Every day, from now until the draft, I'll round up the latest Eagles buzz on MTC. Here is today's installment.
Before I get started, just wanted to say thanks to the MTC readers for your support. We recently got a nice little nod from the Associated Press (Pa.) Managing Editors.
In the past few weeks, we've discussed several first-round possibilities for the Eagles. The Birds have filled a couple glaring holes this offseason and are publicly swearing to the "best player available" mantra.
Keeping that in mind, I've sorted Mike Mayock's 32 first-round prospects into four different categories, based on how I see each guy fitting into the Eagles' plans tonight.
Here's the breakdown:
DON'T COUNT ON IT...
Given the Eagles' unpredictable nature, they'll probably wind up with someone from this category. But ending up with any of these prospects would surprise me.
Andrew Luck, QB Stanford - Thanks for the insight, Sheil. They're not going to draft Luck? No #&*^! I know, I know. But remember, we're going over ALL 32 options here...
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - Get ready to face him twice a year. Remember those rumors about the Eagles potentially being a sleeper team to trade up to the No. 2 spot and draft Griffin? They made a lot of sense to me. He seems to have all the traits Andy Reid and company would want in their franchise quarterback (big arm, mobile, excellent intangibles). But clearly, the Redskins were desperate and (in my opinion, smartly) made the Rams the best offer.
Matt Kalil, OT, USC - He'll be the first tackle off the board and likely a top-five pick. The Eagles have Todd Herremans on the right side and either Jason Peters (in 2013) or Demetress Bell (in 2012) on the left side. Kalil doesn't make sense as a trade-up target.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - In a fantasy world, I'd really like to see what a backfield of Richardson and LeSean McCoy would look like. While I think the Eagles could take a running back on Day 2, Richardson will likely get taken in the top six. Like Kalil, not a trade-up target.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State - I could see the Eagles drafting a wide receiver in the first round (see the Michael Floyd writeup below), but it seems highly unlikely Blackmon falls out of the top-10, and he probably will be off the board in the top six. The Birds would have interest if he dropped, but I don't see them trading up for him.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise St. - He's no lock to go in the first round, but even if he does, McClellin (6-3, 260) is pegged more as a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 defensive end.
Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama - If the Eagles are going to spend a first-round pick on a linebacker, he's got to be a special player who will definitely stay on the field for three downs. It doesn't sound like Hightower fits that description.
Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame - Projecting safety for the Eagles is difficult because we don't really know if they have confidence in second-year player Jaiquawn Jarrett. But if they do go safety early, they have to be getting someone with significantly higher upside than Jarrett and Nate Allen. Smith doesn't seem to be that guy, and he's no lock to even go in the first round.
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State - McCoy played more snaps than any other running back in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles need to find an effective, versatile complementary back, but they're not going to use a first-round pick doing so.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford - He may not even go in the first round, and he almost certainly won't go in the top 20. Not a target for the Birds.
These are some of the toughest prospects to project - both from an Eagles' perspective and a league-wide standpoint.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - The swings of draft season demonstrate why the NFL is king. In late February, he measured in at 6-4, 346, ran a 4.98 40 and benched 225 pounds 44 times. Draftniks were in love. Then they watched the tape, and well, they fell out of love. But Poe's value rests somewhere in between the two extremes. In the games I watched, he showed flashes and appeared to be playing hard. He just seemed like a guy who didn't really know what he was doing most of the time, and thus, was rarely around the football. We're often too quick to label these prospects. Remember, Poe is only 21. I don't think the Eagles are going to take him, but if Jim Washburn sees an athletic monster who he can mold into a Pro Bowl defensive tackle, he could be an option at No. 15.
Quinton Coples, DL, North Carolina - Be sure not to put him in the same category as Poe. Coples was a productive college player with 17.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons. But in the games I watched from 2011, he didn't really do anything to stand out and seemed timid at times. Whatever the opposite of "good motor" is, that was Coples. Maybe Washburn will see a 6-6, 284 specimen who can rush the quarterback both from defensive end and defensive tackle and feel differently. I doubt it though.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - By most accounts, he did a poor job with the pre-draft process, including running a disappointing 4.61 at the combine. But Wright's production at Baylor is probably enough to make him a first-round pick. I could see the Eagles being intrigued by his versatility. The Giants' Victor Cruz averaged nearly 19 yards per catch from the slot last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps Reid would like to have more of a playmaker in that role for the Eagles. Wright could also play outside and provide depth behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford - In any other year, I'd probably label him as a legitimate target for the Eagles. An athletic guard who many believe is among the few sure bets in the first round. Yes, the Eagles keep taking about taking the best player available, but having drafted Danny Watkins last year and re-signed Evan Mathis this offseason, selecting a guard in the first round just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia - Having said that, the Eagles could use some depth on the offensive line. My guess is they will wait until the middle rounds, but Glenn has added value because he projects to be able to play either guard or tackle. Again, I don't think he'll be the pick, but wasn't confident enough to put him in that top group.
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - I'll admit that I originally had him in the DON'T COUNT ON IT... category, but Domo made a strong case for Reiff in his column today. I'm not sure how he'd fit into the long-term plans, but if the Eagles have a high grade on Reiff, he could compete for a starting job right away or at least add depth as a rookie.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech - Size? Check. Speed? Check. Production? Eh. Hill (6-4, 215) ran a 4.36 40 and averaged over 29 yards per catch in college. The problem was he played in Georgia Tech's offense and only caught 28 balls as a senior. An intriguing prospect who would give the Eagles size at wide receiver they don't currently have, but don't see it happening at No. 15.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama - A 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end? I'm not sure, but Mayock has the Lions taking him as the latter with the 23rd pick. Remember, Detroit also lines up in the wide-nine, so I'm not ready to rule Upshaw out as an under-the-radar option for the Eagles. Having said that, there will likely be higher-rated pass rushers available when they pick at 15.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford - I mentioned in my draft predictions post that the Eagles could surprise and take a playmaker at running back or wide receiver in the first three rounds. Fleener is a tight end, but he should probably be included too. He averaged 19.6 yards per catch last season to go along with 10 touchdowns. The Eagles could pair Fleener witih Brent Celek and upgrade from Clay Harbor, but he's only an option if they trade back.
Nick Perry, DE, USC - Another potential option only if the Eagles trade back. He would be a 6-3, 271-pound edge rusher, who Reid would undoubtedly label a "fastball" on the defensive line. Unlikely pick, but not ready to rule him out completely.
IF THEY FALL...
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - I talked to Kuechly this week (Draft Diary post coming later today), and he said teams are looking at him as both an inside and outside linebacker. As I mentioned above, if the Eagles spend a first-round pick on a linebacker, he's got to be able to stay on the field all three downs. Kuechly can do that, and he also provides insurance for DeMeco Ryans in the middle. I don't think the Eagles would trade up for him, but if Kuechly falls to 15, they'd have to consider him.
Mark Barron, S, Alabama - By most accounts, Barron is the top safety on the board and could be special. If he gets all the way to 15, there's a chance he could be the best available player on the Eagles' board. Jaiquawn Jarrett (and Nate Allen to a lesser degree) are question marks, and safeties are now expected to be more versatile. It wouldn't be a bad idea to add some talent and increase depth at what has been a problem area for the Eagles. Plus, writers would all have easy times with their leads. Three days after Brian Dawkins announced his retirement, the Eagles spent a first-round pick on a player they hope is their next great safety...
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - He would bring size and toughness to the Eagles' wide receiving corps. Getting him on the field right away would likely mean playing Jeremy Maclin in the slot more. Floyd (6-3, 220) had 37 touchdowns in four years at Notre Dame and could immediately replace DeSean Jackson in the red zone. I think he's a real possibility if he lasts to 15.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina - Seemingly every analyst in the country raves about Ingram's tape. He lined up all over the place at South Carolina, piling up 19 sacks and 26 tackles for loss the last two seasons. The problem? He's 6-1, 264 and doesn't have long arms. I originally was going to include him in the first category, but then I heard NFL Films' Greg Cosell say he thinks Ingram would create "chaos" as a wide-nine pass rusher, and my ears perked up. He probably won't last to 15, but if he does, the Eagles would have to at least consider Ingram.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - I've maintained all along that the Eagles should only draft a quarterback if they think he can be a franchise-type guy. In many eyes, Tannehill is in that category, even though he's only started 19 games. He has the physical attributes they seem to value and wouldn't be rushed onto the field here. If he somehow drops to 15, Tannehill could be the pick.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - He's an example of why this is the If They Fall... category. Claiborne will likely be a top-six pick, but on the off-chance that he slips a little, the Eagles could consider moving up for him. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie entering the final year of his deal and Nnamdi Asomugha turning 31, the Birds need to consider their future at cornerback. Claiborne (5-11, 188) is widely considered the top defensive back in the draft and averaged nearly 26 yards per return last season on kickoffs. A longshot, but a possibility.
These, in my opinion, are the players most likely to be taken by the Eagles.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State - I know it seems unlikely that the player the Eagles have been most often linked to is actually the one they end up with. But having watched Cox, he just has the look of a guy who could thrive under Washburn. An athletic, talented defensive tackle, Cox doesn't have many holes in his game. He should be able to get in the backfield and disrupt running plays while also rushing the passer from multiple spots. Some think he'll go as high as No. 6 to the Rams, but if the Eagles were to trade up for one player in the first round, my guess is it'd be Cox.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina - I originally had him in the IF THEY FALL... category, but Mayock thinks Gilmore could slip all the way to the Eagles at No. 15. If that's the case, he would make a lot of sense. The way the roster currently stands, if Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie were to go down, the Eagles would be depending on Brandon Hughes or Curtis Marsh to fill in. Maybe those guys will develop this offseason, but Gilmore could come in right away, compete with Joselio Hanson as the nickel corner and provide depth on the outside. He has some experience as a return man and could be an option to contribute on special teams right away.
Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse - You're probably sick of me writing about him at this point. And I know the concern: Only 10.5 sacks in three seasons? All I can tell you is I liked Jones more and more as I watched his games from last season. Remember, he was injured to start the season, but played the final seven games, totaling 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and an interception. He provides size (6-5, 266) and length (longer arms than Jason Pierre-Paul) that the Eagles don't currently have on the defensive line. In the games I watched, he was a high energy player who was constantly around the quarterback and making plays. Again, it's important to remember that we are projecting how these players will perform in the NFL, not only going on college production. If the names above are taken in the top 14, I think there's a strong possibility Jones is the pick at 15. He can rush from both the inside and outside and eventually replace Jason Babin, who turns 32 next month.
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU - I don't think Brockers is nearly as good a fit as Cox. They have pretty good run defenders at defensive tackle in Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri. Of that group, Dixon and Landri don't offer much as pass rushers. And Brockers might be the same way - at least to start his career. But to repeat what I said above, it's dangerous to put a permanent label on these prospects before they have time to develop and get NFL coaching. So maybe the Eagles have him rated high and think he will eventually be a productive pass rusher.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama - See the Claiborne and Gilmore writeups above for reasons why drafting a cornerback makes sense. Kirkpatrick doesn't seem like as good an athlete as Gilmore, but he has size (6-2) and is an outstanding tackler. He probably would not be the guy to mirror slot receivers, but he could be an option for covering opposing tight ends so the Eagles can leave Asomugha outside. Kirkpatrick would provide depth at corner and upgrade talent with an eye towards the future.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois - I'm probably on an island here, but I really like Mercilus (6-4, 261). In the games I watched, he was always around the ball and showed the ability to consistently get to the quarterback, leading the nation in sacks and forced fumbles a year ago. Maybe 15 is a stretch for him, but Mercilus seems like the kind of player the Eagles would be high on.
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