There are nuggets under every rock as we absorb information on the NFL Draft that begins tonight. For example, Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols is the eighth-ranked running back in NFL.com’s Draft Tracker, but he’s fourth in Speed Score from Football Outsiders. So what is that? SB Nation explains: “Speed Score is Football Outsiders’ metric for evaluating running back prospects. It’s built on the simple idea that smaller backs tend to run faster than larger backs, so we should be more impressed by a 4.5-second 40-yard dash from a 220-pound back than the same clock reading from a 170-pound back.” McNichols ran a 4.49 in the 40 at the NFL Combine and, at 214 pounds, that (plus other timed drills in Indianapolis) gives him a 105.3 Speed Score, behind only Leonard Fournette, Joe Williams and T.J. Logan.
They say “it’s a take on Newton’s Second Law, which states ‘the net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the acceleration of the object.’” Okay. Per Football Outsiders, the average running back who makes it to the NFL will have a Speed Score around 100, with most running back prospects falling between 85 and 110. Based on that, McNichols is in a good spot. Will he be the first of the Mountain West’s feature running backs to go in the draft? San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey and Wyoming’s Brian Hill were the MW’s two first-team all-conference picks. McNichols was second-team. Hill was ranked eighth in Speed Score at the Combine and Pumphrey 24th. Pumphrey clocked a 4.48 in the 40 but received a Speed Score of only 87.4—presumably because he weighs only 176 pounds.
Idaho’s Austin Rehkow has a portfolio that—when compared to his peers in the NFL Draft pool—would seem to equate to a high-round selection this week. He was a semifinalist for both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy Awards last season. But “Groza” means placekicker and “Guy” means punter, and kickers are often afterthoughts in the draft. Rehkow is seen as an NFL punter; he’s the Vandals’ king in that department with a 45.9-yard career average. But here are some numbers for teams that also need a placekicking safety valve: 70 career field goals, 135 extra points and 345 total points. And at 6-3, 214 pounds, Rehkow will not wilt under a heavy rush.
It’s a dark day in Bristol, as the magntide of yesterday’s ESPN layoffs sinks in. The Worldwide Leader is 100 employees lighter after massive cuts that included a slew of familiar names. The one I hate to see go is Brett McMurphy, a frequent guest on KTIK and a great source of college football news, especially as it pertains to Boise State and the Group of 5. I keep wondering about the other shoe dropping here—and if it becomes an elephant in the room. At what point does ESPN’s decreasing revenue affect its ability to bid on live sports rights? And at what point does that affect the bottom line in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball? And then—at what point do the bloated salaries of pro athletes take a big hit?
A little monkey wrench has been thrown into Nevada’s quarterback battle in the run-up to the Wolf Pack’s spring game Saturday. Ty Gangi, a part-time starter last year, and Alabama transfer David Cornwell have been competing, but they’ll have company in fall camp in the form of Griffin Dahn, a junior college transfer from American River in Sacramento. It looks like the plan is for Dahn, a 6-5, 228-pounder, to jump right into the mix. He completed only 48 percent of his throws last season for 2,434 yards with 23 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. But he also rushed for 511 yards and 10 TDs.
Is UNLV serving notice to the rest of the Mountain West that it is back? At least on the recruiting trail, it is. Brandon McCoy, ESPN.com’s No. 15 high school prospect in the nation, has committed to the Rebels. It’s tough for mid-majors to land skilled post players, right? McCoy, a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American out of Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego, is a 6-11 center. McCoy chose UNLV over Oregon, Michigan State, Arizona and San Diego State. It’s a coup for Rebels coach Marvin Menzies, who said McCoy’s commitment immediately led to two others: from the nation’s top-ranked junior college prospect, Shakur Juiston of national JC champion Hutchison Community College in Kansas, and Amauri Hardy, a four-star high school recruit from Michigan.
Both Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt return to the scene of one of their better career performances as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans tees off this morning. It was five years ago this week that DeLaet recorded his third career top 5 finish in the Big Easy, steering him toward his first million-dollar season on the PGA Tour. The former Boise State star hasn’t played the Zurich since 2014. Merritt is also in the field this week—he finished third in New Orleans in 2010, by far the best result of his rookie year. Merritt is trying to build momentum after making the cut in three of his last four events.
There’s one former Idaho Steelhead active in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals. Beagle, who went scoreless in the six-game first-round series against Toronto, is prepping for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. Beagle is in his ninth NHL season, all with the Capitals. In 81 regular season games, the 31-year-old center scored 13 goals with 17 assists and had a plus-minus of plus-20. Beagle played for the Steelheads at the tail end of the 2006-07 season after completing his college career at Alaska-Anchorage and put up two goals with eight assists.
This Day In Sports…April 27, 1983:
Nolan Ryan surpasses Walter Johnson’s 56-year-old career strikeout record, fanning five in Houston’s 4-2 win over Montreal for a total of 3,509. At the age of 36, Ryan was in his 16th full season in the majors and, incredibly, still had 10 years to go. He had previously pitched for the New York Mets and California Angels, and he’d remain with the Astros through 1989 before finishing his career with the Texas Rangers. Ryan’s all-time strikeout record would end up at 5,714.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)