It’s never too early for a mock draft (it’s almost always too early for a mock draft)—especially when it’s Mel Kiper, Jr., the face of NFL Draft coverage. Needless to say, his first take on the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 22-overall selection probably raised a few eyebrows.
Despite the presence of DeSean Jackson and a clamoring to re-sign both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, ESPN’s Kiper has the Birds going wide receiver in the first round. The pick: Kelvin Benjamin, a 6’5”, 230-pound burner out of Florida St. Here’s his analysis from ESPN.com’s subscription Insider service, followed by some thoughts on the subject.
I'd consider this more of a "best player available" pick than an outright need, but Benjamin would fill a distinctive role for the Eagles. Riley Cooper has decent size, but doesn't create separation with speed (and is a free agent), and DeSean Jackson is exceptionally quick still, but lacks a physical presence. Benjamin combines some of both, with a huge frame for a wide receiver at near 6-5 and a lean 230-plus pounds. He possesses not just speed, but a lot of change-of-direction burst. He can simply overwhelm defenders and make plays, and would be a nice weapon for Chip Kelly.
Another scouting report on Benjamin via CBSSports.com:
STRENGTHS: Near-tight end size (6-5, 235) with a ridiculously large wingspan, giving him a catching radius that is probably on-par with anyone at the NFL level. Shows the gliding speed and short-area quickness to create some separation and be a terror in jump-ball situations, especially in the red zone.
WEAKNESSES: Still developing as a route-runner.
Personally, I’m not at all surprised by this and believe wide receiver absolutely could be a priority in the first few rounds of the draft, certainly sometime before the process is over. Then again, I wouldn’t expect both Maclin and Cooper to be back next season—Cooper in particular.
The reality of the situation is the Eagles don’t have enough cap room to field three pricey receivers. I'm not sure any team does. If Cooper and Maclin sign contracts within current market value, they could have the potential to earn upwards of $5 and $6 million per year respectively, plus Jackson is scheduled to make $35 million total over the next three seasons.
Philadelphia already ranked second only to Washington in cap space allotted to wide receivers last year, before handing out raises to two receivers. It doesn’t make sense to shell out that kind of money with other needs and different players looking at extensions in upcoming years.
It's far more reasonable to sign one then draft behind the talent that’s there. That’s what I would expect the Eagles to do. Not necessarily in the first round, mind you, but don’t rule it out, either.
Any time you have a thought or hear somebody say anything along the lines of, “I can’t see the Eagles drafting [Position X] in the first round,” remember these three words: best player available. General manager Howie Roseman claims the Birds will always go BPA from now on, citing the rotten 2011 draft class as an example of what happens when a team picks for need.
And when you look at the financial scenario presented above, wide receiver absolutely is going to be a need. Jackson probably won’t make waves this year, but his contract could become a bigger issue in future years. If Maclin returns, it’s likely to be on a short-term deal perhaps as little as one year. And Cooper, just has limited ability—sorry, I don’t understand the fascination.
As for Benjamin himself, he sounds like a great pick, but it’s too early to say who’s going to be there when the Eagles are on the board. The draft is in May this year, so there's a lot left to shake out—yet is interesting to consider different avenues that deviate from most people believe are the club's biggest needs.
>> 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 [ESPN Insider]