SCOTT SLANT: Kiper follows the party line on Cleveland

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

With the rest of the sports world quiet, a Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Draft update commands attention. The ESPN guru unveiled his 3.0 mock draft Tuesday, and Curtis Weaver is no longer there. But the upward trajectory continues for fellow former Boise State star Ezra Cleveland, who Kiper projects as the No. 29 overall pick, going to the Tennessee Titans. Writes Kiper: “After Cleveland’s excellent combine performance in which he ran a 4.93 40 (third-fastest among offensive linemen) and looked great in the agility drills, I went back to the tape to study him. And what I saw was a left tackle who I was underrating. A three-year starter for the Broncos, Cleveland isn’t just a workout wonder—he was a great tackle in the Mountain West.”

Kiper lists Weaver as an outside linebacker, his consensus position as he moves on to the NFL, and has Weaver as the eighth-best player at that spot in the draft. Some teams may be waiting to see him run the 40-yard dash, which he didn’t do at the NFL combine. He won’t be able to do the 40 in front of NFL scouts at Boise State’s Pro Day now. A number of teams were keen on Weaver after formal interviews with him at the combine, though (we know he interviews well). One is the Detroit Lions, who SI.com says may take the Mountain West career sacks leader in the second round.

COULD AN AGGIE BE THE G.O.A.T.’S HEIR-APPARENT?

With no Tom Brady in New England, the Patriots are looking for answers, and Kiper thinks he has one: Jordan Love. Kiper tabs the former Utah State standout as the No. 23 overall choice. “Are the Patriots really going to roll with Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler as their 2020 quarterbacks?” wonders Kiper. “I’m not buying it. I’ll stick with a QB here. At 6-foot-4, Love has all the traits that teams look for in a starter, but his 2019 stats—20 TD passes, 17 INTs—will scare off some. I don’t put much stock in it because of all of the talent (and an entire coaching staff) that he lost from the 2018 season, when he had 32 TD passes and six INTs. It’s tough to know whether Bill Belichick is going to treat the season as a rebuild, but taking Love makes sense either way.”

THE HAWKS ALSO NEED A ‘PLAN B’

The Boise Hawks season is set to begin June 17, with the home opener at Memorial Stadium on June 22. Those dates, of course, are in doubt—if only because teams will not be able to prepare for the season in time (they’d need about a month). Hawks general manager Bob Flannery was on Idaho SportsTalk Tuesday and said the team is still planning on June. But, Flannery said, his “head is not stuck in the stand.” At this point, a Hawks season consisting of, like, two-thirds of the normal 76 games would be a win. Let’s hope for that.

Let’s also hope players are taken care of until then. Major leaguers are financially insulated from the coronavirus crisis because of their bloated salaries. Minor leaguers who aren’t top draft picks with signing bonuses and such just scrape by. Major League Baseball has said it will give each player on a minor league contract a lump sum equal to the allowances that would have been paid through April 8. They’re going to have to extend that in a hurry.

ALL-AMERICAN BRONCOS GYMNAST

The season was abbreviated, but it was clear Boise State gymnast Emily Muhlenhaupt was finishing it the way she started, and on Tuesday she was named a first-team All-American on bars. Muhlenhaupt, who was the Mountain Rim Gymastics Conference Specialist of the Week seven times this year, is just the fifth first-team All-American in Broncos history. She tied for fourth nationally on bars this season with a National Qualifying Score of 9.945.

EMMA BATES HOPEFULLY ON THE MEND

Emma Bates has been through the wringer, and she’s become an outspoken critic of Idaho’s lack of readiness for the onslaught of the coronavirus. Bates, the soon-to-be Boise State Athletic Hall of Famer, has shown symptoms of COVID-19 but couldn’t be evaluated due to a shortage of tests. Bates has been self-isolating. Hopefully she’s on the upside. A tweet from Bates Tuesday: “Update: feeling significantly better. 8-9 days after experiencing first symptoms seems to be a turning point among those with mild to moderate symptoms. Thank you to all for your kind words of concern and love. We need to be there for each other now more than ever.”

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

March 25, 2017: The best women’s basketball player ever to come out of Idaho, Destiny Slocum, wraps up her stellar freshman year at Maryland with nine points and three assists in a 77-63 loss to Oregon in the NCAA Sweet 16. Slocum, whose 70-foot shot to beat the halftime buzzer five days earlier had been one of the signature highlights of women’s hoops that season, averaged 11.5 points and six assists and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Ten days later, however, Slocum would stun Terrapins fans when she announced her decision to transfer. She ended up at Oregon State.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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