UPDATED – “With the 14th pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select…”

Let’s ask Vincent Gambini for his thought’s on my article from yesterday.

For those of you that live under a rock or are dedicated employees, news broke this afternoon that Gareon Conley has been identified as a suspect in a rape case (see story).  This just about flips everything about my mock draft and predictions on their head…so lucky for you America, you get me two days in a row!  Updated story after the jump.

Most Likely Outcomes

8. Mitchell Trubisky Gareon Conley

What a shocking turn of events.  Just 24 hours ago, this was my most likely outcome.  To be clear, at this stage it is only allegations and Conley has, through his attorney, vehemently denied them.  Now, that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, so are we looking at the next La’el Collins or something much, much darker?  Collins infamously went undrafted after he spoke to the police regarding the murder of a pregnant woman with whom he’d had a prior relationship with.  He was never implicated or considered a suspect, but the stigma surrounding his name was enough to push him off the draft boards of every single team.  Conley is directly implicated, although not yet formally charged or investigated, in this case which is in my opinion, more than enough to make him go undrafted.  What impact could it have on the team?

Best case: Conley is wrongly accused and you get a potential All-Pro corner involved in a sick, twisted chain of events leading up to what should have been the best night of his life.

Worst case: Conley is convicted and you draft inmate #24601.  The team is embarrassed, the city and fans are put in the negative spotlight (while hosting), and the new-look front office will be subjected to having a moral compass somewhere south of despicable.

It’s simply not worth it no matter how you weigh it.  Regardless of guilt, Conley should not have put himself in the situation in the first-place; he’s likely cost himself millions of dollars and perhaps a shot at playing professional football ever again.

7. Reuben Foster

Foster has been a trendy name recently in Philadelphia – various reports have the Alabama linebacker visiting the Eagles and Roseman & Co. doing plenty of due diligence on his injury and off-field background.  I’ll be blunt: I don’t buy it.  I think its smoke to see if anyone is willing to jump ahead of them for one of the best players on tape in the class.  I personally don’t like the idea of taking a WILL this high in the draft, but more importantly, I don’t think Foster is a slam dunk.  His tape is great but he’s never had to shed blocks and was free to chase on seemingly every play behind what was possibly the best defensive line in the NCAA (on the best overall defense in NCAA history).  What happens when the talent isn’t there?  We just don’t know.  This paired with his red flags off-the-field leads me to lean in another direction.  I just don’t see the Eagles taking him, despite all of the late attention he’s receiving.

6. Running Back

This year’s crop of running backs is perhaps the best and deepest in history – and that’s exactly why the Eagles will not take one.  Leonard Fournette will most likely be off the board, Dalvin Cook (despite oodles of interest from the Eagles) seems to be in freefall mode, and Christian McCaffrey has people perplexed…mainly because he’s a white.  Cook may go top 10 or may last until day two; I would not be surprised with either outcome.  McCaffrey is a really good player but is he a bell-cow back?  Despite a large (really large) workload at Stanford, his strength testing was underwhelming and makes me question whether or not he can handle a full workload that a pick this high justifiably deserves.  He’s the best fit of the three backs, but if I am going to take a running back this early, I am going to run them into the ground for four years, and McCaffrey has not convinced me that he can be that guy.  The Eagles and pass-happy Doug Pederson will likely look elsewhere and pick up a back later in the draft.

5. OJ Howard

“But we already have Zach Ertz!”

– No one, ever

The Eagles may have a shot at OJ at #14 (or earlier…) and I believe if he is on the board, he’ll be the selection.  This offseason has been about building around Carson Wentz – adding Howard is doing that in spades.  Howard is enormous (6’6″ 251 lbs), athletic (4.51 40, 22 bench reps), and an accomplished receiver AND blocker.  He would immediately become a focal point for the offense, giving them another tool to line up in-line or split out-wide to create mismatches.  Brent Celek is done, Trey Burton is promising but has never been a starter, and Zach Ertz is not without his flaws, despite the counting stats.  The opportunity to add a talent like this is not one the Eagles will pass up without pause.

4. Trade Up

Never rule out Howie’s willingness to get his guy.  If for example, a Marshon Lattimore or Jonathan Allen starts falling on Thursday night, do not be surprised if the Eagles pounced.  Howie is many things good and bad, but he is as good as they come at draft-day trades; his maneuvering to the #2 selection was a masterclass in GM 101.  There are always players that fall for a variety of reasons.  If one of them is thought-of highly by the Eagles brass, they will get it done.

3. Wide Receiver

After signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, is this position still an area of need?  Yes.  Both are on one-year deals (Smith’s deal can be voided after the season) and both have been streaky in the past – Jeffery in terms of health and Smith in terms of production.  Enter the three musketeers: Mike Williams, John Ross, and Corey Davis.  For the record, I am much higher on Williams and Ross than Davis, but I’ll lump him into this for the sake of discussion.  Depending on the board, the Eagles will 100% be considering receivers at 14 (or higher).  Williams is very similar to Jeffery and if is good as I anticipate he will be, he’d be a heck of a lot cheaper for the next few years than the huge contract Jeffery will command next offseason. Ross may be the fastest player ever, but that’s not his only trick.  He tracks the ball well, runs crisp routes, and wins at the line at will.  I have both players as top 10 talent and the Eagles have shown interest in both.  Davis is a talented MAC prospect who put up astronomical numbers and has drawn comparisons to one Terrell Owens.  In this offense, the receivers are extremely important, so adding a potential perennial pro-bowler would be a huge get.

2. Trade Down

The sexiest technique in the business.  All the ladies love when you wait and wait and wait and then when you are finally ready to make your pick…Roger announces a new team on the clock.  It’s exhausting, disheartening, and potentially the smartest thing you can do.  Ask Bill Belichick about trading down and how it is helped them.  If you trust your staff and have a plethora of holes to fill (check, check), trading down can be a godsend.  Some of the Eagles reported targets may be available in the 16-24 range depending on who you ask.  Maybe the Eagles take advantage of a team with a desperate need and leverage the extreme depth at RB and CB – their biggest positions of need – to take two ‘B’ level prospects instead of an ‘A’ and a ‘C’.  Personally, I would love for them to trade back a few spots as they have so many holes to fill but seem surprisingly close to being a contender.  We’ll see Thursday if the Eagles agree.

1. Edge Rusher

I like Derek Barnett and Charles Harris a lot – I’ve been on Barnett all season long and have recently grown to like the NFL readiness of Harris and his wide-9 potential.  That being said, I would have edge rusher further down this list.  I wouldn’t be upset with Barnett but feel obligated to give Vinny Curry every opportunity to succeed in 2017 because of the huge deal he was given last offseason.  Throw Chris Long into the mix (who played a great game in the Super Bowl) and whatever Marcus Smith can do and you have a decent crop of ends to attack with Brandon Graham.  Barnett would be appropriate value at 14 but Harris would appear to be a reach.  But this isn’t my choice, it’s the teams.  And everything we’ve heard points to the Eagles loving these two players.  Barnett was rumored to be “the guy” a month ago while Harris reportedly has big fans in the Eagles front-office.  Do not be surprised if we get another weapon for Jim Schwartz to play with at 14.


Eagles Seven-Round Mock Draft

1 (14): Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee

I touched briefly on Barnett above, but I can’t stress enough how good a player he is.  Check out this tweet from Pro Football Focus comparing him to a certain future Cleveland Brown:

Barnett was the best defensive-end in Tennessee history – which says something considering his competition was Reggie White.  He uses his hands as well as any edge rushing prospect in the past few years, attacking with force and ferocity from the snap.  He held up against the run extremely well and was adept at recognizing the play early-on and disengaging.  Lacks a good counter move but that is a coachable weakness and he honestly didn’t need one to dominate.  Barnett is a winner and someone that the Eagles have had their eyes on closely throughout the evaluation process.  As great as it would be to add a shutdown corner here, don’t lose track of the impact that a quality pass-rush can have on your secondary.  Barnett would improve that right off the bat.

2 (43): Sidney Jones – CB, Washington

Despite being injured, Jones still has a ton of promise.  I had him as the top corner in the class.  If he can’t regain his closing speed he’ll struggle to be an NFL starter, which is a big risk to take.  But the Eagles loved him and he would have likely been the top pick prior to his heartbreaking injury.  With Patrick Robinson signed as a placeholder, they can afford to redshirt him (reports say he may be healthy by September).  If they are ok with his medical evaluations, I see no reason why they wouldn’t follow their original evaluation and take a chance on a potential top-10 talent in round two.  Don’t count him out.

3 (99): Shaquill Griffin – CB, UCF

After taking a chance on Jones above, the Eagles need someone that can compete for a spot out of camp – and Griffin gives them just that.  Although he still has a lot of room to grow, Griffin looked terrific at the combine and solidified himself as a Day 2 pick.  He is an elite athlete (4.38 40, 38.5″ vertical, 132″ broad) that also flashes some playmaking ability with four interceptions and 15 pass break-ups in 2016.  He can clean up his technique a bit, but has the length and speed that Jim Schwartz looks for in his corners.   

4 (118): Kareem Hunt – RB, Toledo

A McKinney favorite, Hunt is a scheme fit and an absolute grinder.  He’s a tough runner that can do a little bit of everything, including run out of the shotgun – something that this team does a good bit of.  He put up great numbers at Toledo and played extremely well at the Senior Bowl against tougher competition.

4 (139): Taywan Taylor – WR, Western Kentucky

I have an entire inbox full of GIFs from Holden showing Taylor’s field stretching abilities at WKU – but he underwhelmed at the combine when many expected him to break out.  The Eagles brought him in for a private workout and he seems to have all of the physical and technical abilities to become an impact receiver.  It may take a year to transition out of a system offense to a pro-style, but he has the ability to turn into a player.

5 (155): TJ Logan – RB, North Carolina

Logan brings an element that Hunt lacks – elite speed.  With a blazing 4.37 40-time, Logan would become a home-run threat with extremely sure hands out of the backfield.  He has a second-gear that is spectacular and can get downhill fast.  He’d offer something as a kick returner as well, scoring twice in 2014 and 2016.  He has some ball security issues (which is generally correctable) but has only had one drop in 3 seasons.  At worst, he has a defined role as third-down back.

6 (194): Ashton Lampkin – CB, Oklahoma St

Lampkin is a solid corner who can play in any scheme and compete with decent athleticism and technique.  He’s not an overly aggressive player but the Eagles seem to see something in him, having met with him three times.  He’d be a decent fourth corner that could start on the outside in a pinch.  I’m reading the tea leaves more than anything here, they seem to like him.

7 (230): Jayon Brown – LB, UCLA

Brown is a piece of clay – in a perfect world he’d be a UDFA target but he more than likely will be a late pick due to his body and fluid movement.  He’s a work in progress but down the road, you see a linebacker that could flourish in space.  I don’t put as much stock in the combine as others, but Brown jumped out during drills, as he looked more like a defensive back than a linebacker.  Consider him a poor man’s Haason Reddick.  You could do worse than this for a late-round flier.

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