What to watch for in the NFL draft


What to watch for in the NFL draft

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL draft begins Thursday night with the first round, continues Friday night with the second and third rounds, and runs through Saturday, when the final four rounds will be held at Radio City Music Hall. The Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams both went 2-14 last season and had the top two picks, but the Rams traded the second spot to Washington.Some things to look for in this year's draft:------AT THE TOPThe first two picks will be quarterbacks: Andrew Luck of Stanford, who will go to the Colts, followed by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor, who is headed to the Redskins.Luck is considered the most NFL-ready quarterback since Peyton Manning left Tennessee in 1998 for the Colts. Oddly, he will wind up as Manning's replacement in Indy after the four-time MVP was released by the Colts and signed with Denver. Rarely do college quarterbacks call their own plays or have total freedom behind center. Luck did.RGIII is more of a running threat than Luck and has a stronger arm. He did not play in a prostyle offense the way Luck did in college, but Griffin's skill set and intelligence make him just as attractive as Luck.------A CRIMSON FIRST ROUNDFrom national champions to first-round draft picks.Five members of the Alabama Crimson Tide could have their names called Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, four from the outstanding defense.Safety Mark Barron and linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and running back Trent Richardson all are highly touted. Richardson is expected to go in the first six picks."We want to help them develop as a football player, which means have a great career here, win a championship and see if you can play at the next level," Tide coach Nick Saban said.Alabama has eight players likely to be drafted. The others are nose tackle Josh Chapman, cornerback DeQuan Menzie and wide receiverkick returner Marquis Maze.Roll Tide.------TOP JUNIORSThe first round will be packed with players who had eligibility remaining, including top choices Luck and Griffin. Richardson, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, all projected to go in top 10, are underclassmen.A total of 65 underclassmen, the most ever, applied for the draft. Not all of them will get picked, but some will earn big bucks. Look for other non-seniors to go in the first round, such as Alabama's Hightower and Kirkpatrick, linebackers Luke Kuechly of Boston College and Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, defensive linemen Nick Perry of Southern California and Michael Brockers of LSU, and guard David DeCastro of Stanford.------STRONGEST POSITIONQuarterbacks, running backs, receivers and defensive ends who pile up sacks are the glamour positions. They are not always the deepest positions in the draft.This year, only three quarterbacks are expected to go in the opening round: Luck, Griffin and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M. The strength in this grab bag of a draft is at cornerback and on the defensive line.It's possible that four cornerbacks will come off the board in the first 32 picks, beginning with Claiborne. Others to watch for at that position are Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina, Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jackson of North Alabama. Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron is another defensive back almost certain to go early.Defensive lineman likely destined to disappear in the first round are Perry, Brockers, Cox, Quinton Coples of North Carolina, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, Kendell Reyes of Connecticut, Jerel Worthy of Michigan State, Devon Still of Penn State, and Upshaw, who can play linebacker or end.------SLEEPERSFive players who could sneak into the first round:Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis -- At 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, he can clog the middle by himself, but he is incredibly streaky. His workouts showed more talent than his game tapes.Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor -- Experienced receiver with lots of speed and the moves to be a factor from the slot. Excels after the catch.Cordy Glenn, OT-G, Georgia -- Started as a freshman in the SEC, which is impressive. Versatile and durable, outstanding in the run game.Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State -- A 28-year-old who played minor league baseball before college football. Brings maturity, accuracy and NFL-caliber arm strength and size.Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State -- Has the size to play inside or outside, and he never backs down. Could also be a factor on special teams.

How Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw to move on to World Series

How Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw to move on to World Series

Two quick runs off the best pitcher on the planet on Saturday night afforded the Cubs exactly what they needed to snap a 71-year-old drought.

Already confident after consecutive offensive outbursts in the previous two games, a two-run first inning against Clayton Kershaw had Cubs hitters in a positive frame of mind.

They rode the surprising rally and a dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The win earned the Cubs their first NL pennant since 1945 and on Tuesday night they’ll seek their first World Series title since 1908 when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

“It’s huge for the confidence, the positive momentum from LA, to carry over back home,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “Those were the biggest moments in the game early on to help everybody keep pushing and that we got this thing -- that we’re in charge of the game early. “That’s a huge momentum builder.”

The Cubs did a little bit of everything in the first inning against Kershaw, who dominated them for seven scoreless frames in a 1-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. Some hitters took a more aggressive approach against the three-time NL Cy Young winner while others remained patient. The one constant throughout the 30-pitch frame was that Cubs hitters took advantage whenever Kershaw made a mistake.

Dexter Fowler started with an opposite-field double on a 1-1 slider and Wrigley was rocking when Kris Byrant singled him in to make it 1-0. Andrew Tolles’ error on Anthony Rizzo’s gapper to left center put runners on second and third. Zobrist took advantage and put the Cubs ahead by two with a sac fly to center.

“I think the boys were just ready to go,” Fowler said.

The confidence gained from 18 runs scored in the fourth and fifth games of the series was evident before the Cubs ever took the field. Players looked loose during pregame warmups, whether it was Albert Almora Jr. and several teammates banging air drums to Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ or Javy Baez pumping his fist to a loud beat mere seconds before the Cubs took the field.

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The confidence carried over as the two runs represented the first time all season that Kershaw had allowed a pair to score in the first inning.

“They jumped on it,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “They were all over his fastball and they spit on his breaking ball.

“We felt good coming into the game knowing that we were facing the best pitcher on the planet. But we felt good about ourselves because we got the lead.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts thought the key was that the Cubs took advantage of Kershaw’s mistakes as opposed to his previous start when he allowed two hits. Addison Russell kept the pressure on Kershaw when he ripped a hanging slider for a leadoff double in the second inning and he later scored on Fowler’s two-out single to left.

Rookie catcher Willson Contreras crushed a hanging slider for a solo homer in the fourth inning to make it a 4-0 lead.

“They had a great game plan tonight,” Roberts said. “And there was a couple mistake sliders that they took advantage of. But they were running counts, they used the whole field, and there was traffic all night for Clayton. And he gave it everything he had, but when they did -- when he did make a mistake, they made him pay.”

Rizzo gave the Cubs an even bigger lead when he hammered a 1-1 fastball from Kershaw in the fifth inning for a solo homer and a 5-0 lead. Combined with the dominance of Hendricks, the cushion made any talk about curses or billy goats or five outs seem downright silly.

“It felt really good, amazing,” Rizzo said. “We were on the board and I tell our pitchers all the time, ‘If you don’t let ‘em score, it’s impossible (for them) to win.’ ”

Penn State returns blocked field goal for TD to pull stunning upset of Buckeyes


Penn State returns blocked field goal for TD to pull stunning upset of Buckeyes

Ohio State is undefeated no more.

Thanks to a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in the game's final five minutes, Penn State pulled off a stunning upset of the previously undefeated Buckeyes, 24-21, on Saturday night in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions trailed 21-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, getting three huge plays en route to a touchdown before kicking a field goal to bring them within four points. The Buckeyes went down the field and lined up for a field goal that would've put them up by a touchdown, but the kick was blocked, Grant Haley picking the ball up and returning it 60 yards for a crazy go-ahead score.

Here's the play:

Ohio State got the ball back with four and a half minutes remaining but couldn't get out of its own territory, J.T. Barrett sacked on third and fourth down to turn the ball over to Penn State and seal the game.

The game started with a sloppy first half, the Buckeyes scoring first with a field goal off a punt fumbled by the Lions. An 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive capped a 26-yard pass from Barrett to Marcus Baugh made it a 9-0 game (thanks to a missed extra point), and after Ohio State added a field goal, Penn State stitched together a 74-yard drive finished off with a 20-yard pass from Trace McSorley to Chris Godwin for a touchdown, making the game 12-7 at halftime.

A monstrous 74-yard touchdown run by Curtis Samuel was immediately followed by an Ohio State safety, making the Buckeyes appear in complete control at 21-7.

But then came that fourth quarter, Penn State scoring on a drive that featured plays of 16, 37 and 35 yards. The capper was a two-yard rush by McSorley, and the Lions were within a touchdown. Then came that field goal and the ensuing blocked kick return for a score that served as the game-winner.

The score was hardly indicative of how productive the two teams were. Ohio State had a massive 413-276 advantage in total yardage, holding onto the ball for nearly 15 more minutes. The Buckeyes were 10-for-24 on third and fourth down, while the Lions were just 2-for-14. And while Barrett completed 28 passes, McSorley completed just eight. Barrett finished with 245 passing yards and a touchdown, while McSorley had 154 yards and a touchdown plus 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground.

Saquon Barkley had 99 rushing yards for Penn State, while Samuel and Mike Weber each had 71 rushing yards for Ohio State.

Saturday night's result dramatically shook up the Big Ten, removing Ohio State from the list of the conference's undefeated teams. The Buckeyes, at 6-1, can of course still win a slew of championships, but the margin for error has practically evaporated if they're going to reach the College Football Playoff.

The win sent Penn State to 5-2, and the Lions sit in second place in the Big Ten East Division standings behind only undefeated Michigan.

The Lions next take on Purdue, and the Buckeyes next take on Northwestern.