Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fearless Eagles Draft Forecast

Back by popular demand (OK, one reader asked for it) it’s the Third Annual Not-so Fearless Forecast of what the Eagles may do in the draft. Here’s the hook: rather than try and predict what they might do over the next three days, I’ll give you the top ten things I think the Eagles won’t do.

Fearless Eagles Draft Forecast

How will coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman use the 23rd pick in the draft? (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff File Photo)
How will coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman use the 23rd pick in the draft? (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff File Photo)

Back by popular demand (OK, one reader asked for it) it’s the Third Annual Not-so Fearless Forecast of what the Eagles may do in the draft. Here’s the hook: rather than try and predict what they might do over the next three days, I’ll give you the top ten things I think the Eagles won’t do.

Last year, I hit the mark, more or less, on eight out of ten. (Best prediction: Eagles will take only one offensive player in first five picks. They actually didn’t grab one until their sixth pick. Worst: Eagles will trade down before they trade up. Oops.)

Based upon conversations with the Eagles and around the league, analysis of past drafts, reading the lines on Andy Reid’s forehead and whatever Mike Mayock says, here are my anti-predictions:

1. The Eagles will not pick at No. 23. It’s been fairly apparent for some time that the Eagles weren’t going to get value from the positions they’re looking to fill if they are standing pat at No. 23. They need a right cornerback first and foremost. But there are only three first-round worthy and all three are expected to be gone by then if teams are picking strictly on talent. LSU’s Patrick Peterson will be gone by No. 10, Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara won’t likely get by the Lions at No. 13 and Colorado’s Jimmy Smith may be as talented as the first two. Smith, though, has a drug-concerns cloud above his head and he could fall – far. I’ll get to Smith in Prediction No. 2. The point is there isn’t one cornerback that screams to be taken at No. 23 like there was last year (see: McCourty, Devin). So that leaves the offensive and defensive lines as the Eagles’ most pressing areas of need. The problem there is the offensive linemen expected to be available to Eagles at No. 23 – Colorado’s Nate Solder, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod – don’t exactly suit the Eagles immediate need and are probably a season away from contributing. There are number of quality defensive ends in the draft, but a run in the teens – much like last year when the Eagles moved up for Brandon Graham at No. 13 – will gobble up all the top pass rushers. If the Eagles sit still they really have a shot at only one of the top talents at the three spots of need (Smith). And Andy Reid and Howie Roseman aren’t likely to squat on their hands in the first round (see: the last four years).

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2. If the Eagles do pick at No. 23 and Jimmy Smith is on the board, the Eagles will not pass. I’m less certain of this than I was a few days ago after Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Colorado cornerback failed three drug tests in college and admitted to one NFL team that one was for taking codeine. It was originally reported that he failed one test and I assumed, like many, that it was for marijuana. But codeine addiction is likely to scare many teams away from Smith (see: Russell, JaMarcus). The Eagles, under normal circumstances, would appear to be one of those teams. They like valedictorians. But Smith brings a rare combination of size (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) speed (4.46 40-yard dash) to the position and could rectify the Eagles’ failure to aptly address right corner last off-season. The Eagles have had Smith in, and have been ambiguous when asked about the 22-year-old, which makes you wonder. Reid has taken on projects of late (Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson) and with his sons’ problems may be willing to give Smith a second chance. It’s an expensive gamble, but not as much when you consider how many players come to the Eagles organization and adapt to their ways.

3. Forget about Carimi. Mike Mayock, whose opinion I trust more than most draft experts, has the Eagles taking the Wisconsin tackle in his first mock. I can’t see it. He said Carimi could move inside to guard off the bat – “plug him and play him” – and eventually move to the outside. It makes sense at first glance. Prior history suggests the Eagles would be willing to go this route. In 2004, they drafted tackle Shawn Andrews first overall and turned him into a guard that would start as a rookie on opening day. But Carimi isn’t Andrews and the Eagles don’t have the same line coach anymore. Howard Mudd likes his offensive lineman to be athletic and nimble enough to execute some of his unorthodox ways of blocking. Even Mayock has said Carimi isn’t gifted athletically. And where would the Jon Runyan clone play if he was expected to start right away? Right guard maybe, but I have a hard time thinking he’d beat out Mike McGlynn. Right tackle, sure, but the Eagles still have confidence in Winston Justice. Maybe you draft him for depth, but the Eagles can find those projects later in the draft, as Roseman has been hinted at for the last few weeks.

4. The Eagles won’t move up for any position other than cornerback or defensive end. The Eagles have never moved up for a cornerback under Reid, but Peterson and Amukamara may be worth it. Peterson’s probably unreachable but Amukamara may be available anywhere from picks 10-12. Could another trade with Washington be in the works? The Redskins need a corner, but they also need a quarterback and could trade down and get one of their guys – Jake Locker, maybe? – at No. 23. Houston and Minnesota, at Nos. 11 and 12, are expected to fill holes on their defensive lines and could make a deal. The Lions aren’t likely to let Amukamara get by at No. 13. Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin has Amukamara slipping to Seattle at No. 25. Gosselin’s mock draft is one of the most anticipated because of his accuracy over the years, but I think he’s miscalculated here. As for moving up for an end, the Eagles could find a partner from anywhere from 11-20, but the Lions at 13, Dolphins at 15 and Giants at 19 could be the most willing to pass on the large number of available ends – the best, aside from Robert Quinn, being Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Missouri’s Aldon Smith, California’s Cameron Jordan, Clemson’s Da’quan Bowers, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.

5. Trading up won’t happen. Roseman needed to hear only four questions last Thursday in a roundtable with Eagles beat reporters before he tossed out the nugget that the Eagles’ No. 23 spot should be very attractive to quarterback-needy teams. He wasn’t even directly asked about that possibility. He just threw it out there. The Eagles are greedy when it comes to dispensing information. They may throw us a crumb here and there, so Roseman’s broadcast came as bit of a surprise. The cynic in me says it was some misdirection. But Roseman came out last year saying that the defensive end position was the strongest in the draft and that the Eagles would be willing to move up and, guess what, that’s exactly what they did. I’m sure the Eagles have indentified one or two players that they would be willing to trade up for. If they can’t get their guy, Roseman will pull out his rolodex and offer up No. 23 to the best bidder.

6. Kevin Kolb will not be traded today. Right now the Eagles have the 22d pick in the second round. If they’re trading down they would love to get either the second (Bills), third (Bengals), sixth (Cards) or seventh (Titans) pick from one of these quarterback-needy teams if they missed on a thrower in the first round. The Eagles coveted the No. 5 pick in the second round that they received in exchange for Donovan McNabb last year. It gave them a night to prepare for the second day and they promptly used it to select safety Nate Allen. The interesting part of the Eagles trading down with one of the aforementioned teams – or any others – is that it could hinder their attempts to trade Kevin Kolb after the draft. The labor mess could also play into how the Eagles wheel and deal tonight. No one expects teams to be able to trade players for picks by the time we hear Roger Goodell say, “And with the first pick,” but maybe they can by Friday. If that’s the case, perhaps the Eagles would be willing to trade Kolb for a second rounder and other picks. Sure, they had a few first round offers last month, but that was then. This is now and the Eagles need to get what they can for Kolb, who could walk away next season with the Eagles getting nothing in return. That being said, it still appears unlikely that the Eagles will be able to unload Kolb until next week at the earliest.

7. The Eagles won’t say the strength of the draft was early. I can picture it right now: the Eagles trade out of the first round tonight, drop back a few other times and when Saturday afternoon rolls around and Reid meets with the media to discuss the entire class, he’ll say something like, “The greater value in this draft was at the back end and that’s where we stacked most of our picks.” There would be some validity to this assessment. Others have made it. And it’s not as if the Eagles haven’t fared well when they traded out of the first round (see: Jackson, DeSean) or accumulated seventh rounders (see: Chaney, Jamar and Coleman, Kurt). But I’m fairly sure this strategy won’t excite the fan base.

8. The Eagles won’t draft a linebacker before third round. You can find a more detailed analysis of the Eagles’ history of drafting linebackers under Reid here, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the Eagles will grab a few in those ever-important late rounds. My problem with the draft, or more specifically the build up to the draft, is the focus on the first round through mock drafts (and, yes, mine will be posted later today). So much energy is expended on how teams will draft in the first round when it’s only 1/7 of the process and, in the Eagles’ case, a small part of their overall class. The Eagles have ten picks. They’re going to draft ten players (or so we think) and all this attention will be paid to how they select in the first round. That’s why all the pre-draft hoopla is a bunch of hot air. Even the so-called experts may get 70 percent of the first round correct, but they don’t have a clue how the rest of the draft will unfold, and isn’t that just as important? And no one has any idea how those rounds will unfold. I’m off my soapbox.

9. Quarterback and wide receiver will not be addressed. The Eagles, obviously, have the most depth at these two positions. You could make the argument that they’ll need another young quarterback when (if?) they trade Kolb. But they already expended a fourth rounder on Mike Kafka last year and it would be hard for them to keep two young quarterbacks on the roster even if they parted with Kolb. More than likely, they would add a veteran to backup Michael Vick. The case could be made that they need another alternative should Kafka not be what the Eagles think. Vick will be 31 next season and the beatings will continue. So I’m going out on a slight limb here. I’m less confident the Eagles will not take a wide receiver. Yes, they have three very good ones and a promising youngster in Riley Cooper, but you can never have enough receivers and if the best guy there is a receiver you take him, right? The Eagles really didn’t need Brandon Gibson and didn’t have a place on their roster in 2009, but they were able to deal him mid-season for Will Witherspoon when they were really in need of a linebacker. That’s how teams think when they say they take the best players over needs.

10. The Eagles will not draft a kicker. OK, I ran out of steam.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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