The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft Preview

The commencement of the NFL Draft 2014 is almost upon us.

Before you settle in for all the festivities and start price shopping for jerseys of your favorite team’s newest players, I want to provide you with the latest rumors, insights and possibilities on who’s going where, what team is doing what, and any surprises that might be lurking for this year’s three-day event.

First, here are insights from some of the NFL beat writers who joined us on our most recent “RCN SportsTalk” show, discussing the Eagles’ draft direction, DeSean Jackson’s departure and the top pick in the draft overall (the entire program is available to watch for free on RCN On-Demand).

Now, here are a few more bits of information from our sources on what to watch for in this year’s draft:

1) Don’t expect the Eagles to “stand pat.”
They’ve already made several incredibly risky moves—the biggest of these in releasing their most dynamic player, DeSean Jackson—so don’t be surprised if they make a move. The Eagles do have some depth on the line and rumors continue to swirl that Brandon Graham, who never quite fit in comfortably to the Birds’ new defense, might be one piece that gets swapped in order for the team to move up in the draft.

2) Expect to hear all-Manziel, all-the-time on Thursday.
Right or wrong, the NFL, ESPN and all the national media outlets love to overexpose someone at the NFL draft, and “Johnny Football” will be the guy this year. Rumored to be drafted anywhere from third to twenty-third, the former Aggies quarterback will be talked about early and often in Thursday’s “Day One” events, and probably even more so in the weeks and months to follow, regardless of whether he succeeds or not.

3) Look for the SEC to do some gloating.
While they will no doubt lose a ton of talent—again–due to this year’s draft, the SEC will be able to brag about having as many as nine players from their conference selected in the first round. I figure Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and Auburn’s Greg Robinson go in the first five selections, and Manziel, along with fellow Texas A&M standouts Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, are next to go, with plenty more talent from this conference left for other teams to pick up before the draft’s second round gets underway.

Who do you think will be drafted #1 this year, and where do you think Manziel will end up? Post your opinions in our comments section or send an email to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Questions Surrounding DeSean’s Departure

 

OK. I’m going to try my best not to make too big a deal of this issue…for the rest of the year. But you have to admit, the departure of DeSean Jackson, whether you agree with the move or not, has raised a ton of unanswered questions.

The initial release of the Philadelphia Eagles’ most electric player has been debated for several weeks, and there are more pressing on-field issues that this organization, and its fan base, need to start addressing. But before we turn the page—or at least try to, since this topic will resurface if and when the current receivers have a bad game—there are specific questions I still have. For myself and for many football fans in the Delaware County and Lehigh Valley areas, these questions must be answered before we can even think about moving forward–from an emotional standpoint.

Since the Eagles themselves continue to be tight-lipped and refuse to address this issue, here are the questions I’m going to be asking the Eagles’ beat writers when they are our guests on this Thursday’s “RCN Sports Talk” show (live at 6pm).

1) The timing of the release?
Once the initial shock subsided, this was my biggest question. Why now? Why not at the beginning of free agency when you could have explored bringing in another receiver? Why wait until all free agent options are now gone before opening up that spot? And if you weren’t going to do it earlier, why not wait until you get close to the NFL draft? Maybe someone gets desperate, wanting a receiver or looking to maneuver for a different pick, and becomes a willing trade partner so that you get something…anything…for him in return. Since the Eagles didn’t immediately pursue another option, nor have they in the weeks that followed, I’m left to wonder if they really had a plan to replace him at all.

2) Why a release?
I’ve been told by my football contacts that they would not have gotten very much —at the time they released him—in return for Jackson through a trade. A seventh-round pick? A journeyman linebacker who wouldn’t make the team? What would be the point?

My beef is, by releasing him, they left themselves open for the real possibility that any team, including their divisional rivals – Giants, Cowboys and Redskins – could swoop in and pick him up.

Remember the dreadful Cliff Lee deal, in which the Phillies traded Lee to Seattle for three prospects who have yet to taste major league success? At least the Phillies traded him to a team that could not come back to haunt them in their own league. By releasing Jackson and making his salary more flexible for a team to pick him up, they’ve allowed for a team (aka Washington) that can—and will—use Jackson against the Eagles in their two meetings this year. Do you think fans will forget the release if Jackson has a big game against them and keeps them from making the playoffs this year? You’d have a better chance of the national media forgetting the Santa Clause-snowball incident from decades ago. If the Birds only win two games this year, they better hope and pray it’s against the Redskins, if only to avoid a huge public relations nightmare.

3) Is Chip Kelly’s ego really at the heart of the matter?
I would hope that the Birds’ second-year head coach is man enough to realize that you can’t let your personal feelings get in the way of achieving success for your franchise. Times have changed and coaches can’t make whimsical decisions with millions and millions of dollars—including taxpayer-designated money—just because their feelings are hurt. I keep coming back to this question and want to believe that it did not. There are certainly enough allegations to speculate there’s more to the story than anyone is admitting.

However, the fact that Kelly refuses to publicly address this issue , and the fact that a positive response to this question would nicely satisfy the first two queries, continues to make me wonder.

It also helps to know if DeSean’s style of play influenced the Eagles’ decision and if they would like to go in a different direction at his position. If they want to replace Jackson’s pure-speed ability with a big, physical receiver, they might have to trade up for a higher draft pick before next week’s NFL draft in order to get a quality player they may covet.

What do you think of DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles? Will it ultimately help or hurt the team this season? Send your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll address them on this Thursday’s program, along with a complete preview of next week’s NFL draft and insights on the Eagles’ 2014 schedule. Plus, remember to bookmark our page and check back in with our blog next week for exclusive insights on next Thursday’s NFL Draft and the latest rumors swirling around the Eagles.

 

Behind the Mic: “Accadeemics and Ashletics”

No, this is not a “typo” and yes, I do know how to spell. I can read, too. I was also a college athlete. And from what I have read of a recent analysis of college football and college basketball by CNN’s Sara Ganin, there are too many athletes with very limited ability to read and/or write representing academic institutions:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/07/us/ncaa-athletes-reading-scores/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

A career learning specialist, Mary Willingham, researched the reading levels of 183 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill athletes who played football and basketball from 2004 to 2012. 60% read between 4th and 8th grade levels. Between 8% and 10% read below a third grade level!!

How can these athletes possibly earn a college diploma? Well, that answer lies in cheating on tests, having papers written for them, getting passing grades for classes they never attend, and so on. And why do colleges turn a blind eye to many of these practices – MONEY!!

According to Ganin, the Louisville Cardinals basketball program made a profit of $26.9 million and the University of North Carolina made $16.9 million last year on their men’s basketball programs alone. This is the justification for admitting students with abysmal SAT scores and reading levels below fourth grade (estimated to be @10%). Student-athletes were admitted with SAT scores between 200 and 300 and the lowest possible score on this test is 200 (the highest is 800).

And, perhaps, the first question we should ask is, “How did they ever get a high school diploma?” The system of “rewarding” outstanding athletic talent by not requiring academic success begins here and is perpetuated at the next level.

My collegiate broadcasting experience is with the Patriot League and Lafayette College. Their goals are summed up in their Mission Statement (the underlines are mine):

Mission
The Patriot League promotes opportunities for students to compete in Division I intercollegiate athletics programs within a context that holds paramount the high academic standards and integrity of member institutions, and the academic and personal growth of student-athletes.

Vision
The Patriot League will be the exemplary intercollegiate athletics conference in the country for student-athletes who demonstrate success both in academic achievement and athletic competition.

• Offering broad-based and diverse athletic programs, the League schools are dedicated to shared values of integrity, character and the personal development of all students.
• Student-athletes are provided the opportunity to achieve their athletic potential and compete successfully at the NCAA Division I level.
• The Patriot League will be recognized nationally for the effective integration of Division I athletics into the educational mission of the institution.
• Student-athletes are prepared to become leaders and to make meaningful contributions to society.

If colleges would begin to raise the academic standards required to be admitted and public education would stress those standards at the elementary and high school levels, wouldn’t everyone benefit? If the most motivating goal for some high school athletes is to play at the next level, wouldn’t they raise their bar if the institutions raised the requirement bar? The question remains, however, who is willing to take the first step? My guess is – No One!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Chris Wheeler and Gary “the Sarge” Matthews were dismissed from the Phillies broadcast booth this past week by Comcast SportsNet. Comcast SportsNet signed a 25-year, $2.5-billion contract with the Phillies and, thus, now have control over the TV broadcasting team. What’s done is done. I personally enjoy the radio team of Scott Frantzke, Larry Anderson, and Jim Jackson. Frantzke has said he is not interested in doing television.

2. In other Phillies news, the games that used to be on Channel 17 will now be on Channel 10 which is owned and operated by Comcast.

3. DeSean Jackson’s home was robbed this weekend and the burglars made off with $125,000 in jewelry and $250,000 in cash. He also lost two semi-automatic handguns. I’m having a little difficulty relating to his loss!

4. Speaking of outrageous money, did you see where A-Rod paid $12,000 a month for Performance Enhancing Drugs? His ultimate goal was to hit 800 home runs. He has 654 and will miss all of next season. He will still make $3 million for the year. And, at least, he’ll save $144,000 in “medical” expenses.

5. Did you see that in the last three weeks, I was 21-3 on my picks? 4-0 this past weekend. The NFL matchups this coming weekend could not be much better. So, please don’t bother me on Sunday.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 4-0) (172-91-1 65%)

SEATTLE
DENVER