The NFL Draft is now just over a week away. Can you feel the excitement in the air? Maybe that is just the fumes from Mel Kiper's hairspray.
I posted a mock draft for the Eagles a few weeks back. I've been watching tape and doing more research since then. I put together a new mock draft to reflect some changes in my thinking and the overall circumstances. Coach Andy Reid still refuses to tell me the exact plan, but here is one possible scenario …
1st Round – No. 8 overall – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
I'm projecting a trade right off the bat. The Eagles give up the 21st pick and their second-round pick to move up to the eighth overall spot. I know the value of the picks doesn't mesh with the draft value chart.
There have been multiple reports that teams in the top 10 are trying to move down. This is not a really strong group of players at the top of the class. There are few elite prospects. If possible, the smart thing is to move back. That works in the Eagles favor. It makes it easier to move up. The Jaguars have reportedly shopped their pick, so the deal makes sense from that perspective.
Monroe would step in as the starting left tackle. He has excellent potential. Monroe is a gifted pass blocker and I think he's an above average run blocker. He has very good feet and looks very smooth in pass protection. He started at left tackle for the last two-and-a-half years for Virginia. That's the kind of experience you want. He also played in a pro-style offense. That helps with the adjustment to pro football.
1st Round – No. 28 overall – RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
Brown really emerged in his junior season and led the nation in rushing with 2,083 yards. He decided to strike while the iron was hot and opted out of his senior year. I'm not a big fan of underclassmen, but coming out makes sense for Brown. Running backs have a limited amount of carries in their legs. Brown had 388 touches this past season. He was likely to see a similar load in 2009. This was the right time to head to the NFL.
Brown is a talented runner. He has very good feet. That allows him to cut and make quick moves. He's got 4.5 speed, which is good for a running back. He had six carries this year that went for more than 40 yards. Brown can move the chains or give you big plays. He uses a stiff-arm very well. Anyone who watches Brian Westbrook run knows the value that can have. Brown has good balance. He can take a hit and stay up. There are times when I wish he'd run more ""behind his pads"" and aggressively take on the tackler. I think Brown is looking to bust the big play so he tries to elude the tackle rather than run through it.
One reason that Brown would be a great fit for the Eagles is his ability to catch the ball. He only had 35 catches over the last two seasons, but he has good hands and catches the ball naturally. The Huskies split him out wide at times. He showed the ability to catch the ball out in space as well as being a big threat on screen passes.
Brown is the kind of runner that you can work into the offense as needed. I think physically and mentally he's ready for pro football. He is also talented enough that he could offer some impact as a role player coming off the bench to spell Westbrook.
2nd Round – No. 52 overall – TE Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi
Another trade. This time the Eagles send the 85th pick and receiver Reggie Brown to the New York Jets for the 52nd pick, a second-round selection. The Eagles need a tight end to pair with Brent Celek and they take Shawn Nelson.
Nelson is probably the safest pick at tight end. He doesn't have the dominant blocking potential of Brandon Pettigrew or the elite athleticism of Jared Cook, but he has no real weaknesses. Nelson started all four years and racked up 157 catches and 14 touchdowns. He can run, catch and block. Nelson is 6-5 and 240 pounds. That is a good frame. He had a very good workout at the Combine, proving he's got above average athletic ability. Nelson stood out at the Senior Bowl as a blocker. He gave USC linebacker Rey Maualuga fits in the practice sessions.
Nelson is talented enough to challenge Celek for the starting tight end spot or he could just come off the bench and be a good role player initially. The Eagles offense needs a pair of good tight ends to be at its best. Nelson played on special teams in college so hopefully he could fit into that department as well.
4th Round – No. 121 overall - CB Bradley Fletcher, Iowa
The Eagles secondary could use a cornerback with some size. Fletcher is just over 6 feet tall and weighs more than 190 pounds. He's no Troy Vincent or Bobby Taylor, but that is pretty good size. One thing that I like about Fletcher is that he can play man or zone. A lot of big corners need to press. They struggle when playing off the receiver. Fletcher played a lot of zone at Iowa and is comfortable pressing or playing off the ball. He has excellent awareness and good ball skills. Fletcher picked off three passes this year and was credited with 10 passes defensed. He hits and tackles well. Fletcher has the potential to be a starting corner.
5th Round – No. 141 overall - WR Brian Hartline, Ohio State
Interesting player. Looked like a star on the rise after his sophomore season of 2007. Hartline caught 52 passes, six for touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a score. Ohio State really struggled with the passing game in 2008, mostly due to a freshman quarterback. That killed Hartline's production. He only caught 21 passes. Hartline decided to leave school early. I didn't agree with the choice. Hartline redshirted in 2005, so he had four years at Ohio State and wanted to move on to the NFL. He finished his career with 90 catches and 12 touchdowns. He lacks top speed, but has excellent quickness and agility. He runs good routes and has good hands. Hartline can play in the slot or outside. One of the things I think that makes him a good fit is that he had to fight for playing time in college. He was a standout on special teams as a freshman. He had no problems doing the dirty work until he was able to get time as a returner and receiver. Reggie Brown had a hard time getting activated for games in 2008 because the Eagles needed a receiver to help on special teams. Hartline will do whatever is asked of him. The Eagles do well with guys like that.
5th Round – No. 153 overall - DT Terrance Knighton, Temple
Knighton had a good career at Temple, finishing with 26 tackles for loss. He then played very well in the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game. That really got him noticed and earned him an invite to the Scouting Combine. Knighton displayed good athletic ability at the Combine and his pro day. He has excellent size at 6-3 and 321 pounds. He needs some coaching, but has very good potential. The Eagles defensive line doesn't have any massive players. Knighton would change that. I'm not sure if he would ever be more than a role player, but big defensive linemen can be valuable even coming off the bench.
5th Round – No. 157 overall - FB Quinn Johnson, LSU
Leonard Weaver signed a one-year deal to handle the fullback job. The future is uncertain. Johnson would have a year to learn before having a shot at being the starting fullback. He is an outstanding lead blocker. Johnson played in an offense that ran out of the I-formation most of the time. He knows what he's doing, hits with real power and can adjust to moving targets. Johnson isn't a great athlete or receiver. During the season I saw him catch some passes, but handled others like he was dealing with a live grenade. Johnson caught the ball very well at the Senior Bowl. The Eagles offense needs someone to pave the way for Westbrook and company more than they need another receiving threat. Johnson also played on special teams at LSU. Reid prefers that his fullback be productive on special teams.
5th Round – No. 159 overall - SS Otis Wiley, Michigan State
Quintin Demps looks like the free safety of the future. That leaves an opening for a young strong safety to be added. Wiley should be a player of interest. He doesn't stand out in any area, but is good against the run and in coverage. He has good size at 6-1 and 212 pounds. Wiley had nine career interceptions. He can play zone, but is also effective in man coverage. He does a good job when taking on tight ends. Wiley is a good tackler. He has punt return experience as well.
6th Round – No. 194 overall - LB Victor Butler, Oregon State
Butler played defensive end at OSU, but has the size and skill set to move to linebacker. He would play on the strong side for the Eagles. Chris Gocong is set as the starter, but will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2009 season (if the 2010 season does not have a salary cap). Butler is 6-2 and 248 pounds. He runs pretty well and has good agility. Butler can rush the passer (26 career sacks), but would have to develop cover skills. He has the agility to cover well. He has the motor to succeed at linebacker. Butler got to play linebacker at the Shrine Game and handled himself pretty well.
6th Round – No. 195 overall -WR Brooks Foster, North Carolina
I know a lot of fans would love the Eagles to add Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Tate, the other UNC wideouts. Those guys will go much earlier. Foster is a really intriguing guy. He has a muscular build at 6-1 and 211 pounds. He ran in the 4.45 range at his pro day. Foster did 27 reps at the Combine, making him the strongest receiver there. He never was ""the man"" at Carolina, but did catch 97 career passes. He was very clutch. Foster caught a lot of passes on third downs as well as late in the game. The Buffalo Bills drafted a similar guy last year, Steve Johnson from Kentucky. They took him in the seventh round and he is a player they are very excited about. Foster also played a lot on special teams. He's another guy that will gladly do the dirty work. I don't know if he could ever develop into a starting receiver, but I think Foster is one of the hidden gems in this draft class.
7th Round – No. 230 overall - TE John Nalbone, Monmouth
Nalbone was a four-year starter who caught 101 passes in his career. He has pretty good size at 6-4 and 254 pounds. He could challenge for a roster spot as a rookie or spend a year on the practice squad. Nalbone faced I-AA (FCS) competition. You never know how those players will adjust to the NFL. Receiver Miles Austin of the Cowboys played at Monmouth so they have had pro-caliber talent. Nalbone showed good strength, speed and quickness in his workouts.
Be sure to check out ScoutsNotebook.com for more draft information. We have up about 250 player profiles. We're in the process of adjusting out Top 100 board and value board.