Every year, the NFL bloggers here at SB Nation get together to do a mock draft. The setup is simple: each writer plays GM for their team and makes their first round pick. There are no trades.
Last year I had the Eagles going with Reuben Foster at No. 14. Yikes. Foster was recently charged with felony domestic violence. In fairness, I did want Derek Barnett last year, but he went off the board at No. 11. Thankfully the Eagles got Barnett in the draft that actually matters.
But enough about last year. My pick in this year’s mock draft was recently posted on SB Nation. Allow me to say I took this activity super seriously (too seriously, really) and consulted with several draft gurus before making my final selection. I also conducted a Twitter poll.
Let's assume the following players are available at No. 32 for the Eagles and they have no trade offers for the pick. Who are you taking?— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 18, 2018
Honestly, it wasn’t an easy pick. I went back and forth a number of times. But I finally came to a conclusion.
The pick: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The explanation: This was a tough choice for the defending Super Bowl champions. The pick ultimately came down to Connor Williams, Mike Hughes, Jaire Alexander, or D.J. Moore.
The Eagles don’t have a lot of immediate needs, but they do have some long-term areas they could afford to shore up. Offensive tackle is arguably at the top of the list. Starting left tackle Jason Peters turned 36 in January and he’s coming off an ACL injury. Lane Johnson is arguably the best right tackle in the league but he’s also one PED suspension from being out for two seasons. It’s true that swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai showed some positive signs while filling in for Peters last year. He also struggled at times. Big V finished the 2017 season with one of the worst pressure rates allowed in the league, per Pro Football Focus.
Drafting Williams allows the Eagles to hedge their bet on Vaitai. Plus it really wouldn’t hurt for them to be four-deep at this position when you consider Philadelphia was one snap away from either Taylor Hart (a converted defensive tackle) or Will Beatty starting at offensive tackle once Peters went down.
Williams can potentially take over as a starter in 2019 if/when Peters retires. If it turns out he can’t be a full-time player at tackle in the NFL, the Eagles can kick him inside to guard.
The downside of this pick is it doesn’t offer the Eagles immediate impact. That’s OK, though. Investing in the trenches had a huge part in Philadelphia winning their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. And with NFL teams struggling to find quality offensive linemen these days, the Eagles can take Williams here and worry about finding a slot corner or wide receiver depth elsewhere. It wouldn’t have been as easy finding a quality tackle later on in this year’s draft.
The “kick him inside to guard” thing is worth expanding on since some believe Williams won’t be able to play tackle in the NFL. It would be ideal for the Eagles to try Williams on the edge at first. If it doesn’t work, it’s not like he’d go to waste at guard. Brandon Brooks, 28, isn’t going anywhere, but Stefen Wisniewski’s future is a little less certain in the long-term. While he played well last season, he was originally the Eagles’ third option at guard in 2017 behind Isaac Seumalo and Chance Warmack. Wis turned 29 in March and his contract only runs through 2019. Williams could offer the Eagles some Allen Barbre-esque tackle-guard versatility moving forward.
Here’s what SB Nation draft analyst Dan Kadar had to say about my pick.
Analysis: There is an absurd number of good players left, and the Eagles could do with any of the players mentioned above. From a position value standpoint, Williams does make sense. It’s much harder to get a starter-quality offensive tackle later in the draft than a cornerback or wide receiver. The explanation on Williams is spot on. He would give Philadelphia a great depth piece, or someone who can push Vaitai. If Williams plays like he did in 2016, he should be able to overtake him for the starting job. Don’t forget, many thought going into last college football season that Williams could have been a top-10 pick. That talent is still there.
If trades were allowed, which they weren’t, I probably would’ve moved down a few spots from No. 32, depending on the offer. There were a number of good options but not necessarily one guy that I HAD to have.
To be completely honest with you, another tie-breaker in deciding to take Williams over Hughes and Alexander is that I’ve already written a lot about the whole “slot corner at No. 32” thing. I haven’t written as much about offensive tackle, especially since Williams doesn’t typically fall this far in most mocks.
One actual football reason why I didn’t go with a nickel in the first round is that this year’s class seems to be full of players who can fill that role.
I really, really, really like the slot CB group this year.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 16, 2018
This isn't all of them, but Avonte Maddox, Duke Dawson, Grant Haley and MJ Stewart are a few.
DJ Reed as well if teams view him in the slot. All can be "win with" players.
I probably would’ve picked Derrius Guice if he was still on the board in this mock but that wasn’t the case. The truth is I’d be fine with the Eagles taking any of the guys I mentioned, or even Justin Reid.
Hopefully I didn’t let you down too much with my pick for the defending Super Bowl champs.
For more on Williams, who met with the Eagles in Philadelphia on a pre-draft visit, check out what Ben Natan had to say about him in BGN’s offensive tackle prospect rankings.
1) Connor Williams stands slightly above the rest in this sub-par tackle class. Even after the down year he had in 2017, Williams has enough tape and experience to suggest he has a bright future. At 6’5” and 296 pounds, with shorter arms, teams may be interested in him moving to guard. However, like a lot of other conversations about conversions; he is the type of player you want to give a shot out at tackle. He is a very good athlete and possesses impressive technique and attitude when he is on top of his game. Something in 2017 seemed off about his play relative to his first two seasons, and that is worth investigating. At his best, he is a smooth blocker on the outside who has no trouble moving through the levels of a defense as a blocker. Which version of Williams teams are getting is going to be an important question, but even then he is a solid prospect who still has upside at tackle.
Grade my pick of the Eagles drafting Connor Williams at No. 32
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Who should the Eagles draft at No. 32?
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