Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

A quick look at the NFL standings shows that, even with the Eagles 17-3 loss to the Cowboys and 3-4 record, if the season ended today, 13 teams would draft before Philadelphia in the first round of 2014: Tampa Bay (0-6), Jacksonville (0-7), NY Giants (1-6), Minnesota (1-5), Houston (2-5), Oakland (2-4), Washington (2-4), Pittsburgh (2-4), Atlanta (2-4), Tennessee (3-4), Buffalo (3-4), Arizona (3-4) and Cleveland (3-4).

Save for the Falcons, and (on principle) Bills, the commonality between these teams -- and not uncoincidentally, the driver of their ineptitude -- is their lack of a franchise quarterback. You can quibble over a few. Jake Locker looked good enough early on that the Titans may stick with him. (But would Mike Munchak's replacement if Munchak is fired?) New York has Eli, Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger. (But how often will the Giants and Steelers get to pick in the top 10?) Brian Hoyer did some nice things for a while there. (But then, this.) Terrelle Pryor? Mike Glennon? Cinderella story, anyone?!

But don't forget a few likely additions to the line.

St. Louis, somehow the owners of a 3-4 mark (and better point differential than the Eagles), own the Redskins' No. 1 thanks to the RG3 trade two years ago. It also just watched Sam Bradford's knee go boom, likely giving the Rams two top picks and a glaring need at the position. Chicago, only 4-3 and likely to be quarterbacked by Josh McCown for what should be "at least" four truly dreadful weeks, will at the end of the season have to decide whether to re-sign an oft-concussed and erratic Jay Cutler, now coming off a torn groin.

Point is, even the most conservative estimate has six of these teams in the market for a quarterback. Even if we go "married couples in separate twin beds" conservative, that still leaves something like four teams drafting quarterbacks.

Who's (possibly) available? (Asterisks indicate draft-eligible underclassmen.) Even the most casual college football fans know the names. Bridgewater. Mariota*. Hundley*. Manziel*. Boyd. Braxton*. Murray. Mettenberger. Morris. Logan. But do they know about their warts?

Teddy Bridgewater has faced only two ranked teams in 36 games. He also has a hideous release, dainty frame, iffy accuracy. Johnny Manziel's recklessness (on and off the field) and durability (hurt twice in each of the last two weeks? really?) justify comparisons to Mike Vick. Samesies with Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who while he seems to have a squeaky-clean character, at times can't help himself but to unleash his arm strength on receivers, some only five yards away. Same footwork problems, too. Boyd has had the following written about him, by ESPN Scouts Inc: "Has had problems keeping weight down in the past and dedication to conditioning needs to be investigated further." (Sounds familiar...) Aaron Murray's a gamer for Georgia despite his reputation for "coming up small" in big games, but he's, well, small -- 6'0, less than 200 pounds. Zack Mettenberger only flourished this year, under LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron -- in a sport where guys routinely shine without such advantages. (There was also this.) Logan Thomas, well, he hasn't done too well at Virginia Tech, ever, but boy, does he have a big arm!

IMO, the only guys I'd be comfortable drafting in the first round and anointing the face of the Eagles for the life of a four-year rookie deal are Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Both have elite physical abilities. Uncanny arm strength. Above-average accuracy. Remarkable escapability. Mariota fits Chip Kelly's scheme, obviously. Hundley has experience in a pro set. And, it should be noted, with a horrendous offensive line chock full of true freshmen. Which, with the way the Eagles O-line has looked this year, makes for a seamless fit.

(Feel free to debate in the comment box below.)

Problem is, they could be gone with the first two picks.

Even if we assume that the Eagles season goes straight to hell, that they win only three more games for the rest of the way (despite getting four gift-wrapped in the Giants, Vikings, Raiders and Cardinals) to finish with a 6-10 record, that's still, what? The eighth overall pick in next year's draft? 10th? And of the quarterback-thirsty teams above, how many out-lose the Eagles the rest of the way?

Even if Howie Roseman went Thomas Dmitroff and traded, basically, their entire draft to move up, how many teams would be willing to move down? In this class? With this many quarterbacks? And so many teams needing them? Would that even be in their best interests, given all of their holes on defense?

Where does that leave the Chip Kelly on Draft Day?

Maybe, without a franchise guy to take.

You'd like to say that the Eagles could just go defense -- maybe a corner like Florida's Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy  or Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, safety like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, nose tackle like Louis Nix III,  linebacker like Alabama's C.J. or Buffalo's Khalil Mack, or, maybe, draft DeSean Jackson's eventual replacement in Clemson's Sammy Watkins -- and wait until 2015 for a QB.

But it's unfortunately not so easy. Here, the Eagles would be stuck between a series of rocks and hard places. Ownership may be able to be patient through one year of Kelly hype yet no results. Could they stomach two? Isn't the only way for Kelly to bide time landing a solid draft class? Does that class lift the Eagles enough that the problem repeats? Maybe the absolute worst-case scenario: they reach, elevating an unworthy talent how Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tennessee did in the Gabbert-Ponder-Locker 2010 Draft.

Then again, the best-case scenario sounds pretty good. They could take Roberson or Purifoy, the best physical talents among the three top corners, slide Bradley Fletcher to the No. 2 corner spot, with Brandon Boykin staying in the slot to, hopefully, transform the defense the way that Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden did singlehandedly for Arizona and Cleveland, and wait for a quarterback to slide into the second round, most likely Murray or Morris. (Who's stock may soon be on the rise, now that Miami is bowl eligible this season.)

Ultimately, while it sounds like a great way to get through what may be a tough season, don't delude yourself into thinking the Eagles are definitely getting a franchise quarterback next year. At least not in Round 1.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM.

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

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Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.