The consensus on the Eagles’ needs entering the draft has been formed for a while now: a wide receiver to help replace the production of Desean Jackson, help in the defensive backfield, and a pass rusher able to threaten opposing quarterbacks.
We’ve talked a bit about the first two, and now we’ll take a look at the third. The Eagles had 37 sacks in 2013, good (or bad) for 20th in the NFL. They were a lot closer to Chicago and Jacksonville in last place (31 sacks apiece) than to Carolina in first (60.)
Improving the pass rush is also one of the best ways to improve a team’s secondary, as the cornerbacks and safeties are asked to maintain coverage for much shorter periods of time. Being able to disrupt the pocket without relying on blitzes will leave more players free to cover, as well.
This position is a bit harder to predict for the Eagles than the previous two, because there aren’t a lot of 3-4 pass rush prospects grading out around the end of the first round this year. There are a lot of high end players that should be long gone when pick 22 rolls around, and there are some that look like pretty solid later round picks. We’ll focus on those.
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu (6-foot-3) has the look of a pass rusher who can be successful at getting to the quarterback in any scheme. He set the school career sack record with 31.5 and recorded double digit sacks in both a 3-4 (10 in 2012) and 4-3 defense (12.5 in 2013.) The Eagles should be able to find Attaochu in the second or maybe even third round.
Trent Murphy, Stanford
Stanford’s Trent Murphy led the nation in sacks with 15 in 2013. Murphy has started the last three years in a 3-4 defense and captained the Cardinal. Murphy is 6-foot-5 and had the largest hands of any player to attend the combine. He only ran a 4.86 forty at the combine and may have trouble covering runningbacks and tight ends in an increasingly pass happy NFL. Murphy is another player who should go somewhere on the second day of the draft.
Trevor Reilly, Utah
Utah’s Trevor Reilly is another big (6-foot-5) prospect. With an eye popping eight forced fumbles and two interceptions in his career, Reilly could certainly be classified as a playmaker. He also had 20 career sacks. He displayed tremendous versatility with the Utes, starting games at outside linebacker, defensive end, and inside linebacker. He could be a steal for the Eagles and they should jump on him if they find him around on the draft’s final day.
Kareem Martin, UNC
North Carolina’s Kareem Martin is an end the Eagles could consider transitioning to the rush linebacker role. He had a great senior year with 11.5 sacks and showed impressive athleticism at the combine that could help him make the switch. Martin was a three year starter and team captain for Carolina and has tempting size (6-foot-6, 272.) He is another player who falls into the day two category.
Kyle Van Noy, BYU
BYU’s Kyle Van Noy (6-foot-3) was incredibly productive playing in a 3-4 in college. In four years, he recorded 25 sacks, 7 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. He has shown he can recover from injury and distractions to play and produce and has been as adept in coverage as any of the players discussed here. Van Noy will probably go late on day 2.