The NFL Scouting Combine is the one time when all 32 teams and all of the top prospects get together so the teams can get an up-close look at the players. The combine isn't the "make or break" scenario that so many people make it out to be, but it is very important. Players need to check out medically. That might be the single most important aspect of the combine. Players meet with the teams for interviews. Those can be critical. If the player can't sell the team that he knows what he's doing or that he can be trusted, that can greatly affect his grade. The on-field stuff is what those of us on the outside focus on, but it is actually the least important. Still, it is good to get to see how the players test and look in the drills.
Coming off a down season, the Eagles have several holes to fill. This is going to be a very important draft. Let's take a look at some positions where the Eagles need help and the combine performances of some players of note.
Quarterback - I don't think the Eagles will use pick No. 4 on a quarterback. I don't see anyone that you take and build a franchise around. Geno Smith looks like the best option out there and he did have a good workout in Indianapolis. Smith threw the ball well and looked confident in the drills. You want quarterbacks to have a presence about them. Smith does. He also ran well and showed athletic ability. He has the skill set to run Chip Kelly's offense, but I just don't see the value in taking him early. I don't project Smith to being a Pro Bowl quarterback. Starter, yes. Star, no. Matt Scott of Arizona tested well. I think he would be a good late-round project for the team to take and develop.
Running Back - The Eagles are loaded in the backfield. I was looking for players who might go late or even undrafted and be of interest. One guy who caught my eye was Jawan Jamsion from Rutgers. He is only 5-7, but has some thickness and weighs 203 pounds. He isn't a blazer, but he looked good in the drills. Kelly had success at Oregon with short runners who were quick and deceptively strong. Jamison fits that mold.
Wide Receiver - The Eagles have a terrific pair of starting receivers in
I'm sure one player who Kelly would love to have is Tavon Austin. He had a great year at West Virginia and ran a blazing 4.34 at the combine. Austin is a dynamic runner, receiver, and returner. If he was on the board in the second round, that might be too much to pass up. I think he'll go in the first round, though. Denard Robinson is another versatile player that could be of interest. He is a gifted runner, but he needs time to to develop as a receiver. He does have the potential to be an offensive weapon. Ryan Spadola of Lehigh has some size and ran a 4.48. He could be a late-round target. Rodney Smith from Florida State has excellent size at 6-4, 225. He's not a blazer, but he did have a good workout and showed real potential.
Tight End / H-back -
The Eagles could add a tight end or an H-back. Heck, they could add a tight end and an H-back. This is another area where we're somewhat unsure what exactly Kelly wants. He does seem to value athletic ability over size. This is a deep, talented class of tight ends. It won't surprise me if the Eagles take one as early as the second round. If Tyler Eifert is on the board there, it might be hard to pass on him. Eifert can run, jump, catch, and block. Zach Ertz from Stanford is an excellent receiver who is comfortable catching the ball downfield. Both Eifert and Ertz looked good at the combine. I was hoping to see Travis Kelce in action, but he was hurt and unable to go. Yes, that is
If Kelly wants more of an H-back, Chris Gragg of Arkansas could be of interest. He tested very well. Gragg is only 6-3, 244, but he ran a 4.50 and had a vertical jump of 37.5 inches, both top figures for the tight ends. Gragg was solid in the drills. Mychal Rivera has a similar build, but ran a disappointing 4.81. I thought Rivera looked good in the drills, though. He has good game tape and played well at the Senior Bowl.
Offensive Line - The Eagles could already be set with starters for 2013. It all depends on what Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland think of
Luke Joeckel is the big name. He could go first overall or in the next few picks after that. Eric Fisher came to prominence at the Senior Bowl and might now be worth a top-five pick. Fisher had the better showing in Indy, but I still rate Joeckel as the better player. He is a natural pass blocker and that's what I want at the left tackle spot. Lane Johnson from Oklahoma would actually be the best fit of the trio. Johnson has started at right and left tackle. He is fast and athletic. He also has the best mean streak. Johnson is the least experienced or polished so that drives down his value. Johnson had the best workout of any lineman at the combine. I'm just not sure it would be realistic to think he could climb all the way up to the fourth pick.
There are options beyond the big three. Terron Armstead from Arkansas-Pine Bluff tested great and was good in the drills. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any offensive lineman that I've ever seen. It's easy to say that doesn't matter for blockers, but it is a good thing. Anyone who watched Armstead play could see his talent and athleticism. The great workout results show just how special his athletic ability is. Kyle Long didn't post results anywhere close to Armstead, but did impress in the drills. He also offers versatility, having played both guard and tackle at Oregon. I thought Justin Pugh from Syracuse looked very good in the drills. He has the feet to be a starting tackle. The concern with him is arm length. He could also slide inside to guard. Vinston Painter from Virginia Tech had an excellent workout and showed serious potential, but doesn't have the game tape to match. He is a project, but could be of interest later on in the draft.
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.
Defensive Line - We don't yet know exactly what the Eagles want to run, but there are room for some good defensive linemen no matter what the scheme. Philly's own Shariff Floyd could be in play for the No. 4 pick. He measured in at 6-3, 297. Floyd looked really good in the drills. You could see his speed, quickness, and agility. He's also a versatile player, having started at both end and tackle for Florida. Pairing him with
Datone Jones is another versatile, athletic lineman. He's 6-, 238. He could play end or the 3-technique tackle spot. Jones is faster and more athletic than Floyd, but you sacrifice some bulk and power. Jones could go in the first round, but might slide into the early second. Jones was good at the Senior Bowl and combine. Margus Hunt from SMU posted some great numbers in Indy, but the game tape doesn't match the workouts. There are some games when he's lights out (he was great in the bowl game), but he's too inconsistent. I think of Hunt as a third-round prospect. He can run and jump, but that athleticism doesn't always translate to the football field.
The Eagles might look for a nose tackle. One guy who grabbed my attention was Brandon Williams. I first took notice of him at the Senior Bowl, but seeing Williams without his pads at the combine was wild. His chest is huge. He did 38 reps on the bench, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he's got pretty long arms (almost 33 inches). That power does show up on the field. Williams plays strong, physical football. I thought he looked pretty nimble in the workouts. He's the type of nose tackle who can eat up some blocks, but also can get penetration. Very interesting prospect.
Linebackers - Dion Jordan stole the show. He posted terrific results in the tests and then looked great in the on-field drills. Jordan would be a SAM linebacker/pass rusher for the Eagles. There is no one currently on the roster with his combination of size, skills, and athleticism. Jordan should absolutely be in the mix for the Eagles’ first pick. He is having shoulder surgery this week, but this injury doesn't appear to be anything that would affect him long term. Some fans are worried that Jordan is too light at 248 pounds. Jason Taylor and
Jamie Collins from Southern Mississippi opened some eyes with explosive results. His broad jump was 11 feet-seven inches. That was eight inches more than the next best figure. This is the equivalent of someone doing 60 reps on the bench or running 4.15 in the 40. Crazy. Collins was among the leaders in several different categories. He showed speed, quickness, agility, and explosion. His game tape backs that up. He flashed great potential this year and posted gaudy numbers. He's 6-4, 250. Collins could be as early as a second-round pick.
One outside linebacker who wasn't very impressive was Chase Thomas from Stanford. He looked awkward in the drills and showed a lack of athleticism that will hurt his value.
As for inside linebacker, I've gotten a few questions about Manti Te'o. If he's on the board in the second round, the Eagles could have interest.
Safety - The Eagles must add help at safety. That could come in free agency, as well as in the draft. Jonathan Cyprien would be of significant interest if he's on the board at the Eagles’ second round pick. Cyprien was hurt and unable to work out. Eric Reid from LSU is a player who I was down on in the fall, but the more tape I watched, the more he grew on me. He weighed in at 213 pounds. He is a tough, physical hitter on tape. That explosion and strength showed up in the workouts as well. Reid led all safeties with a 40.5-inch vertical jump. Reid would be a second-round target.
Matt Elam from Florida had a good workout. He's short at just 5-10, but has a thick, powerful build. He is an explosive hitter and tackler. Some have him rated above Reid and even as a possible first-rounder. South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger ran a bit slower than expected, but he can be an impact hitter. He had a good overall workout and could be a third-round target. T.J. McDonald, from USC, remains an enigma. He did well in the tests, but looked somewhat stiff in the workouts. On paper, he should probably be the best safety in the class. The game tape is highly inconsistent.
Cornerback - Another spot where the Eagles need help. Dee Milliner is the top corner in the class. He ran 4.36 at 201 pounds. That is a great size-speed combo. Milliner did not impress in the on-field drills. He seemed nervous and that affected his performance. Milliner isn't ideal at No. 4, but is the best corner and could be the pick.
Based on what I've read of defensive coordinator Bill Davis and defensive backs coach John Lovett, it sounds like they prefer big defensive backs. There are plenty of big guys to choose from. Jordan Poyer was a ballhawk at Oregon State, picking off seven passes. Poyer measured in at 6-0 and 191 pounds. He only ran a 4.54, but has great instincts and ball skills. He could be a second round target. Johnthan Banks just wrapped up a great college career (16 interceptions). He's got size, instincts, and will tackle. Unfortunately he ran a 4.61 at 185 pounds. That's not good. He could convert to safety. Banks looked like an early second-round pick, but now could fall to the third. We'll see what he does at his pro timing day.
Banks' teammate at Mississippi State, Darius Slay, had a great showing. Slay measured in at 6-0, 192. He ran a 4.36 and had a good overall showing. There are too many good corners to cover them all. I will mention a couple of guys of interest. David Amerson had a great year in 2011 (13 interceptions), but got torched in 2012. He gambled way too much. Amerson still picked off five passes, but gave up four touchdowns in one single game. Ouch. Amerson is big at 6-1, 205. He shocked me by running a 4.44. I didn't anticipate that kind of speed. I don't know what his value is now, but corners with size, speed, and great hands won't last too long, even if they're coming off a bad year.
Finally, what about the Honey Badger? Tyrann Mathieu had a great showing, for the most part. He only ran a 4.50, but I never thought he had blazing speed at LSU. Mathieu looked terrific in the drills. He showed great hands and was very confident. This was a big stage for him and he lived up to the moment. He only did four reps on the bench, which is bad. Corners don't need to be huge, but you'd prefer something closer to 10. The big key for him is how he interviewed. Mathieu needed to convince teams that his troubled ways are behind him. We'll find out in two months how good of a job he did. Could the Eagles have interest? I think it is possible since Mathieu is such a playmaker. You can never have too many of those guys. I wouldn't touch him before the fourth round. There is definite risk involved.