Players the Eagles should target or avoid in Round 1 of the NFL draft

Players the Eagles should target or avoid in Round 1 of the NFL draft

5 players the Eagles should not/will not draft in Round 1

 

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Fans love the hard-hitting safety, but Pryor may not be a great fit the Eagles’ scheme. He’s largely untested in man coverage, and somewhat average athleticism leaves open the concern it would ever be a plus. Ideally, coaches scheme to great players’ strengths, but if Pryor is significantly limited, he’s probably not the best player available in Round 1.

Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn

Trent Cole and Brandon Graham just made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, to varying degrees of success. Now the Eagles are supposed to try again with Ford? It’s probably easier to teach an impressionable rookie to go from playing with his hand in the dirt to standing up than it is an established veteran. Then again, there are other pass-rush prospects who already have that experience.

Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

Howie Roseman would like you to know the Eagles are quite satisfied with Bennie Logan at nose tackle. If Logan gets to 325 pounds, Nix actually isn’t much bigger than that, not to mention there are a lot of questions about his consistency/durability/all-around athleticism. Plus, in the pass-happy NFL, the nose tackle is probably only on the field roughly 50 percent of the time, so why invest a first-round pick?

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The Eagles definitely need a cornerback, but all of the evidence we have strongly suggests it will not be Verrett. All of the notable cornerbacks the Eagles have signed since Chip Kelly arrived—Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll—are 6’0” or taller. Verrett is 5’9”. He may wind up being a heck of a player, but I can’t envision Chip going down that route.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

First and foremost, the Eagles don’t need a quarterback now that Nick Foles is firmly entrenched as the starting signal-caller. Manziel’s size and penchant for ad-libbing are too Vick-like for my tastes anyway. I’ll go on record as saying the team that dumps a top-10 pick on this kid will regret it.

 

 

Bonus: 5 potential surprise first-round picks for the Eagles

 

Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

Honestly, Bucannon may be the best safety in this draft. He’s bigger than Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He performed better than them at the combine. He was more productive in college, too. A lot of people would say No. 22 is too high, and maybe it is, but I could see him sneaking into the first round given his body of work.

Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Once considered a mid-round prospect by many, Latimer has had a rocket strapped to his back ever since he ran a sub-4.4 40 at his pro day. At 6’2”, has ideal size to play on the outside—in fact, he was the strongest receiver at the combine. Oh, and scouting reports mention he’s a plus blocker. We’ll soon find out if the dramatic rise in draft stock was real or not, but he’s a player to watch regardless.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

If Ebron lasts to No. 22, I honestly think the Eagles would pass only because they could get a quality tight end in the Round 2. However, it would not shock me if he wound up in midnight green. Yes, they already have Zach Ertz, but tight end could become a focal point in Chip’s offense if they add another stud. There’s value to be had later, but Ebron is the best tight end prospect in the draft, and mocks suggest he could fall.

Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame

This is really just a shot in the dark. All indications are Martin will be long gone before the Eagles are up at No. 22. My gut feeling is one or two really good players are going to be around later than expected though. If it’s Martin, both of Philly’s guards are in their 30s, and one of them is on the trade block. No-brainer. Could even be a surprise trade-up candidate as well.

Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech

No. 22 is probably too high for Attaochu, but he could be the target if the Eagles were to trade down, which given the fact that they only have six picks, might be in the team's best interest anyway. The highly productive pass-rusher from Georgia Tech racked up 43.5 tackles for loss and 31.5 sacks over a four-year collegiate career. He can play with his hand in the dirt or line up as a standup pass-rusher. Fits the Eagles’ defense, fills a big need.

 

Kulp's 5 ideal prospects for Eagles' first-round pick

 

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

If Barr slips past the Titans at No. 11, there’s a very real chance he’ll last to No. 22, or at least fall far enough that he’s within striking distance for a trade up. The Eagles need another pass-rusher, preferably one who can take over for Trent Cole next year when the two-time Pro Bowler’s salary blows up to in excess of $11 million. It’s a steep drop-off after Barr, so keep your fingers crossed.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Clinton-Dix once seemed like a longshot to fall to the Birds at No. 22, but recent mock drafts such as Mike Mayock’s for NFL.com see the Alabama safety’s stock dipping. The consensus All-American has the athleticism and versatility to excel in coverage or help out in run support. With Nate Allen and Earl Wolff set to compete for the starting job opposite Malcolm Jenkins, a little extra competition couldn’t hurt. It’s a no-brainer if Clinton-Dix is still on the board.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Jim Thorpe award winner for best defensive back in the nation, Dennard is another player who could fall for seemingly no reason at all other than this is a stacked draft. He’s got above average size and strength for the position, and plays with physicality. Cary Williams turns 30 and is owed $8 million in ’15, the final year of his deal, and Bradley Fletcher will be a free agent next year. Eagles really need to be wary of the future at corner, and can’t go wrong with the best defensive back in the nation.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller doesn’t possess the accolades of a prospect like Dennard, but he sounds like a perfect fit for the Eagles defense—good size, adequate speed, physical, plenty of experience in zone coverage. The thing that stood out to me is his versatility. Playing in a hybrid slot corner/linebacker role, Fuller racked up 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine pass breakups as a sophomore in 2011. The kid is a pure football player.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

There may not be a safer, more complete prospect who could realistically fall to No. 22 than Mosley. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year is the total package—a sound tackler who is strong in both run support and coverage. DeMeco Ryans turns 30 this summer and is making $6.9 million per year on a contract that’s up after ’15. Mosley would have his job by next year.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.