2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

The 2017 NFL draft is in the Eagles' backyard.

They'll be picking in the middle of the first round (thanks, again, Sammy Sleeves) at either No. 14 or 15. The team's most pressing needs are weapons for young quarterback Carson Wentz and help in a weak secondary that lacks depth.

With a whole bunch of early mock drafts in the books, we take a look at what the pundits are saying about what the Eagles might do come late April.

Mel Kiper, ESPN - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
We start with the original draft guru in Kiper. He tabs Williams, a prototypical outside receiver with strong hands and tremendous ball skills. Williams finished his redshirt junior year with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He capped off his impressive college career with an eight-catch, 94-yard performance in a National Championship win over Alabama.

Kiper's take: "Wide receiver has been a position of frustration for the Eagles, and it's imperative they add at least one more reliable pass-catcher next year, or they risk slowing the development of Carson Wentz. This is a spot where the Eagles could be considering another position (tackle comes to mind), but the value isn't there in some cases, and with Williams it definitely is. He's a great, big target for Wentz to work with."

Analysis: I'm sure no Eagles fans will argue this pick. In Kiper's mock, Williams is the first receiver off the board at No. 15. Williams isn't the most explosive receiver, but he consistently makes contested catches and wins with his size and strength. Between the two, I prefer Western Michigan's Corey Davis (Kiper has him going to Tampa Bay at No. 19), but an upgrade at the receiver position is definitely a positive.

Todd McShay, ESPN - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor has all the swagger and ball skills you look for in a corner. He does take chances. He's not quite an Asante Samuel-type risk taker, but he will occasionally take the cheese and get beat deep. He finished his career at Florida with nine interceptions.

McShay's take: "Tabor needs to cut down on the number of big plays he allows, but he has some of the best ball skills among cornerbacks in this draft class, with nine interceptions and 28 pass breakups in his past three seasons. He shows natural anticipation, if not the most consistent technique. Wide receivers Corey Davis or Mike Williams could also be in play if they slip this far."

Analysis: There's a lot to like with Tabor and he does seem like a great fit for Jim Schwartz and the style of player he likes. With that said, if the Eagles go corner, they should take Washington's Sidney Jones. Jones is the most consistent corner in this draft and would be a piece that helps the Eagles solidify their secondary.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Speaking of Jones, Jeremiah agrees with me and has the Eagles taking the wiry corner in the first round. Jones flashed his ball skills a little bit at Washington, but for the most part wasn't targeted. He shut down the left side of the field a la Richard Sherman.

Jeremiah's take: "The Eagles are desperate for cornerback help; Jones is very polished and consistent on tape."

Analysis: Jeremiah is spot on with his analysis. I saw the same thing when I watched Jones. He's fluid in his movements and has the best technique of any corner this draft.

Josh Norris - Rotoworld.com - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is the most complete running back in this draft. He ran for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. He also caught 33 passes for 488 yards. He's not just a bell cow back. Cook is a big play threat, averaging 6.5 yards a carry and accounting for 48 total touchdowns in his college career. 

Norris' take: "I love Dalvin Cook’s game. The Eagles' offense can shift with any “type” of running back. They showed that in 2016. Cook is a big play threat who also wins after contact."

Analysis: Cook could be an extremely special player at the next level. If you're going strictly by the "best player available" strategy, Cook makes sense. He does also fit a need at running back. Cook's off-the-field incidents and injury history (two shoulder surgeries while at FSU) scare me a little bit. Again, Cook likely makes the Eagles better, but he's not the safest bet for a team that has recently swung and missed often in the first round.

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Last but not least, Davis is the most polished route runner in this draft. He's maybe the most polished route runner in any draft ever. He broke all sorts of records, finishing his collegiate career with 331 catches, 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns. 

Cherepinsky's take: "As you can see in the scouting report, the Corey Davis comparison is Demaryius Thomas, except he has better hands. Philadelphia fans will be happy about that after watching Nelson Agholor and the other wideouts drop countless passes over the past couple of years."

Analysis: Davis was my draft crush for most of the college football season. He's the total package. The comparison to Thomas is pretty fair. Thomas may be a little better down the field, but Davis is the more consistent player. If the Eagles give Wentz Davis, that could go a long way for his development.

O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

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AP Images

O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

LOVELOCK, Nev. — O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

Simpson, 70, could be released as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia and other mementos he claimed had been stolen from him.

During the more than hour-long hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were "my stuff." At one point, he set off a storm of sarcasm and mockery on social media when he said: "I've basically spent a conflict-free life, you know."

All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.

Then, as he was led down a hall, the Hall of Fame athlete and murder defendant in the 1995 "Trial of the Century" raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said: "Oh, God, oh!"

Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the parole commissioners questioned him via video from Carson City, a two-hour drive away.

Gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked stiffly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

At the hearing, Simpson insisted he never meant to hurt anyone, never pointed a gun and didn't make any threats during the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.

"I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn't worth it," he told the board. "It wasn't worth it, and I'm sorry."

Simpson was widely expected to win parole, given similar cases and his good behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of in Los Angeles in 1995, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Even one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, testified on his behalf, telling the parole board that Simpson deserved to be released so he could be with his family.

"He is a good man. He made a mistake," Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

Arnelle Simpson, at 48 the eldest of Simpson's four children, told the board, "We recognize that he is not the perfect man." But she said he has been "a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation."

"We just want him to come home, we really do," she said.

Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping them out of trouble, and that he has become a better person during those years.

"I've done my time. I've done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can," he told the board.

Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.

His remark about his "conflict-free life" instantly lit up social media with incredulous comments.

Several major TV networks and cable channels -- including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN -- carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson's arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.

Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida to be near two of his adult children.

"I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here," he joked at one point.

"No comment, sir," board chairwoman Connie Bisbee replied.

Authorities must still work out the details of Simpson's release with Florida officials, including where he will live and what rules he must follow.

An electrifying running back dubbed "The Juice," Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL's all-time greats.

The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a "Monday Night Football" commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the "Naked Gun" comedies and other movies.

All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn't fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.

Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary "O.J.: Made in America" and the award-winning FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."

In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.

Then a decade later, he and five accomplices -- two with guns -- stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson.

Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.

Traces of Andy Reid linger in Doug Pederson's 'physical' training camp philosophy

Traces of Andy Reid linger in Doug Pederson's 'physical' training camp philosophy

It's been 18 years since Andy Reid's first training camp as head coach of the Eagles. Those who were a part of it will never forget it.

"It was brutal," Doug Pederson said recently. "It was hot. It was long. It was physical. It was bruising.

"It was before the rule changes, so we hit all the time. We were allowed to go full two-a-days. They were physical practices. Just tough. Real tough."

Pederson was a 31-year-old quarterback with the Eagles that summer, and those ferocious Reid training camps helped shape the training camps he runs now as head coach of the Eagles.

Reid's first three training camps — 1999, 2000 and 2001 — were insane.

After a walkthrough on the first day the full team was together, the players were put through three consecutive days of full-pads, full-contact two-a-days and then began the fourth day with another live, full-pads session.

So from 8:30 a.m. on Day 1 until 11:30 a.m. on Day 4, the team was on the field for seven live full-contact practices.

That's roughly 18 hours of contact in the span of 75 hours.

“Ask Duce (Staley), ask any of the guys who were here that summer, they still talk about it," Pederson said "It was hard, it was tough. We hit a lot that first year. I think Coach was trying to send a message that we were going to be a physical football team.

"Obviously with the rule changes and the way the CBA is you can’t be that aggressive anymore, but it was tough. It did bring the team together. You learn to protect each other, you learn to practice and play fast. It definitely brought us together."

The rules have changed dramatically. At first, the NFL outlawed hitting in the afternoon practice, then eliminated pads in the afternoon practice, then eliminated the second practice entirely. An afternoon walkthrough is currently allowed, although the total time of both practices has to be less than four hours.

The current NFL collective bargaining agreement limits how often teams can hit during training camp, and Pederson — who worked under Reid as a player or assistant coach with the Eagles and Chiefs for a total of nine years — said he prefers as physical a camp as possible within the current rules.

"The two-a-days to start camp over a 3½-day period, obviously you can’t do that anymore," he said. "But at the same time, I can pick some spots and choose some days that we can go live.

"I don’t want to do it a ton in camp, but at the same time, guys have got to feel contact, they’ve got to feel the ground. You know, injuries are part of the game. Whether it’s in training camp or in the regular season, obviously you don’t like to see it, but at the same time we can be smart about it, protect each other and still be in pads and get the work done."

Pederson's 2017 camp gets underway Monday at the NovaCare Complex with rookies, quarterbacks and veterans who finished 2016 on Injured Reserve. The full team will be on the field for the first time Thursday.

We saw last year that Pederson's practices are dramatically more physical than those of Chip Kelly, who didn't believe in tackling to the ground at all.

“I think (practices vary depending on) the philosophy of each head coach around the league," Pederson said. "I just feel like this is what works for us.

"You’ve got to play in pads so might as well put them on and use them. Just getting the soreness out. You’ve just got to get used to hitting. It’s a physical game. You’ve got to learn how to tackle properly. Running backs have to learn how to get hit and protect the football, so I think it’s important to continue to have that.

"I do think there’s a fine line. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t go over the top with it. Plus, you’re only down to one practice a day right now.

"But I think you can maintain that physicality and you can maintain that hitting in camp and just be smart about it. It doesn’t have to be live every single day."

Pederson said there will be three live tackling days during camp this summer, the same as last year.

"I feel like it's important that the guys hit," he said. "It's a physical game, and it's hard sometimes just to show up on game day and just put the pads on and go hit if you haven't at least prepped them for it.

"Three live days, I think, is plenty. I think two of them are before Green Bay (preseason opener on Aug. 10) and one of them is after Green Bay, so it kind of … gets them into that physical mentality that you want, especially early in training camp."

Pederson also said he won't hesitate to make changes as camp continues depending on how he sees the players responding to the daily workload.

“If we need to increase it, we’ll increase it, if we need to back it down, we’ll back it down," he said. "I’m not naive. You stay in-tune with how they’re doing and adjust it however you need to."