I can’t believe it’s the second day of the draft, and Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is still available. This after Georgia set a record for having five of its defensive players drafted in the first round last night, including another linebacker in Quay Walker.
To be clear, I don’t blame any team that drafted the other Georgia players because they’re all studs. Nor do I look at any of the picks made last night and scratch my head too hard (though Cole Strange was, well, strange). I also understand why teams might be hesitant to draft Dean.
First of all, linebackers are quickly becoming the running backs of the defense. Their value has slipped, and they’re seen as easier to replace than other positions. I also understand that teams might be hesitant because of Dean’s size of him. He’s not the tallest, nor does he have freaky wingspan. But he’s the best linebacker I saw play football in college last season and he is one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen. Some team is going to draft him tonight, and we’re all going to look back in 10 years wondering what the hell everybody else was thinking.
Now let’s get to the only picks this weekend that truly matter.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
The Hot Ticket
Grizzlies at Timberwolves, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN
- KeyTrend: Memphis has covered six of the last eight in Minnesota.
- The Pick: Grizzlies -1.5 (-110)
I do not trust this Minnesota team when it matters. They stole Game 1 and then lost Game 2 by 28 points as Karl-Anthony Towns disappeared. Or, at least, you thought he disappeared, but then he showed you in Game 3 that he could disappear even further, taking four shots and finishing with eight points and five fouls. I was about to write him off forever before he showed up in Game 4 and went off for 33 points and 14 rebounds, but the Wolves only managed a one-point win at home even with KAT’s monster performance.
In Game 5, KAT played well again, but the Wolves blew another fourth-quarter lead and lost a game they should’ve won by two. It’s a team that doesn’t know how to finish, and while the Grizzlies are in a similar position, they’re also better defensively, making them easier to trust in big spots. Part of the reason they were able to come back in Game 5 was due to their defense locking the Wolves up and forcing them to have anybody not named KAT or Ant beat them, and D’Angelo Russell was happy to play along.
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Now the Wolves are facing elimination, and I’ve seen this team fall apart too often to think betting on them to gather themselves and play well is the most likely outcome. Sure, they might start hot, but we’ve seen that plenty of times before, and then the fourth quarter comes around, and things change drastically. Seriously, while the Timberwolves outscored Memphis 33-25 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Grizzlies have outscored Minnesota 133-81 in the fourth quarter of the last four games. That’s an average differential of 13 points per game!
Memphis finishes off the team that can’t finish tonight.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model has a slight lean toward Minnesota on the spread, but it loves one side of the total.
Astros at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Under 8.5 (-105) — It’s always a thrill to take an under in a game involving two of the sport’s best offenses, right? Well, it turns out that these aren’t two of the best offenses in baseball. At least not at the moment. While they were expected to be, the Blue Jays and Astros entered the evening ranked 14th and 18th in wRC+ respectively, and 12th and 21st in wOBA. When it comes to scoring runs, Toronto ranks 16th in run rate while Houston is 23rd. These guys are scuffling!
There’s too much talent on both offenses to expect it to last all season, but I like our chances of tonight’s game not getting out of hand. Jose Urquidy starts for Houston, and while he doesn’t strike many hitters out, he doesn’t allow much hard contact and seldom walks hitters. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi walks too many hitters for my liking, but like Urquidy, he doesn’t allow a lot of hard contact, and what he does allow is mostly kept on the ground. That’s important in Toronto, a homer-friendly park to the extreme but more pitcher-friendly in other departments.
KeyTrend: The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid, Saturday, 3 pm | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Atletico Madrid (+155) — I’m trying to use splits to my advantage here. You see, Athletic Bilbao has been much better at home this season, with an xG (expected goals) differential of +14.2 there compared to -4.0 on the road. Atlético Madrid has been a lot better at home too, posting an xG differential of 14.2 there and only +2.8 on the road. But an xG differential of +2.8 on the road isn’t bad! It’s the third-best in Spain behind only Real Madrid and Barcelona. But those home/road splits have led to what I believe to be a bit too much value on Atlético here.
In recent years, Bilbao has had success against Atlético, only losing one of the last four meetings, but Bilbao has been much better this year against La Liga’s weaker teams. They’ve struggled against the better teams, and in the first meeting (a scoreless draw), Atlético had 14 shots to Bilbao’s six. Also, Joāo Felix came on as a late substitute in that match and played only 18 minutes before picking up a red card (an Atlético player getting red-carded!?). I expect he’ll play a lot more Saturday, and he’ll be the difference.
A.C. Milan vs. Florence, Sunday, 9 a.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
A.C. Milan -155
The Pick: AC Milan (-155) — Fiorentina has fallen off a cliff. A few weeks ago, this was one of the most pleasant surprises in Serie A. The Violets got off to a great start to the season, hanging around the top six until January, when they sold their best player, Dusan Vlahovic, to Juventus. Anybody with a semi-functioning brain expected to see a drop-off in performance because clubs don’t typically sell their best player in the middle of a season and improve. Well, Fiorentina didn’t improve, but it held its ground. It was in a great position to finish in the Europa League spots for the first time since 2016. Then the last three matches happened.
Fiorentina lost to Juventus in the Coppa Italia, which stinks for the club, but isn’t a big deal. The disaster is losses to Salernitana and Udinese since that have severely impacted Fiorentina’s chances of surpassing Roma or Lazio. Particularly with such a rough stretch to finish the year, starting against a Milan team that can put a vice grip on its first Serie A title since 2011. We’ve seen Inter and Napoli choke away chances in recent weeks, and maybe Milan follows suit , but I see a Milan side that’s been rock solid defensively at home against a Fiorentina team that’s been much better at home all year. The Serie A title race gets a lot less interesting come Sunday afternoon.
Tottenham vs. Leicester City, Sunday, 9 a.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-160) — Tottenham has certainly been one of the more frustrating teams to figure out because while Antonio Conte has improved the team in many areas, he can only do so much. Given a summer to shape the roster to fit his needs, this team should be fine next season. If anything, the current iteration of Tottenham has shown us how a system can completely fall apart with one cog missing. Wingbacks are crucial to what Conte does, and Emerson Royal just does not fit the bill, as shown in Tottenham’s results. That said, this strikes me as a matchup ripe for goals.
Royal has been ineffective going forward, which has led to inconsistency in Tottenham’s attack. Even when they scored four against Villa, they did so with an xG of only 1.0. Defensively they’ve been solid, and they’ll be facing a Leicester team that’s tired. It’ll be the fifth match the Foxes have played in 15 days when this match kicks off. Tottenham played four matches in all of April. I wouldn’t be shocked if Tottenham gets us over the total by itself, but I’m going to hedge slightly in case Leicester finds a way to break through on a set piece.
SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model cannot believe the price it is getting on one side of tonight’s baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins.
NFL Draft Props
We did pretty well on these last night, and I’ve got a few more I like with how things have shaken out since.
- Logan Hall Over Pick 33.5 (+125)
- Sam Howell Under Pick 60.5 (-115)
- John Metchie Under Pick 56.5 (-105)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism