Donovan McNabb Pick Could Have Been Edgerrin James

Donovan McNabb Pick Could Have Been Edgerrin James

Imagine if Donovan McNabb had been chosen first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 NFL Draft instead Tim Couch. Say what you want about Five, but in hindsight that’s definitely what should have happened. Well, where would that have left the Eagles?

Probably not where you would expect. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie shared an interesting story about that fateful draft at McNabb’s formal retirement press conference on Monday. Had the Browns taken the right guy, the Dirty Thirty would have wound up booing Edgerrin James instead.

Lurie told the assembled that if McNabb had not been available at No. 2, the long-time Colts running back would have been the pick over any of the other quarterbacks – notably Couch or Akili Smith – as well as fan favorite Heisman Trophy-winning back Ricky Williams.

"We were interviewing all together and very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round obviously with the second pick," said Lurie. "This was meant to be a very, very important pick.

"We didn't have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. The only quarterback that we all - and Andy leading the way - felt very confident in was Donovan, and it wasn't just his athletic ability. It was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks both in that draft and elsewhere. So it all came together that he was really the only quarterback that was really far above all the others for us."

And if the Cleveland Browns had selected McNabb instead of Tim Couch?

"It was really, Donovan or 'Yikes, what are we going to do?' " said Lurie. "I guess the answer was Edgerrin. We thought this probably was a potential Hall of Fame running back."

James wound up going one pick before Williams at No. 4, going on to carve out a nice 11-year career primarily in Indianapolis and with the Arizona Cardinals. The four-time Pro Bowler is 11th all-time on the NFL career rushing list with 12,246 yards on the ground, 18th with 80 touchdowns.

But it goes without saying James wouldn’t have had the impact in Philadelphia that Donovan had. Chances are nobody from that draft class would have.

That’s something to think about the next time you or somebody you know goes to bash McNabb’s career in Philly. True, he couldn’t bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Yes, he had his share of flaws. Also, where would the franchise have been for those 11 seasons if he wasn’t the starting quarterback?

Who knows, but chances are great it wouldn’t have been winning five NFC East titles, much less making five appearances in NFC Championship games.

If for some reason you can’t appreciate McNabb on his own merits, maybe you should consider how much worse things could have been without him. As long as he was here, the Eagles had a chance to win it all every year. Those were good times.

>> If not McNabb, James the pick [Rdg Eagle]

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

ATLANTA — Even with the Miami Marlins having filled their need for starting pitching, there remains significant interest in Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, according to major league sources.

The Phillies have received offers for the 29-year-old right-hander, but none that they have deemed worthy of pulling the trigger on.

Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for the club on Saturday night. Will he make that start? Time will tell. Talks between the Phillies and interested clubs are ongoing.

Hellickson is coming off two strong starts in which he allowed just six hits and one run in 14 innings against the Marlins. Another strong start Saturday could add more luster to Hellickson’s stretch-run value and bring the Phillies the package they are seeking. The trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m.

Miami had interest in Hellickson before making a deal to acquire starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in a seven-player trade Friday (see story).

Hellickson is viewed by industry insiders as being a fallback option for a number of teams. Demand for him could grow as trades are made and the starting pitching market thins as Monday’s deadline approaches.

Baltimore, Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Houston are among teams looking to add starting pitching.

Though there’s no guarantee that Hellickson will be moved, he is the most likely Phillie to go. Reliever David Hernandez is next on the list. A number of teams are looking for relief help. The feeling around baseball is that the Phils could move Hernandez before Monday’s deadline, but the return would only be marginal.

The Phillies have received some interest in closer Jeanmar Gomez, but not to the degree one might expect for someone with 27 saves. Because Gomez lacks power stuff, rival teams do not view him as a closer on a contending team.

FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have interest in right-hander Vince Velasquez, but the Phils would have to be blown away to move the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez started for the Phillies on Friday night.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.