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Mike Mayock: Biggest Need of the Eagles' Defense Is "They Need People Everywhere"

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock touched on a wide variety of topics in his nearly three hour long pre-combine media conference call on Tuesday. BGN already discussed two of the biggest items of mention: 1) Mayock's first round target for the Eagles and 2) the quality of the the 2014 NFL draft class. There were a number of other nuggets from Mayock's call worth mentioning, so here they are. Bold emphasis is mine.

State of the Eagles' defense

My first comment about that Eagles defense is that I thought their defensive coordinator and their defensive staff did a phenomenal job last year because they had a group of guys that they just kind of signed off the streets as free agents, and that defense went from a very much a below average defense to a playoff defense by the end of the season, without a lot of talent.  So I think Billy Davis and those guys did a great job.

Now when you go from there, now what.  Well, Bennie Logan was a good pick last year.  I think they are solid in that front three area.  They have got to get another edge guy, Trent Cole had a heck of a year.  He's a tough guy, getting a little bit older.

They need an edge guy at some point in this draft in my opinion, and then on the back end, you know, I think that's really the biggest need of this defense is they need people everywhere.  I love [Brandon] Boykin, but I think he's best inside.  They need a safety or two, they need a corner or two.  So I think they have really got to concentrate on the back edge and -- back as an edge rush.

Dee Ford as an Eagles target

I think [Khalil] Mack is a Top 10 player; I actually think he's a Top 5 player.  I think [Anthony] Barr has got considerable upside and will be off the board before the Eagles. The one guy that's kind of interesting and it might be a little bit high but Dee Ford from Auburn is kind of that edge rush guy.  He doesn't have as much length as you might like, and he might be more comparable to Bruce Irvin when Seattle took I think at number 15 two years ago.  He's a guy with some real edge burst and he's a guy that would fit what the Eagles do.

Draft strategy: best player available vs. need

You know, I don't think it's one or the other.  I think it's a common sense approach to, okay, just pick a number.  Let's say we're picking in the second round at 46 and I have no idea where the Eagles are. But you're picking at a number, you know what your team needs are and you know what your board says as far as the next best player available on your board.  Now, if you're picking 46 and the 21st best player on the board is still sitting there, yet you've got a player at a position of need that's ranked 47th, I think you're crazy if you don't get the guy that's ranked 21.  You're just diluting your overall team talent.

I think some teams still subscribe to the best player available at a position of need, and I think that's what the Eagles used to be, and I think you get in trouble there.  So I think it's a little bit of common sense.  If it's two players rated in the same area, sure, you pick the position of need.  But if there's two players, one who is ranked 20 or 30 slots above another, you're crazy to take a lower ranked player.

Safeties: Calvin Pryor vs. HaHa Clinton-Dix

They are different players.  For me, Calvin Pryor is like a bigger, stronger Bob Sanders.  He flies around, he hits people, he explodes everywhere.  I think he is a little better in the box than he is on the back end.  It might be just because of the way Louisville used him but that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did, from the other hand, has got better range, and I think he's more of a deep third, deep half guy, he tackles well and he can invert up into the box.  I think he's a complete player, so both of those guys, I wouldn't even blink if they went at No.  10.  But it depends what flavor you're looking for because they are a little bit different type players.

Mid-round Safeties

Deone Bucannon from Washington State, probably a third round guy, [Terrence] Brooks from Florida State, third round, [Ed] Reynolds from Stanford third round, free safety.  They are three guys I like.  One of my favorite safeties in this draft is Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois, but I'm not sure he's getting out of the second round.


The top of the draft for me, [Darqueze] Dennard can step in from day one, and I say that because he's a prep corner who can    he can tackle, he competes.  I don't think he'll be overwhelmed.

Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, return kicks, big play guy.  I think those two guys step right in without a problem and I think the [Jason] Verrett kid steps in day one as a slot    excuse me, as a nickel playing again for the slot.  I think he can go three, four rounds deep and find different kind of kids that can compete early.

I mentioned the kid from Utah, [Keith] McGill who is 6 3 and the kid from Nebraska [Stanley Jean-Baptiste] who is 6 2 and a half.  There are a bunch of long corners out there and that's kind of the flavor of the day.

De'Anthony Thomas

I think Thomas because of his speed and play making ability in today's NFL is more valuable than he would have been six, eight, ten years ago.  I think when you low in the fact that he's got four kickoff return touchdowns, he's a wild card.

And I think he probably goes somewhere in that fourth round area and I think that you have to have a plan in place for how you're going to use him.  He's going to be a kickoff guy plus we have to get him ten touches a game and how do we find those touches, how do we manufacture eight to ten touches a game so this kid gets a chance to make plays for us like he did at Oregon, so I think that's some real value to him.

He's a gifted kid, you're probably talking about a first or second round talent, but whether or not he gets drafted is going to be part of the process going forward and I would guess because of the talent, there's going to be somebody on that third day and I'm not sure which round but there's going to be somebody on the third day that says, we are now at the risk reward part of the program where we are willing to invest a first round pick in the kid because he's a first round talent.

Michael Sam

Well, he's a tweener and I think that's why people are having trouble with the evaluation.  And I saw him on Missouri his tape and then again at Senior Bowl and what I saw was a guy that's a natural edge rush guy.  He's much better going forward than he is backwards.  He's got a little bit of explosion off the edge, but he doesn't have the length. So he's got linebacker size, but he's got physical skill set of a defensive end.  He's a tough fit.

So what I see is a situational pass rush, not an every down player but a situational pass rusher that also can become a core special teams player and I think he goes somewhere in the third to the fifth round. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure, I think [LaMarr] Woodley is a little bit longer than he is, and a little more explosive, and he's a higher graded guy, so it's hard for me off the top of my head.  But he's really kind of tight hipped and I don't think he can play linebacker.

Kony Ealy: OLB or DE?

As far as Ealy is concerned, ended up liking him more than I expected to, and I think he's a 4 3 defensive end. I don't really think he's an outside linebacker. I think to compare him to, say, [Aldon] Smith who came out a couple years ago. He's not quite as athletic as Aldon Smith, but he's a little more physical, a little better against the run. So I think he's probably a base 4 3 end and I think he'll go somewhere in that 20, 23 range in the first round.

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