Eagles should avoid Lotulelei, Floyd at No. 4

Eagles should avoid Lotulelei, Floyd at No. 4
April 11, 2013, 1:15 pm
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The variety of prospects that should be available for the Eagles at No. 4 has thrown a curveball into the process of predicting their pick.

Several draft analysts, including Mel Kiper Jr., have pegged former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith for the Eagles at fourth overall. Some think Chip Kelly would like to reunite with Oregon’s fast-rising outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan.

Others think the Eagles are ripe to take whichever offensive tackle falls out of the top three, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M or Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. At times, Utah’s nose tackle Star Lotulelei and Florida’s defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd have been linked to the Eagles, along with Alabama guard Chance Warmack, BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah and Alabama corner Dee Milliner.

It’s enough to make the impatient diehard fan’s head spin.

Without having the privilege of being welcomed into their draft meetings, it’s impossible to pinpoint whom the Eagles have their hearts set on or whether they’d even like to stay at No. 4.

But let’s just safely eliminate two of them based on good, old fashioned logic and rationale (always a dangerous path in draft prognostication).

In all likelihood, the Eagles won’t use their first-round pick on Lotulelei or native son Floyd, from Northeast Philly. The nature of their positions make each prospect an odd pairing for defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ 3-4 hybrid scheme.

The Eagles conducted private workouts for both, but those probably fall under the category of due diligence or smoke screen than legitimate interest at No. 4.

Floyd, whose stock skyrocketed after a brilliant junior season for the Gators, is a natural three-technique who best fits into a 4-3 scheme as a gap-shooting interior lineman. If he were to play for the Eagles, the 6-foot-3, 297-pound Floyd would have to move outside on run downs, where he would be undersized and carry out different gap responsibilities than he did at Florida.

Floyd might be talented enough to make the adjustment, but the Eagles already have one standout five-technique in Fletcher Cox, their first-round pick last year who they moved up to grab at 12th overall. Passing on an elite offensive tackle, pass rusher or cornerback for another five-technique wouldn’t be the best allocation of resources.

Which brings us to Lotulelei.

His case is different than Floyd’s in that Lotulelei fits the scheme and has the versatility to play the nose and end positions, making him an attractive commodity for teams that employ odd-front defenses on run downs but change their looks in the pass rush, which the Eagles plan to do based on some of the hints they’ve dropped.

Lotulelei could feasibly start at the nose and slide next to Cox to form an effective pass-rushing tandem from the inside, where more and more teams are trying to generate pressure these days to combat the spread of elite offensive tackles.

But most 3-4 teams get their pass rush from outside linebackers and stand-up edge rushers, and the Eagles seem optimistic about the damage Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and newcomer Connor Barwin can do in their new roles.

The Eagles are also high on second-year defensive lineman Cedric Thornton, who would start opposite Cox at defensive end if the season opened today. But they can find a young, athletic lineman with some pass-rushing skills deeper in the draft if they’re concerned about Thornton’s ability to handle the job.

The 49ers found Ricky Jean-Francois (who just signed a long-term deal with the Colts) in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Ravens lineman Arthur Jones (4.5 sacks last year) went in the fifth round in 2010. Steelers defensive end Brett Kiesel, a seventh-rounder in 2002, has six seasons of at least three sacks.

By contrast, the Chiefs used the third overall pick in 2009 on LSU’s Tyson Jackson, a lineman with similar size and versatility as Lotulelei. Jackson has five career sacks.

Lotulelei might be far more impactful as an interior pass rusher than the aforementioned five but still makes less sense for the Eagles at No. 4 than Jordan, Smith, Milliner or one of the top left tackle prospects.

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