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Best Players Available: Defense

Below is a list of the three best available players at each defensive position, with rankings courtesy of Tony Pauline of, as well as a description of the team's current look at that position.

Defensive Tackle1. Christian Ballard, Iowa
2. Marvin Austin, North Carolina
3. Stephen Paea, Oregon State

The pleasant surprise of the Eagles' defensive line was the emergence of Antonio Dixon. Dixon took over for Brodrick Bunkley late in the season and will battle to remain the starter next season. Patterson played 14 games and turned in his usual solid season. Trevor Laws, the team's second round pick in 2008, finally capitalized on his potential late in the season and is expected to be in the rotation next year. The Eagles hired Jim Washburn, who established himself as one of the best defensive line coaches in the league in Tennessee. Defensive tackle surely isn't the biggest need, but they could draft a player who would benefit from the coaching of Washburn.

Defensive End1. Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
2. Justin Houston, Georgia
3. Brooks Reed, Arizona

Although he wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl, Trent Cole produced another great season in 2010, notching 10 sacks. Rookie Brandon Graham started off the year strong but his season was ended with an ACL tear against the Dallas Cowboys in December. He was described by Andy Reid as a "real stretch" to play in the 2011 season opener. Juqua Parker recorded six sacks and is still productive, but the 32-year-old is the oldest positional player on the team. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim battled through injuries in his rookie season and is being counted on to produce in the 2011 season, along with Darryl Tapp. The Eagles have depth at defensive end but you can never have enough fastballs. Don't be surprised if the Eagles use their second or third-round pick on a defensive end.

Outside Linebacker1. Akeem Ayers, UCLA
2. Martez Wilson, Illinois
3. Bruce Carter, North Carolina

Inside Linebacker1. Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
2. Greg Jones, Michigan State
3. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

The talk of the linebacking corps last season was the emergence of seventh-round draft pick Jamar Chaney, who was described by NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger as "already one of the best middle linebackers in the game" last December. The athletic Chaney will likely start at outside linebacker next season, while Stewart Bradley, two years removed from his ACL tear, hopes to regain his dominance at middle linebacker that earned him a spot on Sports Illustrated's All-Pro team in 2008. Ernie Sims is a free agent and will likely not return. The Eagles promoted Mike Caldwell to their linebackers coach and the former NFL player will look to work with Chaney, as well as 2010 draft pick Keenan Clayton, in 2011. 

Cornerback1. Brandon Harris, Miami
2. Aaron Williams, Texas
3. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia

Left cornerback Asante Samuel turned in arguably the best season of his career in 2010, intercepting seven passes and limiting opponents to just 19 completions in 41 pass attempts for 142 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles could use some help on the other side of the field, however, as right cornerback. Ellis Hobbs suffered a season-ending neck injury and could retire while Dimitri Patterson struggled as the starter and is a restricted free agent. The defense allowed 31 passing touchdowns in 2010 and many were surprised when the team didn't select Jimmy Smith with their first-round pick Thursday. Could the Eagles help new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo by choosing a cornerback later tonight?

Safety1. Rahim Moore, UCLA
2. Jeron Johnson, Boise State
3. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson

The Eagles had a solid pair of starting safeties last season. Quintin Mikell earned All-Pro honors, his third consecutive season of Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors. But he is unsigned for next season. Rookie second-round draft pick Nate Allen started off the season strong, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors in September. Allen tore his patellar tendon against the Giants in December but should be ready for the start of the 2011 season. Another rookie, seventh round draft pick Kurt Coleman, showed great promise late in the season after taking over as the starter.

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