Now that free agency is finally underway, you get a good feel for what every team's needs are and who they could select in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins were pegged by a lot of mockers to take Riley Reiff, an offensive tackle at of Iowa with their eighth overall pick in the first round. They traded away their No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall on the first day of free agency. Now it would seem as they will be taking either Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd with their first-round selection.
It's scenarios like the Dolphin's that really give you a feel of where a team will go in the draft, especially with the first three rounds. The Eagles headed into free agency with a few needs. Wide receiver was one of them, until they locked up DeSean Jackson for the next five years.
Now the Eagles brass can sleep easy knowing that they have two true No. 1 and No. 2 receivers in Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Had they either traded Jackson or not been able to re-sign him, drafting a wide out in the first round would make sense.
Once the dust settles from free agency, you will really be able to get a sense of every draft scenario for the Eagles in each round. I'll break down each round and go through the best-case and worst-case scenario with all 10 picks for the Eagles in the first six rounds.
It would make life so much easier for national sports mockers everywhere if the Eagles just ignored their need at middle linebacker and just waited to draft Luke Kuechly with their 15th overall pick. Two problems arise with that solution. One, Kuechly won't last to pick number 15 and two, the Eagles want a veteran presence in the middle of their 4-3 defense.
The Eagles will head into the first round without one major pressing need. They have two stud wideouts, they will have a solid middle linebacker and a secondary that will be even great in year two under defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
The Eagles will be looking at the best players available when their pick is on the clock. They will be looking at which players fit in the best for their schemes, who has the highest ceilings and who is ready to make an immediate impact.
Fletcher Cox, a defensive tackle out of Mississippi State meets all three of those areas. An athletic defensive tackle who can also play end with good upper-body strength and great pass-rushing skills. He will be a great fit for defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Once the Eagles get their linebacker and Luke Kuechly is out of the question at pick No. 15, it will be one flavor of the week after another being mocked to the Eagles. Dontari Poe out of Memphis has definitely been a hot name being thrown out there lately.
Poe wowed everyone at the combine with some unreal numbers for a 340-plus pound defensive tackle. What he didn't do was impress anybody with his game tape against Conference USA opponents. He is a big risk for whoever takes him in the first round.
He has great potential, but will he even come close to matching it. Remember Eagles fans, who was the last combine star that was selected in the first round by Philly? Mike Mamula. I rest my case. A great guy, jhe ust never reached the hype that came from a monster combine.
Honestly, the Eagles biggest need going into the draft won't be a need that you would normally think of. Kickoff returns for the Eagles lately have been mediocre just once in a while, otherwise they have been awful.
There will be some good kick returners available in the second round who can do a lot on either the offense or the defensive side of the ball as well.
Thanks to the Kevin Kolb trade last summer, the Eagles actually have two second-round picks. This is a great year to have two picks in the second round as there are several players who in previous years might have been first-round draft picks.
Brandon Boykin fills two needs for the Eagles. Boykin, a cornerback and return man out of Georgia should be the Eagles first second-round pick. He had three kickoff returns for over 100 yards in his collegiate career. He also projects to be an outstanding slot corner at the next level.
He demonstrated the ability to play physical with receivers right at the line during his week at the Senior Bowl and has great agility and speed to cover any slot receiver all over the field. He should be able to contribute as a kick returner and a slot corner on nickel packages right away.
Vinny Curry is another player who was very impressive at the Senior Bowl. Curry, a defensive end out of Marshall had a poor 40 time at the combine, but was impressive in every other area. Curry was an excellent pass rusher in college and would provide an insurance policy for Brandon Graham and a future replacement for Jason Babin in the rotation. He would have the benefit of learning from both Babin and Cole, not to mention his position coach Jim Washburn.
Some experts are calling for the Eagles to draft a quarterback in the draft this year. That would be a mistake in my mind. Michael Vick has at least two or three good years left, and he is still easily in the prime of his career. You would be drafting a player to sit on the bench for three seasons. He would also take a roster spot from two qualified backup quarterbacks in Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards.
There really isn't a good developmental project quarterback for the Eagles in this year's draft outside of maybe Kirk Cousins. The Eagles should wait another year before wasting a pick on a player who will ride the pine for three seasons and then maybe turn out to be nothing.
The Eagles have just their original pick in the third round. They should use this pick to draft an outside linebacker that has a chance to win a starting job from day one. Unless they sign an outside linebacker in free agency, that seems to be the best route to go in the third round.
I have targeted Keenan Robins for quite some time for the Eagles in the third round. He was a bit inconsistent for awhile at Texas, but this strong side linebacker has shown that when he is on, he can be a great player.
He is everything you want in a 4-3 outside linebacker. He has the agility and speed to cover backs and tight ends on the outside while also possessing the strength, length and tenacity to make a major impact against the run.
Had he been a more consistent player in college he probably goes early on in the second round. Watch the tape on him against Oklahoma and you come away very impressed. Watch the tape of him against other Big 12 schools and...not so much. A fat NFL paycheck and higher level of competition should motivate him to bring his A-game every single week.
If your looking for a speedy running back with good return ability, this is not the draft class for you. The Eagles have two pretty good running backs in Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis who have a good deal of potential. What they don't have is a back who can be a legitimate return man and has great speed.
Isaiah Pead and Chirs Rainey would be major reaches here. Pead, a decent dual-threat back out of Cincinnati doesn't have much experience as a return man and would struggle to take carries away from both McCoy and Lewis in a pass-happy offense.
Rainey is a very fast back but looked tentative with the football during the Senior Bowl. He could be a player who could line up all over the offense or he could be a player that doesn't really have a natural position at all.
The Eagles have two fourth-round draft picks thanks to a 2011 draft day trade with the Tampa Bay Bucs. They should use at least one of these picks on a backup offensive tackle that could develop into a starter down the road. They really just need a young tackle who could do well in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme and maybe get a spot start or two should either Jason Peters or Todd Herremans get injured.
Nate Potter is one of the best fits for Mudd in the 2012 draft class. He is long at 6'6" but moves well for a 300 pounder. He comes from Boise State so you know he is well coached. His technique is very raw, but he is very agile and his long arms make him an ideal tackle.
Juron Criner, a big receiver out of Arizona should be the Eagles other fourth-round selection. He has incredibly soft hands and can line up in the slot of on the outside. We have seen Riley Cooper fail to come back to the football during his time in Philadelphia and the Eagles need a red-zone target for the future. They might sign Plaxico Burress during free agency, but two big wideouts that can make plays in the red zone are better than one.
Drafting a safety here would be the worst move for the Eagles here. A lot of good wide receivers and offensive linemen should be available in the fourth round. It's a good year for teams looking to draft an offensive tackle or wide receiver of any kind.
It's not a good year to draft a safety. Once you get past the top four or five safeties, the crop looks even worse. Draft a veteran to provide depth and trust that either Kurt Coleman or Jaiquawn Jarrett will get the job done in 2012. Coleman proved he can and Jarrett certainly has the potential to do so.
Once you get into the final three rounds of the draft, it really comes down to which players that you liked that you gave a third or fourth-round grade to that are still on the board and who is the best player available. The Eagles have had success in finding starters in the fifth and sixth rounds as of late with quality guys like Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle, Jason Kelce and Jamar Chaney.
David Molk would be an absolute steal for the Eagles in the fifth round. He is very comparable to current starting center, Jason Kelce. Both players are very undersized at the position but posses good upper-body strength and very good athleticism for a lineman.
Molk would be a very reliable backup to Kelce right away capable of making a spot start or two if needed. The Eagles already have Mike Gibson and Julian Vandervelde for reserve guards, with Molk they would have three outstanding backup interior linemen. Now all they would need is a starting left guard, hopefully Evan Mathis.
It's really hard to say what a worst case scenario would be in the fifth round. A quarterback here would be, but other than that it's really hard to say. Just go out and get a player that fits your scheme and doesn't have any character issues. Drafting a locker room cancer in the fifth round would be the worst case scenario here.
Thanks to Winston Justice the Eagles were able to trade up to the Indianapolis Colts pick. Well their sixth-round pick anyway. The Eagles also have two other sixth-round picks, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.
The best case scenario for the Eagles in the sixth round is to just find high character guys that fit their schemes. Najee Goode out of West Virginia is a very productive middle linebacker who has plenty of experience on the outside as well. He could be a good player on special teams as well.
I also like Adonis Thomas, a smaller running back out of Toledo as well. He probably won't make the team but he did put up nearly 1,300 total yards in just nine games during his final season at Toledo. Maybe he can compete as a kick returner, but he probably is just competition for Graig Cooper and a veteran for the third running back spot.
James Hanna, a tight end out of Oklahoma wouldn't be a bad pick in the sixth round as well. He posted the best times in the 40, shuttle, cone and also had the highest vertical jump of all the tight ends at the combine. He is also a very raw player that need a lot of coaching. He could be the type of tight end the Eagles could really line up all over the field.
The sixth and seventh rounds are really hard to gauge who can make an impact, who can make the team and who is more of a practice squad player at best. The Eagles just need to find guys that fit their system rather over anything else.
Look for guys with strong work ethics as those are the late-round guys that turn out to be the players that end up proving everybody wrong. Jason Kelce did it and so can a couple of these guys in this year's draft class.