The NFL Draft Is Upon Us

The NFL Draft Is Upon Us

The Sixers are done
(mercifully), the Flyers are playing out the string, and the Phillies are just
plain hard to watch at the moment. Now who’s ready to watch Roger Goodell read some
names off of index cards?

The NFL Draft is always an
event of tremendous intrigue, but even more so than usual when the Eagles are
picking as high as fourth overall. Assuming they stay in that spot, that’s a
player who should define the franchise for years to come – for better or for

Case in point: the last time
the Birds were up this high in the order, they wound up taking Donovan McNabb
with the second pick in 1999. Is there any one individual player who better
personified the Andy Reid era than his quarterback of 11 seasons?

Coincidentally or not, that
was Reid’s first draft, the same as this is Chip Kelly’s first draft. Whatever
the Eagles decide to do with the pick, it will be somebody who could ultimately
become synonymous with the future successes or failures of this head coaching

If they stay at No. 4:

Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel will
be off the board. If the Raiders stay at three, their pick should be Sharrif
Floyd. I believe at this point we can narrow the selection down to three
players: Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson, Utah DT Star Lotulelei, or Oregon OLB Dion

Jordan is a freak athlete, and
has the obvious ties to Chip, but I’m not sure they’ll have him ranked as the
best player available for this spot. Lotulelei fills a bigger need for the
defense, and seems to be the more NFL ready of the two, so he should be higher
up on the board. If Johnson is legitimately the best player available though,
and they can’t reach a suitable trade, it would make sense to bolster the
offensive line, which also happens to be the safest decision.

If they trade down:

Don’t expect it to be a big
move. The teams that are interested in trading up will likely be targeting Johnson,
as the Lions (No. 5), Cardinals (No. 7), and Chargers (No. 11) all need help at
tackle. Detroit would probably try to jump ahead of the Eagles to play it safe,
or simply stay put and hope for the best. The Eagles may not be willing to drop
all the way to 11, and almost certainly not without San Diego’s second rounder
(No. 45) as part of the package.

Arizona seems to be the
logical partner. It keeps Philly within striking distance of the top of the
draft, where it’s possible somebody like a Lotulelei or BYU DE Ziggy Ansah
could still be available. That’s who I would expect them to target there,
unless Dion Jordan falls, or the buzz over Geno Smith is real. It’s worth
noting the Cards’ pick is one spot ahead of Buffalo, who might also take a hard
look at a quarterback there.

My pick:

I would be happy with Johnson
or Ansah, less so with Jordan or Smith. If I was pulling the levers though, I
would select Lotulelei. The Eagles need a big body with scheme versatility,
whether it’s for a 3-4, a 4-3 under, or whatever defense you can dream up. He
fills a definite, immediate hole, and may very well be the best player

I like the idea of trading
down a few spots with Arizona and seeing if they can steal Lotulelei at No. 7,
with Ansah being the backup plan. Neither the Lions nor the Browns need another
defensive tackle, so Star should slide. However, I would be just as happy with
Lotulelei at four overall.

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Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.