Eagles Wake-Up Call: Among Ducks, Hart Most Likely
Among the Oregon prospects available in this year’s draft class, De’Anthony Thomas is the most exciting name.
Wide receiver Josh Huff could be a nice fit in the middle rounds. And Chip Kelly could consider taking a flier on tight end Colt Lyerla.
But perhaps the most likely Ducks prospect to land in Philadelphia is defensive lineman Taylor Hart.
The 6-foot-6, 281-pounder played for Kelly and assistant Jerry Azzinaro and was a three-year starter in college. He’s got the length the Eagles are looking for along the defensive line and is familiar with the team’s two-gap scheme up front.
Hart broke his foot while training in January and didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl. He was limited at the combine, and the injury was likely one of the reasons the Eagles had Hart in for an official visit.
“It kind of was [odd], it felt that way,” Hart told The Oregonian. “With my position coach there and then Chip’s there and everybody else. There’s a lot of people from Oregon so it felt like Oregon 2.0 there.”
The Eagles are in need of some defensive line depth. They have Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton as the starting defensive ends. Bennie Logan is in place as the nose tackle, although they could add some competition there in the draft. And the primary backups right now are Vinny Curry and Damion Square (some younger guys like Joe Kruger will be given a chance to compete).
Hart could be a nice depth option at the end spot behind Cox and Thornton. The Eagles move those guys inside in their sub packages. Hart had 16 sacks during his college career, including eight in 2012.
“When I watched him on film, you know who he struck me as? I thought he was Aaron Smith,” said NFL Films’ Greg Cosell during a recent interview with Ross Tucker. “Remember him from the Pittsburgh Steelers? I thought he was very similar to that [kind of player]. Those kinds of players are not necessarily drafted in the first or second round. I bet Aaron Smith, who you could argue was the best 3-4 defensive end for eight, nine years running in the NFL and nobody talked about him because he didn’t get 15 sacks… I think Taylor Hart is a very similar player.”
Getting compared to former Steelers is a good thing for Hart. Billy Davis actually showed Eagles defensive linemen film of the Steelers last offseason. Davis began his NFL career in Pittsburgh with Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau. And both Pennsylvania teams run two-gap 3-4s.
Because of the foot injury, Hart hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz during the pre-draft process. CBSSports.com projects him as a fifth-round pick.
For a number of reasons – size, scheme familiarity, college production, current roster makeup – Hart makes a lot of sense as a potential Eagles target in the middle rounds.
WHAT YOU MISSED
An updated look at the Eagles’ 20 reported pre-draft visits.
The latest mock draft roundup from T-Mac.
Is Indiana WR Cody Latimer really an option for the Eagles at No. 22?
Three Eagles leftovers, including Kelly’s stance on voluntary workouts.
Mel Kiper Jr. identifies four edge rushers who could interest the Eagles in the second round.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Really good top-150 list here from Rotoworld’s Josh Norris in which he makes NFL player comparisons. He likens Louisville OLB Marcus Smith to Steelers’ edge rusher Jason Worilds, a player the Eagles had interest in during free agency:
The more I watched the Cardinal, the more I liked him. Not only can he bend around tackles, Smith loves to chase from the backside and converts speed to power with good length and hand use. I know I keep bringing up hands and technical skill, but it really does set great rushers that can win on counter moves apart from good ones that have one trick.
Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has the Eagles taking Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller in the first round:
Most mock drafts have the Eagles going with a receiver here, but with such a loaded class of wideouts, I think Chip Kelly can find a few gems in later rounds. Cornerback isn’t as easy a position to fill. Fuller has rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks and could go as high as the top 15. A Virginia Tech standout, he’s got good NFL size and can make an impact right off the bat. Comes from an NFL family (brothers Vincent and Corey) and can contribute on special teams.
We’ll release our WR rankings for first- and second-round prospects.