Who will the Philadelphia Eagles select with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft? We won’t know the answer to that question for sure until 36 days from now. In the meantime, here’s an interesting note from Kyle Scott of Crossing Broad.
Little birdie: The Eagles will take a defensive lineman in the first round.— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) March 21, 2017
As with any rumor, you have to take it with a grain of salt, but this one just might be worth your attention. Kyle had Alshon Jeffery to the Eagles a few hours before the signing was official. He also had inside info on the unexpected Stefen Wisniewski re-signing.
Now, it’s easy to be skeptical when it comes to reports about who teams will draft. There’s still so much time before the draft even takes place. Players can get hurt (see: Sidney Jones) or arrested. Teams can change their minds. And then the draft itself is a fluid process. A player might fall to the Eagles who they didn’t expect to be there. Or none of the players they desire could make it to their pick. It’s hard to believe they’re 100% locked in on taking a certain player from a certain position.
With that said, it would not be surprising to see the Eagles draft a defensive lineman this year. Defensive end and defensive tackle are both big needs for the team. The Eagles cut Connor Barwin and let Bennie Logan walk in free agency so there are starting jobs up for grabs. It’s possible the Eagles could rely on internal replacements with Vinny Curry at end and Beau Allen at tackle, but they’re not exactly slam dunk options. The Eagles only trusted Curry to play 40% of the team’s defensive snaps last season. Allen has been a nice contributor as a rotational player but can he handle a full-time role?
Aside from the need factor, there’s also the fact the Eagles highly value defensive linemen. It’s an organizational philosophy. The team handed out big money extensions to Curry and Fletcher Cox last offseason. The Eagles hired a defensive coordinator in Jim Schwartz who prioritizes rushing the passer with the front four. On numerous occasions, Howie Roseman has talked about the importance of building through the trenches.
A look at this front office’s draft history suggests a defensive lineman could easily be the pick in the first round. Andy Reid might not Philadelphia’s head coach anymore but his influence is still apparent on the organization. Since becoming a head coach in the NFL, eight of Big Red’s 14 first round selections have been defensive linemen. Three out of Roseman’s six picks in the first round have been defensive linemen. Joe Douglas wasn’t responsible for making the picks during his time with Baltimore, but the Ravens drafted defensive tackle Haloti Ngata at No. 12 in 2006. In Douglas’ sole year with the Bears, Chicago drafted edge rusher Leonard Floyd at No. 9.
Now that we’ve established the evidence is there to support the rumor, who might the Eagles take at No. 14? We looked at some first round defensive end options earlier this offseason. Here’s a reminder of Mike Mayock’s top edge rushers.
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2. Solomon Thomas, Stanford
3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
5. Tim Williams, Alabama
Garrett is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick so you can cross him off the list. There’s been buzz about Thomas going as high as No. 2 but other mocks have him available later, so who knows. Barnett is the guy who seems like he could be the most realistic Eagles target in terms of being available. If I had to make a guess right now, he’d be the pick. (Read more about him here.)
Of course, the Eagles might be eyeing up a defensive tackle instead of an end. Mayock’s top five:
1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama
2. Caleb Brantley, Florida
3. Malik McDowell, Michigan State
4. Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte
5. Chris Wormley, Michigan
Allen is widely expected to be off the board at No. 14. McDowell intrigues me the most given his versatility and athleticism.
Defensive line would not be the most exciting pick at No. 14. The Eagles would still need a pair of new cornerbacks, some long-term help at wide receiver, and a lead running back. But the Eagles might figure that they can address some of those positions later in the draft. As we’ve pointed out a billion times by now, the corner talent this year is supposed to be really deep. (Not to mention a better pass rush could help make life easier on the corner the Eagles take.) There should be some good running backs available after Day 1 as well.
It could be viewed as a concern if the Eagles are locked into taking a defensive lineman at No. 14 instead of focusing on taking the best available player. There have been a number of “reaches” during Roseman’s tenure so it’s not exactly like he totally deserves the benefit of the doubt.
All of the mock drafts have the Eagles taking corners, wide receivers, and running backs. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that defensive line is a real possibility at No. 14, rumor or not.