2023 Is A MAKE OR BREAK Year For THESE 5 NFL Players

Let’s talk about five NFL players that are in a “Make or Break” year.

Kyler Murray

Kyler has already been paid, so this isn’t about his finances. He’s set for life in that area.

This is about Kyler Murray needing to play superhuman football in 2023 to keep the Cardinals from being in a position to use one of the two top-10 draft picks they’ll probably have in 2024 to replace him. 

And the problem for Kyler is that he won’t be ready to go until week 5, as he’s coming off a torn ACL. 

Murray has been at war with the organization that drafted him for years, whether it’s disagreeing with Steve Keim’s draft picks, dealing with the front office leaking things to Christ Mortensen about him, having the owner embarrass him with a film study clause in his contract, or the extremely contentious contract negotiations themselves- it’s always been something. 

Now he has a new coach, a new GM, and rumors are swirling, courtesy of Michael Lombardi, that the Cardinals would be fine to give him the year off to set themselves up to recoup some money via injury insurance and set themselves up for the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. 

The one person that can stop this from happening is Kyler Murray, but are fellow short kings Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore enough on the outside to help Murray flip his organization’s plans? We will see. 

Chase Young

Let’s get this out of the way- Chase Young is not a bust. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler at 21 years old. 

He’s been injured. And unfortunately for Commanders fans, he’s still dealing with recovering from a stinger he got in the preseason. 

The Commanders already gave up the rights to his fifth year, so he’s literally in a Make of Break situation. 

People see running backs tear an ACL and come back fully healthy within 9-10 months, and expect it’s going to be the same for defensive linemen, but that’s not the case. A knee injury can end a defensive lineman’s career. Keith Millard went from NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 at age 27, to only appearing in 22 games for the rest of his career. Steve Emtman , the first overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, never started more than 9 games in a season and was out of the league by 27- mostly because of his knees. Remember Andre Wadsworth? If you don’t, it’s because the third overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft had a bad knee that had him out of the league for good by the end of his third year. 

I’m rooting for Chase Young, but you can’t prove your worth on the field if you can’t get on the field. 

Justin Fields

There’s no excuses for Fields this year. The Bears went out and got him DJ Moore, and I’ve said this a bunch, but if Moore was anywhere other than Charlotte the last couple years, we’d be talking about him the way we talk about Justin Jefferson or Tee Higgins. He’s that good. 

You have to be careful with Bears fans because they’ve been without a franchise QB for so long that their instinct is to be aggressively protective of Fields. I wish the offensive line in Chicago had that same instinct. 

Let’s just be objective for a second- his completion percentage is low. If Kyler Murray had Justin Fields’ completion percentage, there would have been no controversy about the study clause in his extension because there would have been no extension. 

Justin Fields’ sack percentage is off the charts, and it contributes to a high turnover rate. And one thing I like to say is sometimes a man’s strengths flow from the same place as his weaknesses. That being said, it’s incredible that an NFL QB rushed for almost 1,200 yards last year, but it also never should have happened, and it should never happen again!

But it might, because Fields’ offensive line outside of the center position is an average of around 24 years old, and came from schools like Southern Utah and University of Charlotte. Darnell Wright was picked last year at 10th overall and is starting right tackle for a man who is trying to get a $250+ million dollar extension. 

Justin Fields is out here running around on a tight rope, but at least the defenses in the division are as collectively bad as any in the entire NFL.

Mac Jones

Say what you want about Mac Jones, but you can’t ever call him a coward. The man went from following Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, to stepping in for the greatest QB of all time in New England. He’s out there in the bright lights, with a world of pressure on his shoulders, screaming at his assistant coaches to let him throw the damn ball.

Mac Jones hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been good, but he hasn’t been bad. There’s going to be a place for him in the NFL for a very long time. But is that place in New England, under Bill Belichick? The standard out there is winning- and the Patriots didn’t do that last year.

New England lost four one-score games, and Mac Jones only has one fourth quarter comeback in 31 career starts. He also only had one game last year where he threw three or more touchdowns, and it came in a game where he also turned the ball over three times.

Now we’re going to be measuring him against his old Alabama teammate, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen in six division games this season, and if he clearly looks like the worst of the four in all six games, what motivation is there for New England to keep this going?

Baker Mayfield

Baker probably made enough money off of commercials alone to not need a big second contract, but I get the feeling this man is fueled by something other than money anyway. 

He wants to stick it to Cleveland. And Carolina. And Colin Cowherd. And Odell Beckham Jr’s dad. And the guy in the stands calling him a bum. And if he could go back to Oklahoma and plant the flag again, I’m sure he could do that too. 

But is Tampa Bay the right place for Baker’s revenge tour?

After Bruce Arians retired, the Bucs went from three-straight top-3 finishes in points scored, to 25th last year under Todd Bowles. And now Tampa brings in a QB that is 8-16 in his last 24 starts, with a 4:3 TD to INT ratio, who barely completes 60% of his passes and takes as many sacks as anyone not named Justin Fields.

Deion Sanders May Have Made Believers Of Some, But Colorado Has A Lot To Improve On

We need to talk about Deion Sanders.

After the Buffs shocked the world on Saturday, knocking off a TCU team that is fresh off an appearance in the national championship, and came into the game a three-touchdown favorite, the narrative became about Deion Sanders’ receipts. 

To be fair to coach Prime, he did announce that he’s been keeping receipts all along, but that man started waving them around the moment he had his first opportunity. 

In the postgame press conference, Deion Sanders called out long-time ESPN reporter Ed Werder, who grew up in Colorado, and has been based out of Dallas since Deion was a Cowboy. Prime repeatedly asked Werder “do you believe now?” When Werder said “who said I didn’t believe” and “in what?,” Deion cut him off and said “next question.”

What was Deion referring to? It’s likely that Coach Prime was upset that Ed Werder referred to him as a “celebrity coach” in a tweet.

Worse things have certainly been said, but Deion needed to make someone an example in the moment, and Ed Werder was in the wrong place at the right time. 

Look, if you’re a coach, and you want to take reasonable suspicion and portray it to your own team as hate in order to motivate them-  do what you gotta do. Kirby Smart does it, and he knows damn well that nobody with two functioning brain cells to rub together doubts Georgia. 

There has to be a difference between people thinking that Colorado might not IMMEDIATELY revert back to the incredible run they had from 1989-1996, and the people that think Deion Sanders is incapable of winning AT ALL on the highest level. 

But how Deion Sanders chooses to motivate his players doesn’t change the fact that this 2023 Colorado team still has a long way to go to get to the mountaintop. 

They went 1-0 last week. But guess what? So did the other 11 teams they share a conference with. 

You didn’t see Chip Kelly out here reminding people that LA Times reporter Ben Bolch said he should be fired

There’s nothing wrong with Deion’s energy- it was a big moment and the eyes on the nation were on his players- he’d have been insane not to take advantage of that… but that’s not the energy that’s going to get them through a Pac-12 season with Bo Nix, Caleb Williams, and Utah’s running game all waiting for their shot at a defense that gave up over 500 yards when fully healthy.

So let’s be reasonable. Let’s take stock of what Colorado has, and what they don’t have. 

First, Shedeur Sanders destroyed Colorado’s single game passing record in his first start. If you didn’t believe in that young man, and to be honest I saw more doubt thrown his way than Deion’s, then you definitely need to repent and believe. 510 yards on 38 completions, with no picks? Four touchdowns?  When the team needed Shedeur the most, on a third-and-16 with CU down four, he made a play. He’s legit.

Second, Travis Hunter is a unicorn. 120+ snaps. Over 100 yards receiving. I was told this kid has a first round grade as a defensive back AND a receiver. There have only ever been a handful of players like him. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Chris Gamble, Charles Woodson, and even Deion himself. 

Third, did Deion set the tone for belief, situational awareness, and composure in a big moment? Absolutely, you either have the ability to prepare a team to succeed, or you don’t, and Deion not only showed the ability to do that, he also showed his brilliance in luring Sean Lewis away from being Kent State’s head coach to run his offense. And getting a team with 87 players that were somewhere else last season to be able to play together? That’s special. 

HOWEVER, it’s a long season. The defense is suspect. They gave up over 7 yards a carry against TCU. The run game is suspect. They had 28 carries for 90 yards. They forced two turnovers, but didn’t have a single tackle or sack in the backfield.

If seeing is believing, what we saw was a doubly one-dimensional team Both as an offense, AND ON OFFENSE. The Pac-12 has had plenty of those. It’s the reason Sonny Dykes is at TCU and not Cal. It’s the reason Mike Leach never won a Pac-12 title. It’s the reason people are suspicious of Lincoln Riley and Kalen DeBoer both last year and this year.

Colorado is thin up front on both sides of the line, and the depth everywhere else isn’t exactly where Deion wants it to be. 

But what Colorado lacks in power and depth, they’re currently making up for in the one thing more priceless and precious than almost anything else in the world of college football- Colorado has hope. 

If Deion Sanders can keep that hope afloat with a positive showing against Nebraska, who isn’t going to want to play for him? Because it’s not the belief of the media that Deion Sanders needs… Ed Werder joining the Colorado church choir does nothing for the program. 

The people Deion Sanders needs to believe are the ones that throw, catch, run, block and tackle. Once he has their belief, that’s when you’ll see the Buffaloes back in the promised land. 

Let that sink in.

Will The Indianapolis Colts Give Anthony Richardson The Same Freedom They Gave Manning and Luck?

We need to talk about Anthony Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts. 

Everyone is talking about the San Antonio Spurs when it comes to lottery luck and the opportunity to draft franchise changing generational players, but what about the Colts? 

Peyton Manning was the first overall pick in 1998, won more MVP’s than anyone in NFL history, and brought Indy a Super Bowl. 

Andrew Luck was the first overall pick in 2012, set the NFL rookie record for passing yards, and made four pro bowl and an AFC championship game before his body ultimately broke down. 

And now they’ve got fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson, who many believe has all the same tools as Andrew Luck, despite not statistically proving that at the collegiate level. 

In 1998, the Colts tossed Peyton Manning the keys and never looked back. In 2012 they did the same with Andrew Luck. 

They have no reason not to do the same with Anthony Richardson.

But will they?

Peyton Manning threw the ball 35 times per game as a rookie, leading to 28 interceptions, a rookie record that stands to this day. 

Andrew Luck threw the ball 39 times per game as a rookie, and while the Colts won 11 games as opposed to the 3 games Peyton Manning won as a rookie, Luck still produced an AFC-leading 18-interceptions.

That’s the freedom I want for Anthony Richardson. The ability to match or exceed the 36 pass attempts per game that the 4-win Colts had last year so that a player that desperately needs the reps can figure things out for himself without having to worry about whether he’s going to get replaced.

And since this is the organization that has done this twice before, there’s no reason not to grant him that freedom and confidence. 

I’m just not sure they will. 

Whether it’s that the NFL has become such a win-now league, or that Jim Irsay flirted, jokingly or not, with the idea of drafting Will Levis in addition to Anthony Richardson, or even the other, very obvious difference between Richardson and the two other quarterback on this list- it seems as if the odds are stacked against Richardson being given that same level of freedom.

But what could it hurt?

Even Josh Allen, who paved the way for Richardson to be such a high pick with his physical gifts far outweighing his college production, took the occasional brea from trucking linebackers to toss the pigskin 30 times a game as a rookie. And it was rarely pretty- but look at him now.

For the Colts, and the rest of the country, to know if Anthony Richardson has what it takes to justify his draft slot, we’re going to need to see him cook. 

Let’s hope the Colts let him have complete control of the kitchen.

Dillon Brooks Is The NBA’s Lamest Villain

Dillon Brooks

We need to talk about Dillon “The Villain” Brooks.

The NBA has always been more fun when there are heels involved. Some heels are specific to just one city. For example, ask any Sacramento Kings fan how they feel about Big Shot Bob.

While some legendary NBA villains are heels toward every single team in the NBA. Sometimes, even their own team.

Just ask Jordan Poole about his teammate, Draymond Green.

There are rules to being an NBA villain. It’s not just about being hate-able. If it was, I might consider my fellow Oregon Duck, Dillon Brooks, a legitimate league outlaw.

But in order to be considered a league-wide heel, you have to be someone who puts butts in the seats for the sole purpose of being your hater. Say what you want about Patrick Beverly, but there are about 5 cities in America where a season ticket holder is making sure they hold on to their Chicago Bulls ticket just so they can shout Russell Westbrook’s now famous “Pat Bev tricked y’all” line at the more-often-than-not despised defensive specialist. 

Nobody is going to a Grizzlies game to see Dillon Brooks

If you want to be a legitimate NBA villain, you need to be good at something. Literally anything. It could be rebounding like Dennis Rodman. Or clutch three point shooting like Reggie Miller. 

What specifically is Dillon Brooks good at?

He can’t shoot. He scores in bunches sometimes, but it’s never efficient. He had the eighth-worst field goal percentage in the entire league this year among qualified players. 

He jacks up the second most threes per game on the Grizzlies, but isn’t in the top 10 on this year’s roster in three point percentage.

I’ve heard people call him a defensive specialist, but statistically he’s not top five on the Grizzlies in either steals, or blocks. And if you believe in advanced stats like Defensive Box Plus/Minus, or Victory Over Replacement, the stats say the Grizzlies are actually better when Brooks isn’t on the court.

So not only is no one paying to see Dillon Brooks, he’s not particularly special at anything.

In fact, you can make almost a million dollars betting the price of a Starbucks latte on Brooks to have a decent game tonight against the Lakers.

Maybe he can justify his villain status through the third criteria- can he hold your attention?

We know he can get attention. Anybody can be ridiculous enough to make you look. Dillon Brooks can do that by coming to the stadium dressed as Stone Cold Steve Austin, or by pushing a camera man down for no reason. Or by popping a second player this season in the groin. But a real villain is someone whose mere presence on the court has you distracted.

Bruce Bowen hardly ever said a word, but when he was with the Spurs, you always had to keep one eye on him at all times. Watching Ron Artest get ready to check in at the scorers table would be enough to make the hair on your arms stand up. 

But Dillon Brooks? He’ll goose you, but he’s not giving anyone goosebumps. The man’s just cringeworthy. He’s like if the Scott’s Tots episode of The Office made an NBA roster.

You might be listening to this and thinking, “what’s up with the Oregon on Oregon hate?”

First of all, I don’t hate Dillon Brooks. That’s actually the point of this rant- that Dillon Brooks isn’t even good at trying to get people to hate him. 

And second, Dillon Brooks was the 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year. He had one of the greatest flops in basketball history. I wanted big things for Dillon Brooks. 

But he can’t shoot even though he never stops shooting. He doesn’t rebound. He doesn’t pass. He can’t defend. And he keeps aggressively touching men where no man needs to be aggressively touched… at least not during a basketball game. 

None of that is fun of good or even compelling. 

And now, all eyes are on Dillon Brooks because he decided that he wanted to measure his worth against LeBron James. Saying publicly that he doesn’t respect LeBron because LeBron has never dropped 40 on him

Well, Dillon Brooks has never dropped 40 on anyone. And maybe that’s why it seems like he doesn’t respect himself enough to play the game the right way, and instead has decided to cosplay as an NBA villain. 

You’re not the bad guy. You’re just bad.

Let that sink in.

No, Giannis Antetokounmpo Didn’t “Fail” This Season… But Mike Budenholzer Did.

Giannis Pro Sports postponement protests

We need to talk about Mr. Nice Guy, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks became the first 1-seed to lose to a play-in team. 

It wasn’t Giannis’ fault. He was hurt. He still gave it his all. He always does. 

And blaming Giannis isn’t fair, and takes away from the place all the credit should go- to Jimmy Butler for dragging the Miami Heat to the second round without Tyler Herro. 

Sometimes a player elevates and gives you a David vs Goliath moment. Baron Davis did it to Dirk Nowitzki. For my oldheads, Dikembe Mutombo did it to Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.

It happens. 

But what happens next is on Giannis.

Let me explain. 

Last night, a reporter named Eric Nehm from The Athletic asked Giannis if losing in the first round made this season a failure. Giannis seemed to get upset at the question, and explained that a career is a process- that you can build on a season and learn from it, even if the season is over. 

He then asked Eric Nehm if failing to get a promotion in a calendar year would be considered a failure for him, and asked if the nine years that Michael Jordan finished without a championship were all considered failures. 

I’ve seen literally thousands of people praising Giannis for this perspective, and I’m not going to say that Giannis is wrong. It is an interesting perspective worthy of consideration. 

But I want to make a few points.

First, in sports you compete for championships in a self-contained season. In paper pushing jobs you compete to not get fired. I appreciate the metaphor, but there’s not really anywhere for Eric Nehm to go besides maybe becoming a national columnist. And that could happen five years from now, or 20 years from now. Getting Giannis to react in a viral manner is like a reporter winning a title. You might as well have dropped the confetti on press row the moment Giannis got emotional.

Second, this could be about what failure means to Giannis as a person. Giannis used to sell handbags and sunglasses alongside his brother Thanasis on the streets of Greece to help his undocumented Nigerian parents make ends meet… and now he’s on an NBA team with Thanasis and making almost $50 million dollars a year. When you’ve got a story like that, it’s hard to imagine anything feeling like failure. The Bucks could have gone 0-82 this year, and as long as Giannis knew the sun was going to come up tomorrow, you’d have a hard time convincing him that he “failed.” 

But third, and most importantly, since Giannis brought Michael Jordan’s name into this… there’s a very good chance that Michael Jordan considers all nine of the seasons he didn’t win a championship a failure. 

And while I don’t expect Giannis to start doing things like punching Pat Cannaughton in the face at practice, or calling general manager Jon Horst a fatso, it wouldn’t hurt Giannis’ chances to do the one thing every kid with sneakers and a ball in the 90’s wanted to do-

Be “Like Mike.”

Michael Jordan put an insane amount of pressure on his own shoulders to be the best, and used that to justify putting pressure on the people around him. 

Giannis is a bully on the court. He’s both new school and old school. He’s got shades of Hakeem and David Robinson to his game, but is also uniquely suited to the modern style of play. 

If anyone in the NBA has earned the right to flex their own vision for what the Milwaukee Bucks should be, it’s Giannis. 

And maybe Giannis has a multi-season vision that isn’t contained by arbitrary starting and stopping points- but his front office sure doesn’t. That’s why they shipped five draft picks to Brooklyn for a malcontented Jae Crowder to function as their missing piece, only to have Mike Budenholzer switch up the rotations for the playoffs and stop playing Crowder altogether while Jimmy Butler shot SIXTY percent from the field. 

Maybe it’s OK for Giannis to still be learning lessons from his losses at age 28, but Mike Budenholzer is beyond his “losses are lessons” phase.

When there’s half a second left in a tie game, and you’re facing elimination, and you elect to not use one of your TWO TIMEOUTS?

Mike Budenholzer isn’t just failing, he’s tanking.

I hate to keep saying this, but even if Giannis is right about this year not being a failure, if nothing changes moving forward, what are we supposed to call the Greek Freak’s wasted potential?

Giannis needs to run over Budenholzer like he runs over defenders. 

And if the Bucks can get a coach in place that does what’s right in the right moments, then maybe this year isn’t really a failure after all.

Let that sink in.

George Wrighster’s Top 10 QBs Ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft

bryce young

Most years, at least 10 quarterbacks are selected in the NFL Draft. Last year was an exception, with nine QBs picked, and one of them (Brock Purdy) being the final selection in the draft. This year is all about upside, and there are 10 signal callers I believe have earned the right to have their names called this weekend. Here are my top 10 QBS ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft:

1) Bryce Young (Alabama)

This one is obvious, and I’ve written and talked about him plenty. Even though there was a moment where the Carolina Panthers seemed to be infatuated with C.J. Stroud, and were inexplicably rumored to be taking Will Levis, I believe the Panthers will make the right choice and go with Young first overall.

Young has a slight build, and I’m not usually a fan of that, but he understands his body, and keeps himself out of danger, and from taking unnecessary punishment. Bryce has been dominant at every level, and has a level of touch on his passes that sets him apart from the field. Plus, he’s as smart as they come.

2) CJ Stroud (Ohio State)

If it wasn’t for the leaked test result and the weird issue that Brady Quinn brought up about CJ Stroud not attending a Manning passing camp, CJ Stroud would be the closest thing to a sure bet as they come. He doesn’t have the size concerns that scouts have expressed about Bryce Young. The arm strength is there. He has the elite pedigree. He lived up to expectations at Ohio State. His performance against Georgia is something no one else on this list was able to accomplish.

And while he’s not a runner, he did use his legs to break the Buckeyes out of a funk against Northwestern this year. You have to respect someone who does what it takes to win.

The only criticism he’s consistently received (even from me) is that he was surrounded by the most receiving talent- but last time I checked, receivers don’t throw themselves the ball.

If Houston doesn’t grab Stroud at 2, you have to think someone is going to trade with the Cardinals to make him the third overall pick.

3) Anthony Richardson (Florida)

I wasn’t just wrong about Josh Allen. I was aggressively wrong. Because of Josh Allen’s success, we need to pay attention to the players that may not have produced at the highest level collegiately, but still possess every tool in the toolbox.

Anthony Richardson has the biggest arm, and the most dangerous scrambling ability. But can he manage an offense, read blitzes, handle checkdowns, and bring a team back from a deficit? All of that remains to be seen.

I’ve seen some Vince Young comparisons here, and while Young didn’t live up to being the 3rd overall pick in 2006, he did win 31 of his 50 NFL starts. To consider Richardson a success in the NFL, I’d set Young’s career statistics as his floor.

4) Hendon Hooker (Tennessee)

Injury concerns, age, and a good offensive system are all easy enough reasons to dismiss Hendon Hooker as a sure thing at the NFL level, but I simply don’t believe that some of these concerns have merit.

Hendon Hooker will never be asked to do at the NFL level what he was asked to do at Tennessee. He’s a talented pocket passer, and there’s no reason to have an NFL QB executing a dozen designed runs every single game. Plus, he got up from one of the biggest hits all year against LSU. The ACL was a fluke.

Also, 25 years old isn’t ancient. We’re not in Brandon Weeden territory here. If he proves his worth as an NFL starter, you’re talking about a contract extension while he’s still in his 20’s, in an age where QBs are playing at a high level well into their 30’s.

And even though Hooker wasn’t torching defenses at Virginia Tech the way he did at Tennessee, his yards per attempt stayed consistent throughout his college career.

Hooker has every intangible you could want, and as long as you’re not drafting him to be a franchise savior on day 1, he could have a respectable NFL career.

5) Will Levis (Kentucky)

Will Levis is the one that has me scratching my head a little bit. The hype coming out of his junior year was deserved- but when the spotlights that he helped turn onto himself and the Kentucky program with both his play (and his off-the-field persona) got bright, he was just average.

I look at a guy like Daniel Jones in the NFL who has plenty of talent, and produced some gritty wins, but hasn’t had those big-number explosive games, and it makes me think there could be an NFL future for Levis as a starter.

But it’s all going to depend on the situation he finds himself in.

6) Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA)

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is lightning in a bottle in multiple ways. He can dazzle you and spark the offense… or he can electrocute you to death.

DTR’s five years as a starter at UCLA showed continuous progress, plenty of highlights, and a tendency to shine when the lights were brightest.

It also saw him have moments of immaturity on and off the field.

DTR has first round talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the right team or coach turns him into a ten year starter. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he turned the ball over seven times in a spot start. The ceiling and the floor could not be farther apart for a college prospect, but I’m rooting for him.

7) Jake Haener (Fresno State)

Jake Haener is gutsy, a good leader, and might be the surprise franchise QB of the 2023 NFL Draft.

I felt like his stock was higher after his junior year, but he still put together an impressive senior campaign and protected the ball incredibly well.

The biggest issue for NFL teams is that Haener is completely one-dimensional. If you don’t protect him, he isn’t going to pick up any unscheduled gains with his feet.

I’m just glad to have Jake Haener out of college football so he can’t terrorize any more Pac-12 teams in non-conference games.

8) Clayton Tune (Houston)

Yes, Clayton Tune played five seasons at Houston. No, Clayton Tune is not Case Keenum. But… they could have similar NFL careers. Clayton Tune is the perfect spot starting backup for a good team. He won’t cost you games, and he’s talented enough to make enough plays to keep a team afloat.

9) Jaren Hall (Brigham Young)

Jaren Hall’s draft stock not being as high as it should be is probably partially due to Zach Wilson coming out of BYU and not living up to his draft slot. Hall has wide receiver athletic ability, in a wide receiver body, but he throws on the run in a way that makes him worthy of avoiding any of that “would you consider switching positions” speculation that befalls many athletic black quarterbacks.

10) Tanner McKee (Stanford)

I never liked Tanner McKee as a college QB. He has the size, and throws a gorgeous ball, but he just wasn’t what Stanford needed to be competitive. At least at the NFL level he won’t be forced to run a slow mesh that has him getting blown up by opposing defensive line.

I’d put his ceiling, ironically, at the level of the QB he used to back up- Davis Mills. He’s certainly worth spending a late round pick on.

Deion Sanders Is Making An Extremely Risky Bet On the Transfer Portal To Make Colorado A Winner

Deion Colorado

We need to talk about Deion Sanders.

42,277 people attended Colorado’s Spring Game last weekend, and that’s about the same number of players that have asked to transfer or been cut in the last week. 

I hope Deion Sanders knows what he’s doing. Because I’m going to be honest- as a Pac-12 fan. As someone who has a podcast covering the Pac-12. As someone who played at a current Pac-12 school… I don’t know what he’s doing. 

Maybe I’m shortsighted. Maybe I don’t see the vision. 

But my lifelong understanding of the game of football has led me to believe that in order to play football, you need football players. 

As of this moment, with over 50 scholarship players hitting the exit since Deion’s arrival, they don’t have the ability to field a competitive team next year. 

Yes, I know players will transfer in. But Deion and Colorado aren’t going to be the only ones chasing available prospects. 

Deion Sanders told Pat MacAfee that one of the reasons he cut so many players was because in order to make room for new furniture, you have to get rid of old furniture. 

While I’m sure the players he got rid of will like being described as old furniture as much as they’ve enjoyed not being given access to their 2022 practice film in order to help themselves land a new spot, I understand his metaphor. 

But the difference between furniture shopping to fill a new house- something I’m literally in the middle of doing, and hunting the right prospects that have a higher pedigree and more potential to help you win, is that you don’t bid on a one-of-a-kind dining room table against 50 other shoppers.

Deion seems to be assuming that his cult of personality is going to lead him to be the primary option for the country’s elite displaced blue chip prospects. And maybe he’s right. Betting on himself is what got him in this position in the first place. 

But you don’t churn three-fourths of a roster unless you plan on winning now, and in the Pac-12, you just don’t win without depth. Is he really going to be able to re-stock, establish chemistry, and develop talent in time to be able to go head to head with Lincoln Riley and Dan Lanning?

And speaking of other Pac-12 coaches; you have master developers out here like Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, and Kyle Whittingham at Utah. They’ll take a JuCo DB or a two star skinny lineman from Texas and turn them into NFL draft picks. They are teachers, which up until recently, seemed to be one of the primary functions of coaching. 

What does it say about your own faith in your ability to develop if you spend a few weeks around someone and tell them they’re better off anywhere but in your presence?

Deion’s son, Deion Sanders Jr., responded to that exact criticism on Twitter, saying the game has changed because as a coach you only have 2-3 years to make a team competitive or you’ll be fired, so coaches are motivated to instead seek out ready-made ballers.

But this assumes the portal is full of exactly that. And it isn’t. Outside of a few select prospects testing a still-turbulent NIL market, it’s almost all leftover musical chairs. The only way to get ready-made ballers is to have the resources to entice them. Does Colorado have that cash? More than USC? More than Oregon? 

And even if you have the resources, you need to be careful the way you backdoor some of these transfers. You get a kid in trouble because you had a handler put a feeler out there to see if a backup SEC DB might be interested in a move to Boulder, is that kid, his family, or the handler going to fall on the grenade if the NCAA comes knocking?

Deion Sanders told a 247 Sports reporter who inquired about the cuts that he knows what he’s doing, and “it isn’t his first rodeo.” Where I’d push back on that is that it’s EVERYBODY’S FIRST RODEO. 

This is a brave new world of college football, and almost nobody knows what they’re doing. 

But sometimes, when the boundaries are undefined, it’s better to move fast, break things, and ask for forgiveness instead of permission. I hope for Colorado’s sake that this is one of those times. 

Let that sink in.

Even LeBron James’ Biggest Haters Should Be Rooting For Him In His Battle With Father Time

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers

We need to talk about what LeBron James is doing right now.

Because it won’t be long before we’re only talking about him in the past tense. 

LeBron James had 20 rebounds last night in the Lakers overtime victory over the 2-seed Memphis Grizzlies. In doing so, he became the oldest player in NBA history to have a 20-point, 20-rebound playoff game

Last time that happened, Wilt Chamberlain was on the court and Richard Nixon was president. 

We’re talking about the definition of a generational accomplishment. 

Of course the series isn’t over, but as the 2023 playoffs press on, LeBron is creeping up on Kareem Abdul Jabbar for 5th all-time in playoff rebounds, and once he passes Kareem, he’ll be top five in almost every playoff category in existence. 

He’s currently third all-time in three pointers made. Second in assists. Second in triple-doubles. First, by far, in steals. First in total wins. And he’s so far out in front in total points scored that the record may never be broken.

And at 38 years old, in his 20th NBA season, he’s averaging 24, 13 and 5. What are we supposed to even compare that to?

Only nine other players in NBA history ever made it to season 20. Only five of those ever played in the playoffs at or after age 38. The only player on that list that wasn’t in serious decline by 38-years old was Kareem, but even so, the Lakers had resorted to having Magic Johnson and Maurice Lucas crash the glass so that Kareem could focus his energy on the offensive end. 

I don’t care if you don’t like LeBron James. If you don’t like him now, for whatever reason, I’m not going to be the one to convince you after two decades that you’re wrong. 

But if you can’t appreciate what he’s doing right now, you *are* wrong. 

Even if you love LeBron, maybe you’ve come to take for granted the idea that he’s always just going to be around. He’s not! Don’t take it for granted. Everything ends. 

LeBron James is stealing time right now. He’s defying the laws of nature. The same laws that had the great Kobe Bryant playing in his last playoff series at 33. The same laws that saw Charles Barkley and Larry Bird win a combined 3 playoff series after age 31. 

Even Michael Jordan, after three years off, felt the effects of father time by age 38. He had 8 double doubles in 53 starts in his first year with the Wizards. 

LeBron started 54 regular season games at age 38, had 18 double doubles, and is averaging a double double in the playoffs. 

Do you mean to tell me that you hate LeBron James so much that you’ve resorted to rooting for the undefeated villain of all villains- father time, while he stands alone as the only basketball great to still be here after two decades, whooping father time’s ass?

Couldn’t be me. Has never been me. Will never be me. 

The window to enjoy something we’ve never seen, and may never see again, is rapidly closing. But it’s not closed yet. So enjoy the breeze while you still can. 

Let that sink in. 

The NBA Playoffs and Regular Season Are A Completely Different Sport- Can Your Team Handle That?

Giannis Pro Sports postponement protests

We need to talk about the brand new sports season that just tipped off this week.

I’m talking about the NBA Playoffs. 

Now you might be thinking to yourself, George, the NBA Playoffs aren’t a new sports season. Basketball has been going on since October. 

Not this kind of basketball. 

Now more than ever, the NBA’s regular season, and the NBA Playoffs are two completely different sports. 

Do you think Tyler Herro is diving for loose balls in the regular season? Hell no. And now he’s not diving for anything because he broke his damn hand.

Do you think Anthony Davis is putting his glass bones and spaghetti ligaments in harm’s way to take a charge from Ja Morant in the regular season? Absolutely not. And as a Lakers fan I’d appreciate it if he didn’t do that again. 

Ja Morant is lucky to only have a soft tissue bruise.

Do you think that Devin Booker and and Kawhi Leonard are rolling around on the floor trying to pick each other’s pockets in the third quarter of a game in November?

The playoffs are a different beast, but because of that, you have teams struggling to adjust to the differences in lineups, effort, physicality, and especially the way the games are officiated. 

I hate to always be the one bagging on James Harden, but he scored eight points in game 2 of the Sixers first round matchup with the Nets. EIGHT. And the reason is because he isn’t able to depend on the ticky tack fouls he draws in the regular season. 

Get this- James Harden has gone three consecutive playoff games without even attempting a free throw. James Harden is tied for twelfth IN THE HISTORY OF THE NBA in free throws attempted per game, and he hasn’t shot a free throw in his last three playoff games.

And it’s not just James Harden that is affected by the officiating changes. In the 2021-2022 regular season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was called for 48 offensive fouls in 67 games. In last years playoffs he was called for 21 in just 12 games. That’s more than double his regular season per game average!

The teams that win in the playoffs are the ones that aren’t having to shift their style to fit a completely different game. It’s the reason Kobe found success after Shaq. It’s the reason the San Antonio Spurs had over a decade of sustained success. It’s the reason Dwyane Wade’s physicality in the regular season resulted in three championships and five appearances. And it’s the reason that no matter how much of a headache he can be, the Warriors have never moved on from Draymond Green. 

The only way you’re winning an NBA championship in 2023 is if you have the versatility to be a two-sport star. Regular season basketball and playoff basketball. 

Let that sink in.

Jalen Hurts and Nicole Lynn Work Together to Prove Their Worth

We need to talk about that Jalen Hurts contract.

$179.3 million guaranteed. Highest annual salary in NFL history. And a no-trade clause. 

More specifically, we need to talk about his agent, Nicole Lynn

I’ve interviewed Nicole Lynn. I was impressed when she signed Quinnen Williams because *he* saw the vision to affect change and reached out to her. I loved her book, Agent You.

One of the things I enjoy most about Nicole is that in her book, she talks about her path from poverty to Wall Street, and the sacrifices she made to realize her dreams to become a high-level NFL agent, and the honesty she expresses about feeling called into this field, being blessed with opportunity after opportunity along the way, but still having regrets about some of the sacrifices it took to get where she is today.

To have someone that has faced adversity, persevered, but is still grounded enough to understand that the way in which they persevered carries as many lessons as the adversity they faced- it makes you wonder if I’m talking about Nicole Lynn or Jalen Hurts. 

Both are young, talented, black pioneers. Both tuned out the doubters to realize their dreams. And based on the conversation I had with Jalen Hurts’ father, Averion, leading up to last year’s Super Bowl, both are fully aware that they are still a work in progress. 

I’ve talked about Jalen Hurts before, but the fact that he left Alabama with the reputation of “game manager,” then left Oklahoma as a Heisman finalist is wild enough. But when people projected him as NFL receiver, and he fell to the 53rd pick in the draft and a third stringer behind Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld, who would have guessed that he’d be in this position today? 

Nicole Lynn, that’s who. 

I’ve said it before, but truth bears repeating- success isn’t always a straight line, but Nicole Lynn and Jalen Hurts prove that if your internal compass is pointed in the right direction, whether there are oceans, mountains or deep valleys in your way, you’ll find your way there. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier for an agent/player combination. This is like the real life version of Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire.

I talked with Nicole two years ago about one of her dreams- to be a contributing expert on television when it comes to major athletes signing big contracts. 

I hope she’s enjoying the irony of people all over the sports media landscape discussing the record-setting contract she helped negotiate. The first of many, I’m sure.

Let that sink in.