Apparently the NFL Draft is this weekend. Who knew! Sources tell me the Eagles will pick 14th overall in the first round. Let’s take a look at the realistic outcomes for the draft (starting with the least likely) and just because you read, I’ll give you my full seven-round mock draft at the end.
Most Likely Outcomes
8. 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.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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.
2. 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.
Mitch Mitchell Trubisky
LOL JK. Wouldn’t that be something!
1. Gareon Conley
Let’s get this out of the way now: Conley can’t tackle. He’s allergic to contact. Does it scare me that he’ll potentially be on an island against Dez Bryant or Odell Beckham Jr. and will have to bring them down on his own without safety help due to the single-high sets Schwartz runs with Rodney McLeod playing a the part of Willie Mays? You bet. But he can cover. He’s the second-best corner in the draft (Sidney Jones occupied this slot, but tore his Achilles at this pro day) and can flat-out cover. He mirrors well, has good ball-skills, and is a fluid athlete that drew a lot of throws opposite Lattimore at Ohio St. He was tested often and passed with flying colors. The Eagles seem to like him, with Joe Douglas addressing his potential in a recent press-conference and reports of a private workout some time ago in Philadelphia. He fills a huge need and could pay dividends very early in his career as a plug-and-play corner. I’d put my money on Conley as the Eagles first-round selection.
Eagles Seven-Round Mock Draft
1 (14): Gareon Conley – CB, Ohio St
I went into more detail above, but quite frankly, corner is the biggest need and Conley is the best corner available.
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): 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 (118): Dawuane Smoot – DE, Illinois
Smoot was a track star that turned into an edge-rushing monster under Lovie Smith. He has great burst to attack from the outside and turn the corner. He’s a little bit raw in terms of his pass-rushing repertoire but would be able to benefit from spending time with Chris Long in the rotation. I like the fact that he played for an NFL-quality defensive mind at Illinois, which should make him a quick study to make an impact sooner rather than later.
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.