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.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).