Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Cowboys kneel before national anthem, beat Cardinals on MNF

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USA Today Images

Cowboys kneel before national anthem, beat Cardinals on MNF

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes and flipped head over heels into the end zone on a 10-yard run for another and the Dallas Cowboys pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Arizona Cardinals 28-17 on Monday night.

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline.

"We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel," Jones said, "and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality."

So they decided to make their statement before the anthem.

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson's 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

"That's Fitz. It's Monday night," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "He's a money player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson's 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

Taking a knee 
Jones has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, so the speculation was that he would not allow his players to kneel during the national anthem.

Following a weekend of kneeling and protesting across the NFL, the Cowboys and their owner displayed their own version of unity Monday night, kneeling on the field before rising as a group and going to the sideline for the national anthem.

Numerous boos rang out across University of Phoenix Stadium as the Cowboys kneeled and continued as the players rose, still arm-in-arm, and stepped back to the sideline as the flag was unfurled across the field. They remained connected as Jordin Sparks sang the national anthem (see story).

The Cardinals had their own symbol of unity after a weekend of protests in the NFL, gathering along the goal line arm-in-arm during the national anthem. They were joined by team president Michael Bidwell, his family and general manager Steve Keim.

"It's just to show unity," Cardinals team captain Frostee Rucker said. "There's so much negativity going on. People are trying to pull us apart. We always want to stay together."

More than 200 NFL players kneeled, sat or prayed during the national anthem on Sunday after President Trump said any player who does not stand for the national anthem should be fired.

Sparks, whose father Phillippi played in the NFL, had "PROV 31:8-9" written on her hand while she sang the anthem.

The bible verse says: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Extending legacy of toughness, Darren Sproles hints at comeback

Extending legacy of toughness, Darren Sproles hints at comeback

As Darren Sproles lay on his back during the second quarter of Sunday's game at the Linc, and as trainers rushed to him and his teammates kneeled around him, it was already too late. His ACL was already torn. His forearm was already broken. His season, and maybe even his career, was already over.

Then Sproles did the most Sproles-like thing ever. He got to his feet, pressed his broken right arm against his body and walked off the field, down the sideline, through the tunnel and into the Eagles' locker room on a torn ACL. 

He looked pissed off the whole time. 

When news about the extent of Sproles' injuries surfaced Monday morning (see story), my first reaction was pretty simple: It would be a shame if that's how his career ended. That's still true. 

On Monday night, Sproles took to social media to thank folks for their support and hinted that a comeback is in his future.

Great news for fans, though at the start of next season, he'll be a 35-year-old free-agent running back coming off two major injuries. 

So if Sunday was indeed the last time we saw Sproles as an NFL player, it would be pretty fitting. That will be a big part of his legacy. He was talented, sure. He was dynamic, absolutely. The numbers and the accomplishments are incredible, no doubt. 

He just also happened to be one of the toughest little mother f'ers to ever step on the field, too. 

If Sproles got a dollar for every time he was asked about his height, he could have played the game for free. At 5-foot-6, Sproles always understood the height questions and he was still getting them this season as a 34-year-old in his 13th NFL season. It sort of goes against what people expect from an NFL athlete. They're supposed to be Greek Gods, after all, bigger than life. Not the height of your teenage nephew. 

In a way, Sproles' height (or lack thereof) became a secret weapon. Do you want to underestimate me because I'm short? Go ahead. 

Sproles, eighth all-time in career all-purpose yards, isn't just extremely well-respected and liked within the Eagles' locker room. He's that well thought of around the league as well. In fact, when Odell Beckham Jr. entered the field Sunday, the first thing he did was find Sproles. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the league who doesn't like Darren Sproles. If you found someone, he'd probably be a linebacker who had once been on the receiving end of one of his punishing blocks. 

Because although Sproles is just 5-6, he's also 190 pounds and packs a hell of a punch. And throughout his career, he has always been more than willing to take on guys who weigh way more than he does. 

Sproles and I have always seen eye-to-eye and I'm not talking about some common understanding. We're pretty much the same height. So last year, when he was flagged for a chop block in Detroit, we both got a chuckle out of it. The next day, after Doug Pederson's press conference, I was standing outside to tape a segment with coworker Reuben Frank when Sproles walked out of the NovaCare Complex toward his car. He stopped for a brief chat and, of course, the first thing we talked about was that chop block. He wasn't trying to chop block of course; he's just short. It was arguably the toughest loss of the 2016 season but Sproles couldn't help but laugh, too; he basically got flagged for not being tall enough. 

Then the conversation rolled into his general enthusiasm for blocking and how he's always understood how important it is for him. And it got me wondering a little bit … when linebackers see a 5-6 running back about to block them, they probably don't know what's coming, do they? 

Sproles' eyes widened and the corners of his mouth lifted into a sheepish grin. 

"They're never ready for it," he said. "That's fine with me." 

This will be the first time in his lengthy career Sproles will play fewer than 13 games in a season. In 10 of his 13 seasons, he's played at least 15 games, proving to be as durable as he is talented. 

The Eagles are going to miss Sproles for the last 13 games of the 2017 season. There's no way to sugarcoat it and there's no reason to. They're going to miss him on offense, where he's a uniquely dynamic player in the run and pass game. They're going to miss him on special teams, where he's become one of the best punt returners in NFL history. 

And they're going to miss him in the locker room, where he's about as well-respected as any player on the roster. 

"He's a great man," Pederson said Monday. "He's a great leader, well-liked on this team and in this locker room and in this community. He's a lot of energy, and that's hard to replace. It's hard to replace. And so guys are just going to have to rally and pick up that spot and move forward. But, it's unfortunate. It is part of the game, and it's unfortunate that an injury has to happen, and sometimes it happens to great people and great men. It's just the unfortunate side of the business."

Well before the start of the 2017 season, Sproles was preparing for this to be his final NFL season. In June, he softened on that, saying, "We're gonna see" and to ask him after the Eagles made the playoffs. Despite growing pressure from his family to hang up the cleats, Sproles seemed genuinely rejuvenated by the opportunity to teach younger players like Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement. During last season, he even lived next door to Smallwood. 

Sproles will have a decision to make eventually. He'll need surgery on his arm and his knee and the recovery process won't be an easy one. It sounds like Sproles wants to come back but he won't have to make that final decision for a while. 

If Sunday ends up being his final NFL game, his 13-year career will have ended on a fluke injury, followed by something that probably just shouldn't surprise us anymore. When the injury happened, it didn't sound good — "Ahh s---!" was heard from the microphone on the field. But Sproles collected himself, saved the cart a trip, and marched his beat-up body off the field. 

That's one tough little dude.