Thursday, January 9, 2014
A look at draft possibilities for Eagles
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- When the Eagles find themselves on the clock for the first round of May's NFL draft, you have to wonder if their board won't be ever so slightly tilted toward the offensive side.
General manager Howie Roseman has said no, that the team's policy is to take the best player on the board regardless of position. And that may well be true, although the selections of tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Matt Barkley in the 2013 draft support both possibilities -- that they were the highest-graded players, period, or that Chip Kelly will go for offense if it's close.
The logical assumption is that the Eagles need to add defensive talent more urgently than offensive talent. But the job Bill Davis did with square pegs and patchwork additions -- combined with the league's enormous emphasis on offense -- makes you wonder.
With that in mind, here's a look at players who could be on the board for the Eagles at the 22nd pick in the draft. I used the rankings of ESPN's draft experts for guidance -- and you can get more on the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East in this ESPN Insider piece by Steve Muench. All of this will change as the scouting process shifts into high gear, but it's never too early to start speculating.
Big wide receivers: The Eagles will have to make contract decisions about Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin long before the draft but could be in the market for the kind of tall, powerful receiver that has become the industry standard. There could be one or two available when they draft:
Mike Evans, Texas A&M. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore follows Johnny Manziel to the NFL and could climb the rankings quickly. Evans caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. And he blocks, too.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt. The 6-3, 205-pound senior caught 112 passes for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State. He's the 6-5 sophomore who caught the game-winning touchdown in the BCS national championship game against Auburn. Think he'd make a good red zone target.
Josh Huff, Oregon. He's only 5-11, but we hear going to Oregon adds two inches to everyone in the evaluation process.
Defensive backs: It would be impossible to argue that the Eagles, like almost every other NFL team, could use help here.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama. Let's get the "not the first Eagles pick to make you say ha-ha" jokes out of the way. This 6-1, 210-pound (real name Ha'Sean) is athletic and fluid in coverage and may be the one safety worth taking at No. 22.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon. ESPN's Todd McShay had this cornerback going to the Eagles in his first mock draft, but the Eagles were in the 19th slot back in mid-December. Still a possibility.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, and Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: a couple of cornerbacks who could be on the board when the Eagles' turn comes up.
Linebackers: Here's the obligatory line about how the Eagles haven't taken a linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979. But they are now a 3-4 defense, so they are 9 percent more likely to do so. That's just math.
Trent Murphy, Stanford. At 6-6, 261, with four years of playing against Oregon in the Pac-12, this guy sounds like the epitome of a Chip Kelly defensive player. Murphy had 14 sacks as an outside rusher last season.
Vic Beasley, Clemson. A former running back, the 6-3, 235-pound Beasley had 12 sacks last season.
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State. The 6-2, 222-pound Shazier sounds more like a weakside linebacker in a 4-3, but then so does Mychal Kendricks.
Defensive linemen: The Eagles like their young group, which includes high picks from the past two drafts. But getting better up front is always a good idea.
Louis Nix III, Notre Dame. If the Eagles like the 6-3, 340-pound two-gap tackle enough, they could always slide Bennie Logan over to end or rotate them.
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota. He is 6-6, 311 pounds. Remember, "Big people beat up little people."
Scott Crichton, Oregon State. At 6-3, 260, he seems like a better fit for a 4-3 end spot. The Eagles already have Brandon Graham.
Kony Ealy, Missouri. Intriguing athlete who, at 6-5, 275 could add weight and strength to his frame.