March 5 still seems like it is an eternity away, but we can at least discuss some different scenarios while we wait for real moves to happen. I put together one version of an off-season plan. This isn't my ideal scenario. This is a combination of players/moves I like, what the Eagles like to do and an effort to keep things somewhat realistic. I'd love to have Eric Berry fall to pick 24, but that will happen about the time that I announce my engagement to Megan Fox.
I'm going to ignore the quarterback situation for now. I know that situation is going to be a huge part of things, but I'd rather deal with what we know than speculating about a bunch of moves based on a possibility. If the Eagles trade Donovan McNabb and get a high pick or combination of picks and players it will greatly alter the off-season. For now, let's just set that aside.
I will add in one pro personnel move. In this scenario I have the Eagles signing a free agent to take over the left defensive end spot. You can have that be Aaron Kampman, Julius Peppers or some other capable veteran. Now that we've bagged a quality pass rusher via free agency let's head on to the draft. Defensive end is no longer a priority, but we still have plenty of holes to fill on that side of the ball.
1st Round - CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
2nd Round - S Reshad Jones, Georgia
3rd Round - OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale (Pick acquired from Seattle)
3rd Round - RB Ben Tate, Auburn
4th Round - S Kurt Coleman, Ohio State
4th Round - WR Jeremy Williams, Tulane (Pick acquired from New York Jets)
6th Round - LB Lee Campbell, Minnesota (Pick acquired from Indianapolis)
7th Round - LB Joe Pawelek, Baylor (Compensatory pick likely to be awarded by the league)
7th Round - QB Levi Brown, Troy (Compensatory pick likely to be awarded by the league)
Now let's talk about the picks. Wilson is my favorite cornerback in the draft. He had a very good year and followed that up with a very good showing at the Senior Bowl. Wilson can cover, hit, tackle, blitz and make plays. He also was a good punt returner for Boise State. He would come in to challenge Sheldon Brown at the right cornerback spot. Wilson would also help our depth. In case anything happened to a starter, he should be good enough to step in and play.
Jones is a player I've written about recently. He is a complete safety. He has good size and is a physical hitter and tackler. We'll find out how fast he is this week at the Scouting Combine. On tape, he shows enough speed to be good in coverage. He also shows a feel for coverage. Jones could play free safety or strong safety because of his size and skill set.
I'm not sure what is going to happen at free safety with the Eagles in 2010. There isn't a good set of choices in free agency. We could try to make a trade for one, but I don't know if a good starter will be available. Without making a pro personnel move the smart thing to do is draft a quality player who can come in and challenge Macho Harris and Quintin Demps from day one. Jones looks like that kind of player. He has 28 career starts and played against elite competition. One thing to keep in mind with both Harris and Demps is that they had a tough transition to the NFL. Harris played cornerback in college. Demps played cornerback as a senior and also had to adjust to a big step up in level of competition. Jones should be pretty NFL-ready.
Veldheer is an incredibly interesting player. He is 6-8 and 321 pounds. He played left tackle in college. I've watched some tape on him and you can see that he is athletic for his size. He has good feet. Veldheer will be at the Scouting Combine this week. We'll get to see how well he compares to top flight tackles from the big schools. I have a feeling that Veldheer will be pretty impressive and will solidify a spot in the Top 100 picks. He would come to the Eagles as depth at the tackle spot. Think back to the season and all the shuffling we had to do when Jason Peters got hurt. We really could use a backup tackle. King Dunlap needs to take a big step forward this off-season if he wants to keep a spot on the team. Andy Reid and Juan Castillo love massive linemen with good feet and some athletic ability. You'd think they have to be interested in Veldheer.
LeSean McCoy is the starting running back at this point. I don't know if Brian Westbrook will return. I have my doubts. He reportedly is due a big salary. He also is coming off an injury-plagued season. These are not good news for an aging runner, even one who has been as great for us as Westbrook has. NFL teams have to make decisions with their brains and not their hearts. That is a nasty reality of professional sports, especially in the modern age.
If Westbrook is gone we will need a runner to help out McCoy. I think Tate would be an ideal target for the team. He can block, catch and run. He is bigger than McCoy, although Tate is hardly a power back. He runs hard and can break some tackles. He has good speed and some athletic ability. I think Tate would be the kind of player who fits our offense well. Some runners were workhorse backs their entire college career. They come to the Eagles and struggle. We need backs that can handle not being the featured runner and still find some way to contribute. Tate looks like a guy that would be willing to go out and do the dirty work on special teams until his number is called on offense.
With the first pick of the fourth round I'm having the Eagles take another safety. Coleman was a good player for Ohio State. He's not huge or physically gifted, but he is the kind of mid-round safety prospect that could play in the league for a decade. Coleman is smart and plays that way. Put on the tapes from Senior Bowl practices and you see him struggle at times in coverage. Put on a game tape and you see a guy that does a good job in coverage. What is the difference? In the practices, players have to rely on raw ability. In game situations from Ohio State, Coleman could study the opponent and have a feel what was going to happen. That allowed him to jump routes and make plays. In the last two years, he picked off nine passes, broke up nine passes and forced three fumbles.
Why take another safety? This is a position in a state of flux. Quintin Mikell will turn 30 this year. Demps isn't sure to pan out as a starter or key backup. Harris could move to cornerback or stay at safety. Sean Jones isn't a lock to return. He is very talented, but was also inconsistent this year. We need another player to add to the mix. Coleman is the kind of savvy defensive back that could be ready to contribute from day one, even if that is just on special teams. He could eventually be the replacement for Mikell as a starter.
Next up, I have us taking a wide receiver. We are set at the top with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant. That trio will hopefully be here for a long time. Kevin Curtis lost his starting job to Maclin. He is a high-priced veteran and those are not guys you generally want coming off the bench. Also, he's had trouble staying healthy. I think the Eagles will either try to deal him or will just let him go. That leaves Reggie Brown as a backup. Brown is in the middle of his career. I'm sure he's dying to get back on the field, but he still has a lot of value to us as a backup. If anything happens to the young stars we need a player who can step in and keep the offense productive. Brown is that guy. We do need to develop a player or two to take his place in a year or two. I definitely expect the Eagles to spend a mid-round pick on a receiver.
Jeremy Williams is probably a name that not many people know. He played at Tulane, not exactly a football factory in recent years. Williams had a very productive career, catching 197 passes and scoring 19 touchdowns. He went to the Senior Bowl and played well. There is nothing great about Williams. He's not the biggest or fastest player. He's not the most polished receiver. Williams is just a good, solid prospect. He is 6-0 and 205 pounds. He has functional speed, good hands and is dangerous after the catch. Williams played in a pro-style offense. That will help his transition to the NFL. He also has some kickoff return experience.
I know many people will think I'm crazy for waiting so long to take a linebacker. That could be a mistake on my part. I think we're set with the starters. Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley and Will Witherspoon are the projected starters as of now. Because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Chris Gocong and Omar Gaither will not be unrestricted free agents. I am projecting them to stay on as backups. Akeem Jordan will be the backup on the weak side. That makes us two-deep at linebacker with players who have started in our system. Joe Mays is still around. He will have to show big improvement at middle linebacker to keep hold of his spot on the team. As I see it, we'll have seven returning linebackers. Should we let a veteran or two leave that would obviously change my thinking on the linebacker situation.
I have us taking Lee Campbell from Minnesota in the sixth round. He began his career at defensive end, but then moved to middle linebacker for his final two seasons. Campbell has good size at 6-3 and 250 pounds. I think he could be a backup at both the strong side and in the middle. We took Stewart Bradley back in 2007 when he had potential at both spots. Campbell isn't as good a prospect as Bradley, but could be a solid role player. He is big and strong. He's not afraid to take on blockers. Campbell would sink or swim based on his coverage ability. He showed some potential in college, but it wasn't a strength of his. He did pick off three passes and break up six others in his two years at linebacker. He's not completely lost in space (insert Will Robinson joke here). Campbell blocked two kicks this year. I'm sure that would help his cause with new special teams coach Bobby April.
The NFL won't award compensatory picks for another month or so, but new general manager Howie Roseman said that he expects the Eagles to receive a pair of late-round selections. I have us adding another linebacker with the first of the comp picks. Joe Pawelek played middle linebacker while at Baylor. I actually think he would project better to the weak side in our scheme. Pawelek at times will struggle with getting off blocks. He is good in coverage. He moves well and looks comfortable out in space. He has a good feel for the passing game. Pawelek picked off nine passes in his career, a very impressive total for a middle linebacker. He broke up 17 other passes. Pawelek is a good blitzer. He does well when allowed to attack downhill. He would be good value to us because of his potential as a backup in the middle and on the weak side. He is about 6-2 and 240 pounds. Think of him as a bigger version of Mark Simoneau.
Finally, I have us taking a quarterback. Levi Brown put up huge numbers this year for Troy. I was concerned about him being a product of the spread offense, but Brown looked pretty good at the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game. I feel more comfortable that he can make it in the NFL. He has OK size. Brown has enough mobility to play in our system. I think his arm is good enough. The big question would be how he adjusts to the NFL game. He can come to the Eagles have develop over time. There shouldn't be a rush to get him on the field. Brown is the kind of prospect that could do well with pro coaching and a talented set of skill players around him.
I didn't draft any defensive linemen because of the addition of the free agent defensive end that I mentioned at the beginning of the column. We have a pretty good situation at end. We have plenty of guys that are good role players in Juqua Parker and Jason Babin, although he is an unrestricted free agent-to-be. Victor Abiamiri is still very young and that keeps alive the hopes that he could possibly break through if he can just stay healthy.
I really like our top three tackles (Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon). Trevor Laws faces a critical off-season. If we move him then I could see us picking another tackle. If not, I think we could just add an undrafted player or two.