NFC East: Darqueze Dennard

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Eagles

March, 6, 2014
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The name of the player ESPN’s Todd McShay has next to the Philadelphia Eagles in his third mock draft Insider is interesting. The larger point McShay makes is even more relevant.

The player: Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, a 5-foot-11, 194-pounder who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL combine last month. Roby is skipping his senior season. He’s only 21, which makes him that much more attractive as a player who can be coached to fit into a system.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCornerback Bradley Roby, a 5-foot-11, 194-pounder, ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
“Roby needs to be coached up,” McShay writes, “as he got burned several times this season as a result of poor discipline, but his size, speed, athleticism and playmaking ability make him capable of developing into a shutdown corner on the outside.”

In McShay’s mock, the two top safeties are not on the board when the Eagles pick. Neither are some of the more talked-about wide receivers and edge rushers.

“The best values at this spot for Philadelphia are going to be at cornerback -- outside linebacker and safety can wait until later,” McShay writes.

And that is the larger point that means more than a guess at the identity of the pick. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman might as well get a tattoo that says “Will take best player regardless of need” so he can point to it when asked. Sitting at No. 22 overall, the Eagles are going to be at the mercy of what happens in front of them.

If the best values, as McShay put it, are at cornerback, the Eagles will happily take a cornerback. McShay has Roby, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard (20th), Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller (24th), and TCU’s Jason Verrett (25th) going within six picks of each other.

A team with a pressing need at cornerback might go in that direction earlier and free up a safety or wide receiver the Eagles like. Or they could try to trade up if there is a player they especially covet sitting there in the mid-teens. There will be a lot of pro days and private workouts between now and the draft.

But if the value pick happens to be at a need position like cornerback, the Eagles will be happy to take whichever they rate as the best.
PHILADELPHIA -- The NFL scouting combine is wrapping up Tuesday in Indianapolis. Here’s how some of the players we identified as possible Philadelphia Eagles picks fared in the annual NFL job fair.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeBrandin Cooks
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBrandin Cooks might be out of the Eagles' reach after his fast time in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
Brandin Cooks of Oregon State might have moved up beyond the Eagles’ grasp by running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. That was the second fastest time overall, behind only running back Dri Archer. Combined with Cooks’ incredible numbers from last season -- 128 catches, 1,730 yards -- the 5-foot-10, 189 pounder likely sealed his first-round status.

Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State was as big as advertised -- 6-5, 240 pounds. His 40 time of 4.61 wasn’t especially impressive, but did we mention he’s 6-5?

Odell Beckham Jr., the LSU wideout projected to the Eagles in Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent (pre-combine) mock draft Insider, ran a 4.43. That increases his added value as a possible return man.

Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, who goes 6-3, 212 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.46, and also impressed by doing 21 bench press reps. Receivers don’t have to lift bales of hay, but upper-body strength helps when blocking or trying to get off the line against press coverage.

Edge rushers

Dee Ford, the Auburn defensive end projected to the Eagles by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, proclaimed himself a better player than Jadeveon Clowney, then did not participate in drills because of a medical issue. Ford said he was told not to work out because of a 2011 back injury. You have to wonder if that concern will drop Ford on draft boards.

Anthony Barr of UCLA is considered the second best outside linebacker prospect after Buffalo’s Kahlil Mack. The Eagles would only have a shot at Barr if he slipped a bit. His disappointing bench press result (15 reps) probably wasn’t enough to overshadow his 4.66 speed. (Mack ran a 4.65 and did 23 reps.)

Stanford’s Trent Murphy worked out with the linebackers, not the defensive linemen, and remains an intriguing option for the Eagles. The 6-5, 250-pound Murphy ran a 4.86.

Defensive backs

The top two safeties, Lousiville’s Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, ran identical 40 times of 4.58. They didn’t separate themselves from each other, but the blazing speed at cornerback could potentially sway a DB-needy team or two to go that route and drop the safeties a few spots.

Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State is one of those corners. Gilbert ran a 4.35 Tuesday. At 6-0, 202 pounds, that gives him an enviable combination of size and speed.

Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard was projected to the Eagles Insider by Todd McShay. After running a 4.42, the 5-11, 199-pound Dennard might also have moved up beyond the No. 22 spot.

Combine prep: Cornerbacks

February, 19, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA -- In a perfect world, the Philadelphia Eagles would find their choice of a playmaking safety, a disruptive edge rusher and an explosive wide receiver waiting when they’re on the clock with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

The draft isn’t like a menu, however. It is just as likely the top two safeties will be gone, there won’t be a pass-rusher worthy of the pick and the depth at wide receiver will convince general manager Howie Roseman to address that position in a later round.

It could be that the draft board presents a handful of high-value cornerbacks when the Eagles are on the clock. So it is very likely Roseman and his staff will look closely at the crop of corners at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Some names to watch:

Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State. The 5-11, 195-pound Dennard is universally acclaimed as one of the top two or three corners in this year’s draft. He had four interceptions as a senior. The concern about him is his speed, so he can really help himself with a strong performance at the combine.

ESPN’s Todd McShay had Dennard going to the Eagles in his most recent first-round mock draft Insider. McShay describes Dennard as a “proven commodity with adequate size, good top-end speed and very good instincts and fluidity in coverage.” At NFL.com, Mike Mayock has Dennard as his top-rated corner and Nolan Nawrocki calls him “a big, strong, athletic, instinctive press-man corner.”

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State. In his first mock draft for SI.com, Don Banks has the Eagles selecting Gilbert at 22 (Banks has Dennard and the top two safeties off the board).

“Gilbert would add to the overall depth of the secondary and give the Eagles one of the top two cover men in the draft,” Banks writes. “If a safety like Louisville's Calvin Pryor gets past Green Bay at No. 21, he'd be an even more attractive option.”

ESPN’s McShay Insider has the 6-foot, 200-pound Gilbert, who had seven interceptions in 2013, as his top corner: “Gilbert is a ball-hawking playmaker with good size for the cornerback position, with the ability to press in man-to-man coverage or sit back in zone. He is also willing and capable in run support,” McShay writes.

Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State. We talked about him in Tuesday’s post about safeties. At 5-9, the playmaking Joyner would be a nickelback or deep safety in the Eagles’ scheme.

Jason Verrett, Texas Christian. At 5-9 and just 174 pounds, Verrett is probably a long shot for the Eagles given Chip Kelly’s specs for the position. But Verrett is an active, playmaking type of corner. McShay calls him Insider the “quickest man-to-man cover corner in this class.”

Bradley Roby, Ohio State. He’s listed at 5-10 and 5-11 by different sources, so the first order of business in Indy will be getting accurate measures. Nawrocki at NFL.com says Roby has a “small, wiry frame and his size is just adequate” while Banks at SI.com writes “he's big and physical enough to handle press coverage.” This is what the combine is all about.

Others to watch: Kyle Fuller, Virgnia Tech; Marcus Roberson, Florida, Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida.
ESPN draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper start off disagreeing right at the top of their latest mock drafts. So it’s not surprising they have a difference of opinion on the Philadelphia Eagles' selection at No. 22.

McShay’s first-round mock Insider has the Eagles selecting Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. It’s hard to argue with McShay when he says the Eagles should make defense their "priority if the right player is available, in particular looking for an edge rusher and improving the athleticism and depth in the secondary."

While a safety would be preferable, it does appear there are more first-round corners in this year's draft. The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Dennard has "adequate size, good top-end speed and very good instincts and fluidity in coverage," McShay writes.

As for Kiper's second mock, Insiderhe has the Eagles taking LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. one spot before Kansas City takes Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Beckham is 6-0, 193 pounds. Benjamin is 6-4, 230 pounds. This seems like a big-people-beat-up-little-people situation to me, but Kiper likes Beckham to the Eagles "not just because he's a good receiver for a team that could use help in that department, but because he's versatile, and can work in the slot or on the edge."

Kiper has Dennard on the board when the Eagles pick. Again, there’s a lot of disagreement between these two noted draft gurus.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Eagles

January, 15, 2014
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When I took a look at some of the Eagles’ first-round draft possibilities the other day, I couldn’t help but notice some big wide receivers that might be around for the 22nd pick.

Sure, the Eagles need defensive help more urgently, but GM Howie Roseman and coach Chip Kelly are committed to taking the best player on their board. And Kelly surely wouldn’t mind if that player happened to add an element missing from his array of offensive weapons.

So it seems perfect that Mel Kiper’s first 2014 mock draft Insider has the Eagles taking Florida State’s 6-foot-4 Kelvin Benjamin. It was Benjamin who caught Jameis Winston’s game-winning touchdown in the national championship game against Auburn -- exactly the kind of red zone target Nick Foles could use.

In his mock draft, Kiper has the two top safeties -- Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor -- off the board when the Eagles pick. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, another of the big-bodied wide receivers I mentioned, is also gone.

That leaves the Eagles choosing from among some intriguing players --Benjamin, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard among them.

If that scenario presents itself, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Roseman and Kelly went for Benjamin, who caught 54 passes last season -- 15 of them for touchdowns.

The Eagles’ wide receiver situation will be a lot clearer by the May draft. Riley Cooper, who had a breakout season, will be an unrestricted free agent. So will Jeremy Maclin, who tore his ACL in training camp and missed the entire season. Jason Avant has one more year left on his deal, but could be a salary-cap casualty.

Decisions on those three players will go a long way toward deciding who will join DeSean Jackson in the wide receivers meetings. Losing any of them could make the position a priority, rather than a luxury, when the draft rolls around.

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