Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

One word that doesn't quite describe the Eagles in the first round of the NFL Draft under Andy Reid is predictable -- yet, somehow, that's also exactly what they are.

They've traded into the top 20 four times since 2003, while moving out of the first round entirely in back-to-back drafts in '08 and '09. Since 2006, they have only stuck with their original pick once -- last year with Danny Watkins -- and just three times in the last nine drafts. You can never be sure when they're coming or going, or who it is they might be targeting.

Then again, when you look back on all of those recent drafts, they have dropped a fairly big hint as to what they might be targeting in the first round. Some Eagles draft trivia, and perhaps insight, after the jump.

Six of the Eagles' last seven first-round draft picks were linemen -- two offensive, and four defensive linemen. The only exception was Jeremy Maclin in '09, who wound up tumbling out of the top 10, and all the way down to 19, where the Eagles traded up two spots to land him.

If you include top selections that were not made in round one, the addition of Trevor Laws in 2008 bumps the Birds up to seven linemen -- five on defense -- chosen first over the last 10 drafts.

Unfortunately, one reason they've had to draft so many linemen is because quite a few of them have not panned out, particularly over the long haul.

Jerome McDougle (15h in '03) and Shawn Andrews (16th in '04) are both out of the league, though for vastly different reasons. McDougle is the epitome of a bust, a defensive end who achieved no measurable success in the NFL. Andrews at one point may have been the best guard in the NFL, but injuries, and perhaps off-field issues, shortened his career.

Mike Patterson (31st in '05) and Brodrick Bunkley (14th in '06) formed the starting combination at defensive tackle for three seasons. Together they dug a deep trench against the run, but were not so much a factor rushing the quarterback. Patt obviously remains a steady hand for the club, but Bunk was moved last summer to make room for the more versatile Cullen Jenkins.

The jury is still out on their two most recent picks, Brandon Graham (13th in '10) and Watkins (23rd). Graham tore his ACL and required microfracture surgery toward the end of a promising rookie season, and basically missed all of last year while recovering. Watkins wasn't able to crack the starting lineup right away in 2011, but eventually moved in to his spot at right guard, and played well enough there is reason for optimism.

The 47th pick and top choice for Philadelphia after trading their first rounder to the Carolina Panthers in '08, Trevor Laws never amounted to much at all, and remains an unsigned free agent as of this writing.

Even before Andy Reid controlled the Eagles personnel universe, the Birds used the sixth overall selection on Corey Simon in 2000. For five seasons, Simon was a force in the middle, a Pro Bowler even -- the kind of talent that's a bit easier to locate in the top 10, where the team has not chosen since -- but his weight was an issue, which played into contract negotiations that went awry. Simon was allowed to walk, and he would appear in 17 more NFL games over three seasons before calling it quits.

The odds could be in favor of the Eagles taking yet another lineman this month. Clearly they believe that's where the value is, staying true to the timeless philosophy that football games are won up front.

Even after adding Demetress Bell to replace an injured Jason Peters, the front office might try to play it safe on the offensive line in Achilles's aftermath.

Defensive line is even more likely. Patterson is still a questionable fit in Jim Washburn's wide nine, and the backup tackles are all signed through this season only. At end, Graham making a full recovery is no guarantee, and the rest of the talent behind Jason Babin and Trent Cole is questionable.

Even if it's not a lineman, there still could be clues as to the direction the Eagles are headed. The only other positions where first rounders have been used during the Andy Reid era are cornerback, wide receiver, and quarterback.

Lito Sheppard was selected 26th in '02, followed immediately by safety Michael Lewis and corner Sheldon Brown in the second round. There aren't many other examples of the Eagles taking corners high, but they've spent big money in free agency on Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, so it's been a consistent focus.

Besides using a first on Maclin in '09, Freddie Mitchell was chosen 25th in '01. The Eagles also took DeSean Jackson two picks after Laws in '08, and have used seconds on Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, and tight end L.J. Smith in the recent past.

Finally, besides using the second overall selection in the '99 draft on Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb was the club's first choice in '07, trading out of the first round to scoop him up at 36.

Running back, linebacker, and safety are the only prevalent areas where a first round pick has not been utilized -- though all three have been given the attention of multiple second and third round picks.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."