Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

Michael Carter-Williams has flourished since Tony Wroten exited the lineup with a knee injury. Can their games complement each other? In addition to examining that issue, Eric Fisher highlights the contributions of Robert Covington, tells you who represented the Sixers at a ceremony for Wilt Chamberlain, and looks ahead for the Sixers’ next win.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ playoff chances, the NFL playoff picture and honors for Eagles LB Connor Barwin and Villanova QB John Robertson.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Dallas Cowboys’ fast start, the legendary career of the late Bill Campbell and how NASCAR’s new Chase format may have elevated anger levels.

Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Draft’s 3 dreaded words

Posted by Eric Fisher On May - 4 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2I don’t know.

Those are three words you don’t often hear from sports columnists. You hear those words even less frequently, if that’s possible, from hosts of sports shows on radio and television.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, however, we should probably hear it more often. We should hear it from the so-called experts, and we should hear it from fans.

First, the so-called experts. Wouldn’t it be great if, when asked about a defensive back from Southwest Wyoming State selected in the fifth round, the television “expert” replied, “Geez, Tim. I’ve never seen him play. In fact, I could only find four minutes of tape on him. An NFL scout told me he has loose hips and has trouble tracking the ball, but I haven’t seen enough of him to make that judgment. Is he a good pick in this slot? I don’t know.”

Of course, we’ll never hear that type of honesty. The so-called expert would likely be out of a job.

The same is true of radio and television hosts paid for spouting off opinions. That’s why you’ll never hear one of them say, “Who? From where? I’d never even heard of that school, let alone that player, until I was reading a draft guide a few weeks ago, so I certainly never saw that guy play. Would he be a good fit for the Eagles? I don’t know. What state is that school in?”

The fans are just as bad. The bulk of the players on NFL rosters are picked after the first two rounds or signed as undrafted free agents. Let’s be honest. Most of us have hardly seen most of these players in action. But that doesn’t prevent nearly everyone from being an expert.

Most opinions about the draft are based on reading other people’s opinions. And people’s opinions are often based on other people’s opinions. But just because you read the same thing in three different draft previews doesn’t mean it’s right.

Was North Carolina receiver Mack Hollins a good pick for the Eagles in the fourth round? I don’t know. I’ve read and heard that he’s supposed to be a terrific coverage guy on special teams. I know he broke his collarbone last October, so, even if you watch North Carolina games, you didn’t have a full senior season to observe.

Maybe Hollins isn’t as good as receiver Ryan Switzer, his North Carolina teammate selected by the Cowboys 15 picks after the Eagles selected Hollins (and one pick after they traded up to select San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey). Perhaps Hollins and Switzer aren’t that good. Perhaps they only looked good because they were on the receiving end of throws from North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who was the second pick in the draft. Then again, maybe Trubisky is the one that is overrated.

The truth is – here are those three words again – I don’t know.

This doesn’t mean opinions are completely invalid. Being concerned that the Eagles didn’t find a starting cornerback for the upcoming season in a draft overflowing with talented cornerbacks is a legitimate concern. Arguing the merits of taking cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round even though a torn Achilles tendon suffered at his pro day workout in March will cause him to miss, at the very least, the first portion of the season, is a topic worthy of debate.

You don’t have to watch half a season of games to observe that the surprising run on quarterbacks and receivers in the first 12 picks pushed defensive players such as defensive end Derek Barnett (Eagles), safety Malik Hooker (Colts), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Ravens) and defensive end Jonathan Allen (Redskins) down to the mid-teens, where teams were thrilled to scoop them up.

But will Allen end up a better player than Barnett, making the Eagles look silly? I don’t know.

Will the Eagles regret selecting Barnett instead of one of the available cornerbacks? Maybe. As of right now, though, I don’t know.

Which teams had the best drafts? I don’t know how anyone can be sure at this point. But that didn’t stop some writers from providing grades for every team’s draft.

The NFL Draft is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to talk about. But that’s all a lot of it is – simply talk.

There are people who know a lot about the players in the draft. They watch countless hours of tape, talk to college coaches and watch individual workouts and practices for the Senior Bowl. And they’re not always correct in their judgments.

There are other people, like our own Gordon Glantz, who spend a lot of time studying the draft. They are good at analyzing whether teams got good value by selecting players in various rounds and draft positions.

But even these experts are making, at best, educated guesses. Their words are not the gospel.

As for Joe from the Northeast, Tony from Fishtown and more than half of the media – and I’m being conservative in that estimate – they are merely parroting other people’s opinions.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, it would be more honest if all of us, including the so-called experts, would sometimes say those dreaded three words: I don’t know.

Eagles need to be right

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 23 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2Why is the NFL Draft such a big deal? Because it can be a franchise-changing event.

To mix our sports analogies, you can’t hit a home run every time. Sometimes you have to make the best of what’s available to you, and punch a single to the opposite field. But when there is a hanging curve over the center of the plate, you can’t afford to miss.

Unfortunately, the Eagles have missed quite a bit.

In 2010, the Eagles traded up to No. 13, where they selected Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. At No. 14, the Seahawks selected Texas safety Earl Thomas, ranked as the second-best 14th pick of the last 50 years on the PhillyPhanatics.com Top 10 list.

No. 14, of course, is where the Eagles are slated to pick Thursday night as the NFL Draft commences at the base of the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have drafted 14th four times during the past 50 years. The results are mixed, with linebacker Tim Rossovich (1968) being a good pick, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (2006) being a mediocre pick (there wasn’t a lot to choose from that year), and offensive tackle Bernard Williams (1994) and quarterback John Reeves (1972) being poor selections.

It’s not a secret that the Eagles are in the market for a cornerback. It’s also not a secret that this year’s draft is incredibly deep at cornerback. Can you imagine if the Eagles draft the equivalent of Darrelle Revis, whom the Jets selected 14th in 2007?

The question is which cornerback in this year’s draft will become, if not the second coming of Revis, at least an elite NFL cornerback. Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, USC’s Adoree Jackson, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Washington’s Kevin King and Florida’s Quincy Wilson all could be drafted in the first round. One or two of these cornerbacks, and possibly three, may be gone by the time the Eagles make their pick.

The Eagles must identify which of these cornerbacks has the skills to work the best in their defensive system. If a player who fits is available, they should grab him.

The Eagles should not outsmart themselves and trade down, as they did in 2014, moving down from No. 20 to No. 26 and ending up with linebacker/defensive end Marcus Smith. Even at No. 26, they would have done better by selecting linebacker/safety Deonne Bucannon (No. 27 to Cardinals), receiver Kelvin Benjamin (No. 28 to Panthers) or cornerback Bradley Roby (No. 31 to Broncos).

Trading down in the first round and picking the best of the remaining cornerbacks would demonstrate the Eagles’ lack of confidence in their own ability to select the correct cornerback. Then again, after deciding that 2015 second-round pick Eric Rowe didn’t fit their scheme and trading him last year to the Patriots, where he played a significant percentage of snaps for the Super Bowl champions, perhaps there’s a good reason not to trust the Eagles’ judgment.

Using two of the drafts cited earlier, 2010 and 2014, imagine how much better the Eagles defense would be with the Thomas and Bucannon, the two players selected immediately after Graham and Smith. If the Eagles were firm about selecting a defensive end in 2010, Jason Pierre-Paul, scooped up by the Giants at No. 15, would have been a better choice than Graham.

To make the 2010 trade to get Graham look even worse, in hindsight, the Broncos flipped the 24th pick and ended up with the 22nd pick, where they selected receiver Demaryius Thomas. Who went 24th? Receiver Dez Bryant was selected 24th overall by the Cowboys. One of the third-round picks the Eagles sent to the Broncos was used for receiver Eric Decker – one pick after the Eagles selected defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Would you rather have Graham and Te’o-Nesheim or Bryant and Decker? Or Thomas and Decker? Or Pierre-Paul and Decker? This demonstrates how one draft can alter a franchise’s fortunes.

If we go a little further back in Eagles history, they traded up from No. 31 to No. 15 in 2003 to select defensive end Jerome McDougle, one spot before the Steelers selected safety Troy Polamalu. In 1996, the Eagles selected guard Jermane Mayberry at No. 25, one spot before the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis.

The missed opportunities don’t only plague the Eagles. In the 1985 NFL Draft, the Cheifs selected tight end Ethan Horton at No. 15, one pick before the 49ers selected Jerry Rice. The Eagles selected offensive tackle Kevin Allen, a huge bust, at No. 9. Imagine how the Eagles’ fortunes might have been different if they had selected Jerry Rice to line up opposite Mike Quick, an outstanding pick at No. 20 in 1982.

How important is it to make the right pick? In 2005, the Packers drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers at No. 24, one pick before the Redskins selected quarter Jason Campbell. Imagine how the fortunes of those franchises might have been different if the Packers had selected Campbell and the Redskins took Rodgers.

Let’s go way back in Eagles history to hammer home this point. In the 1969 Draft, the Eagles selected running back Leroy Keyes at No. 3, one spot before the Steelers chose future Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene.

The Keyes-instead-of-Greene draft was a franchise-altering mistake, as were the 2010 and, arguably, the 2014 first-round trades and selections. The Eagles can’t afford a similar mistake in Thursday’s first round.

A draft this deep in quality defensive players presents the opportunity for a home run.

The Eagles can’t afford to swing and miss.

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