Eagles Draft Cheat Sheet: Defensive Options

If you missed part one on the offense, click here.

Now, for the defense. Here are 23 potential first-round prospects to round out the top-40. With each name, you’ll find a short description on how he might fit with the Eagles, along with the likelihood of the player ending up in Philadelphia.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Sharrif Floyd, Florida – I’ve really struggled with determining whether he could be an option for the Eagles. On one hand, pretty much everyone agrees that Floyd is best suited as a 3-technique (lining up between the guard and tackle) defensive tackle in a 4-3. Floyd’s strengths are his quickness and ability to burst into the backfield and be disruptive. That’s negated in a classic 3-4. Then again, not all 3-4s are created the same, and we don’t know exactly what the Eagles plan on running. Floyd (6-3, 297) is only 20-years-old, from Philadelphia and could quite possibly be the “best player available” at No. 4 when the Eagles are on the clock. My sense is that the Eagles won’t want to spend a high pick on a player who might not be a perfect scheme fit, especially since they’re essentially building from the ground up. But I won’t rule Floyd out completely. Teaming him up with Fletcher Cox on the interior in pass-rushing situations would give opposing offensive lines fits.

** Note: I changed my mind a bit on Floyd. Details here.

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri – The write-up for Richardson (6-2, 294) is similar. He seems best suited as a 4-3 DT, but does bring some versatility to the table. In a 3-4, he would be a 5-tech defensive end. I watched one game where he lined up all over the place, often standing up in a two-point stance across from the guard and center before rushing the quarterback. Richardson is not tall, but he has long arms (34 1/2-inches). Don’t think he’s on the Eagles’ radar at No. 4, but can’t rule him out if they trade down.

Star Lotulelei, Utah – There are no scheme questions with Lotulelei (6-2, 311). He can play the nose or 5-technique in a 3-4 and can be an interior pass-rusher in sub packages. Lotulelei was diagnosed with a heart issue at the Combine, but Howie Roseman said he’s been cleared by the Eagles. Still, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at least three teams have taken him off their boards. If Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Dion Jordan are all off the board at No. 4, Lotulelei could be an option. He could also be a candidate if the Eagles trade down.

Sylvester Williams, North Carolina – You can see why evaluators and analysts really like this group of defensive linemen. Lots of first-round talent. Williams (6-3, 313) can play in multiple spots on the defensive line, including nose tackle. I don’t think he’s a first-round target, but he could be an option at No. 35 in the second round.

Jesse Williams, Alabama – Absolutely a name to watch at No. 35, as I mentioned yesterday. Greg Cosell of NFL Films said recently that he doesn’t see a huge difference between Lotulelei and Williams (6-3, 323). It’s no secret that the Eagles are in need of bodies on the defensive line, and Williams can play either the nose or 5-technique.

Bjoern Werner, Florida State – Everything I’ve read projects the 6-3, 266-pounder as a 4-3 defensive end. Nothing I’ve heard suggests he’s a scheme-flexible player who could play outside linebacker in a 3-4. In other words, don’t think he’s an option for the Eagles.

Datone Jones, UCLA – Another potential second-round target. Jones (6-4, 283) can play 5-technique in a 3-4 and move inside in four-man fronts.

Margus Hunt, SMU – And one more second-round target. We wrote about him yesterday too. You won’t find too many humans who are 6-8, 277 and can run a 4.60 40. Hunt would play the 5-technique defensive end spot, although I’m not sure how versatile he would be.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Dion Jordan, Oregon – I think there’s a pretty good chance we might be over-thinking things with Jordan. He has length (6-6, 248), versatility, upside, and Kelly loves his make-up. If Fisher and Joeckel go off the board in the top three, and the Eagles stay put, I’d label him the favorite to be the pick. At the very least, you get a movable piece on defense, who can rush the passer and cover at a high level. And his ceiling is a double-digit sack guy off the edge.

Ziggy Ansah, BYU – Let’s start with numbers: 6-5, 271, 4.63 40, 35 1/8-inch arms. If Ansah, a native of Ghana, had started playing football two or three years earlier, he might be the consensus top pick in the draft. But he only started playing the game after years of soccer, basketball and track. And he ended up with only one year of real playing time at the D-1 level. In other words, he’s incredibly raw (and will turn 24 in May).

Ansah seems best-suited to play defensive end in a 4-3, but I included him in the outside linebackers category here. Given his size and athleticism, he could probably rush the passer from multiple spots in a four-man front. It’s easy to label him a Combine creation, but the truth is Ansah is just new to the game. Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com put up a good post about Ansah, and I agree with him. If I had to pick a side right now, I’d say he’s more likely to have a really good career than be a bust. And with his length and versatility, I’m not ready to rule him out as a surprise pick for the Eagles at No. 4.

Tank Carradine, Florida State – Ansah is my sleeper if the Eagles stay at No. 4. Carradine is my sleeper if they trade down. At 6-4, 276 with 33 3/4-inch arms, he has the size and athleticism to play in a variety of spots – DE or DT in a four-man front, rush linebacker in a 3-4. The question with Carradine has been medical. He tore his ACL in November, and the Eagles reportedly had him in for one of their 30 official visits. If healthy, many analysts believe he could end up being the best pass-rusher in the draft. You might not see him up high in a lot of mocks, but don’t be surprised if Carradine goes in the top half of the first round Thursday night.

Barkevious Mingo, LSU – Another pass-rushing outside linebacker. I have a difficult time seeing the Eagles going with Mingo (6-4, 241) over Jordan, but I’ve been wrong before. If the Birds trade down, though, he could be an option.

Jarvis Jones, Georgia – He was the most productive defensive player in college football last year. Playing in the SEC, Jones led the nation with 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He has the spinal stenosis issue and did not test well at the Combine. Jones (6-2, 245) doesn’t have the measurables Kelly seems to find appealing. But he falls in the “just a football player” category. It’ll be fascinating to see how his career plays out, but I don’t see the Eagles using their first-round pick on Jones.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Alex Ogletree, Georgia – If I’m being honest here, I have no clue how many inside linebackers are going to go off the board in the first 40 picks, but I only included Ogletree. He’s had several “character” issues, including a DUI arrest in February, but Ogletree (6-2, 242) will likely be one of the first inside linebackers off the board. I don’t expect the Eagles to take an inside linebacker early, but a couple other names to know are Kansas State’s Arthur Brown (6-0, 241, brother of Bryce) and LSU’s Kevin Minter (6-0, 246).

CORNERBACKS

Dee Milliner, Alabama – Has a cornerback body (6-0, 201) and ran a 4.37 at the Combine. The only thing I’ve seen people question about his game is his backpedal. Milliner also required shoulder surgery this offseason, but remember that he played through the injury in the final four games last year and participated in the Combine. Only two corners in the last 10 drafts have been taken in the first five picks, and they both had return ability. Milliner could be an option for the Eagles if they trade down.

D.J. Hayden, Houston – Mike Mayock and Cosell both have him as the top corner in the draft. Hayden (5-11, 191) nearly lost his life after a collision in practice last November, but seems to now be in the clear (I know, easy for me to say). He has good size, good athleticism and is expected to be a first-round pick. As for the Eagles, same line as above. If they trade back, corner could be an option.

Xavier Rhodes, Florida State - If the Eagles prefer bigger corners, Rhodes (6-1, 210) could be a fit. The three-year starter for the Seminoles ran a 4.43 at the Combine. Again, expected to go in the first round, so I’m not sure the Eagles will be in a position to draft him.

Desmond Trufant, Washington – Kelly should be familiar with Trufant from his time in the Pac-12. The four-year starter clocked a 4.38 at the Combine, and Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports recently compared him to Asante Samuel. Trufant could land in the back end of the first round, but if he slips to 35, the Eagles could take a look at him.

Jamar Taylor, Boise State – The draft projection for Taylor (5-11, 192) is similar. He ran a 4.39 at the Combine and should get a look from CB-needy teams at the bottom of the first round. But if Taylor is still on the board Friday night, the Eagles could take him.

SAFETY

Kenny Vaccaro, Texas – One of these years, the Eagles have to hit on a safety, right? Vaccaro (6-0, 214) has the versatility to come up and play the slot or hang back and play center-field. He’s expected to be a first-round pick and could be an option if the Eagles trade back (I know, I sound like a broken record). The guess here is that they address safety later in the draft.

Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International - Some believe he could be a better prospect than Vaccaro. Cyprien (6-0, 217) has similar measurables to Vaccaro and will likely go in the second half of the first round. He’d be a fit with the Eagles, but they probably won’t be in position to take him.

Eric Reid, LSU – Safety rankings likely vary quite a bit, depending on the team, but Roseman has said there are a lot of starting-caliber players at the position this year. Reid (6-1, 213) ran a 4.53 at the Combine, but there are some questions about his versatility (specifically in coverage). Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com said teams are split on Reid. It’s difficult to guess how the Eagles have their safeties ranked, but Reid could be an option at No. 35.

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Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

With the NFL draft only eight days away, here’s the latest mock draft roundup with projections for the Eagles at No. 4.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has the Birds taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

With Michael Vick currently under contract, quarterback isn’t a huge need for the Eagles, but head coach Chip Kelly will be on the lookout for the long-term solution at the position. Smith has all the physical tools for Kelly’s offense and would be able to sit and digest the playbook and not thrown into the fire on day one.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com thinks it’ll be Smith too:

With this move, Chip Kelly would be getting a young quarterback who has experience playing in an up-tempo offense. Michael Vick’s veteran presence will give Smith some time to sit and learn before he takes the reins in Philly.

OurLads.com also has the Eagles taking Smith:

Demonstrates good accuracy vertically as well as horizontally. Sudden release. Snaps ball out to perimeter receivers after setting his feet. Ready to pull the trigger at all times. Right on target with his passes.Student of the game. Can fire a dart through a smoke ring.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com has Smith:

I know it’s too high for him, but the Eagles can’t survive with Michael Vick.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com says it’ll be Smith:

Michael Vick has proven unreliable. Nick Foles, despite what the Eagles are saying publicly, is clearly not a fit in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Thus, this seems to be the logical spot for Smith, the most gifted talent of an average quarterback class. The Eagles are certainly doing their homework on the strong-armed quarterback. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly traveled to Morgantown to put the former Mountaineer quarterback through a personal workout three days before WVU’s scheduled Pro Day.

Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle goes with Smith:

I was told to “plug Geno in here” by a league source and I usually listen when this guy speaks.  Kelly’s offense probably won’t ask the QB to run as much as people would like to believe, but I do think his offense will try to stretch the field and play up-tempo which is something that Geno Smith is used to.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has the Birds trading down to No. 7 with the Cardinals and picking Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei:

Honestly I could have Philly going four different ways with this pick. Part of me wants to give them an athletic guard, part of me wants to give them Geno with a move down and part of me wants them to take a pass-rusher. But I think they’ll see serious value in Lotulelei as a guy who can wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines.

Nate Davis of USA Today has the Eagles taking Lotulelei with the No. 4 pick:

It makes sense to connect Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan to the Eagles given new coach Chip Kelly’s familiarity with him from their days together in Eugene, Ore. But Philadelphia has already invested in free agent linebacker Connor Barwin and has some intriguing candidates to start opposite him in the team’s new 3-4 defense. But they really need help on the D-line, and Lotulelei can play anywhere along the three-man front.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com goes with Lotulelei also:

Big, fast, strong and tough. He would be a great fit in the middle.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has Lotulelei as well:

Of all the teams in the top five overall, the Eagles did the best job in free agency and are most free to take the best available player for their schemes. The D-line isn’t a pressing need, but Lotulelei is a top-five talent and would give the Eagles another solid 3-4 end and some flexibility in their new 3-4 hybrid scheme.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post has Lotulelei:

For the Eagles new 34 defense to be successful they will need to find a strong and powerful nose tackle to anchor the middle of it and Lotulelei fits the bill perfectly. He can be the man in the middle of their 34 defense and brings the versatility to also line up at DT when they align in four man fronts.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan:

Chip Kelly coached him and needs a guy like Jordan for the new 3-4 defense. Mike Vick is a short-term answer at QB and Nick Foles should be in a different offense. The Eagles could miss on Geno Smith, but could come back later for EJ Manuel.

Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com goes with Jordan too:

The Eagles’ defensive backfield has undergone an extreme makeover. Four new defensive backs — Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips — should be in the starting lineup. With those additions, I don’t see the Eagles going with Dee Milliner, the cornerback out of Alabama. Dion Jordan, a fantastic athlete who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, could be the guy here. Jordan is most favorably compared to Aldon Smith, the electric outside linebacker in San Francisco.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting thinks the Birds will take Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd:

While I prefer Sheldon Richardson over Sharrif Floyd as a prospect, Floyd seems to be more highly viewed by NFL teams, and can step in and play the 5-technique spot on day one opposite Fletcher Cox.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports also goes with Floyd:

The thought of Chip Kelly taking former Oregon endbacker Dion Jordan is obvious and appealing in some schematic senses, but when a team moves from 4-3 to 3-4 principles, versatility is the order of the day, and nobody plays more roles on the line with more impact than Floyd.

SI.com’s Don Banks thinks Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel will still be available:

I still can’t pull the trigger on the Eagles taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, because my sense is Chip Kelly views Florida State’s E.J. Manuel a more viable option early in the second round. In Joeckel, the Eagles get one of the draft’s elite offensive tackles and give themselves alternatives as both starters at the position, Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, return from injury-marred 2012 seasons.

Charles Davis of NFL.com has the Birds going with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner:

Some recent buzz had Geno Smith being a bit of a surprise pick here. Here’s my surprise choice, after previously penciling OT Lane Johnson into this spot.

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Joeckel, Milliner, Escobar To Visit Eagles

A few new names to add to the Eagles’ list of official visits: Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner and San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar.

NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported the Joeckel and Milliner interest. Tony Pauline had the Escobar nugget.

We profiled Joeckel back in February. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder is considered the best or second-best offensive tackle prospect in the draft (along with Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher). It would be a huge upset if he didn’t go in the top five, and there’s a good chance Andy Reid and the Chiefs could take him first overall.

If Joeckel happens to slip to No. 4, the Eagles would have to give strong consideration to making him their pick.

We profiled Milliner a couple weeks ago. At 6 feet, 201 pounds, he’s considered the top cornerback prospect in the draft. But in the last 10 years, only two corners have gone in the top five, and both had return ability. Milliner might be more of a possibility if the Eagles trade down.

Escobar is an intriguing prospect. The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder caught 42 balls for 543 yards last season, scoring six touchdowns. Like most at his position, Escobar is considered more of a pass-catcher than a blocker. But he could have the versatile skill set that Chip Kelly covets.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles signed tight end James Casey from the Texans. They’ve also got Brent Celek and Clay Harbor on the roster, but Harbor is no lock to make the team.

Below is a Draftbreakdown.com cut-up of Escobar from a 2012 game against Boise State.

Click here for a full list of reported Eagles draft visits and prospect workouts.

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Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

Here’s this week’s roundup of mock drafts, along with projections for who analysts have the Eagles taking with the No. 4 pick.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay thinks the Eagles will go with Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher:

The Eagles have addressed a lot of other needs already this offseason, especially in terms of finding good fits along the front seven in their new 3-4 scheme. Many personnel evaluators in the NFL think Fisher is just as good as — if not slightly better than — Joeckel, and Philadelphia would get one of the premier players in this class. Both Jason Peters and Todd Herremans return from injury this season, but there is no guarantee they will remain healthy, and Fisher’s movement skills make him a good fit in the up-tempo scheme new head coach Chip Kelly will install.

McShay also lists second-round picks and has the Eagles getting Florida State QB EJ Manuel with the 35th overall selection.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com thinks it’ll be Fisher too:

Fisher has shown that he’s light on his feet and moves very well. I think he’ll get much better as he gains experience; he’s an excellent, excellent prospect.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also goes with Fisher:

He’s been rising after a strong showing at the combine.

Optimum Scouting has the Eagles taking Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan:

New head coach Chip Kelly has said that he wants more size and versatility on the defense. While Star Lotulelei would add to the interior of the defense, adding his former dynamic defender may have more value for Kelly’s defense.

SI.com’s Don Banks also goes with Jordan:

Chip Kelly got a little vague last week at the NFL annual meeting when I asked him how you get a whole new team to practice at the extreme up-tempo pace he prefers. But I suppose having a talented former Duck like Jordan around to help set an example on defense would prove useful. Especially if he happens to be an ideal upgrade for an Eagles pass rush and a ready-made cog to help Philly in its transition to a 3-4 defense.

Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has Jordan as well:

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will both be playing elsewhere in 2013 and it appears as though Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams could be the new starting cornerbacks in Philadelphia. Dion Jordan, a young man who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, could be the guy at No. 4. Jordan is most favorably compared to Aldon Smith, the electric outside linebacker in San Francisco.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd:

Philadelphia wants to add big, strong athletes to the roster and adding Floyd to the mix fits that description. He is a similar prospect as the Eagles’ first round pick from last year Fletcher Cox, but a talent like Floyd might be too good to pass up.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com has the Eagles landing West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

OK, I’ve bought in. Chip Kelly can’t depend on Michael Vick to run his offense. Someone better must be there, and Smith might be that someone.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com also has Smith to the Birds:

Mike Vick is a short term answer at best and Nick Foles doesn’t really fit in this offense. Chip Kelly may want to wait one round for EJ Manuel but Jeff Lurie did attend the Smith workout.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com goes with Smith too:

Michael Vick has proven unreliable. Nick Foles, despite what the Eagles are saying publicly, is clearly not a fit in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Thus, this seems to be the logical spot for Smith, the most gifted talent of an average quarterback class. The Eagles are certainly doing their homework on the strong-armed quarterback. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly traveled to Morgantown to put the former Mountaineer quarterback through a personal workout three days before WVU’s scheduled Pro Day.

Akbar Gbajabiamila of NFL.com has the Eagles landing Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel:

Chip Kelly’s NASCAR offense is about to hit the NFL, and the Eagles have many of the skill positions covered. But in order to get the offense going, the quarterback must be protected. Joeckel fits the need. This would give the team a stellar pair of bookend tackles in Joeckel and five-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters (expected back from injury).

Adam Teicher of The Kansas City Star also goes with Joeckel:

Fisher would be the pick if Chiefs go with Joeckel.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has the Birds taking Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner:

Yes, they signed some corners, but they take another here.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post predicts Utah DT Star Lotulelei:

As the Eagles make the switch to a 34 defense they need to fill a number of positional needs and none is more important than a nose tackle. With his ability to physically dominate blockers at the POA, now that he appears to have overcome medical questions he would be an ideal choice to anchor the middle of the Eagles’ defensive front.

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NFL Draft Profile: Alabama CB Dee Milliner

This is the fourth in a series. Click the link for profiles on Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oregon’s Dion Jordan. Between now and April’s draft, we’ll profile as many prospects as possible.

THE RESUME

For the fifth year in a row, Alabama is expected to produce a top-10 pick.

And the prime candidate to keep the streak alive for the two-time defending national champs is cornerback Dee Milliner.

At 6 feet, 201 pounds, he’s got the size. At the Combine, he ran a 4.37 40, answering questions about his speed. And having played three years at Alabama under Nick Saban, he’s got the experience.

Milliner is the consensus top cornerback prospect in April’s draft. He appears to be a sure bet to go in the top 10, and there’s a chance he could be selected in the top five. In the last 10 drafts, only two cornerbacks – Patrick Peterson in 2011 and Terence Newman in 2003 – have gone in the top five. And both had ability as return men, something Milliner does not possess.

But the 21-year-old is considered one of the “cleaner” prospects in the draft. Rated by Scout.com as the top cornerback recruit in the nation coming out of Stanhope Elmore high school in Alabama, Milliner started 11 games as a true freshman. The following season, he was the team’s third corner, behind Dre Kirkpatrick (a first-round pick last year) and DeQuan Menzie (a fifth-round pick).

“When I got into my sophomore year I had the stress fracture in my shin, so I didn’t know if I could play or not,” Milliner said at the Combine. “And then DQ [Menzie] stepped up and did some great things for us, and the coaches felt the need to play him and let me come in in nickel, and slide [him] in the inside and let me play corner.”

Last year, Milliner started 12 games and earned first-team All-American honors from a variety of outlets, including the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).

According to John Pollard of STATS, Inc, opposing QBs completed just 40.6 percent of their passes when targeting Milliner last year. He was targeted 69 times and yielded two touchdowns. Milliner only had two interceptions, but he was constantly around the ball, coming up with 22 passes defended, tied for tops in the nation.

Milliner suffered a torn labrum (shoulder) Nov. 10 against Texas A&M, but he played in the team’s final four games. Milliner put off surgery so that he could participate in pre-draft activities like the Combine.

“I just waited. I could’ve had it right after the [national championship] game, but I felt the need – I had to come out and do something,” Milliner said. “I didn’t just want to sit out the Combine and Pro Day, and then y’all guys get to wondering, saying this and that. So I just wanted to come out and showcase that I can move around, I can run, and I swing my arm around.”

Milliner expects to be finished with his rehab in mid-to-late May.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Milliner ranked second on his big board:

Has answered speed questions, now just a matter of how high he goes. Even if his backpedal needs work, he can clearly turn and run with anybody, and he has time to fix minor technique flaws. A smart player, he has a sharp learning curve, and his raw football skills are exceptional. His physical prowess is a step above that of other corners. He hits receivers and isn’t shy in run support, but with that, he is fluid and reads the game well.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network has Milliner ranked as his top corner:

What I see on tape is a tough instinctive guy who tackles, which I love; I love a corner that will tackle. When you come out of Nick Saban‟s Alabama program, especially when you’re a defensive back which Nick takes a big interest in as a former defensive back coach, you are well coached. He understands zone concepts, he plays man-to-man, he presses, he tackles.

Josh Norris of Rotoworld has Milliner 12th overall:

Sticks to receivers from the snap all the way downfield with physical play and speed to stay in hip pocket. Well-built for the position and it shows when attacking ball carriers. Uses hands to disengage or keep the edge.

AN EAGLES SLANT

The Eagles added a pair of cornerbacks – Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher – in free agency, but that should have little impact on their draft priorities.

Williams projects as a starter, but Fletcher will have to earn playing time. Remember, he’s only started eight games the past two years, and Fletcher saw two of his first three NFL seasons end because of knee injuries.

Brandon Boykin figures to play the slot, but beyond that, guys like Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes will be competing for roster spots.

If the Eagles view Milliner as the best player available at No. 4, he can come in and start right away, plus you add depth at a critical position.

Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly clearly want to bring toughness to a secondary that lacked it in 2012. Milliner would provide that.

MOCK PROJECTIONS

Kiper has Milliner going fourth to the Eagles.

So does ESPN’s Todd McShay.

Tony Pauline of USA Today has the Lions grabbing Milliner with the fifth pick.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has him going sixth to the Browns.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be the Browns too.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com says Cleveland as well.

Norris has him going to Detroit.

VIDEO BREAKDOWNS

The first cut-up from DraftBreakdown.com shows Milliner against Georgia and Notre Dame.

Milliner’s best skill is his ability to make plays on the ball. He never seems to be more than an arm’s length away from the receiver and consistently shows strong, quick hands to force incompletions.

At the 2:00 mark, you’ll see Georgia target him in the end zone, but Milliner makes a play on the ball.

Milliner played a lot of man, but at the 6:38 mark, you’ll see him make an excellent play on the ball while in zone, forcing another incompletion.

In the national title game, Notre Dame went after him all game long (perhaps because of the shoulder injury). Milliner gave up some plays, but he was always around the ball. At the 7:18 mark, he’s targeted down the right sideline, but does a great job of looking back for the ball and forcing the incompletion.

We know that Kelly values versatility, and Milliner showed that against LSU, specifically as a blitzer. At the 2:30 mark, you’ll see him go after the quarterback and pick up the sack.

I thought Milliner was exclusively an outside corner, but against LSU, he played inside too.

At the 3:01 mark, you’ll see him make a great play against the run, dropping the ball-carrier for a loss.

Milliner is an aggressive player, who is not afraid to mix it up. But he did have some issues with missed tackles. For example, at the 3:50 mark, he fails to bring down the wide receiver, who picks up some yards after the catch.

If there’s one play that shows Milliner’s full skill set, it’s at the 2:13 mark here against Michigan. He presses at the line of scrimmage and (legally) shoves wide receiver Roy Roundtree out of bounds. Milliner then turns back to the quarterback, sees the ball is coming his way, makes the interception and takes off for a 35-yard return.

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Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

It’s been awhile since we’ve rolled this feature out, so without further ado, here are three Eagles-related numbers that matter.

640 – The number of pass-rushing opportunities (snaps) Connor Barwin had for the Texans in 2012, per Pro Football Focus. In 2011, that number was 598.

“We had to drop more, we had problems at inside linebacker, we had to cover up certain things on the outside,” Barwin told reporters on Friday. “The year before we rushed every time. Last year we had to bump the tight end before we could rush, and anyone that rushes the passer knows that’s going to slow down your rush.”

Barwin was addressing the question of why his sack totals fell from 11.5 in 2011 to 3 in 2011.

The theory that he had to drop in coverage more in 2012 doesn’t hold up. In 2011, he rushed the passer 87.1 percent of the time. In 2012, it was 86.4 percent. Nearly identical.

The idea that he had to “bump the tight end” on his way to the quarterback very well could be true. In fact, that was the explanation general manager Howie Roseman gave when he said Barwin played more on the open side in 2011. We’ll take a look at the All-22 this week to see if we can sort things out.

0 – The amount of guaranteed money safety Kenny Phillips got from the Eagles, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that if Phillips isn’t healthy and the Eagles have to cut ties with him, they didn’t make much of a financial commitment.

The bad news is it probably says a lot about Phillips’ health that he was forced to settle for such a deal.

Even if Phillips is only 75 percent of the player he once was, he’d be the Eagles’ best safety since Brian Dawkins. But as the contract shows, that’s a big IF. Phillips had major surgery on his left knee in 2009 and dealt with an MCL injury in his right knee last season, missing nine games.

Because of Phillips’ injury history, I don’t think the Eagles are done at safety. Mike Mayock and Roseman have both talked about what a strong safety class this is in the draft. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles add another body as early as the second round.

With Patrick Chung now in the fold, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman should expect to be competing for roster spots this summer.

2 – The number of cornerbacks that have been selected in the top five in the last 10 drafts. The Cardinals took Patrick Peterson fifth in 2011, and the Cowboys took Terence Newman fifth in 2003.

Yesterday, we rounded up a bunch of mock drafts, and a popular pick for the Eagles at No. 4 was Alabama’s Dee Milliner. It’s certainly a strange year in that the draft isn’t as top-heavy as usual, but I wonder if Roseman and Chip Kelly will really be willing to go with Milliner. Most agree that Milliner is the best CB available and should be a solid pro. But I haven’t heard anyone predict that he’ll be a true game-changer like Darrelle Revis.

And as friend of the blog @Noah_Becker pointed out, Peterson and Newman both could be used on special teams as returners. That’s not the case with Milliner.

The more I think about it, the more I tend to believe offensive tackles Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) are probably at the top of the Eagles’ board. Of the nine offensive tackles who made the Pro Bowl last year, seven were first-round picks.

It’s possible that both Joeckel and Fisher are gone by the time the Eagles pick, but if not, they could plug one of them in at right tackle and move Todd Herremans inside in 2013. It would also provide a nice option to back up Jason Peters at left tackle and get younger at a key spot.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Twitter Mailbag: On Winston, Cook And Milliner

 Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @Mike Lederer: Could you see the Eagles going after multiple high priced offensive players such as Eric Winston & Jared Cook in free agency?

In case you missed it, Les Bowen reported Thursday that the Eagles have inquired about Winston, who was just released by Andy Reid and the Chiefs. The 29-year-old right tackle played in 15 games last season and yielded three sacks, six quarterback hits and 25 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. He graded out just a little bit better than Todd Herremans.

The 6-7, 302-pounder was scheduled to make $5 million this season in Kansas City. Maybe Reid is poised to take a tackle first overall and found Winston, who is coming off a difficult year, expendable. But if he was that good would he be available? I don’t know that Winston is any sure solution at tackle, so it would have to be for the right price.

Cook I can definitely see the Eagles having interest in.  It’s easy to picture the 25-year-old tight end as a cog in Chip Kelly‘s spread attack. The problem is, a lot of teams will be targeting the 6-5, 250-pounder. He is the right age and has the right skill set to draw heavy interest and therefor big money. I believe that the Eagles will be players so long as the bidding does not get out of control.

From @bmcg822: Who are the top 3 FA’s you think the Eagles will target? My guess: Cook,a safety, and a CB.

I think I am with you. As I wrote Wednesday, the Eagles pretty much have to walk away from this offseason with at least one  new starting safety in tow. There is always a chance that you don’t get your man (or men) in the draft, so free agency is the only way to ensure that you address the need.

There is plenty of buzz about Dashon Goldson and I think he would be an ideal addition to the secondary, but it’s entirely possible that his asking price gets out of hand. Then you start looking at guys like Louis Delmas, William Moore, Kenny Phillips and Glover Quin (assuming they don’t re-up with their current teams).

And they’ll have to address corner, seeing as both of their starters from last season may very well be gone.  Sean Smith of Miami (25 years old, 6-3, 218 pounds) has been mentioned as a possible target, and I believe that makes sense.

From @birdsalltheway: what is the likelihood that we will select Dee Milliner 4th overall? I think it’s solid. What are the eagles saying?

My best guess right now, I could see the Eagles going either Milliner or offensive line with the No. 4 overall pick. If the grades are close between, say, Milliner and tackle Eric Fisher, then the Eagles’ free agency work would presumably factor into the equation. If they land a tackle on the open market, you would think they would feel better about going in another direction.

Predicting the draft is difficult before the start of free agency, but there seems to be little to dislike about the Alabama corner.

Speed Tracker: Top Burners At the Combine

Chip Kelly, you may have heard, has a thing for speed.

He likes burners. And before this roster face-lift is through, odds are there will a few more of them on this team.

In that spirit, we thought we would take a look at who separated themselves from the pack in Indianapolis. Below is a list of the top-10 performers in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. (Note: The draft projections are from CBS Sports.)

Name/Position
School
Time
Projected draft round
Marquise Goodwin (WR)Texas4.273rd
Ryan Swope (WR)Texas A&M4.343rd
Onterio McCalebb (RB)Auburn4.347-FA
Tavon Austin (WR)West Virginia4.341st
Darius Slay (DB)Mississippi St. 4.362nd-3rd
Knile Davis (RB)Arkansas4.377-FA
Dee Milliner (DB)Alabama4.371st
Kenny Stills (WR)Oklahoma 4.384th
Desmond Trufant (DB)Washington4.381st
Josh Boyce (WR)TCU4.385th

Kelly is not one to get caught up too much in 40 times. He had this to say about speed while coaching at Oregon:

I have seen players run 4.5, but they do not run 4.5 in the games. I want the 5.0 player that runs 5.0 on every single play.

Do not be the 4.6 player who plays 5.2 in the games. That is our concept about speed.

It must be determined who is still fleet of foot when the pads are on. Still, it never hurts to have a sub-4.4 as a starting point.

While Combine results don’t come close to painting the entire picture of a player, they can be used to help complete it. That seems to be the case for Alabama corner Dee Milliner, who appears to have solidified his standing as a blue-chipper with a head-turning 40-time of 4.37. Sheil does a good job of explaining why that performance is good for the Eagles on a couple different levels.

Not surprisingly, wide receivers hog five of the 10 top spots. Before you just skip over those names completely, consider that 1) the Eagles are in a rebuilding period and have incentive to truly go with the best available player in this upcoming draft and 2) the wide receiver position isn’t as rock solid as some would lead you to believe. Jeremy Maclin is slated to become a free agent after this year, Jason Avant is entering his eighth season, Riley Cooper has caught 46 balls in three years and who knows where DeSean Jackson‘s career is heading or how long it will last.

Washington corner Desmond Trufant (6-0, 186) is an interesting name to consider. If the Eagles do not go with Milliner at No. 4, would the former team captain be available early in the second?

Other results of note relating to the Eagles:

– Florida strong safety Matt Elam, a projected second-round pick, ran a 4.54. Texas strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, a potential first-round selection, came in at 4.63.

– Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan opened some eyes by clocking in at 4.60 — the third best time among defensive linemen.

– Former Oregon tackle Kyle Long was the third-fastest O-lineman at the Combine, posting a 4.94.

NFL.com has position-by-position breakdowns of the top performers from Indy if you want to go more in-depth.