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.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).