Thursday, May 29, 2014

NFL Countdown to Kickoff: Season Win Totals Value Picks

Most of the bigger sportsbooks have released their win total projections for the 2014 NFL regular season as well as the moneyline odds for the "over/under" on a team's specific number. The bad news for Eagles' fans is that Oddsmakers are calling for a slight step backwards with a projected total of nine wins after the team won the NFC East Division title last year with a record of 10-6. The moneyline favors the "under" on nine wins at -130, while the moneyline on the "over" is an even-money 100 on Bovada's current NFL team props betting board.

The good news is that the Eagles still have the highest projected win total in the NFC East. The New York Giants' odds are set at -115 for both the under and over on eight wins. Dallas is also projected to win eight games, but the odds on the under are set at -150 and the odds on the over are +120. Washington is projected to win 7.5 games with a -130 moneyline on the under and an even 100 line on the over.

I went through all 32 NFL teams to come up with my top three value plays as part of my first installment of "NFL Countdown to Kickoff" for Doc's Sports. This is a new weekly article covering various topics in and around the league. The following is a link to this week's piece.

NFL Countdown to Kickoff: Season Win Totals Value Picks

Friday, May 23, 2014

An Early Look at Week 1 NFL Odds in the NFC East

Earlier this week Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas released its opening betting odds for every NFL game through 17 weeks of the regular season. If you take a look at just the Eagles' games on that list, they have been opened as favorites in eight of their games with one game listed as a pick. If you check some of the early odds released for the Birds projected win total for the season the number settles-in at nine.

The Eagles will open the 2014 regular season at home as 11-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars followed-up a 2-14 record in 2012 with a 4-12 mark last season so it is pretty easy to see why the spread is so high.

While I am almost sure that when I do get around to making my official picks for this season that I will pencil this one in as a win, I am not ready to lay 11 points against any NFL team when we are still talking about mini-camps and offseason workouts. What I decided to do was take a brief look at all the games in the NFC East for Week 1 in a piece I wrote for Doc's Sports as well as offer a preliminary pick for one of the four games.

The following is a link to my early look at Week 1 in the NFC East:

An Early Look at Week 1 NFL Odds in the NFC East

Friday, May 16, 2014

Eagles 2014 Draft Wrap-Up

We are about a week removed from the Eagles' recent draft and my overall reaction is that GM Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly did a pretty good job at filling obvious positions of need with the team's seven picks. What I really loved was the way they traded up and down the board throughout the three days of the draft to position themselves to select the players they wanted. This wheeling and dealing mentality is starting to become a trademark of this duo in an effort to build a championship-caliber roster.

Starting with selection of outside linebacker Marcus Smith from Louisville with the 26th overall pick, my only issue with this move was trading out of the 22nd position with Cleveland when Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard was still on the board. There is little doubt that the Eagles needed to improve their pass rush with an outside threat in their 3-4 scheme, but Dennard graded out as the best cornerback in this draft. The main thing that this defense lacks is a meanness and nastiness that was a mainstay of the Jim Johnson days as the team's defensive coordinator and Dennard would have been a solid move towards changing that.

The next two picks of wide receivers' Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt and Oregon's Josh Huff should be enough to fill the void left by the sudden departure of DeSean Jackson. While neither of these two players have the big-play explosiveness that Jackson brought to the table, they are solid possession type receivers that will give quarterback Nick Foles a few more targets on passing downs. Matthews was considered a first round pick on several expert's mock draft boards and Huff adds value with a proven ability to gain yards after the catch.

The Eagles addressed their need at cornerback with the fourth round selection of Jaylen Watkins from Florida. I like the fact that this guy played some big-time football in the SEC which should allow him to contribute right from Day 1. The Birds also added safety Ed Reynolds from Stanford in the sixth round. He decided to come out early, but draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. had him projected as a potential second round pick if he stayed in school another year.

Kelly added another one of his former Ducks to the roster with the selection of defensive end Taylor Hart in the fifth round. You have to go with the theory that the people close enough to the situation know best, so I will defer to Kelly's belief that Hart can also help bolster his defense's less than stellar pass rush.

The final pick of the draft was Wisconsin defensive lineman Beau Allen, who is projected to add some depth at the nose tackle position.

All-in-all, my official grade for the Eagles' draft would be a solid B. Draft grades and a couple of bucks will get you a coffee at your local Wawa store so do not read too much into my grade one way of the other. What I really like about the direction of this team is the way that Kelly has quickly changed this roster to reflect a team-first mentality that has brought so much success to his buddy in New England, Bill Belichick. All seven of these picks are Kelly-like players that can provide an immediate upgrade to a team that should continue to be on the rise in the NFL after winning the NFC East title in his first season at the helm.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Eagles Draft Recap- Rounds 1 through 3

The first three rounds of this year's NFL Draft are in the books with four more left to go this Saturday afternoon. Even though the Eagles only had one scheduled pick in each round heading into Thursday night's first round, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly kept fans on the edge of their seats by trading down to add picks only to trade them away again as the draft wore on. The end result was the addition of three new players and an extra pick in Saturday's fourth round. The following is a brief look at the newest additions to the team.

1st Round (26)- OLB Marcus Smith, Louisville

When Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks came off the board at No. 20 of the first round to New Orleans the Eagles decided to move down the board from 22 to 26 through a trade with Cleveland. This added some additional leverage with another second round pick. The Eagles went on the clock at 26 and they selected outside linebacker Marcus Smith from Louisville. While this pick is already being called a "head scratcher" by many, I am beginning to see a method to the madness of both Roseman and Kelly's approach to the college draft.

Since they did not see the value in any of the wide receivers and or defensive backs that were available with their first pick, the Eagles decided to fill a specific need on a defense that still has some major holes to fill. Smith proved to be a very versatile player with the Cardinals the past few seasons and at 6-foot-3 and 25l lbs. his specialty became rushing the passer. Philadelphia already have Trent Cole and Connor Barwin at the outside linebacker position so defensive coordinator Billy Davis will most likely use Smith in some sort of rotation or special package situations. It seems like a first round pick is a high price to pay for a part-time player, but if Smith can bolster a pass rush that put tremendous pressure on an already sub-par defensive secondary, his addition could actually end up being better than adding a top-flight cornerback with this selection.

2nd Round (42)- WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

It was no big secret that the Eagles needed to add a wide receiver to the roster after the sudden departure of DeSean Jackson, but many people (including myself) thought it would be USC's Marqise Lee, who was still on the board when the Eagles were on the clock in the first round. They decided to trade up with Tennessee in the second round with the selection of Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews. The main reason I like this pick is Matthews' size (6-foot-3, 212 lbs). The Eagles have been lacking a big target downfield with the exception of their tight ends, so this gives them another weapon over the middle and in the red zone. The main knock on Matthews is a lack of explosive speed, but he there is little doubt in his ability to contribute from Day 1 at the next level.

3rd Round (86)- WR Josh Huff, Oregon

Kelly has already shown his affinity for players from the Pac-12 simply because of his recent experience coaching in this conference, but he really hit home with the selection of wide receiver Josh Huff form his old team. This pick should finally firm up the Eagles' receiver corps with another reliable target. At 5-foot-11, 206 lbs, he has the size and proven ability to catch the ball in traffic. He has also excelled in yards after the catch and he is a solid blocker on running plays. Huff has average speed and will need to develop better rout running skills, but he should prove to be an excellent addition as a possession receiver when the Eagles need to move the chains on third down.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 NFL Draft- Handicapping the First Round

The Houston Texans will be on the clock around 8 p.m. this Thursday to kickoff the 2014 NFL Draft. This has been the most anticipated pick in recent memory even though South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is at the top of almost every list ranking this year's prospects.

The Eagles will be on the clock at No. 22 of the Thursday's first round and we are still seeing reports they could go with a cornerback even though many expects have the Birds taking the top wide receiver on the board with that pick. I am still leaning towards Oregon State's Brandin Cooks as their top pick if he is still available. Do not forget about USC's Marqise Lee, who is another Pac-12 wide receiver that has caught head coach Chip Kelly's eye.

I decided to spend my energy the past few days trying to handicap the opening round in terms of a few prop bets that on BetOnline's current betting board for this year's NFL Draft. The following is a link to an article I wrote with my picks for Doc's Sports.

Sports Betting Insights: Handicapping NFL Draft First-Round Prop Bet Odds

Saturday, May 3, 2014

2014 Eagles Draft Preview

We are just days away from the start of this year's NFL Draft and expectations continue to run high over which player the Eagles will select with the 22nd pick of Thursday night's first round. Last year, in Chip Kelly's first draft as Philadelphia's new head coach, the Birds followed the same path as many of their previous drafts by selecting offensive tackle Lane Johnson to fill a huge whole on the line.

Going back to the days of Andy Reid, trying to figure out which player the team was going to select first was a pretty easy task. All you had to do was find the biggest road grader on offense or run stuffer on defense that was still on the board and go from there. Reid made 12 first round picks during his tenure with the team and eight times he selected either an offensive or defensive lineman.

Heading into this year's draft the two biggest areas of need are at wide receiver and cornerback. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the Eagles drafted a wide receiver in the first round with the selection of Jeremy Maclin with the 19th overall pick. The last time they took a cornerback in the first round was in 2002 with Lito Sheppard coming off the board as the 26th overall pick.

When you take a look at the multitude of mock drafts that are out there, the general consensus is that Kelly will fill the hole left by the sudden departure of DeSean Jackson by taking a wide receiver. The short list of names on most boards include Brandin Cooks from Oregon State, Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU or Indiana's Cody Latimer. This draft is extremely deep at the receiver position so it would be easy to add three or four more names to that list.

A few of the boards still have the Eagles taking a cornerback first with names such as Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech or Ohio State's Bradley Roby at the top of that list. I have the Birds taking a defensive back with the 54th overall pick in the second round. Some of the names floating around for this selection include Utah CB Keith McGill or CB/S Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State.

After that it is anyone's guess what the Eagles will do with their remaining four picks over the next five rounds (they do not have a pick in the sixth round). Day 3 of the draft (Saturday) is actually when a team can do the most damage depending on how well its scouting department has done its homework. I would look for the Birds to add both an offensive and defensive lineman as well as another defensive back. When you get to this part of the draft it really does come down to taking the best available players still on the board.

Be sure to heck back in next Saturday as I will be recapping the Eagles first two picks as well as the NFL Draft in general.