Quenton Nelson looks exactly like a franchise-cornerstone left tackle: Standing 6 foot 5, 325 pounds, Nelson is “built like a bank safe” and blessed with the athleticism and aggressiveness to be a perennial All-Pro. The quarterback’s protector is often called the second-most-important offensive position, so it’s no wonder that Nelson’s in the mix to be the first non-quarterback to be picked in this year’s draft.But one thing does separate Nelson from other highly coveted tackles on draft day: He isn’t a tackle. He’s a guard.How players at one position in the NFL’s otherwise-anonymous quintet of trench warriors became some of American sports’ most-prized athletes is a story so well-known it was turned into a best-selling book, and even a movie: The uniquely gifted protectors of “The Blind Side” emerged in the 1990s to stop the pass-rushing outside linebackers of the 1980s, like eight-time All-Pro Lawrence Taylor.For years afterward, teams trying to land the next Orlando Pace or Walter Jones had no qualms about throwing high draft picks at top tackles. Even less-than-perfect tackle prospects like Michigan’s Jake Long and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher were deemed “safe” picks at No. 1 overall — because unlike quarterbacks, who are unlikely to play another position well, if those tackles fail to establish themselves as quality starters, teams have the option of kicking them inside to guard.As recently as 2012, guards were still afterthoughts, not worthy of the draft-value (and contract) investment that comes with a high first-round selection. Outstanding guard prospect David DeCastro, whom many evaluators deemed worthy of at least a top-10 pick, didn’t come off the board until No. 24 that year.In the 32-team era,1Since 2002. 62 tackles have been drafted in the first round compared to just 14 guards. On average, those tackles were taken with the 14th pick, while the average guard went between 23 and 24. In fact, after “The Blind Side” was released in September 2006, NFL teams went on a four-year tackle binge, drafting 19 first-round tackles compared to just three centers and two guards.Last season, though, the market for elite tackles seemed to dry up. Only two — Garett Bolles and Ryan Ramczyk — went in the first round, and both were picked in the back end of the round (20 and 32 respectively). After Alabama’s Cam Robinson was taken with the second pick of the second round, which was lower than most expected, no tackles were taken until pick No. 85. To get a sense of how high in the draft tackles have tended to go over time, we can quantify pick position using Jimmy Johnson’s draft-pick value chart, which assigns a point value to every pick in the draft based solely on how early the pick is, not on which player is taken. Last year, the picks used on tackles in rounds one and two were worth a total of 2000 points, the lowest sum since at least 1994. By comparison, the picks used on the six tackles taken in the first two rounds in 2013 were worth more than 10,000 points. The trend of devaluing tackles seems certain to continue in the 2018 NFL draft. After Nelson, tackle Mike McGlinchey (average mock draft position: 22.2) is the next offensive lineman projected to go. But then it’s a run of interior linemen: Center James Daniels (28.5) and guards Isaiah Wynn (28.8) and Will Hernandez (28.9) are all set to be drafted ahead of the only other tackle who’s projected to be taken on the draft’s first night, Kolton Miller (31.2).If Miller doesn’t make it into the first round, it’ll be the first time that fewer than two tackles have been drafted in any first round since “The Blind Side” was released, and it would match the 2005-2006 nadir for high-pick tackles — only three tackles were taken in the first round in each of those two back-to-back draft classes.It’s not like NFL teams suddenly decided that the offensive line isn’t important, it’s more that the value pendulum is shifting away from left tackle. If Nelson goes as high as he’s expected to, he’ll be the third guard picked in the top 10 in the last six seasons (the fourth if you count Washington’s Brandon Scherff, who was drafted as a tackle but has since become a Pro Bowl guard2Washington initially tried Scherff at tackle before switching him to guard in his first training camp.). Before Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper went in the top 10 in 2013, no guard had been picked that high in a dozen years.3Leonard Davis went No. 2 overall in 2001 as a guard, though he went on to play both tackle and guard in the NFL.But it’s not just draft capital that teams are investing in a previously neglected position.This spring, All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell signed a five-year, $66.5 million unrestricted free-agency deal that briefly made him the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman. Though former New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder’s four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants topped Norwell’s $13.3 million average annual value, Norwell remains No. 2.In 2016, the five biggest free-agency deals4In terms of contracts’ average annual value. given to offensive linemen went to left tackles. In 2017, half of the eight offensive-line contracts worth at least $10 million per year went to left tackles — but the other half went to three guards and a center. In 2018, Solder’s was the only one of the top six offensive-line deals that did not go to a guard or center.So why the sudden change? For starters, the evolution of the left tackle was a response to a defensive revolution that’s been over for a long time; Taylor’s 10-season Pro Bowl streak ended 27 years ago. From Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzes to Jim Johnson’s and Jim Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3s, Wade Phillips’s one-gap 3-4 schemes to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia’s hybrid/multiple fronts attack, defensive coordinators have as many different ways to send pass rushers at quarterbacks as there are gaps between offensive linemen.According to ESPN Stats & Information Group, 36 percent of the 1,082.5 sacks by front-seven players in 2017 were registered by a player lined up at right defensive end or right outside linebacker. That means even a Hall of Fame left tackle can’t possibly help with at least two-thirds of the pressure that defenses are generating.Then there’s the fact that quarterbacks don’t really have a “blind side” anymore. The heavy use of shotgun formation in today’s NFL allows quarterbacks to keep the whole defense in front of them. According to ESPN Stats & Info, just 13,319 of 32,436 offensive plays (41 percent) were run from under center in 2017– and of those, a quarterback dropped back to pass on just 4,201 plays (13 percent of all offensive plays).The average left tackle, then, will only be called upon to keep his quarterback clean during a traditional dropback about 1/8th of the time he’s on the field.But don’t tell Nelson, Wynn, Hernandez or any of the other guards set to be drafted this weekend that the value of offensive linemen has crashed. They’re about to prove that the NFL has finally figured out that anyone who can get keep a pass-rusher from getting to a quarterback is worth an awful lot — regardless of where he’s positioned on the line.
The Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Ala., is an opportunity for senior football players to showcase their talents in front of pro scouts and coaches. And Former Ohio State football players Ross Homan and Dane Sanzenbacher were invited to the field. Homan and Sanzenbacher understand the importance of the opportunity. “The best players in the nation are out here, competing and trying to showcase their skills,” Homan said. Being at your best and separating yourself from the rest is something Homan said is crucial in a game like this. “It’s very important. You’re always being evaluated every time you step on the field,” Homan said. “It’s a huge job interview; that’s the way I look at it.” Sanzenbacher agreed. “It’s an opportunity for you to show your talents and stand out from everybody else,” he said. Since the Sugar Bowl, Homan and Sanzenbacher have been training for the NFL draft process. Both were recently invited to the NFL Combine, and both said they plan to attend. During practice, Homan said coaches and scouts have been telling him to keep doing what he is doing and to relax and play to his ability. Sanzenbacher, who was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, had his first day of practice Tuesday, and said the competition there is one of a kind. “You can’t really replace that competition. It makes everybody better,” he said. “You’re working with some of the best players in the nation and it makes every rep that much more critical.” Being so close to the NFL, Homan said he is ready to make the most of the opportunity. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I have dreamed of it since I was a little kid, and now I have the opportunity to make it a reality.” Sanzenbacher said the feeling is surreal. “It’s weird. It doesn’t feel that close,” Sanzenbacher said. “There’s still a lot of steps that you need to go through to actually put on that jersey and play in the NFL.” Homan’s ultimate goal is to be a success and leave nothing undone. “Just be successful; just have no regrets,” Homan said. “Never look back and wish I could have done this or could have done that.” Sanzenbacher has different ambitions. “(I want) to put myself in a position to be successful after football,” Sanzenbacher said. “Obviously you want to play well and take (football) as far as you can, but ultimately, while you’re playing, set yourself up for the future.” Neither Homan nor Sanzenbacher has a preference of what team he would like to compete for. They said would just be grateful for the chance to play in the NFL. Sanzenbacher said he would never forget the experiences he had playing for OSU. “It kind of made me the football player that I am,” he said. “Being able to run out on Senior Day, to get your name announced as captain and your family on the field was definitely up there for me.” What Homan will remember most about OSU is his success on the team. “The close games, battles, sealing the deal on Big Ten championships,” Homan said. “Everything we’ve won, I’ll keep memory of.” The Senior Bowl will be televised at 4 p.m. Saturday on the NFL Network.
Ohio State’s junior-forward Mason Jobst (26) steals the puck away from NotreDame’s sophomore forward Mike O’Leary (19) during a Big Ten conference matchup at the Schottenstein Center on November 3, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. OSU lost 1-4. Credit: Alex Hulvalchick | For the LanternThe No. 6 Ohio State men’s hockey team will go on the road for the final time this season against No. 10 Minnesota, aiming to secure the program’s first-ever season sweep of the Gophers. Although that’s significant, it means a bit more for redshirt sophomore defenseman Wyatt Ege.Ege hails from Elk River, Minnesota, which is just outside the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Ege said a win against the Gophers would be huge, not just for the team, but for his family watching the game from the stands.“It’d mean a lot. Not playing for them, playing for a different school. You play for big time Ohio State now,” Ege said. “To go home and get a couple wins in front of my family and some people I know will be awesome.” Ohio State (19-7-4, 12-7-1-0 Big Ten) is coming off a weekend series split against top-ranked Notre Dame, with a narrow 2-1 loss on Feb. 9 and a 5-1 win Saturday. Minnesota (18-13-1, 9-10-1-1 Big Ten) returns home after sweeping Wisconsin on the road by a combined score of 11-3 in a two-game weekend series. With a record of 11-3-1, the Buckeyes have had ample success on the road.Ohio State assistant coach JB Bittner said completing a season sweep in college hockey is always tough, regardless of the opponent.“Even Friday and Saturday is hard, then you throw in the season series of four games, that’s really tough to do,” Bittner said. “We’ll expect that they’ll be at their best this weekend.”The Golden Gophers have a surplus of scoring depth with five players registering at least 20 points each. Junior forward Tyler Sheehy earned the Big Ten First Star of the Week this week, racking up three goals and five points in two games against Wisconsin.The forward depth doesn’t just stop at Sheehy. Minnesota also has one of the most electrifying players in the country in freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt.Mittelstadt was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres. Mittelstadt also helped Ohio State associate head coach Steve Miller and the United States win a bronze medal at the 2018 U-20 World Junior Hockey Championship, during which he earned Most Valuable Player honors.“He’s an elite player, one of the elite players in the country,” Bittner said. “We’ll just be aware when they’re on the ice with him and take away his time and space, don’t let him have freedom to kind of do what he wants.”Traveling to 3M Arena at Mariucci will be a test for the Buckeyes, not just because Minnesota has the top home record in the Big Ten at 12-5-0, but it has a bigger ice sheet than any other venue.Minnesota’s rink is Olympic sized (200-feet long, 100-feet wide) instead of the average ice rink size (200-feet long, 85-feet wide), giving a skilled team like the Gophers a lot of room to make plays. Although the ice size has changed since the teams first met in Columbus, Minnesota is still the same team.“I think their tendencies would be similar, but just the way they do everything will be different. They have a lot more room,” redshirt junior goaltender Sean Romeo said. “They’re a skilled team. They love having that room on the ice. It helps them, but it’s nothing that we’re not ready for.”Romeo earned the Big Ten Second Star of the Week Tuesday for his stellar goaltending against Notre Dame. Romeo gave up just three goals and had a .957 save percentage, along with a career-high 39-save performance in Saturday’s win. Romeo offered a simple mentality on how he will approach the game on the bigger ice sheet with a wide grin on his face.“Just got to stop the puck,” Romeo said.Puck drop for the weekend series is at 9 p.m. Friday on Big Ten Network, then 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.
Jesse Lingard has been one of the key players of José Mourinho’s Manchester United lately but he admitted that he prefers to play for his national team over his club because he can play with no fear there.The 25-year old scored 13 goals for his club this season and he was selected to represent his country in the upcoming World Cup in Russia – and he insisted that he is looking forward to this great experience.The Red Devils winger spoke about his desire to play for Albion as he said, according to Sports Mole:Maguire says United need to build on today’s win George Patchias – September 14, 2019 Harry Maguire wants his United teammates to build on the victory over Leicester City.During the summer, Harry Maguire was referred to as the ultimate…“I actually feel more comfortable when I play for England than United. Every game, you’ve got to play with no fear.”“It’s one of the pinnacles of your career as a player and it will be my first World Cup so I’ve got to enjoy every minute, whether I start or if I’ve got to make an impact from the bench.”“And I do think we will do well because of the team spirit we’ve got.”
Arsenal have welcomed Aaron Ramsey back to training as they prepare for their mouth-watering Premier League encounter against Manchester City, according to Goal.The midfielder is understood to have overcome a calf injury that ruled him out of Arsenal’s final two preseason friendlies against Chelsea and Lazio.The Wales international could play some part in Unai Emery’s first competitive game as manager of Arsenal.There has been constant speculation surrounding Ramsey’s future at the Emirates leading up to Thursday’s England transfer deadline.Merson believes Arsenal should sign Sancho Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho might be the perfect player to play for the Gunners, according to former England international Paul Merson.Ramsey currently has a year left on his Arsenal deal, and reports suggest the player wants around £300,000 a week deal to stay at the club.The 27-year-old was linked with moves to Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona but with the transfer window closed in England the player will remain at the Emirates for the time being.Arsenal are expected to be without the defensive duo of Sead Kolasinac and Laurent Koscielny for the game against City on Sunday.Kolasinac picked up an injury during the club’s International Champions Cup (ICC) friendly against Chelsea while Koscielny continues his recovery for a serious injury he picked up towards the end of last season.
Juventus have reportedly joined the race for the battle of Isco’s signature due to his uncertain Real Madrid futureUnder new coach Santiago Solari, Isco is yet to start in any of the Argentine’s seven games in charge of Real.The last time Isco started a game for Real was in their disastrous 5-1 defeat to Barcelona on October 28, which saw manager Julen Lopetegui lose his job afterwards.In a press conference on Wednesday, Solari defended his stance on Isco by stating that there are no undisputed starters in his team.Mourinho: “Lionel Messi made me a better coach” Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho believes the experience of going up against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi at Real Madrid made him a greater coach.Now Calcio Mercato claims that Juventus have been alerted to the possibility of Isco’s availability and are plotting their move.Manager Massimiliano Allegri is understood to have been an admirer of the Spanish midfielder for quite some time.However, the Old Lady are not the only ones interested in Isco with several other European giants eyeing a move for the 26-year-old.Isco has made 10 appearances in La Liga this season with half of those coming from the bench.