The 2013 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the
Eagles are sitting on the fourth pick overall. They’ve already filled some of
their needs through free agency, perhaps even a few trades, but the true
reshaping of this organization’s philosophies is going to be on full display
during the selection process.
This is an organization that has needs at virtually every
position on the field, and unfortunately they won’t be able to address them all
in on weekend, not with one pick in rounds one through five and four in the
seventh. So then it becomes a matter best player available – and priorities of
course. Here’s our look at what areas we think might take precedence for general
manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office when they’re on the clock beginning
10. Running Back
LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown have the top two spots on
lockdown, but there is an opening on the depth chart since Dion Lewis was
shipped to the Browns. Chris Polk is still in the mix, although a little
competition never hurt anybody. Don’t be surprised when the Birds add a back in
the later rounds.
9. Wide Receiver
It’s really difficult to judge the receiver talent on the
roster right now. Have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin failed to take the next
step due to circumstances beyond their control (quarterback performance,
injuries/illness), or were they overvalued to begin with? With Arrelious Benn
being brought up from Tampa Bay in a trade, and a fair amount of intriguing young
talent already in place, this feels like a wait-and-see situation – at least at
8. Inside Linebacker
There is some concern that because DeMeco Ryans became
expendable in Houston’s 3-4, he’ll soon be no good here. Ryans may not be a
three-down player in the new system, however he still has the size and instinct
to be useful situationally, while Mychal Kendricks brings speed into the
equation. Not sure either of these guys is the answer forever, but seeing as
only one of them might be on the field in certain packages, it’s not necessarily
a priority. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Bringing in free agents Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips – a
pair of safeties who have started in the Super Bowl – to compete with Nate
Allen was a good place to start. Maybe there is a quality combination between
the three, yet none that seems like a long-term solution. Don’t anticipate
another second-round pick here, but the Eagles should look for somebody who will
be in the running for a job by year two.
6. Tight End
Brent Celek and James Casey are nice players, but the Eagles
lack a true playmaker at the position. It’s rumored Chip Kelly could carry as
many as four or five tight ends, and we’ve seen what a tight end-heavy approach
has done in New England’s version of the spread offense. It may feel like a
luxury right now, but front office will explore adding a big, vertical threat
possibly as early as day two of the draft.
Ex-Raven Cary Williams sounds like a lock to start at one of
the corners for the next two-three years, and Brandon Boykin is perfect for the
slot. Bradley Fletcher is probably fine on the other side, but next up is
Curtis Marsh, who coaches have hardly left on the field since he was drafted in
2011. It’s hard to say how high on the wishlist this is exactly with four names
penciled in already – the team cancelled a pre-draft meeting with Dee Milliner
for what it’s worth – yet they could also use a mid-round caliber athlete to develop
at the very least.
4. Outside Linebacker
The front office mitigated some of the immediacy to develop
an outside linebacker with the addition of Connor Barwin, a free agent who can
rush the passer and drop into coverage. Out of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and
Vinny Curry though, not one of them is guaranteed to fit in a 3-4 – although defensive coordinator Billy Davis is also familiar with hybrid alignments that
would protect those converted defensive ends from dropping into coverage much. Regardless, a defense can never have too many pass rushers, so don’t rule out
Oregon’s Dion Jordan at number four, either.
3. Offensive Line
This unit will improve significantly simply by returning to
full health. That said, Jason Peters is 31 and coming off an Achilles injury, while one apparent hole remains on the right side. Were the Birds to select a tackle at the
fourth pick, that player could potentially start at right from day one (Eric Fisher, Lane
Johnson) – allowing Todd Herremans to move back inside – and eventually take
over for Peters. Even if the front office isn’t looking that far down the road
with their first rounder, it would be wise to pick up another competent lineman
at some point early.
2. Defensive Line
If the Birds intend to use 3-4 alignments on defense, the
Eagles must get bigger up front. Nose tackle in particular is a very
specialized area that demands addressing – Isaac Sopoaga is merely a stopgap –
but they could use another end as well. Fletcher Cox can set one edge, but who
will handle the other side? There are several versatile linemen who may be able to
move around the line (Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei) and are worthy of very serious
consideration at number four should they still be there, any of which might just happen to be the best player available at that time as well.
On one hand the Eagles have Nick Foles, which regardless of
what you think his ceiling is, he is a young quarterback who improved every
week when he was the starter. On the other hand Foles remains largely unproven,
and doesn’t have a similar type of pedigree as most franchise quarterbacks. For
most organizations it’s rare to be picking as high as fourth overall, so it’s
a potentially unique opportunity to grab the top passer in the draft. Unfortunately
for Philly, there are serious doubts about whether Geno Smith or anybody else
is worth that price.
Until that proverbial franchise QB is in place, this is
generally going to be considered any NFL team’s top need. Whether they actually have the ability to
fill the hole in this year’s draft is the question.
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