Teez Tabor

NFL Combine: All vying for top spot, best cornerbacks in draft give Eagles options

NFL Combine: All vying for top spot, best cornerbacks in draft give Eagles options

INDIANAPOLIS -- Florida's Teez Tabor doesn't just think he's the best cornerback in the 2017 NFL draft.

He thinks he's the best player in the draft.

"That’s just the confidence I have in myself," he said, "and the ability I have to play the game of football."

Confidence is not lacking for the young cornerback. In fact, based on his media availability at the combine, confidence is oozing out of him. 

That confidence -- some might call it cockiness -- showed in just about every answer he gave Sunday afternoon. He said the NFL teams he's met with so far "without a doubt" like that confidence.

So which teams have shown him the most interest?

"Really everybody," Tabor said chuckling. "I mean, it's hard not to like a player like me."

While Tabor would clearly have himself at the top of the cornerback rankings in this year's draft, there's plenty of debate about that. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock ranks the corners in this order: 1. Sidney Jones, 2. Marshon Lattimore, 3. Marlon Humphrey, 4. Tabor, 5. Tre'Davious White.

But there are a lot more than that in this draft. The class is incredibly deep at corner and there are expected to be starters taken well into the fourth round.  

While the Eagles have signed plenty of "Band-Aids" at corner in free agency in the past, general manager Howie Roseman said the team doesn't want to force it anymore. He'd be willing to have a bare cornerback group until the draft. And if the Eagles want to take a corner in the first round, they'll have plenty of options. 

Among the top five on Mayock's list, as of Sunday afternoon, the Eagles had formally met with Jones, Lattimore and were scheduled to meet with Humphrey. There are plenty of options throughout the draft at corner, but here's a look at those top five guys.

1. Sidney Jones, Washington
Jones is Mayock's top corner in the draft for good reason. He's already being compared to another Huskies' product: two-time Pro Bowler Marcus Peters.

"I'm a lockdown corner," said Jones, who had a formal interview with the Eagles. "I'm an all-around corner. I give you instincts, ball skills and great football IQ. I'm a team player."

Jones didn't do the bench press at the combine -- he'll do it at his pro day on March 11 -- but said he'll compete in everything else. He has a chance to solidify his spot as the best of a very good bunch.

Despite his slender frame -- 6-foot-1, 186 pounds -- Jones isn't afraid to hit.

"I'm very aggressive," he said. "It's something I take a lot of pride in. I was a free safety until my freshman year of high school. Being a hitter is something that is always in my heart."

2. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
Lattimore is a fascinating story because 2016 was the first year where he really got a chance to play and he was dynamic. He had four interceptions and nine pass breakups last year.

The big question about Lattimore -- and the one he hears from every NFL team he's met with, including the Eagles -- is about his hamstrings. Hamstring injuries forced him to miss the 2014 season and flared up again in 2015, ending that season early. Lattimore, a redshirt sophomore in 2016, has worked hard to leave his hamstring issues in the past.

"Just doing something different," he said. "It's not luck at all. I did yoga, I did extra exercises, stretching, all of that. It's no luck in that."

Lattimore said he knew this season was going to be different when he made it through preseason camp without the injuries flaring up. Then he went out and had a great season a year after his former Ohio State teammate Eli Apple (from Voorhees, New Jersey) was a first-round pick of the Giants.

"It's a lot of talent here from top to bottom," Lattimore said. "A team's going to get a great player in the fourth round just like they would in the first round. It's a deep draft and I'm honored to be considered one of the top cornerbacks in this draft. Just coming from where I came from, it's a blessing."

3. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
While most of the guys on this list come from schools that churn out defensive backs, Alabama isn't one of them. Still, Humphrey is considered a really good prospect.
 
He's the son of former Crimson Tide running back Bobby Humphrey, which meant plenty of added pressure for the defensive back. But he handled it all really well.

"I think my best attribute is my speed and toughness," said Humphrey, who had a formal interview scheduled with the Eagles for Sunday night. "I think I can run with any guy. I think I can run with just about anybody." 

Humphrey said in most of his meetings with teams, the negative get more time than the positives.

"The negative feedback is just finishing the play, top of the route, things like that," he said.

4. Teez Tabor, Florida
The big question about Tabor is his speed, but he'll get a chance to put those fears to rest Monday on the field.

The biggest positive for Tabor is his aggressiveness on the field. Aggressiveness, of course, is a trait Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz really seems to value a ton.

"My passion for the game of football," Tabor said when asked where his aggressiveness comes from. "I'm not going to sit back and watch it happen. I'm going to make it happen."

The other question about Tabor isn't about his performance on the field. A failed drug test and a fight with a teammate have been focal points of his conversations with NFL teams.

5. Tre'Davious White, LSU
White, a senior in 2016, followed a long line of really good defensive backs to come from LSU. He's very close with Eagles' second-year corner Jalen Mills. White credited LSU's coaches with getting their guys ready to play at the next level.

White is the kind of guy who is used to being on an island, which is something he'd be asked to do in Philly. As of Sunday afternoon, he hadn't had a formal interview with the Eagles but had talked informally with them. He was also at the Senior Bowl.

"I don't want to leave no question marks," White said. "I can pretty much do it all. I played inside and outside at a high level. I played a game at safety at the end of my junior year, so I have a high football IQ and know how to play all three positions in the defensive backfield at a high level."

Eagles Mailbag: First-rounder, close to playoffs, Seumalo's future

Eagles Mailbag: First-rounder, close to playoffs, Seumalo's future

Other teams are still playing and there are still months before free agency and the draft, but the NFL never sleeps. 

You have questions, we make up answers. 

Here's a look back at the week's first mailbag. Let's hop into this week's second here: 

OK, I'll play. I guess I'll try to put myself in the shoes of the GM. It's my team and I need to make sure I hit on this first-round pick. The problem is, it's not that easy. If it were me, I wouldn't just simply go best player available, but I would go BPA at several positions. So if the best player on the board is a corner, receiver or defensive lineman, that's what I'd do. I know by not going BPA with all positions might lead to a reach, but it won't be a Marcus Smith-type reach. There will be a player at one of those positions worthy of the 14th or 15th pick. 

Who? Well, that's where it gets trickier. We're so early in the process, so things could change. But right now, most people think there are clearly three receivers at the top: Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross. 

There are also a few first-round type cornerbacks right now. Marlon Humphrey and Teez Tabor are probably the top two at the position. From what I've seen, I really like Tabor, but either one would be worth that first-round pick. Keep in mind, this draft is considered to be pretty deep at corner, so it's possible the Eagles could get great value in the second round. 

Then at defensive end, there are a few options and the Eagles could certainly use help from an edge rusher. If they lose Bennie Logan, they'll need a replacement there too. 

And then don't forget about running back Dalvin Cook. 

But if you're asking me to pick one right now. I'm saying Tabor. He's a top corner who's really aggressive, which means I think Jim Schwartz will like him a lot. 

I think it's a little dangerous to play the game the Eagles did at the end of this year. You know, "We lost close games, so we were a few plays away from being a good team." Bad teams find ways to lose those types of games and the Eagles proved themselves to be a bad team in 2016. 

With that said, sure. Sometimes all it takes for a team to become a playoff team is a few additions. There's plenty of parity in the league and the Eagles have some decent core players. 

Really, it all hinges on Carson Wentz. He's the key. If he improves in Year 2 (with some weapons), the Eagles could have a better season. Some of that depends on the Eagles' finally getting him some weapons. Howie Roseman talked about not aiming to go 10-6 anymore, that they want to aim to be a top team in the NFC, but they could certainly win 10 games next year and sneak into the playoffs. 

Sure, that's a thought and Seumalo might eventually be a center in the NFL, but for now he's a guard. In fact, I think he has a real chance to be the starter at left guard next season. He got a chance to start there in the season finale and played well, looked natural. 

I know a lot of people are ready to move on from Jason Kelce and I understand the frustration. He's never going to be a center who can take on nose guards 1-on-1. He is, however, great at getting downfield and blocking and the Eagles just have to play to his strengths more. 

Having the same center next season might help Wentz too. 

I hear what you're saying, but I think it's too early to make that statement about Wentz. While Wentz had some down moments during his rookie season, it's hard to judge him on it because of the talent he had around him. 

We really didn't see him take many shots this season, so I don't have a large enough sample size to say his accuracy deep is a huge problem. 

The thing that should worry some fans is that many of his misses come high. It's something we've seen from him since the spring and it showed up a lot during his rookie season. For years, people made fun of Donovan McNabb for throwing so many balls into the dirt, but balls in the dirt don't get picked off. Balls that soar do. 

I suppose there's a possibility Schwartz could leave for a head coaching job, but I don't think it happens. And even if a team is interested in him, I get the feeling he wouldn't take just anything. He's been a head coach before and he likely wouldn't want to be put in a bad situation. 

Aside from that, nearly all of the head coaches hired last offseason were offensive coaches. There are some hotter names among the defensive coaches than Schwartz right now: Lions DC Teryl Austin, Dolphins DC Vance Joseph, Panthers DC Sean McDermott and Patriots DC Matt Patricia, among others. 

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Eyeing corners, receivers to fill Eagles' biggest needs

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Eyeing corners, receivers to fill Eagles' biggest needs

It's no secret the Eagles' biggest needs are at corner and receiver.

Luckily for the Birds, this year's class features some decent talent at both positions.

With that in mind, we take a look at six prospects that could help next season and beyond.

CB Teez Tabor, Florida, junior (6-0/201)
Tabor came into the season as one of, if not the best defensive back in college football, and he hasn't disappointed. Tabor showed off his excellent ball skills during his sophomore season with four interceptions. He has three this season and has the necessary size, speed and swagger to be an elite corner at the next level.

No. 23 Florida at No. 16 LSU, 1 p.m., SEC Network

CB Sidney Jones, Washington, junior (6-0/181)
Jones is the best player in arguably the best secondary in college football. Jones has good size, athleticism and instincts. Jones helped limit USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, considered by many to be the best receiver in college football, to three catches for 41 yards. He also has excellent ball skills, picking off eight passes in his career with the Huskies.

No. 6 Washington vs. Arizona State, 7:30 p.m., FOX

CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, senior (6-0/205)
Awuzie doesn't have the pedigree of Tabor or Jones. He was just a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but has been a four-year starter. For all his experience, he's just 21. He seems like a fit for Jim Schwartz's defense. He's aggressive and plays with an edge. He's a playmaker, with 24 tackles for a loss, eight sacks and six forced fumbles from the corner position. He could be a mid-round steal.

No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 22 Washington State, 3:30 p.m., FOX

WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan, senior (6-3/213)
Davis is a stud. He's closing in on 300 catches, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his college career. He's sort of getting lost in the shuffle while Clemson's Mike Williams and Washington's John Ross continue to rise. If Davis slips out of the first round, he'll be a steal. He's got size, hands, speed and is an excellent route runner. He's the whole package.

No. 21 Western Michigan vs. Buffalo, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, senior (6-0/175)
Westbrook had four catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Baylor. The scary thing is, that's an off game for Westbrook. After a slow start in his first three games, Westbrook has been on an absolute tear. Over his last seven games, the speedy Westbrook has averaged 7.3 catches, 157.1 yards and two touchdowns.

Oklahoma at West Virginia, 8 p.m., ABC

WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse, senior (6-2/202)
A graduate transfer student from Maryland, Etta-Tawo has had a monster season and is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver. After a pretty modest career at Maryland, Etta-Tawo has scorched defenses to the tune of 78 catches for 1,242 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

There's certainly concern that Etta-Tawo could be a one-year wonder, but he could be a late-round steal. He's not the fastest receiver but he's got long arms, strong hands and attacks the football at its highest point. The Eagles need all the depth and competition they can get in their receiving corps.

Syracuse vs. No. 17 Florida State, 3:30 p.m., ABC