2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

The 2017 NFL draft is in the Eagles' backyard.

They'll be picking in the middle of the first round (thanks, again, Sammy Sleeves) at either No. 14 or 15. The team's most pressing needs are weapons for young quarterback Carson Wentz and help in a weak secondary that lacks depth.

With a whole bunch of early mock drafts in the books, we take a look at what the pundits are saying about what the Eagles might do come late April.

Mel Kiper, ESPN - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
We start with the original draft guru in Kiper. He tabs Williams, a prototypical outside receiver with strong hands and tremendous ball skills. Williams finished his redshirt junior year with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He capped off his impressive college career with an eight-catch, 94-yard performance in a National Championship win over Alabama.

Kiper's take: "Wide receiver has been a position of frustration for the Eagles, and it's imperative they add at least one more reliable pass-catcher next year, or they risk slowing the development of Carson Wentz. This is a spot where the Eagles could be considering another position (tackle comes to mind), but the value isn't there in some cases, and with Williams it definitely is. He's a great, big target for Wentz to work with."

Analysis: I'm sure no Eagles fans will argue this pick. In Kiper's mock, Williams is the first receiver off the board at No. 15. Williams isn't the most explosive receiver, but he consistently makes contested catches and wins with his size and strength. Between the two, I prefer Western Michigan's Corey Davis (Kiper has him going to Tampa Bay at No. 19), but an upgrade at the receiver position is definitely a positive.

Todd McShay, ESPN - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor has all the swagger and ball skills you look for in a corner. He does take chances. He's not quite an Asante Samuel-type risk taker, but he will occasionally take the cheese and get beat deep. He finished his career at Florida with nine interceptions.

McShay's take: "Tabor needs to cut down on the number of big plays he allows, but he has some of the best ball skills among cornerbacks in this draft class, with nine interceptions and 28 pass breakups in his past three seasons. He shows natural anticipation, if not the most consistent technique. Wide receivers Corey Davis or Mike Williams could also be in play if they slip this far."

Analysis: There's a lot to like with Tabor and he does seem like a great fit for Jim Schwartz and the style of player he likes. With that said, if the Eagles go corner, they should take Washington's Sidney Jones. Jones is the most consistent corner in this draft and would be a piece that helps the Eagles solidify their secondary.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Speaking of Jones, Jeremiah agrees with me and has the Eagles taking the wiry corner in the first round. Jones flashed his ball skills a little bit at Washington, but for the most part wasn't targeted. He shut down the left side of the field a la Richard Sherman.

Jeremiah's take: "The Eagles are desperate for cornerback help; Jones is very polished and consistent on tape."

Analysis: Jeremiah is spot on with his analysis. I saw the same thing when I watched Jones. He's fluid in his movements and has the best technique of any corner this draft.

Josh Norris - Rotoworld.com - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is the most complete running back in this draft. He ran for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. He also caught 33 passes for 488 yards. He's not just a bell cow back. Cook is a big play threat, averaging 6.5 yards a carry and accounting for 48 total touchdowns in his college career. 

Norris' take: "I love Dalvin Cook’s game. The Eagles' offense can shift with any “type” of running back. They showed that in 2016. Cook is a big play threat who also wins after contact."

Analysis: Cook could be an extremely special player at the next level. If you're going strictly by the "best player available" strategy, Cook makes sense. He does also fit a need at running back. Cook's off-the-field incidents and injury history (two shoulder surgeries while at FSU) scare me a little bit. Again, Cook likely makes the Eagles better, but he's not the safest bet for a team that has recently swung and missed often in the first round.

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Last but not least, Davis is the most polished route runner in this draft. He's maybe the most polished route runner in any draft ever. He broke all sorts of records, finishing his collegiate career with 331 catches, 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns. 

Cherepinsky's take: "As you can see in the scouting report, the Corey Davis comparison is Demaryius Thomas, except he has better hands. Philadelphia fans will be happy about that after watching Nelson Agholor and the other wideouts drop countless passes over the past couple of years."

Analysis: Davis was my draft crush for most of the college football season. He's the total package. The comparison to Thomas is pretty fair. Thomas may be a little better down the field, but Davis is the more consistent player. If the Eagles give Wentz Davis, that could go a long way for his development.

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Beckham, Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: LB Hodges signs, CB Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

Nelson Agholor’s rookie season was a disappointment, but his second year in the NFL was a disaster, the pressure of which was clearly getting to him. Now Agholor finds himself on the roster bubble as his third year with the Eagles commences, and it’s fair to wonder what the wide receiver’s mindset is like in 2017.

“Confident and comfortable,” Agholor said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where OTAs had just begun.

Earlier in the day, Agholor had been involved at practice — cycling in with the first-team offense and getting plenty of looks, too. Later, he was be the last player to leave the field, continuing to run sprints alone after practice ended. Finally, back in the locker room, Agholor explained the epiphany he arrived at during the offseason, and how he knows he’s ready to put 2016 behind him.

“I just had a realization that the only thing that matters is the current situation,” Agholor said. “I’m here, I have an opportunity to get better and make myself a better football player.”

None of this means everything is about to click for Agholor and he’s suddenly going to perform up to his status as a first-round pick. The Eagles clearly weren’t counting on that, either, when they signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then selected two more receivers in the draft.

If Agholor intends to turn his career around, a fresh outlook isn’t a bad place to start.

Failing to meet expectations and under relentless scrutiny, Agholor’s demeanor changed over the course of last season. Frustrations finally boiled over during a postgame rant after an Eagles loss to the Cowboys. Four weeks later, he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. Though Agholor suited up for the final five games, there was no discernable change from a production standpoint.

“That’s in the past,” Agholor said. “I practiced today. I got after it today. Anything that happened back then, it happened for a reason.”

Agholor — who turned 24 Wednesday — attributed the bulk of his struggles to youth and inexperience while denying mental or confidence issues were to blame for his performance. With only 59 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns to show after two years, the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to grow up any longer, which led to Jeffery and Smith being brought on board.

“I took it for what it was,” Agholor said. “I said, ‘This was what happened, this is the new opportunity, so every day, just focus on getting better at some aspect of it.’

“It’s all about getting better consistently each day, even if it’s just a little. At the end of the day, the whole world will be like, ‘Man, this is the product?’ Some of the best players in this league, they didn’t just become really great the first day there. It took a process and continuous progression every day.”

But how exactly does Agholor go about making that jump? Because work ethic has never been a complaint, nor was talent a problem at Southern California, where he finished with 179 receptions for 2,571 yards and 20 touchdowns in 40 games.

There’s no telling whether Agholor will ever put it all together in the NFL. He has, however, refined his approach.

“I focused on the simple grind, whether it’s conditioning, whether it was living weights,” Agholor said of offseason workouts. “I wasn’t trying to have just a miracle happen. I just started focusing on the simplest things.

“I got on the track and worked on my speed and worked on my conditioning. I was in the weight room, worked on my strength and my durability, making sure my muscles were working the right way. That’s all it was, little things like that.”

Coaches and teammates are seeing a difference in Agholor as well. Most of all, they believe competing against veterans like Jeffery and Smith will bring the best out of a young receiver still trying to find his way.

“Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “As I've said all along, competition sharpens you, and that's what I've seen from Nelson.”

“I feel like competition is what’s going to help breed production,” Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “If you’ve got more guys coming in and working, you don’t have time to worry about this, this and this. You have to worry about going in and keeping your job, you have to worry about going in and making plays every single day, and that goes for everybody, not just Nelson.”

Agholor does not disagree.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to compete vs. some really good players,” Agholor said of Jeffery and Smith. “These guys have proven themselves in the league, so if I show that I’m capable of performing the same way they are, then I’m in the conversation.”

That might seem like wishful thinking, but for this brief period in OTAs, Agholor has the upper hand — he knows the offense. And even if the Eagles wanted to move on from Agholor this year, his contract is such that a release would cost more against the salary cap than if he was to remain on the roster.

Financial ramifications aside, Agholor’s spot on the final 53-man roster legitimately appears to be in jeopardy. His hope, in the meantime, is to make himself indispensable.

“I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team, and that takes care of it right there,” Agholor said. “I want to be a guy when you watch him on tape, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I need him.’

“The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players.”

For all of the doubts about his confidence, Agholor has seldom had any trouble expressing a general belief that he belongs in the NFL. Any doubts he did have, he obviously did not entertain for very long, based on his goals in 2017.

“I love this game, and I want to play this game for a long time, so I’m not going to allow anybody besides myself determine how long I do this,” Agholor said. “This is only Year 3, and I want to play 10-plus. The only way I do that is making myself available and making myself a good football player.”

Coming off of a season that nearly caused him to lose his swagger and cool, Agholor is doing and saying all the right things again, even as the Eagles bring in potential replacements. Perhaps the notion that it feels like a step in the right direction speaks to how poorly those first two seasons went.