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 Wake-Up Call: Examining Three Draft Scenarios

Chip Kelly’s response drew laughter, but there was actually probably some truth behind his words.

“Yeah, and I get bored,” Kelly said last week, when asked about the process of working through different draft scenarios with Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ personnel team.

“To be honest with you, when they give you a million different scenarios, I think the same thing in the back of my mind.  What if one team will trade 17 picks for us? You would say that would never happen. But the New Orleans Saints did it for Ricky Williams, so you have to talk about it. So we talk about it.”

Kelly is only three months into his tenure, but the sense here is that he’s at his happiest when he’s on the field coaching, or in the meeting room with his staff working on offensive concepts and X’s and O’s.

April in the NFL, however, is draft season. And that means teams are making sure they’re ready for any and all scenarios – specifically in the first round.

So while there continues to be uncertainty at the top, even though we’re only one day away, let’s go over three potential scenarios and try to sort out what each could mean for the Eagles.

SCENARIO 1

1. Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M)
2. Dion Jordan (OLB, Oregon)
3. Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)

What do the Eagles do? This is probably the most appealing scenario for the Birds. The simple solution is to pick Central Michigan Eric Fisher and call it a day. And my guess is that’s probably what the Eagles would do.

But if Fisher is still on the board at No. 4, Roseman’s phone is going to be ringing. If he gets offers from a team like the Cardinals (No. 7), the Chargers (No. 11) or the Dolphins (No. 12), he will at least listen. If the Eagles have Fisher rated much higher than other prospects on their board, they probably won’t make a deal. If they have him lumped in a tier with several other guys, they’ll think about it, if the compensation is right.

Note that this scenario is basically the same if the Chiefs take Fisher. The decision would then just come down to whether to draft Joeckel or trade the pick.

SCENARIO 2

1. Joeckel
2. Fisher
3. Floyd

What do the Eagles do? As I’ve said before, this scenario comes down to what the team thinks Jordan is capable of as a pass-rusher. I’m not saying that’s all he would do in their scheme, but that’s the determining factor in whether you think he’s worthy of the No. 4 pick. We know he has traits that Kelly values: He’s long and he’s versatile. We also know Kelly loves him from a character/make-up standpoint (unless he has just been blatantly lying).

With Joeckel and Fisher off the board, my guess in this scenario is that the Eagles go with Jordan over guys like Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson and Utah DT Star Lotulelei. And while it’s less likely that Roseman gets calls from other teams under this scenario, it’s possible that someone wants to sneak up to grab Johnson.

It’s even possible that a team sees Jordan as one of the few prospects in the class with elite upside as a pass-rusher and wants to move up to take him.

SCENARIO 3

1. Joeckel
2. Jordan
3. Fisher

What do the Eagles do? This is the trickiest situation for the Birds. Note that even if the Raiders don’t take Fisher at No. 3, they could trade the pick to a team that does want him.

We wrote yesterday about how Roseman will talk to different GMs before Thursday and get trades in place should the board fall a certain way. My guess is that this was the primary scenario he called about. If the Eagles were to stay put, they could go with Johnson or Lotulelei.

But there certainly are wild cards. Remember, we know very little about the team’s exact defensive scheme. Perhaps someone like Floyd or even Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson would actually fit better than we think. Maybe they see BYU DE Ziggy Ansah as a movable chess piece. Perhaps they see upside in LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo. Or maybe they stun everyone and just take West Virginia WR Tavon Austin.

Again, my sense is the Eagles would like to trade down if Joeckel, Jordan and Fisher are off the board. But if they can’t find a partner and stay put, my guess is they go with Johnson and solidify the offensive line.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Are the trade winds blowing? Here are some thoughts on the latest Eagles-related draft buzz.

Enough about the first round. What about Day 2? Here are 15 potential Eagles targets.

The latest mock draft roundup shows there’s still no consensus on the Eagles’ pick.

Greg Cosell offered up some high praise for Jordan.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Albert Breer of NFL Network writes about Kelly’s approach:

“It’s high energy and high efficiency in everything you do,” said Bellotti, who became Oregon’s athletic director in 2009, when Kelly was elevated to succeed him. “In meetings, it’s not just looking at the play. It’s, ‘Here’s what happened, here’s why,’ and it’s coming rapid fire. And there’s competition in everything you do. He did it on the field, but with everything else, too, it’s, ‘How can get I better? Did I learn something watching that other guy get coached?’ It starts with the players. He empowers the players to be the best.”

The three words you hear most: Win the day.

Fullback Leonard Weaver retired as an Eagle yesterday. From the Daily News’ Les Bowen:

“It’s just been a great honor to be here. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed,” he said.

He said he felt he was embraced here because he understood the fans, and played with heart.

“They work hard. They’re going to talk bad about you. They’re gritty. They’re going to tell you to your face what time it is, but at the same time, they’re going to get it done,” he said.

Liz Spikol over on the Property blog takes a look at DeSean Jackson’s new pad and notices an ex-Eagle selling his Old City condo.

And finally, Janine White introduces the new Eagles cheerleading squad over on The Philly Post.

COMING UP

We’ll be churning out draft content, with pieces on Tavon Austin and a complete first-round cheat sheet. A reminder too that we’ll be hosting live chats for all three days of the draft as we report from the NovaCare Complex.

And T-Mac will be representing the Eagles in ESPN’s mock draft today so be sure to tune in. I’m offering him 20 bucks to go with “Sheil Kapadia, little-used slot receiver out of Ball-So-Hard U.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Draft Buzz: Trade Winds Blowing?

A roundup of Eagles-related draft buzz from today…

In what should come as no surprise, the Birds are one of the front-end teams making calls about potentially moving down in the first round. ESPN’s Adam Schefter identifies the Eagles (No. 4), Lions (No. 5), Browns (No. 6), Bills (No. 8) and Dolphins (No. 12) as teams looking to make a move.

Roseman admitted last week that the Eagles were open to making a deal, and the team has been very active in recent years, having pulled off a first-round trade in five of the past six drafts. As we’ve been saying for awhile, the sense from the team is that there are 12 to 15 prospects that stand out above the rest. Assuming that’s the case, it’s unlikely that the Eagles would be willing to drop down all the way into the 20s or 30s.

The key, as always, is the market. Right now, it seems several teams in the top-10 would be more than willing to move down. The players to watch continue to be the offensive tackles: Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson.

The Jaguars, at No. 2, are a bit of a wild card. The guess here is still that they take Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan, but there’s been buzz (to drive up the market?) that Jacksonville will go offensive tackle.

The way I see it, there are two scenarios that would create a favorable market for the Eagles in terms of finding a trade partner:

1. The Chiefs take Joeckel, the Jaguars take Jordan, and the Raiders take Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. If Fisher is still on the board at No. 4, I think the Eagles will field a lot of interest. Then again, if they don’t get a favorable offer, they might just take Fisher and move on.

2. Fisher and Joeckel go off the board in the top three picks, but the Eagles find a team that really likes Johnson. According to Albert Breer, teams’ opinions of Johnson vary:

Of course, it only takes one team to make a deal.

In case you missed it, a couple weeks ago, we went over teams that could be interested in moving up and guessed at potential compensation.

The Dolphins continue to be a team to watch. They’ve got the No. 12 pick, 11 picks overall and five in the first three rounds. They’ve also got a dire situation at tackle and a franchise quarterback in Ryan Tannehill to protect.

Meanwhile, the Jets, Rams and Vikings all have two first-rounders, making them potential partners. The Falcons, too, have been rumored to be interested in moving up.

One more things on trades: It’s not unusual for teams to have a deal in place before the draft that hinges on a specific scenario. In fact, that’s what happened last year with Fletcher Cox.

“I think there are teams that are very comfortable giving you scenarios they’ll stick to in that situation,” Roseman said last week. “With us and Seattle last year with [Seahawks GM] John [Schneider], it was very easy to get to an agreement on the compensation if the player we were interested in was there and they felt comfortable moving back.

“I think what that does, it takes the negotiating out of being on the clock, because when you’re on the clock, there’s a lot of things going on. You’re getting a lot of phone calls and when you’re starting something new or from scratch and you’re going through that process, time runs out fairly quickly.”

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is continuing his draft preview series with a look at the linebackers. Here’s part of the passage on Jordan:

“He’s very athletic, fast, rangy, explosive with a keen ability to bend and accelerate around the corner,” Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff said. “He can be both a drop guy and a pass-rush threat. It makes him a consideration in the top five (picks).” Suffered third-degree burns over 40% of his body in 2007 when a vacuum cleaner he and his friends were using to siphon gas exploded. “The only negative is his body,” one scout said. “He got burned. He went to Oregon because that was the only school that stuck with him. He’s the whole package. All he has to do as a rusher is develop an inside move. It’s all up the field now.”

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Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

With the draft just two days away, here’s one final mock draft roundup.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has the Eagles landing Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson and Florida State QB EJ Manuel with their first two picks:

The offensive tackles are going to fly off the board fast and even if both Joeckel and Fisher are still available at the fourth pick, Johnson might be the best fit for Chip Kelly and his offense. Johnson is just scratching the surface of his potential at tackle.

Charley Casserly of NFL.com also goes with Johnson:

Both of the Eagles’ starting offensive tackles are coming off surgery.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay thinks it’ll be Johnson too.

Josh Norris of Rotoworld has the Birds taking Utah DL Star Lotulelei:

Don’t pigeonhole Star as a nose tackle, since he can help the entire three man front in a variety of different ways. Sure, he wasn’t effective on every one of his snaps, but he was on the field for 91.2 percent of the team’s defense plays in 2012.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com also thinks it’ll be Lotulelei:

This feels like a spot ripe for trade (if the Raiders don’t move out ahead of Philly anyway) given the presence of Luke Joeckel on the board. Someone could hop up ahead of Detroit and nab the big left tackle. But for right now we’re going to give the Eagles the talented Utah defensive tackle.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com goes with Lotulelei too:

Chip Kelly is known for the fast pace of his offense, but if the Eagles are to improve in the NFC East it is their defense that will need to improve the most. With Philadelphia expected to make the transition to a 3-4 scheme, it needs help up front, which the powerful Lotulelei can provide. The Eagles are one of three teams currently picking in the top 10 who have both worked out Lotulelei and invited him to visit their facility, NFLDraftScout.com has learned.

SI.com’s Don Banks has Lotulelei:

The Eagles would seem to be in prime position to trade down here, with teams just behind them coveting either Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. If the Eagles are content with the notion of winding up with Lotulelei in a lower slot, why not try to get the tackle-needy Lions, Cardinals, Chargers and Dolphins bidding on Joeckel? By next week’s final mock, Philly’s No. 4 slot might be almost slam-dunk trade territory.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has Lotulelei at No. 4.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com goes with Oregon OLB Dion Jordan:

The Eagles are building a 3-4 defense and need an OLB with pass rush skills. Jordan played for Chip Kelly. If they take Jordan I would expect them to re-enter the first round late and grab a QB. Either Geno Smith or EJ Manuel could be the choice.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films/Yahoo Sports goes with Jordan:

At Oregon this past season, he primarily played in space, which he did exceptionally well. I had to study a lot of games to get a feel for his pass rush skills. They were impressive, and I believe he will become a very good edge rusher in the NFL. He showed the ability to get low and bend the edge with the needed flexibility to succeed against quality NFL offensive tackles.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times put together a mock with beat writers from across the country. Les Bowen picked for the Eagles at No. 4 and went with Jordan:

“The Eagles don’t have anybody who was drafted as a 3-4 linebacker. They’d like someone who can both rush the passer and drop back in coverage.”

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting put together a “need-based” fantasy draft and gave the Eagles Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien:

A bit of a reach (both in real life and on my board), the Eagles have done a fantastic job adding pieces to their defense in free agency to the point where they really only have a need at safety. Cyprien gets the nod over a 5-technique (Sharrif Floyd) and an offensive tackle (Luke Joeckel).

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com goes with West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

Chip Kelly knows he can’t win with Michael Vick. So who’s next? You’re looking at him.

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. goes with Smith too:

More inclined to believe they’ll trade up from their Round 2 pick to get him later in Round 1, but can’t reflect that here.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post says Smith:

The Eagles have a number of quarterbacks on their roster, but none is a proven starter and new head coach Chip Kelly needs an athletic quarterback to run his offense. Although Smith’s mechanics need work, his ability to make big plays with his feet and strong arm could be a perfect fit for the new Eagles’ offense.

Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has the Eagles trading back into the first round (No. 17) and taking Smith. He awards them Jordan with the No. 4 pick:

It’s my mock draft and I’ll make trades if I want to. Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman get aggressive and pounce on the opportunity to grab Smith when he slips all the way to 17. The trade would likely be for 2014’s first-round pick and the Eagles’ second-round pick this year. Geno goes to Philly, where he backs up Michael Vick and Nick Foles for a year, learns Kelly’s offense, and is the ideal system QB. He could go as high as No. 4 to Philly. I think Philly ends up with him if he slips out of the top 10.

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News also thinks it’ll be Smith:

We’re sticking with the stance that Chip Kelly isn’t really sold on any of his current Eagles quarterbacks, whether it’s Michael Vick, Nick Foles or old Oregon pupil Dennis Dixon. Kelly can go in many directions with his first Philly draft, but he should want to start with a hand-picked passing prospect.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution thinks it’ll be BYU’s Ziggy Ansah:

He is very raw. He didn’t start playing football until 2010. Some have compared him with Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants.

Matt Smith of NFL.com also goes with Ansah:

There isn’t a lot of tape out there, but you can’t deny what you see when you watch him play. He’s an impact player, and if the Jags can take Jordan at No. 2, the Birds certainly can take Ansah at No. 4. Eric Fisher will get a long look, but ultimately Ansah is a player who can change the game.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Note On Fisher, Jordan

Eric Fisher has visited five NFL teams during the pre-draft process, including the Eagles. The 6-7, 306-pound Central Michigan product told PFT that he made trips to Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Detroit, Cleveland and Carolina.

Some believe he will be the Eagles’ pick at 4. Others don’t think he will last that long. What does Fisher think?

“It’s kind of hard to tell where I’m going,” said Fisher. “From what I hear this is a different draft this year — there is not that solid first pick or first couple picks. I have no idea where I’m going to end up, but wherever I get an opportunity to go play some football I’ll be truly blessed. I’m just really looking forward to Thursday night, hearing my name.”

More and more analysts now consider Fisher the top tackle in the draft. Still, most regard Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel as the safer pick, largely because he played against better competition.

“I know I played in a MAC school and I understand where people are coming from, but I think I answered all the questions at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine — especially at the Senior Bowl,” said Fisher. “I was going up against the top competition in the country. I have to say I answered all the questions.”

If Fisher isn’t the pick at 4, Dion Jordan very well may be. Greg Cosell predicts as much in his recently-released mock draft.

I was fortunate to be on the field at the Scouting Combine, and to watch this 6-foot-6, 250-pounder move was a revelation. He looked like a wide receiver. On film, he was naturally athletic, very smooth and fluid, and surprisingly explosive given his length. At Oregon this past season, he primarily played in space, which he did exceptionally well. I had to study a lot of games to get a feel for his pass rush skills. They were impressive, and I believe he will become a very good edge rusher in the NFL. He showed the ability to get low and bend the edge with the needed flexibility to succeed against quality NFL offensive tackles. There’s much to like about Jordan, and he’s just scratching the surface. Want a comparison? How about Jason Taylor.

I think the Eagles would live with a Taylor clone.

Many names have been tied to the fourth pick over recent weeks. Fisher and Jordan’s are two that seem to stick.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kapadia gives us three (draft) numbers that matter.

What have we learned about the Eagles’ plans?

Oddsmakers weigh in on who will be taken fourth overall.

How far might Geno Smith fall?

Checking in on Fletcher Cox.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Todd McShay thinks that the Eagles, out of the teams picking in the top 5, have the best chance of contending next season. Dan Graziano isn’t convinced.

Personally, I think the Eagles could go either way. I agree with Todd about the good pieces in place, especially if the offensive linemen can all recover from their injuries and play the way they played in 2011. But I have major concerns about Vick and about the ability of all of the defensive players to learn a whole new defense in time for the start of the season. A major shift in defensive schemes can take two years to fully implement, and it might be that the Eagles need more than just the next several months to be as good as they can be in Kelly’s and Bill Davis’ system.

Jeff McLane writes that Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner may not be ready for training camp.

Milliner would likely start right away. He had shoulder surgery in March and may not be ready by training camp.

“We haven’t been able to do the rehab like I want to because I’ve been going to different teams,” Milliner said. “But once the draft is over, I’ll be able to start to rehab it and try to get back on track.”

COMING UP

Fullback Leonard Weaver will sign a one-day contract and retire as an Eagle. He will hold a press conference today at 1 p.m. Plenty more draft coverage from us.

Oddsmakers: Lane Johnson the Favorite To Go No. 4

Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is the favorite to be selected fourth overall, according to Bovada. The odds are 3/2 that he will be the pick. Star Lotulelei (7/4), Dion Jordan (2/1) and Chance Warmack (9/1) are the next best bets.

Vegas anticipates that Luke Joeckel will go first to the Chiefs. Eric Fisher (1/2) is the clear favorite to be taken at No. 2. For the third pick, Bovada pits Sharrif Floyd (1/10) against the field (11/2).

Some other odds of note:

Will the Eagles trade the 4th pick overall?          

Yes +170  (17/10)

No   -250   (2/5)

Draft Position – Geno Smith       

Over/Under 8½

Draft Position – Matt Barkley     

Over/Under 37½

2013 NFL Draft – Draft Position – Tavon Austin     

Over/Under 13½

Draft Position – Tyrann Mathieu  

Over/Under 75½

2013 NFL Draft – How many QB’s will be selected in the 1st Rd?               

Over    1 (EVEN)

Under 1 (-140)

Twitter Mailbag: Tackles, Trades And Dion Jordan

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 @ChefOrnicador_: Is Miami a true candidate to trade up if Eric Fisher is still there at #4?? They have two second round picks.

I can see the Dolphins trying to trade up, definitely. They hold the 12th overall pick and will likely have to move into the top seven to grab one of the three coveted tackles (Luke Joeckel, Fisher and Lane Johnson). But honestly? I’m starting to have my doubts that Fisher will still be there at 4. In a first round full of question marks, one thing that teams seem to agree on is that the tackles are quality options. Maybe Jacksonville or Oakland takes Fisher. Maybe a team leaps into the No. 2 or three hole and snatches him (the Raiders apparently wouldn’t mind trading out),  but it’s quite plausible that two of the tackles are off the board by the time Philly is on the clock.

From @Ryeboat: with talk of the top 3 OT going possibly in the top 8 picks, what are the chances the Eagles trade down for more picks?

If the tackles are as hot as insiders seem to think they are, then you probably stay put at 4 if you want one. If Fisher and Joeckel are both taken with the first three picks, it won’t be long before Johnson (and maybe D.J. Fluker?) are picked off.  I can see the Eagles moving back if Joeckel and Fisher are gone and they aren’t as high on Johnson, or if tackle isn’t the target in Round 1. I don’t anticipate them trading out of the top-10, whatever the case may be.

Howie Roseman seems to think that there are quality tackles sprinkled through the latter rounds. He also seems to think (as others do) that pass-rushers will be harder to find outside of the first round. Maybe that influences their decision if they are choosing between two players with similar grades.

From @aerelorn: What do you make of Dion Jordan’s career stats: 0 interceptions and only 2 pass breakups. Is his coverage ability overrated?

Jordan is one of those pass rushers that could be available at 4. I have concerns about him being overrated, period. He had a total of 14.5 sacks at Oregon. (Jarvis Jones, by comparison, had 14.5 last season alone). Yes, Jordan was dealing with a shoulder injury for much of last year and had to transition from the offensive side of the ball to defense early on, but you would prefer that your top-5 pick had better numbers overall. With Jordan, you have to project. But as Chip Kelly points out, that is true to a degree for all draft picks.

“It’s easy to go hindsight and say we knew this draft was this.  But you really don’t know,” said Kelly. “It’s the same process that we went through in college.  If you look at what are the top 5 or six players in the draft, they weren’t the top 5 or six high school players five years ago.  Dion Jordan is one of the top players out there, and we were smart enough at Oregon to recruit him as a wide receiver.  Now he’s going to play outside linebacker, defensive end in the NFL.  You look at Lane Johnson, who was a high school quarterback, and now he’s an offensive tackle who is a top pick, the list goes on and on.  And Ziggy Ansah was playing basketball and went to BYU to play basketball, and now he may be a Top 10 pick.”

The key is trying to figure out which players have the best chance of developing, and eventually thriving at this level. Kelly will surely have an opinion or two on Jordan in that respect, having coached him at Oregon.

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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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Three Thoughts On the Eagles’ Draft

With the draft exactly three weeks away, here are three thoughts on what I think the Eagles are going to do with the No. 4 pick:

1. If you asked me to project the Birds’ pick right now, I would go offensive tackle – either Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs will likely take one of the two, and it’s possible that the Jaguars or Raiders take whichever player is remaining. But if either Joeckel or Fisher is available, I think that’s who the Eagles take.

This team’s identity under Chip Kelly will be its offense. That’s what got Kelly promoted from New Hampshire to Oregon and now to the NFL. The Eagles have made significant investments in skill-position players (LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, etc.), but as they found out last year, a leaky (or injury-plagued) offensive line can go a long way in derailing a season.

During free agency, the Eagles poked around on some offensive tackle options like Jake Long. Moving Todd Herremans inside might very well be their preference at this point. An offensive line of Joeckel or Fisher, combined with Herremans, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and Jason Peters has potential to be one of the best in the league. Remember, the offensive line in 2011 was a major strength with four of those five same players.

A lot depends on how Kelce, Herremans and Peters bounce back from injury. That’s another reason why offensive tackle makes sense. Peters is 31, and Herremans is 30. Joeckel or Fisher would provide much-needed youth at a critical position, something the Eagles don’t currently have on the roster. In the short-term, you give yourself a starter at right tackle and a backup at left tackle. In the long-term, you have Peters’ replacement.

2013 will be about getting Kelly’s system in place. The best way to do that is to solidify the offensive line and give the team’s playmakers a legitimate chance to be successful and learn their roles. That’s why I think the Eagles go offensive line.

One wild card worth noting: The availability of Fisher or Joeckel could prompt teams to want to trade up. In that scenario, I’d expect the Eagles to consider moving back for the right compensation.

2. Let’s address the other scenario too. What happens if Joeckel and Fisher are both gone when the Eagles pick? I think they then move to the top defensive player on the board, and two names stand out: Oregon OLB Dion Jordan and Florida DL Sharrif Floyd.

The Eagles have a significant advantage over other teams in evaluating Jordan. Over on The Sideline View, Greg Peshek has a good breakdown of this class of pass-rushers. There has been a lot of talk of discussion about how Jordan was used at Oregon. He was not an every-down pass-rusher and got far fewer opportunities to rush the quarterback than the other first-round defensive ends and outside linebackers.

But even on a percentage basis, Jordan only got pressure on the quarterback once every 10.64 chances, a lower rate than the rest of the top-tier pass-rushers.

Of course, stats only tell part of the story. Jordan, who turned 23 last month, played the final five games of the season with a shoulder injury. Is that why Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro had him playing more in coverage? Or was that just what the team needed at the time?

Jordan’s versatile skill set and length will undoubtedly attract the Eagles. And Kelly seems to love Jordan from a character/intangibles perspective. But the bottom line will be what the team thinks his upside is as a pass-rusher. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared Jordan to Aldon Smith earlier this offseason. If the Eagles feel the same way, he could be the pick. But you don’t draft an outside linebacker at No. 4 because of his cover skills.

As for Floyd, his upside has to intrigue the Eagles. At 6-3, 297, he could play the 5-technique in a 3-4, and Floyd could be an interior pass-rusher in a 4-3 alignment. Pairing him with Fletcher Cox would give the Eagles two young defensive linemen with Pro Bowl ceilings.

And don’t forget that Floyd is one of the draft’s younger prospects. He will still be 20-years-old when his name is called in a few weeks, meaning he has plenty of room for growth and improvement. He’s about 29 months younger than someone like Utah DT Star Lotulelei. If the Eagles have both players graded closely, you would have to think they’d go with Floyd.

3. I don’t think Geno Smith is going to be the pick. Clearly, the Eagles need to find their quarterback of the future. And just because there’s no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III doesn’t mean this is a horrible class.

I could see the Eagles going QB at No. 4 for one of the following two reasons.

a.) The prospect fits the precise mold of what Kelly is looking for. Even if he might not be as polished as Luck or RGIII, if he had the athleticism and skill set Kelly wanted, I could see the Eagles pulling the trigger.

b.) The prospect doesn’t fit Kelly’s precise mold, but he’s just too good an option to pass up and worth building an offense around.

As of right now, I don’t see Smith falling into either of those two categories. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think their interest is a smoke-screen. I think they’re doing their due diligence and want to gather as much information as possible. That’s part of the process. But in the end, I think the Eagles will pass on Smith.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles To Bring In Dion Jordan For Visit

Oregon defensive end/linebacker Dion Jordan will visit with the Eagles Wednesday and Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport.

Chip Kelly was asked at the owners meetings if he would have to use one of the allotted 30 visits on Jordan, given his familiarity with him.

“No. But there are some situations with certain guys that you wanna find out medical information on … if we were to bring Dion in, it would be to find out how his shoulder is, not what he is like as a person,” Kelly responded. “A lot of our evaluations are medical deals where you get some information on them.”

Jordan had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on February 27. He told reporters at Oregon’s pro day that the rehab process could take 3-4 months, and that he is hoping to be ready for training camp.

“It will probably be a while before I’m able to actually do a lot with my upper body,” Jordan told PFT recently. “But the surgery went well, and every day I feel much better. It’s  a process, and I will just take care of myself so I won’t have to go through it again.”

Jordan estimated that he played half the 2012 season with the injury. You can definitely make the case that it impacted his final statistics. The 6-6, 240-pounder had five sacks on the year before leaving the game against Colorado on October 27 with an injured shoulder. He did not register another sack from that point on.

“It had a huge effect I felt like on my production,” he said. “It limited my playing time and it also limited my ability as far as practicing and doing individual work to improve myself.”

Jordan put off having surgery so he could perform at the Combine. He had a strong showing in Indianapolis that helped solidify his standing as one of the top prospects in this class.

Geno Smith was also in town Wednesday. For a full list of the Eagles’ visits, click here.

 

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