Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Whatever players were on the board at 23, whether right guard was the biggest need or not, there is one simple way to break down the Eagles' first round pick this year. If Danny Watkins is starting Week 1, it was the right call.

Was it the sexy pick? Far from it. Colorado's Jimmy Smith could have filled the enormous hole at cornerback. Instead, the big, physical corner went four picks later to the Ravens. Coming out of a veritable offensive lineman factory in Wisconsin, Gabe Carimi could have protected Mike Vick's blindside for years to come. The Bears nabbed him at 29. My personal preference and local product Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the interior pass rusher the Birds' defensive line so desperately needs. The 30th overall selection will play for Rex Ryan in New York.

Here's the thing: while any of those guys would have filled a need on paper, would they be ready to do it this year? Maybe, maybe not, but Watkins is projected to start immediately. In fact, the Eagles are counting on it. Described by some draft analysts as the most NFL-ready of the offensive linemen, the team anticipates he can show up and do the job.

What more can you ask for from your first round pick in his rookie season?

Of course, there is that whole age thing again. Already 26 years old, the obvious knock is a shorter career expectancy. By the time he reaches the end of his rookie contract, Watkins could be 32-years-old, right about the time when the Eagles' front office parts ways with many veterans. That's not exactly ancient for a lineman, but it's reason enough for pause.

Beyond that, Watkins was literally a man among boys at Baylor. His advanced age has prompted some concerns over the evaluation process. Sure, he manhandled college kids, athletes often four or five years his junior, in many cases still developing. How will that translate against professionals, guys whose job description includes lifting weights rather than books?

His age is a big reason why it's so important he's on the field right away. The Eagles don't have time to bring some rookie along. He better be pro ready, or not only will right guard continue to be a problem area, but they lose valuable years with Watkins at a time when most young players would be entering or perhaps already in their prime.

Assuming reports are correct though, and the first round pick is up to speed whenever this season finally kicks off, imagine what it could mean for the Birds in 2011. Upon Jamaal Jackson's return from a torn biceps muscle, they will have solidified the unit from left tackle to right guard with a single move, leaving Winston Justice the lone question mark. And while you can make the case right tackle becomes the most vital position with a left-handed quarterback, how much easier will life be on that island with any kind of presence next door?

But he has to play, it's that simple. If he does that much, and on par with his status as a first rounder, how can you knock the selection? Okay, Watkins is still a fossil compared to every other rookie, which at the very least clouds his future.

At the end of the day, it was a results-oriented choice. Smith, Carimi, Wilkerson, whoever; maybe one or two have an impact this year, maybe not. With Watkins, apparently there was no guess work.

Herremans Moving to Tackle?

After the selection of Watkins, several members of the media suggested the Eagles could plug him in at left guard, and kick Todd Herremans out to right tackle. On Tuesday, Andy Reid indicated he "probably" wouldn't move Herremans outside.

"Right now, that’s probably not going to happen. He’s probably going to be playing guard and Danny will be playing guard."

In theory, the shuffle makes sense. Herremans was originally a tackle in college, and he has filled in there for the Birds before. Watkins would take his place at left guard, while either incumbent Max Jean-Gilles would return on the right, or Mike McGlynn could slide over from center. Obviously, the latter is predicated on Jamaal Jackson making a full recovery.

While that may look appealing on paper, it's probably overthinking the situation a bit.

My biggest issue with moving Herremans now is destroying the continuity he and left tackle Jason Peters have built the past two years. The offensive line has really struggled in that aspect, and shaking up the entire unit could prove more detrimental than anything else. Plus, Herremans just had arguably his best season as a pro, as he and Peters have legitimately quieted their critics.

Furthermore, while Herremans has been their most consistent lineman, he hasn't played tackle on a fulltime basis in the NFL. That's not to say he can't do it, and he might be an improvement over Winston Justice either way, but it is a gameble nonetheless.

For now, we expect Herremans to remain at left guard, with Watkins penciled in at right. Of course, Reid has been known to say one thing one day, and do the exact opposite the next. And for what it's worth, the head coach didn't say anything at all about which guard position Herremans would play.

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).