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The Sports Report: A look at our final NFL mock draft

Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker.
Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Sam Farmer: Everybody is looking for that sure thing, especially in this town.

But this year, with the NFL draft being held in Las Vegas for the first time, there’s no consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be.

Most likely, it will be someone who can topple a quarterback like tumbling dice — a pass rusher such as Georgia’s Travon Walker, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson — someone who can help the Jacksonville Jaguars bully their way back to relevance.

“I’ve been playing football for a decade and now it’s like, bro, I don’t care where I get drafted, I don’t care what happens,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s just got to happen.”

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The only player from a Southern California school likely to be selected in Thursday’s opening round is former USC receiver Drake London, potentially a top-10 pick.

London, too, is not so much concerned about when he hears his name called, only that he eventually hears it.

“I could be Mr. Irrelevant,” he said, referring to the nickname for the final selection in each draft. “At the end of the day, I know what my skill set is, I know what I can bring to the table. So I feel like I’m fine.”

The final Times mock draft is here.

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Cooper Kupp is best example of how Rams have hit it big in third round of NFL drafts

NFL draft: Three picks Chargers will consider, if still available at 17

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How NFL will paint a new picture on first-round draft picks

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KINGS

From Marisa Ingemi: The biggest challenge the Kings faced on the night they clinched a playoff berth was seeing it happen.

In Seattle ahead of their game with the Kraken – a 5-3 win for Los Angeles on Wednesday night – the Kings clinched their first postseason appearance since 2018 when the Dallas Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout Tuesday night, ending just the fifth multiyear playoff drought in franchise history.

Since the game was on ESPN+, and the Seattle Mariners were playing live, head coach Todd McLellan had to work to see the clinching moment.

“They weren’t too keen on changing it, it’s obviously a pretty good baseball city here,” he said at Wednesday’s morning skate. “We were excited, I didn’t watch with the players obviously, I watched with the staff and some of the management, but we were all excited.”

The Kings, who will face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, were swept by the Golden Knights in the first round in 2018 and haven’t won a playoff series since winning the 2014 Stanley Cup against the New York Rangers.

McLellan wasn’t with the Kings the last time they reached the postseason. Only four players — goaltender Jonathan Quick, leading scorer Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty and veteran right wing Dustin Brown — were a part of the Kings teams that won Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Only Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe were also part of the 2018 playoff team.

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“It’s been a long time coming,” said McLellan, who took over as Kings head coach in 2019-20 after four years in Edmonton. “I wasn’t here for the beginning of the journey, but from when I got on the bus until now, there have been ups and downs. But the plan has been really clear and the commitment to the plan has been strong. Nobody has wavered from it and that includes everybody from management to the coaching staff and in particular the players. They knew what they signed up for when it started. It wasn’t always easy, but the four remaining Stanley Cup champs have committed to it and stuck to it. Then, everybody else along the way, found a way to contribute to get back here. It was by no means easy and we’d like to think we have a lot of miles left in that journey.”

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: The Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t hit a ball out of the infield in Wednesday’s eighth inning.

To score the winning runs in their 3-1 defeat of the Dodgers, they didn’t need to.

Instead, a sloppy sequence doomed the Dodgers for a second straight day. Reliever Daniel Hudson issued a leadoff walk. Third baseman Max Muncy fired high on a bunt in the next at-bat. And in the ensuing scramble, one run scored, another runner ended up at third (leading to a second run later in the inning), and the Diamondbacks had taken a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a rubber-match win at Chase Field.

“Up until this series, I thought we played good baseball, fundamental baseball, catching it and throwing it accurately,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This series we didn’t do a good job of that.”

Indeed, a day after they hit into five double plays (tying a franchise record in the live ball era) and were punished for poorly timed walks and errant defense in a loss, the Dodgers (12-6) struggled with the same issues in the series finale.

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‘He’s found his place’: How Dodgers’ Gavin Lux cleared mental hurdles to ignite his career

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ANGELS

From Steve Henson: Power — at the plate and on the mound — is the Angels’ signature feature. Especially when Shohei Ohtani is the pitcher and in the batting order.

Yet that doesn’t preclude manager Joe Maddon from employing small ball when the situation calls for it. And laying the groundwork for it as well. So when Tyler Wade laid down an exquisite bunt in the second inning, beating the throw by a half a step to load the bases with none out, it was the product of preparation.

Taylor Ward followed with a grand slam, his third home run in three games, giving the Angels a cushion they never relinquished in a 9-5 win over the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Ward also tripled and doubled, just the most recent example of the Angels’ pop at the plate.

Ohtani survived a rough beginning to deliver the win, the Angels’ fourth in a row. Ward’s grand slam and Ohtani’s 97-mph fastballs became indelible memories for the fans, but Wade’s bunt showed the Angels can finesse as well as pummel.

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Shaikin: Keeping baseball in Anaheim has its price

MATER DEI

From Bill Plaschke: “I don’t have time to do that s—.”

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According to a sworn statement by former Mater Dei athletic director Amanda Waters, that was the response of football coach Bruce Rollinson when she asked him to monitor the school’s locker room.

She asked him because she was worried about reports of hazing. She asked him because inside the locker room she had seen a broken mirror and a sink ripped off the wall. She asked him because she was concerned about the safety of the students.

She asked him at least 10 times.

She said his response was always the same.

“I don’t have time to do that s—.”

Once again, sadly, predictably, it is clear that Rollinson, Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange just don’t have time to do the right thing.

Once again, the famed Monarchs football program appears to be a cesspool of arrogance, entitlement and callousness.

The latest revelations appeared in a transcript of portions of Waters’ deposition contained in lawsuit filed against Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange on behalf of the family of a player who suffered serious head injuries during a locker room fight in February 2021.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: A retired New York State Supreme Court justice, acting as a hearing officer, recommended that thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert be banned from horse racing in the state for two years. The recommendation is not binding and will go to a three-person panel, which is expected to accept the punishment.

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The 50-page report by O. Peter Sherwood was issued on Saturday, but not announced by the New York Racing Assn. until Wednesday.

“Despite the fact that Bob has never had a single medication violation in New York, we expected this interim recommendation to the panel, which is not NYRA’s final decision,” Baffert attorney Clark Brewster said. “We will contest this recommendation until we ultimately find a neutral, detached decision-maker that doesn’t rubber stamp the NYRA lawyers’ demands.”

The Hall of Fame trainer was charged in December with three counts: conduct detrimental to racing, and to the health and safety of horses and undermining the confidence of honest racing by the patrons of NYRA. An initial ban was issued by the racing association on May 17 of last year, after the Preakness but before the Belmont Stakes. After many legal proceedings that filled the remainder of the year, Sherwood was named to be the hearing officer and he conducted proceedings Jan. 24 to 28.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1966 — Boston edges the Lakers 95-93 in Game 7, giving the Celtics and coach Red Auerbach eight straight NBA titles. Auerbach, who announced his retirement earlier, is replaced by center Bill Russell, the first Black head coach of a major U.S. sports team.

1967 — Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the U.S. Armed Forces. He is arrested and the New York State Athletic Commission suspends his boxing license and strips him of his heavyweight title.

1987 — The NBA awards expansion franchises to Charlotte, N.C. and Miami for 1988, and Minneapolis and Orlando, Fla., in 1989.

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1990 — Boston set single-game NBA playoff records for scoring and shooting accuracy in a 157-128 rout of the New York Knicks to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

1992 — Video replay is used to decide a playoff game for the first time. In game six of the Detroit-Minnesota division semifinal, Sergei Fedorov of the Red Wings appears to hit the crossbar behind Minnesota goalie Jon Casey during overtime. The Stars ice the puck immediately, but referee Rob Shick calls for a video review. The replay shows the puck enters the goal just below the crossbar and caroms off the frame at the back of the net. Fedorov is awarded the goal to give the Red Wings a series-tying 1-0 victory.

1995 — Michael Jordan, in his first playoff game since his return from retirement, scored 48 points as the Chicago Bulls beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-100.

1995 — The Orlando Magic give the Boston Celtics their worst defeat in team history, 124-77, in a playoff opener.

2001 — Colorado’s Patrick Roy sets an NHL record with his 16th career playoff shutout, making 20 saves in a 2-0 win over the Kings.

2009 — Washington edges the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series to cap a comeback from a 3-games-to-1 deficit. It is the franchise’s first series victory since the 1997-98 season, when Washington made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

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2010 — Montreal beats Washington 2-1 to complete a come-from-behind 4-3 series victory and eliminate the NHL’s best regular-season in the first round of the playoffs. The Canadiens are the ninth No. 8-seeded team to knock off a No. 1 in 32 matchups since the NHL went to its current playoff format in 1994 — and the first to come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

2011 — Canada’s Patrick Chan wins his first world figure skating title in record fashion. Chan sets world records for the free skate and total points to claim titles at the world figure skating championships in Moscow.

2016 — The Rams select California quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and the No. 2 selection for the Philadelphia Eagles is North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. It’s the second straight year that two QBs went 1-2 and the seventh time in the modern era of the draft since 1967.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Video replay decided the Detroit-Minnesota 1992 NHL playoff series. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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