It's never too early to take a look at what your team might go come draft day. It makes college football that much better. The 2013 class is pretty loaded all over the place. There isn't a Andrew Luck type prospect that is guaranteed to be the top pick in the draft, but that is what makes this class so special. Predicting how the top 5 or 10 is going to fall right now is a complete crap shot.
The Eagles are pretty set at a lot of positions, but a few needs could really present themselves by the end of the season. Here are 10 prospects I will be looking at all season long. Not all 10 guys are first round prospects, but all 10 should be good fits this season. I will be updating this all season long and analyzing what type of seasons they are having and how they could fit in the NFL.
My favorite safety prospect in the draft. CBS Sports has him ranked as their #2 safety and 26th overall prospect. Not a freak athlete, but runs very smooth. Straight line speed is very overrated for defensive backs. Change of direction and backpedaling speed is crucial. See Taylor Mays. Great straight line speed, but struggles in other speed/agility areas. McDonald is a big hitter with great ball skills. He is projected as a late round prospect right now. Perfect for the Eagles. He could replace either Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman if it comes to that. Their play this season will determine whether the Eagles draft a safety in the 1st round of the 5th round.
Xavier Rhodes/CB/Florida State-
Some people viewed Trumaine Johnson as the next Nnamdi Asomugha. Xavier Rhodes is a much better comparison. He is a big corner(6'1, 217) and similar in speed(4.50 40 projection), but he also loves to jam his man right at the line. He should be the most physical corner coming out of this draft class, he loves the physical aspect of the game of football. His game tape will be crucial this season. Can he jam the best college receivers right at the line without getting burned deep? Definitely a player to keep an eye on all season long. He is the 3rd highest rated corner on CBS Sports and 28th overall. Could be a good replacement for Nnamdi down the road or DRC if he doesn't re-sign.
Johnathan Hankins/DT/Ohio State-
Great fit in the wide-9 for Jim Washburn. He plays around 320-330 pounds, but he is just as much as a pass-rusher as he is a run stuffer. The Eagles need a nost tackle type player in their wide-9 scheme to line up next to Fletcher Cox for years to come. Can you imagine the future of Cole, Hankins, Cox and Hunt/Graham for the next 5+ years? The Eagles need a NT type with the uncertainty of Derek Landri(one year contract) Patterson's healthy and Dixon just being a bad fit here. Hankins is the 2nd rated DT and 5th overall prospect right now. It would cost the Eagles some draft picks, but this is a team that could have few needs. There will be a couple top 5 teams that have too many needs to be able to turn down several drafts picks for one pick.
Short might be the best value at DT in the draft. He has a very wide wing span and he used to to knock down 11 passes and block four kicks in his career so far. Short has been getting double teams since he was a freshman at Purdue. He is as experienced as any linemen in the draft. He isn't a one year wonder like Nick Fairley was. There is plenty of tape to go off on. He had 17 TFL and 6.0 sacks last season and should see those numbers jump up even more. He is a late 1st, early second round player who is ranked 36th overall(CBS) and 4th ranked DT.
Think Dontari Poe, but more polished. He is a pretty athletic big man at 320 pounds who reportedly can easily put up 600 pounds in the bench press. He will get a lot of double teams and a lot of extra attention as Bama's nose tackle this season. I don't know if he is the prototypical NT in a 3-4 defense, but I love his potential as the Eagles DT in the wide-9. Keep an eye on what he does on passing downs for Alabama.
Jason Peters long-term health is completely up in the air right now. Demetress Bell looks awful in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme(it's still early though). Is King Dunlap really a long-term answer at LT? The Eagles are going to figure some things out at left tackle this season. If neither of these three guys can be the long-term answer at LT, the Eagles have to spend a first round pick on someone who can. Taylor Lewan is my favorite LT prospect. He is long(6'9) but plenty athletic for Mudd's scheme. His performance against Bama this Saturday will be huge for his draft stock. How does he handle one of the best and most complicated pass-rushes in the Nation. If he shuts down his side he might rocket himself into the top 10 with consistent play the rest of the season. Left tackle might be a position worth trading up if there isn't a clear cut answer. Lewan is the 22nd ranked prospect and 3rd ranked OT.
The Eagles need a big target at wide receiver. That is how you score in the red zone. Nick Foles is the future of this franchise at quarterback, not the present, the future. He throws a beautiful fade pass. The Eagles need a big target who can haul in catches in traffic. Cue 6'4, 230 pound Marcus Davis. He is a possession type of receiver. He is the 10th ranked wideout and a third round projection. The Eagles aren't going to spend a 1st or 2nd round pick on a WR when they have Jackson and Maclin. They just need red zone help. I will be tracking his play in the red zone, because that is what I want out of a wide receiver coming to this team next year. He plays on National TV, Monday night vs GaTech.
Rob Gronkowski isn't entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Or is he? C.J. Fiedorowicz is a big target at 6'6, 265, who is a great run blocker and an athletic target at tight end. He was still pretty raw last season, but he started to come around late in the year, over 100 yards and 3 touchdowns over the last 5 games. I see a huge breakout year for him and even bigger things to come in the NFL. The Eagles already have 2 really good TEs in Celek and Harbor, but this is about powerful run blocking and a red zone target that can be unguardable in the red zone.
I am really intrigued by a 250+ pound full back in a high powered offense that is getting a 3rd round grade. He has over 70 career touches for just under 500 yards and 7 touchdowns in his first two seasons at OU. He is only a junior, but I don't think a full back can help his draft stock any more if he is a legitimate 3rd round pick. If he can be a punishing lead blocker(He does outweigh 99% of LBs at any level) he would be a great pickup for the Eagles. He is a player that I don't know as much as some of the others, but I will be keeping an eye on all season long.
A punter? Are you friggin kidding me? Ha, beat you to it. I don't understand how a team like the Jags can spend a 3rd round pick on a punter, but I can understand how a team with less needs can. Wing had 8 games in 2011 with at least one 50 yard punt. He averaged 44 yards a punt. McBriar and Henry don't wow me. Wing does. His inside the 20 numbers will be key this season.