The Philadelphia Eagles are in great position heading into the NFL draft. They don't have any major needs outside of maybe middle linebacker, and they will have somewhere around $15-20 million to spend in free agency as well.
The Eagles will go into just about every draft selection with the mentality of taking the best player available rather then being forced to take need players.
Andy Reid and company will be looking for players who can come in and fight for playing time right away to help this team compete for a Super Bowl.
Every position can be upgraded through the draft or free agency this offseason, and the Eagles will have plenty of cap space to go along with 10 draft picks to do so. Don't be surprised if they get really aggressive in the draft to trade up to get their ideal prospects rather then staying pat with their 10 picks.
Luke Kuechly seems like the ideal pick here. The Eagles need to improve against the run, and Kuechly is the best 4-3 middle linebacker in the draft. His instincts and his fundamentals are off the charts, but I seem to remember people saying that about Casey Matthews last season too.
Kuechly is actually only an inch taller and just five pounds bigger then Matthews, who looked greatly outmatched as a starting 4-3 middle linebacker last season. Kuechly is also a little less athletic at the position than you would like in the 4-3 defense.
I see the Eagles addressing the MIKE position in free agency or maybe even sticking with Jamar Chaney, who looked like a future star late in the 2010 season.
Another option for the Eagles would be the wide receiver position.
DeSean Jackson could be dealt after he gets the franchise tag, if that's the route the Eagles choose to go. That would mean the Eagles would need an every down outside receiver to play opposite of Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles may sign Plaxico Burress to help in the red zone, but he won't be an every down receiver.
Mohamed Sanu out of Rutgers would be a great pick at No. 15. Some scouts have Sanu graded as a late first or early second-round pick, but the more he gets a chance to work out for team scouts, the more he will rise on every scout's big board.
Sanu is a very impressive prospect who will not last much further then the 15-25 range. His long arms and outstanding hands allow him to haul in any pass within his vicinity. He is also too strong for most corners to press at the line, and he is incredibly dangerous in the open field.
Sanu would be a great pick at No. 15 and should make every Eagles fan jump out of their seats on April 26. I see the Eagles taking care of their receiver needs, at least on the outside in free agency.
Fletcher Cox is the best pick here. Cox, a defensive tackle, actually lined up all over the line while at Mississippi State and is exactly the type of player who excites Jim Washburn. Cox could make Cullen Jenkins expendable (Jenkins is set to make $7.75 million this season), or he could just replace him in his role for 2013.
Thanks to the trade of Kevin Kolb last summer, the Eagles actually have two picks in the second round. They have the 46th and 51st overall pick of the draft, and have a great chance to make a splash in the second round.
I see the Eagles going all defense with their first three picks.
The Eagles could reach on a player like Joe Adams, a speedy wide receiver out of Arkansas.
Adams may seem like a reach right now, but he had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl and is also projected to put up good numbers at the NFL Combine. His potential to be an immediate impact as a slot receiver and a dynamic punt returner will have some teams giving him a second-round grade; right now he is a third-round grade.
The Eagles also could go after Brandon Boykin, a corner out of Georgia, or Chandler Jones, a defensive end out of Syracuse.
Boykin has good return ability, but has impressed scouts more with his ability to press receivers at the line despite his 180-pound frame.
Jones is also a very impressive prospect as well. At 6'5", he has the length the Eagles could use at defensive end, plus he has a really quick first step, and isn't afraid to use his strength and speed to get past linemen.
I like the positions, just not the players for these picks.
Chase Minnifield, a corner out of Virginia, is a better fit for the Eagles.
Actually, he is a good fit anywhere.
Minnifield can excel in both zone and press man coverage. He has excellent hands and rarely misses a tackle. His tackling would be a much-welcomed skill for the Eagles' secondary that rarely demonstrated that in 2011.
Minnifield could play on the outside right away when Nnamdi Asomugha matches up against tight ends. He would also be his eventual replacement in a year or two when Asomugha hits the downside of his career.
Vinny Curry would be a great pick at 51.
Curry, a defensive end out of Marshall, is an excellent pass-rusher with a good strength and speed combo at the position. He was the focus of Marshall's defense the past two seasons, and still racked up 39.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks the last two seasons. He would come in and force the Eagles to make a tough decision on whether or not to cut one of their current five defensive ends.
The Eagles could go any number of ways with their third-round pick. If they haven't addressed the corner or defensive end position yet, they could go after a player like Cam Johnson or Leonard Johnson.
Cam Johnson is a similar player to a Vinny Curry or Chandler Jones. I see the Eagles targeting a defensive end in the second round that they like more than Johnson.
Leonard Johnson is a possibility for the Eagles in the third round if they address another position in the second round. Leonard is a cornerback out of Iowa State who got high praise for his impressive coverage of Justin Blackmon in the Cyclones' big upset win over Oklahoma State. The biggest knocks on Leonard, though, are his inconsistency and lack of composure at times.
I believe the Eagles will take a strong-side linebacker in the third round, and Keenan Robinson will be the best available unless someone reaches for him earlier.
Robinson, an outside linebacker out of Texas, is a bit of an enigma. He looked like a Top 20 pick against Oklahoma, but he was inconsistent against others. Robinson has the athleticism and ability to be a very good coverage linebacker, while his strength and intensity make him outstanding against the run as well.
If he comes into Philly hungry and focused, Robinson could win this spot by the start of the regular season.
The Eagles will have two picks in the fourth round thanks to a trade with Tampa Bay. From this point on, they will be looking at the best player available and the players with high ceilings.
The only real needs here are kick returner and depth along the offensive line.
Nate Potter, an offensive tackle out of Boise State, is a good possibility here.
Potter is the ideal tackle for Howard Mudd's blocking scheme. He is a bit undersized at just under 300 pounds, but he moves really well downfield and gives maximum effort. However, his technique still needs work, and the Eagles are too set at tackle with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans to take a tackle earlier then the fifth or sixth round.
James Michael-Johnson, a middle linebacker out of Nevada, is a potential pick here as well. He could come in and compete with whomever the Eagles bring in through free agency at the position. Michael-Johnson's ability against the run makes him an ideal 4-3 MIKE, but his inability against the coverage will make him a liability. He has plenty of room to grow, but will be more of a special teamer in his first season.
The Eagles finally go offense in the the fourth round, as they need a speedy receiver with return ability.
I like T.Y. Hilton with their first fourth-round selection. He is small at 5'10" and 185 pounds, but he is quick and will make an immediate impact in the return game.
Michael Egnew, an athletic tight end out of Missouri would be a great fit for the Eagles' offense in 2012. Clay Harbor has been very inconsistent in the Eagles' passing game, and they could use a dynamic tight end to improve the offense inside the 20 and on third downs.
Egnew is built like a smaller tight end, but runs like wide receiver. He could pose matchup problems in the middle of the field similar to what Aaron Hernandez has done for the New England Patriots.
The fifth round is the ideal round for the Eagles to draft depth at the offensive tackle spot.
King Dunlap is the Eagles' top backup tackle, but he is expected to sign elsewhere when he hits the open market. The Eagles claimed offensive tackle D.J. Jones off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens, but there no guarantee he will make the team. And even if he does, the Eagles need another backup tackle, as Winston Justice will be cut eventually.
Nate Potter would be the best fit, but he is a fourth-round projection and could go even earlier than that. His quickness and ability to block downfield will make him an ideal project at tackle despite his raw technique.
Matt Reynolds, a tackle out of BYU, is another potential fit. He lacks the quickness the Eagles would like for Howard Mudd, but his strength and run-blocking skills on the outside would make him a good fit.
I see the Eagles instead going after Markus Zusevics out of Iowa. Zusevics has good lateral quickness and gets in position very quickly. He has some technique issues that could be rounded out in a couple seasons as a backup, and he could be an eventual replacement at right tackle for Todd Herremans.
The Eagles have three picks in the sixth round of the draft and will be looking for players who have a shot at making either the final 53-man roster or the practice squad. Whomever they select in their final round of picks, these players will have to either play on special teams or be developmental projects.
The Eagles have had great success in the last two rounds of the draft in the previous two seasons. Last year they found two starters in the sixth round in Jason Kelce at center and Brian Rolle at weak-side linebacker. They also found two more starters in the seventh round in 2010 in Jamar Chaney at linebacker and Kurt Coleman at safety.
Damien Jackson is an ideal sixth-round draft pick for a team that needs depth at safety. Jackson, a safety out of Mississippi, has decent speed at the position and has already excelled on special teams. He doesn't possess great coverage skills and will probably have to compete with a veteran for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Adonis Thomas, a speedy back with return ability out of Toledo, could compete for the third running back spot in camp. I see the Eagles bringing in a veteran rather than wasting a pick early in the draft on a back, but Thomas could still win the third running back spot if he proves to be a lethal kickoff return man.
Chris Rainey out of Florida was thought to be a good fit for the Eagles' need of a speedy back and return man, but he looked very indecisive at the Senior Bowl and may not be much of an impact on offense.
The Eagles could spend their final pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on a very well-known prospect: Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.
Wilson isn't projected to be much more than a third-string player early in his career, but he could be a good developmental project for Andy Reid. Wilson would most likely have to beat out Mike Kafka and a veteran backup for a spot, but if he impresses enough, the Eagles could trade Kafka for a future draft pick and keep Wilson on the roster.