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).

The NFL Draft offers a stage for sporting drama, yet there is seemingly no suspense surrounding the identity of the player whose name will be announced first by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Trevor Lawrence was the presumptive number one pick long before he wrapped up his college career after a third and final season with Clemson. There was no need to return for a senior year – the time has come to head to the next level.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are waiting to select what they hope will be their long-term answer at quarterback, someone who can help turn around the fortunes of a team who finished the 2020 campaign with a dismal 1-15 record.

Whether they were 'Tanking for Trevor' or not, their reward for consistently losing is a shot at one of the most talked-about prospects at the position in the past decade. For a franchise with just one winning season in the previous 13 years, the presence of Lawrence offers a fresh start and immediately changes expectation levels.

New head coach Urban Meyer has not even bothered to try to hide the fact either: Lawrence will become a Jaguar on April 29.

This will be a new situation for him, though, having lost just twice with the Tigers. Those defeats came in the 2020 National Championship against an LSU offense led by Joe Burrow, last year's first overall selection by the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Sugar Bowl in January, when Justin Fields – another signal-caller expected to be selected early – led scoring drive after scoring drive for Ohio State.

So, can a serial winner live up to the hype and help the Jags move forward? Stats Perform data helps provide a picture of what Jacksonville - and indeed the league as a whole - can expect.

Law in order with Tigers

Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards in his Clemson career. There were 90 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions in an impressive three-year run, while the average yards per attempt improved - 8.26 to 9.00, then 9.44 – in each of his seasons in South Carolina.

His completion rate also continued to rise the longer he played at the college level. After hovering just above 65 per cent during years one and two, he was successful on 69.2 per cent of his attempts in 2020.

That number barely dropped when it came to throwing in the red zone (68.5 per cent), ranking him second for quarterbacks in the FBS across the period of 2018-2020, though he completed on 56.8 per cent of his attempts in third-down situations during that span - only good enough to sit 78th out of those to have at least 100 attempts.

Still, on third downs with eight or more yards to go in 2020, Lawrence was on target with 27 of his 43 passes. Taking into consideration just third-and-long circumstances when needing 11 yards or more, he was good with 12 out of 19 throws.

There will undoubtedly be a need to learn quickly on the job, but wide receiver Amari Rodgers - one of Lawrence's main targets when lining up together for the Tigers - has no doubts about his former team-mate delivering on his promise once in the NFL.

"I think he knows what he's walking into," Rodgers, who had 77 catches for 1,020 yards and seven scores in 2020, told Stats Perform News ahead of the draft.

"He knows that it might take a little time to change the program around, but just because he came from that winning culture at Clemson and even in high school, he barely lost any games in high school, he just has that winning mindset.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to change that program around and make them a winning team. I have no doubt he's going to do that."

The key, though, will be getting enough opportunities to make plays.

Coping with the heat

Pressure is coming in many different forms for Lawrence, who prepared for his impending football marriage with the Jaguars by tying the knot with his long-time girlfriend.

The 21-year-old will have to cope with not just the expectations of a new team's fanbase but also the national spotlight. Going first overall comes with added pressure in itself, but with an opening round set to see a bevy of young quarterbacks selected in the early stages, there will inevitably be comparisons to his fellow rookies.

Then there is also the added focus awaiting him from NFL defenses. Jacksonville gave up 44 sacks in the 2020 season, one more than Lawrence endured in his entire career at Clemson.

However, teams will be aware of the risks that come with sending extra rushers at Lawrence, who completed 63.8 per cent of his pass attempts when blitzed. That number ranked him eighth in the FBS across his three-year stint, making the message clear to opponents: get home or be prepared to pay the consequences.

While not widely regarded as a running quarterback, Lawrence is also mobile enough to make plays with his legs; he rushed for 18 touchdowns in 40 games for Clemson, including eight in his final campaign.

If not able to make use of his arm to counter a blitz, the QB's footwork and speed off the mark is capable of seeing him sneak out of trouble and exploit the sudden spaces available.

'The ultimate competitor'

Lawrence's athleticism allows him to rush for yards when the situation requires, but it is undoubtedly his capabilities as a passer that makes him so appealing to the Jaguars.

In a campaign where little went right after a Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts, James Robinson's emergence as a dual-threat running back provides Lawrence - who completed 64.6 per cent of passes in play-action situations – a potential safety blanket to hit when coming out of the backfield.

Accuracy is a key trait, too, and the signal-caller has demonstrated how he can go deep when the option is open. On throws of 20 or more air yards, he completed 42.1 per cent. 

"He's the ultimate competitor, every time he steps on the field he's trying to be the best out there," Rodgers said of his former QB.

"He's trying to win every single day. Every single rep, he's trying to be perfect, and if it's not, if you miss a ball in practice, we're doing it like three or five times afterwards just so we can have it on mind, that muscle memory that it actually works.

"He's one of those that prepares like a pro. Ever since he got on campus his freshman year, he prepared outstanding and it showed on the field. I have no doubts he's going to succeed at the next level."

Lawrence has the talent, temperament and tenacity required to prosper. Now he just has to wait for the formalities of getting picked before joining a franchise desperately in need of a superstar.

After a trying though ultimately successful rookie season, Zion Williamson has ascended into the upper echelon of NBA players in 2021 and there's every reason to believe he could top that list relatively soon.

Stardom was predicted for Williamson long before the Pelicans made him the number one selection in the 2019 draft, but he dealt with injury problems and conditioning issues as a rookie before the pandemic put the season on hold for a few months.

He still managed to average 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 58.3 per cent from the field in 24 games. Williamson finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Ja Morant and Kendrick Nunn, but there's little doubt that he would've taken home the award had he been healthy for a full season.

Now slightly leaner and more in attack mode, Williamson has taken his game to another level in his second season, doing things rarely seen in league history. He ranks eighth in the league in points per game (26.9) and that has come on 61.7 per cent shooting, a level of scoring volume and efficiency few players have ever approached.

Only two other players have previously shot 60 per cent while averaging 25.0 points per game and both trail Williamson. Kevin McHale scored 26.1 points on 60.4 per cent shooting in 1986-87 and Charles Barkley had 25.2 with 60.4 per cent shooting in 1989-90. Shaquille O'Neal in 1993-94 (29.3 points, 59.9 per cent) and Amar'e Stoudemire in 2007-08 (25.2, 59.0) are next on the list.

Of those, Williamson's body most resembles Barkley. Both measure 6ft 6in, though Zion is far more muscular, while McHale (6ft 10in), O'Neal (7ft 1in) and Stoudemire (6ft 11in) all had the advantage of playing much closer to the rim. Williamson's field-goal percentage this season is on pace to be the highest ever by a player of his height or shorter.

After Barkley's 1989-90 season, a second campaign from the former Philadelphia 76ers superstar ranks third for the highest field-goal percentage at this height, shooting 59.4 per cent in 1986-87. That mark was matched by 6ft 5in Mike McGee three years earlier.

Williamson won't turn 21 until July and is just the 10th player in NBA history to achieve All-Star status at 20 years old. The others on that list are Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, O'Neal, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson. Only Bryant, James and Johnson were younger when making their first All-Star Game appearance.

Perhaps Williamson's consistency has been the most surprising aspect of his stellar season. Players of his age, regardless of talent, often have bad stretches where shots don't fall or the energy is lacking, but he seems almost immune to it.

Williamson scored at least 20 points and made at least 50 per cent of his field goals in 25 consecutive games from February 6 to April 6 before that run ended with 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting in a loss at Brooklyn on April 7. His streak equalled O'Neal's record mark of 25 straight games (2001).

In a five-game stretch over February 10-17, Williamson averaged 31.6 points with a 70.1 field-goal percentage. He was the first player to average 30 points on 70 per cent shooting over a five-game span since James during his last MVP season in 2012-13. The only other players to achieve this since 1991-92 are O'Neal (January 1994, December-January 1995-96) and Dwight Howard (February 2011).

Approaching a full 82-game season for his career, Williamson already ranks among some of basketball's legends for total points at this juncture.

With 1,968 points, he ranks sixth through 77 career games among all players to have debuted since 1963-64. Just four players - Elvin Hayes (2,216), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,197), Michael Jordan (2,161) and Billy Knight (2,049) - passed the 2,000 mark, while Williamson had only a point fewer than David Thompson (1,969).

Already an elite finisher, Williamson has even taken on the role of playmaker for the Pelicans with point guard Lonzo Ball sidelined with a hip injury. Coach Stan Van Gundy played Williamson at the point for a full game earlier this month, following his one-game slump against the Nets, and the result was perhaps the best game of his career.

Williamson had 37 points on 15-of-28 shooting with a personal-best 15 rebounds and career high-tying eight assists in that 101-94 victory over Philadelphia on April 9. He became the youngest player (20 years, 277 days) in NBA history to record at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

This is unlikely to be the season the Pelicans make noise in the playoffs, but the core of Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Ball is in place, so the franchise's future is extremely bright.

Ingram is enjoying another outstanding season and easily could've been an All-Star for the second consecutive season. He's averaging 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Williamson and Ingram are on pace to be just the fourth pair of team-mates aged 23 or younger to average 23 or more points per game in the same season. The others are Walt Bellamy and Terry Dischinger (1962-63 Chicago Zephyrs), Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder) and Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins (2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves).

One area where Williamson does need to improve is on the defensive end. His size prevents him from guarding most opposing power forwards or centers and his 285-pound frame gives him trouble staying with most wings. The Pelicans are a potent offensive group but rank as one of the league's poorest defensive teams and that will be a point of concern in the offseason for Van Gundy.

New Orleans has long been a football town, crazy about the Saints and star quarterback Drew Brees for two decades. But with Brees now retired and the Saints in transition, the time has arrived for Williamson to become the Big Easy's most beloved athlete.

"They are trying," said a weary Gary Neville. "This is it." 

The former Manchester United captain was responding to Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler, who suggested the Red Devils might show a little more pluck during a miserable 2-0 defeat to Everton in April 2014. 

That game was the final straw when it came to the future of manager David Moyes. The limp performance against his old club meant the reigning Premier League champions could not mathematically finish in the top four. The embarrassment – and the loss of Champions League income – was too much to bear. 

On April 22, seven years ago, Moyes was sacked just 10 months into a six-year contract as Alex Ferguson's successor. His 34 league games in charge had yielded 17 wins, 11 defeats and a points-per-game average of 1.68, the lowest of any United manager in the Premier League era. In all competitions, he won just 27 of his 51 games in charge. 

It was a record-breaking season for all the wrong reasons. United finished on 64 points, their lowest full-season tally in the Premier League era and their lowest finish. At the time, it was the worst title defence of any Premier League side in history, and it meant they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995. 

There was also a first home loss to Newcastle United since 1972, to West Brom since 1978 and to Stoke City since 1984. They were beaten home and away by Everton for the first time since 1969-70. Most damning of all was their return against the 'Big Six', as they won one of 10 of those games in 2013-14, losing home and away to the top two, Manchester City and Liverpool. 

A parting of the ways became inevitable, and United, three managers later, are still waiting for a meaningful shot at their 21st top-flight title. There were more problems for Moyes, too, at Real Sociedad and Sunderland. It makes his transformative work at West Ham, turning relegation-battlers into top-four contenders, all the more remarkable. 

It also begs the question: has history been unkind to Moyes? 

'You were the chosen one!' 

Few United sympathisers were arguing the case for Moyes to stay after Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas condemned them to defeat at Goodison Park – apart from Neville, who said the idea of sacking him in his first season was "foreign". 

Neville would later insist United had been the architects of their own mismanaged and relatively barren years since Moyes departed, with progress often fleeting at best. He's not wrong. 

Ferguson won 70.2 per cent of his 748 league games in charge at Old Trafford, and none of his successors have matched that record, with Jose Mourinho (66.2 per cent) and Louis van Gaal (66 per cent) closest. At 57.7 per cent, Moyes does not even boast the worst such ratio: that figure belongs to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (57.1 per cent), a man given substantially more patience by the United hierarchy than Moyes was. 

It's also often forgotten that their best performances under Moyes came in the competition in which he had no experience. United won five of their 10 Champions League games in 2013-14, a record bettered only by Mourinho (eight out of 14) among Ferguson's successors, as they reached the quarter-final stage – something they have only managed to do once since. 

The unenviable task of following Ferguson had the added complication of the squad not quite being up to standard. United's greatest manager had squeezed one more title out of a group of players whose best years were mostly behind them and who were buoyed by the singular brilliance of Robin van Persie, who plundered 26 goals and nine assists in 38 league matches in 2012-13. 

Under Moyes, Van Persie's output fell dramatically as injuries took their toll: he scored only 11 times and set up a further three in 18 games, while his chances created per 90 minutes plummeted from 2.05 to 0.98. 

With the old guard labouring and the squad overhaul poorly handled by new executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, it sometimes felt like Moyes was fighting a losing battle from the off. 

Real-ity bites 

In November 2014, Moyes was handed a breath of fresh air via an 18-month contract at Real Sociedad to succeed Jagoba Arrasate. Spain never quite suited him – perhaps living in a hotel didn't help – and he was sacked almost exactly a year later, after winning just 12 of 42 games in charge. 

However, Moyes was, to some extent, burdened with unfair expectation. La Real had won just two of their first 11 La Liga games in 2014-15 before he arrived and three points off the bottom. Moyes guided them to a safe, if not spectacular 12th-placed finish. That first campaign included a 1-0 win at Anoeta in January over Barcelona, who would go on to win the treble that term. Looking at the league table since Moyes' arrival in November 2014 until the end of that season sees La Real sit bang in the middle of the pile in 10th spot.  

Yet the demand for a return to European football was significant and, despite a strong transfer window that included the signing of Asier Illarramendi back from Real Madrid, Moyes could not inspire the performances he wanted. In the end, he became the second Real coach in a row to leave after only two wins in the first 11 league games of a season – and they were against the bottom two clubs. 

An ill omen 

It's perhaps not surprising that, when Moyes returned to the Premier League with Sunderland in July 2016, he sought to temper expectations. Sam Allardyce had led the Black Cats to survival – by just two points – the season before and it appeared Moyes wanted fans to be realistic. 

Unfortunately, his pragmatism came across as overly negative to a fan base desperate to see him build on Allardyce's work. A poor transfer window didn't help, either, as old Everton stalwarts such as Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe arrived looking well beyond their best and sizeable sums were spent on the likes of Papy Djilobodji, who was on the winning side just three times in 18 appearances in 2016-17. 

Two days after his first relegation as a manager was confirmed by a 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, Moyes resigned. He had lost 28 and won only eight of 43 games in charge; at the time, it was the worst return of any permanent Black Cats manager in the top flight aside from Howard Wilkinson, who won just 14.8 per cent of games from October 2002 to March 2003.  

Stop – Hammer time! 

It was a surprise, therefore, when West Ham turned to Moyes to keep them in the Premier League in November 2017. Eight wins – including his 200th in the division, the fourth man to achieve the feat – and nine draws in 27 matches was enough to secure their survival, if not a longer-term contract. 

When the Hammers turned to Moyes again in December 2019 to replace Manuel Pellegrini, many saw it as another fire-fighting job, a panicked move by the owners to stave off fears of the drop. It's proven to be so much more. 

This season, West Ham are averaging 1.72 points per game, the best return of Moyes' career in England's top flight – better even than the Tim Cahill-inspired Everton side in 2004-05 that finished fourth. The Hammers find themselves in that position in the table with six games to go and, according to Stats Perform's league predictions, they have an almost 26 per cent likelihood of finishing in the top four – more than double Tottenham's chances.

New ground is being trodden under Moyes once more, but in far brighter pastures. Against Arsenal, Wolves and Leicester City, they scored three goals in three consecutive top-flight games for the first time since 1928. They have scored at least three in a league game 15 times since Moyes' return; only Manchester City (19) and Manchester United (16) have done so in league games more often in that time. 

In Moyes' first 50 games in charge during his second spell at London Stadium, West Ham won 75 points, the most over that number of matches in 13 years. Indeed, in 2021, only Manchester City (17) have won more Premier League games than Moyes' men (10), who have earned 32 points from a possible 45 since the turn of the year. 

Perhaps it's fitting that Moyes' most recent star performer is another who was cast adrift at United. Jesse Lingard has scored eight goals in nine league games since joining on loan since January, equalling his best return for a top-flight season set back in 2017-18. Lingard also has three assists to his name in those nine outings, making him the quickest Hammers player in history to reach double figures for direct goal involvements. Like Cahill at Everton 16 years ago, Lingard is proving an unlikely talisman in West Ham's charge towards upsetting the top order. 

Moyes has walked a long road to redemption since his United dismissal. However West Ham's season finishes, he deserves to be held in a little higher esteem. 

Trey Lance took to the field at the Fargodome for the final time on Monday with an opportunity to state one last case to be the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In these unusual times, it is perhaps fitting that a quarterback with his irregular resume had such a chance.

Behind closed doors at the home of the North Dakota State Bison, Lance threw in front of several teams in his 'second pro day', having shown off his remarkable arm at his first.

The sequel showcase was undoubtedly primarily aimed at impressing Kyle Shanahan, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, whose trade up to the third overall pick for a successor to much-maligned and oft-injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has given them control of a draft in which the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets are widely expected to select Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson one and two.

Whether Lance did enough to convince the Niners he should be the third player off the board remains to be seen. However, if he did, then San Francisco would be taking one of the most significant risks in the history of the NFL Draft.

Lawrence, Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones all have varying strengths and weaknesses, but it is Lance who stands as the draft's ultimate wild card.

Limited second-tier seasoning

He will enter the league with just one full season of college experience - and an uneven 'showcase game' against Central Arkansas last year - after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the Bison's 2020 season into the spring of 2021. And Lance only averaged around 18 pass attempts in a run-heavy offense in his sole campaign.

In addition to inexperience, the level of competition is also a question-mark against Lance's name, his 16 games in 2019 coming in the FCS, college football's second tier. Bison alumnus Carson Wentz made the grade in the NFL, at least initially, playing at the same level, but the pithy cliche about college prospects often playing against 'future insurance salesmen' is one all too easily applied to Lance.

Yet so impressive were his performances in 2019 that Lance represents an enticing potential project for coaches like Shanahan, and there is significant visual and statistical evidence to suggest he can silence doubts about his inexperience and lack of elite opposition to develop into one of the NFL's most exciting young quarterbacks.

Boundless throwing upside

The raw yardage numbers do not make for spectacular reading for Lance, who finished 2019 with 2,786 passing yards.

However, that is more down to the philosophy of the NDSU offense rather than any limitations he has as a thrower.

Lance averaged 9.71 yards per pass attempt in 2019, ranking eighth among all quarterbacks in the FBS and FCS, with Fields (9.25) 13th and Lawrence (9.00) 18th.

His completion percentage of 66.9 was 17th across the FBS and FCS, below Fields (67.2) but above Lawrence (65.8) and it could have been markedly higher had Lance been more consistent with his downfield accuracy.

Blessed with arm strength that makes throws to all levels of the field available to him, Lance can hit on the deep ball with unerring placement but, unsurprisingly for a player of his limited experience, underthrows and overthrows were also a regular feature of his time with the Bison.

While that may be a concern in terms of his immediate impact at the next level, the fact he still connected on passes at that rate while often missing downfield is illustrative of the room to grow that has many believing he could end up being the best pro of this crop of quarterbacks.

A calm head on young shoulders

Lance's composure and his discipline in taking care of the football should make his transition to the pros smoother and potentially more expedient.

The standout number from his 2019 campaign was his interception tally. Zero. No other quarterback in the FBS and the FCS with a minimum of 200 pass attempts avoided throwing the ball to an opposition player.

That is not to say there weren't instances where Lance was fortunate not to be picked off, and he was finally intercepted in his sole 2020 appearance, but the consistency of his decision-making combined with the fact his blemish-free season came in a year where he also accounted for 42 touchdowns played a significant role in his rapid rise up draft boards.

Fourteen of those scores came in an area of the game where his case for having the edge over the rest of the first-round quarterbacks is most impressive.

Dual-threat dominance

A devastatingly effectively runner in the open field, Lance is a frightening dual-threat who builds speed with long strides and uses every inch of an imposing 6ft 4in and 226-pound frame to inflict punishment on opposing defenders and barrel them over for extra yardage.

Only four quarterbacks across the FBS and FCS had more rushing touchdowns than Lance's 14, while his rushing average of 6.5 was fifth among signal-callers to have registered at least 100 rushing attempts.

Lawrence's 2019 rushing average was only a yard shy of Lance's as the Clemson phenom added nine scores on the ground.

Fields had 10 rushing touchdowns in his sophomore campaign, with that duo each continuing to excel as runners in 2020 as Wilson also produced a demonstration of his athletic upside last season with 10 scores (Lawrence had eight and Fields five).

But none of that trio have proven as physically dominant as Lance when he gets into space and it is the blend of his upside as a rusher and the variety of high-difficulty throws at his dispsoal that makes the prospect of putting him at the helm of a pro offense such an enticing one.

The determination the 49ers and other teams eyeing a quarterback in the draft must make is whether his astronomical ceiling is worth the risk of investing in a player whose bridge from high school to the pros was essentially one season of bullyball against second-rate opponents.

Regardless of how his career ultimately turns out, Lance's diverse and dynamic skill set ensures the team that decides to take that gamble is in for a thrilling ride.

Mac Jones was not universally pegged as a first-round pick. Not until the San Francisco 49ers moved up to three, at least.

Then Kyle Shanahan's reported interest in the Alabama quarterback prompted a reappraisal of his talents.

If the Niners were willing to make a blockbuster trade, parting with two future first-round picks, just to move into position to take Jones, how good must he be?

Plenty around the NFL still are not convinced, while the smoke and mirrors surrounding the draft means there remains no guarantee Jones goes at number three or even in the top 10.

But what would the 49ers or any other suitors be getting if they selected the Heisman Trophy finalist? And how does he compare to his rivals in a potential five-QB first round?

With the aid of Stats Perform data, we take a look at one of the most polarising prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The raw numbers

Jones played in all 13 games for Alabama in 2020 as they went 13-0, succeeding Miami Dolphins first-rounder Tua Tagovailoa at the QB position.

En route to the National Championship, Alabama boasted the outstanding offense in college football.

Jones threw for 4,500 yards, the most in the FBS, and trailed only Florida's Kyle Trask (43) with his 41 passing touchdowns.

He also led the FBS in completion percentage. Of his 402 throws, 311 were caught - another high - for an exceptional 77.4 per cent.

These figures could have been even more impressive, too, with 323 of his balls considered 'catchable'.

Jones did benefit from playing with the best receiving corps in the game, however.

DeVonta Smith caught 23 TD passes from 117 receptions for 1,856 yards, yet just 919 yards came through the air, with Smith adding 937 after the catch.

Jones ranked 44th in the FBS for air yards per attempt at 8.43. Indeed, Jaylen Waddle - who played just six games - averaged 21.1 yards per catch but only 11.0 at the point of reception, his dynamic ability with the ball in his hands significantly boosting Jones' output.

Trust the system

At the helm of an excellently designed offense and on a team with elite receiving talent like that possessed by the Crimson Tide, Jones' merits are obvious. That is why he is said to suit the 49ers.

Jones completed 77.6 per cent of his play-action passes - a staple of the Shanahan scheme - last year, and Shanahan is widely regarded as having an affinity for quarterbacks who can digest his offense and deliver accurately from the pocket.

Kirk Cousins, drafted during Shanahan's time in Washington, ranks third all-time in the NFL for completion percentage (67.0).

Atlanta Falcons starter Matt Ryan completed 69.9 per cent of his passes working with Shanahan in the 2016 season en route to an MVP award and a Super Bowl appearance, while the Niners' Jimmy Garoppolo threw at 69.1 per cent in 2019 as they came within minutes of lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

Fellow draft prospects Zach Wilson (73.5 per cent, third), Justin Fields (70.2, seventh) and Trevor Lawrence (69.2, 10th) joined Jones in the top 10 in the FBS in completion percentage, though.

Meanwhile, Trey Lance - restricted to a single game last season - ranked fourth in the FCS in 2019 with a mark of 66.9 per cent.

But where Jones particularly stood out was with his throws in pressure situations.

The Crimson Tide star led the FBS in completion percentage when blitzed (76.9) and also in red zone completion percentage (75.9). On third down, he ranked fourth, connecting on 71.6 per cent of his passes.

Mac lacks mobility

Despite his consistency as a thrower, there is a reason Jones was not previously considered a challenger to Wilson, Fields, Lawrence and Lance.

If the 49ers look elsewhere, Jones could yet fall a long way to find another team confident they have the system and surrounding personnel to make the move worthwhile.

And even then, few NFL coaches in 2021 are likely to be willing to overlook his shortcomings as an athlete.

Whereas Wilson, Fields, Lawrence and Lance are set to join the burgeoning ranks of dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Jones' playing style is one borne of the soon to be bygone era of the pocket passer.

At Alabama, where he could palm the ball off to FBS-leading running back Najee Harris, Jones had just 35 carries last year and scored a single rushing touchdown.

The majority of these runs were short bursts to steal first downs, averaging 0.4 yards per attempt, with a longest carry of 14 yards.

It is in this area that Jones lags a long way behind the rest.

Wilson averaged 3.6 yards and scored 10 TDs. Fields played just eight games but had 81 carries, averaging 4.7 yards. Lawrence averaged 3.0 yards and scored eight times.

In the inferior FCS in 2019, Lance blew each of those performances away. He had 169 carries for 14 TDs at an average of 6.5 yards per carry.

Without the same ability to open up the game with his legs, Jones would need to be a truly generational talent with his arm.

Only three NFL signal-callers averaged under 0.4 yards per carry over 10 games last season: Tom Brady (0.2), Drew Brees (-0.1) and Philip Rivers (-0.4).

Brady and Brees are each in their forties and among the greatest of all time. Brees and Rivers have also both since retired.

The NFL is eschewing the traditional quarterback in favour of the athletically gifted dual-threats whose skill sets are more conducive to elite production in the modern game. Regardless of where he is selected, Jones is going to have buck that trend to succeed at the highest level.

Stephen Curry has been lighting it up in the NBA of late.

The two-time NBA MVP is seemingly trying to make up for lost time after injury wiped out the vast majority of his 2019-20 season. 

However, Curry is not the only player in prime form. As the regular season hurtles towards a conclusion, Stats Perform data highlights who is on fire and who needs to find a spark around the league.

Time to dip into the numbers with the latest edition of Heat Check...

RUNNING HOT...

Stephen Curry

To say Curry is on a hot streak is an understatement. In four games between April 12-17, the guard scored 175 points for the Golden State Warriors. That astonishing scoring run saw him hit 10 or more three-point attempts in three of those outings; no other player in NBA history has had three or more such games in an entire season, let alone a week.

Luguentz Dort

Dort was averaging 12.62 points heading into the week. The second-year guard then upped that number with 42 against the Utah Jazz and while he sat out a game against the Warriors, he followed up with a combined tally of 55 when facing the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. Despite his scoring heroics, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost all three.

Landry Shamet

The Brooklyn Nets have been hampered by injuries this season, with James Harden sidelined in recent times. However, Shamet has stepped up to help fill the void, managing a career-high 30 points on Sunday against the Miami Heat, including tying a franchise record with seven successful three-point attempts having come off the bench. 

GOING COLD...

Lonzo Ball

Ball's decreased production should come as no surprise, considering he is easing his way back into action following a hip injury. He played just under 20 minutes against the Washington Wizards and while his involvement was greater against the New York Knicks, 2017's second overall pick managed nine points from 19 shot attempts across both games.

Tyler Herro

A low-key week for Herro, who failed to reach double digits for points in outings against the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Nets. The shooting guard - such a key figure in the Heat's run to the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season - landed two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc in those games. Surprisingly for someone based in Miami, Herro has gone cold.

Chris Paul

The veteran point guard has been outstanding for the Phoenix Suns, who remain in the running to finish the regular season as the top seeds in the West. However, the bigger picture means minutes must be managed, with Paul seeing a drop in his workload. While buckets have been in short supply - he averaged 8.25 points per game across last week - there were still 26 assists.

It was a Premier League weekend in which the Premier League seemed to take a back seat, with Sunday's emergence of a European Super League blowing everything else out of the water.

However, Monday's sacking of Jose Mourinho did at least serve to remind us that, yes, Tottenham did play on Friday and were typically flaky, letting a lead slip again even if they did get a leveller to tie with Everton.

Against the same Super League backdrop, Arsenal added more fuel to the burning question of why they're involved in it at all, given they required a 97th-minute equaliser to draw with Fulham, who now look doomed to relegation with Sheffield United.

And a week on from emulating Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood levelled a record held by Wayne Rooney.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches.

Everton 2-2 Tottenham: Mourinho pays the price for Spurs' mentality issues

Given what's happened in the time since, it's easy to forget Spurs' draw at Everton was as long ago as Friday.

But it proved to be Mourinho's final game in charge of Spurs nonetheless, with Tottenham's Champions League qualification hopes hanging by a thread – good job they've secured themselves a spot in a closed competition!

There will be many theories about Mourinho's demise, but perhaps the most pertinent with respect to his Spurs team relates to concerns over mentality.

After all, the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park saw them drop points from a winning position yet again. That's 20 points they've thrown away in 2020-21 – no team has a worse record.

Even Harry Kane's heroics weren't enough, as he twice punished defensive errors and became only the fourth player to score 20 or more goals in at least five Premier League seasons.

Who knows, maybe he'll soon follow Mourinho out the door…

Wolves 1-0 Sheffield United: Blades among the Premier League's worst ever teams?

Now, obviously it depends on how you determine the "worst" teams – everyone will likely have their own point of view.

Derby County of course hold the record for the lowest ever points total of 11, which the Blades have already surpassed, but their 1-0 defeat at Wolves consigned them to relegation.

It means they suffered the joint-earliest relegation in Premier League history, along with Derby (2007-08), Ipswich Town (1994-95) and Huddersfield Town (2018-19).

Certainly, United are party to one of the biggest drop-offs in a relegation season, as no team had finished as high as ninth one campaign and then been relegated the next since Birmingham City in 2010-11.

But here's the kicker – it was their 26th defeat of the season, equalling a club record. They could yet surpass the 29 suffered by Sunderland and Derby.

Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Gunners' late equaliser highlights lack of progress against Super League backdrop

The rumours relating to the European Super League had emerged prior to Arsenal's Sunday clash with struggling Fulham. It provided a timely reminder of the competition's nonsensical premise.

Eddie Nketiah scored an equaliser deep into second-half stoppage to spare Arsenal's blushes – actually, if anything it probably accentuated their blushes given Fulham's failing battle against relegation.

The point means Arsenal have the exact same number of points (46) after 32 games as they did last term.

The last time they amassed fewer at this stage of a season was 1994-95 – it's hardly a show of progress.

On this evidence, Arsenal might be better off performing a Super League U-turn to avoid humiliation.

Manchester United 3-1 Burnley: Greenwood finding his groove again to match Rooney

It's not been the easiest of seasons for Greenwood. From getting booted out of an England camp to struggling badly for goals, it's fair to say a few have questioned whether they were right to believe the hype.

Thankfully the youngster has rediscovered his scoring touch lately and appears transformed, attacking defenders with confidence and purpose once again.

His brace against Burnley took him to 15 Premier League goals for United, levelling a record set by Wayne Rooney for the most goals scored by a teenager for United.

Greenwood will surely overtake Rooney in this regard as well, given he doesn't turn 20 until October 1.

On a similar note, his second effort on Sunday meant he has scored more top-flight goals as a teenager than any other player in the top five European leagues since the start of 2019-20.

But has he left this surge too late for a Euro 2020 call-up?

Sunday's announcement of a long-feared European 'Super League' raised the possibility of unprecedented change in football, with the 12 founding clubs seemingly at threat of being kicked out of other competitions as a result.

The Premier League's so-called "big six", Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and Serie A trio Juventus, Milan and Inter have broken ranks and agreed to the formation of the breakaway competition.

Sunday's uniform announcement from most of the clubs involved confirmed the Super League will be made up of 15 founding clubs – with three to be added to the initial 12 – and unconfirmed guest teams.

It will run as a midweek tournament alongside the teams' respective domestic leagues and guarantees the founding clubs a share of €3.5billion "solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic".

But, pre-empting the announcement following widespread media speculation, UEFA released a statement co-signed by the national associations of England, Spain and Italy, and those countries' respective top-flight leagues. It reiterated a threat to ban players and teams involved from competing in other competitions.

While that is a debate that will rage on for some time, with the legality of such measures unclear for the moment, it raises the possibility of a Premier League without its "big six", a LaLiga missing Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Serie A expelling Juve, Milan and Inter.

With that in mind, we looked at what those three divisions would look like in the – admittedly unlikely – event that the 12 Super League clubs are expelled and results involving them are expunged…

Premier League

Who'd have thought in 2013 when he was appointed as Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United that David Moyes' first Premier League title would come as West Ham boss?

Well, if the "big six" were expelled and their results were void, it would be the Hammers sitting at the top of the pile – and by some distance.

Moyes' men would be on 49 points from 21 matches having suffered just two defeats.

Curiously, the exclusion of the Super League clubs would seemingly harm Leicester City, as they have lost just three matches to them in 2020-21 – West Ham have been beaten seven times by "big six" opposition.

Nevertheless, Leicester would still be on course to get back in the Champions League. Leeds United (1.8) and Everton (1.6) would appear to be the favourites to join them, by virtue of their better points-per-game record than Aston Villa (1.5).

LaLiga

Fair play to Real Betis, who have already embraced a future without Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona by deleting them from the Liga table that sits on their website.

Unfortunately for Betis, that same table now has their bitter rivals Sevilla sitting pretty at the summit.

In fact, Sevilla probably shouldn't be ruled out of the real title race just yet given they are actually only six points behind leaders Atletico and still have to face Zinedine Zidane's Madrid.

In our LaLiga table excluding the "big three", Sevilla have 60 points from 26 games, giving them a 13-point lead over Villarreal.

It also highlights just how bad Los Nervionenses' record against Madrid, Barca and Atletico is, as they have taken just four points from them this term.

Rounding off the top four would be Betis in third and Real Sociedad in fourth.

Serie A

Juventus' stranglehold on Serie A looks set to end regardless of any action from UEFA and the league. Having won each of the previous nine Scudetti, the Old Lady have been dire under Andrea Pirlo for much of the season.

So, helping establish a new semi-closed competition under the guise of needing better opponents is the logical step…

While Atalanta would sit top of a Serie A without Juve, Inter and Milan, technically it's Lazio who would be on course for title success.

The Biancocelesti have played a game less than Atalanta but would only be behind them on goal difference – their points-per-game record is 2.24, slightly more than the Bergamo side's 2.15.

Napoli (2.12) and Roma (1.96) would remain in the running as well were the "big three" to be dumped out of the competition.

In December 2018, Manchester United fans were adamant that Jose Mourinho's sacking meant he was finished at the "top" in club football.

A drab style of play, a similarly joyless demeanour in news conferences and seemingly incessant desire to belittle his own players marred his time in Manchester.

Disagreements with Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were hardly private, while his relationship with Marcus Rashford appeared uneasy at times as well.

Yet, Tottenham paid no mind to the issues – whether that was down to Daniel Levy being convinced Mourinho wasn't finished yet or if he just wanted an entertaining figurehead for his Amazon documentary, who knows, but one has to wonder where the Portuguese can turn now if he doesn't want to try his hand at an international job.

That's two successive high-profile jobs in club management that have, at the end of the day, yielded little – even if Mourinho insists finishing second with Manchester United was one of his greatest achievements.

A look at his data in the Premier League since last winning it in 2015 with Chelsea shows real decline.

A failure to evolve

Let's not forget, during Mourinho's first spell as Chelsea boss he was regarded as the best coach in the world at times. Even initially in his second period at Stamford Bridge he did well, taking them to the 2014-15 Premier League trophy.

But things quickly unravelled in 2015, and it's difficult to claim he's been on anything other than a downward spiral ever since.

He was sacked by Chelsea after winning just four games from 16 at the start of the 2015-16 season, and although he did preside over United's best season – points wise – since Ferguson's retirement, he didn't leave much of a legacy at Old Trafford.

Mourinho was then tasked with ending Spurs' 11-year trophy drought. That has since stretched to 13 years, though in fairness to him they could end that wait on Sunday in the EFL Cup final.

Nevertheless, he leaves Tottenham having won just 46.6 per cent of his league games in charge.

His record in the English top flight before 2015-16 saw him boast a success rate of 69.4 per cent – since then it is just 48.5 per cent.

But why?

There are numerous theories about Mourinho's demise, but arguably chief among them is the idea he has failed to evolve with modern football, focusing on negating the threats of opponents rather than using the attacking talents available to him to take the initiative.

This fear is reportedly one reason for Spurs players apparently growing frustrated with Mourinho, and the data backs up the idea Mourinho is less forward thinking than earlier in his career, with his teams averaging 1.6 goals per game since 2014-15 finished, as opposed to 1.8 beforehand.

While not a massive difference, that change is exacerbated by the fact Mourinho no longer appears to be the shrewd pragmatic innovator he was once regarded, with his teams in the past few years rather porous.

Again, since 2015-16 started, Mourinho's teams have been conceding at a rate of 1.1 per game, whereas previously they conceded just 0.6 goals every 90 minutes.

Mourinho's teams were once tireless competitors built on a solid foundation – that no longer appears to be the case.

Spurs letting it slip

Perhaps it was expected Mourinho would at least be given until the end of the season, but with Champions League qualification looking increasingly unlikely, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Levy acted now.

In terms of the reasoning for his sacking, there's probably not much more to it – but if we delve a little further into the numbers, unsettling trends appear.

Granted, the 95 points won by Spurs during Mourinho's time at the club is the fourth highest in the Premier League. However, that's 21 fewer than Manchester United – Liverpool have 117 and Manchester City are out in front on 130.

Mourinho's teams are supposed to be hard to beat, that had essentially been his unique selling point for years, yet they've already lost 13 times in 2020-21 – it's the worst season he's ever had in that regard.

Similarly, the 10 Premier League losses Spurs have suffered is a career worst for Mourinho.

The frequency of defeats has led to questions being routinely asked of Spurs' mentality throughout Mourinho's time there, with the 27 points they've dropped from winning positions in the Premier League being behind only Southampton (30) and Brighton and Hove Albion (31).

But it makes for even grimmer viewing when looking at this season as the 20 points they've thrown away is the joint-worst in the division.

Spurs have been particularly concerning when it comes to closing games out, losing 11 points to goals conceded after the 80th minute. It's no wonder their collective mental strength has been called into question so often.

While the fact he hasn't collected more points per game than Tim Sherwood (1.91) might attract ridicule on social media, the latter's record is actually the best of any Spurs boss to preside over more than 10 Premier League games at the club.

More importantly, Mourinho's 1.64 points per game is a significant drop-off on Pochettino's (1.89), and therein lies a key issue.

As Levy looks to take Tottenham into something of a new era with the European Super League, on the pitch they've been heading into the dark ages.

The 2020 NFL Draft was unlike any other as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic forced the league to make necessary changes.

With all public events cancelled due to COVID-19, the 85th edition of the annual meeting went remote. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from his own home and, with facilities closed, online communication became the only way to do business for all 32 teams.

With the 2021 event fast approaching, it seems an appropriate time to assess the first round from a year ago with the help of Stats Perform data.

While still early in their NFL careers, it is already clear some made franchise-chasing picks. Others, however, will hope there is still much more to come from their opening-day selections.

TOP OF THE CLASS...

Chase Young

Nick Bosa was right: Young is the "real deal", for sure.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Bosa predicted big things for his former Ohio State teammate prior to the draft having seen up close his capabilities, and NFL offensive linemen quickly grew to realise the problems the second overall pick will cause them for years to come.

With Joe Burrow going to the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington had the chance to take the top defensive prospect. Young delivered on his potential, with his total of 7.5 sacks ranked first among all rookies. He also led the way for quarterback hurries (37), knockdowns (12.5) and hits (12), as well as total pressures (55).

Unsurprisingly, Young – who forced four fumbles, recovering three of them himself - was named Defensive Rookie of the Year (as Bosa had predicted, by the way) after helping Washington win the NFC East.

Justin Herbert

Herbert was selected at number six by the Los Angeles Chargers, who had a plan to let their new quarterback initially sit behind Tyrod Taylor. The development curve suddenly changed trajectory when the starter suffered an injury just before facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, meaning the rookie got an unexpected first opportunity to play.

The Oregon product quickly made clear there was no need to keep him waiting in the wings any longer, with Herbert going on to become just the second quarterback in NFL history to threw for over 4,000 yards in a season having not started in the opening game.

He set records for completions (396), passing yards per game (289.1) and passing touchdowns (31) for a first-year quarterback, unsurprisingly resulting in him being named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Herbert's outstanding numbers were not enough for the Chargers to make the playoffs - or keep head coach Anthony Lynn in his job - but have given the franchise a key building block at a discount price.

Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa – taken by the Miami Dolphins at five – had testing times in year one, but Herbert's debut season has raised the bar considerably high for his quarterback contemporaries.

Tristan Wirfs

Wirfs was the fourth offensive lineman to come off the board when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were lucky enough to get him at 13, having traded up one spot to do so.

Andrew Thomas (New York Giants), Jedrick Wills (Cleveland Browns) and Mekhi Becton (New York Jets) went ahead of the former Iowa Hawkeye, who would end up being an ever present for the Bucs on their journey to Super Bowl glory.

The 22-year-old provided excellent protection for Tom Brady at right tackle. In 476 pass protection snaps, he allowed just 25 quarterback pressures. That pressure rate of 5.3 per cent sits third across the league among right tackles, behind only Lane Johnson and Mike Onwenu, while 10th overall among all tackles.

Tampa Bay certainly did not whiff when taking Wirfs, who established himself as a foundational piece on a title-winning roster.

Justin Jefferson

Minnesota should be thankful to those teams who opted to take alternative receivers prior to them grabbing Jefferson at 22. The Vikings had secured the pick as part of the trade that sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo – then used it to take the departed wideout's replacement.

Diggs did lead the league with 1,535 receiving yards, yet Jefferson was not too far behind, ranking fourth in the category with 1,400. That total set a new record for a rookie in the Super Bowl era, aided by seven 100-yard games.

No receiver had more catches of 25 yards or more than the former LSU star's total of 16, while he averaged 15.9 yards per reception. A year on, that trade with the Bills was a rare occasion when both teams benefited.

What makes Jefferson's output even more impressive is he had just five receptions for 70 yards through his first two NFL games. The breakout game came in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans, as a seven-catch, 175-yard outing ignited what would become a phenomenal first year.

MUST DO BETTER...

Jeff Okudah

Okudah became the first cornerback to go inside the first three picks since the Seattle Seahawks selected Shawn Springs in 1997.

Ohio State has a strong recent tradition of providing opening-round selections at the position, including Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Injuries, however, hampered Okudah in year one. A hamstring issue in training camp delayed his debut until Week 2, while surgery on a core muscle in mid-December saw him placed on injured reserve, ending his involvement for a Lions team who ended up with a 5-11 record.

When on the field, Okudah allowed receivers to get open on 88.6 per cent of his targets when having an expected open percentage of 63.7. He allowed a 'big play' on 43.9 per cent of his coverage snaps, ranking him third on an unwanted list for defensive backs. The Lions will hope he can not only stay healthy in 2021 but also play a greater role in shoring up their secondary.

Jalen Reagor

The transition to pass-heavy offensive schemes has placed a greater premium on receivers in the draft. In 2020, six were taken in the opening 32 picks, while a draft record 13 went across the first two rounds.

Henry Ruggs was the first off the board, taken by the Las Vegas Raiders at 12. Jerry Jeudy followed three picks later to the Denver Broncos, then CeeDee Lamb at 17 by the Dallas Cowboys.

There was much talk that the Philadelphia Eagles had Lamb in their sights. Instead, Jalen Reagor was their choice at 21 - one slot ahead of Jefferson. The former missed time due to a torn ligament in his thumb, while the team transitioning from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts at quarterback hardly aided his development.

Reagor finished with 31 catches for 396 yards and a solitary touchdown (there was also a score on a punt return, too) for an anaemic passing attack. Philadelphia averaged just 207.9 yards per game through the air, finishing with 22 touchdowns to 20 interceptions. All still involved will hope for an improvement under a new regime this year.

Isaiah Wilson

Wilson's rookie season included two stints on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a suspension due to a violation of team rules and just the one game. It remains to be seen how many more appearances he makes in the NFL, considering he is currently a free agent.

In taking the offensive tackle at 29, the Tennessee Titans hoped they had a player able to compete for a starting spot after impressing for Georgia, including being named second-team All-SEC following his final season with the Bulldogs.

His solitary outing came in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts, during which he was on the field for 4.2 per cent of the team's offensive snaps (plus one on special teams, too).

Traded to the Miami Dolphins in March, Wilson was waived three days after the deal having turned up late for his physical and then skipped multiple optional workouts he had originally agreed to attend.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The rich had seemingly got even richer when the Kansas City Chiefs rounded out the opening round in 2020 by taking a tailback, one who had demonstrated his abilities as both a runner and a pass-catcher while helping LSU win the 2020 National Championship Game.

There was a promising start in Week 1 as he had 138 yards on 25 carries, but that was one of just two games where he made it to three figures in terms of rushing. Edwards-Helaire saw his involvement in the regular season cut short by injury, finishing with 803 yards at an average of 4.4 per carry.

That average rose to 4.7 yards during a postseason that included 11 touches in a Super Bowl defeat for the Chiefs. Edwards-Helaire was steady, but the pre-draft hype suggested a more spectacular impact on an offensive juggernaut.

Then there is also the question over whether the franchise needed to take a running back at 32. There were five more taken in the second round, so Kansas City perhaps realised Edwards-Helaire was unlikely to still be available by the time they picked again.

Hansi Flick announced on Saturday that he intends to step down as Bayern Munich boss at the end of the campaign, bringing an end to an illustrious spell in charge of the club.

The 56-year-old succeeded Niko Kovac in November 2019, having previously worked as assistant, and has led the German giants to six major trophies in that time.

Bayern won the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League in 2019-20 and have followed that up with the DFL-Supercup, UEFA Supercup and Club World Cup this season.

Another Bundesliga crown could follow with Bayern seven points clear at the top with five games to go, which would be a fitting way to bring down the curtain on Flick's tenure.

Using Opta data, we look at the extraordinary numbers behind Flick's spell in charge and the players who have played a key part in Bayern's recent success.


AS MANY TROPHIES AS DEFEATS

Flick's shock revelation that he hopes to have his contract terminated came on the back of Bayern's 3-2 win at Wolfsburg on Saturday.

That was the German's 81st game in charge in all competitions, comprised of 67 victories, eight draws and six losses.

Incredibly, that means Flick has won as many trophies - six - as he has suffered defeats in his 17-month tenure. That also equates to one trophy every 14 matches.

NUMEROUS RECORDS SET

Bayern were as dominant as any club in European history en route to winning a treble last season, form that they would carry into the 2020-21 campaign.

The Bavarian giants won 23 matches in a row in all competitions between February 16, 2020 and September 18 that year - a record in German professional football.

With their victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the final, meanwhile, they became the first side in European/Champions League history to lift the trophy with a 100-per-cent win record.


BUT FLICK TRAILS GUARDIOLA

Flick's 83-per-cent win rate is another record among Bayern bosses, as is the average of 3.0 goals per game his side have scored under his watch.

However, the former Germany assistant trails one of his predecessors in Pep Guardiola when it comes to points per game accrued in the Bundesliga.

Guardiola collected 2.52 points per game across his 102 matches, whereas Flick is currently on 2.49 after 53 matches, though that could change before he eventually departs.

LEWA LEADS THE WAY

In the Bundesliga alone, Manuel Neuer has played more games for Bayern (52) than anyone else since Flick initially took charge on an interim basis on November 3, 2019.

Thomas Muller and David Alaba, the latter of whom will also depart the Allianz Arena in June, are next on the list with 50 league appearances.

Robert Lewandowski is next with 46 outings and the striker has been Bayern's top performer over that period in terms of goal involvements.

The Poland international has a combined 65 goals and assists, followed by Muller with 52 and Serge Gnabry with 27.

Lewandowski has 55 Bundesliga goals in total under Flick, while Muller leads the assists metric with 34, 20 more than next-best Joshua Kimmich.

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