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Forget trading down to draft Dee Milliner. After his 40-yard dash times at the Combine Tuesday morning, the Eagles will likely have to stay at No. 4 if they want to draft the gifted Alabama cornerback,.
Milliner blazed a 4.31 in the 40 on Tuesday morning at the Combine in Indianapolis and followed that with a 4.37, times that make him a virtual lock to be a top-five pick in the draft in April.
Milliner deferred shoulder surgery so he could work out at the Combine, and the move certainly paid off. Milliner made himself a ton of money Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Although the Eagles have said they won’t be drafting for need at No. 4 and will take the best available player, Milliner could now very well be the best available player when the Eagles have their first top-five pick since 1999.
And he would certainly fill a desperate need in a shattered secondary.
Milliner’s 4.31 is believed to be the fourth-fastest ever by a cornerback at the Combine, behind Champ Bailey (4.28 in 1999), former Nnamdi Asomugha teammate Stanford Routt (4.29 in 2005) and the late Darrent Williams (4.30 in 2005).
Milliner, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, was considered a likely top-10 pick until he sprinted on Tuesday morning.
Now it’s impossible to imagine him getting past the Lions at No. 5.
Milliner spoke at the Combine on Saturday, before the cornerbacks went through drills, but he already declared himself the best cornerback in the draft.
“You've always got to have confidence in the plays that you can make, your ability that you have,” he said. “I feel like I am the best DB in all of this. No offense to all them other DBs, just I believe in what I can do and all the plays that I can make.”
Milliner, a typical Nick Saban cornerback -- tough, physical, strong against the run -- had six interceptions, 34 pass breakups and nine tackles for a loss at Alabama. He will be the third Alabama corner taken in the first round since 2010. The Texans took Kareem Jackson 20th in 2010, and the Bengals picked Dre Kirkpatrick 17th in 2012.
The Eagles need to rebuild a secondary that over the last 14 weeks of last season allowed 32 touchdown passes and had just three interceptions.
The Eagles appear likely to cut ties with both starting cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha, who seems likely to be released, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is a free agent that they’ve shown no inclination to re-sign.
CSNPhilly.com reported last week that the Eagles plan to target Dolphins free agent corner Sean Smith in free agency. Brandon Boykin, a rookie nickel last year, is the only corner the Eagles are a lock to keep from last year’s 4-12 team.
The Eagles haven’t drafted a cornerback in the top five since 1969, when they took Leroy Keyes out of Purdue No. 3 overall, one pick before the Steelers took Joe Greene out of North Texas. The Eagles also bypassed future Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Roger Wehrli and Ted Hendricks that year.
Since then, they’ve only taken three corners in the first round, all in the 20s – Roynell Young No. 23 in 1980, Ben Smith No. 22 in 1990 and Lito Sheppard No. 26 in 2002.
No cornerback has been drafted as high as No. 4 since 1998, when the Raiders took future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson No. 4 out of Michigan.
Since then, two have gone No. 5 -- Quentin Jammer from Texas to the Chargers in 2002, Terence Newman from Kansas State to the Cowboys in 2003. All except Jammer have been to at least one Pro Bowl.
Milliner said surgery to repair his labrum is scheduled for March 12. He’s expected to miss about two months of offseason workouts.
Milliner participated in every Combine drill in Indianapolis other than the bench press, which he couldn’t do because of his shoulder injury.
Asked on Saturday about the knock on him that he isn't fast enough to be a high-end corner, he said: “Watch the NFL Combine. That's another reason why I wanted to come to the Combine and participate in the drills, that's why I didn't want to sit out, have surgery [and miss the Combine].”
Asked what he expected to run, he said, “Watch the NFL Combine.”
And anybody watching the Combine who had any doubts about Milliner’s speed won’t anymore.
“Anytime somebody doubts you, it's like they get into it with you,” he said. “So I like to go out when people [doubt me] and try to prove them wrong, try to go out there and make a big difference when they talk about me.”