With the draft just 20 days away, I'll provide three Eagles-focused thoughts on each of the next three Fridays, leading up to April 28.
Here's the first installment:
1. The one name that's been linked to the Eagles in various mock drafts that I find most intriguing is Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. The way I see it, the Eagles have three options for filling their hole at right cornerback next season.
One is to sign a free agent or trade for a corner. But we have zero clue about when that might be possible, and it seems pretty likely that such a move won't be allowed to take place until after the draft, which is key. The second option is Trevard Lindley. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Lindley was active for 11 games last season, but saw limited action at cornerback. There's no question that not being allowed to work out with coaches is hurting him this offseason, but if he can make a big leap from his first to second seasons, he could be in the mix.
And the final option, of course, is Smith. Even though LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara are widely considered the top two corners in the draft, Smith has received quite a bit of press in the past couple months. There was a report that certain teams have taken him completely off their board because of character/personality concerns. And one personnel man told Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald:
"He’s a great player. But he’s a piece of [expletive,] so I would never draft him. I wouldn’t have him on my board."
But there is another side to the argument. Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who has previously said Smith has similarities to the Jets' Darrelle Revis when he came out of college, Tweeted Friday morning that Smith is the best press cornerback in the draft.
And so once again, it's the question of risk vs. reward. The Eagles reportedly had Smith in for a visit last week, and many mock drafts have them going with him at No. 23. Remember, this franchise is willing to take risks. The Eagles proved that way back when they traded for Terrell Owens. Or when they dealt Donovan McNabb within the division. Or when they signed Michael Vick after he was released from prison. Or when they promoted Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator.
After the Birds' personnel people are done doing their homework on Smith, if they like his talent enough and are not scared off by the other things, maybe they'll see him as a steal at No. 23.
2. I've heard more than one person make the case that Andy Reid really likes to draft offensive linemen in the first round, but that has not really been the case. Next week, I'm going to take a detailed look at his first-round selections, but in 12 drafts, the Eagles have taken an offensive lineman just once: Shawn Andrews in 2004.
The most popular selection has been defensive line. The Birds have taken a defensive lineman five times out of 10 first-round picks under Reid: Corey Simon in 2000, Jerome McDougle in 2003, Mike Patterson in 2005, Brodrick Bunkley in 2006 and Brandon Graham in 2010. Three of the Eagles' past four first-round picks and four of their last six have been defensive linemen.
They've taken two wide receivers (Freddie Mitchell in 2001 and Jeremy Maclin in 2009), a cornerback (Lito Sheppard in 2002) and a quarterback (McNabb in 1999). And twice (2007 and 2008), the Eagles traded away their first-round pick.
3. If you take a look at my list of reported draft workouts and visits (now updated!), you'll notice quite a few running backs: USC's Allen Bradford, Hawaii's Alex Green, Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter, Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones, Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas.
Given that the Eagles appear to have hit a home run with LeSean McCoy a couple years ago, what's the deal?
It's pretty simple - the Birds could be in an awful position in terms of running back depth, depending on what happens with the CBA. The Eagles tendered restricted free agent Jerome Harrison at a second-round level, but he could end up being an unrestricted free agent. If that happens and he bolts, the Eagles don't have anyone currently on the roster that can serve as a backup/complement to McCoy.
The only other running back on the roster is Eldra Buckley, and he's not going to fill that role. The Eagles were in the same situation last offseason when they signed restricted free agent Mike Bell, who turned out to be a horrible fit.
Given the uncertainty and lack of depth, it's very likely that the Eagles add a running back in the draft - whether it's one of the guys mentioned above, or another prospect. Expect them to look for the same attributes they always look for - someone who is versatile and can catch the ball and block, in addition to being a ballcarrier.
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