Unfortunately, you’re about to hear that the Eagles’ biggest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, and not for the first time. In what has become an offseason ritual in Philadelphia, the Birds will look to bolster the league’s 24th ranked passing offense and a defense that allows 7.7 yards per pass attempt, sixth worst in the NFL.
What makes matters worse: It’s not for lack of trying. The Eagles have spent a first, second and third round pick at wide receiver over the last three drafts, and traded for Dorial Green-Beckham, a 2015 second-rounder. Eric Rowe was a second round pick at cornerback jettisoned after his rookie season.
Running back, the furthest issue from anyone’s mind when LeSean McCoy was in town or when DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews were newly signed, now has to be added to the list. The Eagles will be without a 1,000 yard rusher for the second straight season, and worse,they will have gone two seasons without having a back reach even 750 yards.
Now the good news: All these positions, particularly running back and cornerback, are tremendously talented this draft. Unless the Vikings make the playoffs, the first round pick the Eagles received for Sam Bradford will be somewhere north of 20th and likely settle around 15. If you’re looking for another bright spot, if the Eaglesfinish the season 6-10, it will elevate their second round pick to the point where it is basically a second first rounder. Some of the players nabbed in the top five selections of the second round the past two drafts: Landon Collins, Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith.
The players discussed here will all fall into that first-second round group of prospects, and with the depth available at running back and cornerback, it’s almost a lock some will be available when the second day starts.
It’s hard to project how running backs will come off the board this year. A few years of reticence could be over after Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott have paid immediate dividends as rookies taken in the top 10. Running backs that could sneak that high this year are LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. Fournette’s combination of size, speed and power have had teams drooling for years, and while he’s been injury-riddled this season, he topped 1,900 yards rushing a year ago. Cook turns the corner like nobody’s business and has been insanely productive for Florida State the last three seasons.
While Oregon’s Royce Freeman won’t be leaving school, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey could easily find themselves off the board in the first round as well. McCaffrey and the Cardinals haven’t had the season everyone expected, but his talents as a receiver and returner make him the sort of do-it-all back Eagles fans have enjoyed over the past decade. Foreman was the lone bright spot in a miserable Longhorns season, rushing for 2028 yards and notching 341 against Texas Tech.
A number of corners could go off the board in the first round, and Eagles fans might see many happy days with any of them. Even better, with so many available, it’s possible the Eagles could wait for round two or even potentially double dip at the position if someone they like falls a bit. Iowa’s Desmond King and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis are both under the 6-foot mark but that hasn’t stopped them from locking down college football’s best conference the past two seasons.
Florida could see a pair of cornerbacks go off the board in the first round: Jalen Tabor has been drawing rave reviews forever but scouts who’ve travelled to Florida have left with the impression his teammate Quincy Wilson may be an even better prospect.
At wide receiver, the name on Eagles fans’ lips for months has been Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. The 6-foot-2 wideout reached 1,400 receiving yards for the third straight season while helping the Broncos to an undefeated regular season. In his career, he has 5,212 yards and 51 touchdowns. The first number is an NCAA record and the second is good for second place all-time.
An opinion: The Eagles absolutely have to help themselves at wide receiver in free agency. The need at the position is so dire and the importance of helping Carson Wentz so high that if they enter the draft with their current roster intact they will face crazy pressure to draft for need at the position. While they should by all means draft a receiver, there is such great talent available at other positions they can’t feel they have to pass on it high in the draft to take one.