Monday, December 22, 2014

Eagles draft outlook: RB, WR and TE

Do the Eagles need to take a wide receiver in this week's draft? What about a running back or tight end? Our Eagles draft outlook series continues with a breakdown of those three positions.

Eagles draft outlook: RB, WR and TE

The Eagles signed Hank Baskett in the offseason, but they have room for another wide receiver or two on the roster. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The Eagles signed Hank Baskett in the offseason, but they have room for another wide receiver or two on the roster. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

With the draft rapidly approaching, it's time to knock some of these out. Here is a three-in-one edition of our Eagles draft outlook series.

Last week, we covered: offensive tackle, guard/center and quarterback.

And now the rest of the offense:

RUNNING BACK

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The situation: Brian Westbrook is gone, and LeSean McCoy is the man. The second-year back had 637 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also caught 40 balls for 308 yards. McCoy had his ups and downs as a blocker, but overall, he seemed willing to work on that aspect of his game, and I don't expect it to be a reason to keep him off the field in 2010.

The Eagles added to their backfield by signing restricted free agent Mike Bell. Bell had 654 yards with the Saints last season, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. The good news is wear and tear is not an issue with Bell. He's had just 348 carries in four NFL seasons and turns 27 next week. Bell's skills as a receiver and as a blocker are unknown, but he seems like a good option to take some of the load off McCoy.

Depth: The Birds gave fullback Leonard Weaver big-time money in the offseason, so don't forget that he's an option to carry the ball too. Weaver had a career-high 70 carries in 2009, totaling 323 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Eagles also bring back Eldra Buckley, who earned a roster spot in training camp and played primarily on special teams, although he did see some action in short-yardage situations.

The team also added Martell Mallett from the CFL earlier in the offseason, and fullback Dwayne Wright.

Draft outlook: As I've mentioned before, the Eagles had four running backs carry the football last season: Westbrook, McCoy, Weaver and Buckley. On their current roster, the Eagles have three guys who are pretty much guaranteed to be active on game days: McCoy, Bell and Weaver. Not a lot of extra room to work with here. Could they draft a running back? Sure. But if it's someone who they expect to contribute right away, the player would have to beat out Buckley, meaning he'd have likely have to prove some value on special teams (unless, of course, the Eagle feel they could fill that void with a player at a different position).

Or the Birds could take a shot at an RB in the later rounds, practice-squad him and hope he can contribute in 2011. Remember, Bell received a one-year deal and will be a free agent after this season.

The bottom line is, given all their needs, I'd be surprised to see the Eagles go after a running back early.

Scouting reports: Running back prospects.

WIDE RECEIVER

The situation: This position is as stable as it's been in years. They have the two young, speedy playmakers on the outside in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. They re-signed their slot guy Jason Avant in the offseason. And they've got Hank Baskett returning.

Jackson broke out with 62 catches for 1,156 yards and nine touchdowns last season, averaging over 18 yards per carry.

Maclin had an impressive rookie campaign, catching 56 balls for 773 yards and four scores (after missing a good deal of training camp).

And Avant proved to be a steady option, displaying the toughness and smarts that make him a great complement to Jackson and Maclin. He had 41 catches for 587 yards and three TDs.

Depth: As mentioned above, the Eagles brought Baskett back after a short (but memorable) stint with the Indianapolis Colts. As I've mentioned before, we shouldn't focus too much on the Eagles' fourth wide receiver. He won't be on the field a lot unless one of the first three guys gets injured. During the Eagles' final two games of the season, they went with four wide receivers just six times - total. In other words, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy are productive in the passing game and will stay on the field.

The Birds have three other receivers on the current roster: Dobson Collins, Chad Hall and Jordan Norwood.

Collins spent last season on the Eagles' practice squad. Hall was an offseason acquisition, who spent the last two seasons as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

And Norwood, a Penn State product, spent most of last season on the practice squad, although he did dress against the Falcons.

Draft outlook: After a stretch of several misses during the Andy Reid era, the Eagles appear to have hit big with their wide receiver selections in the last two years. Is there room for another guy? The Birds are most likely to have six receivers on the roster after they make cuts, although last year, that number was seven. Again, special teams is a factor here. Assuming players stay healthy, they have four of those spots filled, meaning there's room for at least two players to make an impression at Lehigh. That guy could be Collins, Hall or Norwood.

Or it could be a guy they draft. Last year, the Eagles picked up Brandon Gibson in the sixth round. They dealt him to the Rams in the Will Witherspoon trade, and Gibson went on to have a productive 34-catch, 348-yard rookie campaign. Finding a similar-type player would be ideal. Someone who could possibly beat out Baskett and become the fourth guy, or someone who could contribute on special teams and be the No. 5 or No. 6 guy.

On my list of Eagles draft visits and workouts, it's interesting to note that many of the wide receivers the Eagles are looking at are big guys in the Baskett mold.

The bottom line is that the Eagles are likely to draft at least one wide receiver, but again, don't expect them to make a move in the early rounds. It just doesn't make sense given the talent already on the roster with Jackson and Maclin.

Scouting reports: Wide receiver prospects.

TIGHT END

The situation: Remember this time last year? Many were screaming for the Eagles to use their first-round pick on Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The Eagles passed and put their faith in Brent Celek, who had 76 catches for 971 yards, while becoming a fan favorite.

Depth: The Eagles relied on Alex Smith as their second tight end for much of last season, but he's gone. They have two other guys on their roster: Cornelius Ingram and Martin Rucker. Ingram was a fifth-round pick out of Florida last season, who has suffered season-ending ACL injuries in each of the last two summers. If healthy, he seems like he'd be a reasonable option, but that's a giant IF.

Rucker was added early last season, but did not get on the field.

Draft outlook: Smith generally played about 10 snaps a game so there is a void there that needs to be filled. Ingram and Rucker are options. Or the Eagles could draft a TE to come in and compete for the position. If there's a guy available in the later rounds, who the Eagles feel is a good value, they could draft a tight end. But really, everything depends on their assessment of Ingram and Rucker.

Scouting reports: Tight end prospects.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
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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