It may seem curious to discuss draft needs at this point, but I think too often we are generic when we talk about what the Eagles are looking for. Remember that NFL teams make a draft board with between 80-150 players. You can go to a draft site and see a list of 40 WRs with draftable grades. The Eagles might be interested in 10 guys. That’s true of every position. NFL teams aren’t just interested in anybody. They have specific needs and specific targets.
QB – This is a mystery spot. We know the team would love to add a QB, but we don’t know which one or how early. There is a lot of speculation that the Eagles are interested in Geno Smith and EJ Manuel. The team has checked them out, but that doesn’t mean they really want the players. I think Nick Foles makes this situation tricky. If Chip Kelly thinks Nick has a serious chance to be the guy, maybe you don’t want to invest a high pick on a QB. Once you spend the early pick, you’re somewhat committed to that player. Of course, all bets are off if either Kelly sees Foles as a longshot or if Kelly falls in love with one of the prospects.
The thing to remember here is that the Eagles will only take a QB that Kelly truly wants. If he takes a pocket passer, it won’t be because that guy was good value. It will be because Kelly thinks the guy can succeed in the offense. If Kelly takes an athletic guy, it will be because he thinks the QB is or can develop into a good passer.
RB – The Eagles are set with Shady and Bryce Brown. The need here is for depth. Kelly is looking for one of two things. He’ll want a smaller RB (5-9, 195) or a bigger guy (220 pounds). Kelly would love a guy with speed, but more importantly he’ll want someone that is a N-S runner. Kelly also will want someone that can catch the ball.
H-back – James Casey is the starter. Emil Igwenagu and Clay Harbor will battle for the backup role. The Eagles could add a late rounder at this spot, but I don’t think they’d go for anyone early. The player wouldn’t just be an undersized TE. He must be a good blocker. Remember that this role has replaced the FB in the offense. On some run plays, the H-back will need to make important blocks. You must have a player who is willing to take on LBs and can do a good job of it.
TE – The need here is for an athletic pass catcher. The player will need to be 6-4 and preferably will be 6-5 or taller. He needs to be about 250 pounds. Kelly will want someone that can split out as a receiver. When it comes to blocking, effort is a must, but the player doesn’t have to be an overwhelming blocker. Receiving skills and RAC ability are key traits.
WR – It seems that the team wants a slot guy. Chip Kelly loves to use the middle of the field. This was a weakness for the 2012 Eagles. The team has looked at small and big guys. In an ideal world, I think they would love to have a small to medium-size WR with big time speed. This could be Tavon Austin, Ryan Swope, Marquise Goodwin, Josh Boyce, or Denard Robinson. Kelly wants a slot receiver who can catch the ball and make something happen. He wants someone that is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Once it gets to the late rounds or UDFA stage, the team is looking for size/speed guys.
OL – While the team hopes Danny Watkins bounces back and plays well, they can’t count on it. The goal is to add a starting OT early. Kelly will not want a massive plodder type (DJ Fluker). He will want sleek, athletic OL. And tall. Oregon’s top 4 OTs last year were 6-6 or 6-7. I don’t think Kelly will say no to a 6-5 player, but you do wonder if he’d draft a 6-4 OT. To some of you, this may seem silly. I like the fact that Kelly has very specific ideas on what he wants.
The Eagles haven’t shown any interest in pure OGs. They did work out C Khaled Holmes and were at the Pro Day of some late round Centers. It won’t surprise me in the least to see them add a C late. The hope is that Jason Kelce will be fine, but adding an athletic backup C could be wise. This player would probably be 6-3 or 6-4.
DE – Mystery time. The Eagles have looked at guys 6-4, 280, 6-6. 270, 6-3, 311 and 6-5, 320. We really don’t know what they want. We have a lot to learn about the defense. The pick could be in the 1st round, 4th, or 7th. Again, totally unsure of what’s going on here. Think about free agency. The Eagles tried to sign Ricky Jean-Francois (6-3, 295). Didn’t work out. So they moved Vinny Curry to DE (6-3, 278) and traded for Clifton Geathers (6-7, 325).
NT – Isaac Sopoaga is a short term fix here. He’s 6-2, 330. The team has hopes for Antonio Dixon, but still could add a NT. This pick would be based almost purely on draft grade. If they love a NT, maybe they go for one in the 2nd round. If they don’t love anyone, could be a late pick or even just a UDFA. I’m assuming the goal is to get someone 320 pounds or more. Height isn’t a major issue.
OLB – I think this is a critical need. I know we have Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, and Trent Cole, but it is hard to be overly confident in any of those guys. I hope they all play well, but they combined for 11 sacks last year. Graham and Cole are new to the 3-4. How will they adjust? PFF rated Graham highly, but making too much of that could prove to be fool’s gold. Once is an event. Twice is a trend. Three times is a fact. Say the Eagles spend pick 4 on a LB and then Graham, Cole, and Barwin all do play well. Good problem to have. Remember that Cole is a short term player. He could be gone in 2014. Barwin signed a cheap deal. He could be let go if the team wants. Graham is on his rookie deal and costs reasonable money. The Eagles have flexibility here.
Barwin is 6-4. I think Kelly will want taller OLBs. 6-3 might be okay, but he’d love guys to be 6-4 or above. That’s why when you guys talk about the athletic 6-1 and 6-2 guys I say I don’t expect the Eagles to be interested. I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule. If Kelly falls in love with a player, he’ll be willing to bend the rules. We don’t know who that might be so for now look for taller OLBs.
ILB – The Eagles appear to be set with Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans, but the team wants better depth. They added Jason Phillips and might sign a veteran after the draft (per Adam Caplan). The team has scouted a lot of good ILBs. There is no specific rhyme or reason. They’ve looked at smaller, athletic guys and thicker tough guys. They’ve looked at tall and short guys. This looks like another spot based more on talent than anything else.
S – I get the feeling that the Eagles like Patrick Chung and have high hopes for him. That means they’ll be looking for more of a FS in the draft. Right now Nate Allen and Kenny Phillips are battling for the job. The Eagles have looked at early, middle, and late Safeties. They’ve checked out guys that have a variety of sizes. I think they would prefer someone to be 6-1. 200, but will go down to 5-10. I do question what they’ll think of guys like Matt Elam and Shamarko Thomas. This maybe a case-by-case decision or Kelly may say that guys need to be 5-10 or more.
CB – The team added 2 CBs in free agency. They were 6-1, 190 and 6-0, 200. I’m guessing the desired size for a CB is 5-11, 190 or bigger. Getting a read on the CB situation is tough. The Eagles have been very choosy about which prospects they showed special interest in. The guys are spread from the 1st round to the late rounds. I know fans want a CB taken early, but I’m not sure that’s a done deal. With limited resources, you can’t address everything. The Eagles do like Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. And Brandon Boykin is good in the slot.
In terms of specific skills, I’m not totally sure what to look for. Would the Eagles prefer speed over ball skills? How critical is hitting/tackling? We’ll get some clues in the draft.
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I’ll put up a post tonight on trade-back scenarios and targets. So many crazy rumors going around that I’m trying to soak them all in and see if anything new pops up.
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In case you missed it, Jimmy Bama wrote the longest mock draft in history.
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David Syvertsen posted his NFC East draft preview.
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Jimmy and I did a couple of podcasts a few days back. I don’t know if I ever linked them. We are planning to do a final draft preview on Thursday morning. We’ll then do recaps each night.