This is a puzzle and the pieces are not yet in place. The Eagles have needs, which we all acknowledge. Andy Reid insists, and with good reason, that if the team were to line up today, as is, the Eagles would contend for a Super Bowl. Hard to argue that, because while we see holes here on this roster, every team is in the same situation. Reid is right: The Eagles are a good team now. Potentially, a very good team.
The goal is to make this a great team. A Super Bowl-winning team. So how does the draft fit into the equation?
I would like to get a couple of immediate-impact players in the draft. If there is free agency, and I still think there is a chance of having a short period prior to the draft (all depending on the courts, of course), the Eagles have the assets to add a starter or two or even more, if they choose.
But as much as we want free agency and the headlines and the excitement that it brings each year, the draft remains the backbone of every NFL franchise. And this draft, the experts say, is loaded. Here are a couple of thoughts on what we might see at the end of the month ...
- A player who is intriguing to me is UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers. He has good size, makes plays all over the field and could very well upgrade the SAM linebacker spot because the Eagles could also use him as an edge pass rusher. The Eagles need more plays from their linebackers. They have Jamar Chaney, I think, who should be penciled in at the WILL spot. Stewart Bradley is healthy and, assuming he is back as an Eagle, stays in the middle in my own depth chart. And Moise Fokou, an improving young player who did a nice job last year, battles veteran Rashad Jeanty on the strong side. The Eagles like to have three SAM linebackers on the roster. Why not Ayers in the first round?
- It's really strange talking about the draft and not focusing on the wide receiver position. We've done that for years and years and years. Honestly, though, would you take a wide receiver in this draft even if he was a standout, can't-miss prospect? There are some I like, like North Carolina's Greg Little. Kid has size, runs well and I watched him a few times in his career dominate games. If he is on the board ... The Eagles have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant and Riley Cooper and another group of receivers with talent, including a former second-round draft pick by the name of Sinorice Moss that I can't wait to see. Chad Hall is going to be much improved in his second NFL season with fresh legs. No wide receiver watch? Too, too strange.
- Yes, the Eagles need to improve the offensive line, but I'm going to offer this perspective: They need one position to work on up front, not two. I see it this way: Jamaal Jackson comes back healthy and battles Mike McGlynn for the starting job at center. That is a good, healthy competition. Winston Justice, fully recovered from his knee surgery, returns as the starting right tackle, with King Dunlap and Austin Howard in the mix. I don't count out any player with Howard Mudd on the scene. Everything that every, single person I have talked to about Mudd raves about his ability. Howard, in fact, could be in the picture at right guard. Anyway, the Eagles, to me, should look at right guard as a position to upgrade, either in the draft or via a veteran acquisition. A first-round pick on a right guard? I don't know about that. If there is a standout lineman who falls into the teens area of the first round, I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles make a move, but otherwise I think offensive line is a target for later in the draft.
- What will the Eagles do about the two prime, attention-focused spots on the defense -- the secondary and the defensive line? There is no shortage of options. The run on defensive ends -- and tackles, for that matter -- is going to start early in the first round and run through the first two days. Somewhere in there, the Eagles will have a chance to grab one of the talents if they choose. But will they add to defensive end? I understand that Brandon Graham is a medical question mark, but the Eagles really like the way Darryl Tapp came on last year and I think Jim Washburn believes he can make Daniel Te'o-Nesheim into a weapon off the edge. Te'o-Nesheim's lack of playing time was a disappointment last year, no question about it, but I am not counting that kid out. He works too hard and he is too hungry to count out. Phillip Hunt from the CFL is going to be a player to watch in the preseason. So, I'm not necessarily all about defensive end as I had been in the past. I think Washburn likes what he sees here.
As for cornerback, well, let's see what happens. It sounds like the prime talents in the draft are going in the top 10, and I don't see the Eagles moving into the top 10 unless they can pick up additional high draft picks prior to the draft. And if there is no free agency, the draft is going to tell us all we need to know about how the Eagles feel about Quintin Mikell. He is slated to be an unrestricted free agent and he is a valuable part of this team. But a high draft pick on a safety would certainly mean something, wouldn't it?
- North Carolina's Robert Quinn didn't play last year, but he sure is wowing scouts with his pre-draft testing. A great athlete who was highly productive prior to his troubles at North Carolina, Quinn is a true "risk" pick early in the draft. I truly don't know what to make of all of the ping-ponging of players whom the "draftniks" think are moving up and down boards. I tend to think that teams have a good read on players and that those reads don't change a whole lot between now and the draft.