With the dust from NFL free agency settling, we can get a better idea of what the first half of the 2017 NFL Draft will look like, and who and what might be available for the Eagles with the 14th pick. With every signing of a starter, the need to grab one at that position lessens, while missed chances at a free agent or trade could increase a team’s desire to fill a need.
We’ll look at the three needs the Eagles have that could easily be options in the 1st round: cornerback, where the team has no incumbent starters; defensive end, where Connor Barwin’s starting job is up for grabs; and wide receiver, where no one is assured a roster spot in 2018. Running back and linebacker might also be in play, but with the depth at RB in the draft and no starting lineup holes at LB, we’ll knowingly overlook them. And of course, there will be trades that will shake up the draft, but for now, this is the draft order.
1 and 12 - Browns
CB: Cleveland needs corners. Taking one 1st overall seems a stretch, but at 12, one could very easily be in play.
DE: Myles Garrett is considered the top prospect in the draft, and the Browns need a pass rusher.
WR: If there’s anything Cleveland doesn’t need in the 1st round, it’s a WR. The Browns drafted a whopping four of them last year, and in free agency swapped out Terrelle Pryor for Kenny Britt.
Wild Card: If the Browns want to stockpile more draft picks, a trade back from 12 could be on the table.
2 - 49ers
CB: San Francisco needs corners, but there hasn’t been a cornerback drafted in the top 3 picks since 1997, and the depth at the position, coupled with the 49ers total lack of talent, makes it unlikely they take one 2nd overall.
DE: While the 49ers are under new management, having spent back to back 1st round picks on defensive lineman should take them out of the running for grabbing a pass rusher 2nd overall, unless the Browns pass on Garrett.
WR: Like the Browns, it’s hard to see them taking a wide receiver. With the signings of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson, who had an out of nowhere career year for Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, along with incumbent Jeremy Kerley, they’ve got a fairly full depth chart.
Wild Card: Needing all the help they can get, a trade back could benefit the 49ers. If that happens, anything could be in play for them. And considering that their GM has no idea what he is doing, anything could be in play if they sit still too.
3 - Bears
CB: Chicago signed Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in free agency. If they’re looking for a quick fix, it’s hard to see them drafting a corner. Considering Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are on the last years of their deals, they could draft one with their 2nd round pick.
DE: It’s hard to see them taking a pass rusher, having taken Leonard Floyd 9th overall last year and getting a good season out of him.
WR: The Bears signed Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright in free agency, and Kevin White can’t be counted on, so they still need help at wide receiver whether they know it or not. Hopefully for the Eagles they don’t.
Wild Card: The Bears were the dumbest team in free agency, so anything is possible in the draft.
4 - Jaguars
CB: After signing A.J. Bouye to pair with 2016 5th overall pick Jalen Ramsey, it’s hard to see them taking a corner.
DE: Having invested so much in defensive line the last few years, including signing Calais Campbell in free agency this year, another lineman seems unlikely.
WR: Allen Robinson is in the last year of his deal, a wide receiver might be in play, but probably not, they’ll have the cap space to tag him if need be.
5 - Titans
CB: Tennessee had one of the worst pass defenses last year, 30th in yards against and 26th in DVOA, and 2016 starters Jason McCourty and Brice McCain will be 30 when the season starts. They signed Logan Ryan, but drafting a top corner to wait in the wings behind McCourty and McCain would be logical.
DE: Pass rusher isn’t much of a need for them this year with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan teaming up for 19.5 sacks last year, but at 31 and 28 when the season begins, respectively, it can’t be entirely crossed off.
WR: The Titans have no bonafide outside receiver, their leading pass catchers were slot receiver Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker. They were reportedly shopping for Brandin Cooks to address that, and didn’t do anything major in free agency as a backup plan. And with two 1sts after their 2016 trade with the Rams, they could grab a receiver at 5 and then a corner at 18.
Wild Card: With two 1sts, the Titans have no need to trade back or up.
6 - Jets
CB: They signed Morris Claiborne to start opposite, for now, Buster Skrine. At some point, they’re taking a corner.
DE: Muhammad Wilkerson received a big contract extension last year, and they drafted Leonard Williams 8th in 2015. Sheldon Richardson could be moved for a QB, but with so many other needs it’s hard to see them taking a pass rusher.
WR: Quincy Enunwa had a decent season despite flotsam, jetsam and Bryce Petty at QB, but with Brandon Marshall released, Eric Decker a health question mark and nobody else of note, receiver could be an option at 6.
Wild Card: This seems like a make or break season for the Jets front office and coaching staff…. which could mean QB is the pick to try to buy another year, though that didn’t work for Jeff Fisher in 2016 or Ken Whisenhunt in 2015.
7 - Chargers
CB: Casey Hayward was a Pro Bowler after he led the league in interceptions, and LA is hoping to finally get a full season out of Jason Verrett. If the Chargers are drafting defense in the 1st, they’d probably draft a safety or linebacker, but corner can’t be ruled out.
DE: Joey Bosa was a beast last year. No need to grab another pass rusher considering the other needs.
WR: With leading receiver Tyrell Williams having one of the biggest surprise seasons in the league and second leading receiver Dontrelle Inman nearly doubling his production after two quiet seasons, a definitive #1 receiver is a need.
Wild Card: Could they take a QB? Philip Rivers is 35 and has no guaranteed money owed after this season, but does have a $5M roster bonus for 2018.
8 - Panthers
CB: Josh Norman didn’t turn the Redskins defense around last year, but his absence certainly contributed to the Panthers pass defense cratering. They brought back Captain Munnerlyn, but corner is an option.
DE: Mario Addison was re-signed and Julius Peppers was brought back, but at his age and with the trade of Kony Ealy, they could be looking for a pass rusher to groom.
WR: With Ted Ginn leaving they need a deep threat, and with Devin Funchess not impressing, they could be looking for another 1st round WR. Mike Williams fits their profile.
Wild Card: GM David Gettleman has never traded back in the 1st round, with the depth at CB and RB, two of their biggest needs, could he do so this year?
9 - Bengals
CB: With the re-signing of Dre Kirkpatrick and 2016 1st rounder William Jackson, cornerback seems unlikely.
DE: With Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, pass rusher is probably not a high priority either.
WR: AJ Green is AJ Green, they re-signed Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd had a productive rookie season. Wide receiver seems unlikely.
Wild Card: The Bengals have 10 picks. If anything, they’re trading up.
10 - Bills
CB: Stephon Gilmore left for New England, and he wasn’t replaced by anyone. They’re taking a corner at some point.
DE: Lorenzo Alexander had the out-of-nowhere season last year, and the Bills have 2016 1st rounder Shaq Lawson as well. Pass rusher seems unlikely.
WR: With Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin lost to free agency and “replacing” them with Corey Brown and Andre Holmes, the Bills are likely taking a WR at some point. Possibly 10th.
Wild Card: The Bills have only 6 picks. They’re probably looking to trade down if the offer is right. If the Eagles are looking to trade up, this could be it.
11 - Saints
CB: Anything on defense is a legitimate option for the Saints. They’re almost certainly taking a corner in the 1st or 2nd round.
DE: Again, anything on defense is an option.
WR: With Brandin Cooks traded, they’ll be in the market for a wide receiver.
Wild Card: The Eagles got jumped by the Saints for Brandin Cooks in 2014. Could the Eagles return the favor in 2016 to a team that has the same needs as them?
13 - Cardinals
CB: With Marcus Cooper signing with the Bears, the Cardinals are down a starter.
DE: Chandler Jones just got a new contract, and he wasn’t even the leader in sacks for the Cardinals. The loss of Calais Campbell hurts the pass rush, but it’s difficult to see them taking one in 1st.
WR: The third leading receiver for Arizona in 2016 was John Brown, who had 39 catches. Pass catcher is in play here.
Wild Card: The Cardinals’ roster is in win-now mode, so they could go for broke and trade up.
CB: 8 of the 12 teams ahead of the Eagles need a corner, to say nothing of teams trading up to jump the Eagles, who everyone knows will be drafting a corner in either the 1st or 2nd. But with half of those teams drafting in the top 5, 2 of them having a second 1st rounder, and the depth at the position, it’s probably closer to four teams that could realistically take a corner ahead of the Eagles… in the 1st round. There could be a run on them in the late 1st and early 2nd. Sidney Jones’ injury thinning out the top tier of CB prospects really hurts the Eagles here. They may need to trade up in the 1st to get their choice before a run on them between 14 and 42. If not, they could either be standing when the music stops or trade up in the 2nd.
DE: Only 4 teams could have a high priority on a pass rusher, and Myles Garrett is virtually guaranteed of being taken by one of them. The Eagles could be looking at getting 2nd choice of pass rushers.
WR: 10 teams will be looking for a receiver, but “only” 6 of them really need one. Though unlikely, it’s possible that none of Corey Davis, John Ross or Mike Williams are on the board at 14.
Wild Card: This is pure speculation, but if the Eagles are looking to trade up, the Bills seem a likely destination. Buffalo could be looking to add another pick and moving back 4 spots won’t burn them from getting a top prospect, while for the Eagles, getting ahead of the Saints, whose needs match up with theirs, is strong incentive to get in ahead of them.