The final edition of “This Week in Sports” for the semester is here and ready to fill your mind with sporting news. The NFL draft is less than a week away and it is one of the most underwhelming drafts in recent history for the Chicago Bears. For the rest of the league, it’s wide open and exciting. The Cubs and Sox have turned it around and are showing signs of shaking off the spring rust. The Blackhawks season looks all but over after getting two out of a possible four points against Nashville. The Bulls have been pushed out of the tenth and final slot to qualify for the play-in round of the NBA bubble tournament and are struggling to stay consistent.
Draft Talk: Bears’ pick looks grim; rest of the draft is unpredictable.
Round one of the 2021 NFL draft is set to take place on April 29, and the Bears hold the twentieth pick. While not much can be done picking twentieth overall, there are still faint rumors that General Manager Ryan Pace is going to make a blockbuster trade to move up into a top five position. In the likelihood that Pace keeps the twentieth pick, there is very little for Bears fans to be excited about.
Some of the potential prospects available at twentieth overall would be quarterback Mac Jones out of the University of Alabama, although he could very well be taken within the top fifteen. Rondale Moore, a wide receiver out of Purdue University is who the Bears will most likely pick at twentieth overall instead of a quarterback. After Pace has missed on several draft picks like Adam Shaheen, Kevin White, and most notably Mitch Trubisky, there is very little faith in Bears fans that Pace will impress in this year’s draft.
Despite the Bears having low expectations in this draft, the rest of the league is up for grabs when it comes to quarterbacks and who is going to land where. Trevor Lawrence has been the only player to be guaranteed to go first overall to Jacksonville.
With the Jets parting ways with Sam Darnold over the offseason, quarterback Justin Fields from Ohio State University has been placed anywhere from second overall to fifth overall. That leaves the next biggest quarterback in the draft, Trey Lance, out of North Dakota State University, who could end up going as high as eighth overall. The Bears have been rumored to go after Lance if they were to make a move to move up in the draft. This has been one of the more unpredictable drafts when it comes to quarterbacks in the first couple years, but outside of Lawrence and Fields, it’s relatively thin at the quarterback position.
White Hot: Yermin Mercedes continues to impress; White Sox turn record around.
Just over ten percent of the season has been played and Yermin Mercedes has not cooled off a bit. Leading the entire MLB with a batting average well over .410, the 28-year-old rookie has proven every time he is at the plate that he is a threat. Not only can he hit home runs, but he has also shown incredible patience forcing walks and has shown the ability to just get the ball in play when needed.
While being in and out of the lineup recently, Mercedes continues to stay hot when he plays. He has 27 hits in the first 24 games played. This includes the game on April 23, against the Rangers where he had four hits and three RBIs. Mercedes’ success has helped the White Sox replace the offensive presence of Eloy Jiménez, who was injured in spring training and was ruled out for six to eight months.
The White Sox have also found themselves only a game and a half out of first place in the AL Central. After starting the season 1-3 and failing to get over .500 for the first eighteen games of the season, the White Sox have cleaned up their defense and the bullpen is starting to come around. Tim Anderson has looked like the 2019 league MVP like he was since he has come back from injury. Adam Eaton remains clutch for the White Sox with extra base hits. Nick Madrigal has made contact with every baseball he’s seen except for seven of them. Luis Robert has been stealing base after base for the White Sox and is providing quality at-bats. The White Sox next upcoming series are against divisional rivals the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.
Winds of change: Cubs’ offense returns after disappearing.
The start of the 2021 season was something the Cubs would rather forget, and it seems they have done that after a four-game winning streak in which they swept the New York Mets and beat the Brewers in the first matchup of their series. Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Willson Contreras have all broken out and provided the offense for the Cubs with Nico Hoerner building off his successful 2020 season. The Cubs outscored the Mets 23-8 in their series and beat the Brewers 15-2 in their opening game.
Jake Marisnick has been a solid pickup for the Cubs in the offseason. He has four hits and seven RBIs in his last handful of games and has been a competent replacement for Ian Happ in center field.
The pitching for the Cubs has been better but is still in need of production from Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies. In three starts, Davies has posted an earned run average (ERA) over eight points and Hendricks is sitting at 5.5. This has been both pitchers' worst career starts to a season in their careers and will more than likely bounce back but are overwhelmingly underperforming as the number one and number three starters in the Cubs rotation. Adbert Alzolay has been disappointing as the back anchor of the rotation. He is winless in three starts and has yet to go six innings so far this season. Trevor Williams has fit nicely into the fourth spot leading the team in strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel looks to finally be the player the Cubs paid for back in 2019 with an ERA of 0.00 and four saves. The Cubs will finish up three games against the Milwaukee Brewers and then take on the Atlanta Braves.
Starting hot, finishing cold: Blackhawks quickly sealing their fate late in the season.
After having a strong first half of the season and holding a playoff spot for most of it, the Blackhawks have found themselves in sixth place in the central division behind Dallas and Nashville. With just six games left in the season, the Blackhawks had a crucial three-game series against Nashville where they needed to win at least two of the games to stay in the final playoff spot. Instead, the Blackhawks lost two of the three games, and their only win was a game in which they were down 4-1 and had to force overtime.
Over their last ten games, the Blackhawks have gone 5-5 and have been outscored 31-26. The special teams have been struggling and the star players have been struggling to produce. Patrick Kane has just three goals in the last 15 games and was held pointless in their last game against Nashville on April 23. Dominik Kubalík has just one point in the last five games. Rookie forward Philipp Kurashev was on fire in the beginning of the season but has just two points in the last ten games and four points in the last twenty.
Kevin Lankinen has been solid in net since the beginning of the season but has also shown signs of fatigue from starting so many games. While Lankinen has a .911 save percentage on the season, he has had a mediocre save percentage of .861 which is well below NHL level. Lankinen was pulled and replaced in his last start against Nashville on April 19, after giving up five goals in a 5-2 loss. Malcolm Subban has been very inconsistent and has let in soft goals that have cost the Blackhawks valuable points in the standings.
The injury bug has bothered the Blackhawks all season and continues to be a burden. The Blackhawks are without defenseman Adam Boqvist due to concussion protocol, and defenseman Calvin de Haan has also been added to the injured list with a hip issue. Dylan Strome has not played since April 19. These injuries on top of the players that have been on long-term injured reserve since before the season started have only made the situation worse in Chicago.
The Blackhawks now face the challenge of beating the top three teams in their division to keep their playoff hopes alive. They have one more game against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, two more games against Florida, three against Carolina, and two games against Dallas to close out the regular season.
Failing to capitalize: Bulls falling out of playoff picture with bad decisions.
Approaching the end of the wacky 2021 NBA season, the Bulls are ten games under .500 and have recently been bumped out of the tenth and final playoff spot by the Washington Wizards. The defense has been there for the Bulls, but they have not been able to close out games late. The Bulls have also started slow and have gotten so far down early they have been unable to come back. In four out of their last six games, the Bulls have given up 30 points or more in the first quarter.
Lousy late game decisions have cost the Bulls wins. After being down 20 points to the Miami Heat on April 24, the Bulls pulled to within four points with 52 seconds left. Shooting guard Denzel Valentine had possession of the ball and decided to launch a three-pointer from over 30-feet out and completely airballed. The shot negated any chance of coming back even though they still pulled within three points before two free throws were made by Miami.
In the final two and a half weeks of the season, the Bulls will have to face eight different playoff teams, including two games with the top team in the Eastern conference, the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls won the only meeting of the season so far against Brooklyn back on April 4, and shared an even record against the Miami Heat. Their next opponent is the red-hot New York Knicks, who they will play on April 28.