Eagles Draft Cheat Sheet: Offensive Options

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.

QUARTERBACKS

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.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

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.

WIDE RECEIVER

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.

TIGHT ENDS

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.

RUNNING BACKS

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Joeckel, Milliner, Escobar To Visit Eagles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Could Luke Joeckel Be Available At No. 4?

For months Luke Joeckel has been widely considered the top tackle in April’s draft, with Eric Fisher a beat behind.

That order is being questioned by Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, who says that according to NFL scouts and front office men that he has spoken to, Fisher is passing Joeckel on some draft boards.

What this means is NFL teams have begun to think Fisher can end up the better pro. Joeckel might already be all he can be. Fisher can be significantly better. “Because of his athleticism, he has more upside,” an NFC general manager said. “If you want upside, you take Fisher.”

Andy Reid‘s draft board is the most important at the moment. Most mocks have him selecting Joeckel with the first pick in the draft. If he opts for Fisher (or goes in a different direction altogether) the night will start with a most interesting twist.

All of this will be closely monitored by the Eagles. Tackle is a logical pick at No. 4, and they’ll be interested to see if one of these top linemen are available when they go on the clock.

Which would be a better fit?

Russ Lande did a piece comparing Joeckel and Fisher. He likened Joeckel to Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas, and Fisher to Minnesota’s Matt Kalil. The Vikings picked Kalil with the No. 4 overall pick last year. Thomas was the third pick in ’07. He has made the Pro Bowl six times.

Lande calls Joeckel the more consistent player “but also more of a finesse, positional blocker…Fisher is a more explosive athlete who blocks with more of a nasty, aggressive temperament.”

Lande offers further analysis:

More of a positional, seal run blocker, Joeckel relies on his quickness to get into good blocking position with good leverage and is consistently able to pin man out of the play. On the other hand, Fisher gets after defender aggressively, delivers a blow and flashes the ability to get movement through a combination of strength, aggressiveness and rare competitiveness. This aggressive blocking style does lead to Fisher occasionally over-extending and missing blocks he is in position to make.

Fisher’s aggressive style would likely be appealing to Kelly, who once said he wants his offensive linemen to be like bouncers in a bar. Kelly talked about the qualities he wants in his offensive front when discussing the inside zone play at a Nike Coaching clinic in 2009.

We want to get off the ball and be a physical, downhill-running football team. This is not a finesse play. We teach our offensive linemen a play we call the bust block. The idea is to bust their sternums up against their spines on every play. We want to come off the ball, create a double-team, knock the crap out of the defender, and deposit him in the linebacker’s lap.

That sounds more like Fisher than Joeckel, though I’m sure he would find plenty to like about the stud Texas A&M tackle as well.

In terms of measurables, Fisher is 6-8, 305 and Joeckel is listed at 6-6, 306.  Fisher’s arms are 34 ½ inches compared to 34 ¼ for Joeckel.

There is a wild card in the tackle picture as well. Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson seems to be more in the conversation as a top-tier pick the closer we get to the draft. Several mock drafts have Johnson going to the Chargers at No. 11, other see him being snatched by Arizona at No. 7.  Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage called the 6-6 Johnson “the guy with the most potential at the position in the draft.”

If the Eagles see Johnson as a high-end tackle option, they could conceivably trade out of the No. 4 spot and still snare the kind of player they are looking for.

Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.