Every team has different needs during NFL Draft weekend and, as you may have surmised from being a football fan for longer than 30 seconds, it informs each team’s board. The Philadelphia Eagles are no different and I have taken the liberty of selecting five position groups that could use some reinforcements from the college ranks heading into the 2024 season.
The first group up is: cornerback.
The Eagles, as far as I can tell, only have one cornerback who is going to be a free agent this offseason (Bradley Roby, who signed with the team in October after being cut by the Saints last summer) but a number of changes will still likely be made to this unit. First of all, there will be a new defensive coordinator in town (most likely Vic Fangio) and second of all…this group did not perform up to expectations in 2023 whether due to age or injury.
Here are a trio of cornerback options (not just first round!) that the Eagles should consider when they are eventually on the clock. (all measurements are from player’s college bio)
T.J. Tampa, senior, Iowa State
Measurements: 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds
Career stats: 46 games; 106 tackles (82 solo); 9.5 TFL; 3 interceptions; 22 passes defended; 1 forced fumble
Bio: Tampa, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., came to Iowa State in 2020 as a 3-star prospect after a successful high school career in football and basketball. After two seasons as a backup, Tampa started 24 games over his final two years in Ames and earned Second Team All-Big 12 (2022, coaches) and First Team All-Big 12 (2023, AP and coaches). He was also named AP Third Team All-American as a senior and was Honorable Mention Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Scouting report: The first thing you’ll notice about Tampa is his impressive size for a corner. He has long arms and is stout enough to be a real contributor in run defense. In his highlights below there are a number of big hits delivered that you’d normally expect to see from a safety, not a corner. He has an excellent ability to track the ball in the air and uses the aforementioned long arms to disrupt potential catches.
I’d wager that Tampa would be successful in any sort of defensive scheme, as he can play both man and zone coverage well. One frustrating thing about Tampa’s game is that he’ll sometimes go for a highlight reel hit, instead of wrapping up fundamentally. He has the potential to be a late first round pick, but will most likely go somewhere in the second.
Kalen King, junior, Penn State
Measurements: 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds
Career stats: 38 games; 82 tackles (58 solo); 5.5 TFL; 3 interceptions; 28 passes defended; 2 forced fumbles; 1 fumble recovery
Bio: King came to Happy Valley as a highly regarded recruit with his twin brother Kobe (a LB for PSU) and appeared in 13 games as a true freshman in 2021. During his standout sophomore campaign, King started nine games (played all 13) and led the Big Ten in passes defended (21) and pass breakups (18) while also picking off three passes. He earned a number of all-conference and All-America honors that year and was primed for a big junior season. King entered the season on the Thorpe Award, Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award, and Lott IMPACT Trophy watch lists. While he didn’t quite live up to these lofty preseason accolades, he was still named Second Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media.
Scouting report: There was talk of King being a first round prospect before this season started, but I’d wager that ship has sailed unless he has some sort of historic performance at the NFL Combine. However, there is still plenty to like about King’s game as a depth piece for Philadelphia’s secondary now with the potential of being a starter down the road. I’ve been following King since his high school days at Cass Tech, a football factory in Detroit, because my Wisconsin Badgers were interested in him and his brother and a thing that has always stood out for King is his athleticism.
He isn’t the biggest or strongest corner in the draft, but he is fast and fluid in coverage. He is a willing tackler but his below average strength sometimes hinders his ability to get through/around blocks. King is smart and quick to recognize plays, but he’ll probably do best on a team that allows him to develop for a year or two before being thrust into a big on-field role. I’d guess he’s a late second or third round pick.
Max Melton, fourth-year junior, Rutgers
Measurements: 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds
Career stats: 43 games; 114 tackles (79 solo); 9 TFL; 1 sack; 8 interceptions; 30 passes defended; 1 forced fumble; 4 fumble recoveries; 4 blocked kicks; 1 touchdown; returned three punts for 61 yards in his career
Bio: A native of South Jersey, Melton comes from a long line of Rutgers athletes. His older brother Bo played wide receiver there (currently plays for the Green Bay Packers) while both of his parents (dad played football, mom played basketball) competed for the Scarlet Knights. He was named to the Fourth Team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele for his last three seasons and was consensus Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (coaches and media) during his last two seasons. During his third year on campus he led the nation in blocked kicks (three) while starting all 12 games at cornerback. He’ll be playing in the Reese’s Senior Bowl at the beginning of February and was also invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
Scouting report: Similar to Tampa, Melton has good size for the cornerback position and uses it to his advantage when stepping up in run support or when tackling receivers in open space. He has really good ball skills and appears to have an almost preternatural ability to slither past blockers and get his hand on kicks. Something I noticed while watching his highlights is that he seems to play pretty far off the man he is marking and, while he was able to close and make the play (it was his highlight reel after all, I’m sure there were other times where he gave up completions because he didn’t break back to the ball in time. All the tools are there for Melton to be a useful piece in an NFL secondary but he’ll need a few years before he’s ready to contribute fully. Probably a fourth or fifth pick.