I spent the early part of this week in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl. This wasn't the best set of Senior Bowl players in terms of high-end talent, but there were plenty of prospects who will be taken in rounds two through five and will have quality NFL careers. The Eagles could bring in a few of these guys in May's draft. Let's cover some players of potential interest …
Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu - Georgia Tech - 6-foot-3, 252 pounds: Most people expect the Eagles to go for a pass-rushing linebacker early in the draft. Attaochu could be a key target. In Mobile, he was used as a 4-3 linebacker. That was both good and bad. Attaochu is primarily a pass rusher so he failed to stand out as they were using him. At the same time, the Eagles already know he can rush the passer. Attaochu has more career sacks than any active college player (31.5). The Eagles got to see him cover and play off the ball this week, which will give them an idea of how complete a linebacker he can be.
Attaochu helped himself a lot when he showed up at 252 pounds. He listed at 242 or 245 during the season. Teams using a 3-4 alignment prefer linebackers to be over 250 pounds. Attaochu carried the weight well. It looked like Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard may have bulked up some as well, but his body was less impressive. He wasn't adding the right weight.
Linebacker Dee Ford - Auburn - 6-foot-2, 243 pounds: Will the Eagles be interested in such a small pass rusher? That is the million-dollar question. There is no question that Ford was the most dynamic pass rusher in Mobile. He did play defensive end and was regularly in the backfield and showed tremendous speed. The problem with Ford is that he already has a thick build. I don't think he can add much weight. Maybe he slowly gets up to 250. I just don't think he will ever get up to 260 or anything like that.
Ford is more than just a speed rusher. He uses his hands well. He can be physical and will bull rush at times. He's got thick, powerful thighs and that helps him to drive back blockers if he's engaged. I don't know if Chip Kelly will like Ford, but I can tell you that he won't dismiss him quickly due to his talent. This is a player who is too good to rule out strictly due to measurables. Ford will take a lot of tape study and will generate lots of discussion between scouts and coaches.
Inside linebacker Christian Jones - Florida State - 6-foot-3, 232 pounds: Jones intrigues the heck out of me. He was a 4-3 outside linebacker for most of his career. FSU used him as a pass rusher down the stretch this season. Jones only had two sacks, but was very disruptive off the edge and showed impressive quickness. He can really fly off the ball. Mix that in with his cover skills and ability as a run defender and you've got a complete player.
The Eagles could draft Jones as a backup linebacker for now and use him for depth on the inside and outside. He could eventually replace
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy - BYU - 6-foot-3, 244 pounds: Van Noy was a terrific pass rusher in 2012. He racked up 13 sacks. This season BYU used him differently and he only had four sacks. Van Noy dropped into coverage a lot more and that experience showed in Mobile. Van Noy might have broken up more passes than any other player in the practice sessions. He looked very good in coverage. I don't think Van Noy can be the impact pass rusher the Eagles want, but he still could very much be a player of interest.
The Eagles could draft Van Noy and experiment with him as an inside linebacker and outside linebacker. They would then decide if he's going to replace Ryans or Barwin down the line. I think inside linebacker might actually be his best spot. I'm sure the Eagles would love his size in there. He can cover tight ends or running backs. Van Noy has a terrific motor and will make plays all over the field. He could also be a great special teams player.
Defensive end Brent Urban - Virginia - 6-foot-7, 298 pounds: I know it seems like the Eagles are set at end with
Urban got hurt during the week and I don't think he'll be playing in the game. It would have been good to see him play a full game at end.
Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman - Minnesota - 6-foot-6, 318 pounds: Hageman is a tough player to get a handle on as far as the Eagles. He played defensive tackle in college. He's huge so the natural projection is to nose tackle. That's where things get complicated. Hageman is at his best when allowed to attack upfield. I don't think he's a natural two-gap defender. Part of that may be in his background. Hageman was an elite tight end prospect in high school. He's only been a full-time starting defensive lineman for two years. Hageman has tons of natural ability. He had six sacks in 2012. This year he faced his share of double teams. Hageman deflected eight passes. He blocked a field goal against Wisconsin by collapsing the pocket. Maybe his best highlight was dropping into coverage against Northwestern and then picking off a pass.
The Eagles could look at Hageman as a defensive end or nose tackle. He has great size. He is a natural athlete. Hageman might be best suited to playing in the 4-3 and attacking up the field. He reminds me a bit of Albert Haynesworth in terms of size and movement skills. Hageman was quick off the ball this week and looked athletic. All 32 teams are going to be fascinated by him.
Offensive lineman Michael Schofield - Michigan - 6-foot-7, 303 pounds: Started the last two years at right tackle for the Wolverines. Prior to that was at left guard. Played both guard and tackle in Mobile. He has the size Kelly loves with that tall, athletic frame. Schofield doesn't have great feet or he'd be a top tackle prospect. Instead, the question is whether his future is at tackle or guard. The Eagles need to get some youth on the line. They've got five good starters now, but need good backups. Schofield would give them a versatile player for the right side.
Guard Brandon Linder - Miami - 6-foot-5, 316 pounds: Another versatile blocker. Played both right guard and right tackle for Miami. I think he could be a good starting NFL guard. Linder had a solid week of practice. He has quiet feet and anchors well. Good pass blocker who can also excel in the run game. There is nothing compelling about Linder. He's just a good, solid interior lineman.
Safety Deone Bucannon - Washington State - 6-foot-1, 216 pounds: Bucannon really looks the part. He's got a chiseled build and ideal size. He just isn't a great athlete and that hurts his value. Bucannon is a thumper that loves to attack downhill. He had a good hit or two this week. The Eagles have to be impressed by that part of his game. The question is about his cover skills. Put him in a small space and he's fine, but can he hold up against wide receivers in space? You could see he's a bit tight in the hips. He doesn't have great speed. I'm sure the Eagles are intrigued, but Bucannon does have his issues.
Safety Jimmie Ward - Northern Illinois - 5-foot-10, 191 pounds: Ward is pretty much the opposite of Bucannon. Ward might be looked at as a corner by some NFL teams. Heck, it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles thought of him like that. Ward can play the slot. He is a solid athlete with good man cover skills. He's also a good tackler. Don't think of Ward as a finesse player. That's not the case. He's just not huge. Ward told me this week that he's trying to get up to 200 pounds. That would be OK size for a safety. Ward had a good week and I'm sure the Eagles watched him intently.
Receiver Jordan Matthews - Vanderbilt - 6-foot-3, 209 pounds: Depending on how things go in free agency, the Eagles might need a receiver. They could lose
I didn't list any individual cornerbacks. Aaron Colvin looked like the most impressive prospect, but tore his ACL. I hated to see that. There are several other guys the Eagles could like. Most had good or very good size. I didn't think any of them played so well that they stood out as guys the Eagles would absolutely target. Let's see if any of them stand out in the game. Lavelle Westbrooks and Jaylen Watkins of the South team both surprised me with how well they played. I'll be doing a lot more tape study on them.