The draft is now only days away. Months of preparation have led up to this point. It is now time for the Eagles to put their plan into action. Basically, the fun begins.
I have mentioned this a few times, but it bears repeating. The Eagles are player specific, not position specific. They will have a list of 100-125 names that are primary draft targets. This is after scouting well over 1,000 prospects. The list has been whittled down to focus on players that fit our schemes, have the right intangibles and make the most sense. There isn't a need for a quarterback to be taken early. Clearly, there is a need for a running back and a tight end. The players who make the list are going to be guys that the scouts rated highly and that the coaching staff liked when they joined the evaluation process after the season.
General manager Tom Heckert has said that the Eagles like to have a list of five names that the team is targeting in each round. The list is of players the team thinks will be available and want to pick. Obviously, names can be added to the list as some players slide down the board. With that in mind, I thought I'd put together my guess as to the players targeted for the first three rounds. Plenty of good players won't be listed. That simply means I don't think they will be available at the spots we're picking from.
1 – RB Knowshon Moreno – We've talked about him quite a bit in the last few months. The Eagles need a backup running back. Moreno is arguably the best runner in the draft, but has a good chance of being on the board at No. 21.
2 – WR Hakeem Nicks – This is purely a guess on my part. The Eagles need a young receiver to develop for the future. Ideally, he'd have some size and be a physical player. Nicks fits that bill and would be a great complement to DeSean Jackson in a year or two.
3 – TE Brandon Pettigrew – Maybe the most interesting name on the list. The Eagles have never added a player with his size and skill set. Pettigrew is the top tight end and we need someone to pair with Brent Celek. Pettigrew is a good receiver, but would be a tremendous upgrade in terms of blocking ability.
4 – RB Donald Brown – A year ago, I had no idea who Brown was. Now he might be the most NFL ready of the running backs in the draft. Brown is the best blocker. He is a good receiver. And yes, he can run as well. Brown led the nation in rushing in 2008.
5 – CB Alphonso Smith – This name is not a reaction to the Sheldon Brown situation. I've mentioned Smith quite a few times in the past couple of months. He lacks ideal size, but was very productive (21 career interceptions) and has great instincts. He also tackles like a safety.
I know it seems strange to put together a list and not have any offensive linemen or front seven players. I can't see the Eagles taking a blocker. The Jason Peters acquisition makes the team very talented and deep up front. The defense is deep and pretty young.
I will mention a couple of guys that could slide and be of interest. Defensive back Malcolm Jenkins looked like a Top 10 pick all year long, but only runs in the 4.5 range. That probably pushes him down a few spots. It is possible he could slide down farther. Jenkins could be a target at either cornerback or free safety. Defensive end Everette Brown is one of the best pass rushers in the draft. There is speculation he could slide down. If so, the Eagles could take him. You can never have enough top pass rushers.
1 – TE Cornelius Ingram – I am not sure if Ingram will last this long, but he did miss the 2008 season with a torn ACL. That could drive down his value and give the Eagles a chance to land him. Ingram is a gifted pass catcher and Reid loves athletic tight ends who add a dynamic dimension to the offense.
2 – SS William Moore – Quintin Demps is in place as the free safety of the future. Sean Jones and Rashad Baker each have one-year deals, pending the labor situation. That leaves a space for a young strong safety. Moore has a great combination of size, skill and athletic ability. He's coming off a disappointing season, but he has the potential to be a star in the NFL.
3 – RB Rashad Jennings – The first small school prospect to make the list. Jennings started off at Pitt and then transferred to Liberty because of a family issue. He dominated the I-AA level. Jennings played well at the Senior Bowl and showed excellent athletic ability at the Combine.
4 – TE Jared Cook –Cook might be the most talented tight end in the entire draft. He has size, speed and athletic ability. He makes some incredible catches and is an underrated blocker. He left South Carolina after his junior season and never put up huge numbers. I think that was more due to erratic quarterback play than anything Cook did.
5 - CB Kevin Barnes – If the Eagles want a cornerback with some size, Barnes could be a guy of definite interest. He is 6-0 and 187 pounds. Barnes was having a terrific senior year when a shoulder injury sidelined him. He can cover, hit, tackle and make plays.
Any potential sliders who could be of interest? Receiver Brian Robiskie is one guy who comes to mind. I'm not sure there is any way he makes it all the way down to the 53rd pick, but if he slides anywhere close the Eagles could explore a trade up to get him.
1 – LB/DE David Veikune – I list him as a linebacker/defensive end. Veikune could play either spot. He was an end at Hawaii and proved to be a good pass rusher. He's also a quality run defender and would fit in nicely as a backup on the left side. I could also see the Eagles thinking of him as a strongside linebacker. He has the agility and motor to make the transition. Both Chris Gocong and Stewart Bradley were picked in the third round.
2 – TE Travis Beckum – Should the Eagles not land a tight end earlier, Beckum could be an ideal target in the third round. He has great hands and could be an excellent addition to the passing game. His blocking needs work, but he will at least give good effort in that area.
3 – CB Bradley Fletcher – Another corner with some size. Fletcher can cover in man or zone. He is a very good tackler and has some playmaking ability.
4 – LB Cody Brown – Brown played defensive end at UConn, but is only 6-2 and 246 pounds. He projects to linebacker in the NFL. Brown is a very physical player despite his size. He should be athletic enough to develop cover skills. I think a 3-4 team could take him before our pick, but it's possible he slides to the late third.
5 – RB Cedric Peerman – I doubt the Eagles wait this long to take a running back, but you never know how things will play out in the draft. Peerman could be an excellent backup and spot starter. He also has some kickoff return ability. He isn't the biggest guy, but has good speed and is a very physical runner.
A couple of players who could slide and be of interest would be cornerback Mike Mickens and receiver Juaquin Iglesias. Both guys have good size and production. Both guys were very good college players. They just lack elite speed or ability. The Eagles might have interest in defensive lineman Alex Magee. He played tackle for most of his career, but shifted to end as a senior.
The third round is also a spot where Reid has taken I-AA players a few times (Gocong, Brian Westbrook, Brian Smith). Are there any small school guys who could be of interest? Two receivers that could attract the Eagles are Ramses Barden of Cal Poly and Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian. Barden is huge at 6-6 and 227 pounds. Knox was the fastest receiver at the Combine. Both guys were amazingly productive. I think the Eagles would prefer a big receiver to pair with Jackson, but you never know. Cornerback Greg Toler of St. Paul's (VA) is a small school defender that could go in the Top 100. Trying to figure out what grade the Eagles have on these players is really hard. I did see the Gocong pick in 2006 and talked about it beforehand. I was caught off-guard last year by the Brian Smith selection. Small school prospects are hard to grade.
Quick Draft Hits
- The Eagles don't have a sixth- or seventh-round pick in 2010, so don't be surprised if they trade a late pick this year to add a pick or two for next year.
- I can see the Eagles spending two picks at running back and/or tight end. We are especially thin at tight end right now.
- Some people have asked about taking a quarterback in the late rounds. This is a very weak group of passers so I think that is unlikely. The only guy I could see them taking is Pat White, but he would be more of an all-purpose player early in his career.
- We could see the Eagles take a kicker or punter late. Sav Rocca and David Akers are solid, but I would like to see them get good training camp competition this year.
- Left tackle is taken care of. If the Eagles land a quality running back and tight end, the weekend will be a success. The rest of the focus is on improving the overall talent of the team and finding a future starter or two.
On Jason Peters
Trading for Peters was a great move by the Eagles. He gives them a left tackle with Pro Bowl talent. The move isn't without risk, but the upside is huge. I think Peters will thrive now that he's happy with his contract and joining a winning team. He also will be playing on a strong unit. The Bills line was very up and down.
Here are some quick notes I wrote on him after watching game action over the weekend:
- Has very good feet. Looks natural with his kick slide. Keeps his feet active when needed. Does a good job of mirroring the rusher. Moves to get into position so he doesn't have to reach or lunge. Keeps his feet under him. Doesn't get off-balance. Able to redirect when rushers try a hard inside move. Uses his hands well. Has good pop when he lands a shot on the rusher. Shows good awareness.
- Good run blocker. Engages the defender and is able to sustain his blocks. Has good power. Can drive defensive linemen off the ball. Can really mash on linebackers. Gets into proper position. Able to get out in space. Not a watcher. Finds someone to block.
- Needs to work on sustaining pass blocks. Sometimes has trouble with spin moves. Rushers who take a really deep angle can be tough on him. Generally the defender takes himself out of the play by doing that, but if the quarterback holds the ball the guy can get back into the play.
You don't see tackles with Peters' ability on the market very often. You have to take a chance when they come available. I know some people are concerned by the amount of sacks Peters allowed last year. I've seen those sacks and I'm not too worried. Peters held out and missed all of training camp and the preseason. He reported a day before the season opener. He missed that game, but played the next week. Peters struggled early on. He simply wasn't in football shape. All of the individual conditioning in the world can't prepare you for the NFL. You need actual football practice. Once Peters got into the flow of the season, his play improved. I've been a fan of his going back to his days at Arkansas, when he played tight end and lined up beside Shawn Andrews most of the time. Tra Thomas was a better pass protector, but Peters will be a major upgrade as a run blocker. I'm ecstatic that we were able to pull off this move.