It doesn't matter what position the Eagles draft in the first round

It doesn't matter what position the Eagles draft in the first round

We can all agree the coverage during the lead-up to the draft is, more often than not, senseless. Months of incessant mock drafting when little changes from January to April May besides the media’s perception of players. Non-stop rumors and speculation about who teams like or don’t like, trades that will likely never come to fruition. Most of the time, nobody really knows anything.

I’ve come to discover though that by far my biggest pet peeve about the draft is a sentiment that I see echoed by many fans. And while it certainly didn’t start just this year, I feel as though it may be getting worse.

It’s the suggestion that the Philadelphia Eagles, or any team for that matter, should target a specific position with their first-round pick, or in any round for that matter.

The question is the topic of an exceeding number of poll questions, talk-radio discussions and staged televised debates, a conversation on bar stools and internet forums such as this one. Which position should the Eagles target in Round 1? Should they target a wide receiver or a defensive player?

Seriously, is it even possible to dumb down how we think of the way teams draft any further?

I don’t care what you believe the Eagles’ biggest need is. When they’re on the clock, that canned talk-show crap and clickbait is totally irrelevant. The draft is about choosing the best player available, regardless of what position he happens to play. Period.

Are there exceptions to the rule? Sort of. If the Eagles are on the clock with the No. 22 pick, Johnny Manziel is available and he happens to be the best player on their board, they probably shouldn’t take him. No, not because Manziel is going to be a bust, because with Nick Foles firmly entrenched as the starting signal-caller, they probably can’t use another quarterback.

But at how many other positions could we say the same for? Last I checked, Philadelphia has more needs than picks in this draft. Six selections are currently all the front office has to address wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety and kicker. In several cases, they could afford to add more than one prospect. Even at tight end and running back, I’m not entirely convinced Chip Kelly is perfectly content with the weapons he has.

Given all of those needs, why on earth would the Eagles limit themselves to any one of them in the first round? Even if they had one and only one need, why would they limit themselves if there are better prospects available?

This Neanderthal line of thinking about filling a highly specific need is not how well-run organizations conduct their business. It’s precisely what brought Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett to Philadelphia in consecutive rounds in 2011, easily one of the worst drafts in franchise history.

Yet people continue to buy into this notion that the Eagles’ decision on Thursday night will be between wide receiver and defense, when whichever one they wind up with, nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s merely a matter of which athlete the team likes best.

Sure, there are other variables at work. If two players are rated closely, the decision could be based in part on whether there’s value at a certain position later on. Why take a wide receiver at No. 22 when the prospects available then aren’t far superior to who will be on the board with the Eagles’ next pick, No. 54?

Then again, if the impossible happened and Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans miraculously are there at No. 22, the question of value is out the window—debunked once again by three simple words.

Best player available.

I know, it’s so cliché, but that’s all that matters on draft day. It’s not a question of did they focus on filling what are perceived as the biggest holes. At the end of the day, it's as basic as did they come away with the right guy for that spot in the draft.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).