2012 Philadelphia Eagles Draft: Top Senior Bowl Prospects Eagles Could Target

Dave StoesselAnalyst IIJanuary 26, 2012

2012 Philadelphia Eagles Draft: Top Senior Bowl Prospects Eagles Could Target

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    Previously, we looked at the Philadelphia Eagles' draft habits in relation to the Senior Bowl. We determined that Andy Reid and Howie Roseman seem to like drafting players from the Senior Bowl rosters.

    To summarize what you may have read here, 40 percent of the players drafted during the Reid era were Senior Bowl participants. In just the last two years, with Roseman running the draft, that figure jumped to nearly 50 percent (11 out of 24 draft picks) and included their top two picks in each draft.

    Therefore, we can make a general assumption that the Eagles will be selecting a few players who are participating in the 2012 Senior Bowl.

    So, since this is a continuation of my last article, let's just jump right to it and take a look at the Senior Bowl rosters this year and see who could be an Eagles target. First, if you're so inclined, you can take a look at the rosters, courtesy of seniorbowl.com.

Linebackers

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    Out of these 105 players, the Eagles will likely choose three of them, give or take one or two (if you average out the number of Senior Bowl players the Eagles have selected over the 13 drafts during the Reid era, it comes out to 3.5 players per draft).

    The least they have ever selected in a given draft was two, and that was only two drafts out of the last 13.

    So who could be of interest? Well, the obvious position of need is linebacker, so let's look there first.

    It's my hope that the Eagles, albeit a probable long-shot, will use their first-round pick on a linebacker (something they haven't done since 1979). Unfortunately, none of the projected 4-3 scheme linebackers in the Senior Bowl are worthy of being a first-round pick.

    Therefore, we'd be looking at a second-rounder at best here. And if so, the player I believe the Eagles would target there would be Zach Brown. He's the type of player they typically go for at linebacker.

    Here's what Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout has to say about him:

    While he has only average size and strength, Brown's athleticism and playing speed have been elite, as expected. He has shown explosive quickness with the rare fluidity and change of direction skills that make him so special athletically.

    With that said, his instincts are very hot/cold and he needs to show better read/react skills. Scouts fear he might be limited as a "Will" linebacker at the next level in a traditional 4-3 scheme.

    He's fast, athletic, and good in coverage. Mike Mayock has him ranked right now as the 4th best LB in the draft. The knock on him is his tackling technique.

    For some reason, this just has the Philadelphia Eagles written all over it. I'm not saying this is who I'd prefer, but rather who I think the Eagles would be looking at. We don't need a WLB as much as a MLB.

    I'd like this pick much better if he was the second linebacker we picked. And no, not "second-round" linebacker...the second linebacker we take in the draft. In case you're a little slow on the uptake, that would mean we would have used our first-round pick on a linebacker too.

    Another linebacker that I think the Eagles would be interested in, and me as well, is Audie Cole. Think Stewart Bradley with this pick. Cole was a SAM linebacker that switched over to the middle this past season. The Eagles, of course, would view him as a MLB.

    After doing some research on him, the consensus appears to be that he's not an elite athlete and struggles a little bit with open-field tackling, but does have good enough speed to be effective against both the pass and run and has great instincts.

    His stats show that he can also make a lot of plays in the backfield with 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks as a senior. He's viewed as scheme versatile (can play in 3-4 or 4-3) and is generally regarded as a third-round prospect.

    The Eagles were also seen chatting it up at the Senior Bowl with Keenan Robinson of Texas. He could be a player to watch for in the fourth round, the round that the Eagles typically begin selecting linebackers, but I don't see him as a player who would come in and immediately outplay the current group of linebackers.

    Lavonte David is getting some good reviews at the Senior Bowl, but he's too undersized for me, and we already have enough of that type on the roster.

Defensive Ends

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    Moving on from the linebackers now, the position the Eagles have historically targeted the most frequently has been along the defensive line. Many of the Eagles' first-round defensive linemen have been Senior Bowl participants.

    Could they strike there again this year? As much as I hate to say it, yes, they could.

    If so, I think the player they would be most interested in (again, just from the Senior Bowl rosters) would be South Carolina's Melvin Ingram. He has decent size and is the type of player the Eagles usually look at in DEs.

    He's a player seen as being on the rise recently and is putting on a show at the Senior Bowl. Here is what Daniel Wolf at NationalFootballAuthority has to say about him:

    His burst at the snap allows him to get over the top of his defender and cut off the edge on plays designed to his edge. Ingram also has great lateral quickness (for a guy his size) and can make up for any errors caused by his initial burst by recovering to make a play or cause the ball carrier to change directions.

    In other words, Ingram's impact in the NFL should be felt immediately. His high motor, relentless pursuit of the quarterback and overall quickness are all reasons why some analysts think he could transition over to become an outside linebacker (in a 3-4).

    Though his impact could be felt much quicker staying as a defensive end, in a 4-3 scheme, since he has the versatility to be a three-down player who can play defend both the run and the pass.

    Ingram is currently trending to be a mid-to-late first-round pick this April.

    Ingram also is a favorite of Tommy Lawlor at Scouts Notebook. Here's what he had to say about him, as he's down there scouting the Senior Bowl:

    The star of the Senior Bowl so far. He won’t be taken first, but has really helped his cause. He beat guys inside, outside, and with bull rushes. Used a spin move to beat a blocker at one point. Works out with the DL, but when they go to team sessions, lines up at 3-4 OLB. Looks like a 1st round player down here.

    Ingram might not be everyone's favorite pick, but I bet he'll have the Eagles' attention come draft day.

    Another defensive end the Eagles could be looking at is Marshall's Vinny Curry. Not only is he talented, but he's got some personality, as evidenced by the above photo. Personality is also something the current defense lacks, so he'd be a good addition in that regard too.

    Here's what Charlie Campbell over at WalterFootball has too say about him:

    Curry has been the most consistent pass rushers in college football over the past two seasons. This season, the redshirt senior had 77 tackles with 22 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, three blocked kicks and seven forced fumbles. In 2010, he had 12 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss and 94 tackles. For his career, Curry totaled 26.5 sacks with 49 tackles for a loss, 10 forced fumbles and 239 tackles. Curry's production didn't fall off despite seeing extra blockers sent his direction this year.

    Curry is a dangerous edge rusher who commands a lot of blocking attention. He has a great get-off when the ball is snapped with a good combination of moves to beat offensive tackles. Curry has the agility to drop his hips and shoulder to get turned to the quarterback with the speed to close in an instant. In college, Curry was a prolific pass rusher.

    Curry has improved his run defense as he has added weight. There were times when going against big offensive tackles that they were able to push Curry around. While he has gotten better, he does not look like a base end who will hold his ground at the point of attack. Curry does well in run defense when he can use his speed in pursuit.

    Good pass rusher, good pursuit, can't hold his ground versus the run...sounds like an Eagles DE to me! Currently, he's generally projected to be a second-rounder, but could rise up draft boards after the combine.

    Quinton Coples is generally regarded as the best DE in the draft, but he'll likely go in the top 10. I can't foresee the Eagles trading up in this draft, at least not for a DE.

    However, I can see them drafting another DE with one of their first three picks. Howie Roseman was recently asked what he thought about the New York Giants making the Super Bowl, and his response was that they have "good quarterbacking" and a "fierce pass rush."

    The whole "fierce pass rush" response definitely gives some credence to their way of thinking. The Eagles love pass-rushers and have that mindset that one can never have too many of them.

    Furthermore, Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast, noted that the Eagles were seen talking to six pass rushers after Senior Bowl practices this week. They talk to multiple players, but it is being noticed that they seem to be a little more enamored with the defensive ends.

Defensive Tackle

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    If the Eagles are looking for a defensive tackle, which I think is another good possibility, Kendall Reyes out of Connecticut could be of interest. Here is a blurb from Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout after watching him the other day at a Senior Bowl practice:

    01/24/12 - 2012 SENIOR BOWL TUESDAY: With Penn State's Devon Still - NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior defensive tackle - out of the Senior Bowl due to a sprained toe scouts were curious to see which of the remaining interior defensive linemen would be able to step up their play.

    Based on Tuesday's North practice, Connecticut's Kendall Reyes and Michigan's Mike Martin are taking full advantage of the opportunity. Physically speaking, the two couldn't be much different. Reyes, who measured in just a shade under 6-4 and 300 pounds lined up at the three-technnique and even was split out as a five-technique defensive end.

    His burst off the snap and quick hands made him a tough draw for even the most athletic and experienced of the North offensive linemen. Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler, arguably the nation's top pure guard among seniors, struggled handling Reyes one on one during drills and during the scrimmages throughout practice, as well.

    Reyes is the kind of DT the Eagles may prefer for Washburn's wide-nine scheme. He's quick off the snap and can play inside or out. He's somewhat like Cullen Jenkins in that he could be viewed by teams as a 4-3 DT or a 3-4 DE. If the Eagles want him, they'll likely have to use one of their second-rounders to get him.

Quarterback

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    Another prospect from the Senior Bowl I could see the Eagles being interested in is QB Kirk Cousins. I honestly think that the Eagles will seriously consider drafting a quarterback within the first four rounds.

    Out of the Senior Bowl prospects, Cousins is the guy getting the rave reviews so far. Considered a mid-round prospect just last week, he appears to be boosting his stock with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl practices.

    Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated had this quick report about him from Monday's practice:

    Kirk Cousins (QB/Michigan State) has shown the best arm of any signal caller on the North and it's of legitimate NFL strength. He's powered the ball into the tight spots and has challenged the hands of his receivers.

    Also, here's another note from Rang at NFLDraftScout regarding Cousins:

    Making a strong first impression at the Senior Bowl can send a player's stock skyrocketing and boost his rookie contract by millions of dollars. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and California wide receiver Marvin Jones can't start writing checks just yet, but if they continue the sparkling efforts turned in Monday during the North Team practices they could prove to be two of the big winners from this year's Senior Bowl.

    Cousins out-shined Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore by attacking all levels of a talented North defense. His experience in a pro-style offense was obvious as he made quick decisions, showed accuracy short, middle and deep and threaded the needle through tight spaces. Whereas his teammates struggled to find a rhythm with their new receiving corps, Cousins was sharp as he spread the ball all over the field and hit his backs, tight ends and receivers on a variety of routes.

    After the combine, Cousins could catapult himself up to the third or fourth-ranked QB in the draft. That would make him a likely second-round pick or even a first-round pick for a QB-needy team.

    The Eagles have to think about their future at the QB position. Michael Vick could very well be gone after next season, and Mike Kafka doesn't seem like a future starter to me. I could see Andy Reid pulling another Kevin Kolb-esque shocker with Cousins in round two.

What Senior Bowl Players Are Future Eagles?

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    All of the aforementioned players here are guys I could see the Eagles being interested in with one of their top picks. If Howie Roseman keeps pace with his habits of the past two drafts, you might see one or two of these guys drafted in April.

    However, Roseman did talk about assessing the way they evaluate players. This could mean a break from his pattern, but I doubt he'll stray too far.

    Like we initially discussed, it is very likely that at least a few of the Senior Bowl players will wind up on the Eagles roster next year. The only question is just a matter of who and if we'll look at top-end prospects or late-round prospects.

    What players on the Senior Bowl rosters do you think will be future Eagles?