The most staggering event of the NFL offseason is the NFL draft; there’s no question about it. Every team tries to make the most out of it, either by drafting the best talent available or by trying to fill the voids with its draft picks.
The Philadelphia Eagles will try to do this exact thing: Bring in some fresh talent and if possible, find the solutions to some of their problems.
After finishing the season with an 8-8 record, the Eagles got the 15th overall pick, and that’s their only first round pick. Assuming this pick doesn’t get traded, these are the seven players the Eagles will most likely draft.
Luke Kuechly is probably the best option the Philadelphia Eagles have in the first round. He is 6’3”, weighs 237lbs and is probably the best inside linebacker available. He plays in the Boston College Eagles uniform and despite the team’s 4-8 record in 2011, he recorded 102 solo tackles and a total of 191 tackles, leading all players in FBS.
He was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while he won the Lombardi award, the Butkus award, the Lott IMPACT trophy and the Bronko Nagurski trophy.
The Eagles linebacking corps has been frustrating with its erratic play and an upgrade is imminent. Whether the team will try to address this issue in the free agency or the draft, no one can predict that.
Kuechly will be drafted high; however the Eagles have a pretty good chance to pick him, because a linebacker is not the first need of teams with higher pick. Only Carolina and Buffalo look to be a threat and maybe Arizona, but the Cardinals have offensive line problems to fix too.
In my opinion, the Eagles should draft Kuechly if available.
Dont’a Hightower is another player the Eagles should monitor, if they want to draft an inside linebacker in the first round. He has a big body (6’4”, 260 lbs) and is the captain of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s defense.
Hightower led the team in tackles with 85, and he made four sacks. He delivers big hits and his leadership skills have been praised by his coach, Nick Saban.
There is nothing you can’t like in Hightower. He is not very fast, but he can run to the sideline and make a tackle before things get serious. His coverage ability might not be great, but the Eagles need more a run-stopper, and they can get one by picking Hightower.
Do you remember Rolando McClain? Well, Alabama’s fans have forgotten him the last two years, and that’s because of Hightower. If the Eagles pick him, I’m pretty sure they won’t regret it.
Expect this pick to materialize if the Eagles lose DeSean Jackson. Michael Floyd is the hottest wide receiver prospect behind Justin Blackmon, who is expected to be drafted in the Top 5 picks.
Michael Floyd is a big wide receiver (6’3”, 224 lbs) and that instantly makes him a valuable red zone target. He averaged nine touchdowns at Notre Dame, during his four-year stay with the team. He finished the 2011 season with 100 receptions and 1,147 yards.
Philly is not in a big need for a receiver, but that can change if Jackson signs with another team or gets traded. Floyd is not a Jackson-type receiver, but he is more efficient blocker and can be a prodigious help in the redzone.
Floyd will be picked in the first round and probably in the Top 20. Apparently, the Eagles will be able to pick him, since the higher-placed teams will focus on other positions.
Recent history has shown that Philadelphia likes to select linemen with its first-round pick. Juqua Parker will be gone this year and Brandon Graham remains an unproven player, so they might choose to go this way once more.
If the Eagles pick a lineman, it’d better be USC’s Nick Perry. Perry is a 6’3”, 250 lbs defensive end who has the ability to play as an outside linebacker. He loves going after the quarterback—his 9.5 sacks in 2011 are solid evidence.
Perry also made 55 tackles, with 13 being tackles-for-loss. Undoubtedly, he looks like a good fit in Jim Washburn’s system and can be used as a linebacker if needed. If drafted, the Eagles will possess the most fearsome selection of defensive ends.
The last time the Eagles opted for a defensive end with the No.15 pick, they acquired Jerome McDougle. Is Perry a possible bust? I don’t think so.
Whitney Mercilus is a sack machine. A defensive end for Illinois Fighting Illini, Mercilus is strong and explosive and always sets his sights on the quarterback. His get-off is lightning-fast and the opposing tackle is sure to have a hard day.
Mercilus is 6’4” tall and weighs 265 lbs. He was the leader in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with nine. Additionally, he won the Ted Hendricks award.
Unlike Perry, Mercilus cannot be easily moved to linebacker in a 4-3 formation. On the other hand, he is a complete athlete, and that might get him out of the draft pool early. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up a Top-10 pick.
If not, the Eagles might be tempted to pick him up. Defensive end is not the team’s biggest need, but Mercilus is too a great player to be ignored.
David DeCastro will be probably gone by the time the Eagles get to draft. But if Dallas picks up a cornerback and Arizona, Miami and Kansas choose tackles and/or linebackers, then DeCastro might be available for Philadelphia.
DeCastro is regarded as the best offensive-guard prospect of the 2012 NFL draft. He was a big factor in Andrew Luck’s performance and one of Stanford’s greatest players.
The Eagles may choose DeCastro as Mathis’ replacement, if the latter leaves the team during the free agency. The 22-year-old guard has the same size with Mathis and can be a long-term solution for Philadelphia’s offensive line.
Three necessary conditions for this pick:
a) The Eagles have signed a starting linebacker,
b) DeSean Jackson has been tagged or has signed a new contract with the team, and
c) DeCastro is available.
Vontaze Burfict is a force of nature. He is a bulked-up linebacker with great explosiveness. Despite finishing the season with 69 tackles, Burfict is a player that can take down the opponent’s running back without help. He can fill the gaps of the defensive line or attack the opposing linemen without being overmatched.
The inside linebacker of Arizona State is 6’3” tall and weighs 250 lbs. He is regarded as one of the top linebackers of the 2012 NFL draft, but his immature behavior and his average performance the last two years will cost him a Top-20 pick—in fact, he’s projected to be a late first-early second round pick.
If Luke Kuechly and Dont’a Hightower are not available (which is highly unlikely) at the time the Eagles get to pick and they still want a middle linebacker, then they can pull the trigger and draft Burfict. It is a risky move, no doubt, but the 21-year-old footballer has a lot of talent, and he can turn into a great fit for the team.