The 4 best late-round picks in the NFL draft

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The first few rounds of the NFL Draft receive the most attention, but these four players picked up later are names you want to know.

The third and final day of the NFL Draft is the most interesting of the entire weekend. There’s a greater level of uncertainty than the first few rounds, and it invokes a certain joy to see some of your favorite college players end up getting drafted.

Within that, there are also sneaky good picks that teams make. That’s not only from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but also because of circumstance in some cases, in part due to which players a team had already selected in the early rounds.

Here are four of my favorite picks from the later rounds of the draft — one of which doesn’t require too much explanation.

Round 7: Air Force LS Austin Cutting, Vikings

The long snapper is secretly one of the most important positions on a football field, and the Vikings selected one with the fifth-to-last pick in the draft. I hadn’t heard of Cutting before his name was called, but he’s going to be a vital piece for the Vikings.

A year ago, 49ers GM John Lynch told SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner, “I’ve watched teams when they lose [their long snapper] in-game, and it is panic mode.” The job doesn’t look hard, but snaps require an incredibly accurate zip and spiral:

Chris Rubio is the country’s preeminent trainer of long snappers. He estimates he’s worked with about 1,000 college snappers and eight who are in the NFL. He says a well-executed snap on a field goal takes no more than 1.25 seconds from the snapper’s first flinch to the ball leaving the kicker’s foot. On a punt, it shouldn’t take more than 1.9 for the ball to be airborne, with 0.75 allocated for the snap itself.

Hopefully Cutting stays healthy, and the Vikings don’t worry about having to go to an emergency backup, considering that’s gone terrifyingly bad for others in the past.


Round 4: Ohio State CB Kendall Sheffield, Falcons

There’s a couple of reasons for Falcons fans like myself to love this pick. The first is simply that it wasn’t another offensive lineman, and the team addressed one of its glaring needs on defense. Better late than never, I suppose.

Sheffield is a track athlete who set a school record with a 6.63-second 60m dash time. He couldn’t run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine because of a pectoral injury, but the guy can scoot:

The second reason is that the team prevented another Ohio State defensive back from making his way to New Orleans. Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and Marshon Lattimore have been recent additions to a Saints defense that isn’t the laughingstock that it used to be, and Sheffield could have added a layer of depth to that. Instead, the Falcons add a cornerback from the school with the strongest claim to “DBU” in recent years.

The flip side of this is that Saints fans can, and will, mock Falcons fans for trying to draft like their team. The rivalry continues.

Round 6: Washington State QB Gardner Minshew, Jaguars

There’s an old football saying about how the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town. That has more to do with fans wanting to replace the starter the very second that something goes even slightly wrong, but there’s more to love with Minshew.

Minshew was beloved in Pullman, where he transferred for his senior year after two seasons at East Carolina. He was a perfect fit in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, throwing for 38 touchdowns and more than 4,700 yards. He helped make the Cougars one of the easiest college football teams to root for last season.

He was also a fan favorite because of his signature mustache:

Minshew is immediately a better backup option than … [checks notes] … Tanner Lee. If Nick Foles turns into a big ol’ pumpkin again, we might be seeing some fake mustaches, in the crowd at TIAA Bank Field at some point during the 2019 season.

Round 4: NC State QB Ryan Finley, Bengals

Statistically speaking, Finley was a better college quarterback in the state of North Carolina than the guy drafted 98 picks earlier by the New York Giants: Daniel Jones, this year’s sixth overall selection.

What’s not to like about this pick? New head coach Zac Taylor, who worked last season for the Rams under Sean McVay, is committing for the time being to incumbent starter Andy Dalton, who has struggled in recent seasons. But Finley gives Taylor a young passer to develop, and a potential insurance policy if things don’t go well with Dalton this year.


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Ronald Ollie’s ride from ‘Last Chance U’ to NFL player

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Let’s talk to key figures from the Netflix show, one of whom is signing a free agent deal with the Ravens.

Ronald Ollie, the East Mississippi Community College defensive lineman, and Brittany Wagner, the Mississippi junior college’s academic advisor, were the stars of Last Chance U’s first season.

Ollie was the show’s comic relief and, in some ways, its heart. He exemplified the JUCO experience — the consistent grind to stay engaged with schoolwork, fend off homesickness in a tiny town, and get a chance to play football at a higher level. Wagner was the person every JUCO needs: always around for support, but consistently pushing players to make their grades.

Their back-and-forth was the most widely beloved arc of the season. It ended with Ollie, in early 2016, accepting a Division I offer to play at FCS Nicholls State.

Ollie didn’t get picked in the 2019 NFL Draft. But he told me shortly after the NFL Draft that he’s signing a deal with the Ravens.

Ollie came back into the national picture this draft cycle.

After a March 21 workout in front of scouts generated social media buzz, Ollie confirmed these numbers that had shown up on Twitter:

  • 6’2, 292 pounds
  • A 4.87-second 40-yard dash
  • A 35-inch vertical leap
  • A 114-inch broad jump
  • 22 bench press reps

Some caveats apply. Pro day numbers cannot be verified the same way as NFL Combine test results. There’s no standardized measurement system. Ollie also told me he ran the three-cone drill, but didn’t have his recorded time handy.

Those numbers, though, are excellent. They would put Ollie five bench reps shy of the average for defensive tackles, but otherwise, they say he’s really fast and explosive for a player his size. They look a good bit like the 2016 combine numbers for Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche, a former five-star recruit who became a first-round pick by the Cardinals.

Ollie went into the draft expecting to get picked, however. Only about three FCS defensive linemen get drafted every year, almost all of them in the fifth round or later.

“I have zero expectations,” he told me the day after his pro day. “I’m looking to be an undrafted guy. That’s what I have my mind set on, being an undrafted guy. Just off of being realistic, you know, being real with myself. That’s what I’m looking for.”

I asked Ollie for a self-scouting report, and he offered this:

Explosive playmaker. I would say that, because I still play and fit in the scheme of defenses, and at the same time, I make big plays, like game-changing plays, like I might pick up a fumble and return it for a touchdown, or catch an interception. Defensive linemen don’t do that. Block a field goal and go 84 yards for a touchdown, defensive linemen don’t do that. Regular defensive linemen don’t do that.

I still rush the passer. I still stop the run. I’m just explosive. First step is quick. No lateral movement.

Here’s that 84-yard TD from 2016, which earned Ollie consideration for the Piesman Trophy:

“I’m just hoping that somebody’ll pick up the phone and make a call,” he said.

Someone has.

That Ollie is even on the fringes of the NFL is a hell of an achievement.

When Ollie was a small child, his father killed his mother and then himself. Relatives raised him. A friend from Wayne County in Mississippi, where Ollie grew up, described it on the show as a difficult place from which to “make it.”

As Ollie wrapped up high school, he hoped to play in the SEC. But he didn’t get Division I offers, and he wound up choosing between a handful of junior colleges.

He gets tired of telling the story: He was sitting in his car outside his high school library on National Signing Day in 2014. He had scholarship offers from three Mississippi JUCOs in front of him: EMCC, Copiah-Lincoln, and Mississippi Gulf Coast.

He had no strong opinion, as none was what he really wanted. He “kind of scrambled ‘em up,” he said, and picked one from the front seat: EMCC’s.

His freshman year, the year before Netflix showed up in Scooba, Wagner worried Ollie wouldn’t make it through the curriculum.

“I was really questioning, ‘Is this a DI player?,’” Wagner said. “‘Is he even gonna be close to qualifying for Division I? Does he care enough to put forth the effort? Is he mature enough to handle the pressure?’”

In 2015, Season 1 of the show, Ollie sometimes struggled in school. But by then, Wagner knew he could make his grades if he put his mind to it. The problem was a concussion that limited Ollie’s playing time and potential to get high-major offers.

He got a few FCS offers, including one from Southeast Missouri State. The show chronicled Ollie texting a coach there that he wasn’t interested, at which point Wagner said she “freaked out on him.” Wagner eventually learned Ollie didn’t want to fly to his official visit, having never flown on a plane before. He eventually got over it and made the trip, but he decided to sign with Nicholls State, historically a better program than SEMO.

For a while at Nicholls, he was unhappy that he’d been featured on Last Chance U. He thought the show accurately depicted life at EMCC, but he also thought Nicholls’ coaching staff treated him differently because of his Netflix fame. Ollie and his coaches have since ironed that out, he said, and his view of the show has changed.

“It impacted a lot of people, and I helped a lot of people and [was] an inspiration to so many people. And I’m just thankful for that,” he said.

After 2017, his second year at Nicholls, he wanted to transfer to an FBS program, still seeking the offers he wanted out of high school and EMCC. But none came, so he played his third and final year at Nicholls. He had 13.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks.

Now, Ollie, the player, is the second Last Chance U guy to sign an NFL deal.

The first was John Franklin, who started as a QB at Florida State, went to EMCC, then played various skill positions at Auburn and FAU. Franklin signed a deal with the Bears in 2018.

Linebacker Dakota Allen, who played at Texas Tech both before and after his EMCC stint, got drafted by the Rams in the seventh round in 2019. He’ll sign at some point.

Other EMCC alums from before the Netflix show (which filmed on campus during the 2015 and ‘16 seasons) have gotten NFL looks. Ex-Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly is the most recent.

As Ollie tries to make the league, he’s also planning to close out one other bit of business from the show.

He’s a few credit hours shy of graduating from Nicholls. He was on track to graduate this year, but he left school after Nicholls’ FCS playoff appearance — following the fall 2018 semester — to start training ahead of the draft.

Wagner left EMCC in 2017 and now lives in Birmingham, where she has a consulting and public speaking business.

“I will be that nag in his ear,” she said. “Get the degree, get the degree, get the degree.”

There was a time when Ollie was in danger of not getting a degree and miles away from any kind of NFL career. Now, he has a chance to wind up with both.

“He’s been through so much in his lifetime, but specifically in the last three, four years, he’s so much farther along than a lot of guys his age in his majority level, what he’s gone through, and knowing who he is,” Wagner said. “He has really found himself in the past few years, and he’s not gonna make the mistakes that other rookies make, because he’s already made ‘em. He’s already made’ em, and he’s already learned from ‘em.”

If you missed Ollie between the show and now, you weren’t alone.

In 2018, on Valentine’s Day, Wagner adopted a dog. Her daughter, Kennedy, missed Ollie. Wagner called Ollie to ask if the family could name their dog after him.

Ronald Ollie happily approved.


Brittany Wagner

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Cool UDFA signings to make your NFL offseason more fun

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Undrafted free agency may or may not yield on-field value for your team, but it can always yield enjoyment.

Most undrafted players do not go on to long and successful NFL careers. That does happen from time to time, but if anyone could predict it right when a player signed his first free agent deal, then that player would’ve been drafted in the first place.

I am not here to tell you the interesting QB your team just signed is going to be Warren Moon, that the receiver it signed will be Adam Thielen, or that the outside linebacker it signed will be James Harrison. Sadly, that’s probably not gonna happen.

But sports should be fun, and I am here to tell you that some of the UDFAs who inked deals right after the draft are fun. If your team signed one of these players, your team is now more fun, at least until some point in minicamp and maybe for longer.

This’ll be a running list as players sign deals.

Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson to the Bills

Jackson is extremely similar to Josh Allen, the QB the Bills spent the seventh overall pick on in 2018. There is no particularly good reason Allen went that high and Jackson didn’t get picked. But now the Bills have a 6’7 QB with a rocket arm who needs to work on his accuracy, to go along with their 6’5 QB with a rocket arm who needs to work on his accuracy. Jackson is a delightful viewing experience, and I’m pretty sure he was the best QB playing in the city of Buffalo last year, when he was in the MAC.

Missouri WR Emanuel Hall to the Bears

Hall was injured for much of his college career, but advanced stats say he has upside, and his tape when he’s playing well is some of the best in the draft. Hall can be a horrifying deep threat, and I’m a bit confused on why he didn’t get picked by, like, the fifth round. I like him more than a lot of receivers who actually had their names called.

Alabama CB Saivion Smith to the Jaguars

Smith didn’t test well at the NFL Combine. But he has ideal size for an outside corner at 6’1 and 200 pounds. More importantly, Nick Saban trusted him enough to bring him on as a transfer and start him for the Tide all season. Saban is a defensive backs coach by trade and takes personal ownership of his team’s secondary, and he thought Smith was worth putting on the field over a whole brigade of four- and five-stars.

Pitt FB George Aston to the Broncos

Aston is an absolute unit.

Rice punter Jack Fox to the Chiefs

Here’s Fox’s commentary on how far he could punt various non-football objects:

“I feel like a cabbage would be really satisfying to kick,” Fox said. “I feel like it might fall apart a little bit. That would be my number one, like, if I had a satisfaction thing. I would love to break it, so it gets a higher grade from me.”

“Cabbage is definitely satisfying to punt,” Bailey agreed.

But, gentlemen, we’re not here to rank by satisfaction. We’re here to rank by distance.

“I would ask for a burrito that’s really tightly wrapped. And I think I could get that farther than a cabbage,” Bailey said.

“At Chipotle, it’s not tightly wrapped,” Fox retorted.

Sounds fun to me.


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Emanuel Hall’s speed can win games for the Bears

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The Mizzou product has one main trick, but it’s a hell of a trick.

Draft prospects don’t necessarily need to have a well-rounded game to be promising NFL players. Sometimes, it’s OK to have one dominant skill to lean on. There might not be a better example of that in this year’s class than Missouri wide receiver and Bears’ undrafted free agent signee Emanuel Hall.

Hall’s one trick is a dynamic one. He’s been incredible at creating plays deep down the field, averaging 20.8 yards per catch throughout his career at Missouri.

Even with some of the inconsistent quarterback play that Hall dealt with from the Tigers’ Drew Lock, he was still able to produce like a top receiver in the nation.

Hall’s numbers compare him favorably to one of the hottest receiver names in the 2019 NFL Draft, Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf.

Both players posted a high mark for yards per catch, had mediocre catch rates, and missed their fair share of games. Hall, though, graded out as the more efficient receiver:


Here’s what SB Nation’s Bill Connelly had to say about the Hall-to-Metcalf comparison:

Metcalf will likely go in the first round, but Hall might still be available in the third or fourth. It’s hard to ignore his injuries — he either missed or left injured in nine of Missouri’s 26 games in 2017-18 — but in his last 13 complete games, he caught 61 passes for 1,358 yards. His per-catch averages are what you would typically see from a wide receiver in a triple-option system, averaging two targets per game, not a No. 1 option in a prolific SEC attack.

“To be sure, Hall struggled with drops at times and with injuries even more. But when healthy, he was college football’s best deep threat, and he backed up his stats with a 4.39 40 times this spring. He isn’t the absurd physical specimen the 6’3, 228-pound Metcalf is, but at 6’2, 201, he’s not small either.

Hall has been a natural target all along for any team interested in Metcalf. Injuries helped limit Hall to just 32 games in four years at Mizzou, but when healthy, he has often shined.

On film, Hall shows the traits needed to quickly become a dominant deep threat. He devastated defenses with the “go” route at Mizzou.

Hall has a clear view of how he found success in college and how he plans on maintaining that success in the NFL. When I asked Hall at the NFL Combine which route he loved to run the most at the NFL Combine, he gave a very simple answer.

“That straight nine ball,” Hall told me, with a huge smile on his face. “Just throw that rock right down there and we’re straight. We’re good.”

Hall said he never feared getting wrecked by safeties playing over the top on those routes either.

“There are teams like Georgia that play two high and they’ll cheat the safety over — and they still got beat” Hall said.


“When you have a quarterback that can throw it that far and with my speed, it just works so well.”

When you watch Hall play, it’s easy to see how he mastered the “go” route. With his size and speed, he was a matchup nightmare for a lot of the cornerbacks he faced in college.

This play against UT Martin is a good example of that speed. When Lock releases the football, the cornerback is running step-for-step with Hall. By the time the ball reaches Hall, though, the receiver is about three yards ahead of the cornerback.


That late separation is pure speed. It creates a larger window for the quarterback to work with and gives Hall the space he needs to pick up yards after the catch.

Here’s another example against Florida, where Hall simply outraces the defensive back down the field:


Having a player who can flip the field with the simplest route in the game is incredibly valuable.

Hall’s speed helps him out on shorter routes as well.

Most of Hall’s value at Mizzou came on plays where he was able to showcase his speed. That went beyond deep balls. When Hall was able to find a crease on slants and screens, he was deadly in the open field.

This play against Wyoming shows his athletic ability after the catch and his top-notch acceleration. Hall knew he had to make a guy miss right after catching the ball and then exploded for the first down:


That speed can also work in the red zone as well. Red-zone play isn’t Hall’s biggest strength, but he can use his explosiveness in tight quarters. Florida learned that the hard way in 2018:


Hall believes that he’ll be able to get open in the red zone in the NFL, even though most of his production came outside of the red zone.

“I scored, I think two times or three times this past season, on some red-zone stuff.” Hall said. “A lot of slant routes and things like that, but it’s something I can do. It’s definitely something that’s in my bag of tricks.”

He also looks good in red-zone efficiency stats:



Hall doesn’t have the most complete style of play, but he can change the course of a game with one play. His speed will threaten NFL defenses deep, open up plays in the middle of the field for other receivers, and make life a little easier on his quarterback.

That Hall hasn’t been considered a first-round prospect doesn’t have to limit him. That he didn’t find a home in any of the seven rounds of the 2019 Draft won’t either. He has the ability to create big plays the moment he steps on an NFL field. He could turn out to be a bargain-bin gem.


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U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016. – Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost Saturday April 27th, 2019 at 7:48 PM

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Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
from The Trump Investigations Blog by Michael Novakhov – Review Of News And Opinions.

Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice  Kyiv Post

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.
 “Manafort” – Google News

Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.
Speaking on his favorite Fox News Channel, which provides uncritical, partisan support for Trump, the president said “big” and “incredible” new allegations have emerged that Ukraine tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of his rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. 
America has been an invaluable ally to Ukraine on the international stage since Russia invaded in 2014, providing much financial and military support.  But while the U.S. Congress, State, Defense and other government departments have worked closely with Kyiv, relations between Ukrainian authorities and the Trump White House have been cool.
Trump’s words could throw a pall on relations with Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, before the country’s new leader even takes office.
Ukrainians became wary of Trump during the election campaign because he often praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and seemed to suggest that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea was justified. 
Trump was forced to fire his campaign manager Paul Manafort when it merged, in the summer of 2016, that he had worked for many years in a key role for Ukraine’s ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. 

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Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost

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Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
from KyivPost.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.

Speaking on his favorite Fox News Channel, which provides uncritical, partisan support for Trump, the president said “big” and “incredible” new allegations have emerged that Ukraine tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of his rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. 

America has been an invaluable ally to Ukraine on the international stage since Russia invaded in 2014, providing much financial and military support.  But while the U.S. Congress, State, Defense and other government departments have worked closely with Kyiv, relations between Ukrainian authorities and the Trump White House have been cool.

Trump’s words could throw a pall on relations with Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, before the country’s new leader even takes office.

Ukrainians became wary of Trump during the election campaign because he often praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and seemed to suggest that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea was justified. 

Trump was forced to fire his campaign manager Paul Manafort when it merged, in the summer of 2016, that he had worked for many years in a key role for Ukraine’s ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. 

Prominent Ukrainian journalist and member of parliament, Sergii Leshchenko, made public that Manafort had received millions of dollars in payments from the Yanukovych camp, which the American political operative stashed in offshore accounts and failed to declare to U.S. tax authorities.

Trump and some of his supporters called the revelations about Manafort a conspiracy by Ukrainian authorities to influence the election. They have sought to portray equivalency between Russia’s widespread and well-documented by U.S. intelligence agencies interference in the election with the Ukrainian information shedding light on Manafort’s connections to pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs.

A two-year investigation by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign ended last month without enough evidence to indict anyone of criminal actions with Moscow.  

However, the 448-page report detailed much murky behavior, lying and plentiful contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates which have laid the ground for months more of investigations by Congressional committees and that in turn has triggered presidential fury with demands that those who initiated the investigation and provided information from Ukraine, should themselves be investigated.

Trump’s opponents say talk of a “Ukrainian conspiracy” is designed to deflect attention from the damning Mueller report.

Lutsenko fuels Trump’s ‘Ukrainian conspiracy’ case

The contentions by the Trump side that Ukrainian officials played an improper part in 2016  have been strengthened by statements from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko that his office has opened investigations into such allegations. He and Barr apparently met in in the U.S. in February.

Speaking on Fox News on April 25, Trump said he wants the American public to be aware of the Ukrainian Prosecutor Generals’ office investigation. He said that U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr would decide on how to handle any probe into “Clinton-Ukraine” connections.

He said: “I would imagine (Barr} would want to see this..…. I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it. It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. I just spoke with the new president| a while ago, and congratulated him. … But that (Ukrainian revelations) sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.”

The previous day Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted: “Keep your eye on Ukraine.”

As described in a Kyiv Post article last week, some of the allegations of “Ukrainian interference” home in on Ukrainian-American Alexandra Chalupa’s work with the Democratic Party’s national body. 

She publicized Manafort’s unsavory background, which made him a prime focus of the Mueller investigation and earned him a seven and a half year prison sentence for financial crimes. Neither did she hide that she had open contacts with Kyiv’s embassy in Washington as part of her role as Ukrainian expert for the Democratic Party committee reaching out to the many ethnic groups that compose American society.

Trump allies wove those facts into a “Ukrainian conspiracy” theory which has resurfaced with a vengeance since the publication of Mueller’s report. Chalupa has been the target of hostile statements and tweets by Trump supporters and is mentioned in a pro-Trump book called “Spygate.”

It is unclear why Lutsenko and other Ukrainian law enforcement officials became so enthusiastic, shortly before Ukraine’s own recent presidential elections, about investigating possible illegal Ukrainian interference into America’s 2016 election.

Any “illegal interference” implicitly points the finger at some connected to the administration of the president at that time, Petro Poroshenko, who last weekend lost his bid for another term. 

Poroshenko appointed, against much opposition, his close ally Lutsenko, as Ukraine’s top lawyer. Some believe Lutsenko launched the investigation as part of a misconceived attempt to repair relations with Trump and curry his support ahead of the Ukrainian elections for Poroshenko.

The announcement by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that he will seek to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate against Trump in 2020 elections offers more opportunities for Ukraine to be sucked into what promises to be America’s next nasty electoral saga.

There have been allegations in the past that Biden’s son, Hunter, gained improper financial benefit while serving on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, a job he got while his father was vice president and heading then U.S. President Barack Obama’s relations with Kyiv.


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Our hottest takes from a long Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft

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This best analysis you’ll find for the final day of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone, and teams across the league had the chance to add quality depth — and a few potential starters — to their roster. A lot of the top talent had already come off the board on Thursday and Friday, but there are be players that heard their names called in the final four rounds who will make a major impact on Sundays this fall.

Here are our reactions to some of the picks made today — we’re not even going to BS you and say we have takes on all of them.

Round 4

Cardinals select WR Hakeem Butler (103rd overall)

Butler was projected by some to go in the first round of the draft, so it looks like the Cardinals got pretty good value here. Kyler Murray, Andy Isabella, and Hakeem Butler have a chance to be a dynamic trio for the Cardinals offense. — Charles McDonald

Bengals select QB Ryan Finley (104th overall)

Solid heckle. — Christian D’Andrea

Saints select S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (105th overall)

Versatile safety that matches up well with the players New Orleans will face in their division. — Charles McDonald

Giants select CB Julian Love (108th overall)

All the top remaining players are flying off the board now, including the hugely productive Love, who had 36 passes defensed and four interceptions his past two seasons. Love will immediately get thrown into the fire as a crew member of the leaky submarine that is the Giants’ secondary. — Christian D’Andrea

49ers select PUNTER Mitch Wishnowsky (110th overall)

If you’re going to draft a punter in the fourth round, make sure you get the best one in the FBS. Wishnowsky averaged 45.7 yards per punt in his career and 19.5 yards per rush. He’s also convinced he could punt a football further than he could kick Nintendo icon Kirby or a helium balloon. — Christian D’Andrea

Washington selects RB Bryce Love (112th overall)

Washington adds a former Heisman candidate and continues to make head-scratchingly good picks. Love is still recovering from an ACL tear, but if he can’t play in 2019 his new team can always turn to one more season of the ageless Adrian Peterson and hope 2018 pick Derrius Guice is back to normal. If the Stanford star comes back to full strength, this will look like a steal — a Guice-Love backfield would have made college defenses shatter into dust. — Christian D’Andrea

Ravens select RB Justice Hill (113th overall)

Baltimore is assembling the Roadrunner offense.

  • Hollywood Brown — 17.6 yards per catch
  • Miles Boykin — 4.42 40-yard dash
  • Justice Hill — 4,4 40-yard dash

That’s a hell of a lot of speed — Charles McDonald

Patriots select OG Hjalte Froholdt (118th overall)

Any time you can draft a giant Dane, you do it. Froholdt ranked 55th on PFF’s predraft rankings thanks to his solid track record at Arkansas, but it’s his combination of size (6’5, 309 pounds) and athleticism — his quick feet made him a top seven performer among offensive linemen in both agility drills at the Combine. He’s raw, but the Patriots have a track record of spinning Day 3 blockers into gold.

This also probably means the team isn’t interested in paying Joe Thuney in free agency next year, too. — Christian D’Andrea

Seahawks select WR Gary Jennings (120th overall)

With news of Doug Baldwin’s potential retirement hanging over the draft, Pete Carroll used his fourth round pick to add another impact wideout who can bail Russell Wilson out of bad situations. The West Virginia standout had more than 2,000 receiving yards the past two seasons and rated as Bill Connelly’s top sleeper among this year’s WR class. He’s a slot monster who should provide a potent counter-punch to D.K. Metcalf’s straight-line speed. — Christian D’Andrea

Chargers select LB Drue Tranquill (130th overall)

Don’t have too many takes on this game, but it looks like he’s a ridiculous athlete.

Charles McDonald

Patriots select QB Jarrett Stidham (133rd overall)

New England gets a quarterback it can trade away as soon as he shows flashes of competence, allowing Tom Brady to play until age 50. Stidham isn’t great, but he was better in college than Daniel Jones despite being selected 127 picks later. — Christian D’Andrea

Falcons select DE John Cominsky (135th overall)

A Division II quarterback recruit who runs a 4.6s 40 at 290 pounds? Cominsky’s worth a flier, even if his collegiate production — only three sacks last year — isn’t especially inspiring. — Christian D’Andrea

Round 5

Cardinals select S Deionte Thompson (139th overall)

The Cardinals continue to put together a nice draft class. Deionte Thompson was once seen as a first round prospect before struggling in the second half of the season. These are the gambles you take on the third day of the draft. — Charles McDonald

Seahawks select LB Ben Burr-Kirven (142nd overall)

Burr-Kirven is a tackling machine who should be able to step into a role in the Seattle defense right away. The Seahawks have addressed their biggest needs throughout this draft, and getting the Washington star, who could have been a fit on Day 2, in the fifth round is more value for a club that’s been killing it in Nashville — Christian D’Andrea

Buccaneers select K Matt Gay (145th overall)

Tampa Bay selecting a kicker? What could go wrong? — Christian D’Andrea

Lions select CB Amani Oruwariye (146th overall)

Dang, this draft was deep with good, not great cornerback prospects. Oruwariye is a big (6’2) corner who’s a little stiff but makes up for that with a strong press game at the line of scrimmage. He should be a solid fit for Matt Patricia’s defense. — Christian D’Andrea

Raiders select WR Hunter Renfrow (149th overall)

The Raiders have no drafted four players that played in the National Championship game. Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Trayvon Mullen, and now Hunter Renfrow. I’m sure Patriots fans are little upset that Renfrow didn’t make it to their pick. — Charles McDonald

Dolphins select LB Andrew Van Ginkel (151st overall)

Van Ginkel started his career at South Dakota, spent a year at Iowa Western, and then landed at Wisconsin and made an immediate impact with the Badgers, becoming the team’s latest unheralded star in the process. Van Ginkel does a little bit of everything well, adding value in coverage and as a pass rusher. He might not be a star in the NFL, but he’ll be a useful player for a while. — Christian D’Andrea

Falcons select RB Qadree Ollison (152nd overall)

Pittsburgh’s chain of NFL tailbacks gets its newest link with Ollison, a powerful runner who explodes through holes and drags tacklers downfield. He should find a way to fit into Atlanta’s tailback platoon without too much trouble, filling the power back role Tevin Coleman took to San Francisco this offseason. — Christian D’Andrea

Browns select LB Mack Wilson (155th overall)

Cleveland has made the most out of the 2019 NFL Draft despite not having a first round pick. Now they’ve grabbed a talented linebacker from Alabama in Mack Wilson. Wilson wasn’t the most consistent player, but he’s has the potential to be a big time player if he can put it all together. — Charles McDonald

Patriots select DE Byron Cowart (159th overall)

Cowart was a five-star recruit at Auburn, but he played in just 14 games with the Tigers in three seasons before finally beginning to realize his potential after transferring to Maryland. He put in work as a 3-4 defensive end in 2018, recording the only three sacks of his college career in the process. He’ll move to the interior of New England’s 4-3 setup, where his lack of speed (a 5.2s 40) won’t be an issue and his size/strength will allow him to bully centers and clog gaps up front. He’s still got a ways to go as a player, but his raw talent gives him a chance to stick with the Pats. — Christian D’Andrea

Ravens select DT Daylon Mack (160th overall)

Daylon Mack is a former big time recruit that spent part of his career wrecking offensive lines with Myles Garrett at Texas A&M. He fell off the map a little bit after Garrett declared for the draft, like the rest of the Texas A&M program, but he’s a talented run stuffer that fits in well with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. — Charles McDonald

Texans select DE Charles Omenihu (161st overall)

Congratulations to the University of Texas, who gets on the board at the 2019 NFL Draft a mere 70 picks behind Sioux Falls University. — Christian D’Andrea

Patriots select P Jake Bailey (163rd overall)

New England could have had a kicker/punter nicknamed the Scottish Hammer and settled for this guy instead. You’re dead to me, Pats. — Christian D’Andrea

Eagles select QB Clayton Thorson (167th overall)

Congratulations to Philadelphia, who found the first quarterback drafted with worse advanced stats than Daniel Jones. — Christian D’Andrea

Round 6

Cardinals select WR KeeSean Johnson (174th overall)

Johnson had eight games with 85+ receiving yards in 2018. He’ll fit in perfectly with a Kliff Kingsbury offense. — Christian D’Andrea

Steelers select DE Sutton Smith (175th overall)

Smith was prolific at Northern Illinois, earning MAC defensive player of the year honors in each of the past two seasons. But he’s also 6’0 and 233 pounds, two numbers that don’t make much sense for an NFL edge rusher. Will Pittsburgh move him to inside linebacker? Will the Steelers let him take a shot at OLB? Sutton’s talented, but that might not be enough to make it at this level. — Christian D’Andrea

Jaguars select QB Gardner Minshew (178th overall)

Jacksonville’s going all in on air raid QBs, huh? Minshew will throw the ball until his arm falls off. And “MINSHEW!” is a solid spiritual successor to Jason Mendoza’s now-vacated “BORTLES!” screams. — Christian D’Andrea

Cardinals select C Lamont Gaillard (179th overall)

The Cardinals finally addressed offensive line in the sixth round of the draft and they quietly got one of the better interior blockers in the entire draft. Gaillard was the rock of arguably the best offensive line in college football last season. Cardinals fans have to be thrilled with this weekend. — Charles McDonald

49ers select OT Justin Skule (183rd overall)

Skule was rock solid at Vandy, starting from his true freshman year on and providing some outside stability (and pairing with Bruno Reagan to give the Commodores one of the best 1-2 blocking punches in the SEC). The 6’6 left tackle was instrumental in making Vanderbilt’s offense watchable again, keeping Kyle Shurmur upright and clearing enough space for Ke’Shawn Vaughn to arrive as a 2020 draft prospect. — Christian D’Andrea

Steelers select DT Isaiah Buggs (192nd overall)

Buggs is a big, unmovable mass who projects as an average NFL defensive tackle. That’s pretty good for a pick toward the back of the sixth round. Buggs is a smart, powerful player who should be able to stick in the league. — Christian D’Andrea

Ravens select QB Trace McSorley (197th overall)

Is he going to be a quarterback? Receiver? Safety? McSorley gives the Ravens a third running QB behind Lamar Jackson and whatever remains of Robert Griffin III. Transitioning from Jackson to McSorley should the former get injured would be a downgrade, but the Penn State product would be able to run the Baltimore offense without forcing John Harbaugh to change much.

He could also be a defense discombobulator in gadget plays no matter where he winds up. So there’s that. — Christian D’Andrea

Washington selects WR Kelvin Harmon (206th overall)

Washington gets to use a lottery ticket pick on a player who had 2,200+ receiving yards the past two seasons. Bruce Allen might just be having 2019’s best draft, and that feels so weird to type. — Christian D’Andrea

Chiefs select RB Darwin Thompson (214th overall)

Thompson could be the biggest bargain of the 2019 NFL Draft. A powerful compact back with outstanding receiving chops, he’s gonna feast in Kansas City. — Christian D’Andrea

Lions select TE Isaac Nauta (224th overall)

Detroit needed tight end help even after drafting TJ Hockenson, so why not take a flier on a former five-star prospect? Nauta never developed into much more than a role player at Georgia after his Freshman All-American campaign, and he came off at the Combine as a plodding, limited athlete. But he plays faster than he looks in workouts, and he’s still got the raw tools to contribute at the next level — especially as part of a Lions lineup that needs all the targets it can get. — Christian D’Andrea

Raiders select DE Quinton Bell (230th overall)

Normally a defensive end from Prairie View A&M wouldn’t be that interesting, but Bell has an intriguing background. Bell started off his college career as a wide receiver before making the switch to defensive end. That athleticism showed in a big way at his pro day, where he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash. Bell is only 220 pounds, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Raiders can develop him into a defensive player that actually gets into the rotation. — Charles McDonald

Dolphins select FB Chandler Cox and RB Myles Gaskin (233rd, 234th overall)

Miami’s already got a crowded backfield, but Cox can clear a path for Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake and Gaskin was a productive college back who could join the rotation. It’s the seventh round — why not swing hard, even at a relative position of strength? — Christian D’Andrea

Vikings select WR Olabisi Johnson (247th overall)

I nearly spit out my drink when ESPN’s tracker said he had 2,019 receiving yards in 2018.


Turns out that was for his career. Cool. — Christian D’Andrea

Cardinals select TE Caleb Wilson (254th overall)

2019’s Mr. Irrelevant is UCLA tight end Wilson, who ruined everyone’s “over” bets for the number of non-FBS players selected this year (18.5). He’s the latest addition to Kingsbury’s offensive overhaul, and he’ll have the chance to stick on the roster given Arizona’s lack of talent at the position. That’s good. The NFL is better with more seventh round success stories. — Christian D’Andrea


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Tyree Jackson is a Josh Allen who didn’t cost the Bills a top-10 pick

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Imagine a big, strong Group of 5 QB like Allen, who had a lot of flaws in his game. Now imagine the same player, but with better college stats and athleticism.

In 2018, the Bills spent the seventh pick in the NFL Draft on a 6’5 mid-major QB who’d just finished a year at 6.7 yards per throw — 10th in the Mountain West.

In 2019, the draft has a QB who measures 6’7, has a better athletic profile than Allen, and just finished a year at 7.7 yards per throw — second in the MAC.

The comparison between Josh Allen and Tyree Jackson isn’t that simple. But in Allen, the NFL saw a QB with great size and arm strength who’d never produced anything special in college (even when you consider that Wyoming’s not the most talented program.) In Jackson, the league’s getting a QB with great size and arm strength and some real, live production from his college career.

But Jackson did not get picked in the top 10. He didn’t get picked at all. And then the same team that drafted Allen signed him, reportedly to a huge deal:

Of course, there are reasons Jackson was available this late in the game. They’re the same reasons Allen probably shouldn’t have been a top-10 pick in 2018 and is unlikely to ever be a good NFL passer.

Jackson was a three-year starter at Buffalo, and his numbers weren’t great. His best year was his redshirt sophomore campaign in 2017, when he got 8.8 yards per throw and had a 148.8 rating, second-best in the MAC behind Toledo star Logan Woodside. He was again No. 2 in the MAC in 2018, but throwing for a yard fewer per attempt.

The conference is not a QB pipeline, even when QBs have great numbers. The last draft to include a MAC QB who actually played an NFL down was 2006’s, with Bruce Gradkowski.

His accuracy’s been inconsistent. His completion percentage in 2018 was 55.3 percent. QBs almost never get better statistically once they reach the pros, and those who do only do it slightly. For him to make a difference, he’ll really have to get coached up.

To that end, Jackson’s been working on “lower-body mechanics.”

“I wanna be as consistent as possible,” he told me at the NFL Combine. “I wanna go 100-for-100 on every route. To do that, you need to continue to put the work in.”

All of these issues came up with Allen, too, or at least they should’ve. He was a 56-percent passer in his own Group of 5 conference that doesn’t produce a lot of NFL success stories. He had worse efficiency numbers across his two years as a starter than Jackson did in three.

You could easily make the case Jackson is a more exciting pro prospect than Allen was, whether you’re basing it on numbers, size, or speed.

In the modern history of the NFL Combine (going back to 2000), just five QBs have measured in at 6’7. Nobody’s been taller than that. Jackson is one of the 6’7 guys, along with a list of super tall dudes that probably will not inspire you: Ryan Mallet, Mike Glennon, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. But none of those guys were great athletes.

All of those QBs ran at least a 4.83-second 40-yard dash. But at his combine in March, Jackson ran a 4.59. That’s basically Cam Newton speed, as the Auburn great ran a 4.56 in 2011. Jackson isn’t as agile as Newton, and in the three-cone and shuttle drills designed to test lateral movement, he put up identical numbers to Josh Rosen a year before.

For his part, Allen ran a 4.75 40 and also did worse than Jackson in the vert jump and shuttle run, while beating him in the three-cone. Jackson’s a superior athlete.

Jackson’s size is fun, but it’s not the most important thing.

Being tall’s not that big a deal, functionally, as the short Kyler Murray is demonstrating in real time. In Jackson’s case, the key is that his height height and explosiveness come with a damn rocket arm. The man throws a fastball. When he stands in the pocket and uncorks a ball into a tight window, he looks like a giant sentry gun who’s just been mounted there:


But he’s not a statue. Jackson can move and put a lot on a pass while under pressure:


And he can drop in a lovely deep ball:


Go through Allen’s college tape, like Seth Galina did on this website before the 2018 draft, and you see some of nice throws. You also see a lot of errors.

When he takes off running, Jackson resembles an 18-wheeler. Given Allen’s strong running stats in the NFL, you’d think Jackson has upside there.

Buffalo (the college team) didn’t draw up a lot of designed runs for Jackson. He’d take off pretty frequently, though. Not counting sacks, he ran 40 times for 253 yards (a 6.3 average) and seven TDs. He’s not a pretty runner, but he can move with force:


“I’ve been able to feel that for a long time,” Jackson said. “It’s just been something that’s a part of my game. And then when I get outside of the pocket, just extend the play, but also be smart, knowing when to throw the ball away and move on and trust the kicker. So it’s been a good part of my game.”

Look at him go:


Later in the same game!


Allen was one of the best running QBs in the league as a rookie, despite testing as a slower, not much more agile runner than Jackson. That seems encouraging for Jackson’s ground-game potential in the NFL. There are probably a lot of designed runs a team could give him.

I used this same selection of plays in arguing that pretty much any college team would’ve been smart to pursue Jackson as a transfer when he was considering that after 2018. He would’ve been helpful in the ACC. Can he be helpful in the NFL? Maybe.

The two QBs even train together.

The obvious (but easier said than done) thing that would change everything for Jackson (or Allen) is if he could get to even average accuracy.

Teaching QBs to not make wild throws is hard. Here’s Washington State coach Mike Leach, a passing game expert, explaining that it’s damn near impossible:

But Jackson’s completion percentage was 60 percent in 2017, before it fell off his senior year. It’s possible there was some noise in his accuracy declining, and maybe he’s got the upside to make more pinpoint throws going forward. One observation I made watching a lot of his games was that he threw a lot of deep balls, which don’t help accuracy numbers.

Maybe things will get better if he’s able to sit and learn for a while, rather than leading an offense for a team with below-average talent even for the MAC.

There’s no guarantee Jackson will work out. But there are enough exciting things about him that if you liked Allen at all as even a second-round pick, let alone a top-10 guy, you should be enamored with Jackson.

Drafting QBs is a crapshoot, but he has similar tools — even better tools — to the ones that just got another Buffalo QB taken in the top seven.


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AP fact check: Trump’s torrent of twisted claims on Russia

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WASHINGTON — Russia keeps reverberating even with special counsel Robert Mueller’s report now part of history.

As much as President Donald Trump says he wants the United States to move on, he’s found it hard to turn away himself, as seen in a torrent of tweets and remarks railing against Democrats, trashing Mueller and painting his own actions in a saintly light.

There is little truth to be found in these statements.

A review of a week of Russia-heavy rhetoric from Trump and his team, also touching on the census and the economy:

RUSSIA

TRUMP: “No Collusion, No Obstruction – there has NEVER been a President who has been more transparent. Millions of pages of documents were given to the Mueller Angry Dems, plus I allowed everyone to testify, including W.H. counsel.” — tweet Wednesday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: “The White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.” — remarks at the Justice Department on April 18.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates for the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. Photo by Erin Scott/ Reuters

THE FACTS: It’s a huge stretch for them to cast the White House as being “fully” cooperative and open in the investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian figures.

Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.

In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

Also on the matter of transparency, Trump is an outlier among presidents in refusing to release his tax returns . Providing tax information as a candidate in 2016 and as president is something party nominees have traditionally done for half a century.

TRUMP: “In the ‘old days’ if you were President and you had a good economy, you were basically immune from criticism. Remember, ‘It’s the economy stupid.’ Today I have, as President, perhaps the greatest economy in history.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: You can assume many previous presidents would beg to disagree that a good economy shielded them from criticism.

Under President Bill Clinton, whose top campaign staffer James Carville coined the phrase “the economy, stupid” to underscore what the campaign should be about, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8% and the nation’s economy grew 4% or more for four straight years.

Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The U.S. Census Bureau is scheduled to release factory orders figures on August 2. Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The economy added 157,000 jobs last month. Photo by Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yet Clinton was under independent counsel investigation for all but one year of his presidency, 1993. The House impeached him in December 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, though the Senate acquitted him in February 1999. In January 1998, Hillary Clinton alleged a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to take down her husband, a widely mocked complaint about the relentless criticism the Clintons faced from the right (which extended to ridicule over the title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, “It Takes a Village.”)

Under President Ronald Reagan, the economy expanded 3.5% or more for six years in a row, with growth rocketing to 7.2% in 1984. Yet Reagan was dogged in his second term by the Iran-Contra investigation, which focused on covert arm sales to Iran that financed aid to Nicaraguan rebels.

Both presidents saw much faster growth than Trump has presided over, despite Trump’s faulty claim to have “perhaps the greatest economy in history.” Growth reached 2.9% last year, the best in four years, but far below the levels achieved under Clinton or Reagan. The unemployment rate touched 3.7% last September and November, the lowest in five decades, but just one-tenth of a percentage point below the 3.8% in April 2000 under Clinton.

TRUMP: “Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump is wrong to suggest that the FBI acted illegally by investigating him. The FBI does not need to know if or have evidence that a crime occurred before it begins an investigation.

Many investigations that are properly conducted ultimately don’t find evidence of any crime. The FBI is empowered to open an investigation if there’s information it has received or uncovered that leads the bureau to think it might encounter a crime. Apart from that, the investigation into the Trump campaign was initially a counterintelligence investigation rather than a strictly criminal one, as agents sought to understand whether and why Russia was meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump also makes a baseless charge that Mueller was “highly conflicted.” Mueller, a longtime Republican, was cleared by the Justice Department’s ethics experts to lead the Russia investigation. Nothing in the public record makes him a “Trump hater.”

According to the special counsel’s report, when Trump previously complained privately to aides that Mueller would not be objective, the advisers, including then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, then-White House counsel Don McGahn and Reince Priebus, chief of staff at the time, rejected those complaints as not representing “true conflicts.” Bannon also called the claims “ridiculous.”

TRUMP: “I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: He’d have a tough hearing at the Supreme Court. Justices ruled 9-0 in 1993 that the Constitution grants sole power of impeachment to the House and Senate, not the judiciary.

Under the principle of separation of powers, Congress is a co-equal branch of government to the executive branch and judiciary. The House is afforded power to impeach a president by bringing formal charges and the Senate convenes the trial, with two-thirds of senators needed to convict and remove a president from office. The Constitution does not provide a role for the judiciary in the impeachment process, other than the chief justice of the United States presiding over the Senate trial.

In its 1993 ruling, the Supreme Court said framers of the Constitution didn’t intend for the court to have the power to review impeachment proceedings because they involve political questions that shouldn’t be resolved in the courts.

Advisors to President-elect Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon depart from services at St. John’s Church during the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/ Reuters

KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House counselor, saying there’s no need for Congress to continue investigating with the Mueller probe concluded: “We all know if Director Mueller and his investigators wanted to or felt that it was right to indict they would have done that. He had every opportunity to indict and declined to indict. Investigators investigate and they decide to indict, they refer indictment or they decline indictment. That’s the way the process works.” — remarks Wednesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: That’s not how Mueller’s process worked. According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to “make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether to indict — that is, do what prosecutors typically do, as Conway describes it — because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. “Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought,” the report states.

As a result, the report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter or for prosecutors to do so once Trump leaves office. Mueller’s team wrote that its investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh” and documentary material available.

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 8 : President Donald J. Trump stops to speak to reporters and members of the media as he departs for the G7 Summit in Canada, from the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, June 08, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

HOGAN GIDLEY, White House deputy press secretary: “He’s already denounced, multiple times, Russian involvement.” — remarks Tuesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: Trump has had it both ways, at times criticizing that involvement but more often equivocating, and long after U.S. intelligence agencies and other parts of his administration became convinced of Russian meddling. “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,‘” Trump said of Putin in November 2017. “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” In February 2018, he tweeted: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’”

Now he’s assailed the report by Mueller, whose investigation fleshed out the audacious Russian effort to shape the election in favor of Trump and resulted in indictments against 25 Russians accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts or sowing discord in America through social media, as well as Trump associates.

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump, is sworn in to testify before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2019. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

TRUMP: “Isn’t it amazing that the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller. The reason is that the 18 Angry Democrats knew they would all say ‘NO COLLUSION’ and only very good things!” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump’s wrong to suggest that the people “closest” to him weren’t called to testify before Mueller’s team.

Plenty of people close to him, including in his own family, interviewed with the special counsel’s investigators or were at least asked to appear. And of those who did, some said not very good things about their interactions with the president.

Among the advisers and aides who spoke with Mueller was McGahn, who extensively detailed Trump’s outrage at the investigation and his efforts to curtail it. McGahn told Mueller’s team how Trump called him at home and urged him to press the Justice Department to fire the special counsel, then told him to deny that the entire episode had taken place once it became public.

Mueller also interviewed Priebus, Bannon, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, former White House communications director Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who once said he was so close to the president that he’d “take a bullet” for him, also cooperated with Mueller and delivered unflattering details.

Mueller certainly wanted to hear from Trump’s family too, even if not all relatives were eager to cooperate. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declined to be voluntarily interviewed by investigators, according to Mueller’s report. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spoke multiple times to Mueller’s team. One of the president’s daughters, Ivanka Trump, provided information through an attorney.

GIDLEY: “It was Barack Obama who leaned over to Dmitry Medvedev in the Oval Office and said, ‘Listen, we’ll have more flexibility when the election’s over.’” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: First, the conversation was in South Korea, not the Oval Office. Gidley accurately recounted the gist of what Obama was heard telling the Russian president on a microphone they didn’t know was on. But Gidley did not explain the context of the remark.

Obama was suggesting he would have more flexibility postelection to address Russia’s concerns about a NATO missile defense system in Europe. The conversation with Medvedev, who was soon succeeded by Vladimir Putin, had nothing to do with Russian meddling that would be exposed in the U.S. election four years away.

Photo via The U.S. Census Bureau

CENSUS

TRUMP: “The American people deserve to know who is in this Country. Yesterday, the Supreme Court took up the Census Citizenship question, a really big deal.” — tweet Wednesday.

GIDLEY, when asked whether Trump believes an accurate census count isn’t necessary: “He wants to know who’s in this country. I think as a sovereign nation we have that right. It’s been a question that’s been on the census for decades.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Not since 1950 has the census collected citizenship data from the whole population.

Moreover, Trump’s position that asking a citizenship question in the census is needed to “know who is in this country” ignores the judgment of the Census Bureau’s own researchers, who say that it would not result in the most accurate possible count of the U.S. population. The question is already asked in other government surveys.

According to January 2018 calculations by the Census Bureau, adding the question to the once-a-decade survey form would cause lower response rates among Hispanics and noncitizens. The government would have to spend at least $27.5 million for additional phone calls, home visits and other follow-up efforts to reach them.

Federal judges in California, Maryland and New York have blocked the administration from going forward with a citizenship question after crediting the analysis of agency experts. The experts said millions would go uncounted because Hispanics and immigrants might be reluctant to say if they or others in their households are not citizens.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has argued that a citizenship question is needed to help the government better comply with the Voting Rights Act. But the Justice Department has been enforcing the 1965 law, which was passed to help protect minority groups’ political rights, with citizenship data already available from other government surveys.

The count goes to the heart of the U.S. political system, determining the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House and how the electoral votes that decide presidential elections are distributed. It also shapes how 300 federal programs distribute more than $800 billion a year to local communities.

General Motors production workers work on the 10-speed transmission assembly at the General Motors Powertrain Transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, March 6, 2019. The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in March after gaining only 1,000 in February. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

General Motors production workers work on the 10-speed transmission assembly at the General Motors Powertrain Transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, March 6, 2019. The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in March after gaining only 1,000 in February. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

ECONOMY

TRUMP retweet of RONNA MCDANIEL, Republican National Committee chairwoman: “If Joe Biden wants to keep score: In 8 years, Biden & Obama had a net loss of 193,000 manufacturing jobs. In just over 2 years, @realDonaldTrump has created 453,000 manufacturing jobs.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: McDaniel is right but presents a misleading portrait of economic growth during Barack Obama’s presidency, with Biden serving as vice president.

Obama’s eight years in office began with the final five months of the 17-month Great Recession, which began under his predecessor and included some of the worst stretches of job loss since World War II.

Manufacturing jobs bottomed out in February 2010, then grew steadily for the next six years before declining during Obama’s last year in office. Still, during that stretch the economy added 915,000 manufacturing jobs.


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Mr. Irrelevant for 2019 NFL Draft cash in as offensive player

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This is the third straight season an offensive player has been picked last in the draft.

Editor’s update: The draft is officially a wrap and Mr. Irrelevant is in. The Arizona Cardinals spent the 254th overall pick on UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson. This is the third straight season Mr. Irrelevant has been an offensive player. Dating back to 2000, that makes him the 12th such player to be selected with the final pick of the draft.

The 2019 NFL Draft is entering Day 3 and that means we are less than 12 hours away from Mr. Irrelevant!

The final pick of the draft each year is referred to as Mr. Irrelevant. There is a special guest announcer for the final pick, and that player is feted with a trip to Newport Beach for Irrelevant Week. The player gets a trip to Disneyland and a host of other events to “honor” him for being the final pick of the draft. Her even gets a trophy called the Lowsman, which depicts a player mid-fumble.

There is little rhyme or reason to who gets draft in that final spot — and frankly, that can apply for the seventh round as a whole. At the end of day three, the players a team is drafting are diamonds in the rough that usually will be filling special teams roles as rookies.

With that in mind, it’s time to consider what will be the final wager to hit during the draft. Offshore sportsbook Betonline.ag offered up a wager prior to the draft asking which of two options would hit for the Mr. Irrelevant pick. You could place a bet on the pick being a defensive player or punter, or you could bet on it being an offensive player or kicker. Both are installed at -110, which means you had to bet $110 two in $100.

If you attempted to do research on what side of the ball the position might be, offensive/kicker has had the slight edge in recent years. Dating back to 2000, there have been ten offensive players and one kicker selected with the final pick of the draft, and eight defensive players in that slot. The pick has never been a punter.

The past two years it has been an offensive player with Washington selecting wide receiver Trey Quinn in 2018 and Denver selecting quarterback Chad Kelly in 2017. They were positions of need, but the definition of need is a little looser by the end of the draft.

This year, the Arizona Cardinals hold the final pick allowing them to bookend their Kyler Murray pick. They have plenty of needs on both sides of the ball — as would any team that finished 3-13. It’s all guess-work when it comes to the pick, but the offense had more issues than the defense, so I’ll say they go offense with that last pick.


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The best available players after the 2019 NFL Draft

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These undrafted free agents can round out a team’s roster.

Last year running back Phillip Lindsay fell all the way out of the draft and became a star for the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent. He joined a long list of standout players who didn’t get selected.

Future Hall of Famers Antonio Gates, Jason Peters and Adam Vinatieri weren’t drafted. Neither was cornerback Chris Harris Jr. or defensive tackle Poona Ford. Nick Mullens wasn’t drafted in 2017 and saved San Francisco from disaster last season.

In the competitive undrafted free agent market, teams can round off their roster and build depth. That won’t be any different this year.

Following the 2019 NFL Draft, these are the best players still available:

75. Gerald Willis, DT, Miami

91. Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

98. Te’Von Coney, LB, Notre Dame

100. Jamal Davis, Edge, Akron

103. Saivion Smith, CB, Alabama

107. Malik Gant, S, Marshall

113. Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas

120. David Sills, WR, West Virginia

125. Evan Worthington, S, Colorado

126. DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss

136. Keelan Doss, WR, Cal-Davis

139. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

141. Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

143. Mike Bell, S, Fresno State

151. Johnnie Dixon, WR, Ohio State

153. Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska

156. Albert Huggins, DT, Clemson

161. Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska

166. Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan

173. Nate Herbig, G, Stanford

175. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

178. Tyler Jones, G, North Carolina State

181. Carl Granderson, DE, Wyoming

182. Porter Gustin, Edge, Southern California

183. Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo

185. Wyatt Ray, DE, Boston College

186. Ed Alexander, DT, LSU

189. Jalen Dalton, DT, North Carolina

191. Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke

192. Donald Parham, TE, Stetson

193. Tyler Roemer, OT, San Diego State

195. Beau Benzschawel, G, Wisconsin

201. Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo

204. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State

205. Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College

206. Jakobi Meyers, WR, North Carolina State

209. Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State

211. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

214. Wyatt Ray, DE, Boston College

217. Cole Tracey, K, LSU

218. James Williams, RB, Washington State

219. Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri

223. Khalil Hodge, LB, Buffalo

224. Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson

225. Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State

227. Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss

228. Martez Ivey, OT, Florida

230. Derrick Baity Jr., CB, Kentucky

231. Alec Ingold, FB, Wisconsin

232. Andrew Wingard, S, Wyoming


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Rams’ Dakota Allen is first ‘Last Chance U’ NFL draft pick

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The Texas Tech and East Mississippi linebacker is the first player featured on the show to get picked by an NFL team.

In 2019 NFL Draft, a former star of Netflix’s Last Chance U made some history as the first regularly featured player from the show to be drafted.

Linebacker Dakota Allen, out of Texas Tech, spent the 2016 season at East Mississippi Community College. He was on the show in Season 2, which aired in 2017.

The Rams picked him near the end of the seventh round.

Allen is not the first LCU or EMCC player to make it to the NFL in general.

One of the most notable EMCC alums is quarterback Chad Kelly, who went to the Scooba, Miss., JUCO from Clemson, before playing two seasons at Ole Miss. The Broncos made him Mr. Irrelevant in the 2017 draft. Kelly doesn’t quite count as a Last Chance U star, because his time at EMCC ended before Netflix’s cameras showed up in Scooba.

At least two EMCC players from the school’s two Netflix seasons signed undrafted free agent deals. Quarterback John Franklin III, who later converted to receiver and then DB, signed a deal with the Bears before the 2018 season. He started at Florida State and later spent seasons at both Auburn and FAU. Defensive back CJ Reavis, who went from Virginia Tech to EMCC to Marshall, signed with the Jaguars in 2018.

Ronald Ollie, a beloved player from Season 1, could join the league in 2019 as an undrafted free agent.

Allen had a winding college career, like most players to come through JUCO.

He arrived at Tech in 2014, and he redshirted as a freshman that year. He finished second on the team in tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but lost his spot at Texas Tech because of a burglary charge in 2016. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him before the 2016 season, but the Red Raiders had already dismissed him by that point. He went to EMCC, where he led the team in tackles and was a model citizen on the show.

“Basically, everything you saw was what happened,” Allen said of the show, via the Dallas Morning News. “I lived it. That’s why I only watched it one time, so it was a repeat. I wouldn’t take anything away because I learned a lot from that experience, if that makes sense.

“I feel like now I have something to look forward to like my faith. I also learned whatever you put your mind to you got to keep pushing through it, you have to keep grinding towards it, and eventually you’ll get it.”

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Tech
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

He returned to Tech after his season in Scooba, and had an impressive 2017 season for the Red Raiders:

Allen became the heart and soul for a defense that ranked dead last in the FBS last year. He was an absolute monster racking up 92 tackles, 12 for loss, and six turnovers forced, as well as leading the defense to a 120 yards per game allowed improvement from last season.

Allen was Tech’s most versatile defender. Stopping the run with 31 solo run stops and creating a no fly zone over the middle, allowing one reception every 22 passing plays. This among other reasons is why Allen was named to the PFF All-Big 12 team.

He had another strong season in 2018, but finished merely second on the team in total tackles while dealing with an injury late in the year and missing a game.

Allen’s skillset as a linebacker makes him a useful fit in the modern NFL.

While he can stop the run effectively, Allen has good instincts defending the pass, which is quite valuable for his position (especially as NFL offenses spread out). He had five interceptions throughout his college career — four at Tech, one at EMCC.

Watch his anticipation on this Kyle Allen pick, stepping in front of a crossing route:


And here, he shows off how he can fight off blocks and get through an offense line:

Check out his closing speed, too:

DraftScout.com ranked Dakota Allen as the No. 24 inside linebacker in the class. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had him listed as the best pass-coverage linebacker prospect in the class. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said:

Allen is an inside linebacker with good toughness and intangibles but lacks the speed and instincts teams look for in the middle. He plays with good short-area quickness and a willingness to stick his nose into oncoming traffic in order to leverage his gap and set his teammates up for success. With adequate athleticism and the potential to become a core special teamer, Allen could hear his name called in the later rounds of the draft.

As the show goes on, others from Last Chance U should get their chances.

A few might get there in the future, including these Season 3 players from Independence Community College in Kansas:

  • Emmit Gooden, a defensive lineman now at Tennessee, who’s slated to be one of the Vols’ top returners on the line in 2019
  • Rakeem Boyd, a running back who had a great 2018 at Arkansas
  • Calvin Jackson Jr., a receiver who contributed for Washington State in 2018 and should be back doing that in 2019

Allen won’t be the only LCU draftee forever.


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Ranking Seahawks picks by how much they’ll help Establish The Run

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How much will each new Seahawk help the franchise achieve its most consistent goal?

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have long been direct about their desire to Establish The Run.

It started Week 1, after the Seahawks lost to the Broncos by three points despite staying close for the entire game. “Not enough [rushing],” Pete Carroll told reporters.

Wait, no — it started after the draft, where the Seahawks took running back Rashaad Penny with the 27th overall pick. “We wanted to make sure we’re at the core of who we want to be, and the running game is a lot of that,” Carroll said in a post-draft press conference.

Or maybe it started in 1994, when Carroll was the head coach of the New York Jets. “Carroll believes that in order for the Jets to be successful, they have to establish their running game,” wrote Jason Diamos in the New York Times.

How dedicated are the Seahawks to Establishing The Run?

In 2018, they were the NFL’s most devoted team to rush-rush-pass play sequences, despite evidence that such a pattern makes it harder to move the ball. The Seahawks were second in the NFL in rushing attempts and dead last in passing attempts, despite their quarterback being Russell Wilson, whom they’ve since given the richest contract in football history. This happened in their playoff game:

Now the Seahawks have drafted a bunch of new players. But will they help Establish The Run?

Let’s rank these rookies by helpful they’ll be to the cause of The Run.

11. Cody Barton, Utah LB, 88th overall
10. Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington LB, 142nd overall

How do you stop the clock on defense, thus giving your offense more time to Establish The Run? You cause incomplete passes. Burr-Kirven will indeed help Establish The Run more than Barton will, based on their college stats.

9. Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia WR, 120th overall

Jennings was one of the most efficient receivers in the draft. But the Mountaineers often set him up as a pass option on RPOs, where the QB could decide not to hand the ball off. It is concerning that the Seahawks would pick a player who might encourage Wilson to throw the ball rather than Establish The Run.

T-7. Ugo Amadi, Oregon CB, 132nd overall
T-7. Marquise Blair, Utah S, 47th overall

They’re both defensive backs, and the incompletions they cause will make them invaluable to the cause of giving Wilson time to hand off in an offense that Establishes The Run.

6. L.J. Collier, TCU DE, 29th overall

If Collier does what the Seahawks want, he’ll be getting sacks. Those will help the Hawks’ offense get back onto the field, where it can aggressively Establish The Run.

5. John Ursua, Hawaii WR, 236th overall

He’s been one of the most prolific slot receivers in college football. He can keep nickel corners and outside linebackers from moving too close to the interior, freeing up important space for Seattle’s backs to Establish The Run. Is it possible he’ll incentivize too much passing? Maybe some day, but at this point, he’s a 5’10 seventh-round pick, so Wilson won’t throw him the ball so much that he detracts greatly from Establishing The Run.

4. Demarcus Christmas, Florida State DT, 209th overall

He’s 6’3 and 294 pounds, but he can move for a big man, with a 5.08 40 time. He’d fit nicely as a fullback in jumbo packages, ideal for Establishment of The Run.

3. Phil Haynes, Wake Forest OG, 124th overall

A guy who could man the same position Steve Hutchinson once played in Seattle, this road-grading interior lineman will be vital to Establishing The Run.

2. Travis Homer, Miami RB, 204th overall

There are few people more important to the postal service than the mailman himself, and Homer is no stranger to carrying the mail. He’ll join a crowded backfield, but in due time, it wouldn’t be surprising if Homer became key to Establishing The Run.

1. D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss WR, 64th overall

What’s the ultimate point of all this Establishing The Run, according to the ancient cliche? The point is To Set Up The Pass. Therefore, Metcalf is an entire reason to Establish The Run. With a perfectly sculpted 6’3 frame and 4.33 speed, he was the scariest deep threat in the draft. But you don’t want to throw to Metcalf too often, because he’s really not that good at anything except deep routes, meaning you’ll then have to Re-Establish The Run.

“organized crime and Russian intelligence” – Google News: Amid Brexit uncertainty and allegations, UK lawmakers consider Mueller-like inquiry – KGO-TV

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Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
from 1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites).

Amid Brexit uncertainty and allegations, UK lawmakers consider Mueller-like inquiry  KGO-TV

It’s been three years since the Brexit referendum, and serious questions remain.

“organized crime and Russian intelligence” – Google News


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The Spycraft Revolution – Foreign Policy Saturday April 27th, 2019 at 5:46 PM

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When’s the last time your NFL team drafted a QB in the 1st round?

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The Cardinals might go QB in back-to-back years for the first time since the 80s.

The NFL Draft is where champions are made. Specifically through quarterbacks, who can sustain dynasties with their play behind center.

The league’s elite quarterbacks rarely escape the franchise that drafted them. For every Drew Brees who flourishes in his second (or third or fourth) stop in the league, there are five Ben Roethlisbergers, Philip Rivers, and Eli Mannings who only take the field for a single team over the course of storied careers. Of the last 10 NFL championships, seven have been won by homegrown quarterbacks (Tom Brady x3, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning). Only Brees, Peyton Manning, and Nick Foles — who earned his ring by returning to the team that drafted him — won titles after hitting free agency.

That makes solid QB drafting paramount to NFL success. Between 2007 and 2016, the Browns drafted three first-round passers. That lack of stability helped contribute to a 48-112 record over that decade of play. Conversely, the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan in 2008 and then went 95-65 in the 10 seasons that followed.

So when’s the last time each NFL franchise swung for the fences with a first-round quarterback prospect?

2019

  • Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
  • New York Giants: Daniel Jones
  • Washington: Dwayne Haskins

The Cardinals picked a first round quarterback in back-to-back years, making them the first team to do so since the Baltimore Colts in 1982-83. That duo was Art Schlichter and John Elway, who combined for six career starts with the franchise.

The Giants made a point to pick a quarterback with fifth-round advanced stats in the first round, which will surely work out in their favor. Haskins slid to a needy Washington team, who had, at first glance, one of 2019’s best drafts.

2018

Mayfield set the tone for Oklahoma Heisman winners to go No. 1, making Murray nothing but a copycat in the process. An extremely good, ever-dangerous copycat.

2017

All three of these players look like they’ll keep their respective teams from using a first-round pick on a quarterback over the next decade.

2016

The Rams and Eagles picked up MVP candidates in 2016. The Broncos did not.

2015

The Buccaneers and Titans could each be in the market for quarterbacks next spring. Both Winston and Mariota are entering the final years of their rookie contracts without an extension lined up.

2014

If we get a repeat of January’s NFC title game between the Rams and Saints, these two will be the backups. Neat?

2012

Fortunately for the Colts, they’ve had a lot better luck with the other quarterback they drafted No. 1 overall out of Stanford.

2011

2009

2008

2007

A successful run comes to a screeching halt with Russell, who lasted three seasons and 25 starts in the NFL (he went 7-18). The nicest thing that can be said about him is he averaged less than one interception per game.

2005

And so began Rodgers’ beef with Mike McCarthy.

2004

Manning didn’t have to wait long until his blatant wish not to play for the Chargers was granted. Three picks after he went first overall, the Giants drafted Philip Rivers — their last first round QB before Daniel Jones — and pulled off the blockbuster trade that would help net them two championships.

2003

The first round from 2003-05 was a cauldron of great quarterbacks. Together Smith, Rodgers, Eli Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, and Palmer have combined for five Super Bowl wins, 31 Pro Bowl invitations, 664 regular season wins — all six have winning records for their career, though Manning’s 116-114 is looking mighty perilous heading into 2019 — and 1,922 passing touchdowns.

1993

Sometimes you don’t find your franchise QB in the first round. Things work out pretty well when you can find a Super Bowl-winning passer in the third. They work out even better when you can pick up the greatest quarterback of all time in the sixth, then watch him play until the heat death of the universe.

1989

Aside from the lean years of 2001-05, Dallas has been fortunate enough to spin NCAA hay into NFL gold. Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent who then gave way to fourth-round pick Dak Prescott.

1971

The Cardinals are on the brink of selecting first-round quarterbacks for the second time since 2018. The Saints haven’t selected a single one since the Vietnam War was still raging.


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Sutton Smith’s small, but has draft’s most monstrous stats

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There could be a good place for him in the NFL.

In 2018, new Steelers sixth-round draft pick Sutton Smith raised more hell than any other player in college football.

The Northern Illinois defensive end registered 31.5 Havoc Plays — a stat tracked by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly that rolls together sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, pass breakups, and interceptions. That was the most in FBS, college football’s top division, just ahead of career sacks record-holder Jaylon Ferguson and surefire top-10 pick Josh Allen.

The redshirt junior had 15 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss against the run, four forced fumbles, and a pass breakup, a year after he’d led the country with 14 sacks.

But because of his size, Smith is not considered a top prospect. He’s probably not going to get picked sooner than Day 3, unless some team just loves him as an agile, edge-rushing linebacker who produced a lot in college.

At the combine, he measured 6 feet and 3/8 inches, 233 pounds. He was the shortest end at the combine by about an inch and the lightest by 10 pounds. His wingspan and arm length were in the first percentile at his position. His hand size was in the fourth percentile.

That he ran the three-cone drill in 6.75 seconds (faster than any defensive end in the class and one of the best times ever for a DE at the combine) won’t cure all the concerns that come with him being so small.

If he makes a career for himself as a defensive end, he’ll do it against precedent. The last end to play in a regular season game and be listed at shorter than 6’1 and fewer than 240 pounds appears to have been the Bills’ Greg Morton, an eighth-round pick in 1977 who played one season.

Unless Smith’s so good that he can break all the rules about defensive end sizes, a hybrid pass-rushing role could be the ideal spot.

At the combine, Smith said NFL teams had talked to him about potential moves to outside linebacker, strong-side backer, and the JACK, a dual end/backer job.

“What I like about it is it implements pass rush into it, and then it has a little bit of diversity with dropping into coverages and everything like that,” he said. “I like it a lot, actually.”

The NFL’s had plenty of good linebackers with roughly Smith’s 6’0, 233 frame, and his combine three-cone time was faster than any LB in the class, while his shuttle time would’ve been average for a backer. His 40 time was slightly below the linebacker average, but straight-ahead speed isn’t as important as agility for edge-rushers, who need to get around tackles more often than they need to sprint 40 yards.

Smith did not often play linebacker at NIU, instead settling in as a 5-technique end playing just outside an offensive tackle. But on some snaps, he’d start upright.

Wherever he lands, Smith’s college tape shows a dominant player with a lot of skills that could help him in any edge-rushing role.

Other than size, the simplest knock on Smith is that he played in the MAC, one of the worst conferences in FBS and not a pipeline of defensive front talent. Buffalo’s Khalil Mack is a glaring exception, but Smith is not exactly built like Mack.

Ask Smith about the quality of his competition, and he’ll tell you the same thing he told me: to “look at the stats.” Those stats confirm he didn’t just produce against Directional Michigans and Kent State. As a redshirt sophomore, he had five tackles for loss and a sack against Boston College, then 3.5 TFLs and two sacks at Nebraska. In 2018, he had 7.5 TFLs and four sacks across NIU’s games against Iowa, Utah, and Florida State.

“People never thought I’d be able to bull rush people, but yet I can,” he said. “I’m 233 pounds, and I can put a tackle all the way back to the quarterback. The shorter you are and stronger, you [have] a lot more leverage whenever you play.”

Here’s Smith strip-sacking Iowa’s QB after beating the right tackle:


Smith ran a 4.69 40 at the combine, above average for his position. He also plays fast, like here, running down Iowa RB Toren Young on a play that went to the other side of the formation:


Here he is edge-rushing and beating Utah’s right tackle and a running back, then chasing down a fast QB in the pocket for a sack:


More here.

“It was just insane, the amount of double teams I got this year,” Smith said.

His film’s not perfect. Earlier in that game, that same Utah QB burned him to the edge on a zone read for a long run after Smith appeared to hesitate over who had the ball. He had a handful of unproductive MAC games.

But you can see his considerable talent. And you can see him standing up like an outside linebacker would before that Utah sack.

There’s no telling yet how Smith would do as a full-time linebacker, but you don’t have to strain your imagination to see him being effective somewhere.

His college production says it’s worth it to see where he can fit.


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Sparks trade for Chiney Ogwumike, are now WNBA title favorites

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The Sparks reunite Chiney with her sister, and they’re loaded.

The Los Angeles Sparks have agreed to trade their 2020 first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for Chiney Ogwumike, according to ESPN’s Adrian iWojnarowski. This move will reunite Chiney with her sister and former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike.

With Chiney on board, the Sparks have moved from title contention to the championship favorite. Chiney, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, returned to her star self last season after she was hampered by injuries. The former Rookie of the Year missed the entire 2015 season due to micro-fracture surgery in her knee, and the 2017 season due to an Achilles injury in China. Chiney returned in 2018 and averaged 14 points on 60 percent shooting, and seven rebounds. Much like her sister, she’s a bruiser in the paint with excellent finishing abilities in the low post.

The Sparks are nearly complete with a team that should compete for a title even without the long-rumored move for last year’s MVP-runner up Liz Cambage. L.A. is expected to re-sign All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray, and has already retained defensive star Alana Beard, former MVP Candace Parker, Nneka, and selected Baylor star Kalani Brown with the No. 7 overall pick in April’s draft.

New WNBA head coach Derek Fisher has his work cut out for him in a brand new role, but he has an elite roster heading into the season. The road to a championship has also, incidentally, been paved due to a flurry of superstar injuries and personal leaves. Lynx star Maya Moore will miss the season for personal reasons, Storm MVP Breanna Stewart will miss the season with an Achilles injury, Diana Taurasi will sit three months after having back surgery, and Skylar Diggins-Smith is expected to miss the season as she’s expecting a child.

Sparks fans have every reason to be thrilled with the trade for Chiney. The team’s centerpiece, Parker, now has the ultimate relief in the post. The Ogwumike’s and Brown should take the burden of battling down low with true bigs and boxing out for rebounds off the versatile point-forward. Chiney is also as reliable as they come to cleanup shots around the rim.

For the Sun, gaining a first round pick is critical as they try and grow a talented roster into an elite one. Clearing Ogwumike means more minutes for young stars with high potential like 2019 No. 9 pick Kristine Anigwe and 25-year-old Jonquel Jones. Connecticut will run for a playoff spot this season, but they might not have the components for a big run just yet. Maybe an extra pick next season can convert into another star through the draft or by trade.

The rest of the WNBA should be gearing up to face the Los Angeles Sparks, however. The Ogwumike sisters on the same team will be a problem few can handle.


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“Putin and American political process” – Google News: FBI Warns Of Russian Plans To Interfere In 2020 Elections – Outside The Beltway – Mobile Edition

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Michael_Novakhov
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from 1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites).

FBI Warns Of Russian Plans To Interfere In 2020 Elections  Outside The Beltway – Mobile Edition

Counter-Intelligence officials are warning that Russia is preparing another election interference campaign for the 2020 election.

“Putin and American political process” – Google News


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“Russian propaganda on social media” – Google News: Stopping Disinformation Requires Measuring And Understanding It Not Just Monitoring And Debunking It – Forbes

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from Russian propaganda on social media from Michael_Novakhov (5 sites).

Stopping Disinformation Requires Measuring And Understanding It Not Just Monitoring And Debunking It  Forbes

Social media companies and governments across the world have struck upon the perfect solution to everything from fake news to foreign influence to toxic …

“Russian propaganda on social media” – Google News


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4 reasons the Seahawks’ Gary Jennings Jr. pick could be brilliant

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Let’s talk to the West Virginia Mountaineer about his college career and how he’ll fit in the NFL.

Gary Jennings Jr. spent his first two years at West Virginia getting little offensive action. He had 17 catches between 2015 and ‘16, while he mostly sat behind more experienced receivers who were catching balls from a good but not great quarterback.

In 2017, Florida transfer Will Grier became eligible at QB. Jennings moved up the depth chart, and working with one of the best QBs in college football, Jennings became a star. He had 97 catches for 1,096 yards and (weirdly) just one touchdown as a junior, then followed it up with 54 catches for 917 yards and 13 TDs as a senior — a much different profile, but a productive one in its own way.

Now he’s a fun NFL Draft pick for the Seahawks, who took him 120th overall, in the fourth round.

Jennings few somewhat under the draft radar. NFL.com pegs him as a potential backup or special teams player. I think it’s way more likely he becomes a quality pass-catcher for his pro team.

1. Advanced stats say Jennings is one of the best receivers in the draft.

Jennings’ traditional numbers at WVU were great, though they flipped from his junior to senior year. First, he had tons of catches for not that many yards per catch and no TDs. Then he had fewer catches, but for more TDs and more yards per catch.

Let’s focus on his senior year, the one NFL evaluators will give the most attention.

Jennings ranked third among FBS receivers in the draft class in Marginal Efficiency.

That stat, from by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, tracks how efficient a play based is on the exact game situation. (For instance, a 12-yard catch on third-and-18 is less valuable than a 7-yard catch on third-and-5.) Jennings ranked 11th in Marginal Explosiveness, which similarly measures how successful those plays were.

He was fourth in catch rate (74 percent) and first in Success Rate, which judges how often throws to a receiver keep an offense on schedule.

(On first down, a successful play gets half the necessary yardage for a first down. On second down, 70 percent. On third and fourth down, 100 percent.)

He was fourth in yards per target.

2. He prides himself as a deep threat, and he can draw up exactly how a team might use formations to unleash him.

At the NFL Combine, I sat with Jennings for five minutes and asked him to break down his game. We were able to have a relatively long one-on-one talk, because the vast majority of the reporters in the room did not care about Jennings. He was sitting at a table off to the side of a big ballroom, a few feat from a media horde that surrounded Kyler Murray.

Jennings drew up his favorite play in Dana Holgorsen’s version of the air raid, which WVU operated for Jennings’ whole career. In this diagram, Jennings is the Y receiver:


Diagram by Gary Jennings Jr.

The play has two main components: the left side (or strong side) is designed to beat zone coverage, and the right (weak) side, where Jennings starts, is designed to beat man coverage. Everything depends on how the defense responds, but a common way the play can work involves a safety, playing zone, crashing down to cover H, the crossing receiver.

If the strong safety moves toward H, that leaves X singled up against a cornerback, where he can make a catch 10 or 15 yards downfield. If the free safety, on Jennings’ side, moves toward H or really just pauses at all in the middle of the field, that leaves Jennings, the Y receiver, one-on-one against a slot cornerback. Meanwhile, the Z receiver runs a 6-yard hitch near the sideline to keep downfield space open.

The play highlights what Jennings sees as his biggest strength.

“I’m a bigger speedster, I’d like to say,” Jennings told me. “A bigger speedster who’s able to show my vertical presence down the field.”

Here’s how it looks in action:


As spread offenses become more en vogue in the NFL, there are a ton of ways a team could try to align Jennings against either smaller or slower corners. That can be the payoff.

3. Jennings’ big-play ability hasn’t come at the expense of everything else.

Recall that, among FBS receivers in the 2019 draft class, he ranked even higher in Marginal Efficiency than Explosiveness in 2018. Also recall that he caught his targets at a higher clip than almost every receiver in the class, including many who didn’t go deep as often. Holgorsen used him as a screen option on a lot of the Mountaineers’ run/pass options, trusting Jennings to catch the ball and run if the defense dictated a perimeter throw.

“I define myself as someone who’s dependable,” he said.

4. The combine raised one question about his skill set, but his game film says not to worry.

Does he have the agility to beat NFL defensive backs regularly?

Jennings clocked in as one of the fastest 40-yard dashers and had one of the higher vertical leaps, with average height and above-average weight. But he ran poorly in the three-cone drill, coming in 26th out of the 29 receivers who ran it.

You can decide how much you care about one bad combine test, particularly when he tested in the 68th percentile for receivers in the 20-yard shuttle run, which shows off similar short-range agility. It could turn out to be a problem, and it could not.

Personally, I’m encouraged by watching back some of his game film, which shows Jennings making plenty of smooth cuts to get away from DBs on short routes. Like here:


And here:


According to MockDraftable, Jennings’ combine showing was similar to Martavis Bryant’s in 2014. Though Bryant’s had an up-and-down career, he’s one of the most physically gifted receivers the league’s seen in years.

Jennings has the college production of a really good prospect. To me, he seems to have the physical gifts of a really good prospect, too.


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