With the off-season upon us, it's never too early to start looking ahead to what the Eagles might do in the draft ...
- The Eagles got lucky that several young safety prospects left school early. Eric Berry of Tennessee is the prime target, but he could go as high as the top five. Dream, but don't expect. One player I am interested in is Earl Thomas of Texas. He's only a redshirt sophomore and that bugs me somewhat, but Thomas has NFL athleticism and ability. He picked off eight passes this year. Thomas also finished second on the team in tackles. He makes plays against the run and pass. He has good range and seems to take good angles to the ball, something that is critical at safety. Thomas could be a first-round target for us.
- I tend to think the Eagles will look for a defensive end at the NFL level. If they do wait until the draft a couple of names to keep in mind are Jerry Hughes and Brandon Graham. Both players are left ends with good pass rush ability. I want to throw out one small school name – Austen Lane of Murray State. This kid reminds me of Jason Taylor when he was at Akron. Lane is 6-6 and about 260 pounds. He has a great motor and good athletic ability. Lane totaled 41.5 tackles-for-loss over the last two seasons. He had 23 sacks in that span. He's a very intriguing guy that could go as high as the second round.
- My favorite cornerback in the draft (not the best, though) is Kyle Wilson of Boise State. He reminds me a bit of Sheldon Brown. Wilson is a complete player. He can cover, hit, tackle, blitz and also returns punts. I love the way Wilson does everything full speed. There is no hesitation in his game. Fun player to watch.
- I know many fans would love the Eagles to take running back Toby Gerhart. He's a tremendous power runner with great feet. Unfortunately, he's so good that he'll likely go in the top 50 picks. We wouldn't spend a first-round pick on a guy like him. As much fun as it was to watch Leonard Weaver powering up the field it's not worth a first-round pick. I don't know that Gerhart will last to our second round spot, or even that we'd be willing to spend that pick on him. I do hope the Eagles add a runner with some size either in the draft or through free agency. Ben Tate of Auburn is around 220 pounds and could be a player the Eagles like. James Starks of Buffalo missed the year with a shoulder injury, but reminded me of Correll Buckhalter when I watched some of his junior tape.
- A few people have asked about possible centers to draft. The Eagles generally prefer to develop players at that position. Hank Fraley sat a year before he got the job. The only way he got it that fast was an injury to Bubba Miller. Jamaal Jackson spent time here on the practice squad and then the bench before he got the job. I think Mike McGlynn is the guy to really watch. He's trained for two years. McGlynn should be ready to challenge for the job. In terms of prospects, Maurkice Pouncey is a junior from Florida with good size and ability, but I just can't see the Eagles taking him. He should go in the first couple of rounds. Reggie Stephens of Iowa State is a guy who has played guard and center. He could be a late-round target for depth.
To check out what I think the Eagles need to do in the off-season, check out my Fan-Demonium column ...
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 8:30 p.m., January 18