I've been hearing some talk about mid-late round picks that the Eagles should pursue in this coming draft, and I often find myself cringing at the lack of athleticism of these players whom people expect to fill gigantic needs such as NT (pun intended). So I've compiled a mock draft of my own consisting mostly of players who can help if not immediately, then greatly so in the future. Additionally, to make this clear ahead of time, considering next years QB class (Teddy Bridgewater), it is NOT worth drafting a QB this year with ANY pick (unless Ryan Nassib falls to the 6th or 7th round). Additionally, if you think the Eagles should pursue Alex Smith through any means, you need to stop wasting everyone's time pretending you watch football. Now that I've hurt a lot of people's feelings, I'll get back to the point.
Now the first round pick, at number 4 is a tricky one because at this point no one really has any idea who will be taken with the first 3. So i've listed three options in order of preference.
a. Draft Star Lotulelei. Now this is a man who has faced double or even triple teams just about every play of his career since his junior year. Yet, if you watch some tape, he has still been able to make some mind boggling plays and put up numbers in a very strong division. Now, while I obviously want him to help out at NT, I am not suggesting we draft him to fill this role. I will get to that in a moment. Now if you've read anything about Billy Davis's defense, you will understand what I want Star to do.
In general terms, Star will be guy occupying the left guard and left tackle denoted as DE in this picture. I expect fletcher cox to mostly be on the other side (DT) lined up one on one against the right guard. Now I could see these guys swapping roles, but regardless, having Star or Cox consistently in one on one situations would make for an incredible pass rush.
b. Draft Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher. Now, both of these guys are presumably franchise tackles, that would add some depth to our O-line, and almost immediately warrant at starting position at RT, or guard. I have a slight preference towards Joeckel, mostly because of age I guess, but I'm sure things will change come the combine. The other thing is, chances are that most if not all of these guys (including Star) will be taken by the time the fourth pick roles around. In which case I say:
c. TRADE BACK. I'd say that pursing a late first round pick and 2nd rounder is not asking a kings ransom for the 4th overall pick in this years draft. Also two 2nd rounders and a 3rd rounder would be just as viable in my opinion. Now here's what we could do with these picks:
Draft that guy in green at the top of the page. Here's your NT people. Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern. A 6'2" 340 pound division 2 guy. Don't be fooled by his size, this guy is as athletic as they come, and these traits will show come the combine. Which I why I expect to draft him here after he flies up everyone's draft board. You couldn't ask for better stats from a D2 nose tackle than what he achieved in his senior season: 68 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass break ups, 8 hurries, 5 forced fumbles, and a safety. Plus a school recored 27 sacks in his college career. Also he is an extremely hard worker, and has a great attitude and love for the game. I'm sure this guy will adequately occupy any center in the league consistently, allowing Cox (and possibly Star) to scare the shit out of every QB in the league. (Keep in mind that a good D-line makes a bad secondary look good i.e. Indianapolis Colts 2012).
Menelik Watson. After the combine, I'm not sure this guy will be available come the third round (and you'll see why). Currently the 11th OT prospect, this guy has only played in 20 football games including his time at a junior college. He used to be a basketball player and boxer in Manchester England before being introduced to football. He is easily the most athletic O-lineman in this class (expected to run about 4.7 in the 40 at the combine, at 6'5" 320 Lbs). I think he could be our long term solution at LT. He is obviously a project and will require some development, but I could see him earning a starting spot at guard before the end of the 2013 season just off of talent alone. This obviously means that I expect the eagles to look for a OT and guard in free agency, to add some reassurance and depth. And I am also banking on JP, Herremans, and Kelce (santa) to be healthy, and fire fighter boy to finally live up to his potential. (Again, keep in mind that a good O-line makes a bad QB look good i.e. Alex Smith, and a mediocre QB look like he deserves 22 million a year i.e. Joe Flacco).
I know at this point people are pissed off that I haven't listed a safety or CB. That is because while I think guys like Jonathan Cyprien and Dee Milliner are awesome, I think there is sufficient talent at these positions in the middle to late rounds. For example:
a. B. W. Webb. A corner out of William and Mary, this guy is projected to go as late as the third or fourth round (similar to Brandon Boykin) because of his size (although he is an inch taller than Boykin at 5'10"). However, he is a gazelle, and as good as any corner in this draft. Additionally, he was an absolute boss at the senior bowl practices. I see him earning a spot in the starting rotation regardless of who stays on the roster. Although I find it highly unlikely that both Nnamdi and DRC make it back next season.
b. T.J. Mcdonald. Another guy with high level capabilities in comparison to others at his position. Again, not sure how far he'll fall, but he is as athletic as any free safety, and seemed to be possibly the most instinctual safety at the senior bowl. However, I have preference towards B. W. Webb at this pick, and you'll see why (picks 6 and 7).
c. Jelani Jenkins. Jenkins is player who likely won't be improving his draft stock at the combine. However, this is not because he isn't athletically capable. A former 5 star recruit ranking number 1 at OLB, he weighs in at 237 Lbs at an even 6'0", while running a 4.4-4.5 40. He is currently suffering from thumb, hamstring, and foot injuries, which have set him back for the later part of this past season. Regardless, he is still projected to be drafted sometime between the third and fourth round. Though, if he gets healthy and wows at the combine, I wouldn't be surprised if he was taken late second/ early third. So while expecting him to fall to the 98th pick is a bit of a reach, he has the potential to be a force at OLB in the NFL (and a stud SAM for the Eagles).
a. Zavier Gooden. Although probably the fastest OLB in this draft class (4.3-4.4 at 6'2" 235), Zavier Gooden might fall to the fifth round because of weaknesses in instinct and ability to take on blockers. However with some good coaching and discipline there is a chance he could help out as our SAM linebacker, since the SAM is at most only expected to take on the FB. Also, I don't see there being any coverage linebacker in this years draft who can get to the QB as quickly as this guy.
b. Devonte Holloman. This guy is a SS/OLB for South Carolina. He is extremely athletic for his size (at 6'1"-6'2" , 245, running a 4.5-4.6). He played mostly SS in college, but I could see Devonte putting on some weight, and moving inside. His coverage abilities would be outstanding for an inside linebacker, however, he would really need to work on form tackling and stopping the run. I see him as another project player, who will be around mid-late draft. Although I think he could be an immediate help on special teams.
Cooper Taylor. Another small school diamond in the rough. A true 6'4", 230 pounds, and runs a 4.4/4.5. This guy is an all around great SS, maybe one of the best in this class. He dominated in the East-West Shrine Game. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this guy is projected to go in the 7th round. An absolute steal, that could be the answer at safety.
Ray Ray Armstrong. Similar story to Bryce Brown, Ray Ray could have been an early first round draft pick in this years draft had a couple things gone differently. Instead he is a projected seventh rounder/ FA. He has played very little due to off-field issues, but is arguably still the most athletic safety in this class. I see drafting him as another low risk, high reward pick.
Ramon Buchanan. The oft injured Ramon Buchanan was the regarded as the second best WLB coming out of high school. He is listed at 6'1" 230 Lbs, with a 40 ranging from 4.4-4.5. He was highly productive at Miami. He is quick and coverage, and has the ability to rush the pass. He is far down the list of players expected to go undrafted, but I think based on talent and upside alone he deserves a FA signing. If healthy, he could really add some depth to our linebacker group.
Note that we pick early in every round except possibly the 7th.