2012 NFL Draft: 10 Must-Have, Red-Zone Targets for the Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles offense is almost complete. The offense is outstanding even with the loss of All-Pro Jason Peters.
Offensive Line coach Howard Mudd will have Demetress Bell ready to be the starting left tackle by September. The rest of the offense is pretty stacked as well. LeSean McCoy is a top-three back in this league, and the receiving duo of Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson is deadly. All they need is a big, athletic receiver capable of making plays in the red zone.
Plaxico Burress was thought to be a lock to sign in Philadelphia after reports came out that he wanted to be an Eagle. Now, it seems as if the asking price may be too high for a soon-to-be 35-year-old receiver past his prime.
I fully expect the Eagles to add a red-zone target in the draft. Whether it be an athletic tight end or a jump-ball type wide receiver, they will get Michael Vick some help inside the 20.
The Eagles went through a two-game stretch against the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers in Weeks 3 and 4 of last season where they converted just three red-zone trips into touchdowns in 12 attempts. Both resulted in losses.
A red-zone target is the only thing this offense is lacking from becoming truly elite.
Here are 10 prospects the Eagles should carefully consider. One of these players should be in Eagles green this season.
1. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon could fall anywhere from the fourth overall pick to the draft to possibly out of the top 10 altogether. He has been ranked as the top receiver in the draft, but Michael Floyd could be ranked higher on some team's boards and could push Blackmon further down the draft.
The further Blackmon falls, the more likely the Eagles will pursue him—especially if Fletcher Cox is off the board.
Blackmon plays a lot bigger then he's listed at 6'1", 205. He plays more like a 6'4", 230-pound receiver. He can jump right out of the building and is incredibly strong which makes him difficult to take down on wide receiver screens.
He can run any route and run it well—anything from screens, slants, crossing routes and vertical routes. He has plenty of speed to be a deep threat and plenty of athleticism to win jump balls in the end zone.
Blackmon isn't a prospect the Eagles expect to draft, but if he slides into the teens, then Andy Reid may pull the trigger and get Michael Vick the best wide receiver in the draft.
2. Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame
Some team is going to get an outstanding receiver in Michael Floyd. He won't be on the level of Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson, but he will be a 1,000-yard receiver every single season as long as he's healthy.
Most people already know that Floyd has great hands, leaping ability and deep-threat speed. What people forget about Floyd is how well he played in big moments and in big games.
He has been incredibly productive in his four years at Notre Dame despite not playing with a great college quarterback. He never had less then 44 receptions, 700 yards and seven touchdowns in any season.
Floyd could fall anywhere from the sixth overall pick to somewhere in the teens. Somebody is going to get one of the most NFL-ready prospects out there.
Why not Michael Vick?
3. Mohamed Sanu WR Rutgers
Mohamed Sanu doesn't have great straight-line speed, but he has just about everything else you would look for in a receiver. He has size and strength. He's very quick and very agile, and he catches everything that's thrown in his vicinity.
Sanu is a player who could help Vick out of the slot in the red zone. His quickness, route running and strength would make him a valuable weapon inside the 20.
Sanu has been ranked outside of the top five or six wide receivers in this year's draft class by most experts. He should be available in the middle of the second round where the Eagles have two picks.
4. Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina
Alshon Jeffery is one of those prospects who the team that drafts him is either going to hit a 500-foot home run or strike out on three pitches. Jeffery went into the college season as a potential top-10 pick. He had a very disappointing 2011 season which dropped his draft stock considerably.
Jeffery had a monster sophomore season where he racked up over 1,500 receiving yards only to follow it up in 2011 with under 800 receiving yards. Some will blame that loss of running back Marcus Lattimore, but there were several talented receivers who put up good numbers with little help.
Marcus McNutt had 500 more receiving yards at Iowa in a much more conservative offense with less talent around him. The low numbers for Jeffery in a season where he knew he was about to turn pro is puzzling.
Jeffery got down to 213 pounds for his pro day. His got his 40 time under 4.5 seconds. He has always relied on size and jumping ability rather then speed and quickness to get open and make plays.
He could go anywhere from the top 20 in the first round to maybe a late second-, early third-round pick. Is Jeffery quick enough to consistently get open? Was a lack of effort the reason why his numbers dipped so much in 2011?
The further he drops down in the draft, the more likely the Eagles are to take a chance on him. Don't expect Howie Roseman to spend a first- or second-round pick, but if he's still there late in the third round, maybe they'll take a chance on him.
5. Brian Quick WR Appalachian State
Whenever you talk about jump-ball type of receivers, the players with basketball backgrounds always get some extra attention. Players like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham turned a basketball background into a football career. All of those players used their skills from basketball to be dynamic receivers in the NFL.
Rebounding in basketball is a lot like catching a football in the back of the end zone. It's about body positioning, physicality and jumping for the ball at its highest point. Quick is a very good athlete with good size at 6'4", 220. He should be able to translate his basketball skills to football at the pro level pretty quickly.
He played just one year of high school football but picked up the game quickly as he finished his career at Appalachian State with 202 career receptions for 3,418 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Quick will need time to adjust to the speed of the game and a much higher level of competition. Starting out as a short-yardage and red-zone receiver in the Eagles offense would be the perfect situation for Quick—not to mention a good red-zone target for Vick.
6. Dale Moss WR South Dakota State
Dale Moss is far from a finished product as a wide receiver heading into the draft. With just one year of football, Moss is as raw as they come in this year's class. He proved he can make the transition to football very quickly with a solid 61 receptions for 949 yards and six touchdowns in his first season of football.
Moss wowed scouts at his pro day with stunning numbers. He proved he was a major combine snub with a 41.5 vertical jump, 40 times in the high 4.3s and the low 4.4s and what would have been a record-breaking 6.32 seconds in the 3-cone drill.
The sky is the limit for Moss. He will be one of the quickest and highest leapers in the NFL from day one. He has to develop as a route runner and prove he can catch the football against very physical defenses on a consistent basis.
Moss should be a very good red-zone target at the very least in his rookie season. All he has to do is outjump his defender and come down with the football. He should be an upgrade over Riley Cooper in that area at the worst.
A player as raw and unknown as Dale Moss could go anywhere in the draft.
7. Juron Criner WR Arizona
If the Eagles wait to address their red-zone target until the third round of the draft, Juron Criner should be the best player available at wide receiver. Criner was one of the few players at Arizona to have a good 2011 campaign. He racked up 75 catches for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Criner isn't as known for the jump-ball type catch as a Alshon Jeffery or a Brian Quick might be. Criner has made his mark more on slant routes. He's a good receiver over the middle and on screens but isn't as polished on fade routes yet, though he does possess the ability to get better in that area.
If the Eagles draft a wide receiver for red-zone help, the player doesn't have to be a top-10 prospect, but he does have to have size, quickness, leaping ability and soft hands.
Criner has all these areas and then some.
8. Coby Fleener TE Stanford
The Eagles may go a different route for red-zone help in the draft, and instead, select a tight end over a wide receiver. Coby Fleener is, by far, the most polished receiving tight end in the draft and should be an immediate impact player for the team that drafts him.
The days of having just one good pass-catching tight end are over. Having an athletic tight end is a real weapon in this pass-happy league. Having two is lethal. I believe the Eagles will add a tight end at some point in the draft. Coby Fleener and Brent Celek would be one of the best one-two punches at tight end in the NFL.
Fleener is a great route runner with very soft hands and good leaping ability. He lined up everywhere for Stanford from halfback, slot receiver, at tight end next to the tackle and as an outside wide receiver. The Eagles have experimented a little bit with lining Celek up on the outside.
Adding Fleener would really add another dimension to the Eagles offense. It would take the Eagles trading down from their 15th overall pick or using one of their two second-round picks and a couple late-round picks to move back down into the late portion of the first round in order to select Fleener.
Some analyst have zero tight ends being taken in the first round, but a player as polished as Fleener will be taken at some point in the first round. Tight ends are too hard to cover to be thought of as an afterthought in the first round of the draft.
9. Ladarius Green TE La-Lafayette
If the Eagles are looking to add a tight end in the draft after the first round, they will most likely be targeting an athletic prospect who plays more like a wide receiver trapped in a tight end's body.
Ladarius Green is one of the most athletic tight ends in this year's draft class. He ran better than many wide receivers at the combine. Green, like Fleener, can line up in the slot, at tight end or out wide.
Green has great concentration when catching balls over the middle. He has big hands, and he uses them well. He's also a deep-threat and a red-zone target. He's a complete receiver at the tight end position, by far, from being a decent blocker.
With Green, the Eagles get an immediate red-zone target who is athletic enough and tough enough to make plays all over the field. His blocking will limit him from being in too many two tight end sets.
10. Michael Egnew TE Missouri
While Ladarius Green may the more athletic of the Eagles tight end prospects, Michael Egnew is the most polished receiver at the tight end position after Coby Fleener.
Egnew was moved all around Missouri's spread offense. He isn't as athletic as some of the other tight ends in the draft, but as a route runner, he's outstanding. He also possess great hands and footwork while working the sidelines. He's a long strider on vertical routes and has great timing on jump-ball passes in the end zone.
Like Green, you aren't going to get a polished blocker with Egnew, but you get a very polished receiver at the tight end position which is what the Eagles could use inside the 20.