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.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holliday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.