Running back! Wide receiver! Cornerback! Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, check out our preview of a few other positions receiving far too little coveragein the run-up to the draft.
The age of the Eagles offensive line, which the team ignored in the draft for a few years after selecting Lane Johnson at the top of the first round, has been a concern the past few seasons. But while the line doesn’t yet feel significantly different, that worry is fairly in the past. The additions of Chance Warmack (25 years old) and Brandon Brooks (27) at guard the last two offseasons have helped, especially if Warmack’s addition allows last year’s third-round pick Isaac Seumalo (23) to compete for the starting position at center. To every writer’s distress, Halapoulivaati Vaitai (23) might become a capable starter at tackle.
So the Eagles are good to ignore the position in the draft for the next couple years again, right? That probably wouldn’t be the best course of action. We haven’t seen Seumalo at center yet — but if he isn’t the solution at center, one is still needed. Jason Peters is admirably defeating Father Time, but the latter remains undefeated and Johnson is one PED offense away from a two-year suspension. The Eagles can’t have enough depth at tackle.
So who is out there in the draft at offensive line, particularly center and tackle? The needs aren’t critical enough (and there are critical needs elsewhere) to think the Eagles will be planning to look here on day one. They did meet with first-round-graded Forrest Lamp at the combine, however. Lamp played left tackle for four years at Western Kentucky but is projected as a guard in the NFL due to his size: 6-foot-4, 309 pounds. It may not be the best fit, but just remember: The Eagles prize versatility and athleticism in their linemen. In his final bowl game, Lamp scored on a designed tackle screen. Mike Mayock ranks Lamp as the best interior line prospect.
Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton and LSU’s Ethan Pocic are a pair the Eagles have also been linked with who will probably go off the board sometime the second day. Moton is similar to Lamp in that he spent most of his time in college at tackle but played guard in 2015 and has been scouted at both positions. He’s a little larger (6-foot-5, 319 pounds). Both contributed heavily to their smaller programs’ recent success. Again, his versatility will appeal to Philadelphia, as will the fact that he started every game the last four years. Their line could use that consistency.
Pocic brings the versatility to the inside of the line. The consensus-best center prospect, Pocic is unusually tall for the center spot (6-foot-6, 291 pounds) and has used that size to play all across the line. He didn’t take the combine by storm, and that, combined with his frame, could provide some leverage problems working against NFL defensive tackles.
If you’re looking for a late round prospect, the Eagles have paid significant attention to UCLA players in recent years (and this one, see one Fabian Moreau) and they met with tackle Conor McDermott at the combine. McDermott didn’t do the bench press at the combine, and strength is the major concern, surprisingly, for this massive 6-foot-8, 307 pound player.
Defensive front seven
On the other side of the ball, the front seven has also been deprived of its fair share of coverage this offseason, while flashier positions of need take the headlines (and body) of articles. But what has been the Eagles’ strength is starting to look decidedly thin. Neither Connor Barwin nor Vince Curry were the pass rushers last season that they were in previous systems, and Barwin is now gone. With Bennie Logan also gone, Beau Allen has gone from nice depth to a time-to-prove-it starter, and last year’s undrafted free agents have become the depth at defensive tackle.
The linebacking core isn’t looking much better. Mychal Kendricks saw limited time last season and has been brought up in endless trade rumors, but if he leaves, who is replacing him for the Eagles? Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are set, but beyond that this position is murky. Free agency’s opening frenzy has passed without any splashes, so it seems if depth is coming, it must be through the draft.
If you’re looking for a lot more than just depth, the Eagles just hosted a predraft visit for Alabama’s Reuben Foster, the latest in a long line of Crimson Tide chart-toppers. Foster won the Butkus Award (best linebacker), SEC Championship Game MVP and was named First-Team All-American in 2016. He entered the combine as the best interior linebacker prospect in the draft, but left early after a bizarre situation involving an exchange with a hospital worker there.
That incident, along with the fact that it caused no drills to be completed by Foster, might slide him into the Eagles’ range at 14, and certainly explain the team wanting to bring him in and ask him about what happened. If the team thinks he can play weak-side linebacker in the NFL, he’d be an instant solution to the Kendricks situation.
They’ve paid attention to other Alabama products as well (which seems prudent). Most relevant to our discussion today is another linebacker: scheme-versatile Ryan Anderson, and one of the less-mentioned Alabama D-lineman: Dalvin Tomlinson. Tomlinson didn’t make noise as a pass-rusher, but did an excellent job freeing up the others on the Crimson Tide’s line and could do the same for Curry, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. He didn’t have much time as a starter in college, as you may recall Alabama’s pair of highly rated defensive tackles in the 2016 draft, as well as Jonathan Allen in this years.
Anderson only completed the 40 at the combine, and didn’t light it on fire (4.78 seconds). But the Eagles have already brought him in for a visit. Evaluating Alabama talent is always difficult because it’s impossible to know how the players will perform when they are no longer surrounded by superior talent.
So if you’d prefer to look elsewhere for your defensive players, check out LSU’s Kendell Beckwith, who has slipped down draft boards after tearing his ACL before his bowl game. Beckwith recovered enough to perform 20 reps in the bench press at the combine where the Eagles interviewed him. The injury won’t help his ability to play the outside and cover backs and tight ends, but at 6-foot-2, 243 pounds, he could provide some depth behind Jordan Hicks and may be available later than he otherwise would have.
Another player coming off injury worth taking a late-round gamble on: UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes. Vanderdoes missed all but the first game of 2015 after tearing his ACL. He did start every game in 2016, but his production dipped and concerns about his weight persisted. He may have allayed those at the combine, weighing in at 305 pounds and running a 4.99 40-yard. If he regains the promise that saw him become an honorable mention All-Pac-12 Team as a freshman and sophomore, he could be a late steal.