Eagles have or will meet with top 3 WRs at NFL combine

Eagles have or will meet with top 3 WRs at NFL combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- It should come as no surprise that the Eagles have or will formally meet with the top three wide receivers at the combine. 

They desperately need to get Carson Wentz some weapons. 

Despite Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson's giving answers this week saying the Eagles are just looking to improve at all positions, they know they need a No. 1 receiver in a bad way.

With the No. 14 pick (thanks to the coin flip), there are really just three wide receiver options: Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Washington's John Ross.

"I think the Eagles have to figure out what their order of preference is, what kind of style they want," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said earlier this week on a conference call. "But they've got to be looking hard at all three of those guys and know up front if one or two or all three of them are available, who they're going to take."

Ross said the Eagles were on his schedule of teams to meet with. Davis' formal interview with the Eagles was scheduled for Friday night. And Williams on Friday afternoon said he already had a "great" formal interview with the Eagles, in which he got a chance to talk with new receivers coach Mike Groh. 

While it's true that most teams talk to just about every prospect in some capacity, they don't get the opportunity to sit down with them all. There are 330 prospects at this year's draft. NFL teams are allowed 60 formal meetings at 15 minutes in length.

Williams is probably the most well-known prospect of the three after playing at Clemson and helping the Tigers win a national championship this season. Williams is a big, strong receiver, at 6-3, 225 pounds. He's not a burner like Ross, but has decent speed and the ability to dominate 50-50 balls. Williams won't run the 40 at the combine, instead opting to do it at his pro day on March 16.

It's very possible that Williams' 40 time might turn off some teams, but on Friday he stressed the importance of route running over training for a straight-line run.

"Jerry Rice didn't run a fast time," Williams said. "Antonio Brown didn't run a fast time. He's the highest-paid receiver in the league right now. It's all just about playing football when you look at it at the end of the day.

"I'm a big, physical receiver. I can go get the deep ball. I can block on the edge. I just do it all in one."

Davis won't be running the 40 at the combine either. In fact, Mayock's No. 1-ranked receiver is still healing from a high ankle sprain and subsequent surgery, so he won't participate in any on-field activities. Davis will do the bench press at the Western Michigan pro day on March 15, but is planning to hold a private pro day in April when he expects his ankle to be fully healed.  

While Davis is probably the most complete receiver of the three, the biggest question about him is the level of competition he faced in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

"But I feel like I can play with the best of them," Davis said. "My confidence is up there and I'm not afraid to go against anyone."

What separates Davis from the other receivers in this class?

"I would say a big thing that separates me from them is my work ethic," he answered. "You can ask any one of my coaches or trainers, that's something that sets me apart from anyone in the country. I always put in extra work and that's probably because I have that chip on my shoulder. I work like I'm the worst receiver in the draft, but my confidence is up there and I know that I'm that top guy."

It's not hard to figure out what separates Ross from the rest of the receivers in the 2017 class. He's fast. Really fast.

While Ross (5-11, 190) looked about half the size of Williams as he walked to the podium in the Indiana Convention Center, he can flat out fly. He said he expects to run a sub-4.3 in the 40 on Saturday.

Ross is from Long Beach, California, which has allowed him to forge a relationship with DeSean Jackson, who is a similar stretch-the-field type player. If Ross ends up having that type of career, he's going to make one team very happy.

"Definitely the speed," Ross said. "I know Mike (Williams) can also be a deep threat, but he's also a big guy. Corey Davis is a complete guy also. I just think I'm faster than those guys and I think that's what shows up more in our three films."

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.