The Eagles will most likely head into the draft not knowing what they can do in free agency. I think that will force teams around the league to focus more on needs than in the past. With that in mind, I put together my first mock draft for the Eagles this year. This is a combination of what I would like to see and what I think the team will do.
- 1st round (No. 23 overall) - CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado - 6-2, 211
- 2nd round (No. 54 overall) - OG Clint Boling, Georgia - 6-5, 308
- 3rd round (No. 85 overall) - LB Casey Matthews, Oregon - 6-1, 231
- 4th round (No. 104 overall) - SS Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina - 5-11, 223
- 4th round (No. 120 overall) - DT Cedric Thornton, Southern Arkansas - 6-3, 309
- 5th round (No. 149 overall) - RB Alex Green, Hawaii - 6-0, 225
- 5th round (No. 153 overall) - LB Brian Rolle, Ohio State - 5-10, 229
- 7th round (No. 229 overall) - WR Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M - 6-2, 219
- 7th round (No. 237 overall) - CB Josh Gatlin, North Dakota State - 6-1, 196
- 7th round (No. 240 overall) - LB Jabara Williams, Stephen F. Austin - 6-2, 228
Let me give you an overview of the situation before talking about the players individually. The 2010 draft was very deep. Some positions were light, but overall the class was very good. That is one of the reasons the Eagles got such good players in the seventh round. You don't find guys like Kurt Coleman that far down every year. The 2011 class isn't nearly as deep. The top of the draft is solid, but things thin out once you get to the late rounds.
I'm sure many people will wonder about the lack of a pass rusher being taken. The draft is loaded with pass rushers in the first round. Unfortunately, the class goes pedestrian once you get past the early part of the second round. It is possible a good player could slide, but I don't want to project that just to meet my hopes. If a guy like Jabaal Sheard is on the board when our second round pick comes up, I'd be ecstatic if we took him. I just think he'll already be gone by then. Rather than force the issue, I focused on other areas where there were talented prospects.
I did add three linebackers. Right now, the only linebackers under contract are Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, Moise Fokou and Rashad Jeanty. I think you need to over-draft at that spot to create depth and competition. Juan Castillo wants guys that fit his new style of defense. That requires players that can run. All three linebackers in my mock draft are speedy guys who can cover ground and make plays.
Why no offensive tackle? We already have four tackles on the roster who have started a game. I understand that some fans are down on Winston Justice because of the erratic season and poor playoff game. Justice has a lot of talent. I want to see what new line coach Howard Mudd can do with him. Austin Howard and King Dunlap will provide competition for the job. Dunlap looked good there at times in 2010. Jason Peters has left tackle locked up. I think the Eagles are open to adding a tackle if the right guy is available at the right time.
Let's start the individual comments at the top of the group.
CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
I've written a lot about Smith this offseason. I've watched more than half of his game tapes. I see a big, fast cover corner that can be a star in the NFL. He isn't a great run defender, but he's good enough. Smith is in the middle between Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel when it comes to playing the run. Smith didn't have many interceptions, but didn't get many chances. I'm curious to see how well he plays the ball in the NFL. The guy can flat out cover. In case you want another opinion, Greg Cosell of NFL Films said on Twitter that Smith is the "best press man corner in (the) draft".
Smith does have some character issues, but you can bet the Eagles have done a ton of background research on him. At some point you have to roll the dice on a talented player. Smith should be that guy for the Eagles. We need help at corner. He's got the ability to develop into a very good starter.
OG Clint Boling, Georgia
In the second round I added another player I've written a lot about. Boling would challenge for the right guard spot right away. He has a good combination of size, skill and athleticism. Boling played guard and tackle for Georgia, often in the same game. He is a very smart player and is good at reading blitzes and making adjustments. Boling sort of flies under the radar because there is nothing flashy or dynamic about him. Don't overlook this guy. Real talented player who would fit in nicely.
LB Casey Matthews, Oregon
Next up, I added help at linebacker. Matthews is a player I like, but I think Castillo would love. Matthews is intense and competitive and plays with a real sense of urgency. He can cover and is very instinctive. Matthews would offer depth at both middle and weakside linebacker. He also could be a great special teams player.
SS Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina
Searcy is a player that not many people may know, but he is a really good prospect. He spent two years on special teams before becoming a starter. He learned quickly and played at a high level. That earned him a trip to the Senior Bowl and Combine. At the Senior Bowl, Searcy showed better than expected cover skills. He was very comfortable in man coverage. At the Combine, he put up workout numbers better than some cornerbacks. Searcy's game tape is also impressive. He picked off four passes as a senior and played the run well. He isn't tall, but has a thick, strong build. Searcy has added value as a kick returner. He ran one punt back for a score and averaged 24 yards per kickoff return in his career.
DT Cedric Thornton, Southern Arkansas
Thornton is a small-school prospect, but NFL teams are all over him. Bill Parcells was impressed enough with his play to recommend that agent Jimmy Sexton sign Thornton up as a client. Thornton got an invitation to the Senior Bowl and had a solid showing in Mobile. During the game I thought he had the quickest first step of any of the defensive tackles. He was faster off the ball than some of the ends. That burst would fit in well with the new one-gap style of Jim Washburn. We need players that can get up the field and be disruptive. The rule of thumb with small-school prospects is that they should be dominant. Thornton put up huge numbers in 2009. Teams went out of their way to control him in 2010. Thornton still managed 13 tackles for loss in eight games. He was dominant at his level.
RB Alex Green, Hawaii
Finally Andy Reid gets to add a skill player to the offense. Green is a big back. Reid and Howie Roseman took Charles Scott last year. He was big, but couldn't adjust to the NFL offense. Green played for a run 'n shoot team. Adapting to the NFL should be easier for him. Green ran for 1,199 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010. He averaged more than eight yards a carry. He never got 20 carries in a game. Green understands how to play in a pass-first offense. He did catch 38 passes in his two years at Hawaii, so he can help in the passing game.
LB Brian Rolle, Ohio State
Rolle is a player I wrote about in a previous Fan-Demonium column. I love watching him play. You put on an Ohio State game and he just jumps out at you. He's smaller than you'd like, but this is a player I would take a chance on. He was tough and productive at OSU. If he's unable to develop into a starter in the NFL, Rolle could be a good role player and great special teams player. He is athletic, plays hard and tackles really well. Older fans may remember a Cowboys linebacker named Dexter Coakley. Rolle is a similar player.
WR Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M
The Eagles have four receivers they like a lot. After that things open up. Chad Hall showed some potential last year. Jeremy Williams and Sinorice Moss could challenge him for a spot. There is still room for more competition. Burton is big and has good speed for his size. He posted big numbers this year, catching 70 passes for 1,021 yards. Eleven of his receptions were for scores. He has some kick return experience. Burton played well in an all-star game and then had an impressive workout at the Combine.
CB Josh Gatlin, North Dakota State
Gatlin is another small-school guy. I watched tape of him recently while studying another prospect. I was impressed with what I saw and then checked out his workout numbers. Gatlin wasn't invited to the Combine, but had a terrific showing at his pro day. Gatlin picked off five passes this year and added one in an all-star game. He's still a project, but he's got NFL size and speed. We have a lot of corners on the roster, but none with his size/speed combo.
LB Jabara Williams, Stephen F. Austin
Finally, I added another linebacker. The Eagles did well with the last Stephen F. Austin linebacker they drafted (some guy named Trotter). Williams isn't the same kind of player or nearly as good. Williams is smaller and more of a speed guy. He wasn't at the Combine, but also had a great showing at his pro day. Williams was a very good player at his level of competition. Before you think spending a late round pick on a linebacker from a small Texas school is a waste of time I ask you to remember where Seth Joyner came from. He was a late round pick from UTEP. Williams isn't likely to pan out like that, but he is another speedy linebacker to add to the mix.
I know I went heavy on small-school guys at the bottom of the draft. That's what happens in a year when the draft isn't overly deep. I think you are smarter to roll the dice on guys with real upside than mediocre prospects who happened to go to a BCS school. The other factor to consider is that we don't know what will happen with undrafted free agents. As of right now teams will NOT be allowed to sign them. The Eagles have had luck with guys from smaller schools that were added as UDFAs. I think you may see those players picked this year. Just a guess. We're all in uncharted waters with the CBA situation.