Mike Mayock is in the bunker. Today he is watching cornerbacks, safeties and maybe running backs if his eyes can stay open. Two weeks away from draft weekend and Mayock is going through the prospects one more time, checking and cross checking what he has already seen.
"I'm trying to be a general manager for 32 teams and it's the greatest challenge," said Mayock, NFL Network's voice of the NFL Draft. "I learn something new every time I watch."
The topic here is the Eagles, of course, and the steps they are going to take in the April 30-May 2 draft. They've had significant roster turnover as head coach Chip Kelly's vision gains more clarity, but the foundation work waits: The draft is where NFL teams build their base.
All of those moves in free agency are the setup to the draft. Kelly changed out his quarterback, his backfield, and the wide receiver corps moves on without its top producer from a season ago. The defensive secondary has been overhauled. A young, critical piece has been added at linebacker.
The moves certainly gained a lot of attention around the league.
"What I find interesting is that the entire league is fascinated by what's going on here. I've been on the road for six weeks with all 32 teams and there is a buzz about the Philadelphia Eagles," Mayock said. "What's Chip going to do next? There are people that question some of the moves. There are people that support the moves. But the bottom line is that people are fascinated by how Chip is going about this thing.
"I think that Chip has really strong ideas about how money correlates to production. If he feels like he is overpaying somebody based on the production he's getting, he's either going to renegotiate or the player is gone. It looks to me like Chip has a lot of trust that his offense is going to score points, regardless. I'm guessing that Chip, in his heart of hearts, thinks he is always going to be a top-five points-scored guy. So if you want to get to the next level, beyond 10-6, they've got to get better on defense. You bring in Kiko Alonso, one of the best young linebackers in football. They sign two corners, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, a definite need area that I think they still have to augment. I think Chip is trying to get better on the defensive side, especially on the back end. I think he needs to keep doing that.
"Offensively, I see a shift in philosophy with LeSean McCoy gone and DeMarco Murray in. Murray is a north-south guy who is not going to take losses. Sam Bradford is the quarterback and there has never been any doubt about his talent. The question is about his durability."
The Eagles pick 20th in April 30's first round and have eight selections overall. There are some needs here, as the roster currently stands. Is there enough at cornerback, even with Maxwell, Thurmond and E.J. Biggers added? Do the Eagles have enough firepower at wide receiver with Jeremy Maclin and his 85 receptions in 2014 gone to Kansas City? Who replaces Todd Herremans and provides some youth along the offensive line? What is the answer at safety next to Malcolm Jenkins?
Mayock believes the Eagles will have plenty of chances to add good talent at those areas.
"I think the Eagles need a true speed wide receiver who is big," he said. "There are so many wide receivers in this draft and there are different ways to look at this. I think you have to take the No. 20 pick and the No. 52 pick and look at them together. What's the best combination? Do you take a wide receiver at 20 and then come back and take a cornerback or a tackle or a guard? How do you feel about that? Or do you take the top defensive back on your board at 20 and then, because the wide receiver draft is so deep, get a wideout at 52? To me, there is some merit to that.
"I think you game plan for those things. And I think you have to keep in mind that the depth and quality is so good that you can dip in late at that position and be in good shape. I'm fascinated by this class. Last year's class historically was maybe the best ever based on the performance. This year's class is really close.
"I've got eight wide receivers with potential first-round grades. Now, eight aren't going to go, but six might. Does (Arizona State's) Jaelen Strong, a Philadelphia kid who is 225 pounds and who ran 4.4, make it to pick 52? I love the Tyler Lockett (Kansas State) kid, who can play inside or outside and also be a return guy. He's not a big guy, but he can play. Devin Smith from Ohio State can take the top off of any defense. Sammie Coates (Auburn) is a big-play wide receiver. The Georgia kid, Chris Conley, is a big kid that ran 4.35 at the Combine."
Two weeks remain. Mayock is watching Utah cornerback Eric Rowe, who played three seasons at safety before moving to the corner. Maybe he is a safety in the NFL. He looks good on the screen against Colorado State and Colorado. How will he look in the NFL?
"Will NFL receivers run past him," Mayock says out loud. "He has a lot of confidence in his ability to recover against Colorado. Colorado ain't the NFL."
Doran Grant is on the screen. He was targeted 84 times last season during Ohio State's National Championship run and Mayock is watching every play. Back and forth. Many times. Good player, tackles well, knows the game. Grant gets boxed out by Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess down the field -- "That's today's NFL, right there," Mayock says – and has a bit of a hop in his stride as he transitions from backpedal to closing on a receiver later in the study session.
There is depth in this draft at wide receiver, and there are quality cornerbacks and a safety or two – Mayock is particularly intrigued by Arizona State's Damarious Randall, the "best cover safety in this draft" – and the offensive line will again be represented throughout the seven rounds.
"It's a deep draft at certain positions. If you're looking for tight ends or safeties, you're not real happy this year," Mayock said.
The Eagles? Mayock doesn't know. Nobody knows. The buzz is building. What will Chip Kelly do? Mayock goes back to the video, understanding that the Eagles have their priority list and that Mayock will be live, on NFL Network, reacting as Kelly continues his makeover in the quest to build a championship roster.