Philadelphia Eagles

Steuber's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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Steuber's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

*Denotes juniors
**Denotes redshirt sophomores

1. Houston Texans – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Obviously, the Texans need to find a quarterback to build around, but there isn’t a quarterback worthy of the top selection, and I don’t see Bill O’Brien settling for someone he’s not completely sold on. With that said, the Texans should identify another area of need and build up front with Matthews, who is the safest and most complete prospect in the draft.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) – *Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Every year it seems the Rams are in need of a wide receiver. This year’s draft is loaded at the position, and there shouldn’t be an urgency to select one with this pick since they also hold the 13th overall selection. The best move for the Rams would be to stick to their board and select the best player available. Clowney is too good to pass up.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – **Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
As I typed the name Johnny Manziel this high in the draft, it made me cringe. There are so many reasons why this is the wrong selection, and there is just one reason why it’s the right selection for the Jaguars -- marketing. Manziel is a polarizing figure, and he will generate more interest in the Jaguars than what Tim Tebow would have brought to the table. Now, how Manziel translates to the NFL is a different story, and this pick -- as rewarding as it will likely be in the beginning with media attention, merchandising and ticket sales -- is destined to be a complete disaster.

4. Cleveland Browns – *Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Browns are loaded with picks and have the ability to do what they please. But, like it or not, this is a desperate team and they desperately need a quarterback. If the reports are true and Manziel is their focus, they’ll probably have to trade up to secure his services, believe it or not. If they decide to stay put, Bridgewater will be the pick, and the Browns will hope they finally found the answer behind center.

5. Oakland Raiders – *Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Like the Jaguars and Browns, the Raiders are also desperate for a young quarterback to groom. But, with Manziel and Bridgewater off the board, the Raiders should look to upgrade at wide receiver. From a skill set standpoint, there are similarities between Watkins and former Raiders first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey. However, Watkins is more polished than Heyward-Bey was as a prospect, and the Raiders hope he will have more success.

6. Atlanta Falcons - **Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Falcons have a tough decision to make with this selection, as they have a glaring need on both sides of the ball. Selecting a disruptive pass rusher in Anthony Barr would do wonders for a defense that registered only 32 sacks this past season, but protecting Matt Ryan is paramount, and the selection of Robinson will benefit the team more now and in the future.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
If the first six picks in the draft play out the way they have in this scenario, Lovie Smith will be ecstatic to welcome another explosive piece to the Bucs' defensive puzzle. Barr is not the ideal scheme fit; he would be best suited in a 3-4 defense, but since he’s still developing as a defender, adapting shouldn’t be an issue. 

8. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
When it comes to being desperate for a quarterback, there isn’t a team more in need than the Vikings. Currently housing a stable of mediocre quarterbacks, the Vikings are in a familiar situation of hoping to find their guy, and with the names on the board to choose from, Carr gives them the best opportunity to finally fill the position.

9. Buffalo Bills – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Bills are usually a wild card in the opening round -- they are notorious for selecting players higher than they are projected. There’s nothing wrong with that philosophy if the player pans out, but the Bills have had a sketchy history. The selection of Mack would go against the grain a bit, but it would be a popular move around town. And, with Mack’s ability, it could finally change their first-round futility.

10. Detroit Lions – **Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
There was a time when it seemed like the Lions drafted a wide receiver in the first-round every year, and it was a joke. But the selection of Evans -- another imposing receiver to complement Calvin Johnson -- would give the Lions one of the most intimidating offenses in the NFL.

11. Tennessee Titans – *Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Titans are another team that could entertain drafting a quarterback in the first round, since the Jake Locker experiment hasn’t worked. But taking one at this point would be a mistake. Turning their attention to the defensive side of the ball would be the right move, and Clinton-Dix would shore up their secondary. 

12. New York Giants – C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama
It’s no secret that the Giants need to upgrade at the linebacker position. The acquisition of Jon Beason this past season helped out in the middle, but they still need a playmaker on the outside that can make a difference. Mosley could be the answer.

13. St. Louis Rams – *Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal
Earlier in the draft, the Rams decided to go with the best player available and strengthened their defense with Clowney, and now they can get the playmaking receiver they need in Lee to pair with last year’s first-round pick, Tavon Austin.

14. Chicago Bears – *Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Defense has to be a priority for the Bears with this selection. Whether it’s upgrading their front four or secondary, finding a difference maker is important. Nix would have a huge impact up front and would make others around him better.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Adding youth to the secondary is important for the Steelers, and it’s possible they decide to go for one of the top corners available. But Lewan would be a huge upgrade at tackle, and he brings the kind of nasty demeanor the Steelers covet.

16. Baltimore Ravens (pending coin flip) – **Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Ravens missed the physical aspect that Anquan Boldin brought to their passing attack this past season, and they need to find an imposing playmaker that will threaten the opposition. Benjamin is still developing as a receiver, but his size and potential are too much to pass up.

17. Dallas Cowboys (pending coin flip) – *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
The Cowboys' draft philosophy should be a no-brainer -- select the best defensive talent on the board. As a defense, the Cowboys amassed just 34 sacks this past season, and adding Tuitt, a scheme-diverse defensive lineman who has the potential to be a very good pass rusher at the next level, will help their production instantly. 

18. New York Jets –*Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Jets haven’t drafted an offensive player in the first round since they selected Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in 2009. And with Rex Ryan signing an extension, it wouldn’t be a shock if they decided to go defense once again in the first round. But a big-play tight end who can stretch the field would do wonders for an offense starved for playmakers.

19. Miami Dolphins – *Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Dolphins' offensive line. With all that went on this past season between Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, the Dolphins are in desperate need for stability and a player they can build around. Kouandjio has an elite skill set and in time could be a dominant force up front.

20. Arizona Cardinals – *Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Cardinals could use help at offensive tackle, but with the top prospects off the board, they turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball. There are some quality corners still available, but adding a disruptive edge rusher like Shazier makes this already dangerous defense even scarier.

21. Green Bay Packers – *Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The playing future of Jermichael Finley is unknown at this point after he suffered a serious neck injury this past season. So finding a young, pass catching tight end that Aaron Rodgers can rely on is a major priority. Amaro is the perfect fit.   

22. Philadelphia Eagles – **Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Drafting a defensive difference maker with this selection would seem to be the right choice, but the Eagles have to make some decisions at wide receiver. It’s possible that the Eagles could move on from two of their top four receivers, and the need for another perimeter playmaker becomes a major focus. Adams (6-2, 212) has good size, speed and a knack for the big play -- his skill set and what he was asked to do at Fresno State fits well with what Chip Kelly wants in a receiver.

23. Kansas City Chiefs – *Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Chiefs had a great first season under Andy Reid, and they have a promising future with the young talent on their roster. But as good as their defense is, the offense needs to add another receiver to help out the passing game. Robinson (6-3, 210) has great size, deceptive speed and is dangerous after the catch; he should form a nice tandem with Dwayne Bowe.

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Bengals are loaded with young talent, but unfortunately inconsistency at the quarterback position has held them back. While it’s possible the Bengals move on from Andy Dalton in the near future, it won’t be with a quarterback at this selection. Instead, they add to their defense and bring in another playmaking defender in Gilbert.

25. San Diego Chargers – Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
Over the years, the Chargers haven’t been shy when it comes to selecting pass rushing outside linebackers. Despite using their 2012 first-round pick on Melvin Ingram, the search for an edge terror continues, and Murphy, who is a hard-working, max-effort defender, could be the solution.

26. Cleveland Browns – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Earlier in the draft, the Browns believed they found their franchise quarterback in Bridgewater, and now it’s time to build around the new face of their franchise. Selecting an offensive weapon, whether it’s a wide receiver or running back, is possible, but Martin’s stock is on the rise, and his physical style is needed on the Browns' offensive line.

27. New Orleans Saints - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Saints could use an upgrade at right tackle, but with a number of top cornerbacks falling to them, they will opt to address their defensive secondary. Dennard is a tough corner who accepts all challenges and embraces the role of being the stopper. He will be a favorite of Rob Ryan.

28. Carolina Panthers – *Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers got a taste of playoff football with Cam Newton leading the way, and for them to progress even further they have to continue to build around their franchise quarterback. Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and appears to be on the decline, so selecting a dynamic deep threat like Cooks would provide Newton with a speedy, reliable receiver to grow with.

29. New England Patriots – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Patriots always have a plan when it comes to the draft, and they do a great job of identifying players that fit their system. One area where they’ve tried to add depth but haven’t had great success is at defensive tackle. With Vince Wilfork having season-ending Achilles surgery this past season, there are concerns about how he will be when he returns. Hageman (6-6, 311) has great size and incredible potential and could be the interior force to eventually replace Wilfork.

30. San Francisco 49ers – *Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The 49ers are in a great spot -- they don’t have many glaring needs, and most of what they could use is depth, which puts them in a position of drafting the best player available. One of the strengths of this year’s draft is the cornerback position, and with Roby still on the board, he’s a tremendous value selection for the Niners, who not only adds depth to a great defense but also could develop into a lockdown defender.

31. Denver Broncos – Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The Broncos are hoping Peyton Manning decides to return for the 2014 season and not retire. Regardless of his decision, they have to keep their field general upright, whoever it may be. The versatile and durable Swanson is the best center in this year’s draft and possesses the athleticism and strength to play guard.

32. Seattle Seahawks – *Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The Seahawks have the best defense in the NFL and are set for years to come, but offensively they have to continue to enhance their passing game and give Russell Wilson more weapons to work with. Drafting local product Seferian-Jenkins, who is an imposing playmaker at 6-foot-6 and 276 pounds, provides Wilson with a big target over the middle that will help his progression.

Steuber’s next top 15 best available:

1. *De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
2. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
3. *Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
4. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young
5. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
6. *David Yankey, OG, Stanford
7. *Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
8. *Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
9. *Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
10. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
11. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
12. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
13. *Scott Crichton, DE/OLB, Oregon State
14. *Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
15. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Extending legacy of toughness, Darren Sproles hints at comeback

Extending legacy of toughness, Darren Sproles hints at comeback

As Darren Sproles lay on his back during the second quarter of Sunday's game at the Linc, and as trainers rushed to him and his teammates kneeled around him, it was already too late. His ACL was already torn. His forearm was already broken. His season, and maybe even his career, was already over. 

Then Sproles did the most Sproles-like thing ever. He got to his feet, pressed his broken right arm against his body and walked off the field, down the sideline, through the tunnel and into the Eagles' locker room on a torn ACL. 

He looked pissed off the whole time. 

When news about the extent of Sproles' injuries surfaced Monday morning (see story), my first reaction was pretty simple: It would be a shame if that's how his career ended. That's still true. 

On Monday night, Sproles took to social media to thank folks for their support and hinted that a comeback is in his future.

Great news for fans, though at the start of next season, he'll be a 35-year-old free-agent running back coming off two major injuries. 

So if Sunday was indeed the last time we saw Sproles as an NFL player, it would be pretty fitting. That will be a big part of his legacy. He was talented, sure. He was dynamic, absolutely. The numbers and the accomplishments are incredible, no doubt. 

He just also happened to be one of the toughest little mother f'ers to ever step on the field, too. 

If Sproles got a dollar for every time he was asked about his height, he could have played the game for free. At 5-foot-6, Sproles always understood the height questions and he was still getting them this season as a 34-year-old in his 13th NFL season. It sort of goes against what people expect from an NFL athlete. They're supposed to be Greek Gods, after all, bigger than life. Not the height of your teenage nephew. 

In a way, Sproles' height (or lack thereof) became a secret weapon. Do you want to underestimate me because I'm short? Go ahead. 

Sproles, eighth all-time in career all-purpose yards, isn't just extremely well-respected and liked within the Eagles' locker room. He's that well thought of around the league as well. In fact, when Odell Beckham Jr. entered the field Sunday, the first thing he did was find Sproles. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the league who doesn't like Darren Sproles. If you found someone, he'd probably be a linebacker who had once been on the receiving end of one of his punishing blocks. 

Because although Sproles is just 5-6, he's also 190 pounds and packs a hell of a punch. And throughout his career, he has always been more than willing to take on guys who weigh way more than he does. 

Sproles and I have always seen eye-to-eye and I'm not talking about some common understanding. We're pretty much the same height. So last year, when he was flagged for a chop block in Detroit, we both got a chuckle out of it. The next day, after Doug Pederson's press conference, I was standing outside to tape a segment with coworker Reuben Frank when Sproles walked out of the NovaCare Complex toward his car. He stopped for a brief chat and, of course, the first thing we talked about was that chop block. He wasn't trying to chop block of course; he's just short. It was arguably the toughest loss of the 2016 season but Sproles couldn't help but laugh, too; he basically got flagged for not being tall enough. 

Then the conversation rolled into his general enthusiasm for blocking and how he's always understood how important it is for him. And it got me wondering a little bit … when linebackers see a 5-6 running back about to block them, they probably don't know what's coming, do they? 

Sproles' eyes widened and the corners of his mouth lifted into a sheepish grin. 

"They're never ready for it," he said. "That's fine with me." 

This will be the first time in his lengthy career Sproles will play fewer than 13 games in a season. In 10 of his 13 seasons, he's played at least 15 games, proving to be as durable as he is talented. 

The Eagles are going to miss Sproles for the last 13 games of the 2017 season. There's no way to sugarcoat it and there's no reason to. They're going to miss him on offense, where he's a uniquely dynamic player in the run and pass game. They're going to miss him on special teams, where he's become one of the best punt returners in NFL history. 

And they're going to miss him in the locker room, where he's about as well-respected as any player on the roster. 

"He's a great man," Pederson said Monday. "He's a great leader, well-liked on this team and in this locker room and in this community. He's a lot of energy, and that's hard to replace. It's hard to replace. And so guys are just going to have to rally and pick up that spot and move forward. But, it's unfortunate. It is part of the game, and it's unfortunate that an injury has to happen, and sometimes it happens to great people and great men. It's just the unfortunate side of the business."

Well before the start of the 2017 season, Sproles was preparing for this to be his final NFL season. In June, he softened on that, saying, "We're gonna see" and to ask him after the Eagles made the playoffs. Despite growing pressure from his family to hang up the cleats, Sproles seemed genuinely rejuvenated by the opportunity to teach younger players like Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement. During last season, he even lived next door to Smallwood. 

Sproles will have a decision to make eventually. He'll need surgery on his arm and his knee and the recovery process won't be an easy one. It sounds like Sproles wants to come back but he won't have to make that final decision for a while. 

If Sunday ends up being his final NFL game, his 13-year career will have ended on a fluke injury, followed but something that probably just shouldn't surprise us anymore. When the injury happened, it didn't sound good — "Ahh s---!" was heard from the microphone on the field. But Sproles collected himself, saved the cart a trip, and marched his beat-up body off the field. 

That's one tough little dude. 

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

It's hard not to wonder: With Jalen Mills on the brink of establishing himself as a true No. 1 cornerback and rookie Rasul Douglas shining in his first two NFL starts, what happens when Ronald Darby gets back? And what happens when Sidney Jones gets back?

Answer? Who cares!

All I know is that after a decade of watching recycled, over-priced, disinterested veterans like Ellis Hobbs, Nnamdi Asomugha, Byron Maxwell, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Cary Williams and Leodis McKelvin, it sure is encouraging to see the Eagles stockpile promising, young largely home-grown cornerbacks.

Soon after last year ended, Howie Roseman vowed to finally stop trying to solve the Eagles' cornerback problems with what he called "Band-Aids."

"What we’ve done at the cornerback position is put Band-Aids on things," he said.

And then Roseman and Joe Douglas went and did something about it.

The Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas in the second and third rounds, then traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby, and with Mills returning for a second season, all of a sudden the Eagles found themselves with four promising cornerbacks 23 or younger, something unprecedented in franchise history.

The thinking was that the Eagles would be patient and take their lumps waiting for these raw, young corners to develop into legit NFL starters instead of riding the free agent veteran carousel year after year.

And that's where their plan went awry. Because Mills and Douglas are both playing at a high level, and that long-term plan seems to be way ahead of schedule.

It sure looks like for the first time since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown first became starters 15 years ago, the Eagles have capable cornerbacks they can grow with.

Mills has come so far. He now has the technique to match his confidence. He had Terrelle Pryor most of opening day, and Pryor finished with six catches for 66 yards. Last week in Kansas City, he tracked explosive Tyreek Hill most of the game, and Hill caught four passes for 43 yards with a long gain of 18 yards. Mills drew one of the league's best Sunday — Odell Beckham Jr. — and although he caught seven passes, none went longer than 14 yards. 

Douglas, inactive on opening day, has been shockingly good in his two starts. He's proven to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical corner who makes up for average speed with very good technique, and he's as sure a tackler as the Eagles have had at corner since Brown.

How can you not be excited about these two?

The Eagles were without four defensive backs Sunday — Darby, Jaylen Watkins, Rodney McCloud and Corey Graham (five if you include Jones) — and they still beat a healthy division opponent with a Hall of Fame quarterback who threw 47 times and went after Mills and Douglas snap after snap.

I don't care what Manning's stats say, Mills and Douglas have both given the Eagles distinguished cornerback play the last two weeks, and now remind yourself that Mills just turned 23 in April, and Douglas doesn't turn 23 until next summer.

Which brings us to the future.

Jones, a projected first-round pick before his Achilles injury, has the glossiest résumé of any of these guys. He doesn't turn 22 until May. And Darby, who the Eagles liked enough to part with Matthews and a third-round pick, doesn't turn 24 until soon after the season ends.

Now maybe if the Eagles knew what they had in Douglas, they never would have made the Darby trade. But it doesn't matter at this point.

What's important is the Eagles have stocked the cornerback position with enough young talent that they should be in good shape for the foreseeable future. It's tough to find talented young cornerbacks, and the Eagles seem to have found a bunch of them.

And maybe it seems like they have too many. What do you do with all these guys?!?!?! But if you've lived through Asomugha and Maxwell and Fletcher and all the other guys the Eagles have paraded through the Linc over the last decade you're never going to worry about having too many young corners.

So what do the Eagles do when guys start coming back? And remember, even 30-year-old Patrick Robinson has been way better than expected in the slot.

We know Mills will play somewhere. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could start Darby and Douglas and use Mills in the slot. Or he could keep Robinson in the slot with Mills and Douglas outside, leaving Darby as the fourth corner. He could go with Darby and Mills outside and Douglas in the slot.

And when Jones enters the picture? Jones and Mills outside with Douglas in the slot? Darby and Jones outside with Mills in the slot and Douglas at safety?

There are a million different ways to go, but all that stuff will sort itself out.

Really, all that's important now is that the Eagles have a stable of young corners to grow with. And not a Band-Aid in sight.