Free agency will start next week and we don't yet know how active the Eagles will be. For now, let's continue to focus on the draft as the primary source of new players for the 2013 season. With that in mind, this seems like a good time to run through the first Eagles mock draft of the offseason.
The goal here isn't to fill every hole on the roster, but rather to address some key needs and simply make the roster better. You don't ignore needs during the draft, but focusing on them can lead you astray. Stick with the draft board and trust the work the scouts have done since last spring. If you listen to the scouts, your chances of having a good draft go up. They've done the legwork and aren't making any rash judgments. Their opinions are based on thorough research and study.
1 - LB Dion Jordan - Oregon - 6-6, 248
I'm not alone in thinking that Jordan would be a great fit for the Eagles. A lot of mock drafts have the team taking him with the fourth overall pick. This isn't a matter of linking Chip Kelly with one of his former players. Jordan is a very gifted prospect that all 32 teams will have interest in. He had a terrific showing at the combine. He looked like the most natural pass rusher there. Put on the game tape and Jordan stands out there. He can fly off the edge. The thing that really stands out is how well he bends for such a tall player. Those guys tend to be too upright. Jordan can dip and get low to get by offensive tackles. He's not just a pass rusher. Jordan has good cover skills. He can cover backs in the flat or run with wide receivers 20 yards downfield. Oregon would have him line up over the slot receiver on a regular basis.
We don't know exactly what the Eagles defensive scheme will be, but that ties into the beauty of drafting Jordan. He fits every scheme. Run a 4-3 and he will be a Von Miller type that plays linebacker in the base unit and then rushes the passer in sub-packages. Run the 3-4 and Jordan is a natural fit as a rush linebacker. Run the 4-3 Under, which Bill Davis used in Arizona, and Jordan is a natural fit at the SAM linebacker spot. He would split time rushing and covering. One other reason I love the thought of adding Jordan, is that he gives you a front-seven player who can chase Robert Griffin III all over the field. Mobile quarterbacks are on the rise. You need rushers who can chase them down.
2 - OT Terron Armstead - Arkansas-Pine Bluff - 6-5, 306
Who? Armstead isn't a household name, but boy is he known in the scouting community. Armstead burst onto the national scene with a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game in mid-January. He was the best lineman in the game. Armstead was then added to the Senior Bowl roster as an injury replacement for another player. He took advantage of that and played well in the practices and the game. Armstead didn't stop there. He went to the combine and ran the fastest time of any lineman in Indianapolis. He looked athletic in the drills and had a terrific showing. Armstead's game tape is also impressive. He is really an impressive prospect despite going to a small school.
The Eagles need help on the offensive line. With
3 - S Phillip Thomas - Fresno State - 6-0, 208
Thomas led the nation in interceptions in 2012 with eight. The Eagles as a team had eight interceptions in 2012. Ouch. The secondary needs a physical safety and a ballhawk. There aren't any ballhawks available in free agency (Jairus Byrd got tagged and I don't consider Ed Reed a likely target). That means you probably need to find the ballhawk in the draft. Thomas can also be a physical player. He's a good hitter. His tackling is erratic, but sadly that's true with many young defensive backs. Thomas showed the ability to play in the box or to stay deep and act as a centerfielder. He has good instincts and great hands.
Thomas would come in and compete with
4 - CB Tharold Simon - LSU - 6-2, 202
Simon isn't on the same level as Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. Peterson was an explosive athlete. Claiborne had phenomenal ball skills. Simon is just a solid cover corner with good size and speed. While he didn't develop into a star at LSU, Simon did have a good career. He started for two years and picked off seven career passes, while breaking up 22.
Based on research, it sounds like Bill Davis and defensive backs coach John Lovett prefer big players. Simon has a good build and long arms. He is built to be a press corner and that's what he's best at. Simon can get a good jam and redirect receivers at the line. He can play off of the receiver, but is less effective. He lacks ideal body control and quickness. Simon ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine, which is plenty fast for a cornerback of his size. He has solid ball skills. Simon is also a good hitter and tackler. He would be good value in the early fourth round and still might be able to challenge for a starting job as a rookie.
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.
5 - DL William Campbell - Michigan - 6-5, 318
Size, size, and size. Campbell is a big defensive lineman and would give the Eagles the kind of body they don't currently have on the roster. At Michigan, he played nose tackle and defensive tackle. He has the frame to be a nose in the Eagles system, but could also slide out to the 5-technique defensive end spot and give the team a massive run stopper on the edge if they wanted to go that route.
Campbell isn't a pass rusher (only three sacks in college) and he's only a limited athlete. He did impress everyone down at the Shrine Game practices. He doesn't project to being a starter in the NFL, but could be a valuable role player. His defensive coordinator at Michigan was Greg Mattison, who ran the Ravens defense a few years back. Campbell was playing in a creative, aggressive NFL-type of system which should aid his transition to pro football.
6 - QB Matt Scott - Arizona - 6-2, 213
If Chip Kelly wants a rookie quarterback to work with, Scott could be of interest. He is definitely a project, but he's got ability. Scott is tough, athletic, and has a good arm. He's nowhere close to being an NFL quarterback right now, but the tools are there. He needs time and coaching.
Scott thrived in the spread, but will need lots of coaching to adjust to the NFL. His footwork leaves a lot to be desired. He's too frantic in the pocket. He throws the ball almost sidearm at times. Scott is not close to being a polished pocket passer. Those skills are teachable. His toughness and athleticism are things you have or you don't. That makes Scott a quarterback project worth taking a chance on.
7 - TE Joseph Fauria - UCLA - 6-7, 259
Fauria is one of the new breed of tight ends. He spends more time in the slot or out wide than he does as an in-line player. Fauria is a talented pass catcher and a huge guy. He used the size to his advantage and caught 12 touchdowns this past season. He is a big-time weapon in the red zone. Fauria can go up high and catch the ball. He can also catch it in traffic.
The downside to Fauria is his blocking. There are times when it is mediocre and other times when it is flat out bad. He needs a lot of work in this area. I get the feeling Kelly will want players who he can move around and be creative with. Fauria isn't someone you run behind on 3rd-and-1, but he is a player you can throw to in the red zone. There is value in that. The blocking can be worked on by his position coach in the NFL. Fauria certainly has the size and strength to be a good blocker.
7 - CB Demetrius McCray - Appalachian State - 6-1, 187
The Eagles secondary sure isn't a one- or two-player fix. I think the team needs to bring in at least a couple of cornerbacks in the draft, as well as a couple of undrafted players. The secondary needs depth and competition. McCray would be good fit and value. He has a very good build. His arms are almost 34 inches long. Todd Herremans' arms are shorter than that. Press corners are even more effective when they have long arms. McCray has good enough speed. He ran 4.54 at the combine. The reason he's on the board this late is that he lacks ideal quickness or agility. He's a bit stiff. That's OK if you like big, long cornerbacks who can press.
McCray had 10 interceptions in his career so he's not just a big corner. He has good ball skills. He can make plays. McCray has experience in the slot and outside. He can hit and tackle. He needs coaching, but has the potential to be an effective press corner.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @LawlorNFL.