McLane: The Eagles' draft options at cornerback

MOBILE, Ala. - Before he was to depart for the Senior Bowl, Howie Roseman stopped off at WIP-FM studios in Philadelphia to answer questions from the station's morning show, but the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations didn't need to be prompted to talk about one subject.

"You've got to give me a chance to correct my answer on Eric Rowe," Roseman said, referring to his news conference just days after the season finale.

When he was asked then about the decision to the trade the second-year cornerback, Roseman said that when the Eagles discussed the Patriots' offer they had to consider "the likelihood that we had to sign him to an extension" - an explanation he said on Monday that even his young son didn't understand.

"When the 9-year-old boy doesn't understand your answer, it's probably a problem," Roseman said. "And I said the reason you don't understand is because it wasn't coherent. It didn't make any freaking sense."

Rowe, of course, is topical because the Eagles' second-round draft pick from 2015 is still making contributions as New England prepares to play in yet another Super Bowl. The 24-year old recorded an interception Sunday in the AFC championship victory over the Steelers.

But dealing Rowe before the season for a conditional fourth-round selection - it could still become a third rounder - was also a point of emphasis throughout the season as the Eagles' remaining cornerbacks struggled. The position remains one of the team's greatest areas of need as Roseman, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, and Eagles scouts and coaches descend upon the Senior Bowl for several days of practices.

The Eagles have holes to fill at other spots, most prominently at wide receiver, but with cornerback considered by many evaluators to be the position with the most depth in this year's draft, it is likely that the Eagles will have a plethora of corners ranked high among the 2017 class of prospects.

Roseman alluded to as much on Monday.

"As you look at it, there's always positions of strength in the draft," he said, "and a beautiful thing is when they match up with what your needs are."

Douglas, who Roseman said last month would be responsible for crafting the Eagles' draft board, joined his boss at WIP. The former Ravens and Bears scout spent much of the last five months visiting college campuses and watching and talking to players in person.

Asked what he looked for in prospects, Douglas singled out "confidence," "competitive makeup," and "how they persevere through adversity." He noted, however, that getting an accurate gauge on those traits was one of the more difficult aspects of his job. The Senior Bowl offers another opportunity to dig deeper.

"You put in so much time in the fall getting to know these guys, going to the schools, getting the work in, watching these guys practice, and then having them come down to Mobile to compete against each other - it's a great environment," Douglas said. "It's the best players in college football."

Many of the top cornerbacks, though, won't be here. Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State), Sidney Jones (Washington), Marlon Humphrey (Alabama), Gareon Conley (Ohio State) and Quincy Wilson (Florida) are all underclassmen who declared early. But there are still a number of talented seniors who will be attendance.

Tre'Davious White (6-foot, 197) of LSU may have a first-round pedigree. He isn't especially rangy (listed at 6 feet even), but he bears some resemblance to former teammate and current Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, both in skill and temperament.

Jourdan Lewis (5-foot-11, 186) of Michigan and Cameron Sutton (5-11, 186) of Tennessee, who missed part of his senior season because of a broken ankle, had impressive collegiate careers, but they could fall to the second day because of perceived size liabilities.

Desmond King (5-11, 203) of Iowa is highly regarded, but some scouts project him as a safety in the NFL. Chidobe Awuzie (5-11, 205) of Colorado and Damontae Kazee (5-11, 190) of San Diego State, who recorded 15 interceptions over his last two seasons, could move up boards with impressive showings this week.

Rowe arrived in Mobile two years ago coming off his lone season at cornerback. The former safety fared well against top outside receivers, and the Eagles, with Chip Kelly in charge of personnel, moved up in the second round to the take the Utah product.

It was the highest the Eagles had taken a corner in 13 years. Roseman, removed from the personnel department for 2015, was not involved in the drafting of Rowe. His track record in evaluating cornerbacks is not strong. It may be the one position that has bedeviled him the most.

When the Patriots approached the Eagles, Roseman said that Rowe's spot near the bottom of the depth chart made the offer more attractive. Still, there appeared to be a hint of regret in his words as he continued.

"We probably make 50 decisions a year that are really real decisions that we sit down and make," Roseman said. "To say that we don't go back and think about them and think about if we were right, I mean that's part of it. You want to hit as many as you can, but when you're watching games of other players that you had here, that's the hard part about doing it."

Rowe was one of 11 players Kelly added during the 2015 offseason who were either traded or released before last season. Only receiver Nelson Agholor, linebacker Jordan Hicks, and running back Ryan Mathews survived and made the roster.

But Roseman said the notion that he purposely purged the roster of Kelly acquisitions was "false." The jury is still out on Rowe. But he arguably performed better than any of the Eagles' corners during the regular season. And he's still playing.

"That's why you've got to watch some of these games [having a beer]," Roseman said. "It gives you an opportunity to reflect."

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane