Sunday, August 2, 2015

4/22: Eagles draft buzz

Every day, from now until the draft, I'll round up the latest Eagles buzz on MTC. Here is today's installment.

4/22: Eagles draft buzz

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Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus could be an Eagles first-round target. (AP Photo / Dave Martin)
Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus could be an Eagles first-round target. (AP Photo / Dave Martin)

Every day, from now until the draft, I'll round up the latest Eagles buzz on MTC. Here is today's installment.

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Today's first-round prospect to consider: Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus.

Mercilus (6-3, 261) led the nation last year in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (nine). He was second in tackles for loss (22.5).

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If the Eagles want to add another pass-rusher in the first round, Mercilus could fit the bill. I watched a couple of his 2011 games yesterday and was very impressed with his ability to get after the quarterback. Mercilus is a disruptive, play-making defensive end.

The concerns are that he only had one great year of college production (Mercilus enters the draft after his junior season) and that he may be a situational pass rusher at the start of his career. In the games I watched, Mercilus held up well against the run, but NFL Network's Mike Mayock thinks he could struggle in that aspect. Mayock calls Mercilus one of the "most gifted natural pass rushers" in the draft.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films noted that Mercilus could benefit from lining up out wide, something he did not do at Illinois. It's worth noting that another team that runs the wide-nine, the Detroit Lions, has shown some level of interest in Mercilus. They've got the 23rd pick in the first round.

Dan Pompei of the National Football Post wrote today that teams are using a stat that combines sacks, knockdowns and hurries to evaluate college prospects. Mercilus ranks first with 16 sacks, 19.5 knockdowns and eight hurries last year. Pompei notes that he was productive as an interior pass rusher too.

As we've discussed in the past, defensive end is not a "need" area for the Eagles, but Mercilus sure seems like a player who could come in and compete with Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp and Philip Hunt for playing time, eventually moving into a full-time role.

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Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times has the Eagles selecting another defensive end, North Carolina's Quinton Coples:

Coples is a physical specimen who doesn't play hard all the time. He's what scouts call a boom/bust prospect. With the best defensive tackles off the board, Philadelphia could look edge rusher.

The thought process behind selecting Coples would be that Jim Washburn can turn him into an elite defensive lineman, but he seems to have quite a few question marks, and I'd be slightly surprised if the Eagles picked him at No. 15.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press also has the Birds taking Coples:

Coples once was considered a top-five pick, but questions about his effort drop him to Philadelphia, where Jim Washburn will get the most of his considerable talents.

The crew at Drafttek.com thinks Mercilus could be the Eagles' pick at No. 15:

The Eagles are one of a handful of teams that don't have a major, glaring need. They resigned their core players and added some necessities via trade and free agency. In the draft they can look for depth and towards the future. Should they stay put at 15 (they could trade back for more picks, or up for someone like DT Cox), Philly can go in a few directions, one of which is DE. Babin and Cole are around but neither are young and Graham's been injured. Tapp's a FA after 2012.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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