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USC’s Sam Darnold is viewed by many, including a current NFL offensive coordinator, as the premier quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but that opinion is far from unanimous.

Both the Giants and Jets, along with the Cleveland Browns could be in the market for one of the top passers when the Draft gets underway on April 26, but one former scout had a harsh criticism of Darnold.

However, Darnold came unglued in a 24-7 defeat against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl when he finished just 26-of-45 passing for 356 yards and one interception.

Darnold’s struggles in the Cotton Bowl aside, Shonka is not impressed by this current crop of quarterbacks.

Absolutely not, Shonka said. Quantity doesn’t make quality. So tired of hearing this is a great quarterback group, like this is the Class of’83 or something.

Game 3 was another street fight, and Philadelphia didn’t back down.

There were 31 fouls and four technicals called in the first half, an opening 24 minutes where Wade and Justin Anderson got feisty, Winslow stepped on Embiid’s broken-off goggles and the teams took 45 free throws.

Some basketball was played on occasion as well. There were 14 lead changes and nine ties in the half, the Heat taking a 64-63 lead into the break.

Philadelphia landed the first blow, going on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to take a 32-21 lead. Miami got within four to end the opening quarter, and by then the physicality was already amped-up on both ends.

The NFL schedule for the 2018 season was set Thursday night, so you can start circling dates on your calendar. Potential playoff and Super Bowl previews, scintillating quarterback showdowns and reunion games are among the highlights. 

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The tag deadline arrives on Tuesday, in only two days. And only two guys have been tagged since the window opened 12 days ago.

On the first day, the Dolphins applied the franchise tag to receiver Jarvis Landry. More recently, the Lions used the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Here’s a list of the other hot spots as the final 48 hours of the process loom.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose fifth-year option wasn’t picked up by the team a year ago, could be franchise tagged after a strong 2017.

The Panthers reportedly are considering using the franchise tag on kicker Graham Gano.

The Seahawks reportedly won’t be tagging defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

The Rams reportedly are more inclined to tag safety Lemarcus Joyner than receiver Sammy Watkins.

At the outset of the process, we set the over-under for tags at 5.5. At this point, Lawrence is the only sure thing, barring a long-term deal. Bell, Robinson, and Joyner are strong possibilities. Fuller and Gano could happen as well. Eight could be the ceiling, which means that up to six more tags could be coming in the next two days.

Of course, in the effort to by comprehensive, we’ve probably overlooked someone. Feel free to point out the omission in the comments. As if you ever need to be asked.

The market for top guards has skyrocketed, with the Browns setting the bar when they gave Kevin Zeitler a five-year, $60 million deal last offseason. Norwell would figure to be in the same neighborhood, and while Gettleman didn’t speak specifically about him, he was asked whether there was value in paying any guard $12 million a year.

There isn’t a quarterback alive that’s going to get in the huddle and say, &OK, boys, let them up the middle. I’ll deal with it,’ Gettleman said. You need to be firm in the middle. So at the end of the day if it’s keeping your quarterback upright and out of the hospital. . . .

There’s a bunch of guards now that are getting paid. And if you think about it, they’re closer to the quarterback. Listen, it’s the market. Is that car worth $150,000? If someone buys it, I guess it’s worth it, you know what I mean?

While short of a declaration, that’s a pretty good omen for Norwell, who Gettleman signed as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

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NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has a simple solution to the problem of teams asking players inappropriate questions at the Scouting Combine: Keep the teams that do it from participating.

Smith said on PFT Live that he thinks the team that asked running back Derrius Guice if he likes men should not be permitted to participate in the Scouting Combine going forward.

The Giants reportedly held a private workout for UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen at his campus on Tuesday, taking advantage of a 2-for-1 opportunity while across the country for USC’s Pro Day .

Denver Broncos eneral manager John Elway won’t be forced to select a quarterback with the fifth overall pick after the signing of Case Keenum in free agency and with Paxton Lynch, a 2016 first-round pick, still on the roster. However, the opportunity to select the most physically gifted quarterback prospect, whom the team already knows after coaching him at the Senior Bowl, will be too tempting.

Elway may see a little of himself in Josh Allen. He’s big, athletic, strong-armed and in need of long-term development. Allen won’t be thrust into the starting lineup, though. The Broncos coaching staff can slow-play his progression.

With the proper development, Allen could be the best quarterback in this class. But it will take time. Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen acknowledged his former protege is an unfinished product.

Watkins responded by writing you never know brother this business is crazy and Mixon followed up to say that the city is waiting on you.

Watkins had 39 catches for 593 yards and eight touchdowns after joining the Rams in an August trade with the Bills. They’re reportedly interested in re-signing him, but could get some competition from Cincinnati if the Bengals share their running back’s desire to see Watkins in orange and black next season.

On the heels of a disappointing 2017 season, Bryant plans to train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson next month, NFL Network’s Jane Slater recently reported.

The regimen is the wideout’s equivalent to the offseason tweaks and tune-ups that quarterbacks undergo with noted passing gurus such as Tom House, Adam Dedeaux, George Whitfield and Jordan Palmer. Among the players benefitting from Robinson’s tutelage to date: Antonio Brown , Emmanuel Sanders , Jordan Reed and Cowboys teammate Brice Butler .

Asked for details on the upcoming workouts, Robinson told Slater that he would concentrate on expansion of Bryant’s route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage and improving footwork technique to compensate for natural loss of speed due to the aging process.

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Bills receiver Jordan Matthews is confident some team will see him as a No. 1 receiver.

He hits free agency coming off a season when he made only 25 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown. Matthews points to his injuries as a reason for the decline in production, which limited him to 10 games, including seven starts.

Thomas reportedly has auditioned for TV jobs with both ESPN and FOX. Silent for most of his career, Thomas has begun making his voice heard over the past year or so, presenting a funny and engaging side that will serve him well if he indeed chooses to move on from football.

If he calls it quits after 11 seasons, Thomas will have never made it to the playoffs, and he will have been on only one team with a winning record during his rookie year, the Browns were 10-6.

Early on Wednesday, an ESPN report indicated that the Eagles had restructured defensive end Chris Long’s contract,?giving him more guaranteed salary for the 2018 season.

As it turns out, that was not entirely accurate.

In fact, Long might not return to the Eagles at all.

White was a first-round pick in 2015, but a pair of fractured legs and a broken shoulder blade have limited him to just five appearances and 21 catches at the professional level. That makes it all but impossible for the team to count on him in 2018, but White is still working on a way to finally do some good for the Bears offense.

White has been working out with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in California over the last week and Trubisky gave an optimistic update on his teammate.

Kevin is working really hard to get back, and I’ve got a lot of faith in what he’s going to be able to bring to the table this year, Trubisky said on WSCR, via the Chicago Tribune. He’s looking good while we’re throwing together out here. And we’ve just got to continue to put in that work, and I know he’s busting his tail to really do big things this year.

There’s nothing White can do at this point to stop the Bears from addressing a receiving corps that would need help even if he were a surer thing for the coming season. Finding a way to stay on the field and add some positives to the offense would do wonders for extending a career that’s short on chances to get on track.

Could a freshmen QB start for Rutgers?

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For the third time in five years, an incoming rookie has disclosed that he was asked a question about his sexuality at the Scouting Combine. For the third time in five years, the NFL has publicly denounced that practice.

I spoke to Dan Quinn and I actually spoke to the coach who was involved in this matter, Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March 2016. I think the Falcons, as an organization, and Dan Quinn as a head coach, and the coach who was involved, have all taken ownership of this issue, recognized the mistake that was made, have been very forthcoming and have taken the appropriate steps to educate everyone. The coach [Marquand Manuel] and I spent probably 20 minutes on the phone talking about his learning experiences, how he can use this for a positive step and I was impressed with the way he was handling it. The team has taken on training programs within the organization which I think are all very satisfactory. So I don’t see any further steps at the league level at this point.

While that may have kept the Falcons from repeating the infraction, it’s not keeping other teams from doing the same thing. That’s likely because the consequences aren’t sufficient to deter teams from asking improper questions.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith believes teams that ask questions like this should be banned from the next Scouting Combine. While it’s an extreme example of discipline, it would be a lot more effective at deterring this type of thing than a seminar and a talking-to from the Commissioner.

Clearly, that outcome isn’t keeping other teams from asking questions that no employer should be posing to any employee.

There’s one way for that to be avoided. The Saints can sign Brees to a new contract before he has a chance to hear from other teams. Given that it’s taken this long, Brees should wait to see what a team like the Vikings or Broncos would put on the table.

If either team is thinking about offering top-of-market value to Kirk Cousins, they should at least consider a similar package for a more accomplished player like Brees, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who has missed only one game due to injury during only 12 seasons with the Saints.

If the Saints want to get a 13th season out of Brees, they may need to close the gap between whatever they’re willing to pay and whatever Brees can get elsewhere.

Bridgewater wants to show people he still has it, and that he can still be the player he once was. (He made the Pro Bowl in 2015, his second NFL season.)

I’m very eager [to get back on the field full-time], he said. But at the same time, August and September are a long way from now. It isn’t about proving to the people who counted you out or doubted you. It’s about proving to the people who believed in you.

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Eric Reid is following in former teammate Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps in more ways than one.

The former 49ers safety, one of the first NFL athletes to take a knee beside Kaepernick during the national anthem, vented his frustrations Thursday given the lack of offers he has received during the free-agency period.

The Giants also signed cornerback Teddy Williams to a one-year contract. Williams, 29, is a seven-year NFL veteran who spent the past two seasons with the Panthers, meaning general manager Dave Gettleman is bringing in another of his former Carolina players. Known for his speed, Williams figures to get on the field as a special teams contributor, if he makes the team. In 36 NFL games, Williams has no starts and did not play at all in 2017 because of a shoulder injury, as he was hurt in the preseason and waived by the Panthers.

The Giants see Martin as a versatile player and they need him to take some of the burden off Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, who played more defensive snaps in 2017 than any other defensive-end tandem in the NFL. Not surprisingly, they wore down late in the season.

Stewart is receiving backup money from the Giants and could serve as a mentor to Barkley. Hyde is getting starters’ money, as is Jerick McKinnon, who agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal with the 49ers. McKinnon was with the Viking when Pat Shurmur was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. As the Giants head coach, Shurmur knows what McKinnon can do, but his new team did not make a run for the running back, knowing he would cost too much.

The Giants’ starting running back spot remains open, a spot Barkley could fill, if the Browns pass on him now that they have Hyde.

Cooper started a career-high 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, playing between Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick. He helped solidify the line after the Cowboys lost Ronald Leary to free agency last year to the Denver Broncos.

Cooper, 28, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee during the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and had postseason surgery. The belief is he will be able to return to the field for organized team activities and the June minicamp.

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Long before he does anything with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman has a pile of work to do.

And one of the first orders of business will be fixing his offensive line, and one of his former players might be the answer. And while it’s going to be expensive if he wants to bring in Panthers All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell, Gettleman wasn’t exactly balking at the potential price tag.

The Giants have Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg headed to free agency as well, but they need major upgrades on the line if they want to give Eli Manning a chance this season.

Now, New England must find a replacement to protect a soon-to-be 41-year-old quarterback’s blind side without getting him killed.

At 6’8 and 309 pounds, Mike McGlinchey is one of the few line prospects who physically fills the void Solder left. The two-time Fighting Irish team captain started 39 straight games, and he’s the best of a bad group. His value normally would skyrocket as a result, but concerns linger about his overall athleticism.

McGlinchey isn’t as fluid or nimble as Solder, but he’s a technically proficient run- and pass-blocker with enough length to address the Patriots’ biggest problem area.

The Steelers tried to impose a February 20 artificial deadline on running back Le’Veon Bell to get a long-term deal done, and it didn’t happen. There’s a chance, maybe slim, they’ll get something done before having to make the tag/no tag decision on Tuesday. If not, the Steelers will have to choose between $14.5 million for Bell in 2018 or letting the market set his long-term value.

Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson could be tagged, either franchise or transition, if the Jags can’t get a deal done in the next two days. With Blake Bortles signing a reasonable deal, the Jaguars have more flexibility to keep Robinson around.

Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will be franchise tagged if he doesn’t agree to a long-term deal by Tuesday.

Washington has made it clear that it won’t tag quarterback Kirk Cousins for a third straight year, proving that even dysfunction has its limits.

With Giants G.M. Dave Gettleman dropping strong hints that a big deal will be coming for Panthers guard Andrew Norwell, Justin Pugh likely won’t be getting tagged.

The Vikings reportedly won’t use the franchise tag on quarterback Case Keenum; they probably also won’t use the transition tag, either.

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If the Giants sell and this season is as bad as last, then moving Bumgarner starts to make a lot more sense. His team-friendly contract is not only light on dollars but also includes a club option for next season. That’s San Francisco’s best option for a system-replenishing transaction.

Richardson will hold some appeal as a speed threat who is still young, and teams can talk themselves into the notion that he didn’t reach his potential in a Seattle offense in which protection issues prevented receivers from getting deep. Look for him to sign something similar to the five-year, $34 million contract Robert Woods got from the Rams last year — and for the signing team to hope it gets anything like the deal L.A. got on Woods. — Graziano

Or maybe Rhys Hoskins is Matt Olson East, and people just don’t know it yet.

In mid-September, the A’s traveled to Philadelphia for a three-game interleague series. At one point, Hoskins reached first base and exchanged salutations with Olson, and the two young sluggers shared some thoughts on their late-season power binges.

It really kind of made me sick to my stomach, Royals manager Ned Yost said.

The 24-year-old Bonifacio made his major league debut last season, hitting .255 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs in 113 games.

He is an incredible person who just made a mistake, general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. Jorge will have our full support as he deals with the consequences of this violation.

Kansas City was reshuffling its outfield this spring after Lorenzo Cain left as a free agent, and Bonifacio was competing for playing time in the field and at designated hitter.

The Royals recently signed free-agent outfielder Jon Jay. Paulo Orlando and several others are also trying to earn time.

Bonifacio’s suspension cleared a roster spot for third baseman Mike Moustakas, who re-signed with the Royals this week after becoming a free agent last fall.

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Back in Seattle Mariners colors for the first time in more than five years, Ichiro Suzuki cherished the moment during his spring training debut Sunday.

It was a special moment for me to wear the Mariners uniform again and be out on the field, Ichiro said through interpreter Allen Turner, according to the Seattle Times. It was very special for me today.

Boras, who attended the news conference, was not so happy with the contract.

Across the board, Moose dotted all the I’s and T’s of what excellence is in his performance, Boras said. When you have a system that delays recognition of that and demand for that, you know and you have inherent notice that the flag’s been raised. We’ve got to adjust that.

Right-handed starter Ian Kennedy, another Boras client, welcomed Moustakas back into the clubhouse.

I know he was expecting a big, long contract, Kennedy said. I’m excited that we get to have him back for another year. It happened to work out that we have him for another year.

The Hawks say that an MRI on Monday revealed the injury.

Backup Jaylen Morris, also injured in the second quarter of Sunday’s game, will miss about two to four weeks with a sprained left ankle.

Guard Dennis Schroder, the team’s top scorer who missed Sunday’s game with a left elbow injury, is listed as probable for Tuesday night’s game against Oklahoma City.

The Hawks, tied with Orlando for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, have lost three straight games.

Washington has lost five of its past seven games.

Timberwolves: Thibodeau on Butler’s recovery from surgery: He’s not jumping, but he’s … running. He’s moving along pretty well. … Split the season series 1-1, avoiding getting swept by the Wizards for the first time since 2008-09. … Ended a seven-game losing streak in road games against Eastern Conference opponents and improved to 3-10 in such games this season.

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Not only just getting bigger and stronger but just my movement, my body, the way my body moves and all those things. That’s going to be big for me also because of how long I am, the 7-foot-3 Porzingis said. So I think I don’t know how many months I have, [but] I’m going to use it as efficiently as I can to come back as a better player and also work on my mind … and come back sharp.

The injury is a brutal development for a Knicks team that is hoping to build a young core around Porzingis, who was named to the All-Star team for the first time this season.

Simmonds took a cross-ice pass from Jakub Voracek and shot high over Fleury’s right shoulder.

Haula opened the scoring with 13:43 left in the first when his shot from a sharp angle to the right of the net went off Mrazek’s stick and in.

Grioux tied it 1:27 into the second period when his wrist shot from the slot beat Fleury on the glove side. It extended the captain’s point streak to seven games (three goals, five assists) while increasing his season total to 82 points.

Let’s call it organized noise — not to be confused with Organized Noize, though I’m happy to shout out to Outkast and Goodie Mob. Organized noise is still chaotic, but if we can find even some loose patterns to help guide us, it can put us in a good position to thrive. One thing I like to do, and I’ve alluded to it in this space in recent weeks, is to look at team motivation along with the performance level of the sides in order to try and estimate whether a particular game shapes up for good fantasy value.

The message we want to send this week: No matter its record, every team — from No. 1 Nashville to No. 31 Ottawa — is good at something. So in these rankings, we look at what each team (or a specific player) does best statistically.

Our writers tackle some pressing questions for the stretch run. Could the Kings or Stars make a Predators-esque wild-card run to the Cup final? Will the Penguins or Flyers finish higher in the standings? And where will Carter Hutton play next season?

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