The Eagles’ plan heading into free agency was to address their positional needs so they wouldn’t be forced to reach in the draft. Chip Kelly pointed to the cornerback position specifically when asked about this at the owners meetings.
“You had some depth issues, obviously, we lost Nnamdi [Asomugha] and DRC. You don’t want to sit there with no corners,” said Kelly. “So you add a couple of guys in that situation, it gives you a little — I guess the best way to say it is — comfort knowing you don’t have to reach for somebody at No. 4 just because you don’t have somebody at that position.”
While the additions of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams this offseason takes a little bit of the edge off, I would argue that cornerback remains the greatest position of need for the Eagles in the short-term. There are simply too many question marks right now, and no sure-fire solutions on the roster.
Odds are they will be looking to add at least one corner in the draft. But who? And where?
Alabama’s Dee Milliner is the big name in this class and is a potential top-5 pick. Sheil did a full profile on Milliner if you need to read up on him. For this post, we will look at five corners outside of Milliner that the Eagles could target. We decided not to highlight Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, assuming both will be scooped up later in the first round by another team.
Johnthan Banks (Miss. St.)
Height/Weight: 6-2, 185
Projected Round: 2
NFL.com overview: Banks was recruited as a safety out of high school, and started there for the final seven games of his true freshman season for the Bulldogs. He even intercepted erstwhile quarterback Tim Tebow twice in the team’s 2009 loss to the Gators, scoring on a 100-yard return at the end of the first half. But his play at cornerback the past two seasons is what has put him on NFL scouts’ radar as a potential starter at the next level.
We know that Kelly values size, and Banks has it. He finished with a school-record 16 interceptions, and has been described as a vocal leader with a fiery personality that doesn’t shy away from big hits.
Tyrann Mathieu (LSU)
Height/Weight: 5-9, 186
Projected Round: 2-3
NFL.com overview: The 2011 Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s top defender was dismissed from LSU for multiple violations of team rules. Subsequently, he decided to enter a drug rehab center and ultimately ended up declaring for the draft instead of transferring. When on the field, the undersized but ultracompetitive turnover machine (six forced fumbles, two interceptions in 2011) brings the physicality of a bigger player in his tackles, no matter where he plays. Mathieu is also a game-changer as a punt returner, ranking fourth in the country [in 2011] with 16.2 yards per attempt and scoring two touchdowns.
Not ideal size for Kelly, but the “Honey Badger” blew it up against Oregon in 2011, recording 10 tackles, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. It is a big risk-reward pick, and comes down to whether you think you can keep Mathieu on the straight and narrow.
Darius Slay (Miss. St.)
Height/Weight: 6-0, 192
Projected Round: 2-3
NFL.com overview: Slay has a good build for the position and long arms. Gets good use out his length and will use his hands to disturb receivers during the route. Very good at attacking the hands and arms as the receiver goes for the reception, forces a lot of drops. Works across the face of his blockers, and creates separation with his length. Physical tackler. Solid hands. Talented special teams player and a hard worker.
Slay is the draft’s fastest corner. He has the measurables that Kelly seems to gravitate towards, and the physical type of play that he seeks. The Eagles had Slay in for an official visit.
Brandon McGee (Miami)
Height/Weight: 5-11, 193
Projected Round: 4
NFL.com overview: The next Miami cornerback with great speed to pique the interest of NFL scouts, McGee also presents enough size to stand up to NFL receivers on the outside. However, McGee had an up-and-down senior season, and was challenged and successfully beaten on numerous occasions.
Draft Scout describes McGee as a top high school recruit who didn’t live up to the billing. Sounds like you would be placing a bet on his natural ability, hoping he rounds into form. The Eagles had him in for a private workout.
Sanders Commings (Georgia)
Height/Weight: 6-0, 216
Projected Round: 6
NFL.com overview: A cornerback with the build of a starting outside receiver (and the athleticism to have been a late-round MLB draft pick as an outfielder) will certainly generate interest among NFL scouts. As expected given his size, Commings can be physical and bully wide receivers. However, his footwork and quickness aren’t ideal for a corner, so there is a potential conversion to safety in his future.
Commings was suspended for the first two games of his senior season after being charged with domestic violence. The Eagles had him in for a private workout.
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