Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class

Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class

When was the last time Eagles fans were as united in favor of a first-round draft pick -- or any draft pick for that matter -- as they seem to be over Fletcher Cox?

In fact, the entire 2012 class is drawing rave reviews. A recent poll of CSN viewers revealed over 60% would grade the Birds an 'A' this year, with 'A' and 'B' combined grabbing about 85% of the vote. Meanwhile, the local and national media are holding the baton on this, eagerly patting Howie Roseman and Andy Reid on the back, and calling this a job well done.

Since when are Philly fans, along with local and national media, in accord over anything the football team does?

I suppose I should be grateful for the opportunity to play the role of the wet blanket for a change, not that I even disagree with the Eagles' selections. It's just that ordinarily I find myself defending the draft afterward, not necessarily because I have any strong opinion one way or the other, but the backlash is often unreasonable, ignorant of the bigger picture. People become strangely attached or opposed to kids they know little or nothing about.

It probably helps there isn't that one obvious reach this year. There isn't the player from the random school nobody ever heard of, the project who has to change positions at the next level, or the flier on somebody coming off of serious, multiple knee injuries. It's a draft loaded with name players out of name programs, many of whom looked like great values for where they were chosen.

At the end of the weekend though, all we have are a list of names and measurables. This draft is really no different from any other in the sense that some of the players will carve out respectable NFL careers, others will bust and wind up out of the league -- journeymen if they're lucky. Trying to predict which will be which is a senseless exercise, unless you've actually spent any significant amount of time watching them play. Even then, you probably have only marginally better odds of getting it right than Death From Above.

Otherwise, I am in agreement with everybody else: this looks like a very solid draft for the Eagles. I'm not offering the front office any congratulations though, not before these kids have played a single down in the NFL.

Good draft, bad draft -- let's cut through all of that, because nobody knows, and it doesn't matter today. What are the expectations from this draft? More specifically, what kind of short-term goals should be set for each new member for the Eagles?

No. 12 Fletcher Cox (DT - Mississippi St.)
Goal: Average 6.0 or more sacks per season over the next five years

Depending on your vantage point, that total may or may not sound like a lot, but if Cox gets in the 5.5-6.0 range over the course of his rookie deal, it means he likely had at least one breakout season. Interior linemen certainly are capable of posting monster sack totals, it's just most do not sustain those numbers on a year-to-year basis.

Anything less doesn't seem like enough of an impact from the twelfth overall pick. He's here to collapse the pocket and rush the quarterback.

No. 46 Mychal Kendricks (LB - Cal)
Goal: Become an every-down starter at linebacker

Likewise, this might appear to be setting the bar low for Kendricks. Outside linebackers in 4-3 systems rarely receive the accolades like their interior brethren though, and there are too many variables to set a statistical goal. Should Kendricks become the uncontested starter at any of the three spots, that has to be considered a good thing -- particularly if he's not strictly a situational player.

No. 59 Vinny Curry (DE - Marshall)
Goal: Earn a multi-year contract extension from the Eagles

Curry's is the goal I struggled with the most. Where he was taken suggests he should make a big impact in the NFL, but Curry is behind a pair of Pro Bowlers on the depth chart who don't appear to be going anywhere, not to mention faces competition from Brandon Graham and possibly Philip Hunt. What is the right number of sacks for a situational player? Earning a contract extension is admittedly vague, but it indicates he's probably made the most of his playing time, and that there is more to come.

No. 88 Nick Foles (QB - Arizona)
Goal: Compete for the starting quarterback job someday

Foles achieving his goal depends on several outside factors. It's not incredibly likely, but Vick could cement himself as the franchise quarterback with a great season or two. There's a better chance Reid won't even be here a year or two from now, and a new regime probably wouldn't be as high on Foles. However, if the Eagles are still stuck with the status quo in a couple of seasons (I'm sure you're all very excited by the prospect), we should start to hear this kid's name in the mix to be the Eagles' next full-time signal caller.

No. 123 Brandon Boykin (CB - Georgia)
Goal: Become the nickel corner by season two

Joselio Hanson turns 31, and will be a free agent next year. He's a serviceable slot cornerback, but the Eagles can upgrade. Enter Boykin. He doesn't need to contribute from the opening kickoff, but we should see more of Boykin as 2012 wears on, and maybe the team can finally move on from Hanson at season's end. Bonus if Boykin is reliable in the return game.

No. 153 Dennis Kelly (OT - Purdue)
Goal: Become the primary backup at offensive tackle by season two

The Eagles' movements suggest they are counting on Jason Peters to return to full health by next season, but they have the option to hold to Demetress Bell too. That means they shouldn't need a regular starter by next season, but the organization doesn't seem too enamored with King Dunlap as its key depth. If the 6-8, 321-lbs. Kelly can take over that role in 2013, the offensive line should be in good shape.

No. 194 Marvin McNutt (WR - Iowa)
Goal: Make Riley Cooper expendable

McNutt is one of the few Eagles draft picks I've seen quite a bit of, and I think his ceiling is very high. He was very productive at Iowa, especially last season when he caught 82 balls for 1,315 yards and 12 TDs. Because he's only a sixth-round selection, and he has a similar build (6-4, 215) to Cooper (6-3, 222) only with slightly more athleticism, we'll start out small and see if he can take snaps away from the third-year player out of Florida. If he reaches his full potential though, maybe he'll go on to replace Jason Avant in the slot, or even Jeremy Maclin outside.

No. 200 Brandon Washington (G - Miami)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster by season two

The Eagles have Julian Vandervelde from the fifth round of last year's draft, and Dunlap also demonstrated he can play guard, so Washington doesn't automatically need to make the team as a rookie. He should be up and ready to backup Evan Mathis and/or Danny Watkins by year two.

No. 229 Bryce Brown (RB - Kansas St.)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster at any point

I will be impressed if the 6-0, 223-lbs. Brown makes the roster at all, let alone in his rookie season. Roseman sounded very high on the seventh-round pick, and the fact that the Eagles brought in some high-profile undrafted competition at running back leads me to believe he has a shot, but with Dion Lewis currently
the club's second-most experienced back entering season two, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if a veteran was eventually brought in for this year.

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Those on the outside are now starting to see what those on the inside of Villanova basketball program have seen for the last year and a half.

Eric Paschall can play.

Paschall on Saturday had the biggest game of his career – at least his Villanova career – with 19 points, six rebounds and two steals in the Wildcats’ Big East-clinching win over Creighton at the Pavilion.

With Darryll Reynolds sidelined since early February with a rib injury, the Fordham transfer has been starting and playing at a high level. But he was at his best on Saturday when his team needed him the most.

Paschall was essentially a guard at Fordham, but with Reynolds out and Omari Spellman forced to sit out the year, Paschall has been playing a lot of the 5 for Villanova, and against Creighton, he effectively neutralized 6-foot-11 Blue Jays center Justin Patton, who managed just four points – 9 ½ below his average.

“He’s getting better, that’s the biggest thing,” teammate Josh Hart said of Paschall. “He’s down there battling with Patton, a 7-footer, he’s down there battling with 6-10, 6-11 guys just about every night, and he’s battling and battling and we just tell him, keep working like that. That’s more important to us than him going out there scoring 20.

“We know he’s talented enough to score 20, you saw that (Saturday), but the way he’s battling and the way he’s not being frustrated and just keeps getting better, for us that’s the best part.”

Paschall averaged 15.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game two years ago for the Rams, earning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors.

He was one of only three NCAA Division I freshmen who averaged at least 15.9 points and 5 ½ rebounds per game. The others were D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State and Jahlil Okafor of Duke, who are both now double-digit scorers in the NBA.

But to play at Villanova, you have to play defense, and that’s where Paschall has shown the most improvement.

“Eric is developing as a Villanova basketball player defensively in terms of executing far better than anyone knows,” coach Jay Wright said. “We know. When he’s in the game, we are executing at a high level. We’re just starting to see what he can do offensively, but in our program, you’ve got to be able to (play defense) first and he’s been doing that all year.

“(He’s) getting better and better, and today you just saw a glimpse of what you’ll probably see next year, but you’ve got to get the basics down first, which he’s done an incredible job of this year. It’s like I tell you with Dante (DiVincenzo), these guys play against him in practice, they’re not surprised when they see him do that, but I know everybody else is, because they don’t get to see it all the time.”

It’s not easy to transfer into a new program and get used to new players, a new coach, a new system, a new philosophy.

“It was a process,” Paschall said. “The biggest thing was getting used to what they wanted, and that’s defense and rebounding. That took some getting used to, but once I understood what they were looking for from me and what they wanted me to do, that just made it easy.

“The guys welcomed me with open arms. It’s a brotherhood here and we’re all brothers and they made me feel like I was a part of it from Day 1. It can be hard sometimes as a transfer coming in, but they made it easy. It’s just a matter of focusing on my job.”

Overall, Paschall is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and shooting 50 percent from the field in an average of 21 minutes a night. But during these last five starts, he’s 21 for 32 from the field (66 percent) and is averaging 9.8 points per game.

“Eric, he came in knowing what coach wanted, knowing what coach’s philosophy is and how coach wants things, and he’s come and in done what’s expected,” Jalen Brunson said.

“He’s done a great job for us and we’re extremely confident in him. It’s hard coming in front a different school, coming in and learning a new system, learning the philosophy, but he’s done a good job.”

Paschall can play the 2 through the 5, so he gives Wright a lot of versatility.

His 19 points Saturday were his most as a Wildcat and his most in any game since he scored 21 for Fordham vs. George Mason on Feb. 18, 2015.

When asked about his role, he just pointed at Hart and Kris Jenkins.

“Just listen to these guys, making sure I have my head clear every game,” he said. “They do a great job of telling me what to do during the games and having my attitude right during the games so I can just go out there play hard, play together, play smart, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

As thin as Villanova is – Wright has played just six guys in his regular rotation since Reynolds got hurt – Paschall has been a life-saver.

It’s hard not to imagine how talented Villanova will be next year with Spellman, Paschall, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Brunson and DiVincenzo.

But first there's a game Saturday against Georgetown, the Big East Tournament in New York and then the NCAA Tournament.

“We see him getting better every day with his decision making,” Hart said of Paschall. “Last year he definitely kicked our butt a lot when he was on the scout team.

“One thing we always had a question about was how was he going to fit in with just playing hard the way we play defense, and he’s doing the best job, and he keeps getting better, and seeing him develop and seeing him grow has been amazing. Looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future.”

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies pitching prospect Nick Pivetta had one of those pinch-me moments Saturday.

He met his boyhood idol, Roy Halladay, at a charity event.

Someone had filled in Halladay that Pivetta had grown up in Canada and had regularly watched Toronto Blue Jays games on television. Pivetta loved watching Halladay pitch, as he talked about a few weeks ago here.

“I got to briefly shake his hand,” Pivetta said Sunday morning. “He knew I was like a stalker. He said, ‘Oh, right, you’re the guy from British Columbia.’ “

Halladay, who pitched for the Phils from 2010 to 2013, lives in the Clearwater area. Pivetta said he expected to speak more with Halladay in the coming days.

Halladay was honored at the 44th annual Clearwater For Youth banquet and Pivetta attended with a number of his teammates and Phillies officials. Phillies chairman David Montgomery and his wife Lyn were also honored for their charitable works.

Pivetta will pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March.