QB Stock Watch: Analysts Link Geno, Manuel To Eagles

First, some direct Eagles connections:

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has the Eagles taking Geno Smith. Same for  Clark Judge and Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com; Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times; Mel Kiper of  ESPN; Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com; and the fine people over at OurLads.com.

Chris Steuber and the folks at both Mocking the Draft and Walter Football.com predict EJ Manuel will be the Eagles’ second-round pick.

Jon Gruden says Malvern Prep’s Ryan Nassib could be the sleeper of the draft.

When it comes to the tools, I see a guy with a live arm who can deliver the ball with great timing. He needs work on how and where he uses velocity on his throws, but he can make all of them. I don’t see a great athlete — this isn’t a guy who will run the read-option for you consistently, but he’s shown he can run it, and he has what I call “nuisance speed.” He has enough to bother you if you don’t account for him, and he can scramble for first downs. He’s benched 420 pounds, so the guy has some strength and can stand in there and take a hit.

I can’t stand here and predict a great career for Nassib. But I’m not afraid to call him a sleeper because I know he can make adjustments, I know he’s been able to thrive in situations in which he’s not being handed a big talent advantage and I know he can make calls and execute at pace.

Ron Jaworski‘s QB rankings are as follows:

1) Smith
2) Nassib
3)  Manuel
4) Landry Jones
5) Mike Glennon

Matt Barkley is all the way down at No. 6.

Then there are the physical concerns. When I see Barkley throw, I don’t see enough drive on the ball. I don’t see him snapping off throws. I thought he often pushed the ball rather than get that good wrist snap that generates velocity and a tight spiral. I also didn’t see him driving off his back leg on throws. He threw the fade well and had some nice deep posts, but I didn’t see him making a lot of NFL throws despite an NFL-caliber receiving corps in a pro-style offense under Lane Kiffin.

I think Barkley is capable of having a very long NFL career. But I don’t consider him one of the top QB prospects in this draft class.

As for Manuel, Jaws predicts that “at a minimum, I think we’ll see a team trade up into the back end of Round 1 to select him.”

Manuel is scheduled to attend the draft in New York. (He and Smith will be the lone representatives of this quarterback class.) I checked in with someone close to the Florida St. quarterback to see if they viewed the invite as an indication that he will definitely be a first-round selection. The Manuel camp hopes that’s the case but don’t know for sure, and say EJ wanted to attend regardless.

Josh Norris at NFL.com believes that Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson is the top quarterback in this class.

I don’t expect Wilson to be among the top quarterbacks selected in April’s draft, but he can be successful wherever he lands, thanks to his willingness to stick to the pocket and test vertically. There are some placement issues, but those can be fixed with improved footwork.

Less than two weeks, and still no consensus when it comes to this group of quarterbacks. Pretty telling.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Kiper Expects Offers For No. 4 Pick

Earlier this week, we discussed the possibility of the Eagles trading down out of the No. 4 pick.

And while many believe teams at the top of the first round will have a tough time drawing significant offers, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the Eagles will get some calls.

“You’re going to get offers because it’s not costly to be up there,” Kiper said. ‘It’s a case where there’s going to be some hot players, and the hot players are going to be those left tackles. Everybody seems to want to go up and get those guys. After [Luke] Joeckel goes, if he goes one, that’s going to make Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson two possibilities for teams that are going to look to move up.”

The tackles seem to be the players to watch. Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson are the clear-cut top three options. It seems likely that Andy Reid and the Chiefs will go with one of them. But the Jaguars and Raiders at two and three could go in a number of different directions.

One team that has the ammo to move up is the Miami Dolphins. But Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins like Joeckel and Fisher much more than Johnson. There are plenty of smokescreens this time of year, but that’s something that could work in the Eagles’ favor.

Meanwhile, one option for the Birds with the No. 35 pick (second round) could be Florida State QB EJ Manuel. But will he still be there? Kiper said he loves Manuel, but has some concerns.

“I just saw a kid who didn’t go through progression to the third or fourth option,” Kiper said. “He’d go one, two, and underneath.  Didn’t have to read the whole field, read half the field, that’s a concern.  At times he made inaccurate throws, questionable decisions. That’s a concern. I didn’t see him take his game to an elite level despite having elite physical and athletic skills.

“On the numbers alone he’s first round. He tests like a first rounder. I thought his performance was more like a second or third rounder. Do the math on that, you’re thinking late one, early two.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

In his Twitter Mailbag, T-Mac discusses the Tavon Austin possibility.

Is Geno Smith the next Tony Romo? Here’s the latest draft buzz.

The Eagles traded Dion Lewis to the Browns for linebacker Emmanuel Acho.

Here’s our latest draft profile of Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

DeSean Jackson talks about the Geno Smith possibility.

The Eagles have released linebacker Ryan Rau and three others.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock tells Paul Domowitch of the Daily News that he doesn’t think Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is a great fit in a 3-4.

“I don’t think 3-4 teams are going to be very interested in Sharrif, unless they intend to use him like Houston uses J.J. Watt. The base 3-4 teams typically are looking for longer, bigger guys to line up head up on that tackle.”

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com would not be on board with a Geno Smith pick:

I will be highly disappointed if the Eagles use the #4 pick on Geno Smith.  If they trade back and take him, I’d be more comfortable, but that wouldn’t change the fact that I’m just not sold on Geno.  Greg Cosell has pointed out the “slow eyes” issue.  Geno is a smart QB, but as Ron Jaworski says so perfectly, a QB must process information quickly.  Geno doesn’t do this.  He’s late on his reads and decisions.  I’m not sure that can be coached out of him.  The situations in the NFL will only be tougher.  Receivers will be less open.  Pass rushers will be bigger, faster, and stronger.

COMING UP

Draft, draft and more draft!

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Draft Buzz: Geno Smith Comparison; 2nd-Round Safeties

With the draft exactly two weeks away, here is the latest buzz to get you through the afternoon.

The discussion about where Geno Smith should be selected figures to rage on until the moment that Roger Goodell calls his name on April 25.

Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com has a good piece up about Smith and provides a comparison I had not yet heard:

Geno Smith is Tony Romo! The streaks, the lapses, the rhythm passes, the highlights, the head-scratchers, the athleticism, the polarization. He’s Romo, and he takes too much blame when things go wrong for his team, even though he deserves some of that blame. He can develop into a quarterback who wins five or six games per year for his team all by himself, then loses about two or three all by himself, then plays at a fairly high level in the other eight. Like Romo’s Cowboys, that can result in 13-3 seasons or 6-10 seasons, depending on who is surrounding him.

It’s an interesting comp. Both players are 6-2. Romo is listed at 230, while Smith weighed in at 218 at the Combine. Romo ran a 5.01 out of college, while Smith ran a 4.59.

I’ll probably get killed for this, but the truth is, if Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman believe Smith can be Romo, the Eagles would have to strongly consider taking him with the fourth pick. For all his faults, Romo has a 64.7 career completion percentage, 177 touchdowns and 91 interceptions. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler.

But as I’ve said before, my feeling is they’ll pass on Smith.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com disagrees with me. The former scout for the Eagles has Smith going No. 4:

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.

A bunch of the mocks we posted earlier this week also had the Eagles taking Smith.

With the Eagles’ second pick, they very well could eye safety help. Greg Cosell of NFL Films broke down some of the top safeties in this year’s class in his Yahoo Sports column. One name to keep in mind – and he might not be there when the Eagles pick in the second round – is Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien:

What really stood out was he played the game fast, with velocity, passion and tenacity. There’s no question there were times he was over-aggressive and reckless, although overall he played with an efficient mix of ferocity and control. Given his height – over six-foot – and his physique, he exhibited surprising (to me, anyway, since I had not seen him on television and knew little about his game before my tape study) athleticism, with excellent change of direction and closing speed.

I could see Cyprien becoming the best safety in this draft class three or four years down the road.

Speaking of safeties, the Eagles held a private workout with Arkansas State’s Don Jones, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. Jones (5-11, 191) ran a 4.42 and a 4.40 at his Pro Day, according to NFL.com. He’s projected to be a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.

Click here for all of the Eagles’ prospect visits and workouts.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean, Vick Talk Geno Smith

The Geno Smith conversation is not just being had on talk radio, in bars, and on your favorite blog. Turns out, it has seeped through the NovaCare walls and into the weight room as well.

“I have been hearing about that, honestly, too. Geno Smith was a great player at West Virginia. He has done some great things. He could probably fit right in with this offense,” said DeSean Jackson in an interview with NFL Network. “Mock drafts and things like that, I don’t really get into them because a lot of times none of that stuff turns out to be right. We will see, I am getting interested… Hopefully whoever comes in can help us get to where we need to, fast and in a hurry.”

The host asked if Michael Vick would have provided as diplomatic of an answer.

“Actually, me and Mike Vick were just talking about that in the weight room the other day,” said Jackson. “Mike Vick is at the point in his career where he is 32, he feels him getting  a one-year contract, that he still has a lot to go out there and prove. At the same time, he understand it is a business and the team and organization will have to do whatever they can to make it work.  I think he will be ready this year to go and you will see a different Michael Vick this year.”

Vick will get back under center when the Eagles start up their three-day minicamp Tuesday. Jackson said that Chip Kelly is putting in plays “slowly but surely” (word is there is some read option in the early installs), and that the new coach is busy establishing the new pace.

“Chip Kelly he has come in and started an energy in this building with determination [and] with hard work. I haven’t been doing some of these workouts we are doing right now since college,” said Jackson. “They are just up-tempo, very fast. We get in and get it done. When we are in this building we are definitely a 100 miles-per-hour and running.”

 WHAT YOU MISSED

What could the Eagles get in return if they trade out of the No. 4 slot? Sheil breaks it down.

The Eagles will likely address the corner position in the draft. Here are five potential options for them.

All the latest draft buzz right here.

Does DeMeco Ryans fit in a 3-4? Sheil busts out the All-22 to investigate.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jason La Canfora takes a very strong stance when it comes to Smith, saying that there is no doubt that he will be a top-5 pick.

Too many teams have too much legitimate interest in Smith, the standout from West Virginia. In reality, with the quarterback dust essentially settled now in terms of free agency and trades, Smith’s stock will only rise the rest of this month. He has certain undeniable traits working in his favor, there remain a ton of teams that still are anything but settled on a quarterback on a long-term basis, and these top draft picks are just so damn cheap these days that it will continue to entice teams to try to trade into the top five.

Ultimately, La Canfora is not convinced the Eagles will be the team to scoop him up.

Do I think the Eagles take him? My gut says no, but they’re not doing all of this due diligence on him as a favor, either. Michael Vick is a year-to-year proposition, Nick Foles is a developmental guy most likely, and if Smith looks like the best fit to be Chip Kelly’s long-term guy, then it could happen.

Gregg Rosenthal lists five players that could scramble mock drafts. Tavon Austin is one of them.

[Geno] Smith appears to be getting overrated. Austin might be underrated. In today’s NFL, space players like Austin have more value than ever. Forget about his size; it’s easy to imagine Austin getting drafted a lot earlier than expected.

COMING UP

Just two weeks away now from the draft…

Eagles Mock Draft Roundup: Will Geno Be the Pick?

Here’s the weekly mock draft roundup, along with projections for who the Eagles will take with the fourth pick.

Lots of love for West Virginia QB Geno Smith this time around.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has the Eagles taking 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.

The crew at OurLads.com also:

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. The Raiders have big outside speed and Smith is the guy that can get them the ball. Carson Palmer’s best days are way behind him so Smith makes sense. A def tackle is also in the mix.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com too:

Michael Vick can’t quarterback these guys. Someone else must, and Smith is my choice.

And Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com:

Michael Vick is a short-term answer at QB and Nick Foles should be in a different offense. Draft Smith and trade Foles. If the Eagles pass on Smith they should come back around for EJ Manuel in the next round.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times also has Smith:

Philadelphia isn’t going to spend all that money to hire Chip Kelly, then leave the cupboard bare at quarterback. Michael Vick is at best a short-term solution.

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News goes with Smith:

Sure, for the moment, Michael Vick and Nick Foles look like they’ll be battling to be the starting quarterback for Chip Kelly. But there’s no denying Smith has the basic skill set (arm, accuracy, athleticism) that Kelly could mold into something special in his up-tempo passing offense.

Meanwhile, Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com goes with Utah DT Star Lotulelei:

Because of their free agency spending, the Eagles do not have a critical need to fill, allowing them to go in a variety of directions with this pick. Lotulelei is an excellent nose tackle prospect but is not locked into that position and could help in a variety ways along the front three.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com has the Eagles landing Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel:

Chip Kelly understands the importance of protecting the passer, which is why drafting Joeckel makes complete sense in this scenario.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting has the Birds taking Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson:

Switching from Dion Jordan last week, after re-evaluating the Eagles needs, finding a starting 5-technique opposite Fletcher Cox would be ideal. Chip Kelly values versatility and athleticism, and Richardson fits both of those categories well.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk goes with Richardson also.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has the Eagles taking Florida defensive tackle 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.

Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com devises a “consensus” mock and ends up with Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher:

This is the first draft of the Chip Kelly era, so no one knows what to expect. The Michael Vick contract extension threw much of the chorus off the Geno Smith scent, but unlike the Alex Smith trade, the cap-friendly Vick deal does not look like a serious investment. The smattering of Geno interest in picks 2-4 could force one of the quarterback-hungry teams in the 7-10 spots to make a move. Or that just might be what the Jaguars, Raiders and Eagles want us to believe.

Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post also says it’ll be Fisher:

Need OL help after Jason Peters’ injury and Demetress Bell’s release; Fisher provides instant upgrade.

Don Banks of SI.com goes with Alabama CB Dee Milliner:

I’m not ruling out the possibility the Eagles are Geno Smith’s landing spot, but I’m also not convinced of it by any stretch. Maybe the next three weeks will help clarify that question. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher would be an easy card to turn in, but with both Jason Peters and Todd Herremans returning from injury in 2013, I keep coming back to the notion that the draft’s top cornerback might have more rookie impact in Philly than drafting a future starter/insurance policy at left tackle.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post goes with LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo:

While Chip Kelly will be disappointed that Dion Jordan is already gone, they are excited about the potential that Barkevious Mingo has. A special athlete who constantly makes big plays rushing the passer; he would be a great fit at outside linebacker in the Eagles new 34 defense.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com goes with Mingo too:

Pass rushers are always a nice pick this high.

Chris Steuber of OurLads.com has the Eagles taking Oregon OLB Dion Jordan in the first and Florida State QB EJ Manuel in the second.

OurLads.com has the Eagles taking Florida safety Matt Elam in the second round:

A playmaker who made big plays in big games. Instinctive with the ability to read quickly and diagnose the play. Good anticipation with quick reactions. Aggressive on the ball in the air. Brings the hammer when schemed to blitz the quarterback. Physical in his play. Ability to stay on his feet and play off blockers. Competitive wrap up tackler.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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What They’re Saying: Draft Roundup

With the draft less than three weeks away, here’s what the national media are saying related to the Eagles and the No. 4 pick:

NFL Films Executive Producer Greg Cosell sees this quarterback class different than most.

Cosell made waves when he labeled USC’s Matt Barkley a third- or fourth-round talent. He then called Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib a better prospect than West Virginia’s Geno Smith. After hundreds of hours of tape-watching, Cosell continues to see the signal-caller hierarchy in a different light than the masses.

Cosell on Friday said he would “rather have” N.C. State’s Mike Glennon than Smith.

“I would argue that, in my opinion, Glennon could (go) late in the first round and I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all,” Cosell told NFL Network’s ‘Path to the Draft’ on Friday. “As I talked about his attributes, I think he has probably — of the quarterbacks in this class — more of the attributes that you look for than maybe any other quarterback in this class.”

Chris Mortensen joined Mike Missanelli Friday and gave some insight into the Smith-Eagles dynamic:

“I know the Eagles had a really good private session with him. And I know when they showed him a tape of one of his worst games he handled it well and had the right answers, even if he didn’t make the right decisions on that. He certainly impressed.

“Would I be shocked if they take Geno? No. Do I know that they are going to take Geno? No, I don’t.”

Later in the interview, Mortensen predicted that the Eagles draft Ziggy Ansah. 

Sal Paolantonio thinks Eric Fisher is the pick at No. 4 if the tackle is available.

“Eric Fisher is without a doubt my top player in the draft. Can’t miss with Eric Fisher. He’ll be productive, mature, intelligent, an absolute starter for 10 years at the tackle position. He will anchor your offensive line for a half a generation.”

Sal rolled out his top 5, which consisted of Fisher, Chance Warmack, Sharrif Floyd, Tavon Austin and Dion Jordan, assuming his shoulder is OK.

Mike Mayock now has Fisher ranked ahead of Luke Joeckel.

“This is no way an indictment of Luke Joeckel, I think he’s going to be an All-Pro three years from now,” Mayock told NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft” on Friday. “It’s more an indication of my belief that there’s just a little bit more upside with Eric Fisher. He’s a little bit longer, I think he has better feet and he’s a little bit more athletic.”

Todd McShay had the Eagles selecting Fisher at No. 4, but in his most recent mock-up changed the pick to Star Lotulelei.

You may have noticed that the Eagles are working out or setting up visits with every prospect under the sun. Dan Graziano tries to make sense of it all.

 The last time the Eagles had a pick this high, they used it on Donovan McNabb. Largely because of the way that pick worked out, the Eagles aren’t used to picking in the top five, and their hope is that it’ll be a very long time before they have to again. To that end, the Eagles need to make as certain as possible that they find a franchise building-block type of player at No. 4. And while certainty with regard to draft picks is unattainable, they need to be thinking less about immediate need and raw potential and more about reliability. They need someone with low “bust” potential. That’s why I kind of doubt they’ll take Smith, the West Virginia quarterback, at No. 4. The book on Smith is that he has the tools to be a franchise guy but that he was inconsistent in college from game to game and has too much “bad tape.” Someone like that feels more risky than the Eagles need to be at No. 4, in my personal opinion. Which is, I believe, what you come here to read.

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Eagles Draft Nuggets From Mel Kiper Jr.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be on the conference call with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. yesterday because it was at the same time as the Eagles’ media availability.

But the fine folks at the world-wide leader provided a transcript of Kiper’s Q&A with reporters. Below are some noteworthy nuggets, as they pertain to the Eagles, along with my take.

Kiper on who the Eagles might take in the first two rounds: “Well, it’s going to be the Geno Smith discussion.  Obviously a new coach, do you bring in your new quarterback with the new coach and go that route when you’re in a division with [Tony] Romo and Eli [Manning] and RG3? Do you go the offensive line route?  You’ve got some outstanding left tackles. [Luke] Joeckel if he goes No. 1 is out of the loop, but then obviously Eric Fisher from Central Michigan and Lane Johnson from Oklahoma. You want the cornerback Dee Milliner from Alabama, you could go there. Then you can look quarterback second round, whether it’s an EJ Manuel, you hear his name for the Eagles in the early second round some.”

“So the Eagles, it depends on the first-round pick. That dictates what they do in Round 2.  You take Geno Smith, you’re not taking an EJ Manuel.  You take Geno Smith, then you’re probably looking at maybe a [Menelik] Watson, the offensive tackle from Florida State in the second round.  Third round maybe a corner like B.W. Webb from William & Mary.  So that’s some of the ways the Eagles could go.”

My take: As I mentioned earlier today, I don’t think Smith is going to be the pick at No. 4. My best guess right now is that they go with Joeckel or Fisher if one of the two is available. Lane Johnson (Oklahoma OT) is an interesting name. If the Eagles trade down, he’s someone I could see them targeting. And of course, EJ Manuel (Florida State QB) is an option in the second round.

Kiper on West Virginia’s Tavon Austin: “This kid is going to be drafted in the top 16.  I think the furthest I could see him getting down to, well, the furthest I could see him is 23 to Minnesota; 16 to St. Louis is where I have him going.  You could see him in the mix for Carolina, Tampa. A lot of teams could be in the mix for him, but I think St. Louis will be a good fit at 16.”

My take: Can’t you just see Chip Kelly begging Howie Roseman, Tom Gamble and company to take Austin? It’s probably unlikely, but if the Eagles trade down, I’m not ready to rule out the possibility of them targeting the most dynamic offensive playmaker in the draft. Austin might be the biggest wild card in the first round. Several teams could be interested in trading up to the middle of the first round to take him.

Kiper on the safety class: “There’s an elite group that are all going to go high. You’re going to have a run on safeties in the second round. If Jonathan Cyprien is not a first-round pick, out of Florida International, he will be a second. Matt Elam, if he’s not a 1, he’ll be a 2 out of Florida.  Shamarko Thomas out of Syracuse will be a 2. J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern.  Shawn Williams from Georgia could be a 3. D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina probably a 2. Eric Reid, LSU, probably more of a 3. Duke Williams is an interesting guy out of Nevada. I think Don Jones from Arkansas State is an underrated fifth-to-seventh round pick. Same thing with Ray Polk from Colorado. Rontez Miles from Cal PA has moved into that fifth-round mix. Zeke Motta would have been a third-round pick had he run better. He didn’t. Now he’s a late-round or priority free agent out of Notre Dame. Melvin White is a versatile kid out of Louisiana Lafayette.”

My take: The Eagles have not had good luck with safeties in the second round (Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett), but they could end up taking one there again. They signed Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in the offseason, but Chung is coming off a down year, and Phillips has to prove he’s healthy. Don’t be surprised to see the Birds take a safety on Day 2.

Kiper on Matt Scott: “He’s probably in that four-to-five, four-to-six round area, and he’s probably going to go to a team that doesn’t have as critical a need, but wants to look at a young quarterback that maybe feels like, okay, let’s see if we can develop him, put him off the radar for a couple years and develop him the old-school way and see what happens there.”

My take: Scott should be a name to watch in the later rounds. The Eagles have shown pre-draft interest in the Arizona quarterback, and Kelly has a familiarity with him from his days in the Pac-12. If the Eagles don’t take Manuel in the second, Scott on Day 3 could be an option.

Kiper on San Diego State TE Gavin Escobar: “Yeah, Escobar is an interesting guy. I’ve liked him. You look at his skill set and how it translates to the NFL, I think ideally at 6-5 1/2, 6-6, 250 to 255 pounds, he runs well, he plays fast too many times, he’s got the hands, he’s got the natural receiving skills.  I think he’s in that late-second, early-to-mid third round discussion. The 49ers could look at him at 61. There’s a couple teams, Tampa Bay could look at him in the third-round mix. There are some teams that could be looking at tight ends. Seattle even in the third round.”

My take: Tight end is a bit of a mystery. It’s not a pressing need for the Eagles. They have Brent Celek and James Casey in the fold, but we don’t know exactly how Kelly plans on featuring the position. We know he likes versatility and length. Escobar, who is one of the Eagles’ official visits, could be a third-round option. They could choose to wait on tight end and pick a lesser known prospect later in the draft.

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 Get a Visit From Geno Smith

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is in town for an official visit with the Eagles, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound signal-caller spent yesterday with the Kansas City Chiefs and has been at the center of draft conversation the past couple of days. A Pro Football Weekly report earlier this week slammed Smith for his work ethic, among other things. As Tim noted this morning, Smith stood up for himself, calling the labels “untrue.”

Others refuted the claims as well:

 

 

As we mentioned yesterday, character and leadership are especially important with quarterbacks. That’s part of the reason why Jeffrey Lurie accompanied Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly on a trip to Morgantown last month to work Smith out. Official draft visits are different from prospect workouts. Smith will not do any on-field work for the Eagles today. Activities will include interviews and medical checks.

It’s also important to remember that this process isn’t just about who the Eagles are going to take with the No. 4 pick. What if Smith slides far past where most are projecting? What if things don’t work out for him with another team and he becomes available a few years from now?

That’s what this time of year is for in the NFL: extensive research on college prospects that can help you come draft time, or down the road.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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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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