To close out this year, the Maroon-News Sports Editors give their hottest takes surrounding future happenings in the sports world.
Notis: Trevor Lawrence isn’t the Best QB in this NFL Draft Class
Former Clemson quarterback (QB) Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent. If he stays healthy and puts in the work, I’m sure he can be a good QB in the NFL. But there’s only one QB in this draft who had wide receivers who played with a future NFL superstar signal caller, but firmly believe that the QB in this year’s draft is better. That man: Alabama’s Mac Jones. Jones’ stock has been slowly rising and he’s now become one of the premier prospects in this draft. All of his receivers at Alabama were asked who they preferred between Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Jones, and all of them took Jones without even thinking about it. After his stellar freshman year, it has seemed like Lawrence has been phoning it in on the football field. Jones is locked in. He has that Nick Saban grit-and-grind mentality that has produced dozens of top picks and successful NFL players. Jones is the next, and could be the best on Saban’s list. BYU’s Zach Wilson has only shown his Mahomesian abilities at pro days, where pads and defenses don’t exist. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance have shown potential, but are nowhere near Jones’s skill-level. Through the next few years in the NFL, Jones will rise above the rest of this class like a Phoenix and become the NFL’s next golden child.
Silverstein: Minnesota Wild will make it out of the West Division
Throughout the history of hockey, Minnesota has been a true hotbed for the sport on all levels. Youth hockey in Minnesota is known for being as competitive as it gets, producing the likes of Zach Parise, Blake Wheeler and Jake Guentzel, who have gone on to be stars in the NHL. At the collegiate level, NCAA powerhouses such as University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State have been dominant over the years, amassing eight national championships. And from 1967 to 1993, the Minnesota North Stars were a staple in the land of 10,000 lakes before relocating to Dallas. There aren’t many places in the United States with as much of a love for the game.
Yet, despite putting together a few playoff teams over the course of their twenty year history, the Minnesota Wild have not lived up to the hockey hype of the state they call home. In franchise history, the team has only made it to the conference finals once, in 2002-2003. But I have a strong feeling that we’ll be adding another conference finals appearance to their history this postseason.
Yes, the Minnesota Wild, a team that nobody around the league expected to be competing for a cup before the season began, is going to make it out of the West Division. And this historic regular season for the team has gradually convinced the hockey world that they can. The Wild have already clinched a playoff berth in the West with a record of 31-13-3 as of April 25 and feature one of the most balanced rosters in the NHL. Head Coach Dean Evason and General Manager Bill Guerin have infused exciting young talent and sturdy veteran leadership to create an incredibly deep team. Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov is a frontrunner to win the Calder Trophy, and leads the team and all NHL rookies with 41 points. Longtime New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello has proven an excellent offseason addition, producing efficiently as well alongside the rookie. The Wild boast one of the most well-rounded bluelines in the league, with a rock solid top four of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. The goaltending tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen has been consistent all year. And oh yeah, Minnesota native Zach Parise remains one of the most decorated leaders in the league. This team is getting hot at the right time, and is primed to go on a special run in these playoffs.
Schiller: Matthew Stafford will win the 2021 NFL MVP
The L.A. sun will shine bright on new Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, long one of the most underappreciated players in the league, reminding the league just how good the former number one overall pick is. Despite putting up astronomical numbers in his first twelve seasons in Detroit, Stafford did not find as much team success, appearing in only three playoff games with no wins to his credit. However, it would be unfair to place the Lions’ ineptitude on their former franchise quarterback. The team failed to provide Stafford with any consistent run game during his time in Detroit, and the team’s defense has been downright awful, culminating in the franchise’s worst defensive season last year.
Stafford should find his supporting cast much more to his liking in his new Southern California digs. The Rams were the best defense in the NFL last season, and should remain one of the league’s best units this year while led by superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey and arguably the best player in football regardless of position in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. On the offensive side of the ball, Stafford will have a plethora of weapons to work with including wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robet Woods, tight ends Gerald Everret and Tyler Higbee and emerging sophomore running back Cam Akers. These skill position players, along with the offensive system of Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, will allow Stafford to blossom with his new team. The Rams will be able to take advantage of Stafford’s vertical passing ability, especially when married with Sean McVay’s motion heavy play action offense, to take the team’s offense to heights previously unattainable with system quarterback Jared Goff.
The NFL MVP has traditionally gone to the quarterback of the best regular season team in football, and the Rams certainly have the potential to be that team with one of the league’s best rosters on paper heading into next season. That combined with the media’s love of a good narrative, in this case Stafford putting up monster numbers and being the missing piece in the Rams pursuit of a Super Bowl in the later half of his career, will culminate in the signal caller garnering the 2021 NFL MVP.
Firment: Knicks to the Eastern Conference Finals
The New York Knickerbockers are back. First-time All Star Julius Randle and his young and exciting supporting cast in the Big Apple have the Knicks playing their best basketball in recent memory. Currently sitting at the number four seed in the East, New York has a reason to watch basketball again. The last time the Knicks made the playoffs was the 2012-13 season in which they beat the Boston Celtics in the first round before being dispatched in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by Paul George’s Indiana Pacers in six games. Their star player in that season was Carmelo Anthony. The last time the Knicks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals was the 1999-2000 season when they were knocked out by… you guessed it, the Indiana Pacers.
But the tides are turning in New York, and this year’s squad is reeling off wins like a true playoff squad. Randle, along with young wing R.J. Barrett, are catching their stride at the perfect time and are making the case for the Knicks to be more than just a one-and-done team in this year’s NBA Playoffs. Which brings me to my hot take: the New York Knicks will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. And personally, this take doesn’t feel as piping hot as some may think. In addition to winning games at the right time, this Knicks squad has a good balance of young, promising players and savvy veterans. Besides Randle, the Knicks boast former MVP point guard Derrick Rose, defensive weapon center Nerlens Noel and sharpshooters Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks. And while Burks has been banged up, he may be the X-factor for this Knicks team in the postseason. His ability to score off the bench will be massive for New York’s depth when battling the league’s elite. That’s a great group of vets.
In terms of young guys, the Knicks have Barrett, who has really come into his own, as well as crafty young guard Immanuel Quickley and former NCAA Player of the Year in forward Obi Toppin. Not to mention, the Knicks are having all of this success without their talented young big man in Mitchell Robinson. This is a team that not only can win games right now, but is also set for the future. Expect New York to be a hotspot for Free Agents in the summer of 2021 after their Cinderella-like ECF run is thwarted by my Philadelphia 76ers. Sorry Knicks fans, I had to.