Philadelphia Eagles: Kelvin Benjamin

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: Wide receivers

February, 21, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA -- It is the position with the highest diva-per-capita ratio in football. That makes it tougher for the Eagles to shop for wide receivers, general manager Howie Roseman said.

“Being able to block -- obviously, we run the ball in Philadelphia,” Roseman said. “When you look at that, it’s an inherent toughness and willingness to do those little things that help. A lot of these guys in college, because they get the ball so much, they’re big-time guys, they’re not asked to do the dirty work. They’re asked to do the things that are fun. … For us, the receiver position in Philadelphia is going to be a well-rounded guy.”

There is plenty of tape of wide receivers running deep routes and making great catches, Roseman said. The combine gives the Eagles' decision-makers a chance to figure out which players are willing to do the “dirty work” that make Chip Kelly’s offense tough to defend.

Here are a few receivers the Eagles will likely focus on. A complete list is impossible, since Roseman said the position is so deep this year, there could be a receiver the Eagles like in every round. And since they are likely to be gone before the Eagles’ 22nd pick, we’re leaving Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Sammy Watkins of Clemson off this list.

Marqise Lee, USC. Some well-respected analysts, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock of NFL Network, have the 6-foot, 195-pound Lee rated ahead of Evans. Lee has excellent speed and very good hands. He’s also a kick returner, which could appeal to the Eagles.

Lee caught 57 passes in 2013. The year before, with a quarterback named Matt Barkley, Lee caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. Against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks that year, Lee caught 12 balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

Odell Beckham Jr., LSU. In his second first-round mock draft, Kiper had Beckham going to the Eagles at No. 22. At 5-foot-11, 208 pounds, Beckham has good speed and is also a potential return man.

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Benjamin, who was a sophomore in 2013. His perceived flaws -- less-than-elite speed, inconsistency in route running and occasional drops -- are mostly fixable with coaching.

His upside? As Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com puts it: “A monster-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver, Benjamin has the overall strength, length and wide catching radius that will demand extra coverage be rolled his way.”

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State. Another guy who will be familiar to Kelly, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Cooks put up remarkable numbers as a junior in 2013: 128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 touchdowns. The Eagles would probably like a little more size -- they already have the diminutive DeSean Jackson -- but it’s hard to argue with that kind of production.

Other names to watch: Jarvis Landry, LSU; Davante Adams, Fresno State; Josh Huff, Oregon; Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; Allen Robinson, Penn State.
For our first Twitter-based mailbag, the questions centered on the Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver situation.

That's only a little surprising. The Eagles clearly need help at a couple of defensive positions, especially safety and outside linebacker. But the wide receiver picture is cloudy -- "complicated," as GM Howie Roseman described it. Riley Cooper is scheduled to be a free agent. So is Jeremy Maclin, who missed the 2013 season with a torn ACL. There is a chance veteran Jason Avant could be victim of a $2 million 2014 salary.

That leaves DeSean Jackson and some question marks. And so, on to the questions:

 
PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles would have loved having wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in coach Chip Kelly's offense in 2013. And they certainly would like to have Maclin back, fully recovered from his ACL tear, in 2014.

The issue was always going to be whether the soon-to-be free agent was overwhelmed by an offer from another team. According to a report in the New York Daily News, that could very well happen.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsIn a weak free-agent class for receivers, Jeremy Maclin could be a hot commodity.
Jets beat writer Manish Mehta reported Friday that Maclin and Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders are on the Jets' radar. New York had the No. 31 ranked passing offense in the NFL last season and is expected to part ways with Santonio Holmes to clear $8.25 million in salary-cap space.

Maclin would probably be a good fit in Kelly's system. But he knows for sure he would excel under Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The same is true of former Eagles head coach Andy Reid in Kansas City.

So if Maclin has to settle for a one-year, prove-it contract to show he can return to his pre-injury form, he might feel more confident in an offense he's already had success in.

And if the Jets, Chiefs or another team in need of a receiver -- New England? Carolina? -- are willing to give Maclin a longer-term deal, he might just go for the security. He's still only 25, but two ACL surgeries have given him a keen sense of how quickly a career can be short-circuited.

With few elite receivers on the market this year, teams may be more willing to take a bit of a risk with Maclin -- especially teams with coaches who already have a relationship with him.

It's worth pointing out that the risk isn't nearly as daunting as it once was. The state of the art in repairing and rehabbing ACL injuries is very good.

While teams like the Jets might see a desperate need for Maclin's services, the Eagles' viewpoint is a little different. They did very well on offense without him in 2013. Riley Cooper, who is also on the brink of free agency, emerged as a legitimate weapon. DeSean Jackson remains a big-play threat.

By re-signing Cooper and bringing veteran Jason Avant back, the Eagles could have the same core group of receivers that combined for 167 receptions, 2,614 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Would Maclin make that group better? No doubt. But would he make it better by enough of a margin to outbid the Jets or another team for his services? And what about the possibility of getting a big-bodied receiver like Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin in the draft?

Those considerations don't even begin to address what Kelly might have in mind for his tight ends, especially Zach Ertz. Ertz was getting more playing time, often at the expense of Avant, in the last month of the season.

All things being equal, the Eagles would like to see what Maclin can do in Kelly's offense. But if all things aren't equal, and if a market develops for Maclin, the Eagles are in a position to move on.
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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