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Pass rusher is a premium position in the draft

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Will the Eagles be in position to take a premium one?

Tennessee v Texas A&M Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

If you look at the top of the draft in recent history, it paints a very good picture of value in the NFL. In the last ten drafts, 13 QBs were taken in the top 5. 11 offensive tackles were taken to protect the QB, and 9 pass rushers were taken to get at them. They’re the three most often drafted positions. Quarterbacks are the key in the NFL, and therefore protecting and disrupting them is vital. The Eagles drafted their QB last year, and this year there isn’t a standout protector in the draft. But there are some standout disruptors.

If they’re on the board. In the last four drafts, two pass rushers have gone off the board by the 14th pick. The Eagles certainly won’t get first choice on a pass rusher, and they probably won’t get second choice either. Depth, or the lack of it depending on your view, is important here.

Some of these players will go in the first, some in the second, and some of them will be overdrafted because pass rusher is a premium need.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Pros: The second best edge prospect in the draft, with a complete game. In addition to being a top pass rusher, he’s strong against the run. Tennessee lined him up all over the field, both as a hand in the ground pass rusher and a stand up edge. His 32 sacks tied a school record with some dude named Reggie White. You may have heard of him. And his 52 tackles for loss are the best of any player on this list.

Numbers aren’t everything, but consider how he got them: 31 of his 32 sacks were against Power 5 teams (ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12), including all eight of his multi-sack games, and 47.5 of his 52 tackles for loss were against Power 5 teams as well. He’s not padding his stats against cupcakes. Compare that to Myles Garrett, who has 31.5 sacks but just 15 came against Power 5 teams, with just 2 of his 7 multi-sack games coming against Power 5 teams. This doesn’t mean that Barnett is better. But year in, year out, Barnett has excelled against top competition, something the rest of this group hasn’t done.

Cons: There’s not much to not like, but there are some areas of concern. He gets in trouble with offsides penalties from mistiming snap counts. He’s not the best athlete of the group either. But these are small concerns. If Myles Garrett wasn’t in this draft, he’d be the top pass rusher. It’s unlikely, though possible, that he’s on the board when the Eagles pick.

Taco Charlton, Michigan

Pros: At 6’6 272 pounds he’s got a frame, wingspan and athleticism with it that scouts are going to love. Can play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB, and is an able run defender, so he’s in play for any team.

Cons: His senior year was his only season as a starter. Is he a late bloomer or just a guy who rose on the depth chart due to graduation? Eagles fans are going to love (read: hate) that he relies on a Connor Barwin-like spin move. And his real name is not Taco, it’s Vidauntae. Sorry to disappoint.

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Pros: Phenomenal athlete who can play in any scheme: 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE who can move inside on passing downs. Explodes of the snap and has a high motor after it. He’s the total package.

Cons: It would be a shock if he was available to the Eagles at 14 or 15, as he’s seen not just as the top pass rusher in the draft but possibly the top player in the draft. And as highlighted earlier, he’s got some stat padding against inferior opponents, but that doesn’t matter for the Eagles since he won’t be on the board.

Charles Harris, Missouri

Pros: Still raw, having only played football for seven years. Versatile, having played all along the line and also as a stand up pass rusher. Legitimately good spin move and a solid run defender.

Cons: Steady but not great production as a pass rusher. Too inconsistent and can struggle with playing inside. Though he played as a stand up edge, that’s probably not his role in the NFL.

Carl Lawson, Auburn

Pros: Great strength and a good burst can give blockers problems. Good speed and high motor too. Isn’t a great athlete, but makes the most of what he’s got.

Cons: Limited playing time prior to 2016 due to injury: tore his ACL in 2014, missing the entire season, and missed time in 2015 with a hip injury. Played mostly as a stand up player, so there’s a lot of projection for a team that wants to make him a hand in the ground rusher.

Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Pros: Relentless and powerful. The “high motor” label is going to be all over him. His strength and pursuit should allow him to line up anywhere on the line and contribute.

Cons: Where does he fit in the NFL? At Stanford he played 3-4 DE, but at 6’3” 275 pounds, he’s small for an NFL 3-4 DE or an every down 4-3 DT. As a 4-3 DE, he might not have the athleticism to be a stud. Gets in trouble with mistiming snap counts and getting flagged for offsides.

Tim Williams, Alabama

Pros: Lighting fast off the snap, he can embarrass a tackle in an instant. Good strength to fight through blocks he can’t blow past. After being seen purely as a pass rusher before the season, improved his run defending.

Cons: Almost exclusively played as a rushing linebacker, can he be a three down player and/or a 4-3 DE in the NFL? Arrested in two separate incidents for an unlicensed gun and marijuana possession. At 23, he’s old for a prospect.