From the mouth of Howie Roseman himself, we now have a pretty clear idea of what the Eagles will be doing with their first pick in the draft, and it won’t fill any immediate needs on the team. With 76 players going off the board between their first and second selections, it will be a while before they can get around to selecting players that can shore up the followingthin spots on the squad.
The question of whether it’s pertinent to spend a top ten pick on a running back –Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot –is no longer one the Eagles will have to answer. But they still have room for competition at the position alongside an injury-plagued Ryan Mathews and 32-year-old Darren Sproles.
Barring any more trades, when the Birds see their name come up on the board for the second timeit will be in the third round, with the 79th overall pick. UCLA’s Paul Perkins could still be on the board, and could contribute immediately to the kind of shared backfield the Eagles employed last year and during Andy Reid’s early seasons in Philadelphia. Perkins doesn’t wow with his speed and strength measurables, but with his stats and tape: he rushed for over 1,300 yards each of the last two seasons at UCLA.
If they look for a running back later, on day three of the draft, they might hit a home run with Georgia’s Keith Marshall. Marshall starred as a freshman for Georgia, running for 759 yards and eight touchdowns at 6.5 yards a pop while competing for touches with fellow freshman Todd Gurley. The next season, he tore his ACL, which set him back for two years. He returned to the field for 68 carries and 350 yards as a senior, and showed the breakaway speed that made him a star recruit by running a 4.31 forty at the combine. It’s a boom or bust pick, but you don’t always find this kind of boom on day three.
Similarly, “practical” draft selections of Ronnie Stanley are now off the board. After the introduction of Brandon Brooks and Stefan Wisniewski, offensive line might no longer be the disaster-area Chip Kelly left, but it still has signs of a ticking time-bomb that needs youthful reinforcements.
By the point the Eagles will be selecting, you’re probably looking for a guard who can come in and compete for playing time with Allen Barbre and Wisniewski at left guard, or a tackle who can be groomed to eventually step in at right tackle when Lane Johnson moves to the left side. Washington State’s Joe Dahl played one season at guard and the past two at left tackle, but projects as a guard in the pros due to his size (6-foot-4, 304 pounds). He was a second-team All-American in 2015.
Later in the draft, if the Eagles have spent their first round pick on Carson Wentz, they may have an opportunity to reunite him with his college left tackle, Joe Haeg. Haeg started 60 games at right or left tackle for North Dakota State, and NFL.com calls him “this years best candidate” for a non-FBS offensive lineman selected in the first 100 picks.
Temple center Kyle Friend raised eyebrows with 41 bench press reps at his pro day. The most performed by any player attending the 2016 combine was 34. He could have worked his way into the third day of the draft.
The arrival of Leodis McKelvin and resigning of Nolan Carroll lessen the immediate need at this spot. In some ways, it’s a similar situation to wide receiver, where at this point in the draft you wouldn’t find anyone who projects as an immediate upgrade over what is already in the building. Vernon Hargreaves would have walked in expected to lock down a spot from day one.
Still, the team is counting on a lot of things: McKelvin’s continued production at 31-years-old, Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd’s ability to return from injury, and Eric Rowe’s continued growth. If one of those doesn’t happen, adding a corner on the second or third day of the draft could minimize the impact.
Baylor’s Xavien Howard is one of the top rated corners who could still be around when the Eagles pick in round three. He intercepted nine passes while starting 26 games the past two seasons, but a 4.58 forty at the combine may have lowered his stock a bit. The death mark for Eagles fans might be the name Byron Maxwell being thrown around as his NFL-comparison, but rest assured that the Eagles won’t be paying Howard $63 million and, if they ever are, something will have gone very very right.
Other mid-round prospects include Maryland’s Sean Davis, and Alabama’s Cyrus Jones, both of whom have experience contributing at multiple positions: Davis started at safety before moving to corner, similar to the Eagles’ Rowe, and Jones returned four punts for touchdowns in 2015.
On the last day of the draft, we’ll again throw out a local prospect: Temple’s Tavon Young. Young would never have made it through Chip Kelly’s size requirements: he’s 5-foot-9. But he contributed for four years for the Owls and ran a 4.46 at the NFL combine.