Eagles' draft options at CB, WR after Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith signings

Eagles' draft options at CB, WR after Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith signings

During the 2016 season, it was clear the Eagles had two glaring needs: wide receiver and cornerback.

On Thursday, de facto GM Howie Roseman eliminated one of those needs by signing veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

But what about corner? A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore and Logan Ryan were three of the top corners on the market. The Eagles weren't seriously linked to any of them, and on Thursday Bouye landed with the Jaguars, Gilmore agreed with the Patriots and Ryan went to the Titans.

Roseman chose to surround Wentz with proven commodities rather than add to the defense.

With how phenomenal this cornerback draft class is, that appears to be a wise move.

The experts have spoken, and they say this defensive back class could be historically good. As a draft nerd who spends a good portion of his free time studying college football players, I can tell you this year's crop is stupid deep. There could be as many as seven corners taken in the first round this year.

But the depth doesn't stop there either. Players like Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon are intriguing prospects. Both players met with the Eagles during the combine and both will likely be available in the third round. This was something Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas surely factored in when assessing the free-agent market.

Besides, Roseman has been down this road before. The Eagles shelled out big money to Nnamdi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell and both were disasters. They've tried Band-Aid corners like Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, who were equally as dreadful. Knowing how strong this draft is, why overpay someone like Bouye -- who the Jaguars paid handsomely -- after only one strong season?

With that said, drafting a corner is no sure thing. Of all the corners the Eagles have drafted recently -- that they haven't traded to Super Bowl champions -- Jalen Mills is the only one still on the roster (Jaylen Watkins is sort of a hybrid but spent most of last season as a safety). Roseman and Douglas are now under even more pressure to find the right fit.

And speaking of fit, Jim Schwartz's defense isn't the easiest on a young corner. Mills will likely be the only corner returning from 2016. Given his lack of foot speed, he seems destined for the slot. Maybe the Eagles disagree with that sentiment, but if I'm right, they'll need two starting outside corners before the season starts.

Schwartz needs his corners to play on an island if his defense is going to work. If you're able to snag Washington's Sidney Jones, he could likely handle those duties from Day 1. He's the most gifted cover corner with the best technique in the class. But drafting a corner in the second or third round and expecting him to play in this defense is a big ask.

Conversely, the Eagles spent big at wide receiver after not really throwing any money at the position over the last decade or so. Jordan Matthews has been mostly successful in the slot, but the team hasn't drafted a legitimate outside receiver since taking Jeremy Maclin in the first round in 2009.

After missing on Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor, the Eagles didn't draft a receiver last season. Jeffery and Smith are here, but both are on one-year deals. Roseman still needs to look closely at the position for the future. The position may not be as stacked as corner but the receiver crop has many intriguing names beyond the top trio of Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross.

Zay Jones out of East Carolina has seen his stock soar and for good reason. Jones posted ridiculous numbers at ECU, hauling in 158(!) passes for 1,746 yards. He impressed at both the Senior Bowl and the combine, where he measured at 6-foot-2 and ran a 4.45 40. Someone like explosive Louisiana Tech receiver Carlos Henderson, who could be available in the third or fourth round, is worth a hard look. Henderson averaged 18.7 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdowns.

Another need that gets somewhat overlooked is at defensive end. Brandon Graham was the Eagles' only edge rusher to get consistent pressure last season. The hope is Vinny Curry will bounce back after signing a huge deal last offseason, but you can't rely on that. If someone like Tennessee's Derek Barnett is there at No. 14, he's worth a look. Barnett recorded 32 sacks in just three seasons with the Volunteers.

There are a number of Eagles fans enamored with Florida State's Dalvin Cook. I get it. He is talented and the Eagles don't have a starting running back. Cook's multiple shoulder surgeries and an off-field incident (he was acquitted after a woman alleged that he had punched her in the face) are red flags. For a running back to be taken in the top half of the draft, he has to be a near sure thing. Consider this: Of the NFL's top 10 rushers last season, only rookie Ezekiel Elliott was a first-round pick. Luckily for the Eagles, this is another position rich with talent in the draft.

It's a risk to rely on so many young players to fill needs, but it's a calculated one by Roseman. They say the third time's a charm, but in this case, the last thing the Eagles needed was another Asomugha or Maxwell.

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, stats for Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, stats for Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett

I answered half of your questions yesterday, but we got a lot, so here are the rest: 

Well, the Eagles' linebackers were pretty good last year. At least they certainly weren't the problem. 

Jordan Hicks is returning for his third season and has Pro Bowl potential. The last thing he needs to improve is his run-stuffing ability. If he does that, he'll be very good. Nigel Bradham had an under-the-radar season in 2016. He worked very well with Hicks and is entering the last year of his deal. Now, he has a trial coming up in July for a felony assault charge, but as long as that doesn't keep him off the field, he should have another good year. Then, Mychal Kendricks, for as much as he gets criticized, isn't a bad third option for a third of plays. 

I'd agree that after those three, there's a clear lack of depth. Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Steven Daniels, Nate Gerry. Not super deep. But Goode is a decent backup, they liked Walker from last year before the ACL tear, Daniels is a wild card and Gerry is switching positions from safety to linebacker. 

Running back. No question. Carson Wentz would be decapitated in a quarter if I was at right guard. 

At least at running back under Doug Pederson, I wouldn't get the ball very often. And when I'd get the ball, I'm so small and so slow, maybe I'd be like a changeup in baseball and linebackers would miss me altogether. Until they hit me and I leave the field crying. 

Ertz: 80 catches, 900 yards, seven touchdowns. Those would be very slightly above the numbers he's put up in recent years, but in his second year with Wentz, that's reasonable. And seven touchdowns is a lot, but I don't think it's crazy. 

Barnett: Six sacks. This would be a pretty good rookie season. I'd set the over/under number at 6½, so I have Barnett slightly under just because he'll have to fight for time with a few players. 

Blount: This one is tougher — 700 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns. No, I don't expect Blount to have another 1,000-yard season. That's a lot of touchdowns, but Ryan Mathews was able to pick up eight last year and Blount should be better in short-yardage situations. 

1. I don't even know what a breakout season is anymore. Ertz is a good tight end. He's not Rob Gronkowski. He's never going to be Rob Gronkowski. So break out? Maybe not. But he's a solid piece of the offense, who needs to score more touchdowns. 

2. No. 

3. Yeah. At this point, I expect Dorial Green-Beckham to be the odd man out. Vinny Curry will be on the team and will have a cap hit of $9 million this year. 

Hi, Corey. Big fan. If Donnie Jones isn't a household name, I'd start to question your household. 

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have completed one round of OTAs and will kick off another next week, starting Tuesday. 

OTAs are basically light practices in shorts and there's not a ton to gain from watching them, but they're not completely worthless. We already learned who some starters are for now and got a chance to see some new players on the field. 

Training camp will be here before you know it. 

To your questions: 

This is an interesting question because I think if I'm his teammate, I'd be a little annoyed. Especially if I'm some backup player making league minimum and the $100 million man doesn't show. 

But it really isn't like that. Even talking to players off the record, they don't seem to be bothered that Fletcher Cox wasn't with the team during a week of OTAs. Basically, players assume if a guy isn't there, they have a reason and are working out on their own. 

Guys especially understand if a player misses because of contract reasons — get paid, fellas. Obviously, that's not the reason Cox is missing. He signed a $100 million deal last offseason. And Cox's absence allows some other guys to get more reps, which is good for younger guys. 

It definitely doesn't look good from the outside that Cox isn't there. And it's pretty obvious Doug Pederson wants him at the facility. But the players inside the locker room? They're more understanding. 

Let's pump the breaks on the Nelson Agholor OTAs praise. Sure, he looked pretty good in the one day we got to watch of practice this week, but Agholor has looked good in shorts before. 

Does he have a shot at being a starter? Maybe a very slim shot. But the chances he actually beats out Torrey Smith for a starting gig seem minuscule. Perhaps you're thinking Smith is completely shot after looking that way in San Francisco, but it's hard to imagine he can't beat out Agholor for the job. 

That said, Agholor will be on the team this year. His contract makes cutting him nonsensical. And it'll be interesting to see how he performs without the pressure of being a starter. To me, it would make sense to occasionally work him into the slot, something the coaching staff hasn't done much of in the last couple years. 

https://twitter.com/EPiechotaNBA/status/868151169490624513

I put these together because I want to make this point first: We have been allowed to watch only one of their three practices, so we don't have a lot to work from. But I'll give you what I can. 

Barnett: He looks impressive in shorts, at times beating Lane Johnson, who is a very good tackle. That bend we've heard so much about was evident really early. Remember Joe Douglas' talking about ankle flexion? Well, it's absolutely there. It's clear Barnett is a technician, but I'll reserve my judgment until training camp when the pads go on. 

Wentz: Thought he looked fine. I saw some folks saying they saw differences in his mechanics ... Eh. Hard to say in one practice. What I did see were a few beautifully tossed balls and some chemistry forming with Alshon Jeffery, who ought to be the team's No. 1 target this year.