I heard an interview on Fox Sports Radio with Howie Roseman this weekend and he made it sound like the Eagles would be taking a defensive lineman earl in the draft. To paraphrase Howie: "Defensive line is the best position in this year's draft but it's not the deepest. There is a huge drop off after the first group of lineman and if you want a good one you have to take one early in the draft." Sounds like either we are trying to throw everyone off or we will take a defensive lineman in the 1st or 2nd round. I think it's important to consider 10 prospects that we could take early in the draft whether you agree with me or not about us taking a DL early. 10 future studs after the JUMP
Da'Quan Bowers DE Clemson- Potential top pick in the draft if his knee wasn't so iffy. 15.5 sacks this season has put him in the upper echelon of defensive ends prospects along with his size- 6'3 280 and good athletic ability. Starting to draw comparisons to Michael Strahan. If his knee wasn't an issue, he would be a lock for a top 6 pick. Eagles could take him if he falls late in the first round as Todd McShay thinks he will. If his knee can recover and hold up at the next level he could be the steal of the draft, if not he could be a wasted pick no matter when he goes.
Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue- Absolutely love this kid. He flat out gets after the quarterback, 33.5 career sacks at Purdue despite being the focus of the offensive line. Team captain at Purdue where he earned the nickname "Superman". Ran a 4.62 40 while putting up 31 reps in the bench press and a 33 1/2 in the vertical jump. Has the intangibles Andy Reid looks for as he was not only an All-American he was also an Academic All-American. Probably the most NFL ready DE in the draft. Projects as early as Jacksonville at 16(by most mockers actually) and will only be an Eagle if he gets a DUI before the draft or we trade up.
Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa- Could of been a top 10 pick going into last year's draft but a decrease in production from 2009(11.5 sacks) to 2010 (3.5) has led to his drop in value along with his condition of Brachial Palsy. Doctors didn't even want him playing contact sports in high school which will raise a lot of red flags. His slower combine numbers could also drop his value although he isn't a speed rush type DE as he has great size like Bowers, both at 6'3 280. He should still be on the board if the Eagles stay at #23 but is Jim Washburn high on him or not is the question.
Brooks Reed DE Arizona- Projected by most scouts as a 3-4 prospect but he has the size and strength to be a 4-3 DE- 6'3 263 while putting up an impressive 30 bench reps. Would be an ideal fit for Wash's DL scheme. Want be available past the Packers first pack at 32 or Pats third pick at 33 but could be a solid pickup for us in the first round. A ton of moves for someone being labeled as a "tweener", can bull rush, speed rush while having a surprisingly outstanding spin rush to get after the quarterback.
Sam Acho DE Texas- Another player being projected as a 3-4 edge rusher but has the ability to be a 4-3 DE. Good size at 6'2 260 and good speed running a 4.67 40 while putting up 23 reps in the bench press. His numbers in college were a lot more impressive than his combine numbers however where he racked up 19 sacks his final two seasons in Austin. Another player with outstanding intangibles, won the 2010 William V. Campbell Trophy or more commonly known as the "Academic Heisman". Could be a solid pick in the 2nd round but there will be a lot of interest from 3-4 teams like Pittsburgh which Head Coach Mike Tomlin was present for his pro day at Texas.
Note- Left a lot of DE's off this list because they either aren't realistic for us to take due to their high value or not fitting in our system.
And now the big boys in the middle
Nick Fairley DT Auburn-A bit of a long shot because of his high value but it sounds like teams are liking him less the closer we get to the draft. Had an outstanding season in 2010, accumulating 21 tackles for loss including 10.5 sacks. Great explosion off the line and has extremely quick feet, which served him well when he was a also a basketball star in high school. Started to get a reputation as a dirty player for late hits and spearing ball carriers with his helmet. A lot of scouts agree that he has more bust potential than he has star potential. Not as strong as you would like a DT to be. Very quick but his quickness will seem at a lesser level in the NFL while his average strength for a DT may be a huge issue, at least for a top 10 pick. Type of inside pass rusher who could thrive in Wash's system but I don't see the Eagles trading into the top 10 to get him. Top 15 and beyond, now that's a whole another story. The farther this guy drops, the more likely he becomes an Eagle. With Pat Williams likely to retire or at least be let go by the Vikingsand Kevin Williamsfacing a possible 4 game suspension, DT is a huge need to Minnesota so I don't know if he gets past #12.
Muhammed Wilkerson DT Temple- Very quickly becomes the popular choice by the fans. Pretty obvious since he played right in Philly at Temple. More than the fact that he played in the area and is from the area, he has the size we could use in the middle of our line, 6'5 300. Has great physical ability and good intangibles, which you can't coach but his technique needs a little work, which you can coach(especially with the best DL coach). His explosion off the line could be a lot better, and a good bull rush could help his pass rush immensely. Should be on the board at 23, DL coach Wash spent some time with him in a private workout so maybe he made a good impression andhe will be our first round pick.
Marvin Austin DT UNC- I'm very high on Austin, he has great potential. Ran a 4.84 40 andshows great athleticism with his 6'2 310 pound frame. I asked Tommy Lawlor on twitter if he thought Austin would be a better fit than Wilkerson and he disagreed with me and said he was pretty down on Austin overall. Suspended for the entire 2010 season due to getting free stuff from an agent. Incredible explosion and agility while possessing pretty good strength as well. Combine superstar who always underachieved on the field, only 8 sacks in his 3 year career at UNC despite making 25 starts in 38 games. Has been projected as early as the top 25 in the draft and as late to the middle of the 2nd round. Could be a steal in the 2nd roundif he stays motivated or a bust in the first round if he continues to feel he's already great before he steps on the field.
Corey Liuget DT Illinois- Probably the most versatile DT in the draft, his experience in both the 3 and 5-technique make him able to excel in both the 4-3 and the 3-4. His rare strength/speed combo make him near-impossible to block one-on-one. Being a 3-4 and 4-3 prospect make him very attractive for every team. Should be gone by the first 20 picks with St Louis the most likely suitor if they can't get a wideout at 14.
Stephen Paea(pie-uh) DT Oregon State- Your most talked about combine superstar of 2011. 49, count em, 49 reps in the bench press. What does that mean for his future success? Probably nothing, except he could bench any running back or wide out 49+ times. His strength is unquestioned while his knee is in question. He suffered a torn mesicus in a Senior Bowl practice. Pretty good burst and technique, really good at staying low to use his strength to gain leverage. Hasn't proven to have an elite pass rush due to slow feet when chasing quarterbacks. Probably not an ideal fit for Wash, but someone has to stop the run. A pass rush means nothing if you give up a lot of yardage on the ground.
Note: I think out of this list Ryan Kerrigan is our best case scenario but Wilkerson is our most likely pick. The farther Sam Acho and Marvin Austin fall, the more likely we are to trade up in the 2nd round to take them. Brooks Reed may be the best fit for our new system but anyone is possible with our unpredictable(in a good way) front office.