Eagles Draft Cheat Sheet: Defensive Options

If you missed part one on the offense, click here.

Now, for the defense. Here are 23 potential first-round prospects to round out the top-40. With each name, you’ll find a short description on how he might fit with the Eagles, along with the likelihood of the player ending up in Philadelphia.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Sharrif Floyd, Florida – I’ve really struggled with determining whether he could be an option for the Eagles. On one hand, pretty much everyone agrees that Floyd is best suited as a 3-technique (lining up between the guard and tackle) defensive tackle in a 4-3. Floyd’s strengths are his quickness and ability to burst into the backfield and be disruptive. That’s negated in a classic 3-4. Then again, not all 3-4s are created the same, and we don’t know exactly what the Eagles plan on running. Floyd (6-3, 297) is only 20-years-old, from Philadelphia and could quite possibly be the “best player available” at No. 4 when the Eagles are on the clock. My sense is that the Eagles won’t want to spend a high pick on a player who might not be a perfect scheme fit, especially since they’re essentially building from the ground up. But I won’t rule Floyd out completely. Teaming him up with Fletcher Cox on the interior in pass-rushing situations would give opposing offensive lines fits.

** Note: I changed my mind a bit on Floyd. Details here.

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri – The write-up for Richardson (6-2, 294) is similar. He seems best suited as a 4-3 DT, but does bring some versatility to the table. In a 3-4, he would be a 5-tech defensive end. I watched one game where he lined up all over the place, often standing up in a two-point stance across from the guard and center before rushing the quarterback. Richardson is not tall, but he has long arms (34 1/2-inches). Don’t think he’s on the Eagles’ radar at No. 4, but can’t rule him out if they trade down.

Star Lotulelei, Utah – There are no scheme questions with Lotulelei (6-2, 311). He can play the nose or 5-technique in a 3-4 and can be an interior pass-rusher in sub packages. Lotulelei was diagnosed with a heart issue at the Combine, but Howie Roseman said he’s been cleared by the Eagles. Still, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at least three teams have taken him off their boards. If Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Dion Jordan are all off the board at No. 4, Lotulelei could be an option. He could also be a candidate if the Eagles trade down.

Sylvester Williams, North Carolina – You can see why evaluators and analysts really like this group of defensive linemen. Lots of first-round talent. Williams (6-3, 313) can play in multiple spots on the defensive line, including nose tackle. I don’t think he’s a first-round target, but he could be an option at No. 35 in the second round.

Jesse Williams, Alabama – Absolutely a name to watch at No. 35, as I mentioned yesterday. Greg Cosell of NFL Films said recently that he doesn’t see a huge difference between Lotulelei and Williams (6-3, 323). It’s no secret that the Eagles are in need of bodies on the defensive line, and Williams can play either the nose or 5-technique.

Bjoern Werner, Florida State – Everything I’ve read projects the 6-3, 266-pounder as a 4-3 defensive end. Nothing I’ve heard suggests he’s a scheme-flexible player who could play outside linebacker in a 3-4. In other words, don’t think he’s an option for the Eagles.

Datone Jones, UCLA – Another potential second-round target. Jones (6-4, 283) can play 5-technique in a 3-4 and move inside in four-man fronts.

Margus Hunt, SMU – And one more second-round target. We wrote about him yesterday too. You won’t find too many humans who are 6-8, 277 and can run a 4.60 40. Hunt would play the 5-technique defensive end spot, although I’m not sure how versatile he would be.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Dion Jordan, Oregon – I think there’s a pretty good chance we might be over-thinking things with Jordan. He has length (6-6, 248), versatility, upside, and Kelly loves his make-up. If Fisher and Joeckel go off the board in the top three, and the Eagles stay put, I’d label him the favorite to be the pick. At the very least, you get a movable piece on defense, who can rush the passer and cover at a high level. And his ceiling is a double-digit sack guy off the edge.

Ziggy Ansah, BYU – Let’s start with numbers: 6-5, 271, 4.63 40, 35 1/8-inch arms. If Ansah, a native of Ghana, had started playing football two or three years earlier, he might be the consensus top pick in the draft. But he only started playing the game after years of soccer, basketball and track. And he ended up with only one year of real playing time at the D-1 level. In other words, he’s incredibly raw (and will turn 24 in May).

Ansah seems best-suited to play defensive end in a 4-3, but I included him in the outside linebackers category here. Given his size and athleticism, he could probably rush the passer from multiple spots in a four-man front. It’s easy to label him a Combine creation, but the truth is Ansah is just new to the game. Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com put up a good post about Ansah, and I agree with him. If I had to pick a side right now, I’d say he’s more likely to have a really good career than be a bust. And with his length and versatility, I’m not ready to rule him out as a surprise pick for the Eagles at No. 4.

Tank Carradine, Florida State – Ansah is my sleeper if the Eagles stay at No. 4. Carradine is my sleeper if they trade down. At 6-4, 276 with 33 3/4-inch arms, he has the size and athleticism to play in a variety of spots – DE or DT in a four-man front, rush linebacker in a 3-4. The question with Carradine has been medical. He tore his ACL in November, and the Eagles reportedly had him in for one of their 30 official visits. If healthy, many analysts believe he could end up being the best pass-rusher in the draft. You might not see him up high in a lot of mocks, but don’t be surprised if Carradine goes in the top half of the first round Thursday night.

Barkevious Mingo, LSU – Another pass-rushing outside linebacker. I have a difficult time seeing the Eagles going with Mingo (6-4, 241) over Jordan, but I’ve been wrong before. If the Birds trade down, though, he could be an option.

Jarvis Jones, Georgia – He was the most productive defensive player in college football last year. Playing in the SEC, Jones led the nation with 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He has the spinal stenosis issue and did not test well at the Combine. Jones (6-2, 245) doesn’t have the measurables Kelly seems to find appealing. But he falls in the “just a football player” category. It’ll be fascinating to see how his career plays out, but I don’t see the Eagles using their first-round pick on Jones.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Alex Ogletree, Georgia – If I’m being honest here, I have no clue how many inside linebackers are going to go off the board in the first 40 picks, but I only included Ogletree. He’s had several “character” issues, including a DUI arrest in February, but Ogletree (6-2, 242) will likely be one of the first inside linebackers off the board. I don’t expect the Eagles to take an inside linebacker early, but a couple other names to know are Kansas State’s Arthur Brown (6-0, 241, brother of Bryce) and LSU’s Kevin Minter (6-0, 246).

CORNERBACKS

Dee Milliner, Alabama – Has a cornerback body (6-0, 201) and ran a 4.37 at the Combine. The only thing I’ve seen people question about his game is his backpedal. Milliner also required shoulder surgery this offseason, but remember that he played through the injury in the final four games last year and participated in the Combine. Only two corners in the last 10 drafts have been taken in the first five picks, and they both had return ability. Milliner could be an option for the Eagles if they trade down.

D.J. Hayden, Houston – Mike Mayock and Cosell both have him as the top corner in the draft. Hayden (5-11, 191) nearly lost his life after a collision in practice last November, but seems to now be in the clear (I know, easy for me to say). He has good size, good athleticism and is expected to be a first-round pick. As for the Eagles, same line as above. If they trade back, corner could be an option.

Xavier Rhodes, Florida State - If the Eagles prefer bigger corners, Rhodes (6-1, 210) could be a fit. The three-year starter for the Seminoles ran a 4.43 at the Combine. Again, expected to go in the first round, so I’m not sure the Eagles will be in a position to draft him.

Desmond Trufant, Washington – Kelly should be familiar with Trufant from his time in the Pac-12. The four-year starter clocked a 4.38 at the Combine, and Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports recently compared him to Asante Samuel. Trufant could land in the back end of the first round, but if he slips to 35, the Eagles could take a look at him.

Jamar Taylor, Boise State – The draft projection for Taylor (5-11, 192) is similar. He ran a 4.39 at the Combine and should get a look from CB-needy teams at the bottom of the first round. But if Taylor is still on the board Friday night, the Eagles could take him.

SAFETY

Kenny Vaccaro, Texas – One of these years, the Eagles have to hit on a safety, right? Vaccaro (6-0, 214) has the versatility to come up and play the slot or hang back and play center-field. He’s expected to be a first-round pick and could be an option if the Eagles trade back (I know, I sound like a broken record). The guess here is that they address safety later in the draft.

Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International - Some believe he could be a better prospect than Vaccaro. Cyprien (6-0, 217) has similar measurables to Vaccaro and will likely go in the second half of the first round. He’d be a fit with the Eagles, but they probably won’t be in position to take him.

Eric Reid, LSU – Safety rankings likely vary quite a bit, depending on the team, but Roseman has said there are a lot of starting-caliber players at the position this year. Reid (6-1, 213) ran a 4.53 at the Combine, but there are some questions about his versatility (specifically in coverage). Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com said teams are split on Reid. It’s difficult to guess how the Eagles have their safeties ranked, but Reid could be an option at No. 35.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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NFL Draft Profile: Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson

This is the seventh in a series.  Click the link for profiles on Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oregon’s Dion Jordan. Between now and April’s draft, we’ll profile as many prospects as possible.

THE RESUME

Sheldon Richardson hasn’t traveled the straightest path to get to this point.

Considered one of the top defensive linemen in the country coming out of high school in 2009, the St. Louis native originally chose to play for University of Missouri but was academically ineligible, and had to attend junior college instead. He finally joined the Tigers for the 2011 season but a shoulder injury slowed him down.

Richardson finally hit his stride last year. posting 75 tackles — 10.5 for loss — and 4.5 sacks. The disruptive  interior lineman garnered second-team All-SEC honors. He is considered one of the top linemen in the draft.

“I see myself as a top pick, not a top-10 pick,” said Richardson at the Combine. “I don’t come into this draft to be second to anyone, so if they see what they like, they’ll draft me. I’m going to be myself at all times, and you’re gonna get a helluva ballplayer.”

WHAT  THEY’RE SAYING

Greg Cosell (on the team’s website):

“He to me is a true three-technique just like Sharrif Floyd. Very, very athletic.

“The first thing that jumps out is, this guy moves — not like a 300-pound man. This kid is athletic. He presses to the play. I really liked him on film. He’s not quite Sharrif Floyd but I think he is a similar style player.”

Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski called Richardson a “Warren Sapp kind of guy.” From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal:

“He’s as talented a guy as I’ve coached…(Richardson) is a guy that weighs almost 300 pounds and can move like a linebacker. He’s very tough. He’s an instinctive football player. When you need somebody to make a play, he’ll be the guy that stands up to do it.

“He’s been focused on being a great football player his whole life. And sometimes that meant he wasn’t so focused in the classroom. As far as us just having him for a little while, it wasn’t because he was slacking on the football field. When he was in high school, he was the best player in the state for two years. When he went to junior college, he had 18 sacks as a freshman or some kind of crazy number and got hurt his second year and didn’t play. Whenever he has performed, he has performed at a high level.”

AN EAGLES SLANT

Richardson’s measurables (6-2, 294) are similar to Floyd’s (6-3, 298). Chip Kelly values speed and versatility, and Richardson seems to check both of those boxes. His ability to drop into coverage on one play and provide an inside pass rush the next could be appealing to Billy Davis, who would like to throw as many different looks at the opposing offense as possible.

Would he fit the scheme?

“I think his natural position is a three-technique defensive tackle in a four-man front but it’s not the only position he can play,” said Mayock. “You can move him around and just about all 32 teams in the league can find a way to use his skill set. He’s really exciting. He’s got a ton of upside and he’s as physically gifted a defensive player as there is in this draft.”

If Floyd is already off the board, it’s possible that the Eagles could trade back and nab Richardson if he is the type of player they are after. Although at least one mock-up has him going quite early…

MOCK PROJECTIONS

Mike Florio has the DT going to the Eagles at No. 4

Mel Kiper has Richardson being selected by the Panthers at 14, as does Todd McShay.

Mike Mayock has Richardson as the second best tackle in the draft, behind Floyd.

Josh Norris over at Rotoworld has him ranked seventh overall in the entire draft class.

Great at splitting blocks, winning off the snap, or beating reach blocks. Very quick for his size and can really make his presence felt in the backfield as a three technique tackle or five technique end. Has been asked to drop back into short zones.

VIDEO BREAKDOWN

Here is how he fared against Alabama, the cream of the crop.


His lateral quickness is easy to see. Few tackles can go sideline to sideline with this type of ease.

You can get a good feel for his explosiveness at the 1:30 mark as he bursts through the hole and puts pressure on the QB. At the five-minute mark, he gets free and records a sack.

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