Frank: Don't expect Eagles to take O-lineman at 23

Frank: Don't expect Eagles to take O-lineman at 23
April 27, 2011, 8:12 pm
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 4:10 p.m.

By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

Seems like 97 percent of mock drafts weve seen have the Eagles taking an offensive lineman with the 23rd pick in the first round.

Gabe Carimi, the Wisconsin offensive tackle, seems to be the consensus. Or maybe Colorados Nate Solder. Or Mississippi States Derek Sherrod.

Its understandable. The Eagles allowed 49 sacks last year and three more in the wild-card loss to the Packers. Their inability to protect Michael Vick at key moments was really one of the key storylines of the 2010 season.

Whats the last move Andy Reid made in the final quarter of the final game of the season? He benched ailing and struggling right tackle Winston Justice for King Dunlap in a desperate attempt to get the offense rolling. It didnt help, either.

Logic says the Eagles must become dramatically better on the offensive line. If theyre going to win a Super Bowl, its going to be because of Vicks brilliance. And unless hes protected, he cant be brilliant.

Just one thing about drafting an offensive lineman: It wont happen.

A day before the 2011 draft begins, the chances of the Eagles taking an offensive lineman in the first round appear remote at best, and everything points to the Eagles either selecting a defensive lineman at 23, trading up in the first round for an elite corner or defensive lineman, or getting out of the first round and stockpiling Day 2 picks.

There are two central reasons for this.

No. 1, the Eagles believe there isnt great value among offensive linemen in the first round, but they do feel there is terrific value in the second and third rounds. They feel they can address the offensive line on Friday to almost the same degree as they can on Thursday using far less valuable picks.

And No. 2, the Eagles feel this is as deep a defensive line group as there has been in many years, both in the first round and in latter premium rounds (second and third). They also believe defensive line is actually a bigger need right now for this team than offensive line, and theyre confident they have a good chance of finding an impact defensive lineman in the first round.

Its possible as many as a dozen defensive linemen will be drafted in the first round, which is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Thursday. The second and third rounds start at 6 p.m. Friday, and the final four rounds start at noon on Saturday.

If the Eagles do stay at No. 23, they would have a shot at potential impact defensive linemen like Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, Temple tackle Muhammad Wilkerson or North Carolina tackle Marvin Austin. They are firm in their belief that similar value would not be available at offensive line in the same spot.

But this is a team that loves to move around on draft day. Since 2003, theyve only taken two players in the first round with picks that were originally theirs (Mike Patterson in 2005, Brodrick Bunkley in 2006).

Four times since 2003, the Eagles have traded up in the first round, landing Jerome McDougle in 2003, Shawn Andrews in 2004, Jeremy Maclin in 2009 and Brandon Graham last year. Twice under Andy Reid in 2007 and 2008 theyve gotten out of the first round.

So there are pretty good odds that when No. 23 comes around, the Eagles will not be on the board.

If the Eagles do move up for a defensive lineman, they could target Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who theyre high on and shouldnt take more than an 10-pick move. Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn could also be the target of a trade up, and hed likely require a smaller jump.

Although it appears extremely unlikely the Eagles would take a corner at No. 23, trading up could bring them a big-time cornerback. LSUs Patrick Peterson by far the top corner prospect in the draft is almost certainly out of range for the Eagles. And character questions appear to be dooming Colorado corner Jimmy Smiths draft standing, perhaps even out of the first round.

But if the Eagles have a chance to swoop up and nab Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, they will be tempted. Amukamara is expected to go somewhere in the first 12 picks and could team up with Asante Samuel to give the Eagles a terrific 1-2 cornerback tandem.

Barring somebody like Amukamara or Liuget, trading down actually does make sense this year. They already have pick No. 54 in the second and No. 85 in the third, and trading out of No. 23 would let them accumulate some premium Day 2 picks and take advantage of the middle-round value at offensive line and the great depth at defensive line, which is going to knock some first-round caliber defensive linemen into picks 33 through 50.

Although fans hate it when the Eagles get out of the first round, its not always a bad move.

For example, in 2007, the Eagles traded pick No. 27 for selections that eventually became Kevin Kolb, Stewart Bradley and a safety who didnt make the team (C.J. Gaddis). In 2008, they traded No. 19 overall for picks that eventually became Jason Peters (via trade), Trevor Laws and Mike McGlynn (and Quintin Demps).

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com