Draft Targets: TOP 25

Clearly, the Eagles won't be adding twenty-five players in the upcoming Draft. More likely it'll be between five and eight. But they'd be wise, I'm contending, to pick those 5-8 guys from this list: here, you'll find prospects projected to go in all seven rounds and from a wide variety of positions, but the focus is on the positions I've deemed to be the Birds' biggest needs.

WARNING: This is a long post... so here are just the names (for you folks who don't need to read my analysis). You can just scroll down to see my opinions of any player that interests you:

Kyle Fuller, Pierre Desir, Antone Exum, Walt Aikens, Travis Carrie
Odell Beckham Jr., Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Jeff Jaris, Quincy Enunwa
Anthony Barr, Jeremiah Attaochu, Kyle Van Noy, Trent Murphy, Christian Jones, Jordan Tripp, Trevor Reilly, Adrian Hubbard, Ronald Powell
Deone Buccanon, Craig Loston, Telvin Smith
Johnny Manziel

The Corners

It's a pretty average group of corners at the top and because the position is changing so much at the NFL level right now, it's really about finding the right guy for your scheme. I think the Eagles could take a corner at #22. I also think they could wait until the 4-5 range. But I think they'll add someone at the position in this draft.

Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech): He's first on the list only because he might be the best combination of need and value at #22. He's got the size and physicality to be the kind of press corner the Eagles clearly value (judging by the size of all the corners they've added since the coaching change). He's a talented player who's, in actuality, a little worse than the 22nd best player in this draft. But he might just be the best fit left on the board when the Eagles pick. Corner is not, in my opinion, a position that needs immediate attention. But if the Eagles feel that it is... Fuller is the right guy among the first round bunch.

Pierre Desir (CB, Lindenwood): Desir is the corner I most hope the Eagles come away with in this Draft. Unfortunately, like most players seem to this year, he falls into a gap between the Eagles 2nd and 3rd picks. He might be a slight reach at #54, but will almost certainly be gone when the Eagles pick in the 3rd. It's hard to judge production with a kid from Division II Lindenwood. But it's easy to judge the freakish athleticism and prototypical size. He's long and lean and, again, fits the mold of tall, long-armed corners the new Eagles brass loves. If the Eagles wind up with a pick in the 60s somehow... This is a name I'd love to hear called.

Antone Exum (CB, Virginia Tech): I'm not suggesting we draft the entire Hokies secondary (heck, they don't even play in the PAC-12) but we could do a lot worse in round 4-5 than to find Kyle Fuller's teammate sitting on the board. Broken record, I know, but he's big and physical with the long arms desired to play in press coverage. It's what the Eagles clearly want to be able to do. And this kid can do it. After a DeSean filled offseason, his cockiness may not be what the Eagles want. But if he's there in the 5th and you've yet to nab a CB... You might just be able to overlook that.

Walt Aikens (CB, Liberty): His projection is all over the place. But his measurable a are right on point. I'd not be surprised to hear his name called anywhere between the late 3rd and the end of the 6th. There was a relatively minor legal issue in college, but it seems like more of a kid being stupid than someone with real behavioral issues. However, if it scares some folks off and knocks this kid into the sixth round... And we wind up with a pick there... He's a major steal.

Travis Carrie (CB, Ohio): Picking corners is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Carrie is another one whose body type and apparent skill set looks to fit the Eagles scheme. He's also a guy who's played special teams with the kind of passion and effectiveness the Eagles will want to see from any rookie. He's a bit old for a rookie (No, he wasn't fighting fires in Canada) and may be a bit slow at the NFL level. But we're talking about a very late pick here.

The Receivers

This is the best receiver group I've ever evaluated. And when comparing the group to the Eagles needs... #54 in the second round seems to be the ideal time to add a receiver. With, perhaps, another somewhere later in the Draft. The elite guys are too good to get at #22 and the gap between the late 1st rounders and the 2nd rounders simply isn't enough to warrant a WR at #22. Not to mention, the Eagles seem to want a receiver whose attributes better match the second round guys...

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU): For my money, he's the only receiver worth taking at #22 (assuming neither Sammy Watkins nor Mike Evans fall through the largest cracks in NFL Draft history). OBJ, too, will likely be gone at #22, but if he's there he might be worth a look. Frankly, this draft is too heavy at WR to justify taking one in the first round. Players later on this list may be just as explosive as OBJ (or Cooks or Lee) and might actually fit the Eagles' scheme more immediately. And will be better values later. So I'd not be thrilled to see Beckham go at #22, but if the Eagles are intent on drafting a WR (I don't think they are) and if he's there (I don't think he will be) he's the guy. He's better able to play against man defense than Brandin Cooks and is more fluid and has better potential as a blocker. I don't believe, for one moment, that the Eagles are trying 'to replace' DeSean Jackson. He's an explosive player but a very poor scheme fit. He doesn't block, is too small against physical defenders, and disappears for stretches. Cooks falls into all of those traps. Beckham is a much sturdier player. But there are better options. Like...

Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana): He is, perhaps, the best fit. Unfortunately, taking Latimer would require either reaching for him horribly at #22 or trading down to get him. Because he'll be gone before #54. He's big, he's a versatile athlete who was a prep basketball star, he is a dominant edge blocker... He's everything the Eagles want in a receiver. We're he a notch faster or more explosive he'd be a surefire #1 pick. As it is, though, he's an early second rounder. Something we don't have... Yet.

Donte Moncrief (WR, Mississippi): Another physical specimen, Moncrief has the size and speed and athleticism (also a former basketballer) to make an immediate impact on special teams and in the WR rotation. He's an eager blocker, but not as effective as Latimer. Nor is he as adept at using his size to his advantage. But he'd be another, that if he somehow slipped to #54 would be an excellent value. Players like Latimer, Moncrief, and the next couple on this list are the reason why taking a WR at #22 seems silly to me.

Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State): Another big, savvy wide receiver. His stock, sadly, has jumped from the 50-70 range to the 30-50 range. But, again, there's a good chance that one of these guys finds their way down to #54. That's why I'm listing so many in this range. He's a willing blocker. Could be a better one. But, and this is important, he's a press-beater. The Eagles want receivers who can beat the press, primarily. How do I know? They said it. Who? That Kelly fellow. People seem to ignore this and insist that they want someone miniature to replace DeSean Jackson. They released Jackson. They don't want his clone. They want a physical recover who can beat man, press coverage and block on the edge. Robinson is certainly that. But will he be there in the 2nd? I'm guessing no.

Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt): Ditto, ditto, ditto. This big difference here is the intangibles. He's a smart leader. One of the most productive receivers in college football history and the cousin of Jerry Rice (wasn't he good?) Matthews, again, won't be there at #54, but... Someone has to. My point, if you're following... Is that taking a WR at #54 seems wise to me. There are so many good options between 30-60. Someone simply HAS to fall.

Jeff Janis (WR, Saginaw Valley State): Finally, let's talk about guys later in the Draft. Janis has a lot of Riley Cooper in him. He's feisty. Tough. Big. Strong. The kind of guy who'd just keep running even if his helmet got popped off. Or his head. Fans would love his effort and his attitude. He's not the athlete that makes Cooper so adept at tracking balls in the air and didn't play against great competition in college, but he can leap with the best of them and will outwork much more talented receivers. He's a 4th or 5th round target. And if he's there in the 5th, he's a no-brainer.

Quincy Enunwa (WR, Nebraska): A late round flyer if the Eagles had already grabbed a receiver early, Enunwa is a guy you'd look for in the 7th round, but his combination of great size and football smarts make him an intriguing option. He's as big as the other guys on this list, but lacks a good deal of the athleticism. But he is the kind of player that knows when to go out of bounds to stop the clock, knows to break off routes to help a quarterback in duress. Smart. And if it's WR they're looking for in the 6th (if we have a pick there) or 7th... This is my guy.

The Outside Linebackers

For me, this is the Eagles most pressing need. I don't think, as many do, that a pass rusher is necessary. They have one. His name is Connor Barwin. He just isn't able to play that role on the Eagles because he was the only experienced 3-4 linebacker on the roster last year that was able to play in space and cover tight ends. What the Eagles need is another tall, 3-4 linebacker who can move well enough to do what Barwin was asked to do last year, freeing up Barwin to do what he did in 2011 (11.5 sacks). Khalil Mack would be ideal. But since that isn't happening, let's look around...

Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA): I mention him only because of some rumors that he might fall. I don't believe that he will. I think, ultimately, his athletic upside and ideal measurables will sway a team before pick #22 to overlook is rawness as a defensive player. If he's available, I think he's the only OLB to take at #22.

Jeremiah Attaochu (OLB, Georgia Tech): Love him. Just love him. He has the size, speed, leaping ability, and desire to learn that make me believe he will be a terrific 3-4 LB in space. He would, at pick #54, give Connor Barwin a tandem player that would allow more flexibility in coverage and, thus, give Barwin more opportunities to rush the passer. Coach Kelly likes versatility. He talks, often, of wanting to safeties so that offenses don't know on a given play who might drop and who might play in the box. Well, similarly, at OLB... it would be nice to know that either OLB could play moving forward or moving backward. Trent Cole can't. And it won't get any easier as he ages.

Kyle Van Noy (OLB, Brigham Young): At the start of the college season Van Noy was being talked about as a top 5-10 pick. I scoffed at how overrated he was then. Well, scouts and analysts have seen the light and he's dropped down to a likely 2nd round pick. Perhaps even a 3rd. And not a bad value, there, for the Eagles. Similar to all the people on this list, he's large enough and fluid enough an athlete to cover backs and tight ends. To me, there is no sense in the Eagles looking at OLBs that don't possess that skill-set. His lack of 'urgency' on tape is why I prefer Attaochu. But if he drops into the 3rd, I'd be thrilled to see the Eagles snap him up.

Trent Muprhy (OLB, Stanford): Another 3rd Round target. He's essentially a size-clone of Connor Barwin, but certainly lacks some of Barwin's speed. He was, however, incredibly productive against good offenses in the PAC-12. That conference affiliation, alone, should get him looked at by Coach Kelly and the fact that he played in a scheme not terribly different from Billy Davis' will help. Unfortunately his speed may hinder him against NFL talent and he may become a tweener-type who's not quick enough to cover or strong enough to edge-rush.

Christian Jones (OLB, Florida State): Another in the same Draft range (As you can see, Round 3 might be a nice time to take an OLB) this guy is a poor man's Attaochu to me: His greatest strength is his athleticism and his greatest weakness is why doesn't he convert his tremendous athleticism into better football? For the Eagles, he fits well because he can cover tight ends and, although he's a limited pass-rusher, I think Connor Barwin (and a rotation that includes Cole and Graham) can handle those duties.

Jordan Tripp (OLB, Montana): Much of the same with Tripp. But he's a 4th Round prospect. I like him a lot for many of the reasons I've mentioned with the others. He's fluid, he's got good size and showed at the Senior Bowl that he could cover talented backs and tight ends.

Trevor Reilly (OLB, Utah): As we stay in the 4th Round, Reilly is a really intriguing guy. He's uber-tough and would immediately be a factor on special teams much like Free Agent signee Bryan Braman. Also, like Braman, he's big and oddly agile for a man his size.

Adrian Hubbard (OLB, Alabama): Perhaps his name recognition and school affiliation will push him too high in the Draft, but at a 5th Round value he becomes quite a nice prospect. He's a slower version of Dion Jordan with experience both rushing and covering. He's long and lean while remaining strong. Alabama defensive players haven't had the greatest recent track record coming to the Pros, but if he drops far enough he might be a terrific fit.

Ronald Powell (OLB, Florida): Powell is nothing but intriguing. I've seen him coming off of boards as early as the 3rd or as late as not at all. I wouldn't touch him before the 6th, but if he's around then, he could be a steal. He was an elite high schooler, like Bryce Brown, who just didn't make it click due to injury and other inconveniences.

The Safeties

The bad news is that it's really not a good group either in general or specifically for what the Eagles want to do at safety. The good news is that I don't think the position is nearly as dire as people think. Malcolm Jenkins is exactly what Billy Davis and Chip Kelly want in a safety and Nate Allen (dare I say) looked a lot better as the season came to a close last year. With Earl Wolff and Chris Maragos there, too, I'd not be stunned if we went safety-less in this Draft. But here they are:

Deone Buccanon (SS, Washington State): He's really the first good scheme fit after Clinton-Dix comes off the board. Tall, long arms, and able to cover and play moving forward. If they feel they need a safety more than something else at #54, he's the best choice.

Craig Loston (SS, LSU): If the Eagles choose to wait for a safety (as I think they should) Loston is an intriguing pick. He has the size and pedigree to be effective at the next level and, on tape, looks an awful lot like his former teammate Eric Reid who had a tremendous rookie year with the 49ers. Loston's my safety of choice for the Eagles in either the 4th or 5th Round.

Telvin Smith (S, Florida State): Smith is one of the most interesting Eagles' targets and he's one I'd love for them to get. Even if it requires using a 4th Rounder. Smith projects as a... football player? I'm listing him as a safety, here, just because at 218 pounds it seems more likely than OLB. And he's got the speed to be a sideline to sideline inside backer (a la Kendricks) and some scouts believe he can develop as an OLB in a 3-4. His versatility alone makes him one of my personal favorites and the fact that he would be a giant (6'3'' 218) safety makes him a guy I'd be thrilled to see in an Eagles uniform.

The Quarterback

Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M): Shut up. We aren't going to be able to get him. We wouldn't take him if we could. We wouldn't want him if we did. Please. Stop.

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