NFL 2022 Preview: Who takes it home in a changing league?

I’ve had a busy first few weeks here in Ithaca. However, this annual article is one I could not miss. Once again, football is back, and I am excited to share my preview for the season.

The NFL seems to be at a sort of crossroads. We may be nearing the end of the story for longtime legends like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile, the story for a new generation of players including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert is just beginning. It’s left the NFL in an interesting position; there are so many competitive teams that the standard for contention has raised. Two years ago Tom Brady won his 7th ring, and last year veteran QB Matthew Stafford finally took one home. Will this year be another win for an aging team, or will the youth of the league begin to take over? Read my predictions below and find out what I think, starting with my division by division standings.

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (15-2, #1 seed in AFC)
  2. Miami Dolphins (9-8)
  3. New England Patriots (8-9)
  4. New York Jets (8-9)

For many years, the Patriots ruled in this division. Now it’s the Bills and then everyone else. Led by young standout QB Josh Allen, the Bills are as stacked on paper as any team in this league. The defense has its inconsistencies, but still has a lot of talent including what’s arguably the best safety duo in the league (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde). Offensively, Allen has a plethora of weapons including elite WR Stefon Diggs, emerging WR Gabriel Davis, and TE Dawson Knox. 15 wins is a tough feat for any time, but it’s not out of the question here.

I have the Dolphins edging out second as their defense should win them some games. However, I don’t see them making the playoffs with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center. WR Tyreek Hill can make big plays for days but he’s not going to bail Tua out of every situation. If anyone has the chance to sneak into a wild card slot, it would be the Pats. I have them at 8-9, but this team has a high ceiling and a low floor. It all depends on whether QB Mac Jones can build on his rookie success and if Bill Belichick can coach up the young talent on the defense despite losing several big names like CB J.C. Jackson.

The Jets will remain in the basement here, but they’re definitely trending in the right direction. A year from now, this offense could be a scary sight assuming QB Zach Wilson improves and RB Breece Hall is as advertised.

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens (12-5, #4 seed in AFC)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-6, #6 seed in AFC)
  3. Cleveland Browns (7-10)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-13)

If there’s any team I’m counting on to go from worst to first, it’s the Ravens. With QB Lamar Jackson injured for much of last season, the Ravens were on the bottom of a competitive division. Now, Jackson returns alongside RB J.K. Dobbins, CB Marlon Humphrey, and CB Marcus Peters. Humphrey and Peters now headline what might be the NFL’s best secondary. There’s plenty of signs that the Ravens can put last season’s struggles behind them.

I do think the Bengals remain competitive after their surprise Super Bowl run last year. QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase aren’t going away anytime soon. I don’t expect the kind of run we saw last year, but I also don’t expect the Bengals to revert below .500. That leaves the Browns and Steelers falling behind in this division race.

The Browns will be without their new QB Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games. While I think their RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and their strong defense can win them a few games in that stretch, Watson would have a lot of ground to make up in order to catch these other teams in the division. I’ve been projecting a Steelers decline for years now, but over the last few years Mike Tomlin has kept them afloat. Between a tough schedule, tough division, and declining defense, I find it hard to believe that Tomlin will extend his above-.500 streak any longer.

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts (12-5, #3 seed in AFC)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-9)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-13)
  4. Houston Texans (1-16)

If the Colts played in any other division, I’d have them around .500. In fact, I have them 6-5 in non-AFC South match-ups. However, I can’t see any other team in this division giving them much of a challenge. Their defense is strong enough that QB Matt Ryan will be able to get the Colts out to leads in these games without much pressure.

The Titans show some promise as usual, and RB Derrick Henry isn’t going away. Outside of Henry though, this roster looks uninspiring when compared to other AFC rosters. If there’s any surprise contender in this division, it would be Tennessee, but I personally wouldn’t count on it. The Jaguars should see marginal improvement from QB Trevor Lawrence, but I don’t think they spent their money in an optimal way to support him. There are still many holes up and down the roster that leave Jacksonville far from playoff contention. They still show more promise than the Texans though. I don’t see QB Davis Mills as much more than a strong game manager, and outside of WR Brandin Cooks he doesn’t have much proven talent around him to rely on.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3, #2 seed in AFC)
  2. Los Angeles Chargers (12-5, #5 seed in AFC)
  3. Denver Broncos (9-8, #7 seed in AFC)
  4. Las Vegas Raiders (7-10)

Some people expect four teams above .500 in this division, and I think that expectation is a little lofty. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this might be one of the most competitive divisions in recent history. While I do have the Broncos and Raiders losing a decent number of games due to their tough schedules, I think both these teams will be better on the field than their record shows. The Raiders do have some major defensive question marks, but with WR Davante Adams on board, this offense is too good for Vegas to hit rock bottom. I expect the Broncos to be in the mix for much of the season. QB Russell Wilson’s historical late season struggles combined with a tough schedule will cause them to fall behind the Chiefs and Chargers, but I still have them holding onto a playoff spot.

I think the Chiefs maintain the crown here, as QB Patrick Mahomes makes up for the loss of WR Tyreek Hill by utilizing a variety of new faces in the WR corps such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Chargers could be a threat to that, as their defense gets even stronger with the additions of Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. I also think QB Justin Herbert is almost as capable, if not just as capable as Mahomes. Either of these teams could be in for a deep playoff run.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6, #4 seed in NFC)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (10-7, #7 seed in NFC)
  3. Washington Commanders (6-11)
  4. New York Giants (3-14)

The NFC East still has not had a repeat winner since the 2003-04 Eagles, and I don’t see that changing this year. The Cowboys, who won in 2021, lost a good portion of the stacked WR corps QB Dak Prescott utilized to get them there. The Eagles, meanwhile, brought in a new #1 WR in A.J. Brown and upgraded the defense significantly. As long as QB Jalen Hurts plays at a serviceable level, I think the Eagles take over in this division, though I still have the Cowboys sneaking into a playoff spot.

The Giants have a lot to prove this year. This might be QB Daniel Jones’ last chance to show that he can succeed with a healthy offense around him. I don’t have much faith in Jones or his WRs though, and I expect now healthy RB Saquon Barkley to get frustrated and leave after another losing season in East Rutherford. The Commanders should outpace them by a little bit, but I don’t see Carson Wentz as the long term answer at QB (who knew Dak Prescott would end up a more reliable QB than either of the top 2 picks from his draft class?). Despite a strong defensive line and some upside across the roster, there are still many problems to address in Washington before they can compete once again.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers (13-4, #1 seed in NFC)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (13-4, #5 seed in NFC)
  3. Detroit Lions (6-11)
  4. Chicago Bears (2-15)

A lot of people are making the case that either the Packers or the Vikings will be the sole success story from this division. Why not both? The Packers may have question marks at WR, but QB Aaron Rodgers has made do with that before and he can do it again. Meanwhile, the Vikings will leave the Mike Zimmer era behind them. I expect the talent they have in all 3 aspects of the game to finally translate into wins under new HC Kevin O’Connell, and O’Connell has already drawn comparisons between WRs Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp (who had his historic season in O’Connell’s system).

The Lions can only go so far with Jared Goff under center, but this roster does show some promise. Their defense should be at least serviceable at this point and with a strong supporting cast, Goff could have the occasional big game if he’s not under too much pressure. Bears fans may have faith that Justin Fields can lift this team out of its misery, but I’m not expecting much in Chicago this year. Matt Eberflus is not much of an upgrade over Matt Nagy, and I think the Bears will be giving up too many points for Fields to make up the lost ground.

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints (12-5, #2 seed in NFC)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5, #6 seed in NFC)
  3. Carolina Panthers (8-9)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-12)

The Saints are the team I’m expecting to exceed most people’s expectations this year. To start off, their defense might be the most well-rounded, filled out defense in football. In addition, a lot of people are concerned about a RB Alvin Kamara suspension, WR Michael Thomas’ health, or QB Jameis Winston’s capability as a starting QB. I don’t think these are really valid concerns at this point. Winston has been fine and thrown far less picks since his eye surgery a few off-seasons ago, Kamara’s suspension is unlikely to happen until 2023, and all signs point to Thomas being a full-go this season. At their peak, this team could be scary.

I have Saints sweeping the Bucs in the regular season (as usual), but that won’t stop Tampa Bay from staying neck and neck with them in the division race. Even without WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski, any team with Tom Brady (even an aging Tom Brady) under center is going to be competitive. Besides, Brady still has one of the NFL’s best supporting casts.

QB Baker Mayfield should allow the Panthers to avoid the basement of the division and win a few extra games. Mayfield has RB Christian McCaffrey and WR D.J. Moore to lean on, so that should help him out, but this team still doesn’t quite stack up with the Saints and Bucs. That leaves the Falcons at the bottom, who despite an improving defense don’t have much to be excited about this season.

NFC West

  1. Los Angeles Rams (11-6, #3 seed in NFC)
  2. Arizona Cardinals (9-8)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (8-9)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (2-15)

Despite a tough schedule, I expect the Rams to remain on top of this division. QB Matthew Stafford may start off a little slow due to his elbow injury, but he has a strong supporting cast, and Rams DT Aaron Donald is still in every other QB’s nightmares.

Behind the Rams, I don’t see much promise in this division. The Cardinals have relied on strong starts in years they’ve made the playoffs. They’ll be without WR DeAndre Hopkins for 6 games, so that might be more difficult than usual. There is a lot to like about the 49ers, but the secondary is a concern and we haven’t really seen how much QB Trey Lance is capable of. I’ve seen Patrick Mahomes comparisons, and people who expect Lance to be like Mahomes and lead San Francisco to the playoffs in his first year starting may be disappointed.

I still expect those two teams to finish well ahead of Seattle. The Seahawks have no proven options to start at QB, which will likely hold this offense and the entire team back throughout the season.

Playoff Predictions

There’s a lot of competitive teams in the league right now, so I’m expecting a lot of playoff upsets much like last year. I have 4 of 6 wild card teams winning their first playoff game, and essentially half the teams advancing to each round after that are wild card teams.

In the NFC, I have Tom Brady clutching up for the playoffs and beating the Rams, Packers, and Saints on another Wild Card Super Bowl run. In the AFC, I think the Chiefs or Chargers could put up a good fight, but in the end I have Josh Allen leading the top-seeded Bills to a conference title.

A Bills-Bucs Super Bowl will bring a very interesting narrative: Tom Brady against his former divisional rival. I’m expecting a Super Bowl LII like game, with Brady putting up a serious fight, but falling short in the end. It will signal a new era for the league in which the Bills, not Tom Brady, are the team to beat.

If the Bills do actually win this Super Bowl, I may not hear the end of it now that I’m living in Ithaca which is clear cut Bills territory. However, my unbiased opinion is that they are the most likely team to come out on top. This could be the year their roster is talented enough for them to put it all together and win on the biggest stage.

Will Brady retire after playing in another Super Bowl? If he wins, I think it’s pretty likely he does. However, after a loss, he may still be hungry for more.

Before I wrap up this article, I want to include one more prediction: my pick for tonight’s opener.

Opening Night

It would be easy to predict a shootout here. However, I’m expecting more of a close, defensive battle in this one. QB Matthew Stafford should play it a little safer considering his elbow problems, but I still expect him to connect well with WRs Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. In the end though, QB Josh Allen is better equipped to win this game. Allen and his receivers at full health are a scary sight, and even if Stafford was healthy I think Allen would be likely to outperform him.

Enjoy tonight’s game, and enjoy the rest of the season. I’ll have more NFL coverage on this website as well as weekly Flutie Foundation-sponsored NFL episodes on The Master Plan Podcast with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament partnership with Flutie Foundation a Success

The Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament took place this past weekend, with 100% of net proceeds going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. I attended the event on its second of three days, Saturday, July 30, and I was able to announce live at the event as an honorary captain and learn about the backstory behind it.

When I arrived, I met Mike “Pitbull” Palelli of the Power Play Hockey League, the primary organizer of the tournament. He generously gave me and the other honorary captains free Puzzle Cup gear. As a member of the Coast Guard, he also gave us his official Coast Guard poker chips, reserved for people he cares deeply about. He even included an extra poker chip and hat for my grandpa, a retired Army National Guard Colonel. One of Mike’s best friends from the military has a son with autism. Since then, autism acceptance has been an important cause to Mike and it inspired him to dedicate this tournament to the autism community.

Flutie Fellow and Special Olympic golfer Tyler Lagasse was among the honorary captains. This was my first time seeing Tyler since I watched him win his first gold medal at the 2022 USA Games. Tyler has always been a hockey fan as well as a fan of the cause. In addition to a ceremonial puck drop, Tyler had prepared a speech to give to players in the locker room.

Many other honorary captains took part in the opening ceremonies. Spectrum of Sound, the Flutie Foundation’s choir, came to sing the national anthem, and several others had the chance to participate in ceremonial puck drops. Fellow aspiring sports reporter Josh Stanbrook and I were able to announce it all, and I stuck around for some play by play.

After going on the ice, we were all pretty hungry and thirsty. I had a burger fresh off the grill with some fries and my favorite sports drink, BodyArmor. BodyArmor, a partner of the Power Play Hockey League, was sponsoring the entire tournament. I took the opportunity to thank BodyArmor, because it not only kept me hydrated in the Orlando heat when I covered the Special Olympics, but also was directly supporting the autism community through this event.

Before I left, I had the chance to catch up with a couple players and a referee as they got off the ice for the day. I also had some more time to talk to Mike and hear about his deep care for this cause. It warmed my heart to hear that Mike, who I had just met, already saw me and the other honorary captains as members of his own family. I’d like to thank Mike Palelli for his immediate support as soon as we met. He is one of many great people I have met through the Foundation.

I also had to say my goodbyes to my other friends from the Foundation, as this was the last event I would be attending before heading off to college for the semester. However, this is far from the end of my involvement with the Foundation. I will always be a proud member of the Flutie Foundation family, and when I return home, I hope to attend and cover more Flutie Foundation events, including next year’s Puzzle Cup. Hopefully, like Mike said, next year’s tournament will include an expanded field of teams and raise even more money for the Flutie Foundation.

Golf Final Round Recap: Gold for Lagasse after ‘Heavyweight Battle and Marathon rolled into one’

Three-time Special Olympics silver medalist and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse secured his long-awaited gold medal after shooting a 77 (+5) in the final round on June 9.

It was a duel between Lagasse and another Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfer, Matthew Glumac. Glumac was playing with clubs donated by the Foundation after they were lost during the shipping process. He was neck and neck with Lagasse all the way until the final hole and will go home with a silver medal.

Experience paid off for Lagasse as he came into the morning calm and collected.

“Right now I feel relaxed and confident in myself,” Lagasse said. “After taking a couple warmups here, first at the greens, then at the range, right now I like what I see.”

Still, he knew it would not be easy.

“It’s going to be a heavyweight battle and a marathon rolled into one,” Lagasse said. “I want to wish good luck to Matt Glumac and Peter Condon for a thrilling round of golf, and I hope we have a good time and have some fun.”

See his full interview here:

I also caught up with Glumac briefly before the round:

Just like yesterday, Lagasse and Glumac teed off on hole 1 with Peter Condon of Washington, who was in third place behind the two of them.

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon before teeing off

The Flutie-sponsored golfers started the day in a tie, but that changed quickly as Lagasse birdied the first hole and took the lead. Lagasse was feeling good about his putts in practice, and it showed on this hole. It validated what he noted about his putts on the practice green at the start of the day. It was clear that Lagasse was focused and ready for the round and he remained alone in first or tied for first for the rest of the tournament, as he made many of his putts under ten feet that were similar to many putts he made on days one and two but was not able to make on day three.

The race stayed very close for all golfers as Lagasse bogeyed the second hole, and Glumac bogeyed the third, which allowed Condon to begin catching up.

However, as the day went on, it started feeling more and more like a two-man race for Gold, as on each hole between 4 and 11, Lagasse and Glumac matched each other’s scores. Lagasse and Glumac appeared to be feeding off each other because if one hit a good shot, the other would follow with a shot just as impressive, whether it was a long-blasting drive, landing the green within a few feet of each other, good up and downs, or a tough long putt. While this happened, Condon was falling farther and farther behind. Condon was playing really well including some of the longest drives of the day and long irons landing inches from the pin but Lagasse and Glumac were scoring at or below par more consistently.

“It was just an incredible duel between me and him; it was so much fun how we were still matching each other on each hole,” Glumac said. “I would make a good shot and then he’d make a good shot right on top of it… it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Staying close was the theme of the day as their overall scores remained close along with the proximity of their golf balls. On hole 6, all three golfers landed the green in one, each landing within 7 feet of the hole. On hole 8, Glumac and Lagasse landed the green in a very similar spot. There was even one hole where Condon hit his 300+ yard drive to the exact same spot as Glumac’s ball and their balls collided.

Hole 12 was a turning point in the round. Lagasse had been at even par for the day through 11 holes and drove the ball really well off the tee on hole 12. However, on his second shot, he was just short of the slightly elevated but steep edged green and his ball bounced back into a nearly unplayable hazard, and thus opted to drop and take a penalty stroke.

However, on the same hole 12, Glumac’s blasting drive landed at the edge of a similar hazard but the bounce was fortunate and gave Glumac the opportunity to hit a shot that reached the green. Glumac ultimately bogeyed the hole but Lagasse finished with a double bogey placing Lagasse and Glumac in the same spot they started the day, tied for first.

Lagasse was rattled a bit by the results on hole 12 and his tee shot from the 13th tee (par 3 hole), landed in the sand trap just left of the hole. He had a difficult lie on the edge of the bunker and his first shot out of the sand landed just a couple of feet forward and still in the trap, and represented the only time in the day that Lagasse had big challenges on consecutive holes.

Lagasse quickly regained his composure, and his next shot was a turning point that helped him settle down and relax again. Lagasse’s third shot hit the flag, which slowed it down, and then the ball hit the pin on the way down towards the hole, and almost went straight into the hole before rolling away about 18 inches. The fortunate bounce led to crowd cheers and also appeared to give Lagasse a bounce in his step.

Lagasse showed he was back on track in the holes that followed hole 13 because he went on a streak, matching Glumac’s score all the way until the final results were decided on the 18th hole. He was able to do this despite the lightning threat that forced all golfers to stop play for nearly two hours.

“I didn’t play for two whole hours…and during that time I got know Mr. Glumac very well,” Lagasse said about his opponent who is also sponsored by the Flutie Foundation.

Lagasse and Glumac had both landed the green in one on the par 3 hole 15 before the weather warning horn sounded and sent them back to the clubhouse without the opportunity to even attempt their birdie putts.

The two Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfers remained tied and had mixed feelings about the time inside. They were able to calm down a bit and bond with each other as they sat inside at the same table. However, the long break interrupted their flow, as play did not resume until nearly 2:00 PM.

Play Resumes after Long Wait

The long wait seemed to impact them because despite taking the time to stretch a bit, they were not allowed to take any practice putts or drives. As a result, all three golfers ended up above par once play resumed on the 15th hole. However, they quickly refocused on the 16th hole as they all made par. These golfers were close together once again with just two holes left to decide their fate.

It was clear that Lagasse was correct about how this day was going to be a duel. As the streak continued with the golfers matching each other hole for hole, blow for blow like heavyweight fighters, I overheard Glumac say in a lighthearted way, how the day was “getting kinda of boring.” It was clear that these golfers had the utmost respect for each other and knew that the Gold medal would be dependent on their performances to come on the tough 17th (par 5) and 18th (par 4) holes. They were clearly enjoying the competition that was pushing them both to stay focused on their goal to win the four-day tournament that had them tied through 70 holes.

After a strong drive on the 17th hole, Glumac appeared to be in a good position to gain a stroke to set him up with a good chance to win Gold. However, Lagasse overcame a difficult tee shot that landed in an area with a bunch of trees. It was clear that Lagasse could not reach the green in two shots so he decided to take a more conservative second shot. His ball landed off the very wide green to the far left with about 60 feet of green between his ball and the pin. Lagasse then hit a great chip shot to land about 6 feet from the hole and was able to save par with a solid mid-range putt, similar to putts he was able to make all day.

Meanwhile, despite Glumac’s great drive on the par 5 hole, he appeared to purposefully lay up as a large bunker was in front of the green and he wanted to avoid it. His second shot landed short of the green but then he chipped on the green to reach it in three shots. However, his birdie attempt went a few feet past the hole. This left Lagasse and Glumac tied for the tournament with only the final hole remaining.

My dad/cameraman suggested we drive our golf cart to where the spotter was standing to watch the three golfers tee off. When Lagasse landed his drive past the spotter with a great lie in the middle of the fairway, the spotter commented that it was the best drive he had seen all day. George Kent, Lagasse’s caddy, called it “clutch.”

“It was a textbook drive; that’s all I can say about that,” Lagasse said after he signed his scorecard.

Since Lagasse teed off first, Glumac had even more added pressure to hit the ball well as it appeared clear that Lagasse could reach the green easily in two shots. However, Glumac’s tee shot ended up going down the left side of the fairway fringe and was about 50-75 yards behind Lagasse’s first shot. With Lagasse in a perfect position to go for the green in two shots, Glumac seemingly had no choice but to try and reach in two shots as well. His second shot landed in the hazard area with tall grass and thick bushes. Despite help from Lagasse and Condon, the ball was not found and Glumac had to take a penalty stroke which ultimately gave Lagasse a great opportunity to win Gold.

Lagasse landed his second shot just to the right of the green, but the pin was positioned close by, about 15 feet away. He noted later that if he aimed left of the pin to adjust for the wind, he could have landed the green, but he was still able to recover. He nearly chipped in for birdie and the win, rolling a foot from the hole. Even without making the chip, Lagasse was well ahead of Glumac and in line to win Gold. He marked his ball and raised his hat and club to the crowd as he waited for Glumac and Condon to finish before taking his final shot to win the tournament in front of an excited crowd.

Take a look at the shot-by-shot video coverage from the final hole that captures the final few shots that sealed the victory Gold for Lagasse and Silver for Glumac:

Glumac ended up with a triple bogey to finish the day with an 80 (+8). He finished the tournament three strokes behind Lagasse and won Silver. Condon shot an 85 (+13) to finish the tournament 10 strokes behind Lagasse and win bronze.

Below are scorecards, photos, and interviews from after the final round.

Tyler Lagasse: Gold Medal Scorecard and Interview

Lagasse on the green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Matthew Glumac: Silver Medal Scorecard and Interview

Glumac on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Peter Condon Final Scorecard

Condon on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Interview with Lagasse’s Mom, Deb Lagasse

Amy Bockerstette Interview

I also ran into the Level 5 golfer I interviewed on Wednesday, Amy Bockerstette. She recognized me after her round was complete and walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. After that, we had the chance to talk again briefly.

The Final Leaderboard

Closing Remarks after an amazing week

It’s been a pleasure covering these golfers, and I’m glad that the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism has allowed these golfers to thrive alongside my reporting.

We started and ended the week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, former home of the NBA bubble and current home base of the Special Olympics athletes. We watched exciting rounds of golf at the Orange County National Golf Center and spent some quality time with other people from the Foundation who had also come to the games.

The Flutie Foundation team for the USA Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

We even watched Game 3 of the NBA Finals with Nick Savarese, the Foundation’s Executive Director, and celebrated together as the Celtics made clutch shot after clutch shot to take down the Warriors.

Nick Savarese watched Game 3 with us at his hotel bar in the Lobby area

The Flutie Foundation made this amazing week possible. Lagasse was able to practice golf more often while working a part-time job at the PGA Tour Superstore. Glumac was provided new clubs from the Flutie Foundation so he didn’t have to use rentals. I was able to receive more media exposure thanks to Nick Savarese, Liz Monroe, Ethan Michaud, and the rest of the Foundation. I’m also thankful for Lagasse and Glumac for taking the time to seek me out for interviews.

All of us involved with the Foundation were there for each other throughout the games. Lagasse and Glumac were both looking to lift up each other’s golf games. We (Nick, Liz, Ethan, my Dad, and I) came together to watch all the golfers and also attended events to cheer for Flutie Foundation-supported performers at the games including Cierra June Reynolds as well as Jake and Sky Velazquez. We also kept each other updated about the battle on the golf course when we were not together.

There are many others I’d like to thank for helping make my coverage some of my best so far and apologies if I have missed anyone. Susan Storey at the Special Olympics went above and beyond to provide us full access to the USA Games and personally delivered my reporting equipment I left at the ESPN Media Resource Center on day two. Lee Williamson of the Orange National Golf Center was also very supportive and gave us information about tee times and made sure we had a golf cart to beat the heat and keep up with the golfers to capture all their big moments on film. Josh Vorensky of ESPN, an Ithaca College alum who covered the 2018 Special Olympic Games in Seattle, helped out a bunch even while on vacation. Jen Lada of ESPN (also worked in Seattle Games) kept us connected with the reporters on-site. Lagasse’s mom, Deb Lagasse, kept us posted on things we may have missed. Andrew Gomez from Team Iowa sent me some pictures from the week that I was able to use in this post. Amy Bockerstette and her dad Joe took the time for two interviews with me in between ESPN coverage that had them in high demand.

Most importantly, and last but not least, I’d like to thank my dad/cameraman/assistant Ken Roberts. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without his help recording and combing through footage I needed. We also had to work through our fair share of challenges, like a dead car key battery needed to drive our rental car, storage issues on our devices, leaving items behind at multiple locations, and trouble getting into our hotel late at night after investing extra hours to review, report, edit, and create reports on the day’s events. Without my dad’s attention to detail and problem-solving abilities, I don’t know how I would have handled all these challenges alone. I feel fortunate to have a dad that shares my passion for sports and pushes me to learn and improve from every sports reporting experience.

Me and my dad at Orange County National Golf Center after Lagasse won Gold and Glumac won Silver

What’s Next?

I plan to return to the Special Olympics Games in 2026 to cover Glumac, Lagasse, and many other impressive athletes that do not let their disabilities define them. If I am successful as an Ithaca College Park Scholar and further improve my sports media skills, I plan to return to the next Special Olympics USA Games in four years as a recent college graduate, and hopefully new employee of ESPN or other top sports media organization, ready to do whatever is needed to realize my dream to become a professional sports journalist.

In front of the ESPN Wide World of Sports on my final day of reporting as I headed to the ESPN media center.

Regardless of what future sports reporting experiences are ahead, I will never forget this week, and you can all relive my experience too. Check out all of my coverage from the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando here!

Day 3 in Orlando: 3 Golfers Close Together after Round 3 of Level 5 Golf

We have a tight race for gold in Level 5 golf as two Flutie Foundation sponsored autistic golfers, Tyler Lagasse of Massachusetts and Matthew Glumac of Southern California are tied for first with Peter Condon of Washington just two strokes behind.

Lagasse and Condon both competed in Seattle and tied with a total score of 244. Glumac, 27, is a newcomer to the Special Olympics, and it’s the biggest tournament he’s played in. While he lost his clubs on the way here, the Flutie Foundation stepped up to get him the new clubs of his choice, and it has paid off.

The Special Olympics called the Flutie Foundation because it was known that they have sponsored golfers before including current sponsored golfer Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. The Foundation also has a relationship with the PGA Tour Superstore, where Lagasse recently began working thanks in part to the Foundation. On Sunday June 5th, The Foundation learned about all the specifications of Matt’s clubs that were lost and went to the store to get Matt Glumac new clubs that were nearly identical to what he was used to. By 6PM, the night before the golf tournament started, they personally delivered the clubs to Matt.

The Foundation has now officially sponsored Glumac. Matt has a passion for sports in common with me and even has his own vlog known as “The Autistic Golfer.” He already feels welcome within the Flutie Foundation family.

“It was so generous of them to give me those clubs,” Glumac said. “I can actually keep them, that means so much. They didn’t have to go through all that just for me. I most likely was going to be using a rental set here and they went out of their way to get some good clubs for me.”

Lagasse is proud to play alongside Glumac and welcome him to the Flutie Foundation family.

“It’s so good to see that the Flutie Foundation has his back. It has not been easy (for Matt)… we’re there for each other, I don’t care where you’re from, whether it’s Boston, Massachusetts or San Diego, California.”

Today was a hot one and the competition made it feel hotter. It was a high-stakes day and tomorrow will be as well, but Lagasse hopes the three of them can relax and have more fun playing together in tomorrow’s round.

“I think the pressure made it feel hotter, and you can’t take away the temperature,” Lagasse said. “It was hot in the back nine but I think we were just putting too much pressure on ourselves. We were playing tense golf.”

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all teed off together on hole 1. The three of them were the only golfers placed in division 1 for the Level 5 competition. The winner of this gold medal could be considered the best Special Olympic golfer in the country right now. The golfers started off strong, with all three making par on hole 1.

After this hole, Glumac got into a groove. Despite bogeying hole 2, he birdied hole 4 and was at even par through 5. The strong start had him 5 strokes ahead of Lagasse.

Hole 7, a par 4, was a challenge for all three golfers as temps continued to rise. Lagasse bogeyed, Condon double bogeyed, and Glumac triple bogeyed. It was after this hole that the race began to tighten once again.

On hole 9, Lagasse went for a risky drive on a dog left fairway. While the green was a challenge for him, the risk paid off as he remained just one stroke behind Glumac on the day and two strokes for the tournament overall to conclude the front nine.

While Lagasse’s 84 was his worst score of the tournament, Lagasse’s back nine score of a 41 was his best yet at the tournament through three days. While the heat and pressure affected the golf today, golfers have benefitted from continuing to learn the course.

“I was willing to take risks because I knew the course a little bit more, and therefore I used driver more often and 3-wood more often,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was an important hole for Lagasse. Yesterday, he bogeyed the hole after being challenged by a difficult lie. Today, Lagasse flipped the script by reaching the fringe in 2 shots and walked away with his only birdie on the day but it was a big moment for his round.

After hole 14, Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all stood at +10 on the day, meaning Lagasse was still 1 behind Glumac for the tournament just like he was when the day began. For the first time since hole 1, all three golfers had the same score, as they made par on hole 15.

Hole 16 was another challenge for all three golfers. However, this also made the race even closer. It was a Glumac double bogey that allowed Lagasse to tie Glumac’s cumulative score.

Lagasse and Glumac remained neck and neck for the rest of the day, and Condon gained a stroke on them with a birdie on hole 17. Now it will truly be a three horse race for gold in tomorrow’s final round.

3 golfers, Condon (left, +25), Lagasse (middle, +23), and Glumac (right, +23) close together on the hole 18 green.

Below are scorecards and interviews of all three golfers in the running.

Lagasse’s Scorecard and Interview

Glumac’s Scorecard and Interview

Condon’s Scorecard and Interview

Other Stories around the Course

ESPN has been following the two female golfers in the Level 5 competition, Grace Braxton and Amy Bockerstette.

Braxton, a division 2 golfer, had the chance to play a hole with retired multi-sport athlete Tim Tebow.

Bockerstette, the first college athlete with down syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship, was featured by ESPN yesterday and I had the chance to interview her today.

For another funny story, Florida is known for its gators and that proved true here today. Fortunately, the golfers cleared the water trap on the par 3 hole 13 where a baby alligator was spotted along with a young turtle a few feet away.

Leaderboard Update

With these scores, the leaderboard is looking like this.

The golfers are all hoping to improve their scores tomorrow to make for some close, exciting golf.

“I need consistency,” Glumac said. “I was basically all over the place today… one thing I want to do is just go out with Tyler and Peter and try to have some fun… my heart was racing really fast today. I feel like no matter what I tried I couldn’t get my heart to stop beating. It’s a lot of tension, and Tyler’s been in it before… if I were to lose to anyone, I’d want to lose to Tyler, because he deserves to win this just as much as I do.”

Stay tuned for coverage of the final round here tomorrow.

Day 2 in Orlando: Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse improved on his Day 1 score by shooting a 77 (+5) in Tuesday, June 7’s round, putting him in position for an elite leaderboard position and division alongside Matthew Glumac of Southern California, who shot a 75 (+3) and Peter Condon of Washington, who shot a 83 (+11$).

Lagasse teed off on hole 1 with Ian Kelley of Florida and Ben Purick of New York as part of an 8AM shotgun start. He went in with a strategy of consistency.

“I‘ll just try to stay calm, focused, and keep the ball in play,” Lagasse said. “The course is a little tighter than I anticipated.

Similar to yesterday, Lagasse started his round on a high note. He was at even par through the first 3 holes. Then on the 4th hole, both Lagasse and Kelley chipped in for eagle. Lagasse and Kelley were ecstatic after their eagles and made sure to celebrate.

“Those were the two shots of the day in my opinion,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse remained -2 through 8 holes, and right around then Bruins Foundation CEO Bob Sweeney stopped by to watch Tyler for a few holes. However, the momentum began to shift when Tyler bogeyed on two consecutive holes. He made par on 11, but then came hole 12, one of the most difficult holes on the entire course.

Both Lagasse and Purick, who were driving from the same longer distance tee, double bogeyed on 12 after landing their ball in a penalty zone. Lagasse is thinking about how he can improve on hole 12 for the next two days.

“I have to mentally prepare myself, maybe hit my 5-iron a little better… not overcutting the ball, not overswinging,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was another challenge for Lagasse. He was driving the ball extremely well, but his 2nd shot landed just right of the green. It took 2 more shots after this to get on the green due to a difficult lie. Once Lagasse got onto the green, his first putt nearly made it, but he ended up having to tap in for bogey.

“From outside 10 feet, I could use some more improvement [on my putts],” Lagasse said.

In the final four holes, Lagasse made par twice and bogeyed twice to finish +5 on the day. Purick and Kelley were +11 and +13, respectively. Here’s Tyler’s final scorecard from the day:

Lagasse finished the two rounds that will be used for division placement with a two-day score of 155 (+11), one stroke behind Glumac, whose total is 154 (+10). Glumac and Lagasse are first and second. Peter Condon is in third at 158 (+14). Lagasse’s division and the full leaderboard have not been announced yet, but I will add those to this article when they are out.

See below for clips from my post-round interview with Tyler:

After interviewing Tyler, I ran into Jen Lada of ESPN, who I first met in Seattle at the 2018 USA Games. Today, Jen was covering one of two female golfers in the level 5 competition, Amy Bockerstette. Bockerstette is the first person with Down Syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship to attend college for any sport. I’ll be interviewing Amy myself tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

I also caught up with Travis Curtis of Maine, an autistic level 5 golfer who will be attending a Flutie Foundation event tonight. His cumulative score is a 170 (+26), as he shot an 83 yesterday and an 87 today.

Before I signed off for the day, I reported as if I was called upon for a live update from in front of the entrance to Orange County National Golf Center. Stay tuned for more golf coverage here and coverage of what’s happening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports tomorrow night.

2022 USA Games: Day 1 Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse shot a 78 (+6) on his first day of the 4-day competition and is alongside Peter Condon of Washington and Matthew Glumac of Southern California atop the leaderboard.

After being honored alongside the rest of Team Massachusetts at Opening Ceremony on Sunday, June 5, Lagasse came into today ready to go. He was on the course early to stretch out and teed off from hole 1 as part of a shotgun start at 8:00 AM sharp. Lagasse started off the day on fire as he impressed his mom (heard in the video clip) and himself by eagling a par 5.

“Of course it wasn’t the first time I eagled the first hole in any competition, but eagle on the 1st hole was a thrill,” Lagasse said.

After the eagle, Lagasse was able to remain steady through the rest of the front nine. He was at even par through the first nine holes. 

Fortunately, like the rest of the golfers, Tyler Lagasse did not have to walk the course in the heat. Instead he rode a golf cart (pictured here with his caddy George Kent).

The back nine of Crooked Cat is known for being more challenging than the front nine. The rising temperatures coupled with the humidity made the back nine even more difficult. Lagasse bogeyed a few holes on the back nine but he still finished with a good first day score. Lagasse believes he can do even better tomorrow.

“The weather was gorgeous overall,” Lagasse said. “I just had trouble executing on the back nine and need to work on my consistency for tomorrow… still, any score under 80 is a good one.”

Below is Lagasse’s final scorecard:

Lagasse is currently in second place behind Condon, who was neck and neck with him in Seattle 2018. Glumac is in a close 3rd. Ryan Luck and Travis Curtis, who teed off with Lagasse, are also in the mix. See the full top 10 below.

Stay tuned for more coverage here of the rest of the golf tournament.

2022 Special Olympics USA Games Preview: Lagasse is hungry for gold

The Special Olympics USA Games kick off in Orlando next week. Over 5,500 athletes will be competing in 19 different sports. As a credentialed member of the press, I hope to take it all in. I’ll primarily be following the story of one of those athletes: Tyler Lagasse.

Lagasse is a 35-year old autistic adult from Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He is a three-time silver medalist in the most competitive level of Special Olympics golf. Each of those times he finished second to Scott Rohrer of South Carolina.

Lagasse, like in 2018, will be sponsored by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and alongside me and several others, he is now a Flutie Fellow.

Rohrer will not be competing this year, and Lagasse is hungry for gold. However, the gold medal won’t necessarily be a cake walk for him. Lagasse still has to fend off a field of 26 other Level 5 golfers. “Winning gold [is going to be the biggest challenge of this trip], plain and simple,” Lagasse said. “You’re not only competing against yourself, you’re competing against the whole country. The challenges are going to be great but the rewards would be greater.”

Read below to learn more about Lagasse’s preparation for this tournament, the course he’ll be playing on, and the other golfers he’ll face off against.

Lagasse further improves his golf game

Lagasse in 2018 at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

The last time I covered Lagasse was in 2018 at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle. He was already an experienced 18-hole golfer when at the time as he had won Silver at the USA Games 2 consecutive Special Olympics.

Tyler began golfing in 2003 and has traveled to Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Nebraska, and several other places for Special Olympics tournaments.  He is a member of the Special Olympics hall of fame, won an honorary ESPY in 2017, and was even featured on a Golf Channel program in 2010. Several times including 2014, along with a few other Special Olympics golfers, Tyler has been invited to the Pro-Am, a PGA event.

In the 2018 USA Games, he shot a 79-86-79 for the silver medal. Since then, Lagasse has further improved his golf game. He credits much of this improvement to an increase in the amount of time he has been able to spend training both on and off the golf course.

“In 2018, I was still a student at UMass Lowell while in 2022 I have a part-time job which allows me more time to physically and mentally prepare for this year’s games,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse made sure to squeeze in a lot of golfing before heading down to Orlando. However, mental preparation is also a key part of Lagasse’s success on the golf course.

“I try to remember not to get too hard on myself, a mistake that’s hurt me in the past,” Lagasse said. “But I just try to relax, concentrate on the task at hand, and take it one hole at a time.”

On Wednesday, this mental preparation helped him as he shot a personal best score of 67 on an 18-hole course. Lagasse will look to carry this success into Orlando. Let’s take a look at the course he’ll be playing on as he looks to improve on his 2018 scores.

The Course: Crooked Cat at Orange County National Golf Center

Image via oncgolf.com

All of this year’s golf will take place at the Orange County National Golf Center near Orlando, Florida, located about 6 miles northwest of Walt Disney World, where Special Olympians will be staying. It contains two 18-hole courses, Crooked Cat and Panther Lake. Crooked Cat is the course that Level 1, 3, and 5 Special Olympics golfers will be playing on. This course can be challenging due to significant elevation changes throughout the fairways. However, while 2018’s course (Eagle’s Talon at Willows Run Golf Complex in Seattle) had tree-lined narrow fairways, this is a more open course.

While Lagasse is unsure how the course will affect him until he plays on it, he knows it will allow him more freedom in terms of shot selection.

“I’m free to use my driver and 3-wood and I can forgive myself for misses because it’s more wide open,” Lagasse said. “I just have to play my game, stick to the strategy, and hopefully it’ll work out in the end.”

Weather conditions will also differentiate this course from Willows Run. Lagasse felt the weather was rather comfortable in Seattle, with high temperatures averaging around 70 degrees. This time, high temperatures are looking to be in the 90’s, though golfers may avoid the peak of the heat as most players will start playing early in the morning.

Below is some information about some of the other golfers who will be competing alongside Lagasse.

Familiar Faces (Competed in 2018)

Condon has been playing golf since 2006. In 2018, he was part of Division 1, Tyler Lagasse’s division, in the Level 5 High Performance Individual Stroke Tournament. Playing in his home state of Washington, he finished with the same total score as Lagasse (244). While golfers will not be split into divisions this time around until after Monday’s round, Condon may be competing with Lagasse for a medal once again. Will he be able to adjust to the Orlando heat and keep up with Lagasse?
Curtis joined Special Olympics Maine in 2007.  He will be participating in the Level 5 High Performance competition as he did in 2018, but he has also played Unified golf in the past. Curtis has won gold in the Maine state tournament for 12 consecutive years, and will look to take it to the next level as he competes for his first gold on the national scale.
Braxton is a longtime Special Olympics golfer and swimmer. She has participated since 1981, before Tyler Lagasse was even born. She participated in the USA Games in 2010 (where she won Division 2 gold), 2014, and 2018 as well as the World Games in 1991, 2007, 2011, and 2019. She won gold in 2007 and 2011 competing against all female golfers. When she competed against male and female golfers in 2019, she still came home with silver. While it is still to be determined what division she will compete in, she will look to bring home another medal no matter who her competition is.

Other Competitors to Watch for

Three of the competitors are playing in their home state which could be a factor like it was for Condon in 2018. Below is the list of golfers to watch for with a few highlights about them.

  • Vince Egan, Colorado
    • Has competed in Special Olympics basketball and alpine skiing as well
    • Won gold in alpine skiing at 2017 World Games
    • Has played golf in his spare time and is competing at Level 5 this year
  • Matthew Glumac, Southern California
    • Autistic golfer who vlogs about his golf experiences
    • Won gold in 9-hole competition at SoCal state games in 2019 (shot a 67)
    • Has since shot a 68 (-4) on an 18-hole course
    • Will compete in 18-hole golf at 2022 USA Games
  • Ian Kelley, Florida
    • Has been golfing in Special Olympics for 7.5 years
    • First USA Games
    • Before the USA Games, worked with John Brown, one of just 352 PGA professionals
    • Per WFTV in Central Florida, Brown sees “massive upside” in Kelley’s game
  • Ryan Luck, Florida
    • Won silver at 2015 World Games in Los Angeles
    • Golfs daily with his dad, Robin
  • Jonathan Baylor, West Virginia
    • 8-year Special Olympian in basketball, golf, and softball
    • First time at USA Games for any sport
  • Nathan Cheverton, Tennessee
    • Has competed in six different Special Olympic sports at varied levels over the last 36 years
  • Drew Dormagen, West Virginia
    • Competed in World Games golf back in 1999, his first year with Special Olympics
    • Has continued Special Olympics golf at various levels leading up to 2022 USA Games
  • John Flynn, South Carolina
    • Went to USA Games in 2014 as a basketball player
    • Returning as a golfer in 2022
  • Steven Foley, New York
    • Won in 9-hole golf (red level) at New York state competition in 2021
    • Will switch to 18-hole golf for the USA Games in 2022
  • Brett Geiger, New York
    • Competed at national level in Team Brightspot Unified Golf Challenge in preparation for the USA Games
  • Andrew Hay, New York
    • Won in 9-hole golf (blue level) at New York state competition in 2021
    • Will switch to 18-hole golf for the USA Games in 2022
  • Andrew Johnson, South Carolina
    • Won silver in unified golf with his dad at 2018 USA Games
    • Will compete in Level 5 by himself at 2022 USA Games
  • Michael Ladieu, Florida
    • Has fetal alcohol syndrome but refuses to let it limit him
    • Played at 2021 Florida state golf tournament leading up to USA Games
  • Adam Leitko, Texas
    • Played level 5 golf at 2019 Special Olympics Fall Classic
    • Will take his talents to USA Games at the same level this year
  • Shawn Palmer, New Mexico
    • Has participated in seven Special Olympic sports
    • Works at local golf course and has gained golf experience over the last few years
  • Ben Purick, New York
    • Won gold in 2021 Special Olympics New York games as a Level 5 golfer
    • First USA Games despite golfing for 19 years
  • Andrew Williams, Tennessee
    • Has been competing in Special Olympics for 16 years
    • Won bronze in golf at 2010 USA Games
  • Graham Wright, Virginia
    • Has competed in basketball and softball as well
    • Has been in Special Olympics for 33 years, not all golf though

Lagasse is Ready to go

Lagasse has a competitive field of golfers to fight for gold with, but it seems he is up for the challenge. I spoke with Tyler briefly just before he left for Orlando and he said he’s ready to go for Gold.

His excitement remains high today because when he landed in Orlando, NFL legend Peyton Manning greeted him soon after and he had the chance for a photo opportunity (see below)!

Round 1 is Monday so stay tuned here to learn how Lagasse channels his energy towards his golf game.


Ready for Special Olympics, Park Scholar Program after Graduation

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OLYMPIC COVERAGE

After a busy 4 years at Algonquin Regional High School, I will be graduating this Sunday, June 5.

Right after graduation, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Florida to cover the Special Olympics USA Games for the second consecutive time to follow the story of 3-time silver medalist golfer and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. You’ll be able to follow my coverage on this page.

Once I return, I will be preparing for my next four years as a sports media major in the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. In case you have not heard, I was recently selected into the Park Scholar Program, Ithaca College’s full-ride scholarship program centered around service in the communications industry. I’d like to thank the entire Park Scholar Selection Committee for choosing to bring me on board for these next four years.

Check out this video of my official announcement from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism’s 26.2 Can Do Fest before the Boston Marathon. I was there alongside football legend and Foundation co-founder Doug Flutie and voice of the New England Patriots Bob Socci, who have been a tremendous help with my goal to become a professional sports journalist.

I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my journey!

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Ripple effect follows bombshell at 1

Welcome to my annual NFL Mock Draft. This is one of the deepest classes in a long time, but it lacks standout names at the top. For the first time since 2018, we cannot be sure who is going #1 overall. Many believe it is between edge rushers Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson, but is that really true? Keep reading to find out who I have at 1 and how it will affect the rest of the first round. I have also included a Patriots mock for Rounds 2-7 below.

#TeamPlayerPositionCollegeWhy
1Ikem EkwonuOLNC StateMany are projecting the Jaguars will take an edge rusher with this pick due to the strength of this class at that position. I have also heard whispers about d-lineman/edge rusher hybrid Travon Walker, but I feel this might be a bit early for him despite his recent rise up draft boards. Jacksonville already has a solid edge rushing duo in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson though. I see them giving Chaisson more time to develop and opting for an offensive lineman here. The Jags have worked to improve the line already this offseason, but a better blindside protector for Trevor Lawrence can’t hurt, and it gives the team flexibility to move Jawaan Taylor or Cam Robinson inside. Doug Pederson reportedly liked Ekwonu and I see them taking him here.
2Aidan HutchinsonEDGEMichiganThe Jaguars may pass on Hutchinson, but I cannot see him falling any further. Edge rusher is not Detroit’s biggest direct need, but the defense could use help overall. Hutchinson was a Heisman finalist and he should be an instant playmaker wherever he goes. I can’t see the Lions passing on this Michigan hometown hero.
3Derek Stingley Jr.CBLSUStingley has been a playmaker since the Joe Burrow era at LSU, even though he was only a freshman at the time. While the 2021 season initially hurt his draft stock, his name has gained steam in the last couple weeks. The Texans have a decent secondary, but they lack a truly dependable #1 corner. I think they’ll trust Stingley, the longtime LSU standout, with that role over the other rising name at corner in this class, Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner. 
4Kayvon ThibodeauxEDGEOregonPrior to this season, Thibodeaux was seen as a generational talent. Much like Stingley, I doubt he falls very far. The Jets have been in the market for star wide receiver Deebo Samuel, but if they want to contend their priority should be on fixing up this defense. While the Jets could consider a top corner in Gardner here, it’s hard to pass on Thibodeaux with a need at edge rusher. Gardner is also more likely to fall to the Jets’ next first rounder at #10.
5Evan NealOLAlabamaI honestly think Neal is the best tackle in the class, and he would be a huge help for QB Daniel Jones. Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart are a decent duo of tackles, but with all the injuries the Giants suffered last year, this o-line clearly was not cutting it. Ekwonu gives the Giants skill players a higher chance of staying healthy and the team a better chance of success.
6Kenny PickettQBPittsburghThe Panthers may claim they’re sticking with Sam Darnold at starting QB, but it may be time for a change after Darnold’s inconsistencies last year. Pickett is one of the most NFL ready QBs and is a safer bet to perform at a starter quality level out of the gate. With strong QB play, the Panthers have a window of opportunity for contention, and Pickett could help them get there.
7(TRADE)Travon WalkerDLGeorgiaI don’t see the Giants staying in this spot as they would be reaching to fill needs. Walker might very well be the hottest name in this draft class and as they have multiple holes to fill on this defensive line, I feel the Ravens would be willing to make a move for him. Walker has the versatility to play defensive line or edge rusher and should be a staple of this Baltimore defense for years to come alongside star corner Marlon Humphrey. While I don’t buy the Walker rumors at #1, I don’t think he falls much further than this.
8Garrett WilsonWROhio StateIt’s up in the air as to whether WR Calvin Ridley will ever play again, and if he does, it probably won’t be for the Falcons. While Atlanta is left with star TE Kyle Pitts, they won’t be able to get by with Damiere Byrd and Olamide Zacchaeus as their best receivers. Wilson was splitting targets with Chris Olave at Ohio State, but he is a huge upgrade over any receiver the Falcons have and should be an instant alpha dog receiver in Atlanta. 
9Malik WillisQBLibertyWhile Pickett offers a safer floor, I’d argue Willis has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. The Seahawks will likely roll with QB Drew Lock in the short term, but I see Willis as a strong long term replacement for Russell Wilson. Like Russ, Willis has a nice combo of arm talent and mobility. This isn’t Seattle’s year, but Willis could help them speed up the process of their rebuild and put them in position to contend a couple years down the line.
10Ahmad GardnerCBCincinnatiWhy don’t you look at that, between the slide of Travon Walker and the run of offensive players, Gardner makes it back to the Jets at #10. This would be a steal for them, as the combo of Gardner and Thibodeaux would immediately change the narrative on this Jets defense. 
11Kyle HamiltonSNotre DameWhile Washington isn’t necessarily a Super Bowl contender, they are a fairly well rounded team with very few holes. The safety position is one exception. The signing of Landon Collins did not work out so well, and it leaves the Commanders with unproven options to start at safety. Hamilton is seen as one of the most talented safety prospects in a long time, and he would provide a major boost to a struggling Commanders secondary.
12Charles CrossTMississippi StateI’d like to think Minnesota’s defensive struggles had more to do with coaching than personnel. The offensive line is just as big of a concern as the defense. The Vikings miss out on Neal and Ekwonu, but Cross, who has been a rumored top 10 selection, still provides good value here. I expect him to make an immediate difference opposite last year’s first rounder, Christian Darrisaw. 
13Jameson WilliamsWRAlabamaBrandin Cooks’ name has been floating around in trade rumors, and even if Cooks sticks around, the Texans lack depth at receiver behind him, and I think that takes priority over another defensive first rounder. Williams was putting up insane stats at Alabama before tearing his ACL late into the season. His recovery is also reportedly going faster than expected. While I personally prefer guys like Drake London or Chris Olave over Williams, it would be surprising to see him fall much further than this, and the Texans are a strong fit. Williams could have the opportunity to shine alongside Cooks. It really comes down to whether they have a competent QB. 
14
(TRADE)
Devin LloydLBUtahThe Giants could use some more help at linebacker beyond Blake Martinez. Lloyd twould provide that immediately and should still be available for the Giants at this spot, making the trade down worth it. I see the Giants choosing the Utah product, who has gained momentum on draft boards, over Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean.
15Andrew BoothCBClemsonThis may be a slight reach for Booth, but the Eagles are in dire need of some more corners alongside Darius Slay. In the two years since the departure of A.J. Terrell, Booth has had a total of 44 tackles and 5 interceptions. He quickly established himself as a top corner in Clemson’s defense and should be able to fit right in immediately in Philly.
16Jordan DavisDLGeorgiaMany have the Saints focusing on offense in Round 1, and I expect that to be the case at #19. However, the Saints could definitely use another defensive lineman next to David Onyemata. Walker will be off the board here, but he has two teammates in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt that joined Walker in a historic Georgia Bulldog defensive line. All three have a good amount of draft stock, and Davis and Wyatt are definitely reasonable options here. I give Davis, once touted as the top d-lineman in the class, the slight edge.
17Trevor PenningOLNorthern IowaThe Chargers added Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley last offseason, but this offensive line still has a lot of holes. With the top tier of offensive linemen off the board, Penning seems like a logical pick here. While he’s not on par with Neal or Ekwonu, he is capable of starting opposite Slater from day one.
18Tyler LinderbaumOLIowa StateJason Kelce is likely nearing retirement. At one point he had even retired and unretired. As the top interior lineman in the class, Linderbaum is a fitting long term replacement for Kelce, and could even see some reps at guard in the meantime.
19Drake LondonWRUSCWhile I do have the Saints starting off this draft on the defensive side of the ball, it would be shocking to see them ignore the offense with both their first rounders. London is a physical, big-bodied receiver who would make for a great complement to Michael Thomas. Even if Thomas left New Orleans or missed time, London would be fine. He has the talent to thrive as a #1 receiver for a team if necessary.
20
(TRADE)
Jermaine Johnson IIEDGEFlorida StateMany have Johnson going even earlier than this, but not many teams have a need for an edge rusher. The Chiefs are one exception to that predicament, and I feel they will trade up for Johnson. Johnson may be taken simply as the best player on the board if he falls too far, so the Chiefs need to make a move if they want him.
21Trent McDuffieCBWashingtonWith Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson on the outs, the Patriots need their star corner of the future. Bill Belichick has never been shy drafting corners, so I expect him to take care of business in Round 1. Washington has produced some of the Pac-12’s all time best DBs like Budda Baker. The Huskies have also produced many other NFL starters like Byron Murphy and Kevin King. Groomed by the same staff as these successful NFL players, McDuffie has posted a strong college career and should be ready for NFL action from the beginning, which the Patriots are looking for.
22Chris OlaveWROhio StateThe Packers have been hesitant to draft WRs for Aaron Rodgers in early rounds, but with Davante Adams on the outs, they do not have much of a choice. As long as they want to contend this year, they’ll need some new receivers. Olave was already a top college receiver for a handful of QBs including Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields. and C.J. Stroud. Rodgers should help elevate his game to a high level in the NFL. 
23Roger McCrearyCBAuburnThe Cardinals may have a decent secondary, but much like the Patriots they lack a true standout corner. McCreary is no guarantee at that, but likely a safer bet than anyone else on the roster, in free agency, or remaining on the draft board at this slot.
24Tyler SmithOLTulsaThe Cowboys are on the lookout for a La’el Collins replacement. One option is to move Connor Williams to tackle and find another guard. However, Smith could be a smart selection here as it keeps everyone in place on this Dallas offensive line. I honestly think he’s just as good a pick here as someone like Kenyon Green or Zion Johnson.
25Nakobe DeanLBGeorgiaThe Bills may have a great LB in Tremaine Edmunds but lack depth behind him. I don’t think it would be as huge of a problem if they made it a solid duo by adding Nakobe Dean. Dean has the potential to make this the best LB corps in the league, and even at his floor he’ll provide a rotational option for in Buffalo.
26DeMarvin LealDLTexas A&MDevonte Wyatt is a popular pick for the first round, but I have the Titans deviating from the Georgia d-line and taking Leal, the Texas A&M product. Leal may be the best non-Georgia d-lineman in this class, and he could make for a great duo with Jeffery Simmons at the line of scrimmage.
27
(TRADE)
David OjaboEDGEMichiganThis is a very deep draft class, so there is little reason to trade up. However, with the excess of top level edge rushers compared to teams who need them, I expect a couple edge rusher needy teams to make a move for a safe player at the position. The Bears have a lot of needs, but Ojabo would definitely be a good start for the rebuild of this defense after the departure of Khalil Mack.
28Chad MumaLBWyomingWith Lloyd and Dean gone, I have the Packers dipping into the next tier of linebackers to fill their need at the position. Muma has been touted as an early 2nd round option, and with a lack of proven linebackers on the inside, I don’t see any reason why the Packers can’t reach a little and snag him here. I could also see Quay Walker in this spot, but I give Muma the slight edge.
29
(TRADE)
Kyler GordonCBWashingtonGordon, another Washington corner, has fallen down draft boards as McDuffie, his teammate, rises. That doesn’t mean Gordon has lost his ability to become a successful NFL corner. Gordon is almost as talented if not just as talented as McDuffie, and they put up similar numbers this past year. If all goes well, look for Gordon to take Joe Haden’s spot as Pittsburgh’s new top corner.
30Treylon BurksWRArkansasBurks may not have the tape of guys like Wilson and Olave, but that’s to be expected considering he played for Arkansas. Compared to other Razorback receiving options, he put up impressive numbers this past season. The Chiefs are in need of an outside complement to free agent addition JuJu Smith-Schuster. Burks could definitely fill that role.
31Travis JonesDLUConnJones may have gone to UConn, but he stood out within this Husky defense. Jones totaled 8 sacks over his final two years at UConn. He is a versatile defensive lineman with strong pass rushing ability. While the Bengals already have two excellent edge rushers, they are in need of a long term replacement on the inside for Geno Atkins. Jones could be their guy, and I think he has the upside for even more.
32Matt CorralQBOle MissI’m far from Corral’s biggest fanboy, but QB Jared Goff was not meant to be Detroit’s franchise guy. I don’t see what other QB the Lions would take here, and if they wait too long they could miss out on the QBs with any potential at all.

Patriots Round 2-7 Mock

54. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

85. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

127. Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati

158. Jordan Williams, DL, Virginia Tech

170. Abram Smith, RB, Baylor

210. Kellen Diesch, OL, Arizona State

That’s all for this year’s mock draft. However, I will be live streaming tomorrow with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky on The Master Plan YouTube, so check that out.

2022 Boston Sports Mania Apparel Fundraiser

For the second year in a row, Boston Sports Mania apparel is being sold for a limited period of time. All profits will go to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. The Flutie Foundation is an organization who helps people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.

I also want to give a special thanks to Spectrum Designs, a business that helps individuals with autism lead full and productive lives through the world of work. They produced the apparel and donated the ordering website.

The best part of this campaign is that every dollar raised will benefit the autism community in some way, because the Flutie Foundation helps people and families affected by autism and Spectrum Designs employs people with autism.

Apparel can be purchased until May 3, 2022. We’ll also have a chance for everyone to see the apparel in person on that day.

Come attend an in-person event on May 3rd from 5:30PM to 9:30PM at Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, MA (21 Apex Drive) to support the Flutie Foundation for Autism and conclude the Autism Acceptance month online apparel fundraiser.

  • The May 3rd event is an in-person fundraiser and people are invited to come at any time between 5:30 PM and 9:00 PM EST to have fun with colleagues, family, and friends
    • Everyone who visits the host table at the entrance will receive a 30-minute Apex game card valued between $10 and $15
    • Additional Option for more free games: Anyone who donates to the Flutie Foundation for Autism in any of the following ways will receive an additional Apex attraction voucher valued between $10 and $15:
      • Bring proof of donation at the Boston Sports Mania Apparel sales site here
      • At the event, donate with a credit card at the check-in table 
      • Purchase Boston Sports Mania apparel (see below) with a credit card at the check-in table

Purchase your apparel and/or make a donation to support the Flutie Foundation by clicking HERE.