The Eagles are set to make some moves in the upcoming NFL Draft. The team will look to fill needs and build a solid foundation for future success. With less than two weeks until the selection process, the BGN editorial staff is ready to get down to it about what the Eagles will do from May 8-10. This version of the BGN Roundtable is all about the draft and Mike Kaye, James Keane, Mark Saltveit and Dave Mangels offer their thoughts on the NFL's version of Christmas.
What is the most overstated need heading into the draft and why?
Mike: I think the need for wide receiver is a bit overstated. Don't get me wrong, it is still a need, but definitely not on the level of how its been portrayed. I do think the Eagles will target a guy in the first two days and he will become a major part of the offense. That said, if they pass on a guy in the first and/or second round, it is not really a big deal. There are plenty of talented wide receivers in this draft and if the Eagles take a guy like Bruce Ellington or Devin Street in the third round, they will be fine.
James: I agree with Mark and Mike, it's definitely wide receiver. Yes, DeSean Jackson had an incredible career season but his stats will not be replaced by any one player, whether drafted this year or not. I think Chip wants more versatility from the players on the field, versatility that Jackson did not possess, and versatility that suddenly exists on the roster. Thanks, especially, to the return of Maclin and the acquisition of Darren Sproles. I can't wait to see what Sproles can do next year.
Mark: Wide receiver, absolutely. Maclin and DeSean had comparable results in 2011 and 2012, Ertz is growing and can play wide, and Darrren Sproles is a big addition. Then there are others who could grow -- Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl. I wouldn't mind picking someone up as BPA but there's no urgency.
Dave: Cornerback. It is a draft need, but not as big of a deal as it seems. The Eagles have four solid to very good CBs: three are free agents and the other was a 4th round draft pick. They don't need to draft one high. This doesn't mean they shouldn't, just that it's not a big concern if they don't.
What is the most understated need heading into the draft and why?
Mike: The interior offensive line seriously needs some depth and youth. Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis are both well over the age of 30 and the Eagles need to have their ducks in a row when they need to be replaced. While they don't need to draft a guard early, they should address the position at some point from May 8-10. There is some depth in the class and they could find a quality player on Day 3. I think cornerback is also a need that seriously should be addressed at some point.
James: Talent. I think we've focused too much on filling needs, like safety and wide receiver, and haven't focused enough on the best talent that may be available at 22. This year the Eagles are in a really unique position because their needs and draft positions align very well. There will be some really good players available at positions requiring improvement. This may be serendipity but it may also be design. Chip, Howie, and Tom Gamble (don't forget about that guy) have attacked free agency in a manner that maximizes their draft positions based on the incoming draft class. This is something I think they did very well last year, so I expect talent, though understated, will eventually rule the day. Oh, and NT. I like Bennie Logan, but I think a bigger bodied disruptor in the middle would be the bee's knees.
Mark: Inside Linebacker. DeMeco is aging and played a ton of snaps last year. At Oregon, ILB was a big part of the gambling, big play defense. (Think Kiko Alonso) LBs also help a lot on special teams. If Stanford's Shane Skov goes undrafted, sign him in a second. He had an ACL tear and a DUII, but I covered the Oregon - Stanford game last year and he was very impressive -- big time playmaker, fast, smart and a good interview. (Hey, I've got my needs too.) Like Alonso, Skov has that "it" factor - the instinctive nose for the ball that makes a superior ILB.
Dave: It feels like every position has been talked about leading up to the draft. Except one: running back. LeSean McCoy is in his peak years and historically for running backs that peak ends with a very steep drop off. Barring injury he should be fine in 2014, but after that is a great unknown. In 2015 he will be 27 and his contract becomes very team friendly. But there isn't anyone waiting in the wings to take over the starting role. Bryce Brown is what he is, a solid backup option but not a starter; Chris Polk had another shoulder surgery this off-season; Darren Sproles is 31. The Eagles have bigger draft needs, but it wouldn't shock me to see a running back selected.
Who is the guy you hope the Eagles avoid in the 1st round and why?
Mike: I have a few but let's not make a spectacle out of this. RaShede Hageman scares me to the death. I think that would be way too big of a "boom or bust" pick for a playoff team. The Eagles also already have a pretty good defensive line. I understand that some are down on Bennie Logan, but he was a rookie last year and the team clearly thinks highly of him. Hageman has all the talent in the world but disappears from games and uses little technique.
James: Danny Watkins. I want the Eagles to avoid selecting a project or a position of need while leaving more talent on the board. Who that may be this year, I'm not sure. But if, say, outside linebackers, safeties, or WRs disappear at a rapid rate, I don't want the Eagles to settle for Kyle Van Noy when Zack Martin is available. I doubt that will happen, but god help me if it does.
Mark: Dee Ford. I worry that the Eagles will reach for his pass rush skills and speed, but he's undersized, one-dimensional, weak against the run and has serious health concerns. That would waste a great pick in a deep draft. He's a classic "great in college, weak in the NFL" player.
Dave: I can only pick one? Anthony Barr, who likely won't be on the board but is a "hey maybe this guy could drop" or "the Eagles should trade up for" favorite. I just don't see the appeal. Yes, he's athletic, but that's it. I'm on board with all the criticisms of him, mainly that he is a poor 1 on 1 rusher. What I see is a poor man's Connor Barwin, and that's not what the Eagles need.
Who is the guy you want the Eagles to take and why?
Mike: I want the Eagles to take Jason Verrett. He has had some injury history and is a bit shorter than they prefer, but based on talent, he is the best cornerback in the draft. He can play in press and man coverage and would have no issue in zone. He is fast and physical, which I think would be of value to the team. He can play anywhere and I think there is a chance that he and Boykin could be interchangeable in the slot and outside. But alas, I don't see the Eagles even sniffing him due his to size.
James: Cooks seems like a great fit and could be absolutely electric. But for some reason, I keep coming back to Darqueze Dennard. There's just something about a physical cornerback that also defends the run well that pulls at my heartstrings. Convert to safety and Next Dawkins.
Mark: Who's available? In the first round, Khalil Mack would be perfect (but very unlikely), CJ Mosely great (maybe 1/3 chance), Anthony Barr excellent (and maybe 50-50), Brandin Cooks is an awesome player though I'd prefer Barr. Cody Lattimer is a great prospect but 22 is too high, great if we trade down.
Dave: Brandin Cooks, for all the obvious reasons.
What are your thoughts on trading up or down in the draft?
Mike: I am all for trading down, but trading up would likely be too rich for my taste. The Eagles have six draft picks and aren't one guy away from being a Super Bowl winner. I think trading down is very sensible and likely. If the Eagles traded down with a team that needed a quarterback, they could possibly get a huge haul.
James: I don't see the Eagles moving from 22. They could, but I wouldn't be surprised if they stay put. I think a lot of teams wouldn't mind trading back in the first two rounds, given the amount of talent this year, but that will limit trade partners, especially when the trades involve more picks. Trading down may be more possible, again if not including additional picks, but unlikely. I think it will be more likely that the Eagles trade back in mid to later rounds in order to accumulate a few more selections.
Mark: Hey, we were just talking about that! Trade up only if we don't lose any picks (ie for Brandon Graham or Vinny Curry) and that seems unlikely. Trading down, sure. There are too many possibilities to predict but Howie Roseman was won my trust over the past two years.
Dave: Depends on the round and what else happens. In the first round I don't think it's worth trading up, but trading back is. I feel the opposite in the 2nd round, where trading up could be worth it but trading back is. If they trade back in the 1st, they would gain a 3rd round pick and so trading up from one of those 3rds would be fine. Day 3, whatever. I'm not going to lose sleep over giving up a 7th rounder to move up in the 4th.