We are now just a week and a half away from the NFL Draft. If you're a hardcore football fan, there's a chance you've already read a hundred mock drafts already, so why not cram another one down your throat?
As a disclaimer, I'm am fully aware that the following mock draft contains just two defensive players, and addresses a position of strength in the 2nd round. Therefore, allow me to proclaim up front that I am a complete and total moron who does not deserve to have a job writing about football. I would also like to apologize in advance for wasting your time by publishing such unadulterated and ridiculous garbage. There.
With that said, I present my Eagles mock draft, version 3.0.
1st round: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (6'0, 190)
Kyle Fuller is one of the more entertaining players in the country to watch. He's as physical a CB as you'll find in this draft, and will throw his body around to make plays. He can play press, he can play off man, he can play the run, he can cover on the outside, he can play the slot, he can play safety, he's a special teams contributor, and for a couple of seasons, he even played the "Whip LB" position in Virginia Tech's defense.
Speaking in Atlantic City at the Maxwell Club Awards, Chip Kelly pointed the versatility of recently signed safety Malcolm Jenkins, and noted that good QBs will pick you apart if you don't show them different looks defensively. "When you're playing guys like Peyton Manning," explained Kelly, "you better not have the same guy doing the same thing."
That same premise applies to Fuller at the CB position. A quick sampling of Fuller's work:
Cary Williams will be in the final year of his deal in 2015, when his cap number will be $8.17 million. Bradley Fletcher will also be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Fuller would give the Birds a long term solution at one of their CB spots.
2nd round: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame (6'6, 270)
I know, I know... The Eagles already have good tight ends.
The long-term viability of players in the NFL are often complete unknowns. However, one thing is a certainty -- NFL rosters have an incredible level of instability. Only 33.5% of NFL players who started their team's last game in 2011 started that same team's last game in 2013.
This time of year, you'll often hear, "We need to draft an OLB in the 1st round, a safety in the 2nd, a WR in the 3rd, and a CB in the 4th." To begin, whatever players you draft may not be ready to start Week 1 of their rookie seasons, and if you're depending on a rookie to be a major factor in getting you to the Super Bowl, you probably don't have have much of a chance of getting there in the first place. But more importantly, by the time young players are in the NFL for 3 years and ideally they've developed into good starters, the roster is often going to look nothing like the way it did when those players were drafted, and you may have passed on a better player who plays a position that is a need in 2016, but wasn't in 2014.
So forget "need" in the draft. Drafting for need is what lands you Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett. "Needs" can be addressed though free agency and other means. Draft the best possible players who fit your scheme, and figure out how to implement their talents into your offense. That's how contenders are built.
Obviously, whether a player, in this this case Troy Niklas, will still be there at the 54th overall pick when he's the perceived "best available player" is just one of many scenarios. So does this guy fit the scheme? Hell yes he does, so let's profile him.
First and foremost, Niklas is an extraordinarily impressive blocker coming out of college. Notre Dame typically lined him up in-line, and Niklas more often than not won against opposing DEs in the run game. At 6'6, 270, he's a monster, and plays like it. Here's a goal line look. Niklas takes the initial jolt from the DE, but then drives the pile.
The Eagles' OL would occasionally struggle to move the pile last season. Niklas is a player they could add at the TE position as an in-line blocker who could contribute immediately as a short yardage weapon.
He's also an athlete, and therefore, a good blocker out in space. Here he gets his hands on the opposing DB, and goodnight.
But wait, we're not just getting a blocker, are we? Well, Niklas' production didn't match more heralded "receiving TEs" like Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
But he certainly has upside as a receiver. Watch this catch and run, keeping in mind that Niklas is 270 pounds.
And obviously, at 6'6, 270, Niklas should be a natural red zone threat, and he is. Watch him get a little, subtle (never called) push off on the linebacker at the goal line, and then he just posts him up power forward style. The QB simply throws it away from the defender, and it's an easy TD.
Last season, the Eagles kept 4 TEs heading into the season: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, and Emil Igwenagu. There's absolutely room on the roster for Niklas, and drafting a TE does not mean they have to cut a productive player to accommodate the acquisition of another very good TE.
Chip Kelly thinks of his players as tools in a toolbox. On one play, He may show a 3-WR look with Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy both in the backfield. On the very next play, he may shuttle in Celek, Ertz, and Niklas. From a defensive perspective, trying to match up against a wide assortment of personnel packages is a nightmare, and I believe the Eagles are trying to build an offense loaded with a variety of tools.
There's a very good article by Greg Bedard, formerly of the Boston Globe, about the two different kinds of tight ends the Patriots target, the "Y" and the "F."
The Patriots have always had two classes of tight ends. There is the traditional “Y,” whose job requirements read: 6 feet 5 inches or taller, at least 255 pounds, can run but absolutely must be a standout blocker. He has to be a viable receiver, but not a great one.
The “F” or flex tight end is 6-3 or taller, around 235 pounds, must be able to run and be an excellent pass receiver. Does not need to be a good blocker.
Niklas (the Y) and Ertz (the F) could form a long-term tandem similar to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but, you know... without the murdering.
(Videos via DraftBreakdown.com)
3rd round: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina (5'9, 197)
At, 5'9, and a thick 197 pounds, Bruce Ellington is built more like a running back than a wide receiver. His cousin, Andre Ellington, plays RB for the Arizona Cardinals.
As you might expect with his size, Ellington is a very fast, shifty receiver. He's also versatile, as he can return kicks. But the key word with Ellington is "upside."
Ellington was a 4-year point guard at South Carolina. His basketball stats can be found here. It was only in 2013 that Ellington gave up basketball, and fully committed to football. He's still a bit raw in terms of route running and some of the finer points of being a wide receiver, but this is a special athlete absolutely worth taking at this point in the draft.
While this is probably true of many teams around the league, the Eagles value players who were former multi-sport talents, as it shows a heightened level of athleticism.
"Who were the multi-sport athletes," asked Eagles Senior Adviser Tom Donahoe, speaking with reporters before training camp last season. "Who were the guys that weren't just football players? Maybe they were in track, they were in wrestling, or they were in basketball, or they have really good athletic ability."
He may take some time to develop, but Ellington is the kind of athlete who would be very scary in the kind of space that Chip Kelly's offense creates.
4th round: Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida (6'3, 237)
Ronald Powell was the #1 overall high school recruit in the country in 2010, according to Rivals.com, which makes him an intriguing prospect. Powell was primed to break out in his junior season (2012) at Florida, but his college career hit a bump when he tore his ACL during the spring of 2012. Powell missed the entire 2012 season, but returned in 2013, when he only had 4 sacks, but showed flashes of a special player. Unless you're Adrian Peterson, there's a belief that it takes 2 years or longer to fully recover from a torn ACL.
Powell would have to bulk up a bit to play OLB in a 3-4 in the NFL, but he's a very versatile, very athletic player with a lot of upside. He could provide depth in the short term while learning the defense behind Trent Cole for a season.
Philly.com reported that the Eagles have heavy interest in Powell, and did a more extensive write-up on him at that time.
5th round: Brandon Thomas, OT/OG, Clemson (6'3, 317)
Brandon Thomas was considered by some to be an early 2nd round pick before he tore his ACL while working out for the Saints. He'll now likely be sitting out the entire 2014 season.
This would be a value play for the future. Thomas could sit for a year, and eventually take over for Todd Herremans (32 in October) or Evan Mathis (33 in November) whenever they experience a decline in play. At Clemson, Thomas had 27 starts at LT, and 9 at OG. He also spent some time at RT. That is the kind of versatility the Eagles covet. Due to his less than ideal height, Thomas more than likely projects to OG on the pro level, but could also be a swing tackle in a pinch.
During the 2013 season, Thomas faced the following players while protecting QB Tajh Boyd's blind side: Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), Brent Urban (Virginia), Christian Jones (FSU), Timmy Jernigan (FSU), and Marcus Whitfield (Maryland).
Most of those guys are going to be picked in the first two days of the day, and a couple of them may go in the first round. Thomas is as battle tested as any offensive lineman in this draft.
7th round: Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State (6'3, 217)
Janis is size/speed freak of nature out of the same small school the Eagles plucked Todd Herremans from back in 2005. Saginaw Valley State is of course part of the famous GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), which is basically the SEC of small Michigan schools.
Janis' career numbers are impressive.
Here's Janis' thoroughly impressive spider chart:
Because he is such an athletically gifted player with good size, you may see a team gamble on him in the middle rounds. However, in such a loaded draft, especially at WR, Janis could very well slide to Eagles in the 7th. If he does, Janis could be a developmental player that the Eagles could look to groom for 2015 and beyond.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski