NFL Nation: Jordan Matthews

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 NFL Nation's Phil Sheridan examines the three biggest issues facing the Philadelphia Eagles heading into training camp.

Can Nick Foles repeat, even improve on, his 2013 success? A year ago, Foles went into camp trailing Michael Vick in the starting quarterback competition that Vick eventually won. After leading the NFL in passer rating, throwing 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, Foles has a pretty high bar to clear in his first full season as a starter. It is perfectly reasonable to expect Foles to be further from perfect than he was in 2013. But Foles can do that while still being very productive. If he throws a few more interceptions by taking some risks that also produce more touchdowns or big plays, the Eagles can live with that. Foles could even raise his game to an even higher level. It won't be easy, but with a coach like Chip Kelly, it's not out of the question, either. Foles looked very sharp -- accurate and confident -- during June practices. He seems buoyed, not intimidated or cowed, by being the clear No. 1 QB ahead of Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. Training camp and the preseason will give everyone a chance to see whether he's making progress or heading toward a major regression. Best guess: Foles will be fine. Not otherworldly, but just fine.

Who will replace DeSean Jackson's production? That became the Eagles' most urgent question after Kelly decided to part ways with the guy who caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Since we have no evidence Kelly is a madman, we have to conclude the coach had reason to believe he could get Jackson's production from other players. Jeremy Maclin was never the big-play guy that Jackson was, but he is a solid receiver who is hugely motivated to prove he can excel after a second ACL tear. Riley Cooper may come back to the pack a bit after his breakout 2013 season, but he also might rise to the occasion after experiencing success. The Eagles' additions are intriguing. Darren Sproles figures to be as versatile and unpredictable under Kelly as he was in New Orleans for Sean Payton. Second-round draft pick Jordan Matthews had people at organized team activities comparing his physique to that of Terrell Owens and could be a star in the future. Meanwhile, tight end Zach Ertz is expected to take that key second-season leap in production and reliability. Would the Eagles have been better with Jackson? Probably. Can they be as successful with strong seasons from Maclin, Sproles, Matthews, Cooper and Ertz? Kelly clearly thinks so.

Did the Eagles do enough to improve their defense? Looked at one way, the answer seems like a big "no." The Eagles didn't go out and sign a star defensive back or draft an elite, quarterback-eating pass-rusher. It would be easier to sell this defense if they had. What the Eagles are counting on is an across-the-board rise in experience and comfort in Bill Davis' defense. That isn't as glittery as marquee free agents or high draft picks, but it may prove to be more reliable than either of those. And there is some foundation for hope. The Eagles' defense really did improve over the course of the 2013 season. It looked a lot better in December than in September, and that is why the Eagles may have more new starters on offense than on defense. The front seven looks like it will be the same as it was at the end of 2013. First-round pick Marcus Smith will play as he proves he's ready, but there is no reason to rush him when Trent Cole is playing as well as he did last season. Malcolm Jenkins is a smart and reliable safety, and that should help the secondary immeasurably. The best guess is the starting cornerbacks return. If not, it will be because Nolan Carroll shows that he is better than one of them.

Overall, the Eagles added a bunch of players who will push last year's starters. If they're better, they'll see the field. If not, it will mean the incumbents have fended off the challenge. Either way, the defense should be better.
PHILADELPHIA – Give yourself a pat on the back if you had Jason Avant in the wide-receiver-most-likely-to-skewer-Chip Kelly pool.

Avant
DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles got all the attention, and for good reason. He was coming off a Pro Bowl season, put up great numbers and was still under contract. Avant was 31, saw his role diminish over the course of the season, and his contract expired after the season.

Avant signed with the Carolina Panthers. This week, he told the Charlotte Observer that he knew his days as a Kelly employee were numbered “maybe four games into last season. When they stop calling your number and guys start running some of the routes that you run – I knew from the beginning that I didn’t fit his style of offense, in that I’m a crafty guy that gets open in an atypical way.”

There isn’t much to see here, actually. There is nothing remarkable, really, about a coach shaping his roster to fit his vision for how the game should be played. Kelly made some changes immediately upon taking over the Eagles last year, but it takes a little time to remake an entire football program. Especially when that program had been run the same way for 15 years.

“When it came to certain things,” Avant told the Observer, “we butted heads sometimes – route running and route technique. So I knew I didn’t fit his system.”

Avant was a good soldier and did his part to help smooth the transition from Reid to Kelly. That is even more admirable when you learn that he was doing so with the knowledge he wouldn’t be here when it all came together.

Still, Avant’s comments do shed a bit more light on the Jackson situation. If the oldest, most respected leader among the wide receivers didn’t see eye to eye with Kelly, that suggests Jackson wasn’t totally on board, either. Jackson, like Avant, was steeped in Reid’s approach to the game. Clearly, that approach differs from Kelly’s.

All of that supports the theory that Kelly released Jackson because he didn’t really buy in to what the coach was trying to build here.

That’s fine as far as it goes. But Kelly immediately put pressure on himself to replace the departed talent without taking a step backward. The early signs are good. Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles and Josh Huff seem like pieces that Kelly can plug in without missing a beat. The Eagles will have to deal with Jackson twice a year while he’s in Washington, but they won’t see Avant again unless it’s in the playoffs.

If there’s any head butting going on then, it will be on the field.
PHILADELPHIA -- Jordan Matthews, the second-round pick from Vanderbilt, has gotten a fair amount of attention during the past two weeks of OTA practices.

He’s gotten quite a bit from quarterbacks, who like throwing to a 6-foot-3 target with good hands. He’s gotten attention from defensive backs, who go where the ball is going. And Matthews has gotten a fair amount of attention from reporters working the who-will-replace-DeSean-Jackson angle.

[+] EnlargeSproles
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsAs the Eagles search for ways to replace DeSean Jackson's explosive plays, new running back Darren Sproles will be part of the solution.
That is understandable enough. The release of Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver in his prime, was the most puzzling move yet during Chip Kelly’s tenure as head coach. Whatever you think of the move, and the explanations or lack of same, the Eagles created a need for themselves and Matthews is the draft pick destined to be seen as the solution to that problem.

But that’s not really fair. The truth is, the Eagles have to replace the element of speed that Jackson provided. They can do that a number of ways. Matthews might not have quite that elite speed himself, but he can be part of the mix in Kelly’s offense.

“I can see Matthews has a quick first step,” veteran cornerback Cary Williams said. “I can see him being very explosive out of breaks. And once he gets his hands on the ball, he looks like someone who can break a couple tackles and take a simple, six-yard curl into an 80-yard play.”

For now, Matthews is running with the second team as the slot receiver. That has more to do with Kelly’s approach to teaching rookies than anything. Chances are, Matthews will replace Jason Avant in the slot, with Jeremy Maclin, back from a torn ACL, stepping into Jackson’s spot on the outside.

Maclin has good speed, but not Jackson speed. The Eagles added elite speed when they acquired Darren Sproles in a trade with New Orleans. But as Kelly was quick to point out last week, Sproles is a running back. He’s not a wide receiver.

Still, Sproles’ speed can have the same effect on defenses as Jackson’s did. He can force defensive coordinators to account for him, and that is half the battle. Kelly’s ability to deploy his other weapons, to take advantage of the space created by that speed, is the other half.

“We knew [Sproles] was a really, really talented player, and when he got here, he showed that right from the jump,” Kelly said. “We heard from the coaches that coached him what an intelligent football player he is and learned that from the first day he was in this building, and how sharp he is and how dedicated he is.

“I talked to Norv Turner (who coached Sproles in San Diego) and he remarked to me when I saw him at one of the pro days, he said, ‘You'll have to slow him down because he only knows one speed.’ And that's the same thing you see. Darren practices and trains at one speed. It's awesome. He fits in with the culture that we want in terms of preparation, but it's everything we wanted when we got him here.”

Kelly’s ability to move Sproles around, and to mix and match all his other offensive weapons, will give the Eagles plenty of versatility this season. It is that, more than Matthews or any other one player, that will replace Jackson’s speed.
PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremy Maclin got up. The moment of hushed concern passed, and everything shifted back to normal in the Philadelphia Eagles' world. The wide receiver walked off the field as practice ended, reporting his knee was fine.

In that moment, though, much was revealed about the state of this team as it begins Chip Kelly's second season as head coach.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Matt Rourke/AP PhotoThe Eagles' offense will depend on more players than just wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in 2014.
The immediate reaction: that another injury to Maclin could be devastating because of his perceived status as the replacement for DeSean Jackson in Kelly's scheme. But in reality, that is not the case and it never was. The Eagles will try to replace Jackson's production with Darren Sproles, with draft picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, with second-year tight end Zach Ertz, with Arrelious Benn and, yes, with Maclin.

The Eagles won 10 games and the NFC East title last year without Maclin, who tore an ACL during training camp last summer. The former first-round pick has been a solid starter during his tenure here, but he has not had the kind of impact Jackson had. That's why, when the Eagles released Jackson in March, it was fair to worry that they were expecting too much from Maclin. Not only has he not been the big-play guy Jackson was, but Maclin would now be playing on two surgically reconstructed knees.

But here's the other twist. Any attempt to project Maclin's production based on his performance under Andy Reid is a waste of time. Kelly's scheme turned Riley Cooper, a former fifth-round pick, into a valuable asset and favorite target of quarterback Nick Foles. It will be fascinating to see what Kelly can do with Maclin.

"I was really excited about how he would fit into what we do because of what he can do," Kelly said of Maclin. "And then to lose him that early in camp was disappointing. You got a taste of him. But having him out there full speed, running out there right now, he's doing a really good job."

Maclin has good speed, but not Jackson's speed. So one issue is whether Maclin or someone else can provide enough of a deep threat to create space for LeSean McCoy to run the ball and for the other receivers to work underneath the coverage. The addition of Sproles by trade and of Matthews and Huff in the draft should help there.

But even McCoy wonders. He led the NFL in rushing last season. But McCoy said this week that he would have to see how the offense functions now before he could assess the impact of Jackson's departure.

The suspicion is that Kelly has all of this worked out in his busy mind. It is clear the coach made the decision to release Jackson. He wouldn't have done so without a sound plan for his offense to remain effective. And that is the objective. It isn't about replacing exactly what Jackson did, it's about building a balanced, varied attack with the players who are here.

All of those players stopped suddenly when Maclin went down at the end of Monday's practice. But that's because they were concerned for a teammate who is coming off a serious knee injury. They were not concerned about the fate of their offense. That is in too many hands this season.

Replacing star not Jordan Matthews' drive

May, 18, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA – Pressure? What pressure?

For Jordan Matthews, it’s simply a coincidence that he’s joining the Philadelphia Eagles soon after the club released three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

[+] EnlargeJordan Matthews
AP Photo/Michael PerezWorking hard likely won't be an issue for rookie Jordan Matthews. "I feel like I'm the most competitive guy ever," he said.
The Eagles selected Matthews with the No. 42 overall pick from Vanderbilt in the recently held NFL draft. In fact, they traded up 12 spots to pick the ultra-talented 6-foot-3 Matthews, who left the Commodores as the all-time SEC leader in career receptions (262) and yards (3,759).

Matthews doesn’t believe he’s replacing Jackson.

“I don't think there's any pressure [because] I'm a totally different player than DeSean Jackson,” Matthews said during a break in the Eagles’ rookie minicamp on Friday. “He's a great player. I wish him all the best in Washington. But at the same time I’ve got to be the best player that I can be. There's not much pressure for a guy when you’ve got LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles. I’ve just got to go in there and do my job, and that's it. That's all I'm focused on.”

Matthews has been focused since high school, especially since he was virtually overlooked.

Despite a successful high school career, Division I colleges simply weren’t offering Matthews a scholarship.

Until one day when a recruit decommitted.

Matthews sure made the most of his opportunity at Vanderbilt from that day forward.

“It wasn't like I was being looked over by some teams. I wasn't wanted by essentially anybody,” Matthews said. “I was kind of stuck in no man's land when it came to recruiting. I had a bunch of big schools that liked me, but nobody had ever gone to Division I from my high school, so they were kind of hesitant to offer. And then small schools would come and see Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama and those schools and thought, 'Oh, we don't think we'll be able to get him.' So they never offered.”

As a senior at Vanderbilt, Matthews compiled 112 receptions, 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. He worked himself into a legitimate NFL prospect and that was proven when the Eagles took him at No. 42.

The next step is proving his mettle with the Eagles. It has nothing to do with comparisons to Jackson. The only player Matthews compares himself to is himself.

“I feel like I'm the most competitive guy ever,” Matthews said. “I like to compete in everything I do. I'm gonna try to eat healthier than you, go out and practice harder than you, try to stretch longer than you. That’s just who I am. In the NFL, everybody works hard, but I just try to give myself the extra edge.”

Philadelphia Eagles draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
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NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

PHILADELPHIA -- A wrap-up of the Philadelphia Eagles' draft. Click here for a full list of Eagles draftees.

[+] Enlarge Jordan Matthews
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesThe Eagles traded up 12 spots to land Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews.
Best move: Trading up 12 spots to select Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews in the second round at No. 42 was brilliant. The Eagles were in need of a major upgrade at wide receiver, and they picked up a player who has speed and size. Matthews has the ability to catch the difficult pass across the middle, and he can run a deep route with ease. Without DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, this was a position the Eagles had to monitor. Matthews left Vanderbilt as the SEC’s career leader in receptions (262) and yards (3,759). Look for him to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Matthews is joining a team that needs help at wide receiver. It’s the perfect fit.

Riskiest move: Drafting Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith with the No. 26 pick in the first round has to be questioned. This is a player the Eagles easily could have gotten in the second or even the third round. Smith registered 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a senior, but that was in the aftermath of a poor junior season with just four sacks. Pass-rushers are hard to find, but the Eagles could have filled another need and added Smith in the second round. Time will tell whether it was worth using a first-round pick.

Most surprising move: This is surprising in a good way here with the pick of Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff at No. 86. The Eagles took Matthews at No. 42 and could have used another big wideout. Huff is 5-foot-11, but he has speed, strength and toughness. Even though the Eagles had a major need at wide receiver, selecting them in consecutive picks was a bit surprising. Huff’s all-around talent, which includes a desire to thrive on special teams, had to be enticing for the Eagles. Returning kickoffs and punts became a problem area at the beginning of last season and didn’t get much better by the end. If Huff can adapt quickly to the NFL style, he’ll be quite valuable to the Eagles.

File it away: Taking Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins with the first pick in the fourth round, No. 101 overall, was a solid move. Remember this pick down the road. The Eagles fielded a lot of calls from other teams but chose to keep the pick. With a major need at cornerback, this was the right move. Plus, Watkins played safety for two years at Florida, so his versatility will be an asset. Having players who can perform at multiple positions is a major bonus in the NFL. Watkins, who played with the Eagles’ Nate Allen in high school, has the speed (4.41 in the 40-yard dash) to be an effective cornerback. And he has the physical presence to be a solid safety. Allen has leadership skills and was named Florida’s captain midway through last season. Getting a player like this in the fourth round is a big-time positive.

Eagles add pass-catchers on Day 2

May, 10, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles made a major upgrade at wide receiver.

It just took a day longer than most people expected.

The Eagles entered the second round of the NFL draft with the No. 54 overall pick, but they must have sensed that Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews wouldn't last. So they worked out a trade with the Tennessee Titans to move up to No. 42 while sending the No. 122 overall pick in the fourth round to Tennessee in the process.

Then, at No. 86, the Eagles picked wide receiver Josh Huff, a former standout at the University of Oregon under coach Chip Kelly.

After releasing wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, the Eagles seemed to have a need at this position. That much was evident by their actions on Friday.

"I think the one thing we talked about is man coverage," Kelly said of Matthews' ability. "The one thing he does is catch the ball in traffic. He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. You know, he's got such a wingspan and will go up and get it and can play both inside and outside. We're probably going to start him inside. If we've got Jeremy Maclin on one side and (Riley Cooper) on the other side and throw [Matthews] inside, and he has experience. So I think the kind of thing that would separate him from some other people is he does have experience.

"Only a couple guys in the draft that we felt you could at least see on film that played both inside and outside. Some are inside receivers, some are exclusively outside receivers. We felt he was one of those guys that could do both. He's got the speed to play on the outside. He's got the size. He can do a lot of the different things that we can do. The big thing for us is the intangible things that Jason Avant brought playing inside that slot receiver, being a physical guy, and I think he can do that along with exploiting man coverage."

Matthews is stepping into an ideal situation with the Eagles since they’re a bit thin at wide receiver. Matthews had 1,477 yards receiving last season, the third-highest total ever by an SEC receiver.

Many of those catches came in the middle of the field with defenders hanging all over him.

"My coaches always tell me, 'If you want to be a big receiver, you have to play big,'" Matthews said on a conference call. "That was always my mindset I took into my game. I always made sure I watched big receivers and watched how they scored in coverage and got open and caught the ball. I try to apply that to my game and make sure I can be a top receiver."

Huff was a top receiver at Oregon while accumulating 62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He averaged an impressive 18.4 yards per catch last season.

"He was the highest-rated guy we had [on the board]," Kelly said.

Eagles pick Jordan Matthews in 2nd

May, 9, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA -- The pick: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt, No. 42.

My take: Matthews had a solid season for the Commodores, catching 112 passes for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. He's 6 feet 3, 212 pounds and will have a chance to make an immediate impact alongside Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. With the losses of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, Matthews will have a major opportunity to play right away. He has ability in all areas of the game and this was a strong pick.

Stepping in: Matthews can make plays in the middle of the field and he has terrific speed as well (4.6 in 40-yard dash). With a lack of depth at wide receiver, Matthews is walking into the right situation. By the way, Matthews is the cousin of Jerry Rice.

What's next: The Eagles moved up from No. 54 to take Matthews and traded their fourth-round pick, No. 122 overall. Philadelphia still has two picks remaining in the third round -- Nos. 83 and 86.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Armed with three selections on Day 2 of the NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers are spending the day plotting their strategy for picks Nos. 53 (second round), 85 and 98 (both in the third round).

After taking Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round -- a move that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called one of the winners of Day 1 Insider -- the Packers reset their draft board to reflect the best players still available.

If their grades on the players still available at 53, 85 and 98 fit their needs, here is who they might consider:

Linebackers: Notes: Borland, Brown and Skov would all project as inside linebackers in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. Kiper Jr. ranked Van Noy, an outside linebacker, as the fifth-best player still available Insider, and Borland as the 12th. In his second-round mock draft Insider, Kiper Jr. predicted Borland to the Packers at No. 53. He wrote: “This would be a steal. He's not a physical freak, but Borland is a football freak. Slots in next to A.J. Hawk.”

Tight ends:
Amaro
Notes: If the Packers are going to get an impact tight end, they probably need to do it on Friday, because the drop off after these four is significant. Seferian-Jenkins and Amaro are receiving tight ends in the mold of Jermichael Finley, while Fiedorowicz and Niklas are more traditional players. Scouts Inc. has the Packers taking Amaro in its updated second-round mock draft Insider.

Receivers:
Lee
Notes: Lee could be one of the first players off the board when the draft resumes, so it's unlikely the Packers would be in position to take him unless they traded up. Keep in mind that they cannot trade No. 98 because it is a compensatory pick at the end of the third round. Lee and Landry are smaller receivers in the 5-foot-11 range, and Ellington is even smaller at 5-9 3/8. The Packers might want to go bigger at this spot, because they already have a dynamic slot receiver in Randall Cobb.

Centers:
Notes: The Packers are high on second-year pro JC Tretter as their possible next starting center, but the former collegiate tackle has yet to play an NFL snap at any position. There is a good chance all of these centers will be available at No. 53, with Martin and Richburg as likely late second-round picks who also could slip into the third round.
There is frustration out there now, confusion amongst at least part of the Detroit Lions' fan base as to what the team did Thursday night.

Ebron
The Lions avoided defense and drafted a tight end (Eric Ebron) who is essentially a receiver. Though it might work out, the Lions play in the NFC North, so they still have to find enough good players to defend the best running back (Adrian Peterson), one of the top quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers) and one of the best receiving tandems (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery) in the NFL.
If there was a question about whether defense was a priority in the division, Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota all chose defensive players.

This, though, is something the Lions can begin to remedy on Day 2 of the NFL draft, which begins at 7 p.m. on Friday with the second and third rounds. Here are 10 players to pay attention to as we assemble a second-day board.

1.CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: He is the best cornerback left on the ESPN.com board and the No. 40 player overall. He has the size the Lions covet in their secondary -- listed at 6-foot-2 5/8 -- and has major potential. Not as polished as some of the first-round cornerbacks, but his size and speed could end up making him one of the top cornerbacks in this class after converting from wide receiver midway through his college career. Had 50 career tackles and seven career interceptions.

2.LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU: He’s the third-highest outside linebacker left on the ESPN.com board, behind Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu and Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence. He can play against the run or the pass and should be able to stay on the field for three downs. He played in 52 games, had 226 tackles, 62 tackles for loss, 26 sacks and seven interceptions.

3.LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech: He is the highest-rated outside linebacker left on the ESPN.com board and the No. 30 player overall. Has good size at 6-foot-3 1/4. Doesn’t have fantastic instincts -- Van Noy is probably better there -- but is a good player who could make a difference immediately. Georgia Tech’s career sack leader with 31.5. Had 134 career tackles.

Jernigan
4.DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State: Doesn’t have ideal size but is very, very good against the run. Wouldn’t be pressured to start right away, but could become a rotational player with Nick Fairley immediately and eventually take over there. Had 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season for the Seminoles.

5.DL Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame: Personally love his game. Has the size where he could play left defensive end for the Lions in a 4-3 or get rolled inside to project as a tackle at some point. Had 19 career sacks and 127 career tackles. Really good pass-rusher who can also defend the run.

6.CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood: Did not face elite talent but has the size Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants at 6-foot-1. Could end up as somewhat of a project at cornerback, but was named the country’s top “small school” defensive back last season.

McGill
7.CB Keith McGill, Utah: We've talked a lot about size with cornerbacks and McGill is the tallest cornerback in the draft. The No. 9 cornerback on the ESPN.com board, he grades out with above average cover skills and run support. Does not have great hands, though.

8.WR Cody Latimer, Indiana/Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: I’m cheating here with two players, but these would be the two wide receivers I’d covet in the second round if the Lions just decide to go all-in on offense and roll with the defense they have. Both have extremely good size and could give the Lions a front line of every pass catcher other than Golden Tate being at least 6-foot-2. That said, if the Lions went offense in the second round, too, there would be some issues.

Ealy
9.DT Kony Ealy, Missouri: Is good against the run and the pass, and easily could have been a first-round target. Can theoretically play both inside and outside, much like Tuitt. Had 53 career tackles, 27.5 of them for loss and 14 of them sacks.

10.CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson: A little bit under the preferred 6-foot mark, but is a physical player who can become a starter. Physical. Had 159 tackles and six interceptions in his career.

Other players to watch: S Terrence Brooks, Florida State; S Brock Vereen, Minnesota; DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota; DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame; CB Phillip Gaines, Rice; DB Jaylen Watkins, Florida; LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin; LB Trent Murphy, Stanford; C Marcus Martin, USC; C Weston Richburg, Colorado State; QB Aaron Murray, Georgia; QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: The Jaguars addressed perhaps their biggest need by selecting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

My take: It’s a bit of a surprise pick because general manager David Caldwell has already named Chad Henne the starter in 2014 and they weren’t expecting a rookie quarterback to play right away. That means they’re not counting on getting anything from the third overall pick in the draft this season and possibly even into next season. The Jaguars have holes all over the roster and could have gotten immediate impact players by taking linebacker Khalil Mack, who went fifth to Oakland, or wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who went fourth to Buffalo. There’s no question the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Bortles is the most physically impressive quarterback in the draft. He has a big arm and moves well outside the pocket. However, he played in a spread offense that stressed shorter and more horizontal throws in college and will have to learn to play in the pocket.

Fixing flaws: Say this for Bortles: He's conscious of what he needs to do to improve. Analysts highlighted some poor mechanics and fundamentals on 2013 tape, specifically his lower body and footwork. Bortles obviously worked on that pretty hard in the first few months of 2014, because he was much cleaner in his mechanics at his pro day. His balance was better, the ball came out of his hand cleaner, his throwing motion was more economical and, as a result, he threw the ball harder and more accurately.

What’s next: The Jaguars don’t pick again until 39th overall (seventh pick in the second round) and still have pressing needs to address at pass-rusher and receiver. This is a deep draft at receiver, so the Jaguars could put off taking a receiver until the third round. Names to watch include Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Alabama’s Kevin Norwood, both of whom were on the South roster the Jaguars coached at the Senior Bowl.
With the Baltimore Ravens looking to add a wide receiver and tight end at some point in the draft, here are some numbers from ESPN Stats & Information on some selected prospects at those positions:

FIRST ROUND

Ebron
Eric Ebron, North Carolina TE: Averaged 8.7 yards after the catch, best of any of the top 10 tight end prospects.

Odell Beckham Jr., LSU WR: Caught 26 passes thrown 15 yards or longer downfield last season, most among qualifying receivers. He had multiple receptions on passes of this distance in 7 of 13 games.

Brandin Cooks, Oregon WR: Gained 1,215 yards after the catch over the past two seasons, which ranked fourth among qualifying receivers. During that time, he had 23 receptions in which he gained at least 15 yards after the catch.

Marqise Lee, USC WR: Trojan quarterbacks completed 69.7 percent of their pass attempts with 29 touchdowns and just one interception when targeting Marqise Lee in his career. They averaged 10.3 yards every time they targeted Lee.

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State WR: Produced a first down or touchdown on 83.3 percent of his receptions last season, tied for the third-highest percentage of any FBS wide receiver.

SECOND ROUND

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech TE: Produced 33 receptions of 15 yards or longer, 11th-most in the FBS and 10 more than any other tight end.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington TE: Had only three drops in 149 targets over the past two seasons. His drop percentage of 2 percent is the lowest of any top tight end prospect.

Davante Adams, Fresno State WR: Topped the FBS with 13 receiving touchdowns of 20 yards or longer. He also led the FBS in receptions (131) and touchdown catches (24).

THIRD ROUND

Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt WR: Led all qualifying receivers with 44 receptions and 421 yards on screen passes last season. He averaged 9.6 yards per reception on screens.
We held our NFL Nation mock draft this week on ESPN.com and on SportsCenter.

I took Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the 49ers at No. 30.

But that was not my intention. I tried to trade up. I tried a lot. Spanning picks 15-28, I made nine inquiries. Nine of them. I never truly came close to executing a deal. There was some potential with Kansas City at No. 23. But I wasn’t giving up the No. 30 pick.

I think the 49ers would like to draft twice in the first round, so that was my goal. I wouldn’t worry my lack of trade success will translate into trouble for the 49ers finding a trade partner Thursday night. I think the actual decision makers may be more willing to move back than the folks I was trying to convince.

Honestly, I don’t love the Benjamin choice, but he was really the only way I thought I could go. I would have been much more satisfied if he was my second first-round pick and I was able to get a cornerback earlier. Even without a trade, I thought I might get TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, but his slide ended at No. 28 to Carolina. Yes, I talked to Carolina about a deal, too.

At No. 30, in addition to Benjamin, I considered Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews and Fresno State receiver Davante Adams as well as Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford. In the end, I went with Benjamin, whose size and skill can translate into big NFL success.

But, overall, I leave this exercise disappointed. I wanted to get a cornerback and a receiver. But no one would play with me.
Gilbert/DennardGetty ImagesOklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, left, and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard are two players who could upgrade San Francisco's defense.
When the May 8-10 NFL draft is complete, the San Francisco 49ers will likely have new players at cornerback and wide receiver who will be expected to contribute as rookies.

Those two positions are the 49ers' biggest need areas. They don’t have a ton of immediate needs, so filling holes at those two spots is expected. To go along with the fact that they don’t have a lot of needs is the 49ers, whose first pick is No. 30, have six picks in the first three rounds, which is the most in the NFL.

So San Francisco is flexible. It can trade up to get a player -- more likely a cornerback than a receiver because receiver is deeper in top-end talent and cornerback is a more pressing need. It can also find a way to trade up and select twice in the first round. Or it can keep its two second-round picks (No. 56 and No. 61).

Let’s take a look at some of the players the 49ers could take at each spot. Since the 49ers are more likely to take a cornerback first, we will look at some of the second-tier receivers instead of top options such as Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans because both players would likely require big trade-ups.

Cornerbacks

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s widely considered the most complete cornerback in the draft by many scouts. He is also a dangerous return man. Of all the players in this draft, he could be worth the 49ers moving up.
  • What are the risks? There is no sure thing he will be an elite shutdown cornerback. He may just be very good and not worth a high pick.
  • How could he be the choice? If the 49ers think he is the missing link on their defense and he is worth a trade up of 15 to 18 spots, I could see this happen.
  • Quotable: “I think I'm a dangerous return man with the ball in my hands, and on an interception there is always a possibility for me to take it back to house,” said Gilbert on his playmaking ability.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He looks the part and has shown flashes of being a star.
  • What are the risks? Some teams don’t think he is a true No. 1 cornerback. He may not be a perfect fit for every defense, and there are speed questions.
  • How could he be the choice? If he fell a little bit and if the 49ers have him high on their board, I could see a possible trade up to get him.
  • Quotable: “I know in the NFL it's a 5-yard radius. I can run with receivers, and I can go get the ball. I don't need to be that aggressive and still play good ball," Dennard said in this interview.
Jason Verrett, TCU

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is versatile, strong, smart and fundamentally sound. A terrific tackler.
  • What are the risks? He’s small. Many teams want their cornerbacks to be taller.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is there when the 49ers pick at No. 30, he would be difficult for them to pass up. He’d be a perfect fit in the slot, and the 49ers could go get taller cornerbacks in the second or third round.
  • Quotable: “If I’m 5-9, I’m 5-9. But I can compete with anybody,” said Verrett on his confidence despite his lack of ideal size.
[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBradley Roby says he learned a lot in his final season at Ohio State.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s very athletic, and he looks the part.
  • What are the risks? He doesn’t have the greatest ball skills, and he wasn’t consistent last season.
  • How could he be the choice? Maybe if the 49ers want to trade back to the 35-40 range and Roby is still there. I could see value there based on potential.
  • Quotable: “I think I had a decent season. It wasn’t what I expected. The first half of the season didn’t go as I expected. Those things happen. I learned a lot from it, and I got better,” Roby said of criticisms of his 2013 performance.
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s super fast, and the game doesn’t seem too big for him.
  • What are the risks? There is concern that he might be just a good college player.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is on the board at No. 30 (no sure thing), I could easily see the 49ers jumping on him. They’ve scouted him hard.
  • Quotable: “I moved around in our defensive backfield. I played field, I played boundary. That just shows how versatile I am. I enjoyed playing at Virginia Tech. I definitely consider myself a physical player,” Fuller said about the style of play he concentrated on in college.
Receivers

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is highly productive and polished, complete with top-shelf speed. That’s rare.
  • What are the risks? He is not big and perhaps the NFL game could be too much for him.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is there at No. 30, the 49ers would have a hard time saying no to him. He could be part of a trade up. I could see the 49ers maybe giving up their two second-round picks to take Cooks at No. 25 and then take a cornerback at No. 30. The Northern California native would look great in a 49ers uniform.
  • Talking numbers: Cooks led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 32 receptions of 20 yards or longer.
Odell Beckham, LSU

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is highly athletic, fast and productive.
  • What are the risks? LSU receivers haven’t always had the greatest NFL success.
  • How could he be the choice? There’s a lot to like about Beckham. If the timing is right, I could see the 49ers getting aggressive in their pursuit of him.
  • Talking numbers: He had an AQ-high 26 receptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer downfield last season. He had multiple receptions on passes of this distance in seven of 13 games.
[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarqise Lee caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
Marqise Lee, USC

  • Why is he a top prospect? He has had success, and he looks the part of a stud No. 1 receiver.
  • What are the risks? He is not overly fast. He is a bit on the slight side, and he wasn’t great in 2013.
  • How could he be the choice? There has been talk that Lee could fall. If he’s there at No. 30, the 49ers may be tempted. Perhaps they could see how far he would drop in the second round and then make a move for him.
  • Talking numbers: USC quarterbacks completed 69.7 percent of their pass attempts, with 29 touchdowns and just one interception, when targeting Lee in his career.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s a big, strong, impact player.
  • What are the risks? Some scouts think that he is a bit raw and should have stayed in school for another season.
  • How could he be the choice? I’m not sure the 49ers would take Benjamin at No. 30 if one of the top cornerbacks is on the board.
  • Talking numbers: Benjamin gained a first down or touchdown on 83.3 percent of his receptions last season, tied for the third-highest percentage among FBS wide receivers.
Davante Adams, Fresno State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is big and strong and was ultraproductive.
  • What are the risks? Some scouts worry that he hasn’t faced great competition and there could be a learning curve in the NFL.
  • How could he be the choice? If Adams is on the board in the second round, the 49ers could easily take this Bay Area native. Like 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Adams played for Earl Hansen at Palo Alto High School. Harbaugh is still close to Hansen, so he has some inside information.
  • Talking numbers: Adams led the FBS in receptions (131) and receiving touchdowns (24) and ranked second with 888 yards after the catch.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

  • Why is he a top prospect? Polished, hard worker who has big upside.
  • What are the risks? Doesn’t have great speed, and some scouts wonder if he will make a big impact in the NFL.
  • How could he be the choice? He could be a possibility in the second round, although the 49ers might be looking for a receiver with more speed.
  • Talking numbers: Matthews led all AQ receivers with 44 receptions and 421 yards on screen passes last season. He averaged 9.6 yards per reception on screens, which was 2.5 yards more than the AQ average.
Cody Latimer, Indiana

  • Why is he a top prospect? Teams are focusing on Latimer. He has top-end length and speed.
  • What are the risks? Receiver is a high-bust position. There have been good college players like Latimer who have failed before.
  • How could he be the choice? The 49ers could fall in love with Latimer’s speed and try to take him if he is available near the end of the first round.
  • Talking numbers: In 2013, Latimer caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina

  • Why is he a top prospect? Small, but strong player who is excellent after the catch.
  • What are the risks? Not overly polished and doesn’t possess great speed.
  • How could he be the choice? He could be a good value in the second round.
  • Talking numbers: Ellington had a combed 15 touchdown catches in the past two seasons.
In this Insider piece Insider, Todd McShay offers his latest mock draft for the first two rounds of the May draft.

Below, we will review McShay's choices for the San Francisco 49ers for the first two rounds. The 49ers have an extra pick in the second round as part of the 2013 Alex Smith trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Insiders can see who McShay has the 49ers taking and my thoughts on his choices below.

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