The final day of workouts at the Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis. The only position group left to do the drills is the defensive backs. Certainly, Eagles fans should pay close attention. It has been nine years since the amazing draft haul of 2002 which produced two Pro Bowl defensive backs in Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis as well as longtime starter Sheldon Brown. The Eagles have not made a real investment in the draft at the cornerback position since, although last year's fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley showed some promise as a rookie. The Eagles did use a second-round pick on free safety Nate Allen, who had a stellar rookie campaign that was cut short by injury. Seventh-round pick Kurt Coleman took over for Allen following the injury and maintained a high level of play.
There are a number of questions for the Eagles at both the cornerback and safety positions this offseason. The Eagles have an elite cornerback in Asante Samuel on the left side, but no clear cut starter at the right cornerback spot. Both of last year's starters - Ellis Hobbs and Dimitri Patterson - are unsigned. Joselio Hanson is very good in the slot and Lindley lacks experience. Brandon Hughes and Isaiah Trufant are unknowns at this point. At safety, Allen is recovering from the knee injury and Coleman is in the fold, but last year's starter at strong safety Quintin Mikell is unsigned. There is also special teams standout Colt Anderson as well as young players Jamar Wall and Jamar Adams.
Let's first take a look at a talented cornerback class. Expect four to five of these players to be selected in the first round of the upcoming draft. The one thing to note among the top corners is the size. Start with LSU's Patrick Peterson. At 6-0, 219 pounds, there has been speculation that Peterson could be moved to safety and instantly be one of the best in the game. But Peterson told reporters at the Combine that no team has discussed moving him to safety. Peterson could go in the top five picks of the draft. Nebraska's Prince Amukamara also checks in a 6-0 even and has good size at 206 pounds. Amukamara more than held his own against the best of the best receivers in the Big 12 and in addition to the good numbers he's expected to post today he displayed a lot of smarts playing in zone coverage. He could be a top 10 selection.
Miami's Brandon Harris is the smallest of the top corners, but he makes up for that with his speed and ball skills. Expect Harris to impress scouts and coaches in the backpedal drill where he can display his fluid hips and great range. Colorado's Jimmy Smith has tremendous size at 6-2, 211 pounds, but has enough athleticism to be a cornerback at the NFL level. It is rare to find someone with the total package of size and athleticism. Texas' Aaron Williams is considered to be on the fringe of the late first round, early second round but is a player who can bolster his stock with an exceptional performance since the knock on him is that he's not as smooth an athlete as the four mentioned above him.
Last year, there were two no-doubt, first-round safeties in Eric Berry and Earl Thomas with the Eagles' Allen being selected high in the second round. This year, you could possibly see not just the first round go by but also the second round without a safety selected. Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net and Sports Illustrated does not have a safety ranked in the top 90 players overall in this draft.
Out of UCLA, Rahim Moore is the prototype modern-era free safety. At 6-0, 202 pounds, Moore has good range and is expected to be a game-changer at the next level with his ability to make plays in centerfield. After Moore, there's Ahmad Black out of Florida. At 5-10, 184 pounds, Black's size, especially as a strong safety, is going to hurt his value but he'll remind many of the Eagles' Coleman as an aggressive player who can help in the run game. For all of the accolades Coleman earned at a top-notch school in Ohio State, in the end his size caused him to go to the seventh round even though Black isn't expected to be picked that low.
Marcus Gilchrist of Clemson and Quinton Carter of Oklahoma are both on the fringe of whether they are going to be better off at safety at the next level instead of cornerback. One thing that benefited the Eagles last year was that both Allen and Coleman were safeties in college. A lot of teams try to transition college corners to safety and it's not as easy as one would believe. A possible sleeper who could benefit the most from a big-time workout is North Carolina's Deunta Williams. At 6-2, 205 pounds, Williams is known as a film rat who is on the bubble between the second and third rounds.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 10:00 a.m., March 1