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Eagles Must Nail It In April's Draft

Posted Mar 18, 2013

They're all in Arizona now attending league meetings, and while discussions continue and free agency is alive, the focus now turns to April's NFL draft ...

This isn't exactly going on out on a limb, but why not state the obvious? The Eagles know if. You know it. I know it: The Eagles have to kill it in the NFL draft. They have to be on top of their collective game with nine draft picks, including the 239th overall selection, a seventh-rounded awarded by the league as compensation for losing defensive end Juqua Parker and wide receiver  Steve Smith, weighed against signed offensive tackle Demetress Bell.

If you think the 239th pick means nothing, think again. Every pick in the NFL draft means something. The good teams turn seventh-round picks into productive players. Safety Kurt Coleman was a seventh-round selection in 2010. Bryce Brown was a seventh-round draft pick last April.

The 239th pick in 2012 was defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, who played in 10 games with one start for the Giants last season and who remains on the roster. The year before, San Francisco took offensive lineman Mike Person, who has also been on the roster of the Colts and now the Seahawks and has yet to distinguish himself in this league. One pick after Person was taken? The Eagles selected fullback Stanley Havili, a starter in 2012.

So you have to make the most of the opportunities, and the Eagles know this very well. The draft hasn't been up to snuff, at least in the years from 2010 and 2011, and the Eagles are paying the price for it now. They signed eight players in free agency and traded for a ninth to add some depth and competition to the roster.

And they know they have a lot of work to do, and that the draft is where it's at to build this roster the right way.

General manager Howie Roseman has put together a staff that he likes very much, and together the personnel department and head coach Chip Kelly will line up the board and look for solutions. Who goes to the Eagles in the first round? It's so far away that nobody really knows. Suggest a name, any name, and see if it sticks in five weeks.

In the meantime, the Eagles have interviews with draft prospects to conduct and homework to do and a draft board and weekend draft strategy to finalize. That's the focus now. Certainly, the Eagles stand at the ready if a free agent falls into their hands, but they are not actively courting prospects and negotiating deals.

They are looking ahead.

With that, just for fun, here are my three areas of priority to address in the draft, should it come to that ...

1. Offensive line

One player, one very good player, is all that separates the Eagles from having a great offensive line. Maybe that player is Danny Watkins or Dennis Kelly, or maybe it's someone from April's draft.

The Eagles could bypass an offensive lineman in the first round and still get themselves a very good prospect later in the draft. It doesn't have to be the first pick for this team. But at some point, early please, the Eagles need to add another offensive lineman.

Todd Herremans was really good at right tackle in 2011 and then he wasn't quite up to the same level a year later, so the question is whether the Eagles think he's a guard or a tackle. If he can move inside to right guard, the Eagles can add a pure right tackle and the line would be outstanding.

Jeff Stoutland could also keep Herremans at tackle and draft a stud right guard and the best of the draft lot is Chance Warmack, Stoutland's former player at Alabama. It would give the Eagles a powerful look up front, something this offense needs.

2. Defensive Line

The addition of Isaac Sopoaga helps immensely, as he can line up at nose tackle in the 3-4 and at tackle over the center in the 4-3. Sopoaga's big body and his strength help the Eagles tremendously. No longer is the defense undersized up the gut.

But who plays defensive end in a 3-4? Fletcher Cox, yes. Who else? Cedric Thornton is a possibility and Trent Cole probably could, but him at end in a 3-4 seems like a waste of his pass-rushing skills.

The Eagles need a impact player for the defensive line. Plain and simple. They just can't have enough of those players.

3. Playmaker In Secondary

The Eagles signed two safeties and two cornerbacks in free agency, and so they upgraded their defensive backfield very nicely. But is there ever a time when a team has enough in the coverage game, especially one that allowed 33 touchdown passes the year before?

I say no. I say the Eagles could still use help in the secondary. There are a lot of exciting possibilities with Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips added to safety and with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher at cornerback.

But why would any team shy away from adding to that mix? The draft has some safeties and it has some big-bodied cornerbacks, so if the Eagles have a chance to upgrade, they should think long and hard about it.

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