Will Wells, Pettigrew be there for Eagles?

Time for another round of questioning with Scott Wright from draftcountdown.com. Here are this week's questions and answers:

Q: You just posted a new mock draft this week. And if it plays out the way you projected, Eagles fans will be very happy. Give us a scouting report on tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who you have the Eagles taking at No. 21. How much did his combine performance hurt him?

A: Pettigrew is without question the top tight end in this draft and a sure-fire first-round pick.  However, his game is actually quite a bit different from the tight ends that we traditionally have seen go in round one in recent years.  Pettigrew isn’t a dynamic receiving threat who will stretch the field vertically like Kellen Winslow or Vernon Davis, but he is a great all-around player.  Pettigrew can definitely be a pass-catching weapon in the short-to-intermediate range, but what sets him apart is his blocking prowess.  At 6-5 3/8 and 263 pounds, he can be an extension of the offensive line.

As far as the combine goes, Pettigrew’s performance in Indy really didn’t help or hurt him.  He only ran a 4.85, but that was what most expected.  He could still go as high as No. 11 overall to Buffalo, but worst-case he should be a solid value for someone in the early twenties.

Q: I was pretty surprised to see you project that Beanie Wells would be available at No. 28. Do you really see him slipping that far, and how unusual would it be for the first running back to be taken so late?

A: Well, running backs do tend to slip a bit on draft day, and this appears to be setting up as a perfect storm for that to happen.  Not only does this class lack an elite Adrian Peterson / Darren McFadden-type of talent, but there just aren’t many teams with a pressing need at the position.  The 2008 draft featured one of the best crops of running backs we have ever seen, and the fact of the matter is a lot of teams addressed the position last year.

It certainly wouldn’t be unheard of for the top running backs to slip toward the end of round one.  In fact, it has already happened a few times this decade:  2002 with William Green (No. 16 overall) and T.J. Duckett (No. 18 overall),  2003 with Willis McGahee (No. 23 overall ) and Larry Johnson (No. 27 overall), and 2004 with Steven Jackson (No. 24 overall), Chris Perry (No. 26 overall) and Kevin Jones (No. 30 overall).

At this point it looks like unless some team takes a running back even though it’s not a glaring need (i.e. the Steelers with Rashard Mendenhall last year), the top running backs could very easily slip into the final 10-12 picks of round one.

Q: And finally, in the second round, you have the Eagles taking South Carolina offensive tackle Jamon Meredith. Tell us a little about him.

A: Well, I’m not 100 percent sure that Jamon Meredith is a perfect fit for the Eagles, but they are desperate for help at the position, and he is easily the top left tackle prospect on the board.

Meredith is a great athlete, and physically he has everything you look for in a left tackle, but it’s the intangibles that could hold him back.  He is basically a finesse blocker whose toughness and work ethic have been questioned.  In fact, he was even benched at one point as a senior.  However, the possible rewards begin to outweigh the risks in the middle of round two, and he has the potential to be an excellent blindside protector in the NFL.  As an added bonus Meredith also has extensive experience at guard and could easily project inside at the next level as well.

Q: Who do you project as the best pass-rusher in this draft?

A: Brian Orakpo from Texas.  In many ways he is very similar to Vernon Gholston, who was the No. 6 overall pick a year ago.  And I don’t mean that in a negative way, even though Gholston had a disappointing rookie year.  They are basically the same size and put up similar workout numbers at the combine.  Orakpo played defensive end in college, but his best fit at the next level will likely be as a 3-4 outside linebacker, where he can use his speed, quickness and athleticism to rush the passer off the edge.  Orakpo is a likely top-10 overall pick, and don’t be surprised if he works his way into the top five with a team such as Kansas City or Cleveland.

Q: Every week from here on out, I'll ask you for a sleeper -- someone who is flying under the radar who you like. This week, give us a sleeper at running back.

A: Well, this could fall into one of two categories.  There are sleepers, i.e. players from non-Division I  schools, and there are underrated prospects.  I will give you one of each:

Small-School Sleeper:  Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty

Played at a small school, but is a big-school talent after beginning his career at Pittsburgh and actually starting as a true freshman.  Has a sculpted 6-1, 231 pound physique and is very strong, although his timed speed (4.60) is relatively average.  Solid third- or fourth-round pick who could surprise in the right situation.  Also keep an eye on Bernard Scott from Abilene Christian.

Underrated Prospect:  Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee

Was reportedly given a second-round projection by the NFL after his junior season, but went back to school and had a disastrous 2008 campaign.  Has the size you look for at 6-0¾ and 226 pounds, and the Vols have a strong tradition when it comes to producing running backs.  Looked good at the Senior Bowl before getting hurt and could be a nice value pick for someone late.