Back for the second straight year is the Eagles’ first-round cheat sheet (with some slight tweaks).
I’ve put together a list of 40 potential first-round prospects. Yes, I know, there are only 32 picks in the first round, but we don’t know exactly who those 32 are going to be. Since the Eagles also hold the 35th pick, I thought rounding up 40 prospects would make sense.
The idea is simple: How would each guy fit with the Eagles, and what is the likelihood of each guy landing in Philadelphia?
We’ll start with the offense (17 prospects) and move on to the defense (23 prospects) in the next post.
Update: Here’s the post on the defensive prospects.
Geno Smith, West Virginia – He’s easily been the most talked-about prospect in this class. The Eagles have done plenty of homework on Smith, but there are two reasons why I don’t think they take him at No. 4. One, he was not a classic spread-option quarterback in college. Two, he’s not so good of a prospect that you dismiss point one and take him anyway.
My guess is there is plenty that Chip Kelly likes about Smith. He’s athletic (4.59 40), has decent size (6-2, 218) and has an NFL arm. Smith also played in an up-tempo offense at West Virginia. If he slips in the first round or makes it to No. 35, he’s certainly an option, but I would be surprised if he was the pick at No. 4. The important thing to remember is the only man whose opinion matters is Kelly’s. He’s in charge of finding this franchise its best option at QB.
EJ Manuel, Florida State – From a physical stand point (6-5, 237, 4.65), he would appear to be a nice fit. But Manuel’s production didn’t always match his talent in college. If he’s there at No. 35, I think the Eagles take him. And it’s possible Kelly likes him so much that the Eagles trade into the back end of the first round to take him, although that would be at least somewhat surprising.
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse – He’s generated some buzz as potentially the top QB in the draft, but I don’t see the Eagles being a fit, especially since he’s expected to go in the first round or early in the second.
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M -One of the “cleanest” prospects in the draft. The 6-6, 310-pounder started three years before deciding to leave early. He projects as a high-end left tackle, even though Joeckel has not shown elite-level athleticism. He played in an up-tempo offense in college, and the Eagles would love to have him, but it would be a pretty big upset if Joeckel somehow made it to the fourth pick.
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan – There has been a growing buzz that Andy Reid could choose him over Joeckel with the top pick. At 6-7, 306, he’s got the size and length to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. Given his level of competition in college, the pre-draft process was important for Fisher, but he answered any lingering questions at the Senior Bowl and Combine. If he stays on the board at No. 4, the Eagles will feel really good about taking him, or they could receive some enticing trade offers from tackle-needy teams.
Lane Johnson, Oklahoma – The most athletic of the top-three left tackles. Johnson started his career as a junior-college quarterback. He then joined the Sooners as a tight end before switching over to defensive end. The 6-6, 303-pounder kept getting bigger and was eventually moved to the offensive line. He played right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior. He’s not considered as polished as Joeckel and Fisher, but might have the most upside, given his off-the-charts athleticism. Johnson could certainly be an option for the Eagles at No. 4. If they move down, they’ll probably lose out on him. The Lions (No. 5) or Cardinals (No. 7) could take him. A team could also trade up once Joeckel and Fisher are off the board.
D.J. Fluker, Alabama – Does not seem like an ideal scheme fit for the Eagles. Fluker (6-5, 339, 36 3/4-inch arms) is more power than athleticism and is considered a right tackle prospect. It’s unlikely that he lands in Philadelphia, although new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coached Fluker in Tuscaloosa. With teams desperate for tackles, don’t be surprised if Fluker goes off the board in the top half of the first round.
Chance Warmack, Alabama – Seems to universally be considered a can’t-miss prospect (although we know that those don’t really exist). The Eagles have a glaring need at right guard, but my guess is if they were going to spend a first-round pick on the position, they would want a special athlete. Like Fluker, Warmack (6-2, 317) is considered more of a power player. He might be talented enough to play in any scheme, but I don’t see him landing with the Eagles.
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina -If the Eagles are going to take a guard in the first round, my guess is they’d have Cooper (6-2, 317) ranked ahead of Warmack. Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently called Cooper the most purely athletic guard he’s seen since he started watching college tape (the last eight or nine years). I still think it’s unlikely the Eagles go guard in the first round, but if they trade down from No. 4, I wouldn’t rule Cooper out completely.
Justin Pugh, Syracuse – There’s a chance he could be available when the Eagles pick at No. 35, but my guess is he’s going to sneak into the first round. Pugh (6-4, 307) brings positional versatility, having gotten looks at tackle, guard and even center. Pugh played tackle in college, but the knock on him is he only has 32-inch arms. The local product (Council Rock South) would be a fit for the Eagles, but like I said, they probably won’t be in position to draft him.
Menelik Watson, Florida State – From a physical standpoint, there’s a lot to like. Watson is 6-5, 310 with 34-inch arms. Even though he didn’t test great at the Combine, Watson is considered an excellent athlete. The issues? Experience and age. Watson hails from England and has a basketball background. He played one year of football in junior college and one more at right tackle for the Seminoles. He’ll also turn 25 in December. My guess? Watson will get taken towards the end of the first round. But if he’s still there at 35, the Eagles could give him a look, depending on what they perceive his learning curve to be.
Kyle Long, Oregon – His story isn’t that different from Watson’s. In fact, the two played together at junior college. Long (6-6, 313) played baseball at Florida State before trying his hand at football. He only has one year playing at the D-1 level and turns 25 in December. Then again, Long is versatile (has played both guard and tackle), athletic and has experience playing in Kelly’s system. For those reasons, he made our list of possibilities at No. 35.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia – Sometimes, we tend to over-think things with the draft. Would Kelly be interested in an explosive playmaker who can line up anywhere in the formation and has blazing 4.34 speed? Of course! Think about what Kelly’s offense is about: Getting to the line of scrimmage quickly, assessing the defense, moving versatile pieces around the formation and putting points on the board. No player in this class embodies those principles more than Austin.
Don’t forget the whole “best player available” mantra. Jeremy Maclin is on the final year of his contract. Jason Avant just turned 30. And Austin is different than DeSean Jackson. He’s far more than a vertical threat and has the ability to score in a variety of ways. At the very least, he’ll provide consistent matchup problems as a slot receiver. The major question is obviously size. Austin measured in at just 5-8, 174 at the Combine. He’s drawn comparisons to Wes Welker and Percy Harvin, but Welker was 195 coming out of school, and Harvin was 192. Austin said he never missed a game due to injury in high school or college, but that’s unlikely to alleviate concerns about his size. I don’t think the Eagles will take him at No. 4, but I can’t say I’d be shocked if they pulled the trigger. And if they trade down, he’s absolutely an option.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee – Has one of the best size/speed combos in the draft (6-2, 216, 4.42). In his mock draft on Yahoo Sports, Cosell pointed out qualities in Patterson that Kelly could find appealing: the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and the versatility to line up anywhere in the formation. Patterson is not considered a polished receiver, and he’ll likely be a first-round pick, so while the Eagles might like his skill set, I doubt they’ll be in position to take him.
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson – Doesn’t have top-end speed (4.52), but if we’re talking about complementing what the Eagles already have, Hopkins would be a nice option. Has good size (6-1, 214) and scored 18 touchdowns last year alone. But again, he’ll probably go in the first round in a spot where the Eagles are unlikely to draft him.
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – Seems to have become the consensus top tight end on the board. Eifert has size (6-6, 251) and athleticism (4.68 40). This is a deep tight end class, and given that the Eagles already have Brent Celek and signed James Casey, I don’t expect them to go that route in the first round. But from a skill-set standpoint, Eifert appears to be a fit with pretty much every team in the league.
** Note: It’s certainly possible that more than one tight end goes int he top-40, but I had to narrow my list somehow, so am only including Eifert.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama – I’m not sure he’s going to go in the first round, but Lacy has a good chance of being the first running back off the board. With LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown in the fold, this is the one position we can pretty much say definitively that the Eagles won’t use a pick on before Day 3.
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