Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth: The Sixers should draft Josh Jackson

1704025_web1_top_spt031917_kumbbjackson1

(The Associated Press)

Even though the Sixers didn’t win the lottery, it really kinda feels like the Sixers won the lottery.

I mean, THE PICKS ACTUALLY SWAPPED! The Sixers were able to move up from what should of been the fifth spot in the draft and are now sitting snuggly at the third pick.

The ghost of Sam Hinkie can finally rest in peace.

While the only thing that could have been better would be if the Laker’s pick had conveyed as well, the Sixers may actually be in the most ideal situation as they are now set with at least two first round picks in each of the next two drafts.

The team is now very well endowed with future draft picks, have a Scrooge McDuck bank vault worth of cap space at their disposal, all while already having potential franchise cornerstones in place in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Things are looking up for the Process.

The Sixers have more assets now than ever before and are quickly running out of holes to fill in their roster. The team is getting close to competing, but are still a few years away from being a legitimate threat in the East. The time to draft for need is rapidly approaching, but we’re not quite there yet. Going best player available is still the best course of action; especially considering the best player available won’t be a big man.

The Sixers are lucky enough to be picking third in this draft and really shouldn’t over think the pick. if Josh Jackson is on the board when the Sixers are on the clock, they’d be wise to take him.

At 6’8, with a 6’9 wing span, Jackson averaged 21.2 pts per 40 minutes in his lone season at Kansas, as well as 7.4 rebs and 3 asts, highlighting the versatility that makes him such a valuable prospect. he has the size and athleticism to play either the 2 or 3, as well as the ball handling, vision, and IQ to rotate in at the 1 on occasion. He primarily played the role of small ball 4 at Kansas, but projects best as a wing in the NBA. The Sixers are pretty set at wing players as is, but Jackson offers a skill set too unique to pass up.

Jackson’s game is based heavily on his dynamic athletic ability. While his offensive game is going to need a bit of coaching due to his inconsistent jump shot, he has a dangerous first step to get into the lane and once he makes his move he’s almost impossible to stop. Once in the lane, he’s also good at finding open teammates underneath the net for easy baskets *cough* *cough* Ben Simmons and Joel Emiid.

His jump shot is the biggest concern of his offensive game and it’s difficult to tell if it will translate to the pros as he shot just 56.6% from the charity stripe at Kansas and was iffy shooting the trey to start the season. However, his three point stroke greatly developed throughout the year as he sank 25 of 52 three pointers over the last two months of the season, finishing 37.8% from 3.

The idea of Jackson playing off ball alongside Ben Simmons is the most exciting thought to me. He’s already great at cutting to the basket and would be an easy lob target at the rim. He’s also much better at catch-and-shoot three’s rather than shooting off the dribble – he shot 39% on those specific shots – and could benefit from Simmons floor spacing and passing ability.

His ball handling and vision are above average for a wing player and Jackson’s all around IQ might be the best part of his game. He is skilled enough to find open looks in transition as well as run the offense in the half court. He plays at a pace perfect for Brett Brown’s offense. Pairing him with Ben Simmons would give the Sixers two skilled facilitators who aren’t natural point guards, which would allow for a lot of creative lineups.

Defense is Jackson’s main calling card as he is a shutdown defender capable of guarding the 1-4. He is great at rotating assignments, clogging passing lanes, and going coast-to-coast on steals for easy baskets. He is also extremely pesky as he averaged 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes. Kawhi Leonard is a common comparison for Jackson and it’s not because of his three point stroke. A lineup consisting of McConell-Jackson-Covington-Simmons-Embiid has the makings of a lockdown defensive unit.

Jackson’s so good on the defensive end some might even say he plays *puts on sunglasses* Tenacious D.

While a player like Malik Monk offers a better fit and has a skill set that fills a much bigger need, his ceiling is miles below that of Josh Jackson. Jackson has perennial All-Defensive potential, while it wouldn’t surprise me if Monk simply became the next JR Smith.

Monk offers knock-down three point shooting, electric athleticism, and is great at getting to the basket in transition, but little outside of that and his high volume scoring faded down the stretch. Jackson offers almost everything Monk doesn’t and then some.

The Sixers have the means to acquire a shooter in the mold of Monk either through future draft picks, via trade, or in free agency. Player’s like Jackson don’t come around often and the ones that do aren’t easily acquired.

The addition of Jackson would also make someone like Robert Covington expendable. In the event the Celtics are willing to move him, the idea of a trade based around Avery Bradley for Covington doesn’t seem too crazy to me and would solve needs for both teams.

Josh Jackson’s floor is higher than any prospect not named Markell Fultz due to his versatility and treasure trove of skills. While he wouldn’t necessarily be filling a need, Jackson would be able to make an impact on this team almost instantly either defensively, as a secondary ball handler, or as a high-energy spark off the bench. He’s one of the safest picks in the draft and if he’s there at #3, he should be a Sixer.

Plus, he would give the Sixers another afro to play along Joel Embiid and if that alone isn’t enough to justify the pick, than I don’t know what is.

Vinny Velasquez Belongs in the Bullpen

bn-np597_nymets_gr_20160418165155

Vince Velasquez’ most recent start against the Washington Nationals was his first outing of the season to last seven innings and only the fourth time he’s gone seven or more innings in 30 career starts with the Phillies.

When the Phillies decided to move Ken Giles, they were attempting to sell high on a dime-a-dozen commodity. Since the trade however, the Phillies have struggled to find any sense of consistency in their bullpen. While Jeanmar Gomez wore the closer job well for the better part of last season, his previous struggles have carried into this year causing the team to search internally for a new closer. Five different Phillies have thrown in 12 save opportunities, with Hector Neris being the lone pitcher to record more than one save.

While the Giles trade brought on these bullpen issues, it may have also solved them.

Since the nine-inning, 16 strike out gem he threw in his second outing with the Phillies, Velasquez has not lived up to the lofty expectations he set for himself. His struggles haven’t been due to a lack of talent as his arm is still as electric as ever. Velasquez leads the team with 34 strikeouts, he’s throwing 9.18 K’s/9, and his fastball is still sitting around 94 mph, while occasionally hitting triple digits.

Over aggressiveness has been the leading cause of Velasquez’ problems with the Phillies. He is the type of pitcher who’ll try to overpower hitters with his fastball and put a whole bottle of mustard on every pitch. This helps his big strikeout numbers, but causes him to pick up a high pitch count early in games.

Velasquez is averaging about 17.2 pitches per inning, 7th most in the National League, while his K’s/9 rank 12th among NL starting pitchers.

Velasquez seems to be trying to rely on strikeouts less this year, with his groundball rate increasing to 44.6%; a 10% increase from the previous season. However, his homerun/fly ball rate has shot up to 24.2% due to the eight homeruns he’s already allowed this season, tied for fifth most in the NL.

This more reserved pitching style may be an attempt to stretch his starts longer, but the results have been less than ideal. In addition to his increased homerun rate, his 5.94 ERA is a near two run increase from the previous season, his BB/9 has risen to 4.05, and his K’s/9 have actually decreased from the 10.44 he threw last season.

The way I see it, the whole Vinny Velasquez-starting pitcher thing has been a failure. All efforts to make this work so far seem like an attempt at forcing a certain talent to fit a certain role rather than finding the most ideal role to fit a certain talent. Instead of having Velasquez wallow away in the starting rotation and takeaway innings from other young arms like Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, and Ben Lively, move him to the bullpen where pitchers with his skillset and mentality thrive.

Trying to find a way for Velasquez to fit as a starting pitcher has only resulted in fewer strikeouts and more home runs. Rather than finding out how he can best take on the workload of a starting pitcher, it would be much more beneficial if he simply took on an easier workload in the bullpen.

If Velasquez were moved to the bullpen, he would instantly become the most talented pitcher at the Phillies’ disposal late in games.

Trying to get Velasquez to take on a role in the starting rotation stretches him out too thin and doesn’t allow him to flash his arm at its utmost ability. Taking off the leash and allowing him to pitch his hardest for just one inning a night could lead to some pretty exciting results.

His pitch repertoire could use some work, but he already has the makings of a quality closer. His four-seam fastball is a great strikeout pitch, he’s throwing his two-seamer harder than ever, and his curveball is steadily improving as opposing batters are hitting just .182 against the pitch this season. Working on his changeup would go a long way, giving him another secondary pitch and something that would offset his fastball well keeping batters guessing.

If he can just learn to mix his pitches better and use his four-seamer as less of a crutch, Vinny Velasquez could be the Phillies’ solution at closer for the immediate and long-term future.

 

I Have Seen The Face of God and It Is Joel Embiid

may1816-embiid-slide

God, I love this man.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Everyone just saw what I saw right? Because I have just witnessed great things.

20 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of play. Ladies and gentlemen, Joel Embiid has finally arrived.

This was a debut three years in the making and my God it was worth every minute of waiting. This debut made all the sucking, ridicule, and pointless basketball worth it.

When you clown one of the NBA’s better low post defenders and force defenses to double team you in your first game as a professional, you know you have a special talent on your hands. It only gets better when you consider the fact Embiid started telling Adams “you can’t guard me,” while walking to the foul line.

If it wasn’t already obvious from his Twitter, Jojo has the swag to go with his skill. God bless LeBron James when he finally has to play the Sixers, he should of just accepted Joel’s pitch to join the team when he had the chance.

Joel showed the type of ball handling you don’t see from seven footers. Joel blocked shots like goalie. Joel looked nimble enough to recite Swan Lake. Joel did a pretty accurate impression of Hakeem Olajuwon. Joel shot the ball like he was a bad man who just didn’t give a shit; and he was.

The Process, as Joel Embiid so appropriately wants to be called, had an impact on every aspect of the game from the moment he stepped on the court. The Thunder are playoff contenders in a very tough Western Conference and they had a very difficult time accounting for Embiid. The guy had MVP chant rain down on him, and they were honestly justified.

REMINDER: This was Joel Embiid’s first professional game ever.

Sam Hinkie died for our sins and Joel Embiid is his prodigal son.

It’s impossible to not be excited as a Sixers fan watching that game despite the final results. If Joel Embiid is the future, than the future is bright. Actually strike that, the future isn’t bright, ITS LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!!

Thoughts From Week 1: The Browns browned their pants

philadelphia-eagles-carson-wentz-jahlil-okafor-cheesesteak

A 100% real, actually legitimate picture from Carson Wentz’ debut

The Eagles absolutely emasculated the Browns this past Sunday to the tune of a 29-10 win. Here are some of my thoughts from the game.

  • The Browns are bad.

    browns

    Remember Derek Anderson’s one good season?

    I wanted to preface every point Im about to make with this very important fact. The Browns are a big bag of suck. Going into Sunday, I was giving them the benefit of the doubt that they could finally be a competitive team, what with the addition of Hue Jackson and all, but naw. You can’t change a zebra’s stripes and you can’t get the Browns to be competent. I’ll give them credit, some of their guys had half decent days, but for the most part it was the same ‘ol same ‘ol for the perpetually putrid Browns. Eagles fans need to temper their expectations going forward because we really don’t need a repeat of last year’s Packers preseason game. Just keep thinking about that 3-1 comeback Cleveland fans, basketball will be here soon enough.

  • Carson “My dick’s bigger than yours” Wentz

    I hope someone bought this guy a Coke after the game he had because damn he deserved it. After throwing just 24 passes over the entire preseason, Carson Wentz showed up to Lincoln Financial Field looking like he’s been doing this whole professional quarterback thing for a couple years now. Wentz showed off everything that made him the second overall pick, the arm, the IQ, the athleticism, it was all on full display. All of his best throws were fit perfectly into tight windows, throws you don’t see a certain big sleeved quarterback make regularly. The thing that had me most impressed with Wentz’ was his pre-play recognition, you could routinely see the guy reading the defense and making the correct adjustment at the line of scrimmage. Hell, the guy picked up a first down off a hard count! ROOKIES WHO MISS NEARLY THE ENTIRE PRESEASON DONT DO THAT IN THEIR FIRST START! He also had great chemistry with his receivers, which is something I did not expect considering he’s played with them so sparingly throughout training camp and the preseason, which brings me to my next point.

  • Was Jordan Matthews really hurt?

    socialfeed-wait-jordan-matthews-performed-with-kanye-west

    Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

    Considering he was a stone-handed, ball-dropping, rage-inducing wonder last year, I was expecting Jordan Matthews to be a little rusty going into week one, but this Eagles team seems to love proving me wrong so far. Matthews was by far Wentz’ favorite target on the afternoon finishing with seven catches on fourteen targets for 114 yard and a score. If you were to ask someone who didn’t know any better who Matthews lived with for a week in Oklahoma over the Summer, they might assume it was Wentz. Outside of a couple dropped balls, Matthews looks like the receiver who had 317 yards and four touchdowns over the course of the last three games of last season. This is a QB-WR duo im V excited to see grow moving forward.

  • Nelson Agholor things that didn’t hurt the Eagles!

    I’ll admit it, before Sunday I was just about ready to give up hope for Nelson Agholor. Throughout his rookie year and this preseason, it just looked like it was the same one step forward three steps back shit that he’s been pulling his whole career. For every big catch, Agholor would follow it up with a fumble or a tipped pass interception or a rape allegation. I really thought he was going to go the way of Eric Rowe. But thankfully Agholor showed he still has a pulse against the Browns going for four catches on five targets for 57 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a better pass than catch, but Agholor still had to beat tight coverage from Joe Haden to make the catch. It’s way too soon to say he’s finally come around and earned the first round hype, but Im a little more optimistic than I was.

  • The law firm of Matthews-Barner-Sproles is open for business.

    Although no Eagles running back really had a breakout game — Ryan Matthews was solid but not spectacular — the Eagles rushing attack looked great as a whole against the Browns. Doug Pederson did a good job of rotating his running backs to get the most out of them. Ryan Matthews was the closest thing the team had to a below back, he got the bulk of the carries with a little sprinkling of Kenjon Barner every so often to keep the defense on there toes. It may of only been on limited carries, but I thought Barner may have been the most impressive back Sunday averaging 10.5 a carry on four carries for 42 yards. Darren Sproles took over his usual role of receiving back, although he left a little bit to be desired, Im just chalking it up to Sproles getting use to his new quarterback though. The three running backs finished the day with a combined 131 yards and a touchdown. Considering what he did last season with a running back by committee in Kansas City, im excited and curious to see how Doug Pederson uses his backs going forward.

  • Is the Eagles’ offensive line better?

    Considering the Browns started two rookie edge rushers, I felt the offensive line could of had a better day. While they weren’t terrible, they sure as hell should of been a lot better. Jason Peters looks like he’s picking things up right where he left off last season, Lane Johnson caught too many flags, Brandon Brooks was good, but not great, and Jason Kelce got eaten up by Danny Shelton. Believe it or not Allen Barbre actually finished as the team’s highest graded lineman according to PFF, go figure right. Meanwhile, Jason Kelce is now rated as the worst center in football, maybe last year’s struggles weren’t just a fluke. The Browns finished with two sack and three tackles for loss to go along with a lot of unnecessary pressure on Carson Wentz. This Browns pass rush should finish among the league’s worst, which makes me nervous going forward.

  • The defensive line is what we thought it’d be.

    101115_cox-fletcher_1024

    Get ready to see this smile a whole lot this year.

    I can say with absolute confidence that the defensive line is the best unit on the Eagles. It’s amazing how big a difference a simple scheme change makes. Had it not been for 40 garbage time yards on the Browns last possession, starting running back Isiah Crowell would of been held to just 22 yards rushing. The Eagles finished the game with three sacks and five tackles for loss, all coming from the defensive line. Conner Barwin picked up a sack off a bull rush on Joe Thomas while three blockers had their hands full with Fletcher Cox. I’ve said all I needed to say.

  • Jordan Hicks is back and doing the same things that made him great.

    There might not of been an Eagles I was more nervous about going into this season than Jordan Hicks. He’s a notoriously injury prone player and was held out of training camp for what seemed to be an necessarily long time, I began wondering if he was still injured. Well it seems like the Eagles’ cautious ways may have been for the best because the guy looks a whole lot like he did during his not defensive rookie of the year season. Jordan Hicks finished with just four tackles, but his presence was felt beyond that, specifically in the passing game. Hicks was graded as the fifth best overall linebacker in football and earned the highest coverage grade of any backer. Hicks was also the highest graded defensive player on the Eagles and second overall to only Carson Wentz. If this guy can play a full season, he could really make some noise.

  • Donnie Jones gets my vote for team MVP.

    Can we talk about how good of a day Donnie Jones had!? I don’t get excited about punters normally, but DZAAAAAMN Donnie Jones had a day. Donnie Jones punted the ball six times, the Browns didn’t return a single one. Jones had three touch backs and pinned the Browns inside their own 20 three times. He had a long of 72 (!!!!!!) yards and averaged 49.2 yards a punt. Donnie Jones was legitimately killing drives for the Browns before their offense even got out on the field. They say there’s no defense like a good offense, well I say there’s no defense like a zoned in Donnie Jones.

Eagles Week 1 Preview: Believeland comes to Philly

r113894_576x324_16-9

THE FUTURE IS NOW! 

Hot damn football’s back!

The Eagles begin their season tomorrow against the Cleveland Browns and will start their first rookie quarterback in franchise history. What a time to be alive!

The Browns are the poop stain of the NFL — that’s why they’re called the Browns — but im gonna be real with you, it’s not that crazy to think the Eagles lose to them week one.

Look, I can call a spade a spade and the Eagles are not a good football team. Yet.

This is a fairly young and inexperienced team, so that means it’s going to take some time for the wheels to start spinning and the to get moving.

Any chance of this team competing went along with Sam Bradford in that deal with the Vikings.

I mean this team does have some pieces already — the defense has a chance to really impress this year — but I just don’t think there’s enough there for this team to be competitive right away, and I think a lot of that stems from the quarterback position.

Carson Wentz only played about a quarter and some change over the course of the entire preseason and he’s been very limited in practice over the past few weeks while he recovered from a cracked rib, so he’s pretty untested as far as rookie QBs go. Wentz could be a good one, but he’s getting thrown straight into the fire and it’s going to take some time for him to acclimate to his new role that came a year earlier than expected.

Wentz is also going to need some time to build chemistry with his wide receivers after primarily working with the threes in training camp. Jordan Matthews is also just coming back from injury after missing the entire preseason and may have his share of rust to shake off, which I can’t imagine helping Wentz much.

The Browns lost their fair share of players this offseason both through free agency and players just not wanting to be on the Browns anymore. But I see the addition of Hue Jackson as head coach as a huge step in the right direction towards getting this team somewhat respectable. He did wonders for Andy Dalton in his one season as Bengals’ OC, so Im not gonna sleep on what he can do with RGIII.

20848200-large

Robert Giffin III has come a long way from throwing balls by himself after practice.

I think the Browns Oline got hurt the worst this offseason, which gives the Eagles defense a great chance to eat on Sunday as they officially unveil their new defense. This is one of the biggest advantages the Eagles have going into Sunday.

Im not expecting a very high scoring game, what with the Eagles lacking much offense and the Brown’s not having much to protect what little they have on offense. This is going to be a close one, but Im favoring the Eagles just a little bit more in this one.

10 Things That Have Me Scared About the Eagles

132699242_crop_north

Everyone knows this feeling.

With the start of training camp just a little ways away, the Eagles have done a good job of keeping all their ducks in a row leading up to the season.

Fletcher Cox is now being paid like a mid level NBA starter, which takes care of the team’s most disgruntle Eagle. The gapping hole that was the team’s head player personnel position has now been filled. And all signs of QB controversy seem to have faded as the blood from everyone’s Carson Wentz boner returned to their head.

Plus it turns out Nelson Agholor is just really friendly with his strippers!

Yep, things are looking pretty good for the birds of Broad Street. Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

AND YET……

And yet I still have these little inklings of “This could be a loooooooong season.”

I look at this team on paper and see a solid group with a few minor holes. My head tells me this roster is good enough to win a few NFL games, but my gut has me worried about those few minor holes; it doesn’t take much for a little divot in a team to become a huge chasm. The strengths of this team are pretty strong, but I just have that feeling that their weaknesses could be their undoing.

It’s not just the roster that has me concerned though, there are some things that are totally out of the team’s control that have me paranoid.

Here are the ten things that have me scared about the Eagles going into the season:

1. The Eagles have to play a BRUTAL schedule

I’ll be honest, this is the thing that has me most pessimistic about the Eagles going into the season.

This team could be decent, but I just don’t see how they’d walk away from this season with a winning record with the schedule they have to play.

I think they have a chance to start out nice and possibly have a 3-0 record going into the bye, depending on a Leveon Bell suspension and what type of mood the Steelers are in. But after that YEEEEEESH…

They come out of the bye in Detroit and as much as I wanna call that a gimme, Im not ready to sleep on the Lions after last Thanksgiving. After that they travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington DC team, and they’ve gotten GOOD at home. Jay Gruden knows what to do with a home field advantage.

The Birds then come back home to face the Vikings, a team that was a chip shot of a field goal away from beating the Seahawks in the playoffs last season. Im calling a loss here.

Then they have a little bit of a breather in the middle of the season playing in Dallas, in New York, and then at home against Atlanta, but week 11 is when they enter the Thunderdome.

First they have to go to Seattle, that’s a loss and you can write it down now in permanent marker. Then the Eagles see Green Bay in Philly, a late season game against the Packers is never easy. And after that they have to go into Cincy to face the Bengals, who were arguably the best team in the AFC before Andy Daulton went down with a thumb injury last season.

Then they get Washington at home which should give them a minute to lick their wounds. But after that they have to go into Baltimore to face a Raven’s team that will be much healthier than they were last season. I think this will be the last nail in the Eagles’ coffin.

I expect the Eagle’s playoff hopes to be officially dead by the end of week 15.

2. The wide receivers are basically the same

ny-dh871_giants_p_20141116174733

The success of the Eagles’ receivers may hinge on this guy.

Let’s be real, the Eagles upgraded their wide receiver position with wishful thinking.

They didn’t do dick.

For a team that was plagued with inconsistency and drops at they wide receiver position last season I would of though they would go out and get a veteran presence to compliment the young core thats already in place. Instead they signed Rueben Randle, one of the most inconsistent, brick handed receivers in the NFL, and called it a day.

Seriously, the only thing Rueben Randle does consistently is play inconsistent.

Sure, he has a little bit of upside as a former early round pick and had close to 1,000 yards two years ago, but he’s really just not that good. Randle was ranked 77th among all wide receivers according to PFF last season.

I do like the Chris Givens signing though, it gives Sam Bradford a little bit of a familiar face and fills a need at deep threat for the Eagles, but I don’t think Givens makes the receiver position that much better as a whole.

The Eagles didn’t really upgrade or downgrade their wide receiver position this offseason, it was more or less just a step to the side.

3. Rookie Head Coach

doug-pederson-nfl-philadelphia-eagles-minicamp-850x510

Doug Pederson could be good, but it’s not gonna be right away.

I think everyone in Philadelphia had about the same reaction when news broke the Eagles had rumored interest in Doug Pederson as a possible Head coach, “UGH Really, this guy?!”

Pederson comes from a Kansas City Chiefs team who is notorious for having an offense so boring it made vanilla look like a Michael Bay movie.

Dougie is an Andy Reid disciple and former Eagles’ quarterbacks coach who saw Donovan McNabb through some of his worst seasons as an Eagle.

The one thing I will commend Pederson on, and this is the thing that has me most excited, is his work in the run game. When Jamal Charles went dow to injury last season, Pederson got Probowl production out of a tandem of back up running backs. Seeing as how the Eagles basically have a bunch of back ups at running back, Im intrigued.

The thing that has me most curious though is how much of the credit in Kansas City should go to Pederson and how much should go to Andy Reid, seeing as how Reid is one of the better offensive minds in football. I guess that’s just something we’re gonna learn this season.

If all things go as planned, Doug Pederson could be the second coming of Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Im just not expecting it to be next season. I think Pederson will definitely look the part of a rookie head coach this season, but in time he could be a good one.

4. The linebackers are Meh

voila_capture926

Mychal Kendricks may be pretty enough for Rihanna, but Im starting to get a little tired of him.

Linebacker might be my least favorite position of the Eagles.

Mychal Kendricks is overrated. He can make awesome plays, but struggles with consistency and can get burnt in coverage better than any other linebacker in football. Seriously, worst linebacker in coverage in the NFL, just check PFF.

Jordan Hicks makes me optimistic, but he’s already starting to look like Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. Dude could be awesome, but I am seriously concerned about his durability, especially considering he didn’t finish either of his last two seasons at Texas due to injuries.

He also isn’t the best in run defender from what he showed in his shortened rookie season, which makes me nervous seeing as how that was the Achilles Heel last time the Eagles ran a wide nine.

I definitely think getting rid of Kiko Alonso was the right move, he didn’t fit in a 4-3 and he’s better off somewhere else, but Im tepid on Nigel Bradham. Bradham is a nice replacement and all, he’s played well in Jim Schwartz defense a few seasons ago, but he’s better served as a backup on most other teams. Bradham graded out as one of the worst linebackers in football last season playing under Rex Ryan. He’s still young so he could rebound, but Im iffy on the guy.

Going into this offseason I was hoping the team would of put more of a focus on pass coverage skills in their linebackers, especially seeing as how the Panthers earned a trip to the Super Bowl thanks in large part to their linebackers’ ability to drop back in coverage, but naw. My dreams of the Eagles going out and getting themselves a moneybacker — that’s the new name for those fancy linebacker-safety hybrids that are all the rage now — sadly never came true.

The team might be able to survive with these linebackers for the season, but I feel like upgrades are gonna be necessary going into the future.

5. Eric Rowe hasn’t run away with the starting corner job

After Byron Maxwell was shipped off to Miami, Rowe became the de facto number one corner, or at least so it seemed.

After Nolan Carroll was placed on season ending IR last year, Rowe looked impressive taking over his spot on the outside. He graded out as one of the better cornerbacks in football over the last five games of last season, which pretty much made him a lock to start this year.

I was one of those people who always saw Eric Rowe’s future at safety, and Im still not completely ruling it out, but after his starting stint last season Im a believer. Rowe has the size and length to operate on the outside and showed some ability allowing 51.7 percent of passes thrown against him to be completed, giving up 30 receptions against 58 targets for only three total touchdowns, which is quality production from a rookie.

After all, you can’t earn a nickname like Death Rowe while playing like a scrub.

But so far this season, the early reviews from mini camp have been mixed. While he hasn’t been bad, he also hasn’t stood out as the team’s best corner like he should. The transition to a new defensive scheme can be tricky for a young corner so there’s still time for him to acclimate, but Im already beginning to temper my expectations for him going into the season.

Right now Rowe is slotted behind Leodis McKelvin on the depth chart and Im not sure how soon that’ll change. Apparently the Eagles staff have been paying less attention to Rowe compared to some of the other corners, namely Jalen Mills. Eliot Shorr Parks even went as far as suggesting Rowe might not be a lock to even make the team.

I do think Eric Rowe is the best corner on this team, but it’s looking like it might take a little bit longer before it’s fully realized.

6. There’s a lot riding on Jason Peters

jasonpeters

Jason Peters ain’t the young man he use to be.

As far as Im concerned, Jason Peters is the lynchpin that holds the offensive line together. They go as he goes until he is released or retires, whatever comes first.

It seems as though every season the Eagles’ offensive line is seen as suspect, Peters is usually the culprit. Most times it had been due to injury, but last season it was due solely to poor play. Peters is 34 and it’s looking like the wheels are starting to fall off.

I can’t blame the shortcomings of the entire offensive line last season on Peters, after all the Eagles got what they deserved for starting Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner at guard.

Still, the left side of the line was bad from tackle to center last season and seeing as how the team is expecting to roll out the same group this season, Im concerned. The way I see it, Jason Peters very well could make or break the line this season. He wasn’t entirely terrible last year, but he was very far from his former six-time All Pro self. Peters doesn’t need to be an All Pro this season, he just needs to be serviceable enough.

Honestly, if I were the Eagles I’d probably move Lane Johnson to left tackle now and just get it over with, but I understand you have to pay respect to your future Hall of Famers.

I think the team could survive if Barbre plays poorly, but if Peters follows suit I can’t imagine things going well.

7. Ryan Mathews is as fragile as a China Doll

unnamed

I don’t have much faith in Wendell Smallwood as a rookie.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Ryan Mathews, but only when he’s on the field. And seeing as how that doesn’t happen often, he tests my love.

If I could expect 16 games out of Ryan Mathews I’d be ecstatic, the Eagles would have some semblance of a running game, and this list would be titled “9 Things That Have Me Scared About the Eagles.” But seeing as how he’s about as durable as a glass twig, I got beef.

I do think Ryan Mathews is a great running back and is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards, but he needs a full season to do so and you just don’t get that from Ryan Matthews.

Mathews was probably the best running back on the Eagles’ roster last season, and still is, but due to injuries he was never able to actually capture the starting job from DeMarco Murray until the end of the season and by that point it was more starter by committee than actually having someone be the bell cow back.

Last year, with DeMarco Murray starting, Mathew’s injuries didn’t have too major of an impact, although they were felt. This season, if (when) Matthews goes down with an injury, its gonna hurt.

Darren Sproles is now a 33 year old running back who has regressed in each of his last three seasons. I have no problems with Sproles starting in the slot, but I wouldn’t feel confident about him as the top dog in the Eagles’ backfield.

Wendell Smallwood, the Eagles’ new rookie running back, is a third down back in my eyes until proven otherwise. The kid has decent size, is pretty shifty, and has great hands, but lacks a second gear and is not a good pass blocker. Duce Staley may have a hard on for Smallwood, but the feeling is not mutual.

Ryan Mathews is 28, turning 29 in October. He has only played a full season once in his six seasons as a Pro. I can’t imagine he plays the second full season of his career this year, just like I can’t imagine the Eagles having a solid ground game this year.

8. Cody Parkey’s alive?!

Pro Bowl football

Once upon a time Cody Parkey was a Probowl kicker, here’s hoping he could get back to that form.

Cody Parkey was the best pick up of the entire Chip Kelly era. He was picked up for pigeon feed and instantly became one of the most important members of the Eagles.

Had Parkey been healthy last season, the Eagles would of made the playoffs and Chip Kelly more than likely would still be head coach.

Parkey had ice in his veins throughout his entire rookie season, but come the preseason of year two he was slumping HARD. He had struggles with consistency and would routinely miss chip shots.

There was a lot of mystery behind Parkey’s sudden slump until the team put him on IR and gave him the year off. I honestly felt a little relieved when the news broke about Parkey’s injury because it meant his poor play wasn’t entirely on him, but it didn’t make me feel anything close to optimistic.

Caleb Sturgis did an alright job in relief of Parkey. He wasn’t great, but he did well enough to still be sticking around.

Now Parkey is back and is forced to fend off Sturgis in hopes of earning his job back. So far the results have been not terrible as both have done ok, but neither has really jumped out in front of the other.

My main concern here is that Parkey was just a one year wonder. Kickers tend to be a lot like relief pitchers in baseball, they play an incredibly vital role, but they’re a dime a dozens and their greatness can often be fleeting. Caleb Sturgis looked like he had the makings of a future Probowl kicker his rookie year, but he was cut by the Dolphins two years later and now might be fighting for his NFL life. I would hate to see Parkey go down the same path after a rookie season that was even more impressive than Sturgis’.

At his best, Parkey is better than anything Caleb Sturgis has ever shown; Caleb finished the season strong but was still inconsistent AF. Im hopeful the better kicker can win the job and Parkey can rekindle his old spark, otherwise Sturgis is back taking field goals and that just doesn’t make me feel as confident.

I doubt the Eagles will be among the league leaders in offense next season so field goals could be pretty important. Parkey will be vital to the team’s success, but I can’t shake the feeling that the dude is shook. Im hopeful it’s all just rust and Parkey can win the job in training camp, but if not I can’t expect good things.

9. Sammy Sleeves or Sammy leaves?

1441819111596

Sam Bradford’s sleeves are so long because he doesn’t want to blind anyone with his sick ass guns.

I’ll admit, I am a Sam Bradford believer. I feel like the guy gets a little bit of an unnecessarily bad rep. Im not gonna say the guy should be considered a top ten QB — because he shouldn’t– but I just feel there is a huge anti Sam Bradford bias in the NFL.

The guy hasn’t had the easiest road to where he is now, albeit a lot of that is on him, but I still think he’s shown enough to be seen more favorably than most people see him.

With that said, Sammy pulled some little bitch shit this offseason. The team gave him a two-year “prove it” deal and he got all pissy as soon as he realized he would actually have to prove it. I can understand being a little annoyed when the team your still somewhat new to goes out and gets a new QB of the future, but crying and locking yourself in your room is not the way a suppose to be franchise quarterback acts.

Now that Sam has been talked off the ledge and made goodie goodie with Carson Wentz Im cautiously optimistic about him going into this season. He ended last season strong, he’s actually built a repertoire with some of his receivers, and the interior O line is much improved from last season.

I think Sammy could play pretty well in Doug Pederson’s offense — It’s much better suited to his skill set than Chip Kelly’s ever was — but I just question how well a team can rally behind a guy who asked to get going as soon as the going got tough.

10. Who is this team?

For the past three seasons the Eagles have been known as the fast pace, revolutionary offense that changed the face of the NFL. Outside of last season, they regularly ranked among the league leaders in almost every offensive stat. When a team played the Eagles they knew they were going to be playing against speed.

That isn’t the case anymore.

With Doug Pederson taking over you can expect something a little slower and more methodical, but its gonna be hard for me to expect offense to still be the trademark of this team. As of right now, this Eagles team has no identity.

At the start of the offseason they were seen as one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NFL thanks in large part to the whole Sam Bradford saga. While that situation has since resolved itself, the team is left as a relative unknown.

The Eagles have some good things on offense and some good things on defense, but not enough to be seen as either an offensive or defensive threat in my eyes. Neither is a complete group yet.

This is still a relatively young team that will need time to find out who they are and what they really have in their players. This team very well could turn into a defense force similar to what Jim Schwartz had in Buffalo or they could turn into a offensive machine akin to the Andy Reid days of yore. One thing is for sure though and that is neither will fully take shape this season.

I really just have no idea what to expect out of this team. The defense could be good, but I can’t expect it to be great and hell if I know what to expect out of this offense because I feel like they could be anywhere from piss poor to half decent.

One of the oldest and most common fears is that of the unknown and I gotta say, these unknown Eagles have me pretty scared.

76ers Draft Review: It was pretty great

hi-res-2e90e42f932d33f2600b7fe56926e927_crop_north

Does anyone have a pair of sunglasses I can borrow? BECAUSE IT IS SO FREAKIN LIT!

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Bryan Colangelo’s first draft as Sixers’ GM. The thought of Andrea Bargnani was more than enough to scare me shitless.

As weary as I’ve been of Bryan since taking Sam Hinkie’s job I’ve gotta admit, Uncle Jerry’s baby boy really hit this one out of the park.

Coming away with the draft’s best player and two of its biggest steals is a great way to start your tenure as GM.

And what’s even more important is the Sixers didn’t overpay to get back in the draft’s top eight. Danny Ainge has a history of fleecing people in trades, which is a big reason why the Celtics had the third overall pick in the first place, but not ol’ Bryan. He stuck to his guns and wouldn’t accept any deal he didn’t find fair. Kris Dunn would of been nice and all, but not overpaying for Kris Dunn is even better.

The one down side to this draft, and this is a biggey, is the fact the Sixers still have yet to address the gapping hole at point guard. Colangelo has already said the team will address the position through free agency, but it would of been nice to see them get back into the draft to take someone like Tyler Ulis or Demetrius Jackson somewhere in the second round.

The point guard stuff really ain’t that deep though, it’s more me just being picky. If anyone complains about the draft the Sixers just had, they deserve to get smacked in the mouth.

1st Overall: Ben Simmons SF/PF LSU

gettyimages-515126904

The Sixers got the best player in the draft. There really isn’t anything more to say here.

Ben Simmons is the type of player you suck for three seasons to try and get. He is a unique player with a rare skill set that does not come around very often.

He has yet to officially wear a Sixers jersey and he’s arguably the best player on the team already. But then again his main competition for that spot has yet to ever officially wear a Sixers jersey either.

I’ll put it this way, scouts have said Ben Simmons right now is a rich man’s Lamar Odom, but Ben Simmons with a jump shot is Magic Johnson; that’s how good this kid could be.

In time, Ben Simmons could be the most versatile player in the NBA and if his jump shot comes around he could be a perennial All-NBA type player. He is the real deal.

You can read more of my thoughts on Ben Simmons and what he means to the Sixers here.

24th Overall: Timothe Luwawu SG/SF France

timothe-luwawu-016-0-0

I’ll admit, I screamed like a little girl when this pick came in.

Luwawu was one of my favorite players in the draft; albeit due largely to KK Mega Vizura’s sexy unis, but I digress. I expected him to go in the early post lottery 15-20 range. Having him fall to the Sixers was unbelievable, but Bryan Colangelo actually drafting him was even more miraculous.

I see this as one of the biggest steals of the draft

Luwawu is a versatile 3 and D wing who is liable to destroy any net that looks at him the wrong way. He has a ton of upside coming out of France due to his athleticism and defensive ability. The frenchman also saw his three point shot jump about ten percentage points in the past season which is very encouraging. He’s even been described as, “The type of wing every team wants”.

Oh and he’s 6’7 with a 6’11 wingspan, so there’s that too.

Timothe Luwawu is already 21 years old and could come stateside this season if he feels so inclined. That’ll be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

In a weak draft class, taking a chance on the springy frenchman with the sweet shot is a safe gamble.

Watch this if you wanna see Timothe do some mean things with a basketball.

26th Overall: Furkan Korkmaz SG/SF Turkey

furkan-korkmaz

Yep, the Sixers got themselves another Furkan.

Korkmaz is another projected late lottery prospect who was a total steal for the Sixers. He was rated as the second best international prospect in the draft and fell all the way to 26.

At only 18 years old, Korkmaz has uber upside. He is one of the most polished three point shooters in the draft and could provide the Sixers with some desperately needed floor spacing.

He’s is a capable ball handler who can create his own shots and dish the ball a little bit. He is athletic enough to play above the rim and has even won dunk contests in the past.

A former teammate of Dario Saric’s, Furkan will more than likely be stashed overseas for the next few seasons due to his age, slight frame, and contract. He is a very exciting prospect the Sixers now have in their back pocket. After a few more years of seasoning, Furkan could come to the league and become a dangerous complimentary scoring option once he’s properly ripened.

Watch this if you wanna see Furkan Korkmaz being a bad man.

 

Ben Simmons Over Brandon Ingram: It’s what the Process would of wanted

THE FUTURE IS NOW!

It took three seasons, millions lost in ticket and memorabilia sales, the franchise and their former general manager became the laughing stock of the NBA, but it finally happened. The Sixers are the proud owners of the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft.

It took the team nearly breaking the NBA record for worst single season record, but they FINALLY have the first overall pick in the draft.

Now there’s only the matter of deciding who become’s the new face of the franchise: Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram?

CllmbrCXEAAKVqj

Brandon Ingram’s shot chart from Duke just tells us what we already know, he’s good at shooting deep. Via Draft Express.

Both come with their positives and neither is true  “can’t miss” prospect, but after the Trail of Tears Sixers fans had to endure known as the Process the choice absolutely, unequivocally has to be one Mr. Benjamin Simmons.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the hype with Brandon Ingram.

A KD lookalike, with a 7’3 wing span, and a silky smooth jumper, what’s not to love? But let’s be real, dude ain’t no Ben Simmons.

For all that is being made of Brandon Ingram’s scoring prowess, the guy didn’t even lead Duke in scoring last year. That honor went to Ted Cruz’s doppelgänger. There were times when Ingram would disappear for stretches and he could be contained on occasion by more elite defenses.

cdw1ps4usaahbcd

See! They look just like each other!

It’s true Ingram has a chance to be a monster in the NBA, but Ben Simmons has a chance to be a real Monstar. (That’s a Space Jam reference btw)

I mean yes, Ingram is a better scorer than Simmons in nearly every facet. Simmons probably has him beat as a slasher and in the paint, but in terms of shooting, isolation scoring, off-ball offense, it’s all Ingram.

And yes, Ingram has Simmons beat on defense as well. For now. Simmons’ athleticism and rebounding ability should change that in time. (DUDE GETS DEFENSIVE BOARDS LIKE A MAD MAN)

But outside of those two areas, Ben Simmons checks out every box. He can pass, rebound, and score at a high level. Anytime he steps on the court, he’s liable to record a triple double.

I knew he was pretty close to the real deal in LSU’s loss to NC State, their fifth game of the season, where Simmons was held to just four points, but still managed a double-double with 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The man is 6’10, 240 lbs and can do things someone his size shouldn’t. He is a power forward with the skill set of a point guard. The guy can handle the ball as well as any guard prospect in this draft and his vision may be better than all of them. Seriously, it’s like Simmons has eyes on the back of his head and they’re wearing night vision goggles.

His ability to set up in the half court and push the pace would work very well in the Sixers all pace system. Plus, Brett Brown has Australian ties which are very much worth noting.

Simmons can realistically play anywhere from the 1-5 and maybe even some small ball 6; if you can consider a guy a few inches below 7’0 small. And he isn’t even tweener; HE’S JUST A MATCH UP NIGHTMARE.

THIS MAN IS ALMOST AS BIG AS KARL ANTHONY TOWNS! HE LOOKS EVEN BIGGER IN THIS PICTURE!!!

Im not sure if Ben Simmons will ever be the scorer Brandon Ingram is, but I doubt Ingram’s game will ever be as complete as Simmons’.

I never feel comfortable comparing prospects to LeBron because it happens too often and it’s almost never an apt comparison, but I think Simmon’s athleticism and play making ability are very reminiscent of the four time MVP.

Simmons isn’t a perfect prospect, but I feel the faults in his game are more nit picky than real short comings honestly.

His jump shot needs some work, which is a big reason why some Sixers fans are quick to call for Brandon Ingram instead, but it is very far from broken; it’s just untested. Get the guy in the gym taking a couple hundred shots a day and Im sure things will start to straighten out.

Cllma53WMAAoTN_

Ben Simmons shot chart from LSU just makes his jump shot seems untested rather than broken.Lived for that high percentage shot though. Via Draft Express.

 

Then there’s the whole issue about his leadership and commitment, which honestly makes me laugh.

“Why didn’t LSU make it to the tournament, if Ben Simmons was so good why didn’t he play in March?”

Simple answer, LSU SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED.

At the start of the NCAA season, it only took about two weeks for people to realize that Ben Simmons probably wasn’t going to be playing March basketball. Picking LSU was a bad choice by Simmons and I think he’d probably admit to it as well. It was almost as if LSU got Simmons and was like “K, this guy’ll win us a championship. Let’s take a load off and let the kid go to work.”

“How come his play started to taper off towards the end of the season? Was he ever even committed to that team?” 

Ben Simmons was an 18 year old who was projected to go in the top three of the draft from the moment he signed his letter of intent, how much pointless basketball do you think you’d be able to stomach before throwing in the towel and getting ready for the pros. I think this is a case of what I call Jadaveon Clowney disorder where a player slowly starts playing less than he’s able to because he’s got the draft on his mind and begins to become preoccupied. The kid had already realized his dream, it was only a matter of treading water until he could achieve it.

Simmons was also failing a lot of his classes at LSU, but I don’t think the guy’s dumb he was just preoccupied with bigger things.

Oh and then there’s the matter of the Ben Simmons documentary that was being filmed during the season. Can’t imagine that was a distraction whatsoever.

Still, I think Simmons’ end of the season play was a little overblown honestly. He scored 20 or more in six of his last 10 games and averaged a double-double in seven. These are the numbers that made him go from an elite prospect to just really good; go figure.

Brandon Ingram is a great scorer who could become one of the best in the NBA, but that’s all he’ll ever be; a scorer. You look at players like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant who have had great careers but have always come up short in terms of chasing an NBA title. They are both great players in the own right, two of the best the NBA has to offer, but they can’t reach the top of the league on their own.

Ben Simmons on the other hand has a skill set that would allow him to be so much more, he is the type of player that will make all those around him better. Simmons is that type of player that ends up attracting Ingram types in free agency because he can compliment them so well.

clgn8slwmae9qht

no homo but WILL YOU LOOK AT THIS MAN!

If you look back at the NBA finals a big reason the Cavaliers were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit was because of a heavy dose of LeBron James playing the point. It placed the ball in his hands at the start of each possession and just let him go HAM. The Sixers could do great things if they were to play Simmons in a similar role.

Ben Simmons is the reason we suffered through the Process. He is the type of rare, mouth watering talent that actually gives you championship hopes. The whole point of the Process was to go and get the next big thing, cost be damned. After three seasons of watching a once great franchise rot and get picked apart by vultures, that franchise cornerstone player falls into their lap and people want to pass on him because Ingram is the safer choice; SMH people, SMfreakinH.

It took 199 losses to get the Sixers where they are now, the time for playing it safe went out the window as soon as the Process started.

Taking Brandon Ingram would be drafting for need and in the realm of draft culture that is one of the biggest mortal sins. The Sixers are desperate for a legit three point threat and help on the wing, but they can’t pass up the best player on the board.

The Process was drafting three straight centers because they were the best player available and worrying about the consequences later. People point to this front court log jam as a reason for avoiding Simmons because he’s listed at the four, but just because he’s a big man doesn’t mean he’s actually a big man. I see Simmons as more of a position less player due to his versatility which opens even more doors in terms how you can build your team going forward.

Brandon Ingram may never be nothing more than a Jabari Parker type, while Simmons is more than likely going to be the most talented player on whatever team he goes to.

The Process is now officially dead, Sam Hinkie is gone, but Ben Simmons keeps their memory alive. He embodies everything the Process sought to achieve. He’s the player that could bring together all of the Sixers’ assets and actually make them into a team.

Wether he turns out to be a rich man’s Lamar Odom, a poor man’s LeBron James, or maybe even the second coming of Magic Johnson, all I know is anything else would be an insult to the Process itself.

Ben Simmons has the skill set where if you pass on him and his jump shot comes around people are gonna be out of a job. Bryan Colangelo has had a suspect start as the Sixers’ new GM, but his job will be so much easier if he just picks Ben Simmons.

And if you need anymore reason to be on #TeamSimmons, here are his Foot Locker commercials: 1 and 2

 

Nothing Is Guaranteed: What it means to have the number one pick in the MLB Draft

appel_1280_ge7j37sk_78s4x2m3

Mark Appel is the perfect example of why “safe picks” aren’t always the safest.

So your Philadelphia Phillies are the lucky recipients of the number one pick in this Thursday’s MLB Draft? Congratulations, that’s like getting the first crack at a fresh box of cereal. Unless there’s a prize inside, you’re probably just getting a bowl of cereal.

Now that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with a bowl of cereal – cereal for dinner RULEZ – and the first bowl is always the best, but that prize would of been so much cooler.

I think the first pick in the MLB draft is a lot like this because unless there’s a prize at the top of the draft, you might just be getting a bowl of cereal. And sometimes cereal is great, but other times what looks good can turn soggy awful fast. You can still get a great player first overall, but teams miss nearly as often as they hit picking first overall.

Having to settle for what’s best available when a draft lacks a true transcendent prospect isn’t exclusive to baseball; in fact it happens in all professional sports. but the difference between baseball and all other professional sports is how often that transcendent talent comes around.

In most sports, I’d say there’s a clear cut number 1 pick nine out of every ten drafts; sometimes there’s some confusion at the top or it’s just a bad draft but for the most part you usually have a good idea of who the draft’s best player is. For the MLB, I’d say it happens one in ten times. Unless you know you’re getting a Bryce Harper or Ken Griffey Jr. type, there’s no guarantee you’re taking the best player in the draft; that’s just what happens in a FOURTY ROUND(!!!) draft.

Even when a team takes the supposed “can’t miss” prospect, there’s still no guarantee you’re getting the draft’s best player. Take the 2009 draft for example. Stephen Strasburg went first overall and was widely considered the best his draft class had to offer, except The draft’s real gem was taken 24 picks later in Mike Trout. Strasburg’s been great for the Nats, but I think they might rather have the best player in baseball.

Another great example would be the 2006 draft. Pitcher Luke Hochevar went first overall to the Royals and was considered arguably the best arm in his class two years running. After him went four more pitchers before Clayton Kershaw, a future hall of Famer, was taken seventh overall. Almost all five of those pitchers have been moved to the bullpen while Kershaw is on course to win his fourth Cy Young.

Hell, just look at what the Phils did the last time they had the first overall pick. Pat Burrell is a Phillies’ great and helped them win a World Series, but he was expected to be so much more as a hitter. He was suppose to be a great all around hitter, but instead he was just power.

Now there’s also the matter of the bigger game to be played with the MLB draft because it’s not as simple as “He’s good, take him”. Outside of ridiculous length, one thing that makes the MLB draft so much different than all others is the signing bonus pool.

The signing bonus pool is every team’s limit on how much money they are allowed to give out in signing bonuses to newly drafted players. Only players selected in the first ten rounds are effected by this pool and the higher a player’s drafted, the more money they’re entitled.

Another thing that makes the MLB draft unique is that players can refuse to sign with the team they’re drafted by and if they still have some eligibility remaining, can simply return to college ball and get drafted next season. This goes hand in hand with the bonus pool because if a player does not like the bonus they’re offered they can simply return to college, declare for the draft the following season, and hope for something better.

JD Drew famously spurned the Phillies for this reason and has been universally labeled a douche in the city of Brotherly Love for the rest of time. He also helped inspire the name of this blog!

This then requires teams to pick responsibly so as to not exceed the bonus pool by drafting too many expensive prospects because if they exceed the pool they then must forfeit future early round draft picks. That’s why teams will purposefully pass on a better prospect early with hopes of getting good value in the later rounds.

mlb_a_aiken_d1_1296x729

Brady Aiken proves why taking the best player can sometimes hurt your team in the long run.

So if a draft lacks a transcendent talent at the top, much like this year’s does, the team picking first has a much bigger game they must play carefully picking someone first overall that might set them up for later round success. It is a very dangerous game that can blow up in a team’s face very easily.

The Houston Astros are the perfect cautionary tale when it comes to having the first overall pick. The team held the first overall pick in consecutive drafts (2013,2014) and neither prospect selected is still with the franchise.

The Astros selected Mark Appel first overall in 2013. Many believed Appel to be arguably the best player in his draft with Jon Gray and Kris Bryant as his main competition for the draft’s top spot. The Astros took Appel because he was seen as the safest pitching option and expected to breeze through the minors, but the pick couldn’t of blown up in the Astros’ face any more perfectly. After just two seasons with the Astros, Appel was shipped off to the Phillies in this offseason’s Ken Giles trade as a last minute throw in piece. He carries a career 5.12 ERA and has yet to see the majors, while Gray is already pitching for the Rockies and Kris Bryant is seen as one of the sport’s best young sluggers.

Things went even worse for the Astros the following season when they selected Brady Aiken first overall. Aiken was an electric high school pitcher with as much upside as they come. Aiken and the Astros originally agreed to a $6.5 mil signing bonus, but after a post-draft physical raised red flags about his left elbow the Astros cut their deal to $5 mil. The two sides were never able to come to terms on the new deal by the MLB’s signing deadline and thus the Astros wasted their first overall pick for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile six picks later, the Phillies took the player many thought to be one of the safest pitching options in that draft with Aaron Nola. After two seasons, Nola is already the top pitcher in the Phillies’ rotation while Brady Aiken is a Cleveland Indian.

So the Phillies have a very difficult decision ahead of themselves on Thursday. Will they take the projected safe option in AJ Puk, who many believe to be the draft’s best player much like Appel, or will they take someone like Jason Groome, a risky high school player with the most upside in this draft much like Brady Aiken. Maybe it’ll be the promising bat of Mickey Moniak or maybe it’ll be the safer bat of Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis. It’s seriously anyone’s guess.

Or maybe they’ll just draft someone another team has their eye on and look to make a deal later on down the line for an actual major league player, similar to what the Diamondbacks did this offseason.

The Phillies have had some great success with their recent first round picks, but as far as Im concerned with whoever they take, nothing is guaranteed.

 

 

Eagles 7-Round Mock Draft

howie-roseman-300px-300x288

Can you smell that? That’s the smell of magic in the air. Can you feel that? That’s a sense of child-like wonderment. It is the eve of the NFL draft and GM’s will be struggling to get a wink of sleep tonight.

The NFL draft is the place where dynasties are made, it is where the GMs establishes themselves as geniuses, it is where dreams are either realized or totally crushed, and it is where fans sit for hours on end just to boo their team for drafting a player they didn’t want/expect.

With tomorrow being the big day, so I though this would be as good a time as ever time to release my first, last, and ONLY 7-round Eagles mock draft; well, 5-round mock draft. Little disclaimer though, this mock draft is a mix of what I expect the Eagles to do and what I would do in the Eagles position.

1st Round (2nd Overall): QB Carson Wentz

Duh. This one is really a no brainer. I doubt the Eagles would of traded up already had they not been certain the Rams were taking Jared Goff first overall. Whether you agree with the trade or not, Im kind of tepid on it myself, Carson Wentz is most likely the pick. Wentz has arguably the most upside of any QB in this draft. If you could build a QB, he’d look a lot like Carson Wentz. Prototypical size, great athleticism and running ability, intelligence, accuracy, and a cannon for an arm; the guy has a chance to be legit. The biggest downside is a lack of competition, coming from FCS North Dakota State he hasn’t really been tested. And Im not much for college stats when looking at a draft prospect, but the fact he only threw for more than 200 yards three times last season is concerning to me. Wentz does come from a run heavy offense so that could explain the low passing numbers, but I still would of liked to see the guy dominate more. All in all, to me Wentz looks like an athletic Joe Flacco, both have similar builds and crazy accuracy on their deep passes. I also see Wentz as the best read option QB in this draft. This would be the fourth time the Eagles took a QB in the first round in franchise history.

3rd Round (79th Overall): LB Jaylon Smith

Ok, this one might be a stretch. In Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s most recent Scouting Notebook he said, based on what he’s hearing from scouts, he believes Jaylon Smith could fall all the way to the second half of the third round; due largely to the fact he will miss all of 2016. If there is one player the Eagles would be smart to make sure they get, it’s Jaylon Smith. His knee injury could be a blessing in disguise for a team like the Eagles, who have a pretty big need at outside linebacker. Had Smith never gotten hurt, he’d be a top three pick. He would of been in the conversation for best player in the draft, along the likes of Laremy Tunsil or Jalen Ramsey. Jaylon Smith is a do it all linebacker, with stupid athleticism and crazy range. There isn’t really one aspect of playing linebacker that he’s not great at. Everything that has been said about Myles Jack applies to Jaylon Smith, and then some. Smith is also a low key talented pass rusher, an aspect of his game that was not well taken advantage of at Notre Dame. There’s no telling really what might happen with Smith’s knee, reports on the injury have ranged from career ending to non-serious, so I think it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Still though, if all things go well in his rehab, Smith could be a perennial All-Pro player. The Eagles would be smart to not to let him get by.

5th Round (153 Overall): RB Devontae Booker

Again, this might be a bit of a stretch, but stay with me on this one. Last year, Jay Ajayi was one of the top RB prospects in the draft. He was projected as a second round pick, but due to a knee injury he slid all the way to the fifth round. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happened to Booker. One of the top RBs in this draft, Devontae Booker suffered a torn meniscus that ended his 2015 season early. The injury is still healing, which has forced him to miss the majority of the draft process. Booker hasn’t been able to test his speed or his agility, seeing as how his speed is a huge question mark, I think that could really hurt his draft stock. There’s also the matter of his age, he’ll be 24 come the start of the season, which is another negative. Still, despite all the red flags, Devontae Booker may be one of the most complete RBs in this draft. A legit three down back, Booker is a great inside runner. He hits the hole hard and is shifty enough to break tackles at the second level. Booker has nimble feet and is a great pure runner. He does not have the best speed and isn’t much of a home run hitter, but he’s a great grind it out back. Booker also has very soft hands and can be an asset in the passing game. His pass blocking could use some work, but he’d be a steal if he were to fall this far.

5th Round (164 Overall): OG Landon Turner

A four year starter out of North Carolina, Landon Turner is a monster of a man. A former first team All American, Turner uses his size and strength to his advantage and over powers his opponents. He runs people over in the run game and uses powerful hands and strong legs to beat people in the passing game. Turner has a clear lack of speed and flexibility, which could hurt him at the next level. Turner’s playing style is reminiscent to me of Brandon Brookes, both are huge, powerful guards who use their size to their advantage; Im not saying that Turner is going to be Brookes, Im just saying they kinda remind me of each other. In that regard, I feel as though Turner could be an interesting name for the Eagles.

6th Round (188 Overall): WR DeMarcus Robinson

The Eagles have made it clear that they are going to dress WR at some point in the draft, but in specific, they’re looking for a deep threat. The team has brought in the likes of Kolby Listenbee and Mike Thomas, but I think of all the receivers they’ve brought in, DeMarcus Robinson has the highest upside. A legit potential number one receiver, Robinson has electric athleticism, great size, and blazing speed that shows up better on tape than it does on the stop watch. Robinson can play on the outside or in the slot and is the type of receiver that can make a corner back nervous. He can shake a CB at the line of scrimmage and then just blow straight by them. He is also very lethal running after the catch. He is an all around great home run threat with awesome speed and tracking ability. The biggest downside to Robinson is his off the field issues. He has been suspended four time and benched twice by Florida for off the field concerns. Scouts have labeled Robinson as selfish and immature, which is also concerning. Thankfully with Chip Kelly gone, the Eagles can finally get a couple dirty players, and seeing as how Robinson has early round upside, I think he’d worth the risk.

7th Round (233 Overall): CB Daryl Worley

Worley is a similar case as Robinson, good player, horrible off the field issues. Worley has the size, speed, and athleticism you look for in a CB. Worley led the Big 12 in interceptions and passes defended last year and shows the ability to be able to play the outside in the pros. Worley shows great cover ability, aggressive hands, good leaping ability, and can spot the ball well, but he is not the most willing tackler in run support. Worley was suspended for the last game of his career due to academics and was suspended for two games back in 2014 following the assault of a women in a night club. Women beating ain’t cool and has recently become a kiss of death for draft prospects looking to go in the early rounds. The Eagles brought Worley in for a private visit, which means there is definite interest there. If the Eagles feel comfortable with the off the field stuff, he could be a decent late round pick.

7th Round (251 Overall): FB Dan Vitale

Vitale was the fullback the Eagles kept the closest eye on not named Gronkowski. Vitale is just a big, versatile dude. He was asked to play a mix of fullback, H back, and tight end. He shows some receiving ability and could be a decent safety valve, he just needs to work on securing his catches. Vitale is a good blocker, but not the best lead blocker. He can keep people from getting to you, but he can’t move people away from you. Was used more as a receiver than as a lead blocker or a runner, so that is something he’s going to need to work on. Vitale is a solid get with the Eagle’s last pick of the draft, but if they felt so incline, I feel like the Eagles could also just sign him as an undrafted free agent.