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.

An NFL prospect, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon has brawn with brains to match

An NFL prospect, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon has brawn with brains to match

A physical specimen, with the brains to match.

It's hard to understate the impression you get from meeting Tanoh Kpassagnon in person.

I read an article before meeting him that said his "abs had abs" and that he sported a minuscule 4 percent body fat. He laughed when I brought it up to him and said he wasn't so sure about the 4 percent body fat but that he loves to work out and get stronger, and he has been that way since high school.

Besides being a gym rat in the weight room, the 'Nova product was down to earth and easy to talk to. So much so we talked about what food we liked to cook and exchanged some tips on how to keep your mashed potatoes smooth and silky.

Kpassagnon moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Philly in the sixth grade and partly got turned on to football by watching the Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook Eagles in the 2000s.

His proud parents don't know much about pigskin but are over the moon about his success and growing notoriety. He said he just wants to join an NFL team and build a bond with a new group of guys.

With his skill set, I imagine it won't be long before his name is called on Day 2 and his impact could go well beyond his draft position.

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Who's rising and falling?

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Who's rising and falling?

All the mock drafts and speculation will be over Thursday when the players get announced in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the 2017 NFL draft.

As we approach the finish line, let's see what some of the experts think about what the Eagles might do at No. 14.

Mel Kiper, ESPN - Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Conley has been linked to the Eagles on what seems like a daily basis. Earlier in the process, Conley was overshadowed by teammate Marshon Lattimore, a likely top-10 pick. After impressing at the combine, Conley has put himself in position to be the second cornerback off the board.

Kiper's take: "Conley, another riser after the combine, is the veteran of the three Buckeyes defensive backs I have going in the top 14 picks. Philadelphia let Nolan Carroll II walk in free agency after he started 16 games last season, and the Eagles brought in former first-round pick Patrick Robinson on a one-year deal to compete at corner. Coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense is thin on the boundaries."

Analysis: There is definitely a strong case to be made for Conley as the second-best corner in the draft. He's excellent in coverage and should be an NFL starter from Day 1. With that said, you might be able to get more value with this pick. Kiper has the Eagles passing on Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett (one of my draft crushes), Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, and wideouts Corey Davis (Western Michigan) and Mike Williams (Clemson). With the depth at the corner position, I'd pass on anyone not named Marshon Lattimore at 14.

Todd McShay, ESPN - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

There may not be a player whose stock has soared more than McCaffrey's. Once considered a borderline first-round pick, there are analysts who project McCaffrey as high as No. 8 to the Panthers. McCaffrey's versatility is unparalleled to any running back in this draft. 

McShay's take: "I love this fit. Darren Sproles turns 34 in June, and Philly needs a versatile playmaker out of the backfield. McCaffrey has the skill set to be a really good running back and wide receiver in the NFL. He showed tremendous short-area quickness at the combine (6.57-second three cone), which is readily apparent when watching McCaffrey's route running."

Analysis: The fit is obvious. McCaffrey is a running back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also a bit underrated as a runner between the tackles. With all that said, I don't love the value at 14. But if the Birds pick McCaffrey, it's by no means a disappointment. The more weapons for Carson Wentz, the better.

Josh Norris, Rotoworld - Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Harris has joined the ranks of McCaffrey as one of the draft's highest risers. He was a productive player at Missouri and impressed at the combine. Most mocks have him going somewhere in the 20s, but there are rumors that more than one team considers Harris a top-10 pick.

Norris' take: "The Eagles could absolutely take a similar approach to the Panthers last season in terms of multiple corners after round one. Harris will be a top 15 selection and greatly improved his athletic testing at the school’s pro day."

Analysis: I like Norris' idea of snagging two corners later, but I don't love the idea of Harris this high. He's not the only one to mock Harris in this range recently. I've mocked Harris in the late 20s and that's still where I feel comfortable projecting him. With that said, Harris would be a safe pick at 14. He has a high motor, a variety of pass rush moves, and NFL size and strength.

Cris Collinsworth, PFF/NBC Sunday Night Football color analyst - Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU

White is an interesting prospect because he's projected to go all over the place. He could go here to the Eagles or he could still be available in the second round. He was an impact player for a school that seems like it produces secondary players in a factory.

Collinsworth's take: "I want to give the Eagles a receiver with the speed of John Ross to play alongside Alshon Jeffery, but Philadelphia has to have a cornerback, and White is the next best available. He may drive Jim Schwartz nuts if he refuses to tackle, but Schwartz has no choice -- you can’t compete without corners. I love White’s ability to find the ball in the air. Most young corners are afraid to turn their head and look for deep balls, and they end up getting beat. White is rock-solid there. I also don’t see him as a guy that will get a lot of cheap fouls; he keeps his hands to himself. I thought White would run a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash, but at 4.47, he was a little slower than his run-and-cover style would suggest. White has legitimate coverage skills, though, and should go in the first half of the draft."

Analysis: The bottom line: White can cover. That is, after all, a corner's primary function. This isn't a sexy pick at all, but like Conley, White should be able to start for an NFL defense from Day 1. Also, like with Conley, there might be better value in this spot.

Lance Zierlein, NFL Network - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Humphrey was considered the best corner in the draft for a big chunk of the college season. He has prototypical size and was a track star in high school. He struggled to track the ball in the College Football Playoff on multiple occasions. Those struggles have put him behind players like Conley and White in the eyes of some analysts.

Zierlein's take: "A height-weight-speed prospect who is the best run defender at the corner spot in the draft. If Humphrey can improve in locating the deep ball, he could be a good one."

Analysis: This is a fair take. Aside from Lattimore, Humphrey might project best to being a No. 1 corner physically. For the 2017 season, Conley and White will likely be better than Humphrey. In the long term, Humphrey might turn out to be the best corner in this draft. With that said, the ball location issues are concerning. Especially considering that's been a problem for Eagles' corners recently.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network - Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster has had a rough go of the predraft process. He was kicked out of the combine for a spat with a hospital worker. Recently, questions have come up about his surgically repaired shoulder. And now it's come out that Foster's drug test at the combine came back diluted. Foster insists it was a result of an illness which caused him to drink an excessive amount of fluid.

Jeremiah's take: "Foster is a tone-setter and would excel in the Eagles' defensive scheme."

Analysis: It is important to note that Jeremiah's mock was from earlier this month. I doubt he'd have Foster going this high now. The kid is incredibly talented, though. Jordan Hicks and Foster would wreak havoc on a weekly basis. This is a player who is among the top 10 most talented players in the entire draft. Taking a chance on him at 14 might be worth it. The Eagles would really have to do their homework on this one.