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.

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P