It's finally here! The start of the 2012 is mere hours away and it's time to conclude our series of Draft Buzz. The first three rounds of the NFL Draft are where teams look to add premier young talent to their roster. With that in mind, we're going to take a look at the players who will be on the Eagles' radar throughout the first three rounds of this year's draft, which take place on Thursday and Friday nights. Without further ado, we begin with the offense ...
Quarterback (Tony Pauline – SI.com):
If there is a surprise top 100 choice at the quarterback position by the Philadelphia Eagles it could byRyan Lindley of San Diego State. Lindley showed well early in his college career but was disappointing as a senior. His accuracy, which was usually on the mark, seemed to escape him last season. Many felt this was the end result of having both his receivers graduate to the NFL in 2011. In the postseason, scouts saw the Lindley of old as the big passer was on the money with his throws during the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Lindley is a terrific combination of size, arm strength and athleticism and, if coached properly, he has the ability to develop into a starter at the next level. Selecting Lindley in the third round is not out of the question for the Eagles.
Our Take: Lindley has one of the strongest arms in the draft class, making him a good fit in a number of different offenses. He had an up and down senior campaign, for sure, but he has the tools that a lot of teams desire. I would imagine he could come off the board as early as the third round.
Running Back (Dane Brugler – CBS Sports):
Chris Rainey is an intriguing do-everything weapon who can line up in the backfield and impact the offense in a number of ways. He is a difference-maker type of athlete who is dangerous in space and also set a conference record with six blocked punts. He lacks the frame or instincts to be a consistent inside runner and will only be able to handle so many touches per game to stay effective and fresh, but he's an explosive athlete with exceptional burst. He also has some character concerns that won't help his case, but his natural skill-set is truly unique. Rainey projects as a Dexter McCluster-type player who will be a special teams specialist, but should also be involved in a certain number of offensive plays. He is a luxury pick in the third or fourth round, but the Eagles covet speed and Rainey has plenty of that.
Our Take: Rainey is an intriguing option for the Eagles especially, because of his abilities as a receiver and returner. He is the type of player who could come in impact the game in a similar role to which Chad Hall has been used over the past two seasons – multi-dimensional threat out of the slot and in the backfield, as well as a return specialist. I would expect Rainey to start gaining interest somewhere in the third round.
Wide Receiver (Matt Waldman – Football Outsiders):
It's very unlikely, in my opinion, that the Eagles are considering a first-round receiver so I will remove Michael Floyd and Justin Blackmon from the equation. The conventional thought is the Eagles look for a bigger receiver to help in the red zone. If that's the case,Alshon Jeffery has the size, hands, and strength to function as a productive red-zone threat with the skills to bully defensive backs. He reminds me of a faster Mike Williams of the Seahawks. The Eagles may also considerBrian Quick of Appalachian State, Nick Toon of Wisconsin, North Carolina's Dwight Jones, or Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller. However, I believe it would serve Michael Vick's game more to add a more dynamic slot receiver than a super-sized, Jason Avant. The one player I would consider as an Avant-type with more dynamic skill as a runner and great hands is Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu. He's a versatile player capable of adding a dimension to the offense it doesn't have with its other receivers - and that's running the ball from the backfield. However the smaller, dynamic slot types include the likes of Devon Wylie of Fresno State or Virginia Tech's Danny Coale. I also like Travis Benjamin of Miami (FL.). All three run good routes, have the hands to adjust to the football and the speed and agility to get deep or make plays after the catch. Coale can also play on the outside.
Our Take: Matt covered a ton of names, and it's easy to see that there is a wide variety of options for the Eagles if they wish to address the wide receiver position. Touching on a couple of the names, I think Quick is an interesting option in the second round area because of his rare athleticism and natural ball skills. He has inconsistent hands, but he has only been playing football for a few years, and is still in essence learning the position. Sanu is a local guy who piques a lot of fans' interest, and for good reason. He was extremely productive at Rutgers, and is a prospect who brings plenty of positional versatility in that he can line up all over the formation. Wylie is a dynamic return specialist and a sharp route runner, and could be hearing his name called in the latter stages of the third round.
Tight End (Dan Shonka – Ourlads):
There are a couple of names that Eagles fans should keep their ears peeled for at the tight end position early in the draft, starting with Coby Fleener from Stanford. He is a very smart and aware tight end who is accustomed to an NFL playbook. Fleener can and has lined up in a variety of alignments in offensive formations, and can read coverages and adjust routes according to the play. He is competitive as a receiver and blocker, but he isn't a road grader. However, he is efficient on and off the line of scrimmage. Fleener is a big red-zone target that has caught 18 touchdown passes the past two years. He is a first-round talent for sure. Another name to keep an eye out for is Dwayne Allen Clemson. Allen is an athletic tight end who plays faster than his forty time. Linebackers can't cover him. He has the strength to drag tacklers after the catch and will lay out for a bad low-ball throw. Allen occupies the corner support in the run game. He was also used a lot in the misdirection of the Tiger offense. Allen can adjust and block on the move, and is positionally versatile as well. He lined up anywhere - tight end, wide receiver, fullback, and in the slot. I expect Allen to come off the board somewhere in the second or third round.
Our Take: Fleener was unable to participate fully in the Senior Bowl and in the NFL Scouting Combine due to injury, but really put an exclamation point on his offseason with a brilliant performance at his Pro Day. His blazing 40 time put fans and the media on notice, and he is no slouch on film either. While he isn't a ferocious blocker, he is a great red-zone threat, a savvy route runner, and a dynamic option down the seam. Allen is more athletic than people give him credit for, and while he doesn't get downfield as easily as Fleener, was used on vertical routes nearly as often. Allen is also a very tenacious blocker, both as a winged H-Back and as an in-line tight end. I expect both players to start getting consideration in the latter stages of the first round, with neither lasting through the middle of round two.
Offensive Line (Lance Zierlein – Sideline View):
I'm not expecting the Eagles to look at any offensive linemen in the first round, but they could be active in that department in the second or third round of this year's draft. The Eagles like technically proficient linemen with the ability to move in space and there are a good number of those linemen in rounds two through four. The guard class is a little light, but there are plenty of tackles who could transition to guard, and the Eagles could look at several of those players in the second round. Jeff Allen from Illinois andJames Brown from Troy could both bump inside to guard with Allen likely being a second-round target and Brown a third-round target. If it is size you want with decent movement skills, then Kelechi Osemele and Mitchell Schwartz could provide the Eagles with the potential to play tackle or guard as potential second round targets. If the Eagles want to look for a right tackle with great movement skills with their first pick of the second round, Bobby Massie of Ole Miss will do the trick.
Our Take: Allen, Brown, Osemele and Schwartz were all participants in January's Senior Bowl, with the latter two names being some of the biggest surprises in my mind. Osemele held his own against Quinton Coples in the game, showing good feet for a man his size. Schwartz is an underrated technician, who stood out all week long in practice. Massie, an early entry to the draft as a junior, was a three-year starter at Ole Miss and possesses the size and length to start immediately on the outside. Allen and Brown are both, as Lance said, options to shift inside to guard and thrive under coach Howard Mudd.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the defensive portion of our final Draft Buzz.