The NFL Scouting Combine gets started this week so it seems like a good time to jump back into some draft talk. The Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick and a total of eight picks. The team has a few holes to fill so this is going to be a very important draft.
I'm getting asked quite a lot who I want the Eagles to pick at No.4. It is hard to know right now since we have yet to go through free agency and we still don't have detailed answers on the schemes the Eagles will run. There are several good candidates to discuss.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is the name that seems to get mentioned the most. He is a really impressive player and had a great senior season at Utah. I think the Eagles would love his versatility. He could play nose tackle, defensive tackle, or even a 5-technique defensive end. That role could be important if the Eagles do play a “4-3 under” defense as some have speculated. Lotulelei isn't a 350-pound guy that eats up blocks. He is in the 320-pound range. He sheds single blocks very well, but isn't as comfortable with double teams. While he might not be as big as some think, he is a better athlete. He can get up the field and be disruptive.
Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel could go as high the No. 1 overall pick. If he's on the board when the Eagles pick, I'm sure they'll have significant interest. Joeckel is a left tackle who is equally comfortable as a pass protector and run blocker. The Texas A&M stud has good size and is athletic. Joeckel is someone you want going up against the other team's best pass rusher. One area where I think he needs work is in getting stronger. The Eagles do have
Cornerback Dee Milliner is a junior from Alabama. Most people consider him to be the top corner in the draft. Milliner has good size and is a tough, physical cover corner. The Eagles secondary was a mess for parts of 2012. I think the team needs to add at least one top-flight talent at corner. Milliner could be that guy. There are a couple of questions with him. Does he have ideal speed? Can he adjust to the NFL, where you can't be hands-on with receivers beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage? Milliner isn't slow by any stretch, but there is a difference in running a 4.45 and 4.55, even at 195 pounds. To take him so high, you'd prefer him to run 4.50 or less. As for the contact, that's purely a judgment call, but it is something the scouts and coaches must decide before ranking him.
Those are the big three names. Let's talk about some other guys who could be targets. First up, I'll go with Chance Warmack, the guard from Alabama. Initially, I dismissed this thought. The rule of thumb in the NFL is not to take a guard in the top 10. I remembered Chip Kelly talking about not being beholden to standard ways of thinking. Maybe Warmack could be a target. I'm not sure how I feel about the idea, but most of that is based on the prejudice of the NFL's unwritten rule that guards don't go that high. Anyone who watches Warmack loves him. The guy was a dominant left guard for Alabama this year. He's big and strong and athletic and mean. Imagine Shawn Andrews, without all the issues. Maybe that guy is worth the No. 4 overall pick.
Philly native Shariff Floyd is a player that the Eagles could take a strong look at. He played both defensive end and defensive tackle at Florida. He reminds me of a bigger, younger version of
Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.
There is a lot of interest in Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones. The comparison I see way too often is that he could be the Eagles' version of Von Miller. Uh, no. Miller was a dynamic athlete. Jones isn't. Jones is a good linebacker and pass rusher, but he's a notch below Miller. I don't think Jones will be a serious target for the Eagles. The team has several pass rushers already (
That segues nicely into discussing Dion Jordan, a great athlete who Kelly coached at Oregon. Jordan is a tough guy to get a handle on. He began his career as a tight end. Then he shifted to defensive end. By 2012, he was playing a combination of pass rusher and linebacker. Watch his senior tape and compare it to Graham's or Curry's or Cole's. They are nothing alike. Jordan rushed the passer on a regular basis, but also went out in the slot to cover receivers. There are plays when he's 20 to 25 yards downfield in coverage. What's so insane is that Jordan wasn't lost. Because of his background as a tight end, he was comfortable running around covering receivers.
Jordan isn't some finesse guy who struggles at the line. He is listed at 6-7 and 243 pounds. He is powerful and can be a very physical player. I love the fact Jordan uses his hands to engage blockers and he's able to shed them. There are times when his run defense gets sloppy, but that's due to technique and not a lack of effort or toughness.
I think Jordan would be the SAM linebacker for the Eagles. He would rush the passer most of the time, but could drop into coverage on a regular basis and he'd be not just effective, but good. Jordan is a dynamic athlete. He's got excellent speed. He can change directions smoothly. He's quick and explosive. Jordan is a tall guy, but he bends well. Some tall players are stiff and upright. Their height is almost a detriment. That's not the case with Jordan. He's able to beat blockers by getting under and then around them. I can't tell you how impressive that is for such a tall player.
The other X-factor here is that the Eagles need someone who can chase Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Colin Kapernick and the other mobile quarterbacks the team will face. There aren't enough gifted athletes in the front seven.
Enough about the early pick. Let's jump around and cover a variety of draft topics.
- The Eagles need help at safety. The good news is that this draft class has plenty of choices. Kenny Vaccaro is the big name. He'll go in the first round. Jonathan Cyprien could be a target for the Eagles in the second round. Eric Reid has grown on me. He's a very physical player. Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma is a player whom I like. Rontez Miles from California (Pa.) is a small-school guy to watch.
- We don't know what Kelly will want to do at tight end. This is a deep, talented class. Mychal Rivera from Tennessee is an impressive player who might fit Kelly's system. Rivera is only 237 pounds, but he's underrated as a blocker and is a gifted receiver. He could be a tight end or H-back.
- The draft is loaded with good cornerbacks. The Eagles can find good players in the first three rounds and probably into the fourth as well. Marc Anthony from Cal is a guy that I like outside the early rounds. Johnthan Banks could be an interesting second-round target. He's a ballhawk with some size and he will hit.
- At the least, the Eagles need to find good depth for the offensive line. Brennan Williams from UNC got hurt at midseason, but is a talented right tackle prospect to watch. Kyle Long only played one year at Oregon, but has really grown on me. He played left guard and left tackle. He's mean. He's athletic. Kelly knows him well. I don't know that Long has the footwork to start at left tackle in the NFL, but he reminds me a lot of
Evan Mathis. Long could develop into a good guard.
- I don't anticipate the Eagles taking a receiver early, but if you watch Tavon Austin from West Virginia, you can't help but drool. The guy makes electric moves. He's absolutely dynamic in the open field. I love his balance and body control. What surprises me is that he's stronger than I realized. He's not big, but he's also not finesse. If he somehow is on the board when the second round comes along, passing on him would be very tough.
- All this draft talk and nothing about quarterbacks? I don't think the Eagles will go for Geno Smith at the No. 4 pick. Beyond that, it really is hard to predict. I'm not a big fan of this quarterback class. If the right guy is on the board in the third or fourth round, that's good value. I think going for a quarterback early this year is a bigger gamble than usual and don't like doing that. Value really is the key.