Chelsea midfielder Jorginho believes Frank Lampard "skipped some steps" and was not ready to become head coach at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard, the club's record goalscorer, was appointed by the Blues ahead of the 2019-20 season, having impressed with Derby County in the Championship.

The former England star guided Chelsea to a top-four finish in his first season as a Premier League boss, as well as the FA Cup final where they were beaten by Arsenal.

But there were few signs of progress by the time Lampard was sacked in January of this year, with the team in ninth, and he was replaced by Thomas Tuchel.

Lampard picked up 1.67 points per game across his Chelsea reign, the fourth-lowest mark among the club's Premier League managers.

No Blues boss has seen his team average fewer goals in the competition, with Lampard's side scoring 1.35 per game.

Only five Chelsea players appeared more times in the league under Lampard than Jorginho (42), while his seven goals also ranked sixth in that time.

But despite being a key man in that side, Jorginho felt Lampard's inexperience told.

"Look, I'll be really sincere here on Lampard," he told ESPN Brasil.

"I believe, given he was a legend at the club, he skipped some steps necessary for learning before moving to a big club.

"He came to a club where he is a legend, without having experience at other clubs. I think he came too soon, skipped a few steps ahead and wasn't ready for a job at this level, to be honest."

Chelsea have since lost only two of 20 matches in all competitions under Tuchel, the second of which still secured their Champions League progress against Porto.

Tuchel's side are through to the semi-finals in Europe, as well as climbing into the top four in the league and reaching the FA Cup final.

The NFL Draft looms large on the horizon as rosters continue to take shape ahead of the 2021 season.

Some big offseason moves have already threatened to alter the landscape of the league, even boosting the championship hopes of teams who missed out on the playoffs in 2020.

Most notably, the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins will each feel they won a trade that saw the number three overall pick sent to the NFC West team in exchange for assets including multiple future first-rounders.

The Niners will get a look at one of the top quarterbacks in an exciting class as they aim to challenge again following an injury ravaged campaign, while the Dolphins can now surround starter Tua Tagovailoa with talent in year two and beyond.

But what of the teams who were already Super Bowl contenders?

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers reached the NFC Championship Game and the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills advanced in the AFC, pre-game predictions could scarcely separate the four.

It was the Bucs who ultimately prevailed, progressing past Green Bay before beating the Chiefs at Super Bowl LV, but their rivals will expect to be in the mix again.

Although chaos higher up in the draft could see plans quickly go out the window, we assess where the Bucs, Packers, Chiefs and Bills might be looking next week - with the help of Stats Perform data.
 

Green Bay Packers

All four of these teams will have interesting options in the first round as the early rush for quarterbacks leaves great depth at several other positions across the board. But the Packers, picking 29th, would be wise to think about how they might help Aaron Rodgers.

The veteran QB was understandably surprised last year when, rather than recruiting help, Green Bay drafted another passer in the first round. Jordan Love did not take a single snap all season long.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams led the league in receiving touchdowns (18) and ranked fourth for targets (149), joint-second for catches (115) and joint-fifth for receiving yards (1,374), despite playing only 14 games. However, Rodgers clearly lacked a second WR option, with tight end Robert Tonyan's 11 TDs coming on just 59 targets.

There should be no shortage of prospects available to Green Bay, with Elijah Moore - ranked first in the FBS with 149.1 yards per game for Ole Miss - a good fit in the slot.

Yet the team have not selected a receiver in the first round since before Rodgers was drafted, while Adams, in 2014, was the last WR taken higher than the fourth round.

Defensive reinforcements may be more likely over the first two days of the draft. A linebacker like Zaven Collins - four interceptions last season for Tulsa - or a cornerback such as Caleb Farley - falling following back surgery - could be called in the first round, with a later punt on a potential WR project following.
 

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's needs are two-fold as they aim to give QB Josh Allen the platform to contend with Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady again.

The Bills ranked fourth in the NFL in 2020 for yards per attempt but 20th for rushing average (4.19). Allen contributed 421 of their 1,723 total rushing yards and half of their 16 rushing TDs.

Neither Devin Singletary (156 carries for 687 yards and two TDs) nor Zack Moss (112 carries for 481 yards and four TDs) look capable of being a game-changer on the ground, while the best running backs in the class may well still be on the board at number 30.

Alabama's Najee Harris, who led the FBS with 26 rushing scores, is an obvious standout.

Yet Buffalo's issues against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game came as they failed to disrupt Mahomes, who was sacked only once and threw three TDs and no interceptions.

The Bills were in the middle of the pack for sacks (38, tied 15th) and hurries (163, 17th) and could use someone on the edge, particularly with Jerry Hughes - the man who sacked Mahomes - turning 33 in August.
 

Kansas City Chiefs

If the playoffs made the shortcomings for Buffalo clear, Kansas City's flaws were even more blatant. The best QB in football was helpless in the Super Bowl.

Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, the Chiefs' starting tackles, missed the big game through injury and Mahomes was sacked three times, throwing two picks and no TDs. The pair have each since been released, too, increasing the team's need at the position.

Arrivals Joe Thuney, who allowed 0.5 sacks last season, and Kyle Long, back out of retirement, are not best suited to playing outside. Kansas City would ideally find both a right and left tackle in this draft.

They should have no shortage of options, with a number of prospects mooted as potential picks. Teven Jenkins, out of Oklahoma State, can play either side and would be a popular signing.
 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are in a truly unenviable position in that they have no positions of major need.

Some defensive end depth would be nice, but this unit pressured Mahomes into submission. The team ranked second for both hurries (182) and knockdowns (115). Linebacker Shaquil Barrett alone had 13 Super Bowl pressures.

Or how about a receiver to deliver the late-season impact provided by Antonio Brown? He had only four starts yet scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl triumph. Of course, he could also still return.

The rest of the title-winning roster from last year is back, meaning Tampa Bay remain in 'win now' mode and can simply look to pick up the best player left on the board at pick 32.

That might mean a RB like Harris, while the Bucs would have little to lose in taking a flier on Farley, despite his fitness concerns, if he falls to them.

The 2020 NFL Draft delivered one of the best wide receiver classes of the modern era, headlined by Justin Jefferson producing an historic rookie season for the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately for NFL defenders, the 2021 crop may well be even better.

Jefferson, having gone 22nd in the draft last year as the fifth receiver selected, set a league record for the most receiving yards by a rookie as he racked up an incredible 1,400 in 2020.

Six receivers went in the first 32 picks last year, with CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk and Jerry Jeudy all impressing in their debut seasons in the league.

That number might not be matched this year, but it looks likely there will be at least four receivers taken on day one.

Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Rashod Bateman all possess skill sets that should mean they too can take the league by storm as Jefferson did so emphatically last season.

Beyond that quartet, there is a deep crop of likely day-two picks who can make an immediate impact for teams looking to bolster their pass-catching options.

Franchises eyeing an infusion of talent in the slot won't be short of options and, as the league tilts ever further towards pass-heavy offenses, it is an excellent year to be in need of a receiver regardless of where they line up.

Here we take an in-depth look at the consensus top four as well as some of the best of rest in another class of wideouts that has the potential to transform offenses across the league.

Ja'Marr Chase - LSU

Widely regarded as the top receiver in the class, Chase earned that moniker despite not displaying the ability to separate from coverage at an elite level.

In 2019, Chase was open on 61.8 per cent of his targets, well below the average of 69.7 per cent among Power 5 receivers with at least 20 targets.

Yet he put up 127.1 yards per game, second in the FBS behind Arkansas State's Omar Bayless (127.2), and was second in yards per reception among receivers with at least 40 catches with an average of 21.2 that trailed only Lamb (21.4).

His pass rating when targeted of 233.0 was second in the same group, with Smith (238.6) the sole man ahead of him.

Chase excelled in spite of a lack of separation because of two factors: his hand usage and his proficiency at the catch point.

To watch Chase is perhaps as close as you will come to watching a pass rusher play receiver, excelling at working off physical press coverage and showing the willingness to aggressively handfight with defenders throughout the route to gain an advantage.

At the catch point, the explosion in his lower body that helped him record a 41-inch vertical jump at his pro day comes to the fore, with Chase consistently succeeding in elevating over the heads of defenders to come down with the ball in contested-catch situations.

His success in those areas helped Chase finish sixth among Power 5 receivers with a minimum of 50 targets with a big-play percentage of 45.6, far outranking that of former Tigers team-mate Jefferson (38.8).

After a year away from the game following his 2020 opt-out, teams picking in the top 10 must decide if Chase's skill set can translate to the NFL as well as Jefferson's did. The majority of the numbers from his critical role in LSU's march to the National Championship present a compelling case.

DeVonta Smith - Alabama

Smith could have declared for the draft last year and been considered the top Alabama receiver in a draft that saw Crimson Tide stars Henry Ruggs III and Jeudy go in the first round after a stunning 2019 in which he outperformed both.

His decision to return for 2020 was emphatically vindicated, though, with Smith becoming the first receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991 to win the Heisman Trophy.

Doubts over Smith's 166-pound frame will persist, yet there was nothing during his career with Alabama to suggest his lack of bulk will be something that prevents him from succeeding at the next level.

Adept at creating separation with his route-running, Smith was open on 85.8 per cent of his targets - seventh among all Power 5 receivers with at least 50 targets - while his burn percentage of 76.4 trailed only Ohio State duo Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

His talents in getting free from coverage allowed Smith to rack up 142.8 receiving yards per game, that average second in the FBS, while his passer rating when targeted improved to 283.9.

And rather than allowing himself to be hindered by his slender frame at the catch point, Smith relied on his leaping ability and body control to haul in one spectacular grab after another, his catch percentage of 79.6 eighth on the FBS list for receivers with a minimum of 50 targets.

Deceptively quick and elusive with the ball in his hands, Smith's yards after catch per reception average of 8.33 saw him rank sixth among wideouts with 40 or more receptions.

In short, there is not a facet of the game in which Smith did not excel at Alabama. Perhaps his lean frame, and the doubts over whether he can succeed against press that come with it, will put off some top-10 teams, but there is scarce little evidence Smith cannot live up to the weight of expectations that come with being drafted in the first round.

Jaylen Waddle - Alabama

The same durability concerns surrounding Smith could be applied to Waddle after his final season with Alabama was curtailed by an ankle injury, though he made an ill-advised return for their National Championship game win over Ohio State.

However, any lingering doubts over his health will likely be put to one side, with Waddle firmly established as the premier deep threat in the draft.

Blessed with game-changing speed and a remarkable talent for elevating at the catch point for a receiver of his 5ft 10in and 182-pound frame, Waddle was sensational over six games in 2020 for the Crimson Tide.

He averaged 21.1 yards per reception, a number only bettered by Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge (23.3) among those with 25 catches in the FBS, frequently gaining substantial separation from defenders to make huge plays downfield.

Waddle was open on an astonishing 90.6 per cent of his targets in 2020; the average was 72.8 among receivers with a minimum of 20 targets.

That number can partially be attributed to the success of Steve Sarkisian's scheme last season. However, a burn yards per target average of 19.96 - bettered by just two receivers who met that 20-target threshold - speaks to his ability to defeat coverage with a frightening combination of agility and acceleration that helped him produce 10.3 YAC per reception (13th in the FBS for wideouts with a minimum of 25 catches).

In addition to his explosiveness, Waddle brings reliability that is not always a fixture of deep threats in the NFL. He dropped only one pass on 32 targets last year, catching 87.5 per cent of balls thrown his way (third in the FBS among receivers with at least 30 targets).

Waddle finished his final season in Tuscaloosa with a catch rating of 0.966, further illustrating his status as a receiver who excelled at hauling in catchable passes and consistently ensured those receptions ended in big plays. Nothing scares NFL defenses more than speed and, regardless of where Waddle lands, corners across the league can consider themselves on notice.

Rashod Bateman - Minnesota

While Chase, Smith and Waddle have garnered the vast majority of the attention, Bateman has an extremely credible claim for being the most well-rounded receiver in the entire class.

His case was not helped by a 2020 season in which he only played five games following a battle with coronavirus, but his 2019 campaign was one illustrative of a prospect with all the tools to blossom into a number one wideout at the highest level.

A talented downfield weapon who was open on 70.8 per cent of his targets in 2019 with an average depth of target of 16.2 yards, Bateman does an excellent job of engineering separation with his route-running.

His burn yards per target average of 16.15 was sixth among all Power 5 receivers with at least 50 targets two seasons ago and only Ruggs and Olave in the same group had a higher big-play percentage than Bateman's 50.4.

Bateman can use his 6ft 190-pound frame to dominate at the catch point, while his abilities after the catch have been severely underrated. Indeed, his missed/broken tackle per touch rate of 0.300 was superior to that of Smith (0.299) in the same year, though Chase (0.353) and Waddle (0.441) each outperformed him in that regard.

He could go well outside the top 10 but, should Bateman put everything together in pros with the same consistency as he did in college in 2019, he could prove the best of an ultra-talented bunch.

Best of the rest

For as exciting of a prospect as Bateman is, many believe Terrace Marshall Jr. is even better.

He was the forgotten man in that juggernaut LSU offense of 2019 and impressed last year when thrust into the lead receiver role following the exits of Joe Burrow, Chase, Justin Jefferson and play-caller Joe Brady.

Boasting an intriguing blend of size and speed, Marshall ranked 14th in the FBS in 2020 with 104.4 receiving yards per game. Only two receivers - Smith and Jaelon Darden - caught more than Marshall's 23 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

North Carolina's Dyami Brown is of a similar physical profile to Marshall but used it in a very different way, developing into one of college football's premier deep threats.

With an air yards per target average of 17.6 last season, Brown led FBS receivers with a minimum of 40 catches as he averaged 20.0 yards per reception.

He was open on 75.6 per cent of his targets despite having the fourth-highest average depth of target (18.0 yards) among Power 5 receivers with at least 20 targets. His burn yards per target average of 17.30 was seventh.

While Brown does the bulk of his damage getting downfield before making the catch, teams eyeing receivers who can pick up significant yardage after the reception will have taken a strong look at Florida star Kadarius Toney.

Toney enjoyed a breakout year in 2020, using the elasticity in his legs to rack up 6.93 yards after catch per reception, that average 20th among receivers with a minimum of 40 receptions.

He had a missed/broken tackle per touch rate of 0.360 that was bettered by just four wideouts among Power 5 receivers with a minimum of 50 targets.

And though there is concern about Toney's status as a one-year wonder who often ran undisciplined routes, his hands have proven extremely reliable, his catch percentage of 83.3 fourth among FBS receivers targeted at least 50 times.

Elijah Moore can't quite match Toney for YAC (6.02 per reception in 2020) but he was the picture of reliability for Ole Miss last season as he led the FBS in receiving yards per game with 149.1 while catching 84.3 per cent of his targets (third in FBS among those with 50 targets).

Ultra-dependable at the catch point, Moore demonstrates extremely strong hands, excellent ball-tracking ability and the body control to adjust to inaccurate passes. His catch rating, which measures how well a receiver successfully brings in throws that are considered catchable, of 0.989 was bettered by just one receiver in the Power 5 with at least 50 targets in 2020.

Beating defenders consistently with his lower-body agility and stop-start quickness that makes him a significant threat on double moves, just five Power 5 receivers with a minimum of 50 targets did a better job of getting open than Moore.

He was open on 86.3 per cent of his targets. Expecting Moore to immediately have the same success in the pros is unrealistic, but he has all the makings of a second-round steal.

Tottenham are still waiting to decide if Harry Kane will feature in Sunday's EFL Cup final, but Ryan Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman.

Kane suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton, putting his involvement in the Wembley meeting with Manchester City in doubt.

The England captain has still not returned to training.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs, but Mason is staying patient.

"We're not sure yet," the interim head coach said of Kane's status. "He didn't train with the team today but we'll have more of an idea tomorrow to see if we can get him back on the pitch.

"I'm not really sure. It's a case of taking it hour by hour now. The days are obviously running out.

"It's a case of seeing how he feels in the next four hours, the next six hours, and taking it from there."

Kane has played in each of Tottenham's three games en route to the final, scoring in the quarter-final against Stoke City.

Mason trusts the striker will contribute to making the right call on his fitness this week.

"Harry is a top professional," he said. "We're taking it hour by hour and we'll see how he feels.

"What we're not going to do - and what Harry's not going to do - is put his body on the line if he doesn't feel like it's suitable. We're never going to put Harry in that position, absolutely not.

"But we'll see what happens, see how he feels tomorrow, and then we'll start making a decision from there.

"It's a combined effort. How does the player feel? What do the medics feel? What's the advice? What are the chances of something happening?

"Harry's a mature man, a mature professional footballer. He's had to deal with certain situations and I think, ultimately, we'll speak to him, with no pressure.

"How d'you feel? What are you feeling? We'll go from there."

Mason does not feel the situation is comparable to Spurs' previous final appearance in the Champions League in 2018-19 when Kane returned from injury ahead of schedule and mustered only a single shot in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

"I think it was completely different because Harry had a very long time out injured for the Champions League final," Mason said.

"I don't know if Harry's going to be available for training tomorrow, let alone the game on Sunday, but if he is then it's a quick turnaround.

"A week without training is not a problem for someone in Harry's condition.

"We're going to have to probably assess it later tonight, early in the morning and see if we can get him on the pitch."

Mason - already the most junior Premier League coach of all time - will become the youngest ever EFL Cup final manager (29y 316d). Gianluca Vialli had been the youngest until now (33y 263d) as he guided Chelsea to victory in 1998.

"It means a hell of a lot," he said. "I've not really thought about it a great deal, because I've been preparing for the game, but this isn't really about me.

"It's about the football club, it's about Tottenham Hotspur being involved in these big matches, our fans getting to see us in these big matches.

"My focus is fully on the match. Maybe once the season's done and I get some time to think, I'll look back on it and be very proud."

Tottenham are without silverware since the 2008 final victory over Chelsea, while opponents City are bidding for a record-equalling eighth triumph and fourth in a row.

"I think there was a two or three-year period where Tottenham had chances and maybe should have [won something], but football doesn't always work out like that," Mason said.

"What they did do is develop a great team and the club went in a direction that we wanted - that's how Tottenham should go about things.

"Listen, unfortunately, we didn't get over the line, but if we don't get over the line on Sunday, we still have our identity and our DNA as a football club. That's the most important thing."

Zimbabwe registered a first win over Pakistan in Twenty20 cricket as the hosts came out on top in a low-scoring contest at the Harare Sports Club, levelling the three-match series at 1-1 in the process.

A 16th successive loss in games between the nations appeared on the cards when Zimbabwe laboured to 118-9 on a slow, used pitch.

Opener Tinashe Kamunhukamwe made 34 from 40 deliveries while Regis Chakabva added some much-needed impetus during his quick-fire 18, including hitting one of only two sixes in the innings.

However, Pakistan found the going tough in reply, even with captain Babar Azam making 41 at the top of the order.

The right-handed batsman hit five boundaries in a 45-ball knock that came to an end when he became the second of four wickets for Luke Jongwe, hitting a slower ball to Wesley Madhevere in the deep.

Pakistan were 78-3 at one stage but their final seven wickets went down for just 21 runs as they were bowled out for 99 in 19.5 overs.

Mohammad Rizwan (13) and Danish Aziz (22) were players to join Babar on double figures, with tail-end trio Usman Qadir, Haris Rauf and debutant Arshad Iqbal all dismissed in the final over without adding a run to the total.

Success at last for Zimbabwe

This was a long overdue victory for Zimbabwe, and not just because of their sorry run of results against Pakistan. They had not won a T20 contest at the ground in Harare since beating India there back in June 2016, losing seven on the spin since.

However, their impressive triumph on Friday sets up a winner-takes-all showdown in Sunday's finale, a game which precedes a two-Test series.

Dialling up impressive numbers

Jongwe's final figures of 4-18 are the best recorded by a Zimbabwe bowler in a T20 international fixture.

He celebrated each success by taking off one shoe and pretending to make a telephone call. It is fair to say Pakistan did not have his number, as a shocking collapse condemned them to just a third defeat in 10 outings in the format.

Bayern Munich will try to help Robert Lewandowski make Bundesliga history but securing the title is the top priority, says Hansi Flick.

Lewandowski returned to full training this week after suffering knee ligament damage while away on international duty with Poland last month.

The striker missed both legs of Bayern's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain as the defending champions were knocked out on away goals, while an extended absence hampered his chances of surpassing Gerd Muller's record tally of 40 league goals, achieved back in the 1971-72 season.

Sitting on 35 with just four games remaining, the 32-year-old is set to make his comeback when Flick's table-topping side visit Mainz on Saturday.

A win on the road will secure a ninth successive league crown and while Lewandowski is also so close to achieving personal glory, the team still comes first for Flick.

"I think we all agree that's his major goal," the Bayern boss told a news conference on Friday.

"He's going to be part of the squad, Leon Goretzka is going to be part of the squad, Serge Gnabry is probably going to be part of the squad. The squad is slowly but surely filling up again – we are returning to normal, which is good of course.

"It's important for us to win the championship - we want to do that as quickly as possible."

On Lewandowski's impending return, he added: "Don't forget that he was out for four weeks.

"He's in very good shape, he showed that in training, but we have to wait and see how he handles the training sessions and the comeback attempt, how his body reacts.

"Of course we will all try to support him, but first of all our focus and priority is the success of the team and the club."

Lewandowski was badly missed as Bayern scored just three goals from 45 shots and eight 'big chances' against PSG. In the 3-2 home defeat in the first leg, the German club's tally of 31 attempts were worth 3.8 expected goals (xG).

Out of Europe, the Bundesliga is the solitary focus for Flick and his squad - but the outgoing head coach expects in-form Mainz to make it difficult to get over the line.

"It's definitely a very deserved championship," he said. "We hope we can win it in Mainz, but we know that they are in really good shape, unbeaten in six games – four wins and two draws – and against some teams who are at the top as well.

"They are a team who are aggressive in defence and very compact. When they win possession, they transition very quickly. These are the things we have to be wary of."

Bayern fought back to record a 5-2 win against Mainz in the reverse fixture, making it the first time since 1988 - and just the fourth occasion overall - that the Bavarians had come back to triumph after being at least two goals down at half-time in the league.

The New York Jets didn't get the chance to draft Baker Mayfield. Three years later, they may not be passing up on taking a reasonable facsimile.

There's seemingly little drama at the very summit of this year's NFL Draft, where Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been seen as a foregone conclusion to land in Jacksonville from the day the Jaguars clinched the No. 1 overall pick in December. And if a growing amount of media speculation can be taken as fact, the Jets appear locked in to making BYU's Zach Wilson their latest attempt at finding a franchise signal-caller when they pick at No. 2.

So, why has Wilson, a fringe prospect leading into his stellar junior season with the Cougars, presumably vaulted to near the top of a quarterback-heavy class that also features three other likely first-round choices in Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones?

Joe Burrow had a similar rise just a year ago, going from a projected late-round prospect to the top overall pick on the strength of a record-setting final season at LSU. And when using Stats Perform's advanced metric data, Wilson's 2020 campaign compares quite favourably with the final collegiate seasons of the last three No. 1 overall selections – Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Burrow.

Wilson v former No. 1 overall picks

Wilson's final year with the Cougars has the edge over the farewell college seasons of that trio in two key areas, completion percentage on third down and on throws of at least 20 air yards. He completed 79.7 per cent of his third-down throws (first in the FBS among QBs with a minimum of 40 attempts) and connected on 63.3 per cent of throws of 20 air yards or more, which also led FBS quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts.

Neither Mayfield (62.0), Murray (65.0) or Burrow (65.6) come close to Wilson in third-down percentage. It is the same story when pushing the ball over 20 yards through the air. Mayfield's completion percentage on such pass attempts (53.3) ranked first in the FBS in 2017 while Burrow (58) was second in 2019 but they and Murray (10th in 2018 with 49.3) were again well adrift of Wilson.

When blitzed, Wilson's completion percentage of 67.9 trailed only Burrow in 2019 (69.6), though on play-action throws (73.4 per cent) he was inferior to both Mayfield (73.6) and Burrow (75.2). That duo also had the edge in the red zone. Mayfield led FBS quarterbacks with at least 25 attempts in 2017 with a 70.7 completion percentage, with Wilson's mark of 66.7 below that and Burrow's effort in 2019 (72.2).

Yet in essence, Wilson's performance on deep throws, in play-action situations and within the red zone was a near carbon-copy to those of Mayfield and Burrow. Mayfield has been a popular comp to the Utah native, and for good reason as they're similarly sized and play with an evident abundance of bravado and swagger. That gunslinger mentality often worked against Mayfield in his second NFL season, when his 21 interceptions were the second highest in the league in 2019, but a more judicious approach in 2020 led to a much higher rate of efficiency and more importantly, greater team success as the Cleveland Browns nearly doubled their win total from six to 11.

Wilson's numbers, in fact, trump those of Lawrence, who finished no higher than 19th among qualified FBS quarterbacks in those categories.

Now, that still doesn't necessarily mean that Wilson should be viewed as the superior prospect. Lawrence, much like the three quarterbacks mentioned above, faced an overall higher level of competition than his draft counterpart, who did not go up against a single Power 5 team during BYU's breakout 2020 season.

Wilson did face four major conference teams as a sophomore in 2019, and while his overall stats in those games (997 passing yards, 62.8 completion percentage, three touchdowns, three interceptions) were not overwhelming, he did lead the Cougars to wins at Tennessee and against Southern California with turnover-free efforts in each. While the sample size is still small, it's enough to suggest he can succeed against quality opponents at the next level if he plays within himself.

Why Wilson fits the Jets like a glove

Perhaps Wilson's most endearing trait to quarterback-needy teams, and arguably the main reason why he seems destined to be off the board within the top three picks, is his prowess on play-action passes. That is a staple of the Kyle Shanahan offense run by the San Francisco 49ers, who own the No. 3 pick and have gone on record stating they intend to take a quarterback.

The Jets, meanwhile, have spent the offseason attempting to morph into 49ers East by hiring San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Salah as their new head coach and tabbing Shanahan disciple Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator. And with Sam Darnold having been shown the door following three seasons of largely unmet expectations, it's clear the next order of business is finding a young field general well-suited to run LaFleur's scheme.

It's also clear that this is a decision the Jets can't get wrong this time around. Wilson may not have the highest ceiling of the group behind Lawrence – that belongs to the uber-athletic but somewhat unpolished Lance – but he'd be the safest bet. He's the best play-action quarterback in this class and probably the most seamless fit for either the Jets or 49ers, having operated in an offense at BYU that utilised a heavy dose of outside-zone running that's common to the Shanahan system. Wilson can also reasonably be viewed as a better prospect than Burrow, as his arm strength is superior to last year's top choice.

Detractors can fairly point out, however, that Burrow may not have been the best quarterback of the 2020 class – Justin Herbert certainly had the best rookie season. The same can be said for Mayfield, who was drafted No. 1 in the same year as an eventual NFL MVP (Lamar Jackson) and a runner-up for last season's award (Josh Allen).

Still, Mayfield has a playoff win on his resume and an above .500 record as a starter for a franchise that went 0-16 before his arrival. If the Jets can get the same from Wilson through his first three years, it will be a worthwhile decision.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been the regular season pacesetters in the NBA's Eastern Conference in recent seasons, but they sit third heading into the closing stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

It is the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets who instead lead the way, tied with 39-20 records - 2.5 games clear of Milwaukee.

Yet the Sixers had first place outright prior to Thursday's game against the Bucks in which they failed to recover from a tough first quarter.

Philly do not have to wait long for revenge, though, with the two teams meeting once more at Fiserv Forum on Saturday.

MVP challenges are on the line as well as seedings in the East as two potential title contenders get prepared to go again.

TOP PERFORMERS

Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid was the MVP favourite until a knee injury at the start of March that forced him to miss almost a month of action.

He was averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and the 76ers had a 24-7 record with him on the floor. They were 2-5 in the seven games Embiid missed prior to his extended lay-off.

The center returned earlier this month, seemingly with enough time to wrestle the top individual award back from Nikola Jokic, and he has since averaged 30.1 points, missing only a single game.

But the Sixers have now lost three in a row and Embiid's hopes appear to be fading after he was outshone by the reigning MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

It does not appear there will be a third MVP win in a row for Antetokounmpo after his momentum was checked by sitting six straight games.

But the 'Greek Freak' was back to his best against the 76ers, scoring a game-high 27 points, and can focus instead on a first title triumph in the postseason.

And Antetokounmpo feels playing a fellow challenger again on Saturday "prepares you for the playoffs".

"Playing teams back to back is awesome," he said.

"On Saturday, they're going to come out and they're going to play harder, they're going to try to execute. We've got to do the same. We've got to do exactly the same."

KEY BATTLE - SLOW START CAN SINK SIXERS

For the 76ers, "playing harder" will have to start from the tip-off. Their 14-point first-quarter deficit proved too significant against such a talented team.

As the Sixers missed one of the best defensive players in the league in Ben Simmons due to illness, Milwaukee firmly had the upper hand early on.

Philadelphia had no answer as they allowed 40 points, their second-worst mark in a first quarter this year. This came as the Bucks shot at 73.7 per cent from the field through 12 minutes, the best rate among the Sixers' 2020-21 opponents.

Jrue Holiday, a star on both ends, had seven of his 12 points in the first three minutes alone.

"That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted," Doc Rivers said. "We didn't offer any resistance."

HEAD TO HEAD

Thursday's game was the teams' second this season and the second Milwaukee victory after they won in overtime in March, again led by Antetokounmpo (32 points, 15 rebounds).

Antetokounmpo has averaged 20.8 points for his career but 22.6 against the 76ers, against whom he boasts a 19-5 record and posted a career-high 52 in 2019.

The Bucks have a 113-102 lead over Philadelphia all-time in the regular season.

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips as Europe's elite queue up to get their hands on Borussia Dortmund's prized asset. 

From Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and Manchester United, to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich - there is no shortage of interest in the Norwegian sensation.

"I don't think there's a sports director or trainer in the world who would say 'not interested'," Haaland's agent Mino Raiola told BBC Sport in February. "It's like saying: 'Is there a Formula 1 team who would not be interested in having Lewis Hamilton?'"

The issue is, only a handful of clubs – in a coronavirus-impacted transfer market – could realistically afford to prise the €180m-rated Haaland from Dortmund, where the 20-year-old is contracted until 2024 and his reported €75m release clause does not come into effect until 2022.

Step forward, Dusan Vlahovic.

A revelation for relegation-threatened Fiorentina in 2020-21, the powerful but nimble left-footed Serbia international has emerged as a cheaper alternative in a Haaland-dominated market. Vlahovic's 16 league goals this season have reportedly caught the eye of a host of top European clubs, ready to upgrade their forward line in the next window.

Present, not the future

Vlahovic has been destined for the top, the player says so himself.

"I am a Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Belgrade, I will play for the strongest clubs," is what former Fiorentina forward Valeri Bojinov recalled being told by Vlahovic in an interview with Transfermarkt earlier this year.

There have always been high expectations for Vlahovic – the youngest debutant in Partizan Belgrade's history after making his debut aged 16, while he became the youngest goalscorer in the club's 75-year history that season – but he is more than just the future, he is the here and now.

In a struggling Fiorentina side fighting to preserve their top-flight status, Vlahovic has been a shining light. The 21-year-old's tally of 16 goals in 31 appearances this season only behind Haaland (23 in 25) for most goals by players aged under 22 in the top five European leagues in 2020-21.

 

Vlahovic is the first Fiorentina player to score 16 goals in a single top-flight campaign since Giuseppe Rossi in 2013-14, the first player born after the year 2000 to reach 20 Serie A goals and one of just four players born post-2000 to net 20 career goals in Europe's top-five leagues. He also became the first Fiorentina player to score a first-half Serie A hat-trick since Kurt Hamrin in 1964 after his treble against Benevento in March.

Vlahovic has 22 goals in 71 Italian top-flight appearances, one more goal than Juventus' Paulo Dybala (21) from one game less (72) before the age of 22, though Alexandre Pato bagged 50 goals in 102 Serie A games and Bojinov tallied 22 goals in 86 league matches in Italy before celebrating his 22nd birthday – it did not exactly go according to plan for the latter pair.

The average non-penalty shot conversion rate in Serie A this season is 11.1 per cent and Vlahovic has performed comfortably above this average, by converting 17.6 per cent of his shots – in line with the quality of chances he has been given, with his expected goals (xG) per non-penalty shot at 0.173. 

Being able to sustain this over a longer period will reveal more about the qualities he possesses as a forward, but the Belgrade-born sensation is on the right track.

 

Smarter and wiser

There were signs of promise in 2019-20, but Vlahovic's form was patchy with six goals in total.

Expected to hit the ground running this term, Vlahovic had a dismal return of just one goal from his first 10 appearances of the season. Despite growing pressure, he kept the faith thanks to some advice from star team-mate Franck Ribery.

"When I was down, he spoke to me and told me to never give up," Vlahovic said. "That’s how I understood what it means to be a champion on the pitch and in life."

Starting to realise his enormous potential, Vlahovic made his senior international debut in October last year and scored his second goal for Serbia in March's World Cup qualifier against Ireland – his improvement is clear to see.

In 2020-21, the average quality of his shots is 0.17 xG, not far off being double what it was in 2019-20 (0.10). Now finding more intelligent shooting positions his shot conversion rate has unsurprisingly jumped from 7.8 per cent to 17.6 per cent across the two seasons. 

Being able to produce shots from wiser positions on the pitch is a sought-after skill and the 21-year-old has excelled in 2020-21. Of the 13 players to have scored at least 10 non-penalty goals in Serie A this season, only Simy (0.21 xG) and Romelu Lukaku (0.20 xG) have averaged better quality shots from open play than Vlahovic.

More than meets the eye

Standing six feet and three inches, Vlahovic is a towering presence on the field. Powerful and quick but technically astute and comfortable with the ball at his feet – trademark Balkan traits.

Vlahovic has been involved in the second-most aerial duels in Serie A this season – 206, behind only Sampdoria midfielder Morten Thorsby. For his stature, it is surprising to discover he has only won 42 per cent of those duels, among the lowest of players to be involved in at least 100 aerials this season in Italy's top-flight.

You would also expect a healthy portion of Vlahovic's goals to come in the air, but this is not the case. Only one of his 16 goals have come from a header, this despite attempting the second most headed efforts in Serie A (17) and just three of these have been on target (18 per cent).

There is more to him than meets the eye, just look at his stunning stoppage-time equaliser against Inter last season – starting with his back to goal in his own half, he left Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij scrambling before producing a clinical shot across Samir Handanovic. Vlahovic's control, awareness, speed and finishing on display for all to see in Florence.

Or there is the Turin example seen in December, Vlahovic splitting Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci and leaving the Juventus pair in his wake as he expertly scooped the ball over the onrushing Wojciech Szczesny.

Fiorentina's Vlahovic is only involved in 25 per cent of shot-ending sequences for the Viola, with just one in four of their open-play shots involving him either as someone in the passing build-up for the shot, the assister of the shot or the player to take the shot. When Vlahovic is involved, he is usually the end of the chain.

Compare this to Haaland, the Norway international is far more involved in the build-up or as the provider than Vlahovic and it is the same story with the Serie A's top two goalscorers, Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Inter's Romelu Lukaku.

Haaland is much more of a box player than Vlahovic – 24.5 per cent of the former's touches are in the penalty area, with 12.1 per cent shots. If you compare that to his Fiorentina counterpart, whose 15.2 per cent of touches are in the box and just 7.6 per cent are shots.

 

"I watch him and I try to understand his finishing and how he moves," Vlahovic, whose has scored a lot of his goals from central areas, told La Repubblica of Haaland. "Then, I focus on my strong points and my weaknesses. It may be presumptuous, but with commitment, I can get there too."

While not yet as clinical, Vlahovic is confident he can reach the same level as Haaland and there are not too many reasons to doubt him.

You could be forgiven for thinking the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred into one this week with the seemingly doomed experiment of the European Super League.

But fans of actual fantasy football can rest assured we have still scoured the best prospects to help you in your quest to top your private leagues and earn bragging rights among your pals.

With Premier League leaders Manchester City not in action due to playing the EFL Cup final against Tottenham this weekend, there are sure to be a few transfers needed in several teams.

That being said, take a look at our hand-selected picks, powered as always by Opta data…

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Brighton and Hove Albion have a poor record against teams in the Premier League's bottom three, winning only four of 24 such games – the 17 per cent win rate representing the lowest return of any team in the competition to have played a minimum of 10 such games.

However, Sheffield United are the lowest scorers in the division this season (17) and have failed to score in 18 different games, a league worst.

Moreover, Brighton's Robert Sanchez has eight Premier League clean sheets to his name in 2021. Only Ederson (10) has managed more.

VLADIMIR COUFAL

West Ham have won three of their last five home league encounters against Chelsea and another victory would significantly boost their chances of a top-four finish.

Hammers full-back Vladimir Coufal could well be a valuable source of fantasy points this weekend.

Coufal has four home assists in the Premier League this season, which represents the best in the division among defenders.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate for the latest round of international fixtures, Trent Alexander-Arnold has responded in impressive fashion.

The dangerous full-back has been involved in three goals in Liverpool's last three fixtures (two assists, one goal) – as many as he managed in his previous 24 games in the competition.

With Liverpool unbeaten in 24 home matches against Newcastle United, Alexander-Arnold is sure to feature heavily in many fantasy sides this weekend.

JESSE LINGARD

Another player for Chelsea to be extremely wary of this weekend, Jesse Lingard has been in the form of his life since moving to West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January.

The attacking midfielder has been involved in 12 West Ham goals so far in the Premier League (nine goals, three assists) to become a key component in their battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Only Mick Quinn (Coventry City), Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United) and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) have had more goal involvements in their first 10 appearances for a club in the competition (all 13).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has found form at an ideal time as he aims to be a part of Southgate's England squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

And fantasy football fans perhaps should be looking to make room for a player who has scored four goals across his most recent three top-flight appearances for Manchester United.

Not since Francis Jeffers in the year 2000 has a teenager managed to score in four consecutive Premier League games. Can Leeds United stop the Red Devils' own fox in the box?

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace have beaten Leicester City eight times in the Premier League, earning more wins than they have achieved against any other side, while their four away victories against the Foxes is also a joint-high for them in the competition (also four at Everton).

Leicester are also a side who Eagles dangerman Wilfried Zaha has traditionally flourished against, so a trip to the King Power Stadium could be up his street on Monday.

The tricky forward has been involved in six goals in his last six appearances against Leicester (five goals, one assist). Palace won three of those games with Zaha scoring in each.

JAMIE VARDY

On the flip side, Leicester have their own reasons to be optimistic against Roy Hodgson's men.

Jamie Vardy's record against Palace is very favourable, with the experienced striker involved in six goals in his previous nine versus the Eagles (five goals, one assist).

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis made his long-awaited return but the reigning NBA champions lost 115-110 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Davis had been sidelined since February 14 due to tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg – the eight-time All-Star missed 30 games, the longest injury absence of his nine-year career.

But Davis stepped back onto the court on Thursday, finishing with four points on just two-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 17 minutes.

The Lakers – still without superstar LeBron James (ankle) – were led by Dennis Schroder (25 points and 13 assists), Andre Drummond (14 points and 19 rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (29 points) but fell short in Dallas.

Luka Doncic fuelled the Mavericks with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

 

Giannis tops Embiid and 76ers

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 27 points on eight-for-15 shooting, 16 rebounds and six assists as the Milwaukee Bucks took down the slumping Philadelphia 76ers 124-117. It was his 41st 25/15/5 game, the most by a Bucks player since the three-point era (1980). No other Buck has more than four in that span. Milwaukee used a 40-26 opening quarter to hand the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers a third consecutive defeat. Joel Embiid had 24 points for the visiting 76ers.

The Boston Celtics upstaged the high-flying Phoenix Suns 99-86. Kemba Walker was inspirational, shooting 11-for-17 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Boston have won seven of their last eight games, beating Phoenix, the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Lakers.

Zion Williamson showcased his efficiency in the New Orleans Pelicans' 135-100 victory against the lowly Orlando Magic. The former number one pick had 23 points in 23 minutes on nine-for-12 shooting, while he made all five of his free-throw attempts.

 

Oh no, Okeke

It was a forgettable outing for Chuma Okeke and the Magic, who dropped their fourth straight game as they lost for the 23rd time in 28 appearances. In 29 minutes, Okeke made just one of his 12 field-goal attempts. He was 0-for-four from three-point range in a four-point performance.

Jalen McDaniels was just as bad for the Charlotte Hornets, tallying a mere three points on one-for-eight shooting as his team suffered a 106-91 defeat to the Chicago Bulls.

 

Satoransky slam!

There was no stopping Chicago's Tomas Satoransky as he powered his way to the rim emphatically in the fourth quarter.

 

Thursday's results:

Boston Celtics 99-86 Phoenix Suns
New Orleans Pelicans 135-110 Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 106-91 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-91 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 115-110 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics at Nets

The Celtics (32-27) will make the trip to face the Brooklyn Nets (39-20) on Friday. Brooklyn have the chance to reclaim the top seed in the Eastern Conference after Philadelphia's loss.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young has been diagnosed with a lateral left ankle sprain, the NBA franchise announced on Thursday.

Young hurt his ankle during Wednesday's 137-127 loss to the New York Knicks, having posted 20 points and 14 assists before exiting in the third quarter.

Ruled out for Atlanta's next two games, Young's injury status will be updated.

Young has been averaging 25.3 points, a career-high 9.6 assists – only bettered by Russell Westbrook (10.9) and James Harden (10.9) in 2020-21 – and 3.9 rebounds per game for the high-flying Hawks this season.

The 2020 All-Star (516) is only second to Washington Wizards star Westbrook (557) for total assists this term.

Young has helped the Hawks (32-27) catapult themselves into the playoff picture, with Atlanta fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Tottenham have to start delivering trophies if they are to keep hold of star Harry Kane amid links with Manchester United and Manchester City, according to Jonathan Woodgate.

Kane, who has said he will assess his future after the delayed Euro 2020 tournament with England, is reportedly ready to quit Tottenham in pursuit of silverware.

The 27-year-old striker is yet to win a trophy with boyhood club Tottenham, who sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday and are set to face City in Sunday's EFL Cup final.

Former Tottenham defender Woodgate – now head coach of Championship outfit Bournemouth – was part of the Spurs team that last won silverware via the 2008 EFL Cup.

Woodgate insisted Tottenham must do more than beat City in the upcoming decider at Wembley to hold on to Kane, who has been linked with both Manchester clubs and Real Madrid.

"They have to [start winning silverware] with the stadium they have built and with the players they have got," said Woodgate.

"They have got the best striker in England in Harry Kane so they need to start winning trophies for him.

"They're a well-run football club but they need to start soon."

Kane reached 20 Premier League goals for a fifth season with the first of his brace against Everton last week, though he was forced off late in the 2-2 draw on Merseyside with an ankle injury.

The England international's two goals at Goodison Park lifted him to 164 for his career in the Premier League, good enough for seventh on the competition's all-time list. Thierry Henry (175) and Frank Lampard (177) are next in his sights, while Alan Shearer sits top on 260.

Kane sat out Spurs' 2-1 home win over Southampton on Wednesday – the first outing with temporary boss Ryan Mason in charge – and it remains unclear if he will recover in time to feature in the City showdown.

Toronto Blue Jays star George Springer is moving closer to his long-awaited debut following an injury-hit start to life with the MLB franchise.

Springer was lured to Toronto on a six-year, $150million contract from the Houston Astros via free agency – the largest deal in Blue Jays history – but injuries have prevented the 2017 World Series champion and MVP from debuting for the MLB hopefuls.

The three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger had been nearing a return from a left oblique strain, but tightness in his right quad has sidelined Springer.

However, Springer will play in Friday's intra-squad game and could make his much-anticipated Blue Jays bow in the upcoming three-game series against American League (AL) East rivals the Tampa Bay Rays, with the final two games played on Saturday and Sunday.

"He's excited; we're exceptionally excited," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on Thursday. "Tomorrow is a great day for George.

"He's doing all baseball activity, he's extremely confident and strong. Now it's just a matter of recovery and putting him in a position to play nine innings and feel like he can face elite major league pitching.

"Tomorrow will be a very important day to determine what that next step is and what's best for him."

Heading into the 2021 season, Springer had led MLB with 136 home runs from the lead-off spot since 2015.

Springer has 39 lead-off home runs in his career – fourth most all-time behind Rickey Henderson (73), Ian Kinsler (48) and Brady Anderson (44).

The 31-year-old Springer has recorded seven career World Series home runs – most from the lead-off spot all-time – and he is 19-for-56 (.339) in the World Series in his career. No other current Blue Jays player has a World Series hit in their career.

Springer's 174 home runs since debuting in MLB via Houston are third most by an Astro in a player's first seven career seasons, behind only Jeff Bagwell (187) and Lance Berkman (180).

Meanwhile, in another boost for the Blue Jays, star Nate Pearson (groin) will start and pitch two-three innings in Friday's intra-squad game.

The Blue Jays (8-10) are third in the AL East, behind leaders the Boston Red Sox (12-7) and Rays (10-9).

Anthony Davis will make his long-awaited comeback following an injury lay-off after being named in the Los Angeles Lakers' starting line-up against the Dallas Mavericks.

Lakers superstar Davis has been sidelined since exiting the NBA champions' clash with the Denver Nuggets on February 14 as he recovers from tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg.

But after 30 games – the longest injury absence of his nine-year career – eight-time All-Star Davis will suit up to face the Mavericks on Thursday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed pre-game.

"I wanted to make sure I was coming back 100 per cent, because it wouldn't be fair to myself, wouldn't be fair to my team," Davis said on Wednesday. "I feel great.

"These last games leading to the playoffs, a lot of teams aren't healthy, a lot of players aren't healthy. I'm 100 per cent, and we've got Bron [LeBron James] coming back [from an ankle sprain] as well who's going to be 100 per cent healthy. I think we've put ourselves in a good position."

Davis, who will return on a minute's restriction, was averaging 22.5 points per game this season before the injury – his lowest since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Pelicans (20.8).

The 28-year-old's average of 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21 is the lowest since his rookie season (8.2) in 2012-13.

The Lakers (35-23) are fifth in the Western Conference, behind the Utah Jazz (44-15), Phoenix Suns (42-16), Los Angeles Clippers (42-19) and Denver Nuggets (38-20).

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