Heading Into NFL Draft, Eagles Have Tremendous Flexibility

Heading Into NFL Draft, Eagles Have Tremendous Flexibility

The first round of the NFL Draft is little more than two weeks away, and the Eagles find themselves in a unique position at the 15th pick. Despite the fact they are coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season that fell far short of expectations, the roster astonishingly lacks the type of gaping holes you would expect from a .500 team. There are spots that can be improved upon, a few areas that lack depth, but what you see right now is a close approximation of what the final product will be come September.

What that means is "best player available" isn't just a cliche this April. Unlike most clubs, the Eagles won't feel obligated to target a certain position or positions in the first round. The front office will have almost unlimited options once the clock starts ticking, because the top of the depth chart is basically set across the board.


Quarterback
Arguably the biggest question mark on offense, and that's with a four-time Pro Bowler under center. Whether or not Michael Vick has what it takes to win a Super Bowl is still up for debate, so coming away from this draft with a quarterback of the future should be on the table. Vick is under contract through 2015 though, which means there's not necessarily any sense of urgency to find his successor. More importantly, there's no need to reach for somebody in the first round.

Running Back
Building on an impressive sophomore campaign, LeSean McCoy emerged as a premier back last year. Over the past two seasons, Shady compiled 3,296 total yards from scrimmage on 606 touches for a 5.4 average and 29 touchdowns. He's looking for a new contract, and running backs can decline rapidly, but McCoy will only turn 24 in July, and there's no reason to believe the Eagles wouldn't reward that kind of production.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
Few teams have embraced the concept that the NFL is a passing league more than Reid's Eagles. The organization has invested heavily in receivers, so it's no surprise the roster would be well-stocked with dynamic pass catchers. The front office could opt for some DeSean Jackson insurance, and it should be noted Jeremy Maclin can become a free agent next year, but all the pieces are in place for this to be an explosive offense once again in 2012.

Offensive Line
O-line was thrust into the spotlight after the hard luck injury to Jason Peters, but the Eagles acted fast and addressed the loss by signing Demetress Bell. The rest of the group is intact, with Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis reaching long-term deals, and Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce each entering their second season in the league. Depth has become a bigger hot-button issue since the Peters scare, but the starters appear to be cemented in place for years to come.

Defensive Line
The front four was responsible for 46 out of the Eagles' NFL-leading 50 sacks last season, and between free agents Juqua Parker and Trevor Laws, they are only losing 2.5. Jason Babin is scary-good at rushing the passer from the wide nine, Trent Cole is an anchor on the opposite end, and Cullen Jenkins was a Pro-Bowl alternate on the interior. The rest of the rotation is a deep bunch of prospects (Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, Antonio Dixon) and consistent vets (Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp).

Linebacker
The Eagles believe they solved their primary off-season need already by trading for DeMeco Ryans last month. If Ryans is the three-down MIKE he was before rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2010, the coaches can probably mix and match around him with the guys who are on the team now. It's still a position we expect the team to address in the draft, but outside linebackers can be found after the first round, so it's no longer an absolute must on day one.

Cornerback
For now, the defense carries three Pro-Bowl corners, but by the time the draft is complete, they should be down to two. That's still better than 90% of the league, so it's not like they'll be hurting. Behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles have a traditional nickel corner in Joselio Hanson, and a couple of prospects in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. However, DRC is a free agent in 2013, so they might be looking to the future -- but clearly it's not an immediate concern.

Safety
After using second-round picks in consecutive drafts, you would hope the Eagles don't feel compelled to chase a safety for a third year in a row. Nate Allen looked great in some games in 2011, not so much in others, but he should improve with a full season removed from a torn patellar tendon. Jaiquawn Jarrett wasn't ready to play after the lockout-shortened offseason, but Kurt Coleman looks serviceable at least. It sounds like a veteran could join this group to provide additional stability, but the guys who are here will get more opportunities.

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Considering all of the above, what would you say their biggest need is in round one? Should they move down if the price is right, and try to gain picks in future years, or should they target an elite prospect, and possibly trade up to get him, no matter whether or not it's at a position of great need? The beautiful thing is they seem to have to multiple options -- or would you even go so far as to disagree with that assessment?

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots in the third period and 37 overall, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped the St. Louis Blues' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Evander Kane and minor-league callup Nicholas Baptiste each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's third straight win, matching a season best accomplished three times. Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres (26-23-10), who have three more wins than losses for the first time since closing the 2011-12 season 39-32-11.

Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis, which lost for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4 (see full recap).

Jets spoil Julien's return to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Claude Julien's return to Montreal with a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday.

Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg (27-29-5), and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots. The Jets had dropped five of six.

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday and hired Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track. Julien also coached Montreal from 2003-2006.

But Julien's first game back was more of the same for the first-place Canadiens (31-20-8), who have lost three in a row and seven of eight (see full recap).

Senators top Leafs to gain on Canadiens
TORONTO -- Mark Stone had a goal and four assists, Derick Brassard scored twice in the third period and the Ottawa Senators recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Senators pulled within two points of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa led 2-0 after one period but trailed 3-2 in the third before getting a tying goal from Mike Hoffman and a power-play goal from Brassard. Stone and Brassard added empty-netters, and Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the Senators.

Ottawa has won four of five overall and three of four against the Leafs this season. Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots.

Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored and Auston Matthews had two assists for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NEW ORLEANS -- Glenn Robinson III is the NBA's new dunk king, with an assist to Indiana teammate Paul George, the Pacers' mascot and a Pacers cheerleader.

Robinson leaped over all three, snagging the ball from George along the way before finishing with an emphatic, two-hand, reverse jam, giving him a perfect score -- and the title -- on his final dunk.

Robinson edged out Phoenix's Derrick Jones Jr., who was done in by his failure to complete his difficult first dunk of two in the final round.

Jones still managed a perfect score on his second dunk, when he received a bounce-pass in the paint, put it between his legs and threw down a left-handed jam. But Robinson made sure it wasn't enough.

In the 3-point contest, Houston's Eric Gordon dethroned Golden State splash brother Klay Thompson. Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks won the Skills Challenge.

Both dunk finalists delighted the crowd with soaring slams over teammates and others that showcased the explosive spring in their vertical leaps.

Robinson had one dunk in which he leap-frogged one man sitting on another's shoulders, grabbed the ball from the elevated man's hands and slamming it home.

Jones jumped over four teammates including Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss in the first round. He also drew roars from the crowd when he took a pass off the side of the backboard from Booker with his right hand, put the ball between his legs to his left for a round-house jam.

The dunk that cost him was a bold one. He tried to leap a friend and the Suns' gorilla mascot, grab the ball on the way over, put it between his legs and then finish with a windmill. But he couldn't get the dunk to go down in his allotted three attempts.

DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Aaron Gordon of Orlando were unable to emerge from the first round. Jordan dunked over DJ turn tables and Gordon dunked after receiving a bounce pass from a drone that had flown over the court with the "Star Wars" theme music playing.

Eric Gordon got his win in New Orleans, where he played the previous five seasons before leaving last summer in free agency.

Gordon's score of 21 in a final-round tiebreaker defeated Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, the 2013 winner who had 18. The pair had each finished with a score of 20 in the final round, meaning they each had to shoot 25 more balls to decide it.

"I wasn't really concentrating on how many I made," Gordon said. "It's all about just knocking down the shot. I never counted in my head or anything. I just go out there and just shoot the ball."

Thompson was stunningly eliminated in the first round, missing a final shot from the corner that could have put him through ahead of Kemba Walker.

Big men reigned supreme for a second straight year in the skills competition, with the 7-foot-3 Porzingis beating Utah's Gordon Hayward in the final round.

Those vanquished in earlier rounds included guards John Wall of Washington and Isaiah Thomas of Boston, both because they couldn't make their initial 3-pointers required to close out the course before Hayward did, even though Hayward had trailed each of them dribbling down the court by a considerable margin before hitting his clinching shots.

Porzingis emerged from the big-men's division that included the Pelicans' Anthony Davis and Denver's Nikola Jokic.

"It's a good feeling that I'm able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you're capable of doing that even if you're tall and lanky like me," Porzingis said. "I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like -- I don't want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it."

Porzingis and Hayward were neck-and-neck until the end of the course, but Porzingis hit his 3 first to end it.

The three-round, head-to-head obstacle-course competition tests dribbling, passing, agility and shooting skills.

Earlier on Saturday, Rollie Massimino, who coached Villanova to the 1985 NCAA championship, and Chris Webber were among the 14 finalists for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Others include NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include point guard Tim Hardaway, record-setting high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU national champion Wayland Baptist University.

Enshrinees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. The induction ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are Sept. 7-9.