Back for the third consecutive year is the Eagles’ first-round draft cheat sheet.
Below is a look at prospects who could hear their names called tonight. Will there be one or two surprises? Of course. But we’ll do the best we can with these 37 names.
They are split up into four categories:
Don’t count on it – These are the real longshots. The test is: Would I be legitimately surprised to see the Eagles land this player? If the answer is yes, they qualify.
If they trade up – These are players I could certainly see the Eagles having interest in, but only if they trade up.
The targets – These are the most likely candidates for the Eagles if they stay at No. 22.
Wild cards – These are players who didn’t fit into any of the first three categories for a variety of reasons.
Without further ado…
DON’T COUNT ON IT
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – It’s important for teams to find scheme fits. But if you can’t find an effective way to use Clowney in your scheme, you might want to re-consider the whole coaching thing. At 6-6, 266 pounds, Clowney ran a 4.53 40 and is deserving of the “freak” label. In the Eagles’ defense, he would likely line up on the right side, pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. Of course, Clowney’s not getting out of the top five, so Billy Davis won’t have to “worry” about how to use him.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – Mack (6-3, 251) would fill a need for the Eagles at outside linebacker. Mike Mayock ranked him above Clowney as the top prospect in this year’s class. Once again, he’s almost certainly going to be a top-five pick, and the Eagles won’t get close to him.
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder has 35-inch arms and is considered a devastating run blocker. Robinson seems like a good bet to be one of the top five players taken.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – There has been some buzz that perhaps Mike Evans will get taken before Watkins. That would surprise me. I have Watkins as the top pass-catcher in this class and don’t think it’s really that close. The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder ran a 4.43 at the combine and is electrifying with the ball in his hands. There’s no doubt in my mind that Watkins is a player Chip Kelly would love to coach. But he won’t get the chance. Watkins is going off the board early.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – The cousin of Eagles linebacker Casey, Matthews is considered more polished than Robinson. He seems like a lock to go in the top 10.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – His top similarity score on Mock Draftable is Lane Johnson. So it’s fair to say the Eagles probably like Lewan (6-7, 309). But the Birds extended Jason Peters and drafted Johnson last year, so it makes no sense to look at tackles in the first round. Besides, Lewan will be long gone by the time they pick at No. 22 anyway.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – It’s tough to figure out how much of a priority tight end will be for the Eagles. They took Zach Ertz in the second round last year and still have Brent Celek and James Casey on the roster. If the right guy falls to them on Day 2 or 3, maybe they pull the trigger. But Ebron’s not making it to No. 22, and he doesn’t seem like a logical trade-up target.
Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame – He’s a player I’m sure the Eagles really like. The reason? Versatility. Martin (6-4, 308) can play all five positions on the offensive line, according to Mayock. If the Eagles were picking in the top 15, I’d have Martin pegged as a realistic option. But at No. 22, he won’t be around.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – While the rumors have been good for talk-radio this week, I’d be legitimately surprised if the Eagles made a move for Manziel. I believe they have a first-round grade on him, and I think Kelly likes him. If he’s there at No. 22, things could get interesting. But I don’t see him falling that far, and trading up for Manziel makes little sense, considering the Eagles already have Nick Foles and have needs in other areas.
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – Much of what I said above applies. I believe the Eagles have a first-round grade on Bortles, but there’s just no reason to think they’d trade up for him.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – Howie Roseman said last week that there was debate among the Eagles’ decision-makers about whether one QB deserved a first-round grade or a second-round grade. The guess is he was talking about Bridgewater. I don’t see him as an option at No. 22.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State – Copy and paste the main points on the three QBs above.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh – This one comes down to scheme. Donald (6-1, 285) simply doesn’t have a position in a two-gap 3-4. He’s a one-gap penetrator who will likely go to a 4-3 team and make a lot of noise as a rookie.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama – Taking a tackle in the first round does not make sense to me on any level – specifically one without positional versatility. Eagles O-Line coach Jeff Stoutland coached Kouandjio at Alabama, but I don’t see him as a fit.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU – If the Eagles aren’t willing to give Brandon Boykin a chance to play on the outside, they’re not going to give Verrett (5-9) one. The guess here is he’s not even on their board.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota – From a measurables and upside perspective, Hageman makes sense. He’s 6-6, 310 and has potential. But Hageman carries the “when he wants to be” label around with him. Based on what we’ve seen over the past year, it seems unlikely that the Eagles invest a first-round pick on a player who has football character questions.
Louis Nix, DL, Notre Dame – The 6-foot-2, 331-pounder would compete with Bennie Logan for the nose tackle spot. But I’m not sure he’s versatile enough to warrant a first-round pick. Nix also has some medical concerns that could cause his stock to fall.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska – Mayock believes he sneaks into the bottom of the first round. Other respected analysts think that’s insane. Jean-Baptiste (6-3, 218) has size, but has not been a consistent performer and will be a 24-year-old rookie. I would be surprised if the Eagles ended up with him, even if they traded down.
Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee – Pretty much the same thing I said about Kouandjio above. I just don’t see the Eagles using a first-round resource on a tackle.
IF THEY TRADE UP
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – I’ve yet to find anyone who thinks he’ll make it to No. 22. Barr (6-5, 255) has unique measurables and totaled 23.5 sacks in his two seasons playing outside linebacker. Physically, he has all the tools the Eagles are looking for, even though Barr is not considered a finished product. I don’t think the Eagles are going to trade up, but if they do, the guess here is that Barr is the most likely target.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU – There’s been some buzz this week that he could be a trade-up target. There’s no doubt in my mind that Beckham is a player the Eagles will have high on their board. At 5-11, 198, he ran a 4.43 at the combine. Beckham is a smooth route-runner, can play inside or outside and adds value as a return man. Still, I don’t see a big gap between him and the guys who should be available at No. 22. So the guess here is that a trade-up for Beckham seems unlikely.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – I thought about including him in the first category. At this point, it’d be a surprise if Evans got out of the top 10. And I don’t see the Eagles being so bold as to trade up that high. I like Evans, but I don’t love him as much as others do. At 6-5 with 35 1/8-inch arms, he wins with size. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But Evans isn’t special athletically, and I’m not sure how diverse his skill set is at this point. If I’m the Eagles, I would not trade up for him. And I don’t think they will.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC – I’m tired of writing about Lee at this point. Taking into account who might fall and what the Eagles value, I think he’s the most likely candidate at No. 22. Lee tore up Oregon’s defenses in college. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands, can play inside or outside and is physical. The problems? He’s only 6-0, 192 and ran a 4.52 at the combine. Lee also had issues with drops last year. Still, I think he has a chance to be special, and the Eagles are going to have Lee high on their board.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech – Everything about Fuller screams “great fit” with the Eagles. He’s 6 feet, can play outside or in the slot, gets his hands on a lot passes, is a good tackler and was a team captain. Fuller would come in and start right away for the Eagles. Other teams might prefer a different CB in the first round. If Fuller were to fall to No. 22, he’d likely be the Eagles’ pick.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – Kelly can never have enough toys on offense. Cooks (5-10, 189) has similar size/speed numbers to DeSean Jackson, but is a different player. He attacks the ball in the air, is physical and might be best suited for the slot in the NFL. He’s not yet the vertical threat Jackson is, but he does have that speed. Cooks is one of the three most likely candidates for the Eagles at No. 22, in my opinion.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama – Based on what we saw with the Malcolm Jenkins signing, the Eagles are first and foremost looking for versatility from the safety position. Clinton-Dix’s measurables don’t jump off the page, but there seems to be little he can’t do. Under Nick Saban, the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder was asked to play deep, make plays against the run and man up against opposing receivers. If he slips to No. 22, it’s hard to see the Eagles passing, considering how much they’ve struggled to find adequate safety help in recent years.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama – A three-down linebacker who can play the run, cover and lead the defense is intriguing. Mosley (6-2, 234) would be able to contribute right away and eventually replace DeMeco Ryans. The question right now is his medical. If Mosley checks out on that front, he’ll likely be gone before No. 22. But inside linebackers don’t often get taken in the first round, and there’s at least a chance he’ll make it to the Eagles.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State – It’s tough to draw conclusions on what the Kelly/Howie Roseman regime is looking for after one year. But one thing I believe to be true: In the first round, they want guys with upside. Gilbert (6-0, 202) qualifies. He has size, length (33 1/8-inch arms) and ran a 4.37. His tape is not as good as the other top-tier corners. But if he falls to No. 22, the Eagles could bet on Gilbert’s potential.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – I struggled with where to put Roby. At 5-11, 194, he ran a 4.39 at the combine. From a measurables standpoint, only Gilbert is superior. But Roby’s performance in 2013 was not great. I think he could draw the Eagles’ interest at No. 22, but you could also make the case that he belongs in the “wild card” category.
THE WILD CARDS
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – A reader recently asked: What does Benjamin have besides size? Fair question. He’s not gifted athletically and ran just a 4.61 at the combine. But size is an asset, especially when wide receivers face man coverage and can go up and get the football. In my opinion, Benjamin would be a reach at No. 22, but if I said I knew exactly what Kelly wants at that position, I’d be lying.
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana – There’s been some buzz that he could go in the first round. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder reportedly ran a 4.44 at his Pro Day. He has the size and physicality to out-muscle defenders when the ball’s in the air. In my opinion, he would be a reach at No. 22, but if the Eagles trade back, he could be the pick.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt – I don’t see him going off the board in the first round, but others like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel disagree. Matthews (6-3, 212) ran a 4.46 at the combine and finished his career as the SEC’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. I like him for the Eagles at No. 54, but would be shocked if they considered him at 22.
Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville – In many ways, what I just wrote about Dennard applies to Pryor. His strength is delivering big hits and playing up in the box. But does he fit their scheme? Pryor’s measurables (5-11, 207, 4.58 40) don’t jump off the page. If he falls to 22, maybe they grab him, but that’s far from a certainty.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – There are a couple reasons I don’t see the Eagles taking Dennard at No. 22. The main one is I believe another team that wants to play a lot of man coverage will grab him. But even if he’s there, I’m not sure he’ll be the pick. Dennard (5-11, 199) does not have great measurables. He has short arms (30 1/4 inches) and ran an unimpressive 4.51 at the combine. He could be a very good player in the right scheme, and I’m not ready to rule him out completely, but I don’t see Dennard landing with the Eagles.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State – We included him on our list of LB targets yesterday. Shazier is listed at 6-1, 237, but there have been reports that he bulked up significantly during the pre-draft process and played at a lighter weight last season. I’m not sure about scheme fit (Shazier might be best as a 4-3 WILL), but he’s off-the-charts athletically. If the Eagles trade down, Shazier could be an option. He’d be able to contribute immediately in sub packages and eventually take over a starting role.
Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame – He’s an interesting sleeper option. Tuitt (6-5, 304) has the measurables the Eagles want out of their defensive linemen. He had 20.5 sacks in 28 starts in college. The Eagles are in good shape at the DE spots with Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, but if they trade down, Tuitt could be the best player available.
Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada – If the Eagles trade down, he’d also be an interesting name. Bitonio (6-4, 302) has the ability to play all five positions on the offensive line and is special athletically. The Eagles need to get younger at guard, and they could be intrigued by Bitonio’s versatility. He might not go off the board until Day 2.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech – If you want a potential surprise move by the Eagles in this draft, maybe it’s that they take a tight end earlier than expected. They got one last year in Ertz, but Celek turns 30 after the season, and the Eagles can save nearly $4.8 million in cap space by releasing him before 2015. I’m not saying it’s likely, but if the Eagles trade down, maybe they take a look at the 6-5, 265-pounder.