Ranking the Eagles 2013 Draft Needs

Ranking the Eagles 2013 Draft Needs

The 2013 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the
Eagles are sitting on the fourth pick overall. They’ve already filled some of
their needs through free agency, perhaps even a few trades, but the true
reshaping of this organization’s philosophies is going to be on full display
during the selection process.

This is an organization that has needs at virtually every
position on the field, and unfortunately they won’t be able to address them all
in on weekend, not with one pick in rounds one through five and four in the
seventh. So then it becomes a matter best player available – and priorities of
course. Here’s our look at what areas we think might take precedence for general
manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office when they’re on the clock beginning
next Thursday.

10. Running Back

LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown have the top two spots on
lockdown, but there is an opening on the depth chart since Dion Lewis was
shipped to the Browns. Chris Polk is still in the mix, although a little
competition never hurt anybody. Don’t be surprised when the Birds add a back in
the later rounds.

9. Wide Receiver

It’s really difficult to judge the receiver talent on the
roster right now. Have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin failed to take the next
step due to circumstances beyond their control (quarterback performance,
injuries/illness), or were they overvalued to begin with? With Arrelious Benn
being brought up from Tampa Bay in a trade, and a fair amount of intriguing young
talent already in place, this feels like a wait-and-see situation – at least at
the top.

8. Inside Linebacker

There is some concern that because DeMeco Ryans became
expendable in Houston’s 3-4, he’ll soon be no good here. Ryans may not be a
three-down player in the new system, however he still has the size and instinct
to be useful situationally, while Mychal Kendricks brings speed into the
equation. Not sure either of these guys is the answer forever, but seeing as
only one of them might be on the field in certain packages, it’s not necessarily
a priority. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

7. Safety

Bringing in free agents Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips – a
pair of safeties who have started in the Super Bowl – to compete with Nate
Allen was a good place to start. Maybe there is a quality combination between
the three, yet none that seems like a long-term solution. Don’t anticipate
another second-round pick here, but the Eagles should look for somebody who will
be in the running for a job by year two.

6. Tight End

Brent Celek and James Casey are nice players, but the Eagles
lack a true playmaker at the position. It’s rumored Chip Kelly could carry as
many as four or five tight ends, and we’ve seen what a tight end-heavy approach
has done in New England’s version of the spread offense. It may feel like a
luxury right now, but front office will explore adding a big, vertical threat
possibly as early as day two of the draft.

5. Cornerback

Ex-Raven Cary Williams sounds like a lock to start at one of
the corners for the next two-three years, and Brandon Boykin is perfect for the
slot. Bradley Fletcher is probably fine on the other side, but next up is
Curtis Marsh, who coaches have hardly left on the field since he was drafted in
2011. It’s hard to say how high on the wishlist this is exactly with four names
penciled in already – the team cancelled a pre-draft meeting with Dee Milliner
for what it’s worth – yet they could also use a mid-round caliber athlete to develop
at the very least.

4. Outside Linebacker

The front office mitigated some of the immediacy to develop
an outside linebacker with the addition of Connor Barwin, a free agent who can
rush the passer and drop into coverage. Out of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and
Vinny Curry though, not one of them is guaranteed to fit in a 3-4 – although defensive coordinator Billy Davis is also familiar with hybrid alignments that
would protect those converted defensive ends from dropping into coverage much. Regardless, a defense can never have too many pass rushers, so don’t rule out
Oregon’s Dion Jordan at number four, either.

3. Offensive Line

This unit will improve significantly simply by returning to
full health. That said, Jason Peters is 31 and coming off an Achilles injury, while one apparent hole remains on the right side. Were the Birds to select a tackle at the
fourth pick, that player could potentially start at right from day one (Eric Fisher, Lane
Johnson) – allowing Todd Herremans to move back inside – and eventually take
over for Peters. Even if the front office isn’t looking that far down the road
with their first rounder, it would be wise to pick up another competent lineman
at some point early.

2. Defensive Line

If the Birds intend to use 3-4 alignments on defense, the
Eagles must get bigger up front. Nose tackle in particular is a very
specialized area that demands addressing – Isaac Sopoaga is merely a stopgap –
but they could use another end as well. Fletcher Cox can set one edge, but who
will handle the other side? There are several versatile linemen who may be able to
move around the line (Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei) and are worthy of very serious
consideration at number four should they still be there, any of which might just happen to be the best player available at that time as well.

1. Quarterback

On one hand the Eagles have Nick Foles, which regardless of
what you think his ceiling is, he is a young quarterback who improved every
week when he was the starter. On the other hand Foles remains largely unproven,
and doesn’t have a similar type of pedigree as most franchise quarterbacks. For
most organizations it’s rare to be picking as high as fourth overall, so it’s
a potentially unique opportunity to grab the top passer in the draft. Unfortunately
for Philly, there are serious doubts about whether Geno Smith or anybody else
is worth that price.

Until that proverbial franchise QB is in place, this is
generally going to be considered any NFL team’s top need. Whether they actually have the ability to
fill the hole in this year’s draft is the question.

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Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we feature the Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick who escaped his motherland of Russia for a better situation — no, not the United States, Canada.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
If there was any doubt as to why it was important for Rubtsov to terminate his KHL contract to relocate to North America, the questions were answered last week. Rubtsov made waves in his QMJHL debut tour for the Chicoutimi, quadrupling his KHL production in just three games for the Saguenéens, registering four points in three games.

It did not take long for the 6-foot forward to make noise for Chicoutimi, which had the center playing on the wing as he gets acclimated to the North American game. In a 4-3 shootout win over Halifax, Rubtsov immediately put his stamp on the Saguenéens with a two-assist, six-shot performance in which he was named the game’s third star.

Both of Rubtsov’s apples were nothing to write home about, though he made strong hockey plays on both, his second assist in particular in which he scooped up the puck along the boards and pushed it to the blue line. In the overtime period, he twice had serious scoring chances on the same shift, displaying his speed and power on one and failing to score on a breakaway the other. It was a quiet night for Rubtsov on Friday in Chicoutimi’s 1-0 loss to Saint John, but the Russian showered the stat sheet Saturday.

In his third contest, Rubtsov registered his first career QMJHL goal, a power-play tally, and another assist in a 6-4 win over Acadie-Bathurst. Outside of the points, there was plenty else to like from Rubtsov from last week. Touted as a 200-foot player, he showcased his defensive prowess Friday against the Sea Dogs, taking away a passing lane that resulted in a Chicoutimi rush.

There was much to like about Rubtsov’s first week in the Q. Considering the frustrating start to this season with HC Vityaz, Rubtsov will finally get a fair shake at playing time.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Stolarz missed both weekend games against Providence and Hershey because of a lower-body injury believed to have been suffered in his 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, which was also his 23rd birthday. Head coach Scott Gordon said Saturday night he was “waiting to hear from the doctor.” Lehigh Valley called up Mark Dekanich from Reading to fill in as Alex Lyon’s backup — Dekanich did see game action Saturday.

It looked like Stolarz was on track to start at least three of the Phantoms’ four games last week before the injury. He stopped 25 of 28 shots in Lehigh Valley’s 4-3 over Springfield on Monday, and followed that outing up with 35 saves in a 5-3 victory to the Penguins on Friday night. It’s unclear if Stolarz will miss any time this week.

Battling for the net with Lyon, Stolarz is 9-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .921 save percentage and one shutout in 12 games this season. His competition, Lyon, has been strong as well, despite a clunker on Saturday night against the Bruins.

Lyon was yanked against Providence after 27:02 and allowing four goals on 16 shots, but rebounded well Sunday night against Hershey. Lyon stopped 25 of 26 shots against the Bears, and lost his shutout bid about seven minutes into the third period.

The crease is crowded at Lehigh Valley, but if Stolarz should miss time, Lyon has shown this season he’s more than capable of handling the workload.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Another strong week for Hart, the Flyers’ top goaltending prospect. The 2016 second-round pick picked up two more wins in four games last week for Everett, stopping 113 of 94 shots he faced. On Friday, Hart picked up his sixth shutout of the season, a 33-save blanking of the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 1-0 victory of the Silvertips. In Everett’s 4-3 shootout loss to Spokane on Sunday night, Hart stopped 16 of 19 shots, but did give up 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the loss. He was beaten just once in the shootout. Hart is now 19-4-5 on the season, with a 1.90 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Scott Laughton, C, 6-1,190 , Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Remember Laughton? The 2012 first-round pick had a huge week for the Phantoms last week, as he’s continuing to work his way back into the Flyers’ future plans. Laughton turned in a five-point week, recording points in all four games and picking up his third multi-point game of the season Sunday. He had a goal in three of those four games, and tallied an assist in the Phantoms’ 9-1 blowout loss to Providence Saturday. He helped the Phantoms to a 5-1 win over Hershey on Sunday with a goal and an assist. He’s now up to eight goals and 18 points in 26 games this season at Lehigh Valley.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski missed both of No. 11 Ohio State’s showdowns with No. 1 Penn State last weekend. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split the weekend series.

• Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen rebounded well after a rough outing last Tuesday in an 8-4 loss to Dartmouth, in which he yielded six goals on 18 shots before being pulled.

Madsen responded with a 26-save shutout in No. 6 Harvard’s 3-0 win over Brown University on Friday, and then stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 1-1 tie with Yale.

• Michigan forward Cooper Marody went pointless in the Wolverines’ weekend home-and-home with Michigan State, but did score the shootout winner Saturday night.

Mark Friedman added two assists in Bowling Green’s 3-2 loss to Alaska on Friday, and was pointless Saturday, as the Falcons split the weekend with the Aces with a 2-1 win. With 19 points, the junior blueliner is third on Bowling Green in points.

• Brynäs IF netminder Felix Sandstrom gave up four goals on 24 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over Orebro on Thursday night in his lone game last week.

• Sandstrom’s teammate, Oskar Lindblom, added another goal last week, also in Thursday’s game against Orebro. Lindblom had three shots on net in 20:52 against Orebro. He now leads Brynäs with 31 points and is tied for third in the SHL.

David Kase found himself playing fourth-line center for Piráti Chomutov on Friday and Sunday, partially because of a team need down the middle. Kase did have an assist Tuesday. Sunday, he played just 3:35 against HC Vítkovice Rider and was 3 for 3 in the faceoff dot. He played more Friday (9:25) and saw some PP time vs. HC Karlovy Vary.

Connor Bunnaman had a productive week for Kitchener, adding two goals and three assists in four games. He had a goal and an assist Tuesday in a 4-3 win over Windsor, and then a goal in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over Ottawa on Sunday.

• Phantoms All-Star Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists Friday vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, an assist Saturday against Providence Saturday and another Sunday against Hershey. He now has 19 assists and 27 points in 31 games.

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

It's time again for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. 

This is the week where the NFL world converges into the smallish Alabama city and takes it over until the game. The North and South squads will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, leading up to the game Saturday. 

This offseason hasn't been as crazy as the last one for the Eagles, but there are still plenty of organizational questions left to be answered. 

Maybe we'll start to get those answers this week: 

Play nice, Howie
Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said at his season-ending press conference that new personnel head Joe Douglas will be the guy who sets the draft board, but Roseman said the responsibility still falls on him. 

That, theoretically, means the Eagles could find themselves in a situation where on draft day, they go against their draft board. 

Douglas came to the Eagles as the result of a long search for a personnel head and comes with an impressive pedigree. But he can only be as successful as Roseman lets him be. Now, we'll have to try to figure out if their relationship is really working. 

Doug's role
The last time Doug Pederson was in Alabama for the Senior Bowl, his full staff was just coming together and he was pretty consumed with trying to learn how to become a head coach and implement his scheme. So he answered a few questions about the players he wanted on the team — and very likely let his opinion be known about the quarterbacks — and went back to his business. 

But as this season wrapped up, Pederson said he'd like to play a bigger role in the entire process. Will the Eagles let him? 

If nothing else, Pederson should at least be more available to give his opinion on players and spend time with them during the pre-draft process. 

Filling the holes 
The Eagles have had decent success finding players at the Senior Bowl. Last year, they got their first extended look at a quarterback from North Dakota State who was soaring up draft boards. 

Aside from Carson Wentz, they've drafted plenty of other Senior Bowl players in recent years: Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe, Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews and Marcus Smith. 

There are plenty of interesting prospects at this year's Senior Bowl, too. Four possible first-round corners will be in attendance: Cordrea Tankersley, Tre’Davious White, Cameron Sutton and Jourdan Lewis. There are also a few wide receivers to keep an eye on: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Taywan Taylor, among them.