By Dan Walk
1 The NFL draft is in just two days, and there are many reports that not one quarterback will be taken until the second round for the first time since 1996. So the draft’s focus has to be on other players/positions, right? Nope. If anything, the lack of an elite QB only heightens the interest in when and who of the signal callers will be chosen first.
2 Almost every year, a player is chosen that just makes fans scratch their heads. Three years ago, fans wondered why Tim Tebow was taken as early as 25th overall. A year before that, Mark Sanchez and Darrius Heyward-Bey were ridiculed top-7 picks, and neither of them has had much individual success recently. And no one will forget the boos from New York fans when the Jets’ first pick in 2005, at No. 47 overall, was spent on kicker Mike Nugent. He left the Jets as an unrestricted free agent in 2009. With that in mind, I expect at least one team to reach for a quarterback in the first round. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team like Oakland, Arizona, Buffalo or Philadelphia try to trade its way back into a late first-round pick in order to take a QB. The first three are desperate for a proven starter.
3 It’s interesting to hear that ESPN and NFL Network staffers have entered a “gentlemen’s agreement” to not tweet out selections in the first two rounds of the draft before Roger Goodell announces them at the podium. I understand the premise, but it’s an awfully silly idea. I guess Goodell and the NFL can do whatever they want these days. Now, other football writers outside of the ESPN and NFL Network will provide the scoop. Speaking of providing the scoop, the Tribune’s Matt Digiacomo will release his annual mock draft in the next few days, so keep an eye out for it.
4 The trade acquisition of Darrelle Revis is obviously huge for Tampa Bay if he’s able to return to All-Pro form from last year’s torn ACL. The Bucs had a horrible pass defense last year and desperately need some help. But this trade is all about the Jets, who had to give up their best player just so they could afford to overpay for quarterback Mark Sanchez. New York now has three of the first 39 picks and must use each one wisely to even dream of being a playoff contender in the next few years.
5 As the NFL regular season schedules were announced last week, we received an official date for the Steelers-Vikings clash in London — Sept. 29. Luckily for Pittsburgh fans, Minnesota will be the game’s “home” team. I continue to be surprised why teams are interested in playing overseas. I really feel as if it’s a shot at the fans in Minnesota, for example, who will have just seven home games this season. Some stadiums, like Heinz Field, sell out all eight games every season. If the Steelers ever “host” a game in London, Pittsburgh fans will be very, very angry.
6 With a number of interesting matchups, the first round of the NBA playoffs was supposed to be exciting. Not yet. All eight home teams won over the playoff-opening weekend. Only two losing teams were within single digits. It’s true that a series doesn’t truly start until the road team wins, but I don’t expect many upsets in this year’s first round. The only Eastern Conference team with any hope of an upset is the Boston, and it scored a paltry 25 second-half points on Saturday.
7 The Thunder and Rockets have a ton of intrigue surrounding their series, mostly because James Harden plays his former team. Instead, the series is off to a one-sided start after Oklahoma City’s 120-91 win on Sunday. Harden is gone, but I truly feel like everyone is overanalyzing his importance to the Thunder. He came off the bench and didn’t provide much more offense last year. And OKC couldn’t have missed him too much after capturing the second-best record in the NBA this year. I still like the Thunder’s chances of winning the Western Conference without him.
8 I had a little debate with my coworkers last week in regards to the postponed Pirates-Cardinals game last week that will have to start from the beginning whenever it is rescheduled. Pittsburgh was ahead 4-2 after two innings, but those statistics are thrown away. I know that’s the MLB rule, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. What happens if Pittsburgh is up 10-0 after two innings? I don’t see why the league cannot continue the game from whenever it was paused due to rain. Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook, for example, gave up four runs. Luckily for him, he watched his ERA drop back to 0.00 because of rain.
9 Reports say that the NHL is soon to announce as many as six outdoor games next season, and that’s just a horrible idea. What makes the annual Winter Classic great is the fact that it’s a rare occasion. Too many of them takes away the event’s luster. What’s worse, one game may be played in Los Angeles, which is worse than holding the Super Bowl in New York. Is expecting cold weather in L.A. in late January realistic? Remember when college basketball tried to play on an aircraft carrier last year? The game was postponed to an arena because of poor outdoor conditions.
10 A crazy month in the UFC comes to a close this weekend when light heavyweight champion Jon Jones faces vocal contender Chael Sonnen. Jones is a huge favorite against Sonnen, whose most recent fight was in a lower weight class. But I’m not counting Sonnen out, considering he’s guaranteed to put up a fight and be right in Jones’ face all night. Many in MMA circles have complained that Sonnen talked his way into this title tilt rather than actually earning it. But this is the fight many, myself included, want to see. Sonnen’s probably going to get knocked out, but I’ll be on the edge of my seat wondering if Sonnen can pull off the upset.
The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.