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There is no Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton or Ndamukong Suh for this year’s NFL draft. The next Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson or Von Miller also won’t be available.
This year’s pool of college talent lacks the rare, instant all-pro playmaker that the past few have produced.
NFL Network draft czar Mike Mayock on Monday said this year’s crop offers more depth than high-end talent, which is enticing for teams that pick in the lower third but disheartening for teams in the top five (see story).
The Eagles are slated to pick fourth overall on April 25, the first day of the three-day extravaganza. It’s their highest pick in 15 years.
General manager Howie Roseman didn’t disagree with Mayock’s modest characterization of this year’s first-round talent but also didn’t sound discouraged by the options that should be available at the team’s current position.
“I never disagree with Mike Mayock,” Roseman kidded Tuesday. “He'll probably be on my plane [Wednesday] and I'll sit right next to him. So I'm going to make sure I agree with everything he says. He's a great Philadelphia native and for him it's all about the players you pick, and in every draft there's going to be an opportunity to add good players.
“You get your board right, you don't pick for need. If you do that, then you have the opportunity to come away with a heck of a draft. We're excited about the class we had last year. We think we build on that, add a couple more and we can get a core group of players that are Philadelphia Eagles that can be here for a long time.”
Roseman, along with new coach Chip Kelly, new vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble and the Eagles’ army of scouts and executives, will head to Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, where more than 300 draft prospects will work out and interview for NFL teams in preparation for April’s draft.
The Eagles, a franchise in crossroads after firing Andy Reid and gambling on the unproven Kelly, have just their third top-five pick in the past 29 years. Their last top-five pick brought in Donovan McNabb, who went No. 2 overall in 1999 -- Reid’s first draft -- and made six Pro Bowls.
Kelly has four quarterbacks under contract, including Mike Vick and Nick Foles, the early front-runners to compete for the starting job. If Kelly seeks another franchise arm in this year’s draft or a prospect with the athleticism tailor fitted for the read-option offense, he won’t find one in the top four and probably not in the first round.
Todd McShay, the director of college scouting for ESPN, said none of his top seven quarterbacks, including West Virginia’s Geno Smith, have the skill set to execute the read-option effectively in the NFL.
None of the draft-eligible quarterbacks received a first-round grade from McShay, although he wouldn’t be surprised if Smith (West Virginia) or Matt Barkley (Southern California) went in the first round.
“I can tell you right now, I will not give a first-round grade to any of these guys,” he said. “It’s not a knock; it’s just who they are. But the depth is sensational. It’s just going to be interesting to see where they come off the board. I don’t know if there is anyone in the league that I’ve talked to that has a true first-round grade on one of those quarterbacks at this point.”
Assuming that Vick or Foles is Kelly’s vision for 2012, the Eagles’ most glaring areas of need are cornerback, safety, nose tackle and right guard. Mayock said there isn’t a defensive back, quarterback or nose tackle worthy of a top-five pick.
Offensive guard Chance Warmack (Alabama) and Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina) are among Mayock’s five best overall prospects but teams rarely expend top-five picks on interior linemen.
Because of the depth in this year’s draft, Mayock said the Eagles can find starting-caliber nose tackles and defensive backs later in the draft.
But if they’re looking for the next Russell Wilson or J.J Watt, good luck.
“I think we probably have better depth than we've had in the last 10 years,” he said. “Now, the top end of the draft, the top 10 picks, I don't see the difference-makers like we've had the last several years.”