2012 NFL Draft: 5 Sleeper Candidates for the Philadelphia Eagles

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IApril 15, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 5 Sleeper Candidates for the Philadelphia Eagles

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    The NFL draft is just 10 days away and most mock drafts have the Philadelphia Eagles picking a defensive lineman or cornerback in the first round. After all, Andy Reid historically has trended towards players at those positions and the team will be in need of more depth in those areas within the next several years.

    Reid loves to surprise people, though, and he’s had his fair share of surprise moments as a head coach, whether it was drafting Kevin Kolb in 2007, trading Donovan McNabb within the division or signing Michael Vick to a deal.

    Here are five sleeper candidates Reid could be targeting for the Eagles in the upcoming draft.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

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    Brandon Weeden was initially seen as a borderline first-round prospect even though he is 28 years old.

    Now, Weeden likely won’t go higher than the second or even third round, and if he is still available when the Philadelphia Eagles pick with their second selection in the second round, Andy Reid may spend a pick on the former baseball player.

    Weeden is extremely talented as a quarterback—he has a strong arm, likely as a result of Weeden being a former baseball pitcher. He has good size and good athleticism, and Reid could look at him as a developmental quarterback behind Michael Vick.

    Then again, Weeden will be 29 in October and he should be entering the prime of his starting career, not just learning an NFL playbook.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

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    Ryan Tannehill could definitely be on Andy Reid’s radar, especially if he is still around when the Philadelphia Eagles make their 15th overall selection. I also wouldn’t rule out Reid trading up to get Tannehill if he falls past the Miami Dolphins at No. 8.

    Tannehill is a former wide receiver who only converted to quarterback two seasons ago. He is extremely raw, but he has a lot of potential; good speed, arm strength, intelligence, mobility and the ability to develop into a solid NFL quarterback.

    Then again, he will probably need several seasons to develop. If Tannehill is forced to start in year one—which wouldn’t happen if the Eagles take him—he could turn in a similar performance to that of Blaine Gabbert from last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first-round pick, who looked like a colossal bust.

    Tannehill is Reid’s kind of guy in that he is a project. Reid considers himself a quarterback guru, as he developed Donovan McNabb, coaxed Michael Vick into an MVP candidate for 2010 and swapped both A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb for second-round draft picks.

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

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    Orson Charles wouldn’t go in the first round, but he could be a good acquisition for the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round—especially with the new wave of tight-end-led offenses sweeping across the NFL.

    Charles would be a terrific complement to Brent Celek, as Charles has good speed, strong hands and the versatility to have played multiple roles at the collegiate level. Charles compares in an NFL sense to a player like Aaron Hernandez, a star who Bill Belichick was able to utilize all over the field.

    Charles would team with Celek to give the Eagles a terrific two-tight-end set that would rival that of the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for the best in the game.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

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    Any idea of the Philadelphia Eagles picking a wide receiver early likely vanished when the team re-signed electrifying receiver DeSean Jackson to a five-year, $50 million deal.

    Alshon Jeffery could be a steal for the Eagles if he falls to the second round and he would fit very well in the Eagles offense.

    Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are undersized receivers; Jackson’s best attribute is his out-of-this-world speed that makes him a threat to score every time he touches the ball, but he lacks the physicality or size to serve as an effective blocker. Maclin may be best utilized in the slot, especially since the team didn’t really use Jason Avant too much last year—even when Jackson was out or Maclin missed time with a shoulder injury.

    Jeffery is a big receiver at 6’4”, 229 pounds, and his size advantage made him virtually unstoppable for the South Carolina Gamecocks. He has excellent strength, good hands and quick acceleration to go with a nice stiff-arm that makes him tough to bring down in the open field.

    Jeffery teaming with Jackson and Maclin would make the Eagles' passing game an absolutely dynamic offense.

Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

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    Bear with me here. Vontaze Burfict’s draft stock has been plummeting about as much as any player’s draft stock has dropped in the history of the NFL draft, but the right coach may be able to get the most out of a player like Burfict.

    He was seen as a top-15 pick just several months ago, but then he turned in an awful performance at the NFL Scouting Combine and seems to show immaturity and severe character concerns. Burfict is viewed as a clubhouse cancer, but he was also an All-American linebacker as recently as 2010.

    The Philadelphia Eagles don’t need a linebacker as badly now as they did before they traded for Houston Texans two-time Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans.

    However, Reid might see something he likes in Burfict. If the Eagles invested a sixth- or seventh-round pick in Burfict and he doesn’t pan out, it’s really no big deal. Most sixth- and seventh-round picks don’t make the team or contribute at any level, and Burfict has the potential to be a big contributor.

    If he seems to be hurting the team in the locker room, Reid can tell him to hit the road. And if he produces in a big way, the Eagles have the steal of the draft.