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Sully's Mailbag: In sports, April is the coolest month

Jerry Sullivan

Sunday is the first day of April, for my money the best month on the sports calendar. It's no joke. How can you beat a month that begins with the NCAA basketball title games (women's Sunday, men's Monday) and ends with the ubiquitous NFL draft?

Baseball gets into full swing, which means real box scores for us fantasy geeks. The Masters starts Thursday, with heightened anticipation over Tiger Woods' resurgence. The Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11, the NBA playoffs April 14.

Here's hoping the weather improves and Brighton opens before April is through. On to this week's Mailbag:

William Reuter asks: If the bills don’t move up and draft a quarterback, is the offseason a failure?

Sully: What, did you think any other topic could lead the way? The draft is a growing annual obsession, but there's never been a year when the discussion has been as unrelenting as it has in Bills country over the last few months.

It will be the most important draft since they took Jim Kelly, after all. And yes, it would be a colossal letdown if they didn't take a quarterback in the first round, whether they have to trade up further to get their guy or not.

Brandon Beane says he's not necessarily looking to take a QB high, and that AJ McCarron isn't a bridge. Please. The Bills are desperate for a franchise guy and this is the best class in years. Four QBs could go in the top 10. There's talk of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen going 1-2-3, in no specific order.

The Bills can't continue to wait, or hope that some marginal talent will magically transform himself into the next Tom Brady. They blew it last year, when Sean McDermott ran the draft and didn't think highly enough of Deshaun Watson. That decision will haunt the franchise for years if they don't hit the jackpot in this draft.

It's up to Beane and Co. to identify the right guy. It's an inexact science, but it's on his shoulders now. It'll be a couple of years before we can say whether the pick is a success or not. But not taking a shot is a recipe for failure.

@ZVIB42 asks: Accuracy is the one trait all great NFL QB's possess. How can Josh Allen be such a hot prospect with a 56% completion rate in college?

Sully: I share your reservations. Scouts obsess too much about a quarterback's measurables and not enough about what he does in the actual football games. I thought Watson was the guy for the Bills because of the way he played against the top competition in the biggest games.

Allen is a terrific pure passer. But if he couldn't complete more than 50 percent against Boise State and Colorado State, how will he fare against the best defenders in the world? In his big step up last season against Oregon, he went 9 of 24 for 64 yards. That's a red flag for me.

He's been compared with Carson Wentz, who played at North Dakota State. But Wentz was an accurate thrower in college, completing 64 percent of his passes.

@machino76 asks: The Zay Jones incident is inexcusable. He's young and everyone makes mistakes. But off-field behavior is pounded into rookies' heads from day 1. What do think?

Sully: It is hard to excuse a guy running naked and bleeding after supposedly trying to jump out a 30th-story window. Jones wasn't charged, but it's deeply troubling. You have to wonder if he was in his right mind at the time.

Jones struck me as a bright, friendly kid when we spoke for a feature last season. I wouldn't have picked him to be involved in such a bizarre incident. Let's wait and see what possible explanation he has for his self-destructive behavior.

The NFL is investigating. I can't see the Bills taking harsh action against Jones. He was a second-round pick last year and teams are slow to turn away from a guy when they have that much invested. But Jones underachieved as a rookie, so his future is tenuous in any event, and this incident didn't help.

@moegavin1 asks: Congrats on your Loyola horseshoe. Who do you like (want) this Monday?

Sully: So kind of you to point out that I picked Loyola of Chicago to reach the Final Four in my News bracket earlier this month. Lucky? It's the culmination of a quarter century of defending the mid-majors and picking them to shock the world in the Big Dance.

I'm always partial to the Missouri Valley, one of the top mid-majors whose teams are often better than their seed. Two years ago, I picked Northern Iowa to reach the Final Four. They upset Texas in the first game and were up 12 over Texas A&M in the next round with 35 seconds left. They lost in double overtime.

It was the worst collapse in tourney history. So Loyola was divine retribution, with an assist from Sister Jean. But I had the miracle ending here. I picked Michigan and John Beilein to win it all. They face Loyola in the national semifinals. Whoever wins will have their hands full against Villanova or Kansas.

@nbuffalotravel asks: Do any of the NCAA experiments in the NIT interest you: Playing four quarters, the international 3-point line, making the lane 16 ft instead of 12?

Sully: I'd like to see a deeper 3-point line. There's too much reliance on the 3
nowadays. It's become too much of a drive-and-kick game, which minimizes the importance of big men and traditional post play. The wider lane would help, too.

I like the 3, which creates more parity and drama. But it's gone too far. I like good passing, but too much of the offense nowadays is run inside-out, instead of making plays that produce shots closer to the basket.

I don't have a problem with 20-minute halves.

Jim Nuwer asks: Speaking of new rules. Minor leagues placing runner on 2nd in extra innings. Yay or nay?

Sully: Nay. I don't think baseball's problem with long games is about extra innings, which aren't that common and usually end in an inning or two. It's the pace of play in the first nine innings that's the issue. I'm a baseball traditionalist. The idea is appalling

By the way, I once covered an Olympic softball game under those rules. U.S. pitcher Lisa Fernandez took a perfect game into the bottom of the 10th with a 1-0 lead. They put the automatic runner on second to start the bottom of the 10th. She gave up a homer, losing the game and the perfecto, 2-1.

@SamuelRuggiero1 asks: I saw you picked Noah Syndergaard for the Cy Young. I love my Mets. but do you really think he’s gonna have that great a year?

Sully: I wouldn't have picked him if I didn't. Thor was throwing 100 when he got to spring training. He had nasty stuff in Thursday's opener, striking out 10 with no walks in six innings to beat St. Louis. He gave up two homers, but if he stays healthy, he can strike out 250 batters this season.

If the Mets give him run support – win totals are always key – Syndergaard can certainly vie for the Cy.


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