Friday, March 6, 2015

Kempski's Corner: Tight ends, linemen, specialists to watch at NFL Combine

Join philly.com's Jimmy Kempski and Pat Gallen as they look ahead to this weekend's NFL Scouting Combine - specifically tight ends, offensive linemen, and specialists - in the first edition of "Kempski's Corner."

Kempski's Corner: Tight ends, linemen, specialists to watch at NFL Combine

On Saturday in Indianapolis, the following positional groups will be the first to work out: TE, OL, K, STs.

Those are positional groups that are of lesser interest to the Eagles, comparatively speaking, but could certainly be addressed in the draft. We'll look at each position, one by one.

Tight end

The Eagles are set at TE heading into 2014. Zach Ertz is an emerging young player, and Brent Celek is the best blocking TE on the team, who the coaching coach consistently raves about. The one question mark would be James Casey, who wasn't utilized as much as expected in 2013, but plays a number of roles, and would cause a $2 million cap hit if the Eagles cut him. 

However, it's not out of the question for the Eagles to add a TE in the draft, as they kept 4 TEs after training camp last year, and could still look to utilize more multiple TE sets. The two consensus best TEs in this draft are Eric Ebron of North Carolina and Jace Amaro of Texas Tech. The next tier is a good group, in Troy Niklas (Notre Dame), Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (Washington), and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa).

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One TE that could be a good fit for the Birds in the later rounds is Crockett Gilmore of Colorado State, who had a reception of 20+ yards in 8 of his 13 games last year. In 2013, the Eagles set a record with 99 plays of 20+ yards.

Here is how ESPN's Mel Kiper, CBS, and The Sideline View rank them.

*Click here for a bigger view.

Offensive Tackle

Jason Peters just turned 32 and is in the final year of his deal. Offensive tackles typically don't last into their mid-30's, so it might be wise for the Eagles to begin looking to get some pieces in place behind him before it's too late.

The Eagles could look to spend a mid round pick on an OT, with the intent of eventually sliding Lane Johnson over to LT and the new guy filling in at RT. According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, this OT class is very deep.

The unknown here is what the Eagles think of Michael Bamiro, Dennis Kelly, and Matt Tobin. Do they view any of those guys as potential starters? To be determined. The rankings:

*Click here for a bigger version.

Guard

Evan Mathis is 32 (although he's a "low mileage 32," and Todd Herremans is 31. While guard isn't an immediate need, it is a position that could use youth and depth in case Mathis and/or Herremans begin to decline (Herremans may already be on his way). Last year was a very strong class for guards. This year's crop isn't quite as intriguing, and there's no consensus "best guard."

One player listed among the tackles who could also play guard would be Zack Martin of Notre Dame. If the Eagles drafted Martin in the 1st round, that would likely be the end of Herremans as an Eagles starter. Martin could start at RG immediately, and eventually move out to RT, with Lane Johnson sliding over to LT.

However, in what is being described as the best draft in 10 years, taking a RG/RT in the 1st round seems like a poor use of resources.

*Click here for a bigger version.

Center

This is a very low priority position, as Jason Kelce has the center spot on lockdown. If the Eagles drafted a center, it would be for depth purposes only, and they would probably prefer if that player could be utilized at multiple positions along the OL. Like OG, there is no consensus "best center."

*Click here for a bigger version.

Kickers/Specialists

Brian Solomon of McNabb or Kolb broke down every kicker in the league last year and defined how many points each player gained or lost for their respective teams. Alex Henery, unsurprisingly, did not fare well. Henery ran unopposed in training camp last offseason. That will not be the case this year, although with only 7 picks, it would be a surprise if the Eagles drafted a kicker.

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