Joe Christiano is FRG’s resident Eagles expert. In this post, he takes a look at the pre-free agency Draft needs of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the NFL draft, especially for the majority of us that follow teams eliminated from NFL Super Bowl aspirations. My team/love/obsession, as you’ll get to know in the coming months, is the Philadelphia Eagles. To say the 2012 season was a train wreck is a substantial understatement. High-profile players failed to deliver even remotely close to expectations. Poor play, missed assignments, laziness and what seemed like a team that quit was evident on both sides of the ball. Leadership both in the locker room and on the football field was nonexistent. I can go on and on, but the point of this article is to get a general sense of what the Eagles should do when they’re on the clock with the 4th overall selection.
Let’s keep in mind that there are many variables that need to play out before we have a better understanding of what Philly will be looking for in the draft (specifically at #4 overall). What kind of team is new head coach Chip Kelly looking to build? Who will he hire as his defensive coordinator and will they move to a 3-4 scheme? What will be done with Michael Vick and is Nick Foles looked at as a top tier QB in Kelly’s eyes? What do Kansas City, Jacksonville & Oakland do at the top three respective picks? Do the Eagles trade up or trade out for more picks due to their multitude of needs?
The debacle that was 2012 has left the Eagles with many holes they need to fill. Offensive & defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, safety & quarterback all need to be addressed. In fact, the only positions I don’t see the Eagles drafting are running back & wide receiver.
At the #4 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select:
Jarvis Jones (OLB, UGA) – The past few years have been the low point of linebackers that I’ve seen since I started analyzing the Eagles. The team started to buck the trend by trading for Demeco Ryans & drafting Mychal Kendricks, but if the team moves to a 3-4 scheme, they’ll need to add more. Enter Jarvis Jones. I drool at this kid’s talent. He’s a pass rushing beast, regularly disrupts the backfield and is constantly around the football. He’s my personal favorite for the #4 pick (assuming his health checks out OK).
Dee Milliner (CB, Ala) - The Eagles high priced cornerbacks were a colossal failure. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is set to walk in free agency. Namndi Asomugha will only be back if he takes a substantial paycut, and even then I’m not sure I want him back. Brandon Boykins could start next year, but there still needs to be a massive overhaul at corner. Milliner is absolutely the best cornerback in this draft. He has good size, great speed and has tremendous awareness & body control. He’s an incredible ball hawk. He’s physical and can make a play vs. the run. Milliner is a very close second behind Jones as the best bet for the Eagles at #4.
Bjoern Werner (DE, Fla St) - Coming in to 2012, the Eagles seemed to be very deep at DE with stud starters Trent Cole & Jason Babin backed up by Brandon Graham & Vinny Curry. Who would’ve thought Babin would be released mid season after a borderline sack-less campaign? Cole also played well below expectations. Graham was the team’s biggest revelation, as the former 2010 1st round pick finally showed signs of being a front line starter. If the team moves to a 3-4 scheme, I just don’t see Werner fitting in. But it’s hard to ignore his dominance at DE. He’s a ferocious pass rusher and has great speed around the edge. He can also hold his own against the run. In the end, even if the Eagles stay in a 4-3, I think they have too many other, more pressing needs that selecting Werner just wouldn’t make much sense.
Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah) – Again, in the same light as above, the Eagles defensive line in in a state of flux and relatively deep. If they switch to a 3-4, Fletcher Cox could take over NT with Trent Cole & Brandon Graham manning DE. Or Graham could move to OLB, forcing Cox to DE and creating a hole in the middle. Mike Patterson could play in the middle, but Star Lothulelei would be an instant upgrade. He’s a big boy and very agile for his size. He creates havoc and disruption in the backfield and can collapse the pocket against the pass. Though he seems to be a decent fit for the Eagles, I’m not sure he warrants the 4th overall selection.
Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M) – The Eagles offensive line was the heart of their problems this year. However, I think there’s been some very harsh & unfair criticism in that regard. When you lose three of your five starters to season ending injuries, and those three starters are good to exceptional linemen, what do you expect to happen? Granted, 2011 1st rounder Danny Watkins is looking every part a colossal bust. But you cannot replace Jason Peters (arguably the best left tackle in football) and losing Todd Herremanns & Jason Kelce adds to the brutality of the situation. That said, Peters is far from a given coming back from a twice in two months torn Achilles tendon. And even if he does return, we still have a gaping hole at RT. Enter Luke Joeckel. He’s my highest rated offensive lineman in this draft. He has everything you want in a franchise tackle – size, strength, athleticism, agility, technique, balance. He’s excellent in both run & pass blocking. He would be an excellent choice at the #4, but my bet is he’s the number one overall pick this year.
Geno Smith (QB, WVU) – QB will be one of the biggest focal points this offseason. First and foremost, what are the Eagles going to do with Michael Vick? He’s due $15M next year, with a $3M guaranteed bonus to kick in a few days after the Super Bowl. The only way I see him returning is by way of massive contract restructure, and I just don’t see it happening. Frankly, I’m fine with his release. On to Nick Foles. We saw glimpses of what could be a very good QB. We also saw a lot of areas that need improvement. The question remains, is he the man to lead the Eagles into the next era? All of these decisions rest on Chip Kelly. If he decides neither are a fit, we’ll first need to look at Geno Smith. Smith, though not an elite QB prospect, is probably this year’s best. He has great size, great pocket presence, is agile & mobile & has a great arm. A comparison to last year’s class is not fair, as that class is a complete departure from the norm as far as elite talent is concerned. Smith will be a developmental talent with a mid-range ceiling that’s not quite elite. He’s a gamble for a team looking for that franchise QB, and you can’t fail with a pick this high in the draft. The setback ramifications are too extreme. If I’m the Eagles, I’m searching for a developmental QB in the 2nd or 3rd round, and looking at EJ Manuel (QB, Fla St.).
Mike Glennon (QB, NC St) – See above for the Eagles current QB flux. Glennon is another solid talent that should be considered in the 1st round. He has tremendous size (6’6”) and pocket presence. Has a good arm, makes all the throws and is intelligent. He’s also gaining steam with good showings at the Senior Bowl practices, looking like the best QB on the field. However, most of the scouting I’ve done reminds me of Nick Foles. We already have Nick Foles, so I’m not sure another similar type is necessary to draft, especially as high as #4 overall.