NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talks at length via conference call to reporters just before the NFL Scouting Combine every year. Today's two-hour and thirty-seven-minute message, with the league about to convene in Indianapolis on Thursday, was that this is the deepest group of draft prospects Mayock can recall in the last 10 years. He sees quality talent available into the third and fourth rounds at both wide receiver and offensive tackle, at least.
The draft doesn't arrive until May this year, but the combine definitely signals the start of serious draft season among fans and writers. Much of the public focus with the Eagles is going to be on upgrading the defensive talent, though knowing Chip Kelly, it would not be a shock if the team dipped into that deep WR pool pretty early. By May we'll know if pending free agents Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are coming back, and of course, that could affect the draft.
Mayock said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis "did a phenomenal job last year," as the Birds "went from very much a below-average defense to a playoff defense by the end of the season, without a lot of talent."
Like many observers, Mayock sees a need for an edge rusher added to the Birds' mix. But other than touting Auburn's smallish Dee Ford as a possibility (something that would work against Kelly's emphasis on length), he didn't have a lot of good pass rush names he thought would still be around at 22nd overall, when the Eagles are scheduled to make their first selection. Ford had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl, something that has carried weight with the Birds in the past.