for whoever the hell they want. No more piped in cheers or computer screens, fan’s voices will be heard as they’re treated to an excellent card.

So who exactly will fans be hanging on the edge of their seat for? Here are my predictions for the biggest matches on the first night of WrestleMania 37.

Natalya & Tamina vs. Naomi & Lana vs. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs. Riott Squad (Tag Team Turmoil; winners receive title shot on Night 2)

The WWE has handled the women’s tag-team title’s with as much care as Amazon workers do with glass packages. I’m not going to lie to you – I have no clue who’s going to go on to day two to fight Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax, so I’m going to go with the biggest babyface competitors in the match.

The Pick: Naomi & Lana

Raw Tag Team Championship: The New Day (c) vs. AJ Styles & Omos

While The New Day are fantastic, this feels like a match that the potential of AJ Styles. His WrestleMania track record since coming to WWE has been lackluster – aside from his performance in the Boneyard Match last year. He’s faced big names like Randy Orton, Shane McMahon and Chris Jericho, but each match just seemed like it wasn’t a big deal. He survived being ‘buried alive’ for this? Oh well – the match feels like a way to turn Omos into a monster, so he helps Styles win the titles at least.

The Pick: AJ Styles and Omos

Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro

FINALLY! No, The Rock isn’t returning to WWE – Cesaro is getting his first ever one on one match at WrestleMania. This one could steal the show, two of the most talented wrestlers in the entire company going at it. This doesn’t feel like the start-stop pushes he’s had prior – the way to prove that is with a big-time victory by the Swiss Super-Man.

The Pick: Cesaro

Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman (Steel Cage)

I swear this has the be one of the worst built-up matches in WrestleMania history – and I’m even counting the match between The Rock and Rowan. It’a been built off McMahon calling Strowman stupid – well, the only person who felt unintelligent was me while watching that promo. Also, the ‘Monster Among Men’ said he didn’t want anyone interfering – so he chooses a Steel Cage match? What? Does he not realize the top is open? I get the logistics – but why not choose a Hell in the Cell? God – maybe he is stupid.

The Pick: Shane McMahon (Due to Interference from Elias)

Bad Bunny & Damian Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison

The WWE got a global superstar for WrestleMania – while it may not have been The Rock or Stone Cold, it’s going to be interesting to watch Bad Bunny compete. Now I don’t speak Spanish, but man, I can’t lie – his music is a bop. Sorry Miz and Morrison, there’s about a zero percent chance you win this match – those Bad Bunny merchandise sales are through the roof!

The Pick: Bad Bunny & Damian Priest

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair

This has show-stealing potential. Banks and Belair have potential to put on one of the best women’s matches in the history of WrestleMania. Whether they open or close the show, they’ll tear the house down. While Banks has been a fantastic champion for the ‘E, it’s time to complete the coronation of Belair. The 2021 Royal Rumble winner caps off an amazing journey with a WrestleMania victory – cue the video of her parents celebrating.

The Pick: Bianca Belair

WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

When Lashley and McIntyre faced off for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, it wasn’t a sure thing either man would make it back to the pinnacle of pro wrestling. Alas – both will face off on the grandest stage of them all. An amazing journey for both men all led to this, and they’ll put on a Mania worthy match with all their chips in the center. It’ll be a hard-hitting battle between the behemoths, but I expect McIntyre to get the moment that was stripped away from him last year. Instead of having to speak to the camera, he can look in the crowd and see the reactions of fans in the stands – fireworks in the air, bagpipes and guitar rocking and the WWE Championship thrown over his shoulder.

The Pick: Drew McIntyre

The GOAT and The Kid

It may only be the opinion of this writer, but in my experience, no other spectacle in sports of the last 20 years has produced as many captivating stories of suspense, heartache, and triumph as the Super Bowl – and this year seems right on track to do the same.

Gone are the days of big game blowouts of the 80s and 90s, as the turn of the millennium has resulted in some of the most exciting games in the history of competitive sports. I don’t believe it to be any coincidence that since the year 2000, half of the Super Bowls played have featured Tom Brady.

Even further, it’s no coincidence that the nine previous times he’s graced the gridiron’s biggest game have been some of the greatest games ever played. The man after all, is ‘The G.O.A.T.’

It’s hard to believe that once upon a time people tried to contend that no one would ever be greater than Joe Montana, but Brady has absolutely shattered any doubt surrounding the argument. He is undisputedly the greatest to ever take to the field.

What sets Brady apart from other legends of the game is his relentless pursuit of perfection in the excellence of execution. While not as physically talented as the likes of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, maybe not the big arm capabilities of Drew Brees or Josh Allen, and not the mind of Peyton Manning – there is no greater competitor in sports. ‘Practice makes perfect’ is an understatement if you think you’re going to share a locker room with the man.

When you look at some of the players he’s thrown the ball to over the years, there isn’t to much to be impressed with outside of one amazing year with Randy Moss. Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Danny Amendola aren’t anything special. Throwing the check down to Gronk or James White, Dion Lewis, and Danny Woodhead hasn’t been to exciting either. But none the less, the style of play had worked near flawlessly for well over a decade thanks to Tom’s dedication to working with his receivers.

The amount of time he put into building trust and chemistry with his guys undoubtedly resulted in the obtaining of Lombardi trophies. By mastering the timing route, Brady always knew where and when a player was supposed to be on the field allowing him to place the ball almost without thought.

There’s an old saying that hard work with lesser talent will beat talent with lesser work, but when you put talent and hard work together the only way to be beat is if you beat yourself. But then … enter Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes is by far the most talented quarterback I have ever seen play the position, with a Brady type psyche and an Elway style playing ability. Similarly to Elway, it doesn’t matter if you know that Mahomes is going to throw the ball 9 times out of 10, he will find a way to beat you EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

And even more amazing, we’re only scratching the surface of finding out what Mahomes is capable of. No other player in his first three years as a starting quarterback has both a MVP and a Super Bowl win, and before this year is over he very well could double both of those categories.

With Kansas City going into Sunday -3.5, it’s clear that the oddsmakers are favoring the up and coming kid over the GOAT.

And while there is plenty of hype surrounding the idea of Brady passing the torch down to the next generation, I think its a fair point that we’ve seen other players we would have assumed to become the next GOAT. Dan Marino is still the only quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl in his rookie season. After being crushed by the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, Marino would never return to the big game (And yes, he was crushed – ‘Laces out Dan’ is just a work of fiction.)

Russel Wilson is the other quarterback who joins Brady and Mahomes as the only to lead their team to a Super Bowl twice in his first three seasons as starter, and after winning in the first trip to the big game, I think we all remember how the second effort went. Wilson has yet to lead the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl or accumulate any MVP awards, in fact not even a single MVP vote.

I think this Super Bowl will be a humbling experience for Mahomes regardless of the outcome. It’s a known fact that it’s incredibly difficult to get to a Super Bowl, requires an insane amount of effort to win a Super Bowl, and it’s nearly impossible to repeat as champion – as we’ve only seen it to have occurred one time in this century.

My gut feeling is that Mahomes and the Chiefs must be mentally exhausted at this point. Reflective in their record against the spread this year as they went 7-9 against the spread and only covered once during the second half of the season.

While they’ve continued to find ways to win, this stat becomes concerning as it simply means the Chiefs have not been living up to the expectation set for them as the reigning champs. It should also be noted that the Chiefs at times struggled (albeit without Mahomes for portions of the game), against a Browns team that had not been to the playoffs since 2002 and was led by an inconsistent young QB and first year head coach.

They also allowed themselves to fall behind by nine against the Bills, led by another young QB/Coach duo and a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs in 25 years!

The story may be different for the Chiefs this Sunday if they underplay against the Buccaneers. With only a 3-point spread, it’s almost certain that failure to meet expectations will result in a defeat. Synonymous with the Brady-Belichick era in New England, Brady knows how to make teams pay for their inability to execute and it’s almost guaranteed he’ll put his team in a position to win.

Of course there are other factors that will play in to the outcome of the game – I do not trust Tampa’s secondary to be able to keep up with the speed of the Chiefs skill players. Plus, with Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s ability to generate pressure with a 4-man rush, the Bucs OL will have a challenge in keeping Brady upright.

But, if the game truly becomes the spotlight of two great quarterbacks, the legend and the prodigy – I would never bet against Brady’s ability to find a way to win. My man’s been winning Super Bowls since before Mahomes was old enough to play tackle football and in a tightly contested game, I think he does it again.

Brady fanboy or not, my prediction …

Buccaneers – 33

Chiefs – 31

Tom gets his seventh.

Enjoy the Game!

Feeling More Accomplished During a Pandemic (Not the Easiest)

I’ll be the first to admit it, finding motivation these days is almost impossible. I love to write, but not having much to write about on here made it hard for me to do so. For the past few months I’ve been finding myself sitting at my computer every morning for hours on Linked In, just applying for job after job. If I’m lucky to even get a response from the hundreds of employers I’ve reached out to, 99% of the time the response is a “Sorry we decided not to move on with your application”. My frustration and stress with job searching bled into my writing and I would get even more frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t think of something creative enough to write about on here. And so, I took the easy way out and simply just didn’t write. However, I came around and decided it’s not fair for me to deprive myself of something I actually enjoy doing because other aspects of my life are not going the way I would like them to.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt like they were in a rut. I’m pretty sure the whole world feels that way after 2020. Tough part is though, just accepting things aren’t going your way and not doing anything about it is not going to help, even though it is the easiest route to take. Having that mindset is what digs the rut even deeper until it’s nearly impossible to crawl out of. I’ve been there and it is not a fun place to be.

My LEAST favorite saying is “Stop feeling bad for yourself, someone has it way worse”. I HATE IT. It is so demeaning and it completely tries to minimize mental health. Yes, it is true someone probably does have it worse than you, but that does not mean how you feel is not valid. And it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be allowed to feel at all. There is nothing wrong with being dealt a shitty card and not feeling good about it. It shouldn’t matter on what scale of magnitude people choose to believe your problems are. Also, our hardest times in life are our biggest learning moments. So, it’s ok to acknowledge you aren’t in a good place, build that character and life experience. And yes, you’re even allowed to feel bad for yourself because sometimes life just sucks. But, after that, take a step forward and try to make a change if you can. I’m telling you, there is no better feeling than going from feeling bad for yourself, to being proud of yourself.

Covid definitely does not help peoples situations. From searching for nonexistent jobs, to simply just missing friends and family and falling into a bad headspace, this has not been easy. However, there are ways to keep trucking through this pandemic while gaining a sense of accomplishment. Even gaining that sense of accomplishment from different aspects of your life that you didn’t even think about touching. With me just graduating college, I always believed the immediate next step I had to take was start my career. However, Covid put that plan on the back burner for me. At first I was devastated that I couldn’t find a full time job and I would be lying if I said it still doesn’t stress me out from time to time, but I learned something very valuable. I learned that life isn’t defined by a career. Please don’t get me wrong, it is very important and it is something to be extremely proud of when you build one for yourself, but it isn’t your sole life purpose, or at least not for me. I’ve been given all of this extra time to teach myself new things, learn important life skills, explore extracurriculars, and just do and try new things I enjoy. And to me, that’s also special and something to be proud of. I’m not sure I would have been able to do the amount of self discovery if I were to immediately jump into my career. We can’t always control what life throws at us, but we definitely can control how we handle it.

For anyone struggling or feeling discouraged lately due to the pandemic, I’d just like to share a few of the things I decided to do for myself that seriously helped me and continues to help me through it. My biggest suggestion is to keep in mind that self care and having fun is not a waste of time. I feel like that’s something I often have to remind myself as well because we are for some reason trained to believe it is. Remember, it’s not!

One of the most important things I’ve done to make myself feel good during the pandemic was to exercise. It’s just a really good way to clear your head and also feel good about yourself.

Another thing to do is find something you love and just go with it. I love to write, as mentioned before. Not only do I write on here, but I write a lot more in my own journals that I don’t share with anyone. I go to that journal almost everyday and creatively write something. A poem, a short story, a song, or even just how I’m feeling or past feelings. I wrote my first byline for a recent internship I was doing by simply just telling them I love to write. I also reach out to companies and offer freelance work, in which I have something in the works right now. If you feel there isn’t opportunity coming to you, create it for yourself in any way you can. Put yourself and your work out there, even if no one seems to take a second look. Find what you love and just do it, it will pick up on its own in due time. Just don’t give up on it.

You can also pick up a new hobby. With the internet, you can basically teach yourself anything. I recently began teaching myself guitar and I really do enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be guitar though, teach yourself anything. Learn how to cook, sew, take up hiking, or anything else you’ve always wanted to do.

Start your own little side hustle. For the holidays I decided to make charcuterie boards. I didn’t think that really anyone would even want one, but after putting it out there I started to get orders to the point where I could barely handle making all of them. It was something that I enjoyed doing and I was also able to make some extra cash which helped with a few months of paying my student loans. Don’t worry about what people are going to think, just start something. You never know where it could lead to.

Take some time and relax, it’s ok. I was a college student for the past 5 years of my life, so I didn’t always have free time. Now, it seems I have nothing but free time. I took advantage of that fact and started watching shows and movies I always wanted to. I also play A LOT of Animal Crossing. I try to keep myself busy in other ways as I mentioned, but I do enjoy doing nothing sometimes as well.

Those are just a few examples of things that you can get into to make your time feel useful and give yourself a sense of accomplishment when your searching for it. However, it is truly up to you how you want to spend your time. I know it’s hard not feel discouraged in times like these, but I find giving myself a purpose or working towards a goal always gets me motivated and feeling good. Do what you love, or do what you need to to get by. It’s your life, not anyone else’s, so handle it as you choose. Sometimes people sharing their ideas and purposes inspires others in hard times, so feel free to try any of these ideas or even share some things you’ve been doing through the pandemic with me!

2020 Sports Awards: The Game, Athlete and Achievement of the Year

Let’s be honest – 2020 was the absolute most unpredictable, craziest year of all of our lives. For a moment, let’s stop and look back at the year that was in sports.

Where do I even begin? 2020, sports wise, was a year of unpredictability – the world stopped, lives were changed and priorities shifted.

Somehow, all the major leagues found ways to finish their seasons. That’s a remarkable achievement in it’s own right, as they provided us with amazing moments through the darkest of times.

The sports world as a whole deserves an award for simply continuing on, but certain teams, athletes and leagues impacts were felt above all. Let’s take a look at 2020’s best.

Game of the Year: Ravens def. Browns 47-42

This game simply had it all. On a year where Monday Night Football drew the short-end of the primetime stick, they got lucky with this legendary game.

Lamar Jackson running off the field, twitter going wild with bathroom conspiracies – only for the reigning MVP to return to the field and win the game for the Baltimore Ravens.

It was a memorable duel between two division rivals, and fittingly, fans were allowed in. It would’ve been a shame for the game of the year to go on in-front of an empty stadium.

It’s a game where the highlights will be shown for years to come, much like 2018’s shootout between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.

There aren’t many football games that evoke that kind of emotion.

Honorable Mentions: Mavericks-Clippers (Luka GW); Lightning-Blue Jackets (5 OT); World Series Game 4

Athlete of the Year: LeBron James

It couldn’t have been anybody else.

LeBron James did more in 2020 than any other athlete alive.

He was a voice for the voiceless during the social justice movement. He won his fourth and perhaps most important championship – carrying the memory of Kobe Bryant with him throughout the entire playoffs.

What LeBron did this season is the stuff that legends do – when times are the toughest, when things are at their most bleak, they turn around and face it head on, and in the end .. they come out on top.

LeBron James came out on top of 2020. A remarkable year for The King.

Honorable Mentions: Patrick Mahomes; Mookie Betts; Jimmy Butler

Greatest Achievement: The Way the NBA Handled COVID-19 & The Social Justice Movement

The National Basketball Association proved to not just the sports world, but the entire globe that they’re the top run league with how they handled everything thrown at them this year.

They were trailblazers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – the first league to postpone their season, and the league that came up with the greatest solution: The Disney Bubble.

The bubble was a resounding success, providing fans with great basketball and a satisfying conclusion in a safe, controlled environment. The fact that they proved you could finish a season during a pandemic through groundbreaking protocols was history making.

Then, when players voices needed to be heard more than ever before, the NBA provided them with a platform to do so.

Names on the back of jerseys, commercials helping people to register to vote, and millions of dollars in donations are just a few ways in which players helped move the social justice movement forward. Instead of silencing their athletes, the NBA embraced them more than ever – something that has had a huge impact.

The way the NBA handled everything thrown their way in 2020 was a masterclass in how to run a league, and that’s why it’s the greatest achievement of 2020.

Honorable Mentions: NHL Bubble; Dodgers Title Run; NASCAR Season

A Musical Reflection on 2020

A rain specific to mid-December is falling outside of my kitchen window. I am sitting in front of my laptop as the television echoes through my household with news of the first implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Microsoft Word page I have open glares at me as I ask myself for the tenth desperate time, “how does one describe this year?” 

To say 2020 has been tumultuous would be an understatement. To say this year was “one for the books,” would be nothing short of cliche. So let me begin by saying if this year was guilty of being one thing- how purely human it was. 2020 proved more than any social experiment that the human experience is one of imperfection. It is a phenomenon of fragility, coupled with the mortal truth that there are forces that exist outside of us that can prove fatal. Sometimes, those forces exist within us. These truths were made clear this year, manifested in a brutal virus that ravaged through the bodies of citizens just as it did to entire economies. We saw these truths watching a man die at the literal foot of injustice from his oppressor, proving centuries of systemic racism to a point that is undeniable. On this day, 41 days after the United States Presidential Election, the electoral college is meeting again to vote for a second time confirming Joseph Biden as presidential elect. To have been alive this year was to feel an instinctual anxiety by a raised consciousness watching systems we assumed trustworthy evidently fail us. Despite our great shared pains, let’s not forget the most crucial part to continuing human existence- our ability to persevere. As January nears, I feel now is the time to truly process the last 12 months. To best express all the emotions felt by the United States, I feel as music could best embody 2020’s phases of grief, uncertainty, and most importantly triumph. So, with help from prestigious artists like Bill Withers, U2, and Adele, I would like to encapsulate these events in the words of these artists that 2020 confirms to be timeless.

To begin, we must acknowledge the “before times,” if you will. January seemed hopeful as the calendars changed to an election year in the United States. College seniors ordered graduation gowns and planned so gleefully their day of commencement. At the time, the only naivety in sight was the following through of new-year-resolutions. As gym memberships were born and plans were made, cases of coronavirus drastically escalated in China and Europe. On January 20, 2020 the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S. Ten short days later, the World Health Organization announced the outbreak as a global emergency. 

The song I feel best to pinpoint this period just before the lockdowns to embody the uncertainty society felt is none other than Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.” Inspired by the Anti-War and Civil Rights movements of the 60s, Dylan urges humanity to open their eyes to peril and accept there must be work done to prevent sinking like a stone. It’s fair to say our country did not expect a pandemic, or assumed it to be isolated quickly like the Ebola outbreak of 2014. President Donald Trump told his constituents not to worry, that churches were sure to be safe and opened by Easter. Just as government officials preferred to turn a blind eye to the movements of the 1960’s as a form of denial, so did the current administration to the pandemic. “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call, don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall,” Dylan writes. Rage built against the President’s response as many scientists urged the closing of the country to isolate the virus in January. Despite this, overwhelmed hospitals, and rising mortality rates, Trump did not urge workers to stay home until after mid-March. It’s the belief of many that an earlier and stricter lockdown would have saved thousands of lives lost. Times were absolutely changing, and as Dylan warned, we seemed to miss our chance to prepare leaving millions sunken, “drenched to the bone.”

The next preceding months were ridden with death. By May 23rd, COVID-19 had claimed 100,000 victims and was still growing. Temporary business closings turned permanent as production stopped due to lockdowns, forcing many small businesses to lose their source of income and all they had worked for. Millions of restaurant workers were laid off. Evictions reached an all time high as the global market sunk to levels compared to 1929’s Black Tuesday. The spring was pitiful. U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” embraces these worldwide feelings of anguish in the midst of such loss. “And the battle’s just begun, there’s many lost, but tell me who has won?” Somehow the United States managed to politicize this virus, fueled by accusations of governmental neglect against those who strongly questioned the validity of the virus. While millions of lives were destroyed, many American citizens were glued to their televisions watching their respected news outlet furthering their cognitive biases… “and it’s true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality.” As disdain of politicians and neighbors alike grew, Americans also began to develop a distrust for their least-favorite media outlets. American life was bleek as tensions and death seemed to grow in juxtaposition. To me, this song truly enclasps the darkness and anger felt as of this period in time. 

Spring ended and in came a June that once again testified the deep-seeded institutional racial injustice in the United States. On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46 year old man of Minneapolis, Minnesota was murdered in the street… for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Caught on tape, the video of this man’s last breaths went viral. People watched George tearfully call out for his mother in horror as a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. A murder so disgraceful, so egregious, the epitome of unjust- but tragically common as unarmed black men being killed by police has been called an epidemic in America. In wake of media coverage, millions became outraged and took to the streets with their masks to protest. On June 6th, over half a million people in America marched chanting the names of victims of police brutality in nearly 550 places across the U.S. Released in inspiration of this, rapper Anderson Paak paints a vivid picture of this civic agony, only blurred by tear gas thrown at protestors. “Lockdown,” tells the tale of these demonstrations with lyrics like “Sicker than the COVID, how they did him on the ground. Speakin’ of the COVID, is it still goin’ around? Oh, won’t you tell me ’bout the lootin’ what’s that really all about? ‘Cause they throw away black lives like paper towels.” With lockdowns just in place, protestors risked their lives to prove a point so obvious, but in so desperate need of recognition- Black Lives Matter. 

The aching of racial injustice was met with suffering from the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic with no clear end in sight of either. The country was dealing with massive amounts of anger and pain, and to exacerbate it, hugs were nearly prohibited as fear of the virus remained. The irony of this was something out of an Orwell novel. In any ordinary time of fear and sadness, people need people- to be understood and supported. That’s why Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me,” righteously hits home. A classic soul song, Withers revives us of our shared experience. “We all have pain, we all have sorrow.” A summer of mourning for those lost at the hands of the pandemic or their oppressor, millions collectively experienced feelings of weakness amidst all of the loss. “You just call on me brother, when you need a hand, We all need somebody to lean on.” Though we couldn’t physically embrace, Withers reminds us that today, we can still call. 

It is now 17 days until 2021. Derek Chauvin’s trial is set for March. COVID-19 vaccinations have begun distribution. A blameworthy administration is on it’s way out.  The process of healing has started for our tired country. In the spirit of breakups, our closure with 2020 would only be appropriately embodied by the lyrics of Adele, of course. “Water Under The Bridge,” reads as a plea to acknowledge the hardships of a relationship. To say something is “water under the bridge,” essentially means to move on and forget the significance, in any event. When Adele boasts, “Say that our love ain’t water under the bridge,” she’s accepting the end of a relationship, but asks for her partner to at least be conscious of how substantial their journey was. As much as one might desire to following these events, it would be negligent to simply forget this year in hopes of a better future. Let this year serve as a lesson, a reason to be a better person as our consciousness is raised. Let 2020 serve as a cautionary tale to our children who we hope do not see the bloodshed we had to. Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it, after all.

On an optimistic note I’d like to finalize this list with a song that I’d also like to hear at the first legal large group gathering of 2021: “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times,” by Jamie xx featuring Young Thug and Popcaan. “Worth every date til’ we meetings,” this trio knows that (social) distance truly makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve learned to prohibit myself from saying things can’t get worse this year. Instead, I’ll say this: no matter what, I will find something good… a silver lining, somewhere. Not only is this song hopeful, but it is  my personal reminder that even in the worst year I’ve ever seen I was still able to see the good if I looked hard enough. 

As we reflect on this year, we can see proof of our growth, passion, and perseverance. Personal and societal achievements that can be attributed to the dark times of this year can truly only help us be a better version of ourselves in the upcoming years. It is my belief that as a country, the majority of us have gained a sixth sense of sensitivity to those different than ourselves. We understand things we may not be able to see are vastly apparent in the eyes of others. Though we are an imperfect people (to say the least), we’re advancing everyday. So, in closing  I would like to tell whomever is reading this essay a few things: be proud of yourself for getting through this year, be kind and conscious of your neighbor, wear your mask, and when in doubt, stream music that says it for you. 

The Bengals Questionable Offseason

The 2-6-1 Cincinnati Bengals were up by two against the 2-7 Washington Football Team with a little over eleven minutes left in the third quarter. The Bengals were a half of football away from getting their third win of the year, and a big morale boost as well. Then, every single Bengals fan’s worst nightmare occurred.

Joe Burrow hit the ground once again – and immediately clutched his leg – and did not get up. The cart came out, and fans expected the worst. Shortly after, tweet by Burrow all but confirmed his season was done. Monday afternoon revealed he had torn both his ACL and MCL.

To blame the Bengals offensive line, front office, coaching, or anyone is irresponsible. Quarterback injuries are uncommon in general, and contact ACL injuries are even more rare. Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, and Daniel Jones have all been hit or sacked more times than Burrow has this season. But – anyone who has watched a Bengals game this year has had the same thought. Joe Burrow needs protection BADLY.

Even with a porous offensive line, Burrow has shown why he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Yet the question remains, why was Burrow in this position in the first place?

Sure – first overall picks are usually in bad situations, but Burrow has absolutely no help up front. What were the Bengals doing this offseason?

The first place to start is on December 22nd, 2019. Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season.

The 1-14 Bengals were traveling to the 3-11 Miami Dolphins. With a little over eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Dolphins were in the driver’s seat, up 28-6 with victory clear in sight. Some Andy Dalton heroics occurred shortly after, and the game ended up going to overtime tied at 35-35, with Dalton throwing four touchdowns in the final eighteen minutes.

Regardless, a Jason Sanders field goal won the game for the Dolphins, and officially clinched the Bengals the number one pick in the NFL draft. The Joe Burrow Bengals jerseys being custom made by fans went from dream, to reality.

With the number one pick practically locked in months before the draft, the next step for the Bengals would be to improve their roster as much as possible for their quarterback of the future.

The offensive line wasn’t a priority, as Dalton had around the league average sacks and QB hits in 2019. Yet, the Bengals cut both their left tackles, Cordy Glenn and Andre Smith, beforethe 2020 season. They also let guard John Miller walk to the Panthers.

They kept their left guard, Michael Jordan, even though the lineman played nothing like the superstar with the same name. Their 2019 center and right tackle, Trey Hopkins and Bobby Hart, also returned – but neither has played well. Hart was moved inside to allow 2019 first round pick, Jonah Williams, to play – who has actually been good.

The Bengals thankfully had draft capital, and a ton of cap space to build up their roster. Yet, what they did to help Burrow transition to the NFL was spend on the other side of the ball.

Free agent defensive tackle DJ Reader was given a $53 million dollar contract over four years. Reader played five games at a subpar level before getting injured, and missing the rest of the 2020 season.

Trae Waynes was given a three year, $42 million dollar contract, but has yet to play.

Vonn Bell was given a three year, $18 million dollar contract, and has played terribly.

They paid free agent left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, then he got injured in September and also has not played. So, with the bulk of the Bengals cap space used on defensive players, it was evident that any offensive additions would need to be done in the draft.

The Bengals would obviously use their first pick on Burrow, and then they surprised many by taking Tee Higgins with their second pick. Higgins has played well, and was a smart choice if you believe another weapon would help Burrow. It’s after this pick the Bengals draft becomes confusing.

With their third pick, the Bengals drafted an inside linebacker, Logan Wilson. Wilson has not been great, and that choice looks worse when you see that guard Damien Lewis went a few picks later, and he has been great.

Then, in the fourth round, Cincinnati took outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, who has been terrible for them with only one start this season. Tackle Saahdiq Charles was taken with the following pick, and while he has not played due to an injury sustained in his first start, you have to wonder if he would have helped more than ADG has.

Entering the fifth round, the Bengals decided to keep the same formula, as they then took edge rusher, Khalid Kareem. Kareem has not played well for the Bengals, and only played following DJ Reader’s injury.

Two picks following Kareem was guard Danny Pinter, who would’ve certainly been an upgrade for this Bengals roster.

Three picks over two days, and the Cincinnati front office decided to just continue acquiring more and more defensive players, as if they hadn’t done the exact same thing in free agency months prior. While these moves do not directly lead to Burrow’s injury – as it was a freak occurrence that could happen to anyone on any play – you have to wonder why the Bengals just ignored their offensive line.

Thankfully for the Bengals, they have a clear shot at the second or third overall pick, and will probably take Oregon’s stud, Penei Sewell, to be their franchise LT for years to come. But until then, Bengals fans can only hope Joe Burrow comes back at 100% – both physically, and mentally.

2020 NBA Draft: Official Myla Mock

2020 has been a year like no other in NBA history. From the season being suspended, to the bubble in Orlando – many crazy things have happened. Thanks to Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA staff, we still got the see big events like the NBA Playoffs, Finals, and Draft Lottery. Now, it’s time for the biggest moment of the offseason – the 2020 NBA Draft.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

This pick could be on the move, with the Timberwolves trying to contend now after acquiring D’ Angelo Russell in February. If the pick stays with Minnesota, I think they will go with Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. Edwards is a 6’5″ guard at 225 pounds, with great explosiveness. He’s a three level scorer, who can also play off the ball. On the other hand, he’s a streaky shooter, and his defense is a question mark – but his offensive talent is way too good to pass up. The big three of KAT, D-Lo and Edwards should be enough to compete in a very tough Western Conference.

2. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

Another pick that could also be on the move, with the Warriors finally getting back to full heath now with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry getting healthy. If the picks stays with the former dynasty, I think James Wiseman is a great fit with the Warriors. He’s got the perfect size for a center at 7’1″ 240 lbs, and he’s got great athleticism for someone of his size, a great skill set, and can block shots well.

3. Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball (Australia, PG)

The Hornets have a couple solid guards in Graham and Rozier – however, they need a franchise player. Lamelo Ball would be a great pick for them. He’s a 6’6″ guard who controls the flow and pace of the game, plus his court vision is very good. He also can be a very solid defender just off his athleticism, size and IQ. He will need to become a more consistent shooter though.

4. Chicago Bulls – Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)

I’ve seen some call Dayton’s Obi Toppin the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft. Toppin would give the Chicago Bulls a much-needed jolt of excitement as a rim runner, lob-catcher and floor spacer under their new coach, Billy Donovan. Colby White and Toppin will work well together in pick and roll plays, as I believe he can play the three, so you have Lauri at the four, and Carter at the five.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF)

Deni Avdija is the best prospect from Israel since Omri Cassipi. The 6’9″ forward from Israel is a very good playmaker who can score from deep. He can play off the ball as well, so he can fit in with Sexton and Garland in Cleveland. With how great Luka has been already in his career, I believe it has really changed how scouts view international prospects.

6. Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)

The Atlanta Hawks general manager, Travis Schlenk, has a reputation of picking three and D players, with last year’s first two picks being Reddish and Hunter. In today’s NBA, you can never have enough players who can switch onto different positions and hold their own. Okoro has the tools to be an NBA wing, and has so much space to grow offensively.

7. Detroit Pistons – Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)

With Derrick Rose in trade talks , the Pistons will need a point guard, and Haliburton will be a good fit. Haliburton has great court vision, and with his size at 6’5″ he can defend either guard position. He has one of the highest basketball IQs in the draft and can shoot the ball effectively from deep. His shooting form is very odd, but is very effective.

8. New York Knicks – Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG)

Will be this be the draft that Knicks fans remember for years? I hope so. Hayes game is very similar to D’Angelo Russell and Manu Ginobili. Both are left-handed and can create shots for themselves, and their teammates. He’s very creative with the ball, and can dominate in the pick and roll game with Mitchell Robinson. Hayes and Barrett should be a solid foundation for years to come.

9. Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu (C, USC, Freshman)

Okungwu could go very high in this draft. Teams love his ability to switch on every position on defense due to his athleticism. He’s very good rebounder, and has great footwork in the post. Teams are trying to find the next Bam – Okongwu is a very similar.

10. Phoenix Suns – Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)

The Suns are going all in after the CP3 trade. They’re going to need to fill out their roster with complimentary players for Booker, Ayton and CP3. Vassell has the potential to be a very good three and D player. His form is odd, and might have to change it at the next level, but he’s a very good defender and will make life easier for Booker, who can just focus on scoring.

11. San Antonio Spurs – Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)

It will take awhile to get used to the Spurs always being in the lottery. It’s clear – like the Patriots – the dynasty is over. They will need to rebuild. Nesmtih is a very good shooting wing and will fit in with Murray and Walkers game. He might be the best shooter in the draft, and he has great work ethic.

12. Sacramento Kings – Patrick Williams (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

Another three and D player here for Sacramento. Sacramento has a bunch of talent, Williams will fit right in to their core of young players. He will be a complimentary piece to Fox on offense. Fox loves to drive, and when he does, he’ll find Williams in the corner for three. Williams can switch well on defense with his athleticism and height of 6’8″.

13. New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

With Holiday on the way to the Bucks, the Pelicans will now try and replace him in the draft. Lewis’ speed is off the charts. Using that speed, he can get to the paint without a screen, and he’s very good finisher. His shot improved continually over his time at Alabama. He will need to get bigger, as his small frame might get exposed on the next level.

14. Boston Celtics – Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

Achiuwa has ideal defensive versatility. He can play center in small ball lineups, and he’s very aggressive on offense, as he loves to drive to the rim. He showed improvement, but will need to improve his shot even more at the next level.

15. Orlando Magic – Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

The Magic could very take a point guard here, but I have them taking Saddiq Bey. Bey’s a very good defender, and can shoot the three ball very well. He’s got good size for a wing at 6’7″, and his wingspan of 6’11” is great. He has a solid feel for the game and has played multiple positions. He will need to work on his jumper, as well as learning to create his own shot.

16. Houston Rockets – Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos II, PF)

The Rockets gained this pick after trading Robert Covington to the Trail Blazers. I have no clue what the Rockets’ plan is after their two MVP superstars have asked for a trade, but it seems like they plan to blow it up. I can see the Rockets drafting Pokusevki here, as he does fit their current roster as a three point shooting power forward.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Josh Green (Arizona, SF, Freshman)

The Timberwolves are going to need a good defender. I can see them drafting Green, who can compliment the stars on Minnesota. Green has good size for a wing at 6’6″, and is a very good defender, possessing the ability to switch onto multiple positions. He’s a very capable shooter, and will make smart decisions with the ball.

18. Dallas Mavericks – Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

Tyrese Maxey is a versatile guard who’s a very solid scorer. He knows how to flow with the pace of the game, or change it into his favor. He’s a confident defender, but he needs to improve consistency on the offensive floor, as well as his shot sections. The Mavericks may draft a big here, but rumors are they will try to find one in free agency.

19. Brooklyn Nets – Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Freshman)

The Brooklyn Nets could have the three of the best iso scorers in the league soon. With that in mind, they will need defenders and players to rebound. Jalen Smith does that and more, to a very effective level. He can also shoot from anywhere on the floor, providing spacing on offense.

20. Miami Heat – Cole Anthony ( UNC, PG, Freshman)

There might be a chance that their point guard, Goran Dragic, leaves in free agency, and that will leave a hole at the position. Kendrick Nunn will probably take over as the starter if that happens, and Anthony will be become a very viable backup. Before the season he was expected to be a lottery pick, but Anthony still has very talented game on the offensive end, and a high ceiling.

21. Philadelphia 76ers – RJ Hampton (USA, PG)

RJ Hampton started off this year as a potential top five pick, but he fell off due to injury. At 6’5″, he can play either guard position, as well as taking the load off for Ben Simmons when he needs to rest. He’s a capable shooter, but will have to get better at that aspect off his game. He can run the floor in transition like the best of them in this draft.

22. Denver Nuggets – Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

Denver has been known to take chances on draft picks before, and they’ve worked out for the most part. They took chances on players like Nikola ‘Joker’ Jokic, Michael Porter ‘MPJ’ Jr., and Bol Bol (No, that’s his real name.) To simplify it, yeah, it has worked out for them. McDaniels had an inconsistent season, but has tremendous amount of untapped potential.

23. Utah Jazz – Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG/SG, Freshman)

Mike Conley will be on the final year of his contract this year, and the Jazz will need to find a replacement. Terry is a good shooter and a solid playmaker. He will compliment Donovan Mitchell well on the offensive side of the ball, but he will need to work on his defensive side of his game.

24. Milwaukee Bucks – Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG, Junior)

The Bucks have an elite starting lineup, but they have no bench. Literally, nobody. With this pick, they will draft a back up point guard to run the second unit. In the playoffs, they showed us they need another playmaker when the league MVP, Giannis, goes to the bench. Flynn is a very good shooter, and can create for others.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Isiah Stewart (Washington, PF/C, Freshman)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are tanking and gaining draft picks. Steven Adams will be on the move soon, and they will draft their replacement here. Stewart has great size for a center, and he can rebound amongst the best of those in this class. He can also defend the post well.

26. Boston Celtics – Theo Maledon (France, PG)

There were reports of Kemba being shopped for Jrue Holiday, so maybe general manager Danny Ainge wants a new point guard. France’s Maledon has great size for a point guard, and it will help him on the defensive end of the floor. He’s also a very good shooter from the three point and free throw lines.

27. New York Knicks – Desmond Bane (TCU, SF, Senior)

Here, the Knicks will try to fix their lack of shooting with TCU’s Desmond Bane. Bane is one of the best shooters in the draft, and has range well beyond the NBA’s three point line. He’s also a terrific perimeter defender, using his physical tools and basketball IQ very well on that end.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Leoandro Bolmaro (Argentina, SG)

Sam Presti and the Thunder have a lot of draft capital, all the way until 2026 . They will have plenty of chances to draft low risk, high reward level players, similar to the Nuggets. Bolmaro has good size and is a very good passer, knowing how to control the pace of the game. He doesn’t have the athleticism you would like to have in an NBA player, though.

29. Toronto Raptors – Cassius Winston (Michigan State, PG, Senior)

Fred Van Vleet is an unrestricted free agent who will most likely leave Toronto, and I believe this is where Toronto plans on replacing that position. Kyle Lowry is also turning 35, so Winston will step into a big role on a good team. He’s more than capable – a very smart player who uses screens to his advantage, and knows how to take advantage of his defender.

30. Boston Celtics – Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)

Zeke Nnaji is a physical big who is a tremendous defender and rebounder. With that, he makes more noise on the offensive glass. For a big man, he has solid range shooting the ball, and a good hook shot. He needs to become a more consistent shooter/scorer on offense, as well as becoming a better rim protector.

No Risk, No Reward: How The Arizona Cardinals Broke The Mold With Their Rebuild

The 2018 Arizona Cardinals had all the looks of a classic NFL rebuild: highly drafted quarterback prospect, first time head coach with potential and a mix of some young and veteran talent. 

Everything was status quo, and then? They threw it all away.

Why? Because the status quo just isn’t good enough in the NFL.

The 2020 Arizona Cardinals didn’t get here by accident. Just two years removed from finishing 3-13, they’re now entering the upper echelon of teams in the NFC. A 5-2 start, wins over the undefeated Seattle Seahawks, the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and a quarterback in MVP talks, they’re proving they belong. 

So what’s the difference between the Cardinals and teams who just can’t get their rebuilds right? (Looking at you, New York). They took risks. They threw the rule book out the window and did everything different. General Manager Steve Keim said to hell with how things are supposed to be done, and guess what, it worked.

Originally, Keim made a bevy of mistakes at his first attempt to rebuild his team. 

First, he hired Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks. Wilks may be a highly respected coordinator, but was an uninspiring head coach, to say the least.

He drafted UCLA’s Josh Rosen in the first round in 2018. Rosen was a highly regarded prospect, but right now he looks like one of the biggest quarterback busts ever. He’s currently a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.

In the NFL, if you have the wrong coach or quarterback, you have nothing. If you miss on both, you usually don’t get another chance to fix it.

In 2019, Keim decided to throw away the rule book and change everything. He risked his job, his reputation and everything in between when he decided to burn his first attempt at a rebuild to his ground.

Instead of taking the safe route this time, he would take the road less traveled. He would take risk after risk, every decision being torn to shreds by the media and fans alike.

First, he replaced Wilks with former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury was coming off of losing his job as the head coach in Lubbock, but was ready to accept the position of offensive coordinator at USC. Keim saw the NFL changing around him into an offensive driven league, and his team needed a coach who could help his team do the same. Kingsbury was his guy.

The move was panned by almost everybody who covered the NFL and fans alike. Stephen A. Smith, of ESPN’s First Take, still stands firm in his stance to this day, stating that Kingsbury didn’t deserve the job.

Second, instead of sticking with his first round quarterback from 2018 in Rosen, he went out and drafted the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, in 2019. His detractors said he was too small, that he wouldn’t even be able to see over his offensive line – Keim still didn’t care. It was another risk he was willing to take. He was all in.

The Cardinals could’ve played it safe and stuck with their mistakes, like most teams do. They could’ve kept Wilks and Rosen together for another year, drafted Nick Bosa and tried to let them gel together.

The Cardinals would still be in the NFC’s cellar if they did that.

Teams like the New York Giants, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars have been stuck in what seems like a forever rebuild because they stick with their mistakes for too long. Dave Gettleman, Adam Gase and Doug Marrone should’ve been unemployed a long time ago.

The NFL is a results driven business – if you can’t prove your worth, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or tenth year, you can be replaced. The Cardinals didn’t get lucky during their rebuild, they were cognizant of their mistakes and wasted no time in fixing them. 

The bottom line? No risk, no reward. The Arizona Cardinals are a playoff team in contention to win their division. Teams that have played it safe? Only 185 days until the draft.

2021 Mock Draft 1.0

While most teams have only played 5 games this season (some playing less), it’s becoming clearer which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. Teams such as the Seahawks, Packers, Bills, and Chiefs look dominant, while others like the Giants, Jets, and Falcons are already looking ahead to April.

This mock draft is based on projected records at the end of the season by ESPN’s Football Power Index, and picks are made assuming the front office and coaching staff will remain the same as they are at the time of this article being written. While it’s obvious this won’t be the case come April, (looking at you – Dave Gettleman and Adam Gase), it’s impossible to predict what new staff’s will look at before we know who is hired. There are no trades either as those are also impossible to predict.

New York Jets – Trevor Lawrence

The Jets are bad. If you blindly threw a dart at their depth chart, odds are you’d hit a position of need. The modern NFL is offense based, and the Jets used their first pick on upgrading the trenches by taking LT Mekhi Becton. Unfortunately, the offense still stinks and it’s impossible to tell what the issue is specifically, as it’s most likely a ton of problems. Sam Darnold is not to blame for the Jets failures, but is he good enough to pass on a generational prospect at the most important position for a team? No. Darnold has had a terrible environment around him since entering the league, and he’s flashed potential, but the potential from Lawrence outweighs the potential that Darnold will suddenly become a star. Lawrence will give the Jets a clean slate for their current rebuild.

New York Giants – Penei Sewell

Danny Dimes survives .. for now. The Giants offense was average at best with Saquon Barkley. Without him, they are abysmal. Daniel Jones has been sacked the fourth most times this season, which makes it pretty difficult to move the ball. Sewell, alongside the Giants 2019 first pick Andrew Thomas, gives the G-Men a pair of tackles that Jones and Barkley can feel safe behind. While Jones might not be the quarterback of the future, it’s tough to pass on a prospect like Sewell when it fills such a huge need for the future.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Fields

Minshew Mania sadly comes to an end. While Gardner Minshew is the perfect representation of what a Jacksonville QB should look like, his play is streaky and inconsistent, and with each passing week he looks less and less like the guy. The Jaguars hope to finally have their first good QB in years with Justin Fields. He would be the highest QB taken by the Jags since Blake Bortles in 2014. Jaguars fans will be elated to be able to look forward to the Fields-Chark connection for years to come.

Atlanta Falcons – Micah Parsons

Atlanta fans might be upset that they missed out on Justin Fields for the hometown story only Hollywood could write, but this ain’t that and once they watch Parsons, they’ll feel much better. The Falcons defense has been bad for quite some time now, and Parsons would be an incredible upgrade for Atlanta. He can play in coverage alongside Deion Jones, or rush the QB alongside Takk McKinley. Either way, he’ll be a positive change for the Falcons defense.

Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase

Missing out on Sewell would be a tough blow to the Bengals, as Joe Burrow is on pace to be sacked SEVENTY times his rookie year. The offensive line is the biggest positional need for the Bengals, but it’s too early to reach here and there are no trades in this mock. Fortunately for Burrow, he gets his number one receiver from LSU in Ja’Marr Chase. Chase set a single season record last year for yards and touchdowns while playing with Burrow, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue dominating at the next level. Alongside Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, the Bengals receiving corps becomes scary.

Denver Broncos – Caleb Farley

Bryce Callahan has been a serviceable cornerback for the Broncos. Besides that, there’s a large gap in talent for that group. Farley would immediately become the best corner on the team. Vic Fangio would love a corner that acts like glue in man coverage, as Denver bolsters it’s defense in a division full of potent offenses. The continued development of Drew Lock, Jerry Jeudy and Sutton on offense, while Bradley Chubb and Farley grow on defense, Denver’s young core looks quite promising.

Washington Football Team – Trey Lance

Whether you think Dwayne Haskins could be the guy or not, it doesn’t really matter. Riverboat Ron has made his judgement known and feels that Haskins time is up. While Lance is a risk since he did not get to play this season due to the pandemic, his 28 touchdown to 0 interception season last year was enough to impress front offices. He’s already declared for the draft, and is expected to be the third or fourth QB off the board next to Florida’s Kyle Trask. With Lance, Rivera gets a QB who can make plays with both his arm and his legs, as the WFT trio of Lance, Terry McLaurin, and Antonio Gibson has the potential to be the best in their division after Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles – Dylan Moses

Philadelphia is surprising most as they look flat so far this season. The offense and the defense are just not clicking, as both flail out week after week – leading to a 1-3-1 start. Nate Gerry is not meant to be a starting linebacker and it showed as Chase Claypool embarrassed him for his fourth touchdown of the day against the Eagles defense. Moses has been shaky this season, but he has the potential to be the hard hitting backer the Eagles have been missing.

Detroit Lions – Gregory Rousseau

The Lions defense is putrid and has been for awhile. They are tied for the second least amount of sacks in the league, which is sad because the only team behind them is the Titans who have played 2 less games. Rousseau can play alongside Trey Flowers and give the Lions the pass rush that they have been missing. If Matt Patricia survives this season, he’ll have a short leash, but Rousseau has the potential to help the Lions defense become the unit Patricia promised when he was hired.

Los Angeles Chargers – Creed Humphrey

Justin Herbert looks like the real deal – now, the Chargers need to protect him. They have one of the worst offensive lines in the league and their current center is not who you want protecting your franchise QB. Humphrey is a leader on the line, and as a former wrestler shows he can handle NFL caliber defenders. As someone who can help identity the middle linebacker as well, Humphrey provides multiple benefits for Herbert.

Miami Dolphins (via Houston) – Jaylen Waddle

While Devonta Smith is an intriguing option here for the Tua connection, Waddle adds a deep threat to an offense who already has a solid receiver in Devante Parker. A Waddle, Parker, Gesicki receiving corps would give Tua all the weapons he needs to succeed. The pieces are beginning to come together for Miami as they become more and more competitive.

Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II

The Cowboys secondary has struggled since Byron Jones left for Miami. Trevon Diggs has struggled so far this season and Dallas’ offense can only do so much. Surtain would immediately become the number one corner in Dallas, and help bring Dallas back to playoff contention. As the NFC East fills up with young receivers, Surtain can help limit their productivity as they face the Cowboys twice a year.

Minnesota Vikings – Marvin Wilson

The Vikings have a choice between cornerback or interior defensive line with this pick, and they go with the latter in Marvin Wilson. Wilson is an overwhelming force that alongside Ngakoue will give Minnesota the defensive trenches they need to make opposing offensive coordinator’s jobs difficult.

Miami Dolphins – Quincy Roche

After using their first pick to improve the offense, the Dolphins don’t have to look far for their next pick. Roche wouldn’t have to travel far from the Hurricanes to the Dolphins, and he’d give the Fins an edge rusher they desperately need. With a receiver and an edge rusher in the first round, Miami’s future looks pretty bright.

San Francisco 49ers – Tyson Campbell

Richard Sherman will be a free agent this offseason, and he isn’t getting any younger. After him the Niners corners drop off even more. Campbell can be an instant starter for San Fran helping their secondary while also being a positive contributor to their run defense. Having the number one defense is how they got to the super bowl, and if they want to return they’ll need some new pieces.

Carolina Panthers – Kyle Pitts

The Panthers didn’t pay Teddy to give up after one season. In an entire new scheme and offense he hasn’t looked great but he could be far worse. Pitts would give Bridgewater a new target that would make Carolina arguably the best receiving corps in the entire league. He’s been an incredible threat in Florida’s offense and alongside DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and CMC, Matt Rhule and Joe Brady would have a plethora of weapons at their disposal.

Arizona Cardinals – Wyatt Davis

When you have a young franchise QB in Kyler Murray, you want to protect him. When he has to go against Nick Bosa and Aaron Donald a quarter of the schedule, you really want to protect him. Davis would become an immediate plug and play for the Cardinals offensive line. With more time in the pocket, Kyler will be able to do more damage by air and help Kliff Kingsbury get the offense he envisioned.

New England Patriots – DeVonta Smith

Another first round wide receiver for Bill Belichick. Julian Edelman will be 35 next season and N’keal Harry has been okay so far when healthy but besides him, the Patriots don’t have many weapons. Smith would give whoever the future QB is for New England another weapon, something New England has lacked for awhile now.

Chicago Bears – Kyle Trask

Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer. Nick Foles is probably not either. Trask would give Chicago the one position they’ve been missing in quarterback. Allen Robinson continues to get frustrated with the quarterbacks he’s had in the league, but Trask has the opportunity to change that, and finally bring Chicago to the next level.

Indianapolis Colts – Rondale Moore

The Colts receiving corps has been lackluster for a few years. They addressed it last offseason by drafting Michael Pittman but an unfortunate injury shows how little depth they have. T.Y. Hilton is on the final year of his contract and he’s getting older. Whoever the next QB in Indy is, he’ll need weapons and Moore will help provide another one.

Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Barmore

The Raiders defensive line has been lackluster. Maxx Crosby is a great edge rusher, but Clelin Ferrell has shown nothing but spurts of potential, struggling to put it all together, and free agent acquisition Maliek Collins has yet to get another going. Barmore checks off Mike Mayock’s tendency of drafting from top pedigree universities, and can provide an interior rushing force to help the Raiders run defense and pass rush.

Tennessee Titans – Rashod Bateman

Corey Davis has shown some potential finally this season, and A.J. Brown is a young stud, but Bateman would become an immediate upgrade for the Titans passing game. With Bateman, Brown, Jonnu, and Derrick Henry, the Titans will become almost impossible to game plan for.

New Orleans Saints – Paulson Adebo

The Saints window is closing quick, and the defense is falling apart once again. Janoris Jenkins is not the answer at cornerback opposite Lattimore. Adebo is a quality outside corner who can help the Saints secondary reach the level it was during the Saints past few playoff runs. After losing to the Vikings twice in the playoffs on last second touchdowns, the Saints hope adding Adebo prevents this from happening again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pat Freiermuth

The Bucs window is even smaller than the Saints. Bruce Arians wants to give Tom all the help he can and Gronk is clearly past his prime. The Penn State tight end is a stud who will help Tom out on third down plays and in blocking. With him added to that offense, the Bucs will be virtually impossible when it’s firing on all cylinders.

Cleveland Browns – Hamsah Nasirildeen

The Browns defense is shaky outside of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. Free agent Karl Joseph has not been that good, and Cleveland gets a shot at a complete upgrade at the safety position. Hamsah can roam around the field creating havoc, and will bring an intensity to the secondary level of the Browns defense that is much needed in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Leatherwood

Whether Ben plays another year, or the Steelers look elsewhere for a new QB, Pittsburgh will need a strong offensive line to let their plethora of weapons go to work. Leatherwood is an immediate plug and play on the line and can help in the trenches battle.

Los Angeles Rams – Dillon Radunz

Jared Goff, like most quarterbacks, is at his best in a clean pocket. During the Rams superbowl run they had one of the best lines in the league as Gurley burst free for huge gains and Goff picked apart defenses under the instruction of Sean McVay. Then the Rams lost a bunch of their line and they fell apart. Radunz can help them try to recreate that incredible season where they were a few plays away from winning it all.

Buffalo Bills – Trey Smith

Josh Allen is beginning to play at an MVP caliber level. The Bills defense has taken a step back this year, but they’re still solid. The Bills offensive line has some holes in the middle though, and that’s where Trey Smith comes in. The Tennessee guard has some concerning health issues, but there’s no question about his talent, and what he can bring to that Buffalo offense.

Green Bay Packers – Jay Tufele

The Packers biggest needs would be sizable reaches here, so expect a trade down come April. For this mock though, the Packers bolster their defensive line with the USC D-Lineman. If you give Rodgers a strong defense the sky is the limit for the Packers.

Seattle Seahawks – Josh Myers

The Seahawks have finally given in and let Russ cook. Now it’s time to finally protect him. Myers can be the center of the future for Seattle, and protect Russ as he finally gets to air it out. The offensive line is something Seattle has ignored for awhile, but enough is enough.

Baltimore Ravens – Aidan Hutchinson

The Ravens could use an edge rusher, and Hutchinson provides a power rushing skillset that the Ravens lack. Jim Harbaugh will surely learn all the details of the Michigan edge rusher as all he has to do is call his brother in the north for any info he needs. The Baltimore defense is already scary, and adding Hutchinson only makes it better.

Kansas City Chiefs – Hamilcar Rashed Jr

What do the reigning super bowl champs need? Whatever they want. The Chiefs still have a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense, so this pick can be whatever they want. Besides Frank Clark, the Kansas City edge rushers are nothing special, and Rashed has the talent to develop into an impact player in both run stopping and pass rushing.