After what felt like an eternity of waiting, it’s FINALLY draft day in the NFL. Seeing as pretty much the entire world has been starved of any sort of sports for the last few weeks, this year’s draft will likely go down as one of the most watched in league history.
While the Eagles will be the ones doing the drafting this weekend, another Philadelphia team that has had its fair share of draft memories is, of course, the 76ers. With so much of the current Sixers team being made up of former lottery picks, I thought it’d be fun to compare some of those players to the college football prospects who are soon to be drafted.
Taking a look at some of the most talked about names over the past few weeks, here are how they compare to their 76er counterpart. Starting first with one of the most controversial players in this year’s draft: Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB – Joel Embiid
If Embiid didn’t have some injury concerns leading into the 2014 draft, he would have easily been the #1 overall pick. If Tua didn’t have injury concerns this year, he likely would be the #1 pick as well.
Embiid and Tua are both stupid talented individuals who have seen their value as a player drop slightly due to health concerns. Embiid is regularly slighted by fans to the likes of Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns, while Tua has already been written off as a “bust” by some leading up to this year’s NFL draft.
Ultimately, even with all the injuries, the 76ers were pretty darn happy they landed Embiid back in 2014. Even just 75% of a season’s worth of Embiid turned out to be better than the players picked above him. The same track may hold true for Tua when it’s all said and done.
Isaiah Simmons, LB/SS/CB – Ben Simmons
Outside of them sharing the same last name, Isaiah Simmons and Ben Simmons have almost identical player evaluations. Freak athletes, can play multiple positions, game-breakingly good defenders. When the 76ers selected Ben Simmons in 2017, it completely changed their franchise. It gave the team a cornerstone piece to build around, while having the flexibility to fill multiple holes all at once. Ben gave the Sixers scoring, rebounding, passing, ball-handling, post defense, and on-ball defense, all in one draft pick.
Whichever team lands Isaiah Simmons will experience that same transformation. When asked what position he plays, the former Clemson star simply said, “defense”.
Justin Jefferson, WR – Tobias Harris
They’re not flashy, they’re not the best at their position, but they simply fill a very serious need.
When the Sixers traded for Tobias Harris in 2019, they killed two birds with one stone. They added perimeter shooting while also adding a legit third option to the offense. Fans complained when the organization shelled out $180 million to keep Harris this past offseason, but it ultimately was the smart play. Averaging 19.4ppg, he’s been the perfect third scorer.
Justin Jefferson out of LSU is no different. While fans might prefer the shiny names of CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs, Jefferson ultimately gives the Eagles exactly what they need. A young, versatile pass-catcher who can assist Carson Wentz for years to come.
Tee Higgins, WR – Al Horford
You know what the Sixers really didn’t need this past offseason? Another center who clogs up the lane. You know what the Eagles really don’t need in this year’s draft? Another slow, “possession” based receiver.
Horford isn’t a bad player, and neither is Higgins. Both have impressive resumes and would no doubt excel on other teams. However, when it comes to the Sixers and the Eagles, these types of players just simply don’t fit what the team has in place.
Embiid needed a shooter next to him, and Wentz needs someone who can stretch the field. Let’s hope Howie Roseman and the Eagles have learned from the 76ers mistake.
Jalen Reagor/KJ Hamler, WR – JJ Redick/Kyle Korver
How many times have you sat down and thought to yourself, “Man, imagine how good the Sixers would be with a legit three-point shooter?”
Now how many times have you thought the same thing about the Eagles and a true deep threat at WR?
Slotting in Reagor and/or Hamler next to Carson Wentz in 2020 would be a dream come true. The big play potential would always be there and teams would have to constantly respect their speed. The same was true with the Sixers back when they had either Korver or Redick raining down threes.
Also “KJ” and “JJ”? Come on, these things write themselves sometimes.
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE – Matisse Thybulle
When Elton Brand and the 76ers pulled the trigger on Matisse Thybulle during the 2019 NBA draft, fans were left feeling a little bit of disappointment. Everyone wanted an elite playmaking sharpshooter, and instead ended up seeing the team fill a very underrated hole on the defensive side of things.
Former Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos is pretty much an identical scenario. It’s no secret the Eagles need help in the pass rushing department, and Gross-Matos fills that need. While Eagles fans may collectively groan at first, Gross-Matos’ energy on the D-line should eventually change their minds.
Throw in the fact that he’s a local kid, and it’ll be hard not to like him.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR – Shake Milton
A seemingly forgotten player on the Sixers roster, Shake Milton was the perfect man for the job when it came to giving the team some life later on in the season. Whether it was shooting, driving, or passing, Shake could seemingly make something out of nothing no matter the situation.
Aiyuk is no different. The proclaimed “YAC king” coming out of college, Aiyuk is a master of getting extra yards after the catch. While not as good as guys like Lamb and Jeudy, his explosiveness and big play potential could match up perfectly alongside Carson Wentz. The same way Shake pairs up next to Embiid/Simmons.
Laviska Shenault, WR – Josh Richardson
Morale was at an all-time high when the Sixers managed to flip a disgruntled Jimmy Butler into Josh Richardson this past offseason. Showing tons of production in Miami, Richardson seemed like the perfect complimentary piece to slot into the Sixers starting five. Unfortunately, injuries put a stop to all that. Plagued by constant hamstring problems, J-Rich was never able to truly contribute to the Sixers the way fans envisioned.
Shenault’s long history of being injury prone paints a similar picture. While he’s no doubt a good player when healthy, his inability to stay on the field throughout a season could hurt the Eagles more than help them.
Mandatory Credit – Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
David is a 20 year old college student at the University of Maryland. A lifelong Philadelphia sports fan who started covering the teams back in late May of 2019. After just a few months of writing for fun on a personal blog, he now reports on the 76ers for PhillySportsNetwork.com and the Phillies for Fansided.com.