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Beyonce just 1 of many stars at Super Bowl

Beyonce just 1 of many stars at Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The entertainment leading up to the Super Bowl is so A-list, Beyonce may not even have the most anticipated performance surrounding the big game.

Justin Timberlake is due to give his first major musical performance in four years. Stevie Wonder is performing for the masses at an outdoor concert. CeeLo Green is reuniting with his old hip-hop clique, Goodie Mob, and Rascal Flatts is teaming up with Journey for a concert. Those represent only a fraction of the all-star events to celebrate the Super Bowl.

``The Super Bowl has become such a big event in itself. So many people come from everywhere, looking to not only be a part of the Super Bowl but also the festivities leading up to the game,'' said CeeLo, who is performing at ESPN's Next event. ``There's so much to do, from parties, concerts and events.''

Indeed, until the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers meet at the Superdome on Sunday, much of the emphasis in the days leading up to the event has very little to do with the game.

Lil Wayne is throwing a major bash in his hometown, Jay-Z is holding court at another event the evening before his wife, Beyonce, performs at halftime, and Jamie Foxx is due to give a private concert - and that's just the lineup for Saturday.

Director Michael Bay is holding court at a private estate for a celebrity dinner for charity. Santigold, Solange and producer/DJ Diplo will perform at Audi's two parties during the weekend, and both Playboy and Maxim are planning blowout parties with their trademark models.

``I've never seen anything like this,'' said Gary Solomon Jr., co-founder of Solomon Group, the local company hired to help set up the stages and lighting for the outdoor concerts and broadcasting areas in the French Quarter and near the Superdome.

``When you look at the master calendar of all the events, it's pretty daunting,'' he said. ``This Super Bowl is like having 30 events in the same weekend.''

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated event features Timberlake. He will perform during ``DIRECTV Super Saturday Night,'' an invitation-only concert that will also feature Ahmir ``Questlove'' Thompson of The Roots as DJ. Questlove is a friend of Timberlake's who served as DJ at the pop star's wedding to Jessica Biel in October.

Questlove said he's honored that he was asked to DJ Timberlake's return to the stage on Super Bowl weekend. Timberlake is expected to perform his new single, ``Suit & Tie,'' which features Jay-Z, and other tracks from his upcoming album, ``The 20/20 Experience.''

``The album is incredible,'' Questlove said. ``I'm a huge supporter, and I'm there to make sure the audience has a good time.''

Jay-Z and Beyonce have been spotted in New Orleans, and many are wondering whether Jay-Z - who is hosting a party elsewhere that night - will be taking the stage with Timberlake.

``Mum's the word,'' Questlove said. ``All that is under wraps.''

Stevie Wonder is also performing Saturday night. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend, whose classic hit ``Superstition'' will be featured in two of this year's Bud Light Super Bowl commercials, is headlining an outdoor concert. Rising guitarist Gary Clark Jr. is also scheduled to perform.

Besides the Timberlake concert, Questlove is performing with The Roots at three Super Bowl parties, including the 49ers after-game party - ``or funeral, depending on the outcome of the game,'' he said with a laugh.

OneRepublic and Matchbox Twenty will perform as part of the Super Bowl pregame show. As will ``American Idol'' alum Jennifer Hudson, who will join the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing ``America the Beautiful'' before the 49ers and Ravens take the field, the NFL said.

The chorus features 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed in a Dec. 14 shooting rampage.

The performance will be part of CBS's pre-game show and will be broadcast live. Alicia Keys will sing the national anthem.

Much of the entertainment kicks off Friday. VH1 is hosting a concert headlined by rock band Train while Grammy-winning R&B singer Fantasia leads a pack of Christian and gospel singers for the NFL's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis is being honored with a ``Lifetime of Inspiration'' award during the event, which will be hosted by Sherri Shepherd of ABC's ``The View'' and Grammy-winning gospel musician Kirk Franklin.

The gospel celebration will also include a performance by the NFL Players Choir of dozens of current and former professional football players and a performance by Lecrae, the Christian rapper NFL players have named this year's ``Player's Choice'' artist.

``It's a definite honor, really to even be considered but on top of that to be requested by the players. It's really humbling,'' said Lecrae.

Miami rapper Pitbull has two scheduled appearances this weekend: Friday night he's performing at an invitation-only party by Rolling Stone with rapper Flo Rida and Nick Cannon. On Saturday, he performs for the general public during DIRECTV's ``Celebrity Beach Bowl,'' a star-studded flag football match that will include Snoop Dogg, Neil Patrick Harris, Chace Crawford, Josh Hutcherson and former NFL players Deion Sanders and Warren Moon.

Also Saturday, CMT is hosting a ``Crossroads'' concert with headliners Journey and Rascal Flatts.

Though many of the star-studded concerts will have limited access or are by invitation only, dozens of local artists will be performing throughout the weekend on stages set up along the Mississippi River and in the NFL Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Many downtown streets are being closed to traffic to allow more pedestrian access in the main entertainment areas - the French Quarter, riverfront and near the Superdome.

``It's great that it's back here. There's a rich tradition here in New Orleans of just having a great time,'' CeeLo said. ``The atmosphere in New Orleans is always upbeat.''

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AP Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report from Atlanta.

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2017 NFL Draft: Final Mock Draft Thoughts

2017 NFL Draft: Final Mock Draft Thoughts

The time is here.

The 2017 NFL Draft, round one.

Thursday. My 11th and final mock draft, completed.

Before getting into all the picks, here are some final thoughts:

CLICK HERE FOR BEN STANDIG'S FINAL 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT

  • Here are the five players that could really, really screw up my grand plans: QB Mitch Trubisky, ILB Reuben Foster, CB Marlon Humphrey, WR Corey Davis, S Jabrill Peppers. Why? Trubisky is the likely first passer selected. I’d bet the Browns land him with their second first-round selection. It just probably won’t be at 12. That means a trade up. Whether it’s the Jaguars (4), Titans (5) or Jets (6) makes a major difference in how the selections might unfold. Foster is a top-10 talent who some suggest could slide out of round 1 altogether because of various injury/off-field concerns. Humphrey might be the third corner selected. When he comes off the board, a run on corners begins. Does that run begin at 18 or 28? Last month Davis had top-10 projections. Because he hasn’t been able to work out for teams due to injuries, his range is now 10-30. Peppers is a big favorite for many talent evaluators, but where he plays every-down in the NFL is the concern

CLICK HERE FOR BEN STANDIG'S FINAL 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT

  • Yes, we all know that the Redskins need defensive line help. Don’t freak out if that doesn’t happen on Day 1. There simply are not many (any?) viable options projected in the 15-35 range. Better they take talent for other need areas than reach. Oh, they also might have an issue in the second round for similar reasons. Cheers!
     
  • Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, teams seeking cornerback, safety, edge rusher and tight end love the first two rounds of this draft. Those hoping for offensive line, defensive and wide receiver are hoping for the best.

CLICK HERE FOR BEN STANDIG'S FINAL 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT

  • For the last 10 mocks I’ve changed the selections for 30 slots numerous times. Two remain the same. Cleveland taking Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garett No.1 – and the Los Angeles Chargers going with Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. The former is clear; one league source told me he’s the best OLB prospect since Lawrence Taylor. As for Hooker, it just made sense from the jump in a Beautiful Mind sort of way.

 

  • If you make me pick a surprise for the top 10 – quarterbacks don’t count – give me Washington receiver John Ross, i.e. the guy who ran the fastest 40-time in the history of the NFL Combine. Teams picking 6-10 all need receivers.

 

  • The “Best Player Available vs. Need” debate is real with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants. Everyone acknowledges both need help at offensive tackle, badly. Viable players – Garret Bolles, Ryan Ramczyk, Cam Robinson – will start going off the board in that range. They just won’t be the best player available. The Broncos and Giants also need a tight end and Miami’s David Njoku could be there. Decisions, decisions.

 

  • Based on likely scenarios – meaning Jonathan Allen, Haason Reddick and Christian McCaffrey aren’t available -- here are the five players I like best for the Redskins at 17: Alabama ILB Reuben Foster, UCLA OLB Takk McKinley, G Forrest Lamp, WR John Ross, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey.

 

  • Potential slider? Not saying I buy it, but Florida State running back Dalvin Cook slipping to Day 2 is something to consider. If you think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is some top 10 lock

 

  • Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley's stock improved dramatically throughout the draft process to the point he may have been the second at his position off the board after college teammate Marshon Lattimore. That is until a recent rape allegation halted his rise if not flat out changed direction South. Teams are investigating the situation rapidly, but the uncertainty could drop Conley out of round one. Without knowing which way to turn I left him, but the fact that there are so many intriguing corners in this draft also works against him. Alabama's Marlon Humphrey could fill the second CB void starting with the Saints (11) or Eagles (14).

 

  • The Ravens, barring the unforeseen in front of them, will take one of these players: WR Corey Davis, OL Cam Robinson, edge rusher Derek Barnett/Takk McKinley.

 

  • Three players I like for the Redskins in round 2: Utah safety Marcus Williams, Michigan DL Chris Wormley, Houston pass rusher Tyus Bowser.

CLICK HERE FOR BEN STANDIG'S FINAL 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT

Ok, here are my 1-32 picks.

Click here for my thoughts on each selection and the entire second round.

1. CLE — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2. SF — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3. CHI — Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
4. JAX — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5. TEN (via LA) — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
6. NYJ — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
7. LAC — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8. CAR — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
9. CIN — Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
10. BUF — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
11. NO — Haason Reddick, ILB, Temple
12. CLE (via PHI) — Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13. ARI — Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
14. PHI (via MIN) — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
15. IND — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
16. BAL — Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
17. WAS — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
18. TEN — John Ross, WR, Washington
19. TB — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
20. DEN — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
21. DET — Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
22. MIA — Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
23. NYG — David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.)
24. OAK — Jarrad Davis, MLB, Florida
25. HOU — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
26. SEA — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
27. KC — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
28. DAL — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
29. GB — Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
30. PIT — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
31. ATL — T.J Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
32. NO (Via NE) — Kevin King, CB, Washington

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Ravens Mock Draft Roundup: Looks like Baltimore's getting a new wide receiver

Ravens Mock Draft Roundup: Looks like Baltimore's getting a new wide receiver

This is it. It’s finally the week of the 2017 NFL Draft, signaling the end to all of the mock drafts and educated guesses about which move your favorite team will make in the first round.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, there are a number of different directions they could go — add some youth to their receivers, buff up their defensive line or pull a move that could surprise everyone.

With the countdown to the NFL Draft now down to days, here’s a look at which players draft experts and analysts think the Ravens will take with their No. 16 first-round pick.

 

Corey Davis, WR from Western Michigan

Ben Standig, CSN Mid-Atlantic: He argues the Ravens need to prioritize their receiving unit to give Joe Flacco more consistent opens.

“The 6-foot-3 Davis wasn't just a receiver in 2016. We're talking playmaking monster after catching 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns.”

But he also offers up the idea of an edge rusher for the Ravens too.

See Ben Standig's complete 2017 NFL Mock Draft 10.0

Chris Wormley, DE from Michigan

Cameron DaSilva, FOX Sports: Although he asserts Wormley deserves to be a first-round pick somewhere, the Raven’s No. 16 pick could be a bit too high but thinking he’ll still be around by the team’s second-round pick at 47 is “risky.”

“Often overshadowed by other playmakers on Michigan’s defense (Taco Charlton, Jabrill Peppers), Wormley is a great player in his own right, and fits perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end. He can eat up blocks on the edge for Terrell Suggs and Baltimore’s other dynamic pass rushers, while also generating pressure himself.”

Mike Williams, WR from Clemson

Rob Rang, CBS Sports: With the losses of Steve Smith, Sr. and Kamar Aiken, he’s not the only one to point out the Ravens need someone Flacco can rely on, and Williams might be it.

“The Ravens need help at edge rusher and offensive tackle, as well, but general manager Ozzie Newsome may have a hard time letting a prototypical split end like the 6-4, 218-pound Williams slip any further. His ability to box out defenders and win contested passes could make him a quick favorite for Joe Flacco…”

Corey Davis, WR form Western Michigan

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: His argument is quite simple.

“At some point, they have to get Joe Flacco more help outside. This is a player who will end up being the best receiver in this class.”

Cam Robinson, OT from Alabama

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: No matter what’s left by the time the Ravens’ pick rolls around, he argues Baltimore will find someone for the O-Line.

“If Buffalo takes this physically dominant tackle from Alabama at 10, then Ozzie Newsome will find another bargain here.”

 O.J. Howard, TE from Alabama 

Evan Silva, Yahoo Sports: In a year of stand-out tight ends, he asserts this might be the right move for the Ravens.

"Tight ends ordinarily do not make first-year impacts, and the depth of the class could work against the top-end talents. At No. 16, however, I think Howard would be too appealing for GM Ozzie Newsome to pass. 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams has been a colossal disappointment, and Dennis Pitta is on his last legs. Howard is the pro-readiest tight end in this class." 

John Ross, WR from Washington

Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: His point is to basically have the Ravens strengthen their offense so it’s reliable and they can leave it alone while working to improve other areas.

“So fast. So record-shatteringly fast. Can also run routes and catch and stuff.”

MORE NFL DRAFT: 15 first-round NFL Draft busts