Weekend Reading: Draft Edition

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Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

The draft is just over a month away. We’ll be kicking our coverage into high gear beginning this week. Let’s start with a look at who the draftniks are linking to the Eagles: Read more »

Cosell On Receiver Fits For Chip

Odell Beckham

Whether DeSean Jackson is on the roster or not, chances are the Eagles will be tempted to pull the trigger on a number of quality wideouts throughout the draft.

“I think we’re going to be sitting there in every round and there’s going to be a receiver we  like,” said Howie Roseman at the combine. “It’s just going to happen that way…Guys will be pushed back because of the quality and the depth of the class.”

Add NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell to the long list of analysts and executives that are calling this the best receiver crop in recent memory. Out of this group, which are the best fits for Chip Kelly and the Eagles offense? We asked Cosell for his take, and he offered four names to consider.
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Eagles Select Lane Johnson With No. 4 Pick

By the early look of things, all three of the elite tackle prospects were going to be off the board before the Eagles even got on the clock. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel went 1 and 2, and the O-line needy Dolphins traded into the third slot, presumably to land Lane Johnson. Instead, they grabbed Chip Kelly‘s old student, Dion Jordan. 

They would have a chance to land a tackle after all.

“We thought he was the most athletic tackle we’ve seen,” said Kelly of his first draft pick as Eagles head coach. “He has a huge upside. He hasn’t played a ton of offensive tackle but he has played the right side and the left side so he has experience at both sides.

“The game is won up front. He’s a tough, physical guy and that’s what I think we were looking for as we went into this draft. It’s an exciting thing when you can target people and get what you’re looking for.”

Kelly said that the three tackles and Jordan were the top four players on their board. As it turned out, those prospects went 1-4. In Johnson, they get an intriguing athlete that has more question marks than Fisher and Joeckel because of his lack of experience. But Johnson believes he is ready to start right away.

“I think I am. Yes sir,” he said.

As far as whether he has a preference of playing on the right or left side, he said, “I really don’t care. I’m trying to be as balanced as possible. Whatever coach Kelly and [the team]  needs, I’m going to do it.”

If Johnson is capable of playing early on he could man the right tackle post, kicking Todd Herremans inside.

The 6-6, 303-pounder played quarterback in high school and didn’t draw much recruiting attention, eventually landing at Kilgore (junior) College. But Johnson kept filling out his frame and was moved to tight end in the spring. By that time, he had bulked up from 220 pounds to 255.

Oklahoma offered him a scholarship, and Johnson red-shirted in 2009 as a tight end. He kept putting on weight and was now up to 270. The coaching staff decided another position switch was in order, moving him to defensive end.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The Sooners suffered an injury on their offensive line, and Bob Stoops asked Johnson if he wanted to give tackle a shot.

“I kind of asked him. I said, ‘Come on, Lane.’ He was a big d-end, we loved him there to be honest with you,” said Stoops. “But I could tell. I said, ‘Big Lane you’re 270 and I can tell you could be more. How are you managing it at 270 playing d-end?’

“I asked our strength coach, what will it take for him to be 300 pounds? He said, ‘Only a couple weeks and a cheeseburger.’ Sure enough, that’s what happened.”

Stoops said they knew after two practices that he had found his home. Johnson played right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior.

“I think he is ready, but he is raw,” said Kelly. “And it’s a draft of raw guys. Luke Joeckel is a three-year player…It just seems that’s how this draft fell out. We look at raw as a positive, not a negative because if he’s doing what he’s doing now and he has only played really two years on the offensive line…just what the upside is. We felt his ceiling was probably the highest. That’s the intriguing thing.”

Johnson shot up mock drafts after excelling during the pre-draft process.  Adam Caplan said he’s never seen a more dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.

A look at Johnson in action below.

Sheil Kapadia contributed to this story.

Eagles Draft Predictions: McManus Vs. Kapadia

It’s time for the first annual Birds 24/7 Draft Predictions, where Sheil and I lay it all on the line in a fight for bragging rights. Kapadia is still stinging from his sound defeat in our 53-man projections battle back in training camp. Let’s see if he can get on the scoreboard.

Q: Will they draft a quarterback? If so, who?

Sheil: It just feels like they have to. I don’t think Geno Smith is going to get out of the top-15, and I don’t think EJ Manuel is going to be available at No. 35. So where does that leave the Eagles?

Two names to watch: Zac Dysert (6-3, 231) out of Miami (Ohio) and Matt Scott (6-2, 213) out of Arizona. I’ll flip a coin and go with Scott. At the very least, he can replace Dennis Dixon on the roster and give you someone who can run the spread option.

By the way, McManus, I don’t think we can have Manuel continue his diary entries as a member of the Jets, Bills or Jaguars. That just won’t fly with our audience. You probably want to get on the phone with Scott or Dysert and set up something new.

Tim: Who needs a Dysert diary when we have Nicky Foles?

I think the Eagles would pick either Smith or Manuel if the price is right, but the draft will likely fall in such a way where they’ll end up taking a quarterback in the latter rounds instead. My guess is they grab Scott, especially if he’s available in the fourth round. He needs some work, but he has a skill set that Kelly may be drawn to, and he can hang in the background while Foles and Mike Vick run the show for now.

Sadly, we agree.

Q: What will they do at No. 4?

Sheil: I’m going to pull a bit of a surprise here and say they draft Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd. My guess is that the top of their board looks like this: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan. The problem? I think all of those players are going to be gone by the time the Eagles are on the clock.

The Eagles will be deciding between guys like Floyd, Lane Johnson, Ziggy Ansah and Star Lotulelei. If they really are committed to taking the best player available, I think it’s Floyd. He brings versatility to the defensive line, is only 20 years old and can team up with Fletcher Cox to form the core of your defense for years to come.

I can’t wait to re-read this around 8:30 tonight and realize what a dope I am.

Tim: You don’t have to wait until tonight to figure that out. (Rimshot.)

My pick is Jordan. I agree Fisher and Joeckel are gone. Then the Raiders are on the clock (assuming they stick at three) and will likely do something insane. I’m betting on Jordan being there, and the Eagles pulling the trigger.

Here is what I find interesting, though, Sheil: There is a chance that both Jordan and Johnson are there at 4, and one of them is guaranteed to be available. There have been serious rumblings about the Birds trading back. So out of Jordan and Johnson, they must not like one enough to grab at 4, right? Which one is it?

If they do move back, I change my pick to Star.

Q: Should Tavon Austin be a consideration?

Sheil: Well, I know you believe the Eagles’ receiving corps is the worst unit assembled in the past 25 years. But I also know you’ll probably slam your head against your desk if they add another target who is under 6 feet. Man, tonight is going to be fun.

I think we are probably over-thinking things with Austin. He’s fast (4.34 40), can line up anywhere (out wide, slot, backfield) and was ridiculously productive in college. In other words, of course Kelly is going to want to consider him!

And the truth is, he makes sense on many levels. Jeremy Maclin is in the final year of his contract, and Jason Avant (who is 30) doesn’t seem to possess the skill set Kelly covets.

If the Eagles think Austin can hold up (and he has said he’s never been injured in the last eight years), they’ll absolutely consider him in the first round. Size is the issue. Austin is 5-8, 174. Wes Welker was 21 pounds heavier when he came out of college. Percy Harvin was 18 pounds heavier. I don’t think the Eagles will take him at No. 4, but if they trade down, he should be near the top of the list of possibilities.

Tim: How about all the late Eagles-Austin buzz?

Loving it. Yes, Austin should be a consideration. He is the automatic front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, yes? This crop of talent lacks sure-fire studs, right? I think Kelly would have a ball with him. One connected person I talked to thinks the receiver goes in the 8-12 range. Would I be shocked if the Eagles trade back, and the Commish calls out Austin’s name when they are on the clock? Nope.

Q: Name one Day 3 prospect who will be an Eagle.

Sheil: Ready for this one, T-Mac? Joe Kruger, DE, Utah. Philadelphia continues its tradition of getting the lesser-known brother! Sure, the Browns signed Paul, but the Eagles were just waiting to pounce on Joe. The 6-6, 269-pounder has long arms (34 3/8-inches) and ran a 4.83 40. He’s projected to go somewhere between Rounds 4 and 6.

Tim: Look at you going with the Kruger. I’ll throw you two tight ends. I could see them taking Florida’s Jordan Reed in the third round. A late-round name to watch is Pittsburgh’s Mike Shanahan. He is a wide receiver converting to tight end. The Eagles have apparently shown a little interest.

Q: What’s one bold Eagles prediction?

Sheil: The Birds will draft a wide receiver or tight end in the first three rounds.

Free agency was spent building up the defense (aside from James Casey), but it’s time for Kelly to start adding his kind of guys on offense. I mentioned the team’s wide receiver situation above. Chances are they don’t take Austin in the first, but the team could certainly address the position in the second or third rounds.

Tight end is also an option. It seems like the Eagles have worked out every tight end prospect in the draft. There are plenty of versatile options who can line up in different spots and stretch the field. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles grab one on Friday evening.

Tim: I am not so sure the experiment of moving Trent Cole and Brandon Graham to linebacker (particularly Cole) is going to work all that well. They are going to need some ‘backers that can play in space. That’s part of my thinking in picking Jordan. If not him, they’ll try to address outside linebacker somewhere along the line.

Also, I think they grab two corners.

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Mel’s Mock: Then And Now

In Mel Kiper’s first mock-up of the 2012 draft last January, his top-5 looked like this:

1) Andrew Luck
2) Justin Blackmon
3) Matt Kalil
4) RGIII
5) Trent Richardson

The college season had just ended, and he had all the right names listed (though not in all the right spots.) He made some tweaks as the draft got closer — moving RGIII up, taking Blackmon out and putting Morris Claiborne in — but he had it surrounded. The general accuracy that he (and many prognosticators) demonstrated spoke to how clear-cut the top of the class was.

This season, Kiper has already changed three of his original top 5. Geno Smith went from out of the first round to the Eagles’ selection at four. His No. 2 pick is now projected be be taken late in the second round. It is all over the place.

Here is a side-by-side comparison between Kiper’s first mock (done on January 16) and his most recent. It helps illustrate the amount of uncertainty that surrounds this draft. It is also interesting to see how opinions shaped primarily by game tape can change through the pre-draft process.

Pick
Original
Current
1 OT Luke JoeckelLuke Joeckel
2 DE Damontre MooreEzekiel Ansah
3DT Star LotuleleiSharrif Floyd
4CB Dee MillinerQB Geno Smith
5LB Jarvis JonesDee Milliner
6DE Bjoern WernerDion Jordan
7OT Chance WarmackEric Fisher
8LB Manti Te'oJonathan Cooper
9DE Barkevious MingoBarkevious Mingo
10DE Dion JordanChance Warmack
11OT Eric FisherOT Lane Johnson
12WR Cordarrelle PattersonD.J. Fluker
13LB Alec OgletreeStar Lotulelei
14DT Sheldon RichardsonSheldon Richardson
15DT Johnathan HankinsJarvis Jones
16S Kenny Vaccaro WR Tavon Austin
17LB Ezekiel AnsahTyler Eifert
18 G Jonathan CooperDT Sylvester Williams
19DE Sam MontgomeryCB Desmond Trufant
20TE Tyler EifertManti Te'o
21RB Montee BallAlec Ogletree
22OT D.J. FlukerKenny Vaccaro
23WR Terrance WilliamsCordarrelle Patterson
24OT Menelik WatsonXavier Rhodes
25DT John JenkinsKevin Minter
26TE Zach ErtzRB Eddie Lacy
27WR Keenan AllenWR Robert Woods
28CB Xavier RhodesCB D.J. Hayden
29LB Kevin MinterWR Justin Hunter
30DT Sharrif FloydOL Kyle Long
31WR DeAndre HopkinsMargus Hunt
32DE Margus HuntS Jonathan Cyprien

Some observations:

— Smith was originally not listed as a first-round pick.  Same with teammate Tavon Austin and Alabama’s Eddie Lacy.

Damontre Moore started out in the second slot. Kiper now has him going 58th to the Broncos. Moore racked up 21 sacks over the last two seasons for Texas A&M.

Dion Jordan moved up most boards post-Combine, including Kiper’s.

— Speaking of movement, how about Sharrif Floyd going from 30 all the way to 3?

Luke Joeckel (1), Barkevious Mingo (9) and Sheldon Richardson (14) were the only three to stay put.

— This reminds us how much Manti Te’o has fallen in the mock world since his personal life became the focus.

Lane Johnson is one of the hottest names out there; some even project him landing with the Eagles at 4. Not to be found on the first mock.

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Draft Prep: Five Options For Eagles At Corner

The Eagles’ plan  heading into free agency was to address their positional needs so they wouldn’t be forced to reach in the draft. Chip Kelly pointed to the cornerback position specifically when asked about this at the owners meetings.

“You had some depth issues, obviously, we lost Nnamdi [Asomugha] and DRC. You don’t want to sit there with no corners,” said Kelly. “So you add a couple of guys in that situation, it gives you a little — I guess the best way to say it is — comfort knowing you don’t have to reach for somebody at No. 4 just because you don’t have somebody at that position.”

While the additions of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams this offseason takes a little bit of the edge off, I would argue that cornerback remains the greatest position of need for the Eagles in the short-term. There are simply too many question marks right now, and no sure-fire solutions on the roster.

Odds are they will be looking to add at least one corner in the draft. But who? And where?

Alabama’s Dee Milliner is the big name in this class and is a potential top-5 pick. Sheil did a full profile on Milliner if you need to read up on him. For this post, we will look at five corners outside of Milliner that the Eagles could target. We decided not to highlight Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, assuming both will be scooped up later in the first round by another team.

(The round projection is from CBS Sports. The film is courtesy of Draftbreakdown.com).

Johnthan Banks (Miss. St.)
Height/Weight: 6-2, 185
40-time: 4.59
Projected Round: 2

NFL.com overview: Banks was recruited as a safety out of high school, and started there for the final seven games of his true freshman season for the Bulldogs. He even intercepted erstwhile quarterback Tim Tebow twice in the team’s 2009 loss to the Gators, scoring on a 100-yard return at the end of the first half. But his play at cornerback the past two seasons is what has put him on NFL scouts’ radar as a potential starter at the next level.

We know that Kelly values size, and Banks has it.  He finished with a school-record 16 interceptions, and has been described as a vocal leader with a fiery personality that doesn’t shy away from big hits.

Film review:

Tyrann Mathieu (LSU)
Height/Weight: 5-9, 186
40-time: 4.50
Projected Round: 2-3

 NFL.com overview: The 2011 Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s top defender was dismissed from LSU for multiple violations of team rules. Subsequently, he decided to enter a drug rehab center and ultimately ended up declaring for the draft instead of transferring. When on the field, the undersized but ultracompetitive turnover machine (six forced fumbles, two interceptions in 2011) brings the physicality of a bigger player in his tackles, no matter where he plays. Mathieu is also a game-changer as a punt returner, ranking fourth in the country [in 2011] with 16.2 yards per attempt and scoring two touchdowns.

Not ideal size for Kelly, but the “Honey Badger” blew it up against Oregon in 2011, recording 10 tackles, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. It is a big risk-reward pick, and comes down to whether you think you can keep Mathieu on the straight and narrow.

Film review:

Darius Slay (Miss. St.)
Height/Weight: 6-0, 192
40-time: 4.36
Projected Round: 2-3

NFL.com overview: Slay has a good build for the position and long arms. Gets good use out his length and will use his hands to disturb receivers during the route. Very good at attacking the hands and arms as the receiver goes for the reception, forces a lot of drops. Works across the face of his blockers, and creates separation with his length. Physical tackler. Solid hands. Talented special teams player and a hard worker.

Slay is the draft’s fastest corner. He has the measurables that Kelly seems to gravitate towards, and the physical type of play that he seeks. The Eagles had Slay in for an official visit.

Film review:

Brandon McGee  (Miami)
Height/Weight: 5-11, 193
40-time: 4.40
Projected Round: 4

NFL.com overview: The next Miami cornerback with great speed to pique the interest of NFL scouts, McGee also presents enough size to stand up to NFL receivers on the outside. However, McGee had an up-and-down senior season, and was challenged and successfully beaten on numerous occasions.

Draft Scout describes McGee as a  top high school recruit who didn’t live up to the billing. Sounds like you would be placing a bet on his natural ability, hoping he rounds into form. The Eagles had him in for a private workout.

Film review:

Sanders Commings (Georgia)
Height/Weight: 6-0, 216
40-time: 4.41
Projected Round: 6

NFL.com overview: A cornerback with the build of a starting outside receiver (and the athleticism to have been a late-round MLB draft pick as an outfielder) will certainly generate interest among NFL scouts. As expected given his size, Commings can be physical and bully wide receivers. However, his footwork and quickness aren’t ideal for a corner, so there is a potential conversion to safety in his future.

Commings was suspended for the first two games of his senior season after being charged with domestic violence. The Eagles had him in for a private workout.

Film review:

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Eagles Get Compensatory Draft Pick

The Eagles were awarded a compensatory seventh-round draft pick Monday, bringing their total number of picks to nine.

Here is the breakdown:

ROUND

1  (No. 4 overall)
2 (No. 35 overall)
3 (No. 67 overall)
4 (No. 101 overall)
5 (No. 136 overall)
7 (No. 210 overall)
7 (No. 212 overall – acquired in David Sims trade)
7 (No. 218 overall – acquired in Arrelious Benn deal)
7 (No. 239, compensatory pick)

The Eagles traded their sixth-round pick as part of the Benn deal.

The NFL explains the awarding of compensatory selections this way:

Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The Eagles lost Steve Smith and Juqua Parker in the previous year, and signed Demetress Bell.