Players the Eagles should target or avoid in Round 1 of the NFL draft

Players the Eagles should target or avoid in Round 1 of the NFL draft

5 players the Eagles should not/will not draft in Round 1

 

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Fans love the hard-hitting safety, but Pryor may not be a great fit the Eagles’ scheme. He’s largely untested in man coverage, and somewhat average athleticism leaves open the concern it would ever be a plus. Ideally, coaches scheme to great players’ strengths, but if Pryor is significantly limited, he’s probably not the best player available in Round 1.

Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn

Trent Cole and Brandon Graham just made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, to varying degrees of success. Now the Eagles are supposed to try again with Ford? It’s probably easier to teach an impressionable rookie to go from playing with his hand in the dirt to standing up than it is an established veteran. Then again, there are other pass-rush prospects who already have that experience.

Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

Howie Roseman would like you to know the Eagles are quite satisfied with Bennie Logan at nose tackle. If Logan gets to 325 pounds, Nix actually isn’t much bigger than that, not to mention there are a lot of questions about his consistency/durability/all-around athleticism. Plus, in the pass-happy NFL, the nose tackle is probably only on the field roughly 50 percent of the time, so why invest a first-round pick?

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The Eagles definitely need a cornerback, but all of the evidence we have strongly suggests it will not be Verrett. All of the notable cornerbacks the Eagles have signed since Chip Kelly arrived—Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll—are 6’0” or taller. Verrett is 5’9”. He may wind up being a heck of a player, but I can’t envision Chip going down that route.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

First and foremost, the Eagles don’t need a quarterback now that Nick Foles is firmly entrenched as the starting signal-caller. Manziel’s size and penchant for ad-libbing are too Vick-like for my tastes anyway. I’ll go on record as saying the team that dumps a top-10 pick on this kid will regret it.

 

 

Bonus: 5 potential surprise first-round picks for the Eagles

 

Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

Honestly, Bucannon may be the best safety in this draft. He’s bigger than Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He performed better than them at the combine. He was more productive in college, too. A lot of people would say No. 22 is too high, and maybe it is, but I could see him sneaking into the first round given his body of work.

Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Once considered a mid-round prospect by many, Latimer has had a rocket strapped to his back ever since he ran a sub-4.4 40 at his pro day. At 6’2”, has ideal size to play on the outside—in fact, he was the strongest receiver at the combine. Oh, and scouting reports mention he’s a plus blocker. We’ll soon find out if the dramatic rise in draft stock was real or not, but he’s a player to watch regardless.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

If Ebron lasts to No. 22, I honestly think the Eagles would pass only because they could get a quality tight end in the Round 2. However, it would not shock me if he wound up in midnight green. Yes, they already have Zach Ertz, but tight end could become a focal point in Chip’s offense if they add another stud. There’s value to be had later, but Ebron is the best tight end prospect in the draft, and mocks suggest he could fall.

Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame

This is really just a shot in the dark. All indications are Martin will be long gone before the Eagles are up at No. 22. My gut feeling is one or two really good players are going to be around later than expected though. If it’s Martin, both of Philly’s guards are in their 30s, and one of them is on the trade block. No-brainer. Could even be a surprise trade-up candidate as well.

Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech

No. 22 is probably too high for Attaochu, but he could be the target if the Eagles were to trade down, which given the fact that they only have six picks, might be in the team's best interest anyway. The highly productive pass-rusher from Georgia Tech racked up 43.5 tackles for loss and 31.5 sacks over a four-year collegiate career. He can play with his hand in the dirt or line up as a standup pass-rusher. Fits the Eagles’ defense, fills a big need.

 

Kulp's 5 ideal prospects for Eagles' first-round pick

 

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

If Barr slips past the Titans at No. 11, there’s a very real chance he’ll last to No. 22, or at least fall far enough that he’s within striking distance for a trade up. The Eagles need another pass-rusher, preferably one who can take over for Trent Cole next year when the two-time Pro Bowler’s salary blows up to in excess of $11 million. It’s a steep drop-off after Barr, so keep your fingers crossed.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Clinton-Dix once seemed like a longshot to fall to the Birds at No. 22, but recent mock drafts such as Mike Mayock’s for NFL.com see the Alabama safety’s stock dipping. The consensus All-American has the athleticism and versatility to excel in coverage or help out in run support. With Nate Allen and Earl Wolff set to compete for the starting job opposite Malcolm Jenkins, a little extra competition couldn’t hurt. It’s a no-brainer if Clinton-Dix is still on the board.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Jim Thorpe award winner for best defensive back in the nation, Dennard is another player who could fall for seemingly no reason at all other than this is a stacked draft. He’s got above average size and strength for the position, and plays with physicality. Cary Williams turns 30 and is owed $8 million in ’15, the final year of his deal, and Bradley Fletcher will be a free agent next year. Eagles really need to be wary of the future at corner, and can’t go wrong with the best defensive back in the nation.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller doesn’t possess the accolades of a prospect like Dennard, but he sounds like a perfect fit for the Eagles defense—good size, adequate speed, physical, plenty of experience in zone coverage. The thing that stood out to me is his versatility. Playing in a hybrid slot corner/linebacker role, Fuller racked up 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine pass breakups as a sophomore in 2011. The kid is a pure football player.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

There may not be a safer, more complete prospect who could realistically fall to No. 22 than Mosley. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year is the total package—a sound tackler who is strong in both run support and coverage. DeMeco Ryans turns 30 this summer and is making $6.9 million per year on a contract that’s up after ’15. Mosley would have his job by next year.

Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Ian Rapoport for the NFL Network reports the Chicago Bears are not expected to place the franchise tag on free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery before the March 1 deadline. Meanwhile, league sources previously told Jason La Canfora for CBS Sports that they “anticipate” the Eagles “being in on” Jeffery should the 2013 Pro Bowler become accessible.

Put two and two together, and there are folks around the NFL who believe the Eagles will pursue Jeffery when free agency opens on March 9.

Yet while receiver is one of the Eagles’ two greatest needs this offseason, whether they should make a run at Jeffery and whether they can afford him might be two different answers. Getting another weapon for Carson Wentz seems like it will be the top priority in free agency, but doing so will not be cheap, and the club is up against the salary cap.

There’s little doubt the Eagles will reach out to Jeffery. Aside from the organization being known for always doing its due diligence with players, the 27-year-old is hands down the best option on the market. Over the 2013 and ’14 seasons, Jeffery averaged 87 receptions, 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns per year. He’s dealt with injuries and a terrible supporting cast in the two years since, yet still managed to go over 800 yards receiving in each.

Jeffery has some baggage, specifically the four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy in 2016. Despite everything, only nine active players are averaging more than his 72.2 yards per game, and only 10 better than 15.0 yards per reception. The talent is undeniable, and with a quarterback of Wentz’s caliber throwing him the football, the sky is the limit.

The Eagles absolutely should pursue Jeffery. Actually signing him is where this begins to get tricky.

For starters, the Eagles are currently sitting at an estimated $9.69 million under the cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Only three teams are in worse shape. There may be more moves to free up space in the coming days, which will help, although even if they get that figure closer to $25 million through a series of trades and releases, the numbers are tight.

Jeffery collected $14.6 million under the franchise tag in ’16, and while he might not see quite that much annually on his next contract, it’s not out of line with expectations. Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant are all making $14 million or more per season. Jeffery may not have the body of work of those players, but as the top receiver available, the market will value him and be willing to pay as such.

That $25 million the Eagles can theoretically free up might be the best case scenario. It likely won’t be that, which means signing Jeffery would take up practically all of their cap space for ’17. Obviously, there are ways to structure a contract to push money into future years, and the case could be made the Eagles don’t need to sign any other free agents.

No matter how you slice it, there are some logistical concerns here. Until the Eagles shed some of those contracts and we can see what they’re working with, it’s difficult to envision how they win a bidding war against suitors with upwards of $50, $60, even $70 million to spend.

It’s not so much a question of interest for the Eagles. It’s whether or not signing Jeffery is realistic in the first place.

Rating the Rumor: We’ll see

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers (28-26-7) vs. Avalanche (17-40-3)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

A day before the NHL trade deadline, the Flyers welcome the hapless Colorado Avalanche to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Final hurrah?
Prior to Saturday's outdoor game in Pittsburgh, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall admitted his team's final two contests before deadline day could have some impact on decisions.

The Flyers lost to the Penguins at Heinz Field, 4-2, and now host the NHL's worst club in the Avalanche. It could be the final game before the Flyers look a bit different the remaining 20 contests of the regular season.

The Flyers enter Tuesday six points behind the Maple Leafs for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. At 63 points, they also trail the Islanders (68), Panthers (66) and Lightning (64), with the Sabres (62) and Devils (62) breathing down their necks.

With three expiring contracts on defense and young blueliners at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Hextall has pieces to sell and reasons to do it. Defensemen Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth can also hit the UFA market come July 1, as can role forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde.

The Flyers are clearly not in a win-now mode with the way things have gone recently, so dealing parts, clearing space and acquiring draft picks would certainly help expedite the road to contention.

2. Avoid an Avalanche
This really is a game that would be inexcusable for the Flyers to lose.

They have one last chance to make an impression on their GM.

They're in serious need of a win to keep postseason hopes flickering.

And they're on home ice against a team that has won six games over the last 2½ months.

"Everybody is frustrated right now," Claude Giroux said Monday. "We can't be pointing fingers.
 
"Everybody needs to be a little bit better and give a little more and go one game at a time here. [Tuesday], we're back in front of our fans. We've got to get this win, we know that. We've just got to keep at it."

The Avalanche are in the NHL cellar with 37 points. The next closest team is the Coyotes at 51 points. Colorado is dead last in goals per game (2.02) and goals allowed per game (3.30), and has also been interested in the Flyers as a trade partner, a source told CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio.

3. Different defense
Del Zotto should get a chance to showcase himself Tuesday night.

That's because defenseman Brandon Manning will serve the first game of a two-game suspension handed down on Monday for his hit on Penguins forward Jake Guentzel during Saturday's loss.

Del Zotto, who will likely enter the lineup for Manning, has played just 32 games this season because of injury and healthy scratches. The 26-year-old also understands that trade rumors swirl this time of year.

"It happens every year," Del Zotto said last week. "It's not like it’s the first time. I've been traded before. It is what it is. It's a business.

"You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I'm at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Giroux has two goals in his last 26 games. However, he has six goals in nine career games against the Avalanche, who are giving them up in bunches this season. You'd have to think this is a game in which the captain could break out a bit.

Avalanche: Matt Duchene has been the subject of trade rumors and leads Colorado in goals with 16. The 26-year-old center has also played well against the Flyers in his career, posting seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine matchups.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is expected to start for the first time since Feb. 9. He's played just twice since Jan. 31, allowing eight combined goals in two losses. Mason is 16-17-6 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

• Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard was scratched last Saturday because of a stiff neck. If he can't go, 27-year-old rookie Jeremy Smith will make his fourth career start.

• The Flyers have lost eight of their last 11 games.

• The Flyers have scored the NHL's fewest goals (68) since Dec. 5.