Mel Kiper, the preeminent NFL draftnik, debuted his second mock draft of the off-season and, like most analysts at the moment, Kiper projects the Eagles to select a safety in the first round. According to Kiper, Southern California's Taylor Mays, 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, will be Howie Roseman's first official selection as general manager.
"Taylor Mays would be a kid I think you have to think about if you're Philadelphia," Kiper said on a conference call. "He's got limitations based on the way that he was playing. (USC) played him in that deep, deep centerfield area when he's really an in-the-box guy. People say he didn't transition out of his backpedal but he was never asked to do that. He's a guy that it's going to be very interesting - I think it's risky taking him in the top 15. I don't think it's as risky taking him after that. The reason I say that is because he's got freakish physical ability and he's a great kid, he's got great character. He'll work, he'll do whatever. You have to coach these kids. He needs some coaching and he needs to fit into a system and remain in that system, which was not the case at USC the way they moved him around and this past year took him out of a position where he could make a lot of plays.
"With that said, I don't think he showed up big enough. I don't think he made the impact hits that some people thought he did. I thought he took some bad angles and missed some tackles during his senior year. So he's not perfect. He's got some work to do, but he'll do that and he'll give you everything he has on and off the field to get better. When you're as big and as fast and athletic as he is, you're not going to be thinking necessarily bust. You're thinking he could be really good, he could be solid or decent. I don't think he'll ever be a bust because he's so talented and such a great kid."
Of course, even though the Eagles are almost unanimously tabbed to select a safety in the first round, that is far from a guarantee. In past drafts, the Eagles have proved to select based on value rather than need, so there are plenty of other options with the 24th overall pick.
"There's outside linebacker, whether it be Navarro Bowman from Penn State (or) Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri," Kiper said. "Running back, whether you're looking at a Jahvid Best (from California), a Ryan Matthews out of Fresno State. Defensive end-wise, a pass rusher at that point, what if a Carlos Dunlap from Florida's still on the board? And he could be. Right now I have him going No. 17 to Tennessee but he is a possibility to still be there at that point. Brandon Graham from Michigan could still be there as a defensive end as well."
Each of those players, along with Mays, is expected to participate fully in next week's scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Check back in to Bloghead tomorrow for Kiper's thoughts on some safeties who the Eagles could target in later rounds, and why he thinks the Eagles have an added advantage late in the draft. To read Kiper's full first-round projection, click here.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:52 p.m., February 17