In his most recent mock draft, ESPN's draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. projects cornerback Kareem Jackson from Alabama to be the Eagles' first pick at 24th overall. Of course, the Eagles are expected to address the cornerback position and the secondary in general, during next week's draft, especially considering their ownership of 11 picks. But Jackson has been rated by many draft pundits as more of a bottom-of-the-first-round/top-of-the-second-round talent, so would he be a reach at 24?
Not according to Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, who also tabbed Jackson to be the Eagles pick when he unveiled his most recent mock draft. Banks wrote, "The trade of Sheldon Brown to Cleveland signals that the Eagles will be shopping for a cornerback either at No. 24, or No. 37 (the second-rounder they got from Washington in the Donovan McNabb trade). Jackson is climbing as the draft approaches and USC safety Taylor Mays is tumbling. The Eagles need help at both positions, but it seems more likely they go cornerback in the first round and look for a safety such as USF's Nate Allen early in the second."
So is there fire to the Jackson smoke, or is simply pre-draft misinformation?
Well, recently on Philadelphia sports radio station 97.5 The Fanatic, Sal Paolantonio echoed the Jackson sentiment, though he's not fully convinced the Eagles will target the 5-foot-11, 196-pound cornerback in the first round.
"I know they are very interested in Kareem Jackson out of Alabama," Paolantonio said, "but I think he's a second-round pick and I don't think that they have to waste a first-rounder on him. They may be able to get him in the second round. If they feel that they can get Kareem Jackson in the second round, then they may go defensive end in the first round."
Paolantonio added that he expects the defense to be the primary focus of the Eagles' draft.
"This team has got to go defense," he said. "They've got a big hole at the right corner position as far as I'm concerned. Even though they signed Marlin Jackson, he's coming back from two knee surgeries, as far as I'm concerned they have a big fat hole at the free safety position. And here's some of the stuff that I've come up with. The defense clearly was a major problem last year because this team, they scored an average of 26.8 points per game last year. Highest average since 1953, that's 56 years ago."
The good news is that with that crop of 11 draft picks, Paolantonio expects the Eagles to improve their team at a number of key positions.
"They have two seconds, two thirds, two fourths," he said. "No other team has that luxury. Howie Roseman is sitting on a mother lode. He can do what he wants in this draft. More than any other team in the league, the Philadelphia Eagles control the 75th anniversary NFL Draft."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 7:15 a.m., April 15