With the Philadelphia Eagles having missed the postseason for the first time since 2007, the next thing to look forward to is the 2012 NFL draft. There were glaring weaknesses ignored during the season that ultimately cost the Eagles a playoff spot.
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s wide-nine schemes led to a slew of sacks for ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin, but left the linebackers exposed in the middle of the field. This unit was by far the Eagles’ biggest weakness of the season, but there were other positions that cost the Eagles.
Safety has been a weak spot since the Eagles left Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell go in free agency. DeSean Jackson is a free agent, and the Eagles may look to sign his replacement. Then again, Andy Reid typically focuses on the offensive and defensive lines in the first round of the draft, as he’s taken either an offensive or defensive lineman with six of his last seven first-round picks.
Then again, there has even been speculation of the Eagles taking a quarterback in the draft. Michael Vick was recently inked to a six-year, $100 million contract extension, but he’s too injury-prone for the Eagles to think he can be their long-term answer. The team could even go for a corner, since Asante Samuel may be traded and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s contract expires after 2012.
Whatever the team does, fans have to be hope the 2012 NFL draft helps the team more than the last two drafts have.
Andy Reid has taken an offensive or defensive lineman in six of his last seven first rounds, and his only real exception has been either a wide receiver (Freddie Mitchell, Jeremy Maclin) or a cornerback (Lito Sheppard).
Realistically, I think the Eagles might try to trade out of the first round this year. It’s unlikely one of the top three offensive tackles (Matt Kalil, Jonathan Martin or Riley Reiff) will fall to them at the 15th pick and a defensive lineman isn’t a necessity with four excellent starters on the front four.
If the Eagles do stay and pick, I think Michael Floyd will be their pick. DeSean Jackson won’t be happy with this, but I don’t think he will be back anyway at this point, and the Eagles will need to try to replace his production in some way.
Floyd is said to be the safest of any of the wide receivers. He’s a possession receiver with excellent hands. Floyd won’t be explosive, but he will be extremely reliable, and that may be a nice change of pace from the hit-or-miss Jackson.
You had to know an offensive lineman would be in here. If he had it his way, I’m sure Andy Reid would do nothing but draft offensive and defensive linemen every round.
Zebrie Sanders is projected to go in the second round, as he’s a mammoth of a man at 6'6", 310 pounds. You may remember him from ESPN’s "C’mon Man" back in 2009, but he’s a tremendous lineman—other than that one play.
Sanders is a four-year starter at Florida State, and he’s played both right and left tackle, ultimately ending his collegiate career as a blind-side protector. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans are currently manning the tackle spots for the Eagles, but the team will need a backup with King Dunlap likely departing and Winston Justice’s expensive contract suggesting he may get the veteran cut.
This will be three years in a row the Philadelphia Eagles pick a safety in the second round of the draft. I’m not ready to give up on Jaiquawn Jarrett just yet, but I don’t think that will stop Andy Reid from taking another safety to add to the mix.
Nate Allen showed potential his rookie season before a patellar tendon injury slowed his development and rendered him extremely inconsistent in 2011. Jarrett and Coleman are guys in the rotation but neither appear to be a player the Eagles can count on as a starter for many years to come.
Mark Barron should be a huge addition to the Eagles defense. He was a hard-hitting, tackling machine on Alabama’s national championship team. Barron has good size and speed, and he’s also good against the pass. Too many times this past year I watched an Eagles safety try to wrap up a running back and whiff badly. Barron should put an end to that.
This is about where Andy Reid would first pick a linebacker, a position the Philadelphia Eagles desperately need. I expect the team to sign a veteran in free agency, maybe a player like Jarret Johnson of the Baltimore Ravens or Bradie James of the Dallas Cowboys.
Sean Spence is undersized but he’s always said to be around the ball, and he has good speed. Spence should at least provide an upgrade to an Eagles linebacking corps that was downright awful in 2011.
Brandon Weeden is 28 years old, which is why I see him falling to the fourth round. Andy Reid likes picking quarterbacks he can develop, and Weeden is much more physically talented than Mike Kafka.
Weeden is 6'4" with an NFL-caliber arm. He had an extremely successful college career, although he benefited greatly from standout wide receiver Justin Blackmon and the style of offense Oklahoma State ran.
This is Andy Reid territory now: hoping to get linebackers in the middle to late rounds rather than spending a first-round pick on a guy.
Jerry Franklin is an inside linebacker who reacts well to the ball and is a sure-handed tackler. He lacks some of the physical skills to make him an elite NFL linebacker but he should fit the group on the Eagles well.
Jeff Demps is flat-out fast. He’s rumored to run somewhere in the low 4.2s in the 40-yard dash. He lacks the size to be an every-down back in the NFL but he may be able to fulfill a kick return position the Philadelphia Eagles desperately need.
The Eagles will likely let Ronnie Brown go in free agency, and Demps and Dion Lewis could compete for the backup running back spot behind LeSean McCoy.
Derek Dennis is a project, but Andy Reid has never been afraid of a challenge, and he will like working with Dennis.
Dennis is a giant of a man, although his football skills are still extremely raw. He should benefit from working with last year’s first-round pick Danny Watkins, as well as veterans Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans.
This would be another pick of a local guy, and Andy Reid likes doing that. The Philadelphia Eagles will likely try to trade Asante Samuel in the offseason, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s contract does expire after 2012.
D’Anton Lynn could work his way into the rotation as a backup, especially if last year’s third-round man Curtis Marsh doesn’t pan out.
Jamaal Jackson probably won’t be back next season, so the Philadelphia Eagles will need a backup for Jason Kelce at center.
Howard Mudd will love William Vlachos, an undersized type of player that should fit the type of offensive line Mudd likes to put together.