Zach Lowe Believes Jayson Tatum Is This Step Away From Being ‘Super-Duper Star’

You’re not going to find many holes in Jayson Tatum’s game.
Tatum, who’s in the midst of a breakout third NBA season, boasts a near-complete skill set. The 21-year-old already has established himself as a consistent 3-point shooter with an above-average mid-range game to go along with a fearlessness attacking the rim. And while defense was a perceived weakness of Tatum coming out Duke three years ago, he can more than hold his own on that end of the floor thanks in large to his length.
All of this considered, ESPN’s Zach Lowe seems to believe Tatum is only one facet away from becoming one of basketball’s best.
“He seems to like the big stage and always has since he was a rookie,” Lowe said Tuesday on “The Jump.” “He’s a really good defensive player, which I think people were slow to realize. He’s a really good defensive player. The next step for him is how good of a passer can he become? Can he become a five-assist, six-assist kind of guy? Because if he gets that, without sacrificing a lot of his scoring, then you have a super-duper-star.”

Tatum currently is averaging 2.9 assists per game this season. While that mark is nothing to write home about, it would serve as a career-high if sustained. Tatum has upped his assist numbers each season thus far, so at the very least, there’s documented steady improvement, which always is an encouraging sign when dealing with younger players.
That said, we can’t imagine Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and Co. are dwelling on Tatum’s passing too much. The Celtics surely are more than pleased with Tatum’s development, and his rapid progression has some pundits projecting a deep playoff run for Boston this spring.

John Elway Addresses Broncos’ Level Of Interest In Pursuing Tom Brady

Judging by the comments made at the NFL Scouting Combine by each team’s respective brass, it feels safe to say the Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all are leaving the door open for a potential pursuit of Tom Brady.
As for the Denver Broncos, it sounds like they’re keeping it just slightly ajar.
Broncos president and general manager John Elway on Tuesday was asked about his team possibly entering the Brady sweepstakes, and while it doesn’t appear to be a priority for Denver, it hasn’t been completely ruled out either.
“We’d always talk to him but I think we’re happy with what we have in Drew (Lock),” Elway said, per Sports Illustrated.
Elway continued: “With where we are, we’re excited about Drew. It’s nice to have a young guy to be able to build around and feel like you’ve got a guy that has the potential to be a long-time starter for you and really kind of the sky’s the limit for him, depending on how he continues to improve.”
Lock, a second-round pick by the Broncos last year, inspired optimism in his limited body of work as a rookie. The Missouri product, who took over as Denver’s starting QB in Week 13, threw for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 64.1 percent of his passes. The Broncos went 4-1 with Lock under center after going 3-8 before he was promoted.
As for Brady, Elway subtly suggested a relocation might be a burden for the future Hall of Famer.
“I think having gotten used to where he’s been for so long, I think just the change—it might be exciting for him—but I think it’s going to be a lot of work,” Elway said.
Brady can speak with all teams beginning March 16 when the league’s legal tampering period opens. Until that date, the New England Patriots own exclusive negotiating rights, and the team reportedly is meeting with Brady’s agent this week in Indianapolis.

Kemba Walker (Knee) Could Return Wednesday vs. Jazz But Is Doubtful

Kemba Walker playing in the NBA All-Star Game is looking worse by the day.
However, the Boston Celtics point guard is close to a return for the C’s. On Tuesday, head coach Brad Stevens said it is a “possibility” that Walker would play Wednesday in Salt Lake City vs. the Utah Jazz but it is unlikely.
Adam Pellerin shares more in “Fast Forward” during “NESN Sports Update,” presented by Sullivan Tire.

Free Agent Cornerback Josh Norman Has Spoken With This Patriots Rival

The Buffalo Bills reportedly were in the mix for Greg Olsen but ultimately weren’t unable to sign the tight end, who landed with the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, the Bills have shifted their focus to another veteran with ties to head coach Sean McDermott.
Josh Norman, who was released by the Washington Redskins on Feb. 14, has been in contact with Buffalo.
“We have looked into him and even talked to him,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said, per the team’s official website. “Nothing more than that. I’m sure he may have some other teams that he’s looking at beyond Buffalo. Probably a similar situation to Greg Olsen, he’s in a spot where he’ll be able to choose where he wants to go. I don’t know what his plan will be of whether we’ll come to any type of agreement.”
Norman was one football’s best cornerbacks over the course of his four-year stint with the Panthers, during which time McDermott served as Carolina’s defensive coordinator. The 32-year-old garnered Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors in 2015, which helped him land a five-year, $75 million deal with Washington of the 2016 campaign. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Norman didn’t really live up to the contract, and his role was considerably diminished this past season.
Should Norman sign with the Bills, he’d join an already stout defense and enter the fray with little to no expectations. At this stage in his career, Norman might be best served in a situational role, and who knows, maybe a reunion with McDermott could revitalize his game.

Will Jets Consider Trading Le’Veon Bell? New York’s GM Opens Up

Well, it looks like Le’Veon Bell is staying in the Meadowlands.
It’s not often a marquee free-agent signing almost immediately becomes subject to trade rumors, but alas, such was the case for Bell this past season. Bell’s name was floated leading up to the NFL trade deadline, and a follow-up report indicated the New York Jets would be “more receptive” to the possibility of trading the star running back this offseason.
But speaking with the media Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jets general manager put the idea of a Bell blockbuster to rest.
“There hasn’t been talk as far as him going anywhere,” Douglas said, per ESPN. “We’re excited about Le’Veon. Le’Veon has been a great teammate. I can’t tell you how great he’s been. … We’re excited to have him.”
Bell’s first season with New York was a forgettable one. The three-time Pro Bowl selection rushed for 789 yards with three touchdowns over 15 games to go along with 66 catches for 461 yards and a score. In fact, the Jets reportedly thought Bell gained weight over the course of the campaign which resulted in a lack of explosiveness.
The 28-year-old signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with $35 million guaranteed last March.

Why Patriots Scouts Were ‘Gushing Over’ James Proche At Senior Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS — SMU wide receiver James Proche seemingly has fans in the New England Patriots’ organization.
That shouldn’t come as a big surprise since Proche is a versatile slot receiver with some of the best hands in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Last month, Patriots scouts reportedly were “gushing over” Proche at the Senior Bowl. Proche didn’t notice the positive report at the time.
“I wasn’t really focused on it,” Proche said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I was just focused on doing my job at a high level. And whoever liked me liked me. I wasn’t really focused on who was looking at me.”
Proche met with the Patriots at the combine Monday night. It seems he made another strong  impression on New England.
“It was cool — nice and short and brief,” Proche said. “It was kind of what I expected. No smiles or emotions, just like, ‘What do you know?’ They asked me questions. I feel like I did a good job of showing my football knowledge. That’s something they respected.”
Proche measured in at 5-foot-11, 201 pounds at the combine. He caught 301 career passes at SMU for 3,949 yards with 39 touchdowns, plus 10 carries for 50 yards, 50 punt returns for 382 yards and 31 kick returns for 615 yards.
The SMU product dropped just three passes on 164 targets in 2019 and nine total in his college career. He was also known for making contested catches and one-handed grabs.
“I feel like I catch the ball better than anybody in football,” Proche said. “I love catching the ball. My girlfriend’s throwing me the ball, my brothers, I’m catching the ball in the dark. It’s just something I’ve always loved to do. I feel like God blessed me with that tool.”
Proche said he’s been making one-handed catches since he was 11 years old.
He said his personality also could set him apart in a loaded receiver class.
“I just want to show I’m a good locker room guy, good team guy,” Proche said. “I’ll be good for the community for whatever team drafts me.”
The wide receiver prospect said teams have talked to him about playing outside and in the slot. Proche caught 56 passes for 581 yards from the slot in 2019. He’s recently been picking the brain of former SMU wide receiver Cole Beasley, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills.
“I just want to learn a lot of stuff from him,” Proche said. “I feel like he’s the best in the game in the slot, especially with his quote-unquote size deficiencies. He does a great job of making it work, using leverages, knowing coverages. I just want to pick his brain and learn as much as possible.”
The Patriots reportedly were interested in Beasley as a free agent last offseason. Proche wouldn’t necessarily compare his game to Beasley’s, however.
“I think I’m me,” Proche said. “I’m a unique blend. I work very hard of trying to create my own identity and separate it from other guys. I’d be an idiot to not learn from him. He’s a baller.”
The Patriots could use some additional help at wide receiver even after selecting N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Proche currently is regarded as a mid-round prospect. The Patriots are projected to have three third-round picks.

Why Tracy McGrady Isn’t Ready To Give Jayson Tatum ‘Superstar’ Label

Tracy McGrady believes Jayson Tatum needs to check off one more box before he can be recognized as a superstar.
Many believe Tatum already has earned the label. Tatum, who garnered his first NBA All-Star selection this season, currently is averaging 23.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a Boston Celtics team that owns the fourth-best record in the entire league. The 21-year-old through 53 games has logged 10 performances of 30-plus points, the latest being a 36-point outburst in Boston’s road win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.
McGrady clearly is impressed by the jump Tatum has made in his third NBA season, but he still needs to see a bit more before he extends his praise for the swingman.
“It’s in the making. What is this, third year? It’s that time. His third year, he’s blossoming into a superstar,” McGrady said Tuesday on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “You can just see the confidence over the last month. I went and watched when they played Houston. I mean, this guy was fantastic. The moves that he’s doing, the creativity on the basketball court. You can see he’s extremely confident right now, and he’s separating himself from the other players on the team to let everybody know he is the No. 1 option and he is that guy. I need to see it in the playoffs. I don’t want to give him superstar right now until I see what he does in the playoffs.”

In Tatum’s defense, he’s largely made the most of the playoff opportunities he’s had. As a newly turned 20-year-old, he led the 2017-18 Celtics, who fell one win shy of the NBA Finals, with 18.5 points per game over their 19-contest playoff run. That number dipped to 15.2 in the 2019 playoffs, but calling a spade a spade, that Celtics team was dysfunctional and not set up for sustained success.
Regardless, Tatum likely will have the opportunity to change McGrady’s mind this spring. While the Milwaukee Bucks clearly are the favorites in the East, it certainly wouldn’t be shocking to see the C’s meet Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. in the conference finals.

Could This Former QB Be Patriots’ Long-Awaited Rob Gronkowski Replacement?

INDIANAPOLIS — In 2015, Adam Trautman arrived at the University of Dayton with a clear goal in mind.
Having just set school records for passing and all-purpose yards as a dual-threat quarterback at tiny Elk River (Mich.) High School, Trautman wanted to continue his quarterbacking career at the collegiate level. Rick Chamberlin, Dayton’s head coach, believed the 6-foot-3, 218-pound kid was better suited to play tight end, but he didn’t push the issue. If Trautman believed he could play QB in the Football Championship Subdivision — one step down from the highest tier of Division I — Chamberlin was willing to let him try.
That experiment was short-lived.
Just one week into his freshman training camp, Trautman approached the coaching staff with a request.
“Coach,” he told offensive coordinator Eric Evans, “I want to give tight end a shot.”
It wasn’t that Trautman suddenly lost the desire to play quarterback. He’d just realized he could help his team more by catching passes than by throwing them.
“High school-wise, I played with, like, 18 kids on my varsity team my junior year of high school, 22 my senior year,” Trautman said. “The team concept was a little rough, to be honest. And then when I got to Dayton, you play non-scholarship football. No one has any egos, and you truly play for each other. And that’s something that I thought was so special and I wanted to be a part of so fast. So I was the one that offered it up to our OC, and he kind of looked at me weird. It was only, like, seven days into camp, and I was like, ‘Hey, I just want to be a part of this, and I know I can bring a whole new dynamic to the tight end position.’
“I eventually made the switch, and it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Indeed it was.
Five years and nearly 40 pounds later, Trautman now enters the 2020 NFL Draft as one of the nation’s top tight end prospects — one the New England Patriots, who have yet to find a viable replacement for retired superstar Rob Gronkowski, should strongly consider.
“Honestly, it’s not really something I necessarily expected — to get to this level,” Trautman, who measured in at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, said Tuesday during prospect media availability. “But I know the work I put in, and I knew that it could get me to this point eventually.”
It’s rare for a school like Dayton, which hasn’t had a player selected in the NFL draft since before Tom Brady was born, to produce a prospect like Trautman. It took some time for him to grow into his new position — he was limited to scout-team duty in 2015, then caught a modest 26 passes in 11 games (seven starts) as a redshirt freshman in 2016 — but Chamberlin quickly learned he was dealing with a rare talent.
“He was a freshman on the scout team, and our (starting) defense couldn’t cover him,” Chamberlin told NESN.com this week.
Trautman upped his production over the next two years, leading the Flyers in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a sophomore (43-537-5) and junior (41-604-9) and earning consecutive second-team All-Pioneer League selections. NFL clubs began to take interest.
Then, as a senior, he exploded. Despite facing frequent double teams as his team’s unquestioned top weapon, Trautman racked up 70 catches for 916 yards and 14 touchdowns and used his filled-out frame and improved technique to bully overmatched defenders. By season’s end, all 32 teams had sent a scout to Dayton to watch him play or practice.
What they saw was a player who, despite having zero experience as a blocker or pass-catcher before college, had developed into a true two-way tight end. He boasts the versatility to line up in multiple spots (in-line, slot, out wide) and the physicality to move bodies in the run game, describing himself as a “big chess piece” in the mold of San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle.
“This kid, he’s going to just continue to get better and better,” NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call last week. “And the crazy thing is he’s really polished. He knows how to set up defenders. He can separate, he can wiggle. He wins a lot of 50-50 balls. … He’s somebody, I think for the Patriots, that would give you a little bit more separation and athleticism at the position. I could make a strong case for that.”
Despite his impressive profile, any small-school prospect carries with him the requisite concerns about quality of competition.
Dayton didn’t face a single Football Bowl Subdivision program during Trautman’s tenure. The two best performances of his phenomenal senior season — back-to-back torchings of Jacksonville (six catches, 107 yards, four touchdowns) and Valparaiso (10-122-3) last October — came against teams that posted 1-7 records in the Pioneer League. Conference champion San Diego held him to three catches for 38 yards, through one of those was a 25-yard touchdown.
Drafting a tight end from college football’s lower levels has yielded mixed results in recent years. The Philadelphia Eagles selected FCS product Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State) in the second round in 2018, and he’s turned into a solid No. 2 behind perennial Pro Bowler Zach Ertz. The Chicago Bears weren’t so fortunate. They used a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen out of Division II Ashland one year earlier, and he’s caught just 26 passes in three seasons.
Other recently drafted non-FBS tight ends include Eric Saubert (Drake, fifth round, 2017), Seth DeValve (Princeton, fourth round, 2016), Temarrick Hemingway (South Carolina State, sixth round, 2016), MyCole Pruitt (Southern Illinois, fifth round, 2015), Nick Boyle (Delaware, fifth round, 2015) and James O’Shaughnessy (Illinois State, fifth round, 2015).
Trautman, though, has a higher ceiling than all of those players. Jeremiah and Chamberlin both pointed to his performance at this year’s Senior Bowl as evidence he can hang with the big boys.
“He had a great Senior Bowl week,” Jeremiah said. “I thought he was outstanding there. I thought he was the best tight end down there, and it was a good group.”
Trautman excelled as a blocker and as a receiver during practice sessions in Mobile, then put Florida defensive end Jonathan Greenard on his back in the opening minutes of the Senior Bowl itself.
“He’s not going to give in to anybody,” Chamberlin said. “I don’t care how big they look or how many years that they’ve been in the NFL — he’s not going to back down. … I went down to the Senior Bowl, and I watched him for two days going against guys from Michigan and North Carolina and a couple of the other big FBS schools, and he held his own. He really did — blocking, especially. I thought he never got manhandled there.
“And I know the NFL — that’s where it all comes about. How can you stand up against individuals physically? And I thought he really showed that he had that quality. He can do that. And I feel like he’s even going to get better. He really is.”
Trautman agreed: The all-star showcase was a confidence-booster, even if he personally did not need one.
“The Senior Bowl was huge for me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted an opportunity to go against kids with the Alabama stickers on their helmet, the Ohio State, Michigan, and it was huge for me, obviously, confidence-wise. I never really waver in my confidence, but to go out there and be able to move people off the ball like I did from those type of schools, get separation like I did at my level — I just showed that it was a seamless transition for me. …
“The level of competition, sure, it’s a jump, but I had no problems with it at all. And I think everyone there would agree with that.”
Tight end is the most obvious offseason need for Patriots, who sent a large contingent of coaches to the Senior Bowl, and they appear to have taken an interest in Trautman. They’ve met with him multiple times during the pre-draft process, including once Monday night in Indianapolis.
Trautman said he appreciates New England’s “lunch-pail mentality” and “(looks) forward to future contact” with Bill Belichick’s staff.
“That’s definitely a type of franchise that I can see myself playing for,” he said.

Tom Brady Or Ryan Tannehill? What Jason Whitlock Believes Debate Comes Down To For Titans

The Tennessee Titans have quite the decision on their hands.
While previous reports have indicated Ryan Tannehill “isn’t leaving” Nashville, Titans brass at the NFL Scouting Combined seemed to be leaving the door open for a Tom Brady pursuit. Both Tannehill and Brady are eligible to become free agents when the new NFL year opens March 18.
Tannehill’s performance over the course of the Titans’ run to the AFC Championship Game can’t be minimized, but it’s fair to wonder if it was somewhat of a flash in the plan situation given how his tenure in Miami played out. The jury’s still out over whether Tannehill can actually lead a team in the Super Bowl, whereas Brady has done it more so than any other quarterback in league history.
So, how should the Titans, who appear on the cusp of a Lombardi Trophy, approach their QB conundrum this offseason? Jason Whitlock believes it all comes down to finances.
“For me, this all comes down to price. If Ryan Tannehill wants to take $23 million a year, $22 (million) and Tom Brady is asking for $30 (million), Brady’s not a better option if he’s that much more expensive than Tannehill. If Tannehill’s looking to break the bank and is asking for money that’s cost-prohibited, then Tom Brady is the better roll of the dice because I guarantee you what Tennessee’s thinking, what Mike Vrabel’s thinking is it’s a win-now league. Like, ‘Damn, we were right there and if we had better quarterback play against the Chiefs, might we have won an upset?’

Is Brady a better option for Titans than Ryan Tannehill?
"When you look at Tom Brady in the postseason, this year and last year, more interceptions than touchdowns. Let's stop acting like Tom Brady is so perfect in the offseason." — @MarcellusWiley pic.twitter.com/AFQmKsqJET
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) February 25, 2020

It remains to be seen what either quarterback will be in search of monetarily. Although some reports have indicated the New England Patriots are willing to offer Brady north of $30 million annually, Brady reportedly is not demanding that high of a figure and is instead prioritizing a strong supporting cast. As for Tannehill, who turns 32 in late July, this very well could be his last opportunity to cash in, and we know how desperate quarterback-needy teams can be.
Then again, there’s always a chance Tennessee never has the opportunity to actually pursue Brady. The Patriots have exclusive negotiating rights with the future Hall of Famer until March 16, and the franchise reportedly is meeting with TB12’s agent this week in Indianapolis.