In no particular order, here are three thoughts that pertain to the Eagles and this month's NFL draft.
1. SCOUTING THE QBs
Over the weekend, I linked to a report that said the Eagles have worked out Arizona quarterback Nick Foles.
In one way or another, the Birds have been connected to Foles, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, San Diego State's Ryan Lindley and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. The reports of private workouts and draft visits have led many to believe Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and company are serious about finding Michael Vick's successor in this month's draft.
But taking a closer look, this year isn't really much different than last year, in terms of doing due diligence on quarterback prospects. At this time last year, the Eagles had been linked to Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Greg McElroy, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates. They ended up not selecting a quarterback at all.
Looking at the Eagles' current roster, picking a QB only makes sense if the personnel people believe the prospect has a high ceiling. In other words, do second-tier prospects like Cousins or Wilson have a significantly higher upside than Mike Kafka when you look two or three years down the road? That's the question the Eagles have to ask themselves. But my guess is the answer is probably no.
On the flip side, I tend to believe the murmurs that the Eagles at least considered making a move for Griffin. And if they view Tannehill to be a franchise quarterback, it's not out of the question that they'd try to trade up for him, although that seems unlikely. If they're going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback, the prospect has to be one of the few with a high ceiling. Drafting a second-tier prospect really doesn't get them anywhere.
NOTE: As Sam Lynch of IgglesBlitz.com pointed out on Twitter, Kafka is a free agent after 2013, so the Eagles could look to draft his replacement. Of course, if they go that route (and keep both QBs on the roster behind Michael Vick), it would indicate Kafka is the backup this season.
2. PLAYMAKERS ON OFFENSE?
While the Eagles' defense clearly could use a few more pieces, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Birds use a first- or second-round pick on another playmaker on offense.
They have some wiggle room at wide receiver. We know DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the starters, and while I appreciate everything Jason Avant brings as a slot receiver, the Eagles could upgrade there if the opportunity presents itself. According to Pro Football Focus, 19 of Maclin's 94 targets (20.2 percent) last season came when he was lined up in the slot. Not a huge percentage, but if the Eagles see a talented wide receiver who's better suited for the outside, maybe Maclin sees increased time inside.
The Birds have reportedly held a private workout with Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, who's expected to be a first-round pick.
And then there's running back. LeSean McCoy played 894 snaps last season, the most of any running back in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. At the owners' meetings, Reid told reporters he might want to lighten McCoy's load a bit going forward. The problem last year was that Ronnie Brown simply wasn't very good, and Dion Lewis was a rookie who the coaches obviously didn't trust to play significant snaps.
But don't forget that reports indicated the Eagles had serious interest in Darren Sproles before he signed with the Saints. If they can find a versatile running back in the early rounds, perhaps they'd go that route.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently said on Twitter that Oregon's LaMichael James is a less physical version of Sproles. James had a combined 2,015 rushing and receiving yards last year, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. He is expected to be a second- or third-round pick.
The Eagles have also reportedly worked out Florida's Chris Rainey, who's expected to be a mid-to-late round pick.
By the way, don't rule out tight end, either. Brent Celek had a very good season, and while Clay Harbor has improved, the Eagles could look to bring someone in to compete with him, especially if they want to go to more two tight-end sets.
3. WHAT ABOUT CORNERBACK?
I've noted before in this space that cornerback could also make sense for this team. Asante Samuel is expected to be traded, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is entering the final year of his contract, and Nnamdi Asomugha will be 31 when the season starts.
But one name I haven't mentioned much is Joselio Hanson.
According to Football Outsiders' charting numbers, Hanson's production dropped off in 2011. Below is a chart comparing his 2010 to 2011. A reminder that success rate is defined as the percentage of passes that don't manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down.
|Targets||Success Rate||Yds./Pass||Avg. YAC allowed|
As you can see, his numbers got worse across the board. The targets are a little misleading too. He was on the field more in 2010. Last season, Hanson was targeted about 13.8 percent of the time he was in coverage. In 2010, that number was 10.7 percent.
The point here is not to rip Hanson. He's a decent player and the Eagles' best tackling cornerback. But remember, the team initially cut him before the season.
If they decide to upgrade Hanson's spot, a couple names to keep in mind: Alabama's DeQuan Menzie and Georgia's Brandon Boykin. Cosell has them pegged as two of the top slot corners in the draft. Both are expected to be mid-round picks.
While there is a perception that the Eagles completely changed how they used Asomugha and allowed him to stay on the right side as a press corner at the end of the season, that's not really true. Juan Castillo continued to use him in a variety of ways, including inside against tight ends. If that continues in 2012, and Samuel's gone, the Eagles need to make sure they have another talented corner they can trust at times on the outside.
In the first round, a couple corners expected to go in the second half of the first round are Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick and South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore.