NFL Draft Cont'd: Potential Day Two Targets

NFL Draft Cont'd: Potential Day Two Targets

The NFL Draft continues with rounds two and three tonight at 7 p.m., with the Eagles currently holding three picks, including two in the top 20. The Birds own picks Nos. 46 and 88, and also claim Arizona's second rounder, No. 51 overall, as part of the Kevin Kolb trade last summer.
There are still fine players available at this stage of the draft, perhaps even players who can contribute immediately. In fact, the Birds aren't scheduled to pick again until 153 after sending their fourth to Seattle to move up last night, and there are plenty of areas they may want to target in rounds two-through-four, so you could see them trade down and try to gain an additional pick today.
After the jump, a look at some positions they might be targeting on day two, and which players could be on their big board.
QuarterbackFour QB's came off the board last night, which means if the Eagles want to come away with one in this draft, they might need to strike early. The team held visits with Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Arizona's Nick Foles, both of whom could be gone by the end of night.
Arizona State's Brock Osweiler is also still available, and many view him, not Cousins, as the top passer remaining. At 6-7, 242, he has all the tools to play at the next level, including arm strength, but his play can be erratic. Based on his size and athleticism though, he probably has the best shot of the three at making it as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Third-down Running BackThis may sound like blasphemy following the season he just had, but LeSean McCoy's receiving numbers are a tad concerning. After hauling in 78 passes in 2010, Shady's totals dipped dramatically last season. His 48 receptions were still a respectable 10th among NFL backs, but his yards per catch was a pedestrian 6.6. Of the runners who finished with more catches than McCoy, only Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Washington's Roy Helu were even below 8.0 YPC.
McCoy seems to lack explosion as a receiver out of the backfield, something Oregon's LaMichael James could provide instantly. A two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, the 5-8, 194-lbs. back possesses that elusive 4.4 speed, which makes him a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. James wasn't outrageously productive as a receiver in college, but he has the ability to become a dangerous all-purpose weapon at the next level.
Wide ReceiverReceiver still isn't considered a need, but there may be too much talent on the board to pass up. In fact, at least one receiver the Eagles visited with slipped out of the first round. 6-4, 215-lbs. Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech doesn't have the greatest body of work, but his 4.3 speed and ball skills are the stuff scouts drool over. He only caught 28 passes as a junior in 2011, but those 28 went for 820 yards -- nearly 30 yards per catch. Very raw prospect, but keep an eye out should he continue to fall.
Offensive Line DepthThe Eagles dumped Winston Justice and Jamaal Jackson during the offseason, leaving the team extremely thin behind an otherwise talented group. Look no further than the panic that ensued when Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles. Management acted fast to solve that problem, signing Demetress Bell to play left tackle this year, but the team still appears to be one injury away from having serious trouble up front.
One area they are typically quite successful in their talent evaluations is along the offensive line, where they like to versatile players who they can plug in multiple positions. Jeff Allen out of Illinois seems to fit the bill. At 6-4, 307, Allen played everywhere but center for the Illini, and the Birds showed interest when they held an official visit with him at the Nova Care Complex. Not a sexy pick, but they must come away from this draft with a lineman.
Outside LinebackerSpeaking of musts, we're in the section of the draft where you can still uncover a starting-caliber outside linebacker. While they could try to mix and match around DeMeco Ryans, and would probably find a formula that works well enough, they will be better off no matter what if they add some more highly-regarded talent than the fourth-round and later types they've been targeting the last few years.
North Carolina's Zach Brown is a name we've seen being floated for months. At 6-1, 244, Brown has good size, and with a 4.5 forty, even better speed -- the second fastest among this year's class of linebackers. He can tackle, he can cover. If he's still around when the Eagles come up at 46, don't be surprised if Brown is the first player they choose tonight.
Nickel Cornerback
After shipping off Asante Samuel, corner suddenly became a trendy pick for the Birds. However, they don't need to replace Samuel. Nnamdi Asomugha is under contract for four more years, and while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent in 2013, they would most likely want to evaluate how he fares over a full season playing at his natural position on the outside. Last year's third rounder, Curtis Marsh, is also better suited to play on the outside.
 Where the Eagles could use an upgrade in particular is in the slot, where Joselio Hanson is the guy they just can't shake. Not long after getting cut last summer, Hanson wound up returning to reprise his role as the club's primary nickel corner. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins (formerly out of Florida, pictured) fell out of the first round largely due to character issues, and while he has the talent to play on the outside, his size (5-10, 193) and tackling ability may make him a better fit for the slot the first few years, at least until the Birds figure out what they have with DRC/Marsh.
Photos via US Presswire.

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

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USA Today Images

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg entered the game at the perfect time.

With his club holding the man advantage as a result of Jimmy Medranda’s second yellow card in the 57th minute, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Alberg off the bench to replace Fabian Herbers in the 65th minute. 

Two minutes later, the Union took the lead. From the left side, Fabinho found Alberg at the top of the box, where he teed off a shot at that ripped past Alec Kann to open scoring in the eventual 2-0 Union win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

It was Alberg’s ninth goal of the season.

The Union now have wins in back-to-back games for the first time since March, pushing their record to 11-9-7 and temporarily jumping them over the New York Red Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. SKC falls to 11-12-5.

Facing Sporting Kansas City at Talen Energy Stadium for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup title game, the Union, who lost that game in penalty kicks, wanted to dictate tempo. However, the club was unable to break down SKC’s stout midfield until the red cards started flying.

Already down a man, things began to unravel for SKC in the 87th minute, when Roger Espinoza was shown a straight red for tossing what appeared like an inadvertent elbow to the midsection of Alberg. 

In stoppage time, up two men, the Union put the exclamation point on the win. Alberg found Tranquillo Barnetta in an open pocket of the SKC defense, and with space, the Swiss veteran placed his shot to the right and in, sealing the 2-0 win.

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Avalon, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

NEW YORK – It wasn’t easy leaving the only professional organization he’d ever been part of, but new Phillie A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday, is coming to terms with it.

“To find out that the trade went down, it was hard,” Ellis said upon reporting to his new club Saturday. “It was so immediate and sudden, really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade.

“But the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing.”

Ellis, 35, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 and rose to the majors with them in 2008. With the Phillies, he will serve a similar role to the one he played with the Dodgers – backup catcher. Ellis wasted no time getting to know the pitching staff he will now work with. He arrived at Citi Field early Saturday afternoon and caught Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff in their between-starts bullpen sessions.

Ellis said “Eichorn” when referring to Eickhoff. He’s forgiven. It’s been a whirlwind week.

“See?” he said. “I’m still learning names.”

Ellis, who served as the personal catcher for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, was blindsided by the trade.

“When I was summoned to the ballpark, that’s never really a good thing, especially when the front office wants to meet with you as far as where you’re at with the club, you know some kind of transition is happening,” he said. “The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest.

“But to arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I’m starting to feel re-energized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I’m excited about that.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill. Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the void.”

Manager Pete Mackanin thought about putting Ellis in the lineup Saturday night then had some mercy when he figured facing hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard might not be the best indoctrination for a guy who just flew cross-country. Ellis is likely to start Sunday afternoon’s series finale and catch Vince Velasquez.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t asked to make a contribution to Saturday night’s game. Mackanin said he wanted Ellis to speak with the Phillies hitters about the weaknesses the Dodger pitchers tried to exploit.

“We talk to them about this stuff all the time, but it might help to hear it from an outside source,” Mackanin said.

Ellis left a first-place club for a rebuilding team. That’s not easy. He has come to terms with that. He likes the young talent on the Phillies’ roster and hopes to help it come to flower.

“Guys are playing for their careers,” he said. “Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. 

"You see the talent, you see their desire to learn, their desire to get better. You just know the youth on this staff, the talent level on this staff. And if I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I’ve picked up from some great mentors I’ve had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from what all has been given to me.”

Ellis hit just .197 with a .285 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Dodgers this season. That’s one of the reasons the Dodgers acquired Ruiz – to get more production from their right-handed-hitting backup catcher. Ruiz had a .369 on-base percentage at the time of the trade.

Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak was “adamant” that Ellis come back on the deal because he wanted someone who could fill Ruiz’ void on (behind the plate) and off (with clubhouse leadership) the field. Ellis’ time with the Phillies might be short. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his playing time might be scant as September unfolds. The Phils will probably add prospect Jorge Alfaro to the catching mix sometime during that month. Management seems eager to get a look at him while still getting No. 1 catcher Cameron Rupp the game reps he needs.