Heading Into NFL Draft, Eagles Have Tremendous Flexibility

Heading Into NFL Draft, Eagles Have Tremendous Flexibility

The first round of the NFL Draft is little more than two weeks away, and the Eagles find themselves in a unique position at the 15th pick. Despite the fact they are coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season that fell far short of expectations, the roster astonishingly lacks the type of gaping holes you would expect from a .500 team. There are spots that can be improved upon, a few areas that lack depth, but what you see right now is a close approximation of what the final product will be come September.

What that means is "best player available" isn't just a cliche this April. Unlike most clubs, the Eagles won't feel obligated to target a certain position or positions in the first round. The front office will have almost unlimited options once the clock starts ticking, because the top of the depth chart is basically set across the board.


Quarterback
Arguably the biggest question mark on offense, and that's with a four-time Pro Bowler under center. Whether or not Michael Vick has what it takes to win a Super Bowl is still up for debate, so coming away from this draft with a quarterback of the future should be on the table. Vick is under contract through 2015 though, which means there's not necessarily any sense of urgency to find his successor. More importantly, there's no need to reach for somebody in the first round.

Running Back
Building on an impressive sophomore campaign, LeSean McCoy emerged as a premier back last year. Over the past two seasons, Shady compiled 3,296 total yards from scrimmage on 606 touches for a 5.4 average and 29 touchdowns. He's looking for a new contract, and running backs can decline rapidly, but McCoy will only turn 24 in July, and there's no reason to believe the Eagles wouldn't reward that kind of production.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
Few teams have embraced the concept that the NFL is a passing league more than Reid's Eagles. The organization has invested heavily in receivers, so it's no surprise the roster would be well-stocked with dynamic pass catchers. The front office could opt for some DeSean Jackson insurance, and it should be noted Jeremy Maclin can become a free agent next year, but all the pieces are in place for this to be an explosive offense once again in 2012.

Offensive Line
O-line was thrust into the spotlight after the hard luck injury to Jason Peters, but the Eagles acted fast and addressed the loss by signing Demetress Bell. The rest of the group is intact, with Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis reaching long-term deals, and Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce each entering their second season in the league. Depth has become a bigger hot-button issue since the Peters scare, but the starters appear to be cemented in place for years to come.

Defensive Line
The front four was responsible for 46 out of the Eagles' NFL-leading 50 sacks last season, and between free agents Juqua Parker and Trevor Laws, they are only losing 2.5. Jason Babin is scary-good at rushing the passer from the wide nine, Trent Cole is an anchor on the opposite end, and Cullen Jenkins was a Pro-Bowl alternate on the interior. The rest of the rotation is a deep bunch of prospects (Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, Antonio Dixon) and consistent vets (Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp).

Linebacker
The Eagles believe they solved their primary off-season need already by trading for DeMeco Ryans last month. If Ryans is the three-down MIKE he was before rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2010, the coaches can probably mix and match around him with the guys who are on the team now. It's still a position we expect the team to address in the draft, but outside linebackers can be found after the first round, so it's no longer an absolute must on day one.

Cornerback
For now, the defense carries three Pro-Bowl corners, but by the time the draft is complete, they should be down to two. That's still better than 90% of the league, so it's not like they'll be hurting. Behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles have a traditional nickel corner in Joselio Hanson, and a couple of prospects in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. However, DRC is a free agent in 2013, so they might be looking to the future -- but clearly it's not an immediate concern.

Safety
After using second-round picks in consecutive drafts, you would hope the Eagles don't feel compelled to chase a safety for a third year in a row. Nate Allen looked great in some games in 2011, not so much in others, but he should improve with a full season removed from a torn patellar tendon. Jaiquawn Jarrett wasn't ready to play after the lockout-shortened offseason, but Kurt Coleman looks serviceable at least. It sounds like a veteran could join this group to provide additional stability, but the guys who are here will get more opportunities.

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Considering all of the above, what would you say their biggest need is in round one? Should they move down if the price is right, and try to gain picks in future years, or should they target an elite prospect, and possibly trade up to get him, no matter whether or not it's at a position of great need? The beautiful thing is they seem to have to multiple options -- or would you even go so far as to disagree with that assessment?

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

BOX SCORE 

The tone was set in the opening minutes of the third quarter. 

The Sixers quickly made up a halftime deficit and rolled from there, outscoring the Bucks, 67-50, in the second half for a 113-104 victory over Milwaukee on Monday.

The Sixers have now won four of their last five games with their only loss in the stretch coming the game Joel Embiid sat out. 

Milwaukee used a 19-4 run to take a 54-44 lead, but the Sixers scored the final basket of the first half and the first eight points of the third quarter to tie the game. 

Embiid scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 22 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high tying five blocked shots.

Inside the box score
• The Sixers scored 18 of their 24 first-quarter points from the 3-point line, connecting on 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. Philadelphia hit on 14 of 37 three-point attempts, while Milwaukee was just 5 for 14. 

• Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in the first half, but battled foul trouble after the break and finished with 23 points for the game. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:04 left in the third quarter and was whistled for his fifth foul just 38 seconds into the fourth quarter. 

• Eight Sixers scored in double figures, led by Embiid with 22. Dario Saric added 17, Ersan Ilyasova scored 12, Gerald Henderson and Robert Covington had 11 and Sergio Rodriguez, Jahlil Okafor and Chasson Randle each added 10. 

McConnell MRI negative
The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and did not play against the Bucks (see story).
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”

Sergio Rodriguez started in McConnell’s place and scored 10 points with seven rebounds and six assists. 

Monster jam
Embiid threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Sixers a 77-76 lead with 1:00 left in the third quarter. He then forced a turnover on the other end and later blocked a shot attempt by Matthew Dellavedova at the third-quarter buzzer. 

Noel sits
Sixers center Nerlens Noel was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a sprained left ankle. 

Up Next
The Sixers will host Toronto (27-13) on Wednesday and Portland (18-25) on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center before traveling to Atlanta to face the Hawks (24-17) on Saturday. 

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell has left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and will miss Monday's game vs. the Bucks in Milwaukee.
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”
 
McConnell is averaging 4.8 points and 5.4 assists in 38 games. He has started Philadelphia’s last seven games, a stretch during which the Sixers have gone 5-2.

With McConnell out, Sergio Rodriguez will start at point guard Monday against Milwaukee.

Rodriguez started 29 of the first 30 games he played this season, his first in the NBA since 2009-10. The 30-year-old is more of an offensive threat than the defensive-minded McConnell, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 assists.  

“You immediately go to losing that defensive energy T.J. is known for,” Brown said. “Sergio is a more gifted scorer. T.J. is a more gifted defender. To have Nerlens (Noel) and Joel (Embiid) behind the scenes, we can make up some ground with Sergio.
 
“People understand Sergio’s pedigree. He’s a 30-year-old legend in Europe. He has a wealth of experience. He’s a medalist and an MVP of the Euro league. He also was our starting point guard for a while. We’re happy to give him back that responsibility.”

No Noel
In addition to McConnell, the Sixers on Monday will also be without the services of Nerlens Noel, who is dealing with a left ankle sprain. Noel came down with a season-high 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to the Wizards.

Still restricted
Sixers center Joel Embiid will still be on a 28-minute restriction Monday against the Bucks.

Embiid sat out Saturday’s 109-93 loss to Washington after playing 28 minutes in a 102-93 win over Charlotte on Friday. He has reached 30 minutes just once in his 27 games this season.