I’ve probably written more words this week about things that might or might not happen than at any other time in my reporting career. Buried somewhere in that analysis was a point a tried to come back to, one probably obscured by an avalanche of my own speculation. So, hours before the draft kicks off and we can start talking about what actually does happen instead of what might, here is my last word on what, to me, would make for a successful first round for the Eagles: go aggressive, and go big for defensive difference-maker.
To me, the first choice would be a defensive tackle such as Fletcher Cox, because defensive linemen can have such an impact on every single snap, especially when it comes to pressuring the top-flight quarterbacks you need to beat to get to a Super Bowl. Cox would seem to fit with exactly what the Eagles want to do up front; that’s why I have the Eagles trading up for him in my mock draft. Even if he didn’t start immediately, the Eagles play all of their defensive linemen in their high-energy rotation and he could be a terror for years to come.
But only the Eagles really know what they think of Cox compared to the other prospects on the board, and if there is another stud they like better – be it cornerback Stephon Gilmore or one of the draft’s many edge rushers or safety Mark Barron – and they can get him at 15, great. But if it takes a move up to get a defensive playmaker near the top of the team’s board, go get him. Find someone who can stand out in coverage or as a pass rusher against Eli Manning and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton and Robert Griffin, III.
When you look over the Eagles defense, there are only two players who really scare the opposition: Jason Babin and Trent Cole. After that there’s a list of nice complementary pieces, but no one who consistently changed the game, at least not last season. There is depth. There are solid guys who can help. Now is the time to go for a big weapon who can drive the defense while the Eagles have a core of players at or near their primes.
There’s a time to carefully plan for the future and time to go for it. The Eagles have used the past few drafts to stockpile young prospects who can contribute and amassing draft picks that can be valuable trade chips. Now is the time to use them. This is not a year to sit back and try for a solid double. With Mike Vick soon turning 32, with Andy Reid entering year 14, with veterans such as Babin, Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Nnamdi Asomugha nearing the end of their prime years, swing big. If the Eagles do that tonight, if they find a way to make a bold move for a player who can change the complexion of games and cause havoc for the NFC’s high powered offenses, it’ll be a good first round.