Now that we're just one... week... away from the 2013 NFL Draft, I am updating my Eagles' Big Board. This is not my best guess of what the Eagles plan to do with their first pick; This is simply the list I wish they'd use.
1. Luke Joeckel: No movement here. Joeckel has been #1 on my wishlist since before the college season ended and he's still there. Prototypical left tackle that appears to have the skills, body of work, and attitude to excel at the position for a decade or more. He's probably #1 on the Eagles' real board. Sadly, he's probably going to be wearing a Chiefs hat by about 8:15 ET on the 25th.
2. Eric Fisher: In my previous version of the Big Board, Fisher and Star Lotuleilei were neck and neck and I gave Star the edge. Today, they are neck and neck with Fisher in the lead. Like folks in real scouting departments, it's just taken me some time to overlook the fact that Fisher played at a smaller school than Joeckel. I'd love to see tape after tape of Fisher playing against future pros... but I can't. However what I do see is tremendous. He's a punishing run blocker and has the footwork to be excellent against the pass. Whichever guy it is, the Eagles will likely be able to play them at RT for awhile (assuming Peters' health) so there will be time to develop elite pass-protection skills. The days of Runyan/Thomas were comfortable days. I miss them. Peters/Fisher would be comfy.
3. Star Lotuleilei: There's a very real chance that both top tackles will be gone by pick #4. It is my thinking, then, that the Eagles would be best served turning to the other side of the ball. Star's tape is the most impressive tape I've seen this year. He is nearly always the first player off the ball. He tosses linemen around like rag dolls. He seems to fill gaps with ease and still manages to shed blocks to cut off running lanes laterally. At 320 pounds, he has the size to play all three positions on a 3 man front and has the quickness and athleticism to stay on the field at a DT in a 4 man front. Were Joeckel and Fisher not such apparent studs, Lotuleilei would be a no-brainer for me. His inconsistency is a concern. Clearly. There are games when he doesn't look 'like himself.' His apparent dispassion for the game, at times, is a serious concern. He left the game in 2009 citing a lack of love for it. Even the fact that he's declined an invitation to be at the Draft is a red flag. But the team has worked with him individually. If they feel that those things aren't worth worrying about... he's as good as anyone in this Draft. Explosive. Watch the tape of his game against USC and try not to want him on your team (oh, that Center for the Trojans is probable 3rd-4th round pick Khaled Holmes).
4. Geno Smith: Woah. Big jump. He was the 7th man on my last Big Board... but I've spent the last week trying to separate Geno from my desire to have an Andrew Luck in the Draft. There's no Andrew Luck. Period. But with the new CBA in effect... taking an $18M risk on a potential franchise QB is not a killer mistake. If the first three picks go Joeckel, Fisher, Lotuleilei... I want Geno in play. Are there questions? Sure. Lots. But think back to Drafts prior to last year. There are always (except for last year) questions about the QBs at the top of the Draft. When I look around at the other choices here.... Jordan, Milliner, Floyd... there are so many questions about value, development, need, etc... that I'd just rather take my chances on the upside of a quarterback. Think of it this way: scheme is everything. David Carr was a 'can't miss' with all the tools. But the scheme the Texans decided to play was something like... 'whatever you do, don't block.' So he failed. Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick (both significantly less impressive prospects than Smith) have had instant success in the NFL because the coaches who took them understood that they possessed the ability to play within a particular offense. If Chip Kelly really is planning to run this uptempo, speed offense that we keep hearing about... there really isn't anyone out there better suited to it. Geno has been a long time starter on one of the fastest offenses in the nation. His tape is impressive. This game against Texas is the game, during the year, where I fell in love with Geno. And watching it again reminds me why. Look at those quick passes? Look at the poise on 3rd and 4th down? Aside from the occasional backpedal when the pressure comes... there's not a thing this tape is missing. Watch the Baylor tape, too. As one scout pointed out... it's difficult to match his completion percentage and TD/INT ratio running 7 on 7 drills. With Geno, it all comes down to the upstairs stuff. Can he lead? Learn quickly? If you're the Eagles and you've interviewed him and you think the answer is, 'yes' then how can you not be excited to see him run this new offense? I'm one of the first to say, "don't take a QB just because he's a QB." But I admit... there's something tempting about it. Because being 'set' at Quarterback is a much better thing than being 'set' somewhere else.
5. Dion Jordan: The reasoning is simple: pass rushing is important. He's a physical freak. He knows Chip Kelly. He'd be a valuable piece in a defense that doesn't have enough obvious 34 linebackers. But Chip Kelly is getting a look at the roster this week on the field in real practice. He's seeing Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews and Jamar Cheney. He's gone to the trouble of adding Barwin, Phillips and Acho at linebacker already. It's a crowded field. And for all we know there's already some supreme talent there. If we assume Kendricks and Ryans are in the middle and Barwin is one of the outside guys... we have plenty of guys on board, already, to audition for that 4th spot. None of them have proven a thing. But Dion Jordan comes with plenty of risks, too. His eye popping talent is matched by eye poppingly little production. For every Jason Pierre-Paul there's a Vernon Gholson waiting to make you look stupid. Jordan is, by no means, a bad pick. If he realizes his full potential, he's a huge, versatile player in space that can run all around a 34-Under defense and put his hand on the ground in 43 sets. In a pass happy, TE happy league... a tool like that is invaluable. When I watch the tape, there're moments when I think, "He's that guy." And then other moments when I think, "He's got a lot of work to do." Chip Kelly knows him better than any coach in the league. If he's the pick at #4, we can assume Chip falls in the "He's that guy," camp.
The Eagles pick fourth. So there's no need to go further. Floyd, Milliner, Ansah, Mingo, Warmack, Richardson... they're all tempting for a variety of reasons. But when you stink you get to pick high. And when you pick high you get to limit your wishlist. This, for me, is the best of the best. Barring a trade (something I'd love to see) this is the board I hope the Eagles have hanging on a big wall next Thursday.
One final note:
Scouts in a lot of War Rooms get a 'red star' and a 'black dot' to place on one player, irrespective of value, that they just plain hope their team takes and one player they want to avoid at all costs.
My red star goes to Sio Moore (LB, UCONN). There's another post on this board that speaks, at length, about Moore but suffice it to say... He'd look good with a wing on his hat.
My black dot goes to the duo (cheating a bit) of Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen. They both seem to possess one trait that's popular among NFL WRs: immaturity. There's some nice WR talent in this draft... avoid these two.