Stop me if you've heard this before: the Philadelphia Eagles haven't drafted an offensive line since 2013: It's no small secret that the Birds are in need of help up front in both the short-term and long-term. At the very least, the Eagles could afford to have two new starting guards in 2016. Eagles fans have identified offensive line as Philadelphia's biggest offseason need. The organization seems to recognize the importance of the position moving forward.
"I think everybody in the National Football League has to shore up their offensive line," Doug Pederson said in his press conference at the NFL Combine. "It goes without saying. Taking a look at our current situation, are there some holes? There are some holes. But we’re going to evaluate, continue to evaluate not only our guys on our roster but here [at the NFL Combine] this week, free agency is coming up, so there’s opportunities there to help improve that talent level."
Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman pointed out how the Eagles once led the NFL in drafting offensive linemen until Chip Kelly arrived.
"We were leading the league in offensive lineman drafted from I think 2000 through 2013," Roseman said. "It’s a priority for us. You talked to coach Pederson before and he talked about how important it is. We’re going to build along the lines. A lot of the resources we’ve already spent in the offseason have been along those lines. As we get in here and look at all the prospects, it’s an important priority for us."
These aren't just empty words. The Eagles showed a lot of interest in offensive line prospects at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. Philadelphia is already set to meet with several recognizable names at the NFL Combine. The brief list so far includes Stanford guard Josh Garnett, Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin, and Kansas State offensive line Cody Whitehair. Whitehair specifically noted that he's talked to the Eagles "quite a bit" this offseason.
The Eagles already met with Garnett and Whitehair at the Senior Bowl. Here's what BGN wrote at the time:
"Garnett is the 2015 Outland Trophy winner, which goes to the best interior offensive lineman in college football. The senior guard measures in at 6-5, 317 pounds. He projects to be a Day 2 pick. Watch this video of him absolutely destroying a defender."
"Whitehair has been a stalwart for the Wildcats for a long time now and after a strong week in Mobile, his name is buzzing as a potential first round pick. Whitehair is certainly a good player, exhibiting clean technique, good strength and a tremendous mean streak, but the idea of taking a guard at 13 who will be 24 when the season starts irks me a bit. However, Whitehair is a very solid player, if not unspectacular. This definitely signals a shift in philosophy, with Whitehair being a nastier, more physical player who would be at home in a gap blocking scheme."
As for Conklin, he's been a popular mock draft target for the Eagles. ESPN's Mel Kiper has the Birds taking him at No. 13. Kiper feels Conklin has the potential to play guard before shifting out to tackle later in his career.
The Eagles are allowed to interview 60 prospects at the NFL Combine so they'll be sure to talk to more offensive linemen than the ones listed here. For now, this is a good start.