Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Whatever players were on the board at 23, whether right guard was the biggest need or not, there is one simple way to break down the Eagles' first round pick this year. If Danny Watkins is starting Week 1, it was the right call.

Was it the sexy pick? Far from it. Colorado's Jimmy Smith could have filled the enormous hole at cornerback. Instead, the big, physical corner went four picks later to the Ravens. Coming out of a veritable offensive lineman factory in Wisconsin, Gabe Carimi could have protected Mike Vick's blindside for years to come. The Bears nabbed him at 29. My personal preference and local product Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the interior pass rusher the Birds' defensive line so desperately needs. The 30th overall selection will play for Rex Ryan in New York.

Here's the thing: while any of those guys would have filled a need on paper, would they be ready to do it this year? Maybe, maybe not, but Watkins is projected to start immediately. In fact, the Eagles are counting on it. Described by some draft analysts as the most NFL-ready of the offensive linemen, the team anticipates he can show up and do the job.

What more can you ask for from your first round pick in his rookie season?

Of course, there is that whole age thing again. Already 26 years old, the obvious knock is a shorter career expectancy. By the time he reaches the end of his rookie contract, Watkins could be 32-years-old, right about the time when the Eagles' front office parts ways with many veterans. That's not exactly ancient for a lineman, but it's reason enough for pause.

Beyond that, Watkins was literally a man among boys at Baylor. His advanced age has prompted some concerns over the evaluation process. Sure, he manhandled college kids, athletes often four or five years his junior, in many cases still developing. How will that translate against professionals, guys whose job description includes lifting weights rather than books?

His age is a big reason why it's so important he's on the field right away. The Eagles don't have time to bring some rookie along. He better be pro ready, or not only will right guard continue to be a problem area, but they lose valuable years with Watkins at a time when most young players would be entering or perhaps already in their prime.

Assuming reports are correct though, and the first round pick is up to speed whenever this season finally kicks off, imagine what it could mean for the Birds in 2011. Upon Jamaal Jackson's return from a torn biceps muscle, they will have solidified the unit from left tackle to right guard with a single move, leaving Winston Justice the lone question mark. And while you can make the case right tackle becomes the most vital position with a left-handed quarterback, how much easier will life be on that island with any kind of presence next door?

But he has to play, it's that simple. If he does that much, and on par with his status as a first rounder, how can you knock the selection? Okay, Watkins is still a fossil compared to every other rookie, which at the very least clouds his future.

At the end of the day, it was a results-oriented choice. Smith, Carimi, Wilkerson, whoever; maybe one or two have an impact this year, maybe not. With Watkins, apparently there was no guess work.

Herremans Moving to Tackle?

After the selection of Watkins, several members of the media suggested the Eagles could plug him in at left guard, and kick Todd Herremans out to right tackle. On Tuesday, Andy Reid indicated he "probably" wouldn't move Herremans outside.

"Right now, that’s probably not going to happen. He’s probably going to be playing guard and Danny will be playing guard."

In theory, the shuffle makes sense. Herremans was originally a tackle in college, and he has filled in there for the Birds before. Watkins would take his place at left guard, while either incumbent Max Jean-Gilles would return on the right, or Mike McGlynn could slide over from center. Obviously, the latter is predicated on Jamaal Jackson making a full recovery.

While that may look appealing on paper, it's probably overthinking the situation a bit.

My biggest issue with moving Herremans now is destroying the continuity he and left tackle Jason Peters have built the past two years. The offensive line has really struggled in that aspect, and shaking up the entire unit could prove more detrimental than anything else. Plus, Herremans just had arguably his best season as a pro, as he and Peters have legitimately quieted their critics.

Furthermore, while Herremans has been their most consistent lineman, he hasn't played tackle on a fulltime basis in the NFL. That's not to say he can't do it, and he might be an improvement over Winston Justice either way, but it is a gameble nonetheless.

For now, we expect Herremans to remain at left guard, with Watkins penciled in at right. Of course, Reid has been known to say one thing one day, and do the exact opposite the next. And for what it's worth, the head coach didn't say anything at all about which guard position Herremans would play.

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).