Possible targets for the Eagles at No. 23

I was on with the guys over at ESPN Radio Lehigh Valley earlier this week for a mock draft exercise.

The way it worked was pretty simple. They called media members (writers, radio hosts, etc.) in various markets to make the picks for their selected teams.

For example, Ian Rapoport of The Boston Herald made the Patriots pick. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News made the Giants pick, and so on.

I made the pick for the Eagles at No. 23. Now, there was one caveat: The picks were made based on who we thought the teams should pick, not who we thought they would pick.

It's not a scientific exercise, but it's just as useful as many other mock drafts, considering the people making the picks were probably very familiar with the teams and their needs.

So I thought I'd share with you how the first 22 picks went and what I did with the 23rd pick.

1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton - QB - Auburn

2. Denver Broncos - Marcell Dareus - DT - Alabama

3. Buffalo Bills - Nick Fairley - DT - Auburn

4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green - WR - Georgia

5. Arizona Cardinals - Von Miller - OLB - Texas A&M

6. Cleveland Browns - Patrick Peterson - CB - LSU

7. San Francisco 49ers - Robert Quinn - DE - North Carolina

8. Tennessee Titans - Blaine Gabbert QB - Missouri

9. Dallas Cowboys - J. J. Watt - DL- Wisconsin

10. Washington Redskins - Da'Quan Bowers - DE - Clemson

11. Houston Texans - Aldon Smith - DE - Missouri

12. Minnesota Vikings - Tyron Smith - OT - USC

13. Detroit Lions - Prince Amukamara - CB - Nebraska

14. St. Louis Rams - Julio Jones - WR - Alabama

15. Miami Dolphins - Nate Solder - OT - Colorado

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Christian Ponder QB - Florida State

17. New England Patriots - Mark Ingram - RB - Alabama

18. San Diego Chargers - Ryan Kerrigan - DE - Purdue

19. New York Giants - Anthony Castonzo - OT - Boston College

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Adrian Clayborn - DE - Iowa

21. Kansas City Chiefs - Mike Pouncey - OL - Florida

22. Indianapolis Colts - Gabe Carimi - OT Wisconsin

As you can see, several players who have been linked to the Eagles in various mock drafts - Carimi, Pouncey, Solder, Castonzo - were off the board by the time the Eagles were up.

The top two cornerbacks - Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara - went sixth and 13th, respectively.

To me, the Eagles' pick came down to a handful of players.

In his list of the top 32 prospects, NFL Network's Mike Mayock listed 14 defensive linemen. The Eagles, meanwhile, have gone D-line with five of their 10 first-round picks since Andy Reid became the head coach back in 1999.

Also, remember this team's offseason philosophy on defense. When Juan Castillo became the defensive coordinator, he talked about how everything the Eagles did would be based on their front four and Jim Washburn's scheme.

So while defensive line might not seem like the most pressing need for the Birds, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a D-lineman at the top of their board at 23 and went that route.

Going off Mayock's list, the top-rated player on the board would be Cal. defensive end Cameron Jordan. Mayock has him listed as his 11th-best prospect and says that whiile Jordan was originally looked at as just a 3-4 defensive end, 4-3 teams are now taking a liking to him too.

But after having traded up for Brandon Graham last year, and with Trent Cole on the other side, I didn't think Jordan made sense.

As for offensive line, the top-rated player available in this scenario was probably Mississsippi State tackle Derek Sherrod. But considering that four tackles had already been selected, and that I don't think the Eagles are ready to give up completely on Winston Justice, I didn't go that route.

If the first 22 picks go the way they did here, and the Eagles really stick to their board, defensive tackle could be an option. Again, with Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Brodrick Bunkley and Trevor Laws, it's not an immediate need. But Bunkley and Laws are only under contract through 2011.

Some names that came to mind were Illinois' Corey Liuget, Oregon State's Stephen Paea and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson. In his breakdown over at Eagletarian, Mayock called Liuget a riser among the defensive tackles.

We know that Reid is familiar with the Temple program, and the Eagles have reportedly shown interest in Wilkerson in recent months. And the Birds reportedly had Paea in for a visit a few weeks ago. He's an intriguing name with a strong college resume. Paea also set a combine record with 49 reps of 225.

In the end, though, it came down to the prospect I've been writing about frequently in the past few weeks: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Mayock has Smith ranked as his 23rd-best prospect and says there's a "huge drop-off" at cornerback after him. Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently Tweeted that he has Smith rated as his No. 1 corner in the draft.

Now, there's no way of knowing whether the Eagles feel at ease with Smith's personality/character concerns. But we do know that this franchise does its own homework and is willing to take risks for high upside (see: signing Michael Vick).

I've made it no secret that I believe cornerback is far and away the team's most pressing need going into 2011, and so with the 23rd pick, I went ahead and picked Smith for the Eagles.

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