Mock drafters and draft analysts everywhere are predicting the Eagles will take a defensive tackle with their first pick in the draft. Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers are the two most popular names being thrown around in connection with the birds.
More than likely, the Eagles will have to trade up to land Cox but they could probably stand pat and land Brockers at pick No. 15.
However, when is the last time you've seen the most popular player(s) mocked to the Eagles actually been their pick? When it comes to the draft, the Eagles are kings at spreading misinformation about who they're targeting.
So far, we've heard rumors about the Eagles coveting the following players: Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers, Ryan Tannehill, Dontari Poe and now even Chandler Jones. That means it's likely that none of them will be the name called when the Eagles pick in the first round.
Then add in the fact that, under Andy Reid, the Eagles have never drafted a player in the first round that they've brought in for a pre-draft visit. If you go by that, that scratches Brockers, Poe and Tannehill off the list right there.
The Eagles are arguably in a position where they don't have many true needs. If you go by starting players only, the only position they need a new starter is at linebacker. The addition of DeMeco Ryans helps in the middle, but they still need someone for an outside position (mostly at SAM since I'm giving Brian Rolle the benefit of the doubt at WILL).
Other than that, the rest of the starters are already set. Even though the Eagles love depth and competition, this could mean they will feel fairly flexible about moving around in this draft. In other words, they could be willing to sacrifice one of their second-round picks to trade up and land a player they covet.
They could also trade down with an eye toward acquiring a high draft pick for next year.
This is what makes it very difficult in trying to predict what the Eagles might do. There are a number of things they could do and much of it will depend on what players are available at certain slots.
One thing I can say with certainty is that the Eagles are one of the most active teams in the draft as far as moving around. Whether it's in the early rounds, middle rounds or late rounds, they just love to make deals.
With all that said, here is my final attempt at guessing what may transpire over draft weekend. I couldn't decide on whether I wanted to do a "what I think they will do" or "what I think they should do" type of mock.
Therefore, I've blended the two thought patterns a little bit. It may lean a little more toward what I think they should do, because really, one could go nuts trying to figure out what they will do since you'd have to account for numerous possible scenarios playing out with other teams.
One quick disclaimer for this mock: at the time of this writing, it has been reported that Asante Samuel is close to being traded to the Atlanta Falcons, presumably for a sixth-round pick. However, though it's not official as of yet, it appears likely to happen so I've based my mock on this actually transpiring.
Without further ado, here we go:
I know, I know, Andy Reid will never take a linebacker in Round 1, I understand that. If you've read some of my articles within the past month or so, you know that I've been on the Kuechly bandwagon for a while now. Based on past history, this is obviously more of a "what I think they should do" selection.
However, my reasoning is quite simple for the pick here: Kuechly is hands down the best combination of value and need for the Eagles.
Many mock drafters have Kuechly going to Kansas City at pick No. 11 or Seattle at pick No. 12, but as we get closer to the draft we are seeing some other players rise up draft boards, which could make Kuechly slide a little bit.
And with him being there at No. 15, it's really a no-brainer at this point.
Kuechly is the highest-rated 4-3 linebacker in this draft. After him, there is a certain degree of drop-off in talent for linebackers who will play in a 4-3 style defense. Unlike defensive tackle, this draft is not deep in linebackers that fit the Eagles' system.
There are a few other reasons why I think this pick could be a little more realistic than just hopeful: general manager Howie Roseman and Andy Reid have both dropped subtle hints about the linebacker position.
Consider the following when Roseman told Jonathan Tamari of Philly.com:
Linebackers, we're looking for three-down guys.
That was a comment by Roseman just the other day. Then, earlier this offseason, Reid actually admitted he misjudged his talent level at linebacker when he told Jeff McLane of Philly.com:
The plan that I had I didn't execute it very well. Right? That's my responsibility. I goofed on that one, right? I expected the offense to carry it through. So that part didn't take place. But to tell you, yeah, your linebackers -- the more gaps you open up, the more physical they have to be. That's how it is.
Last season, the Eagles rotated linebackers in and out of the lineup based on certain packages they wanted to run. They didn't do that because they wanted to, they did it because they needed to.
None of the linebackers were considered three-down players so they tried to make up for that by sub-packaging. Nothing would help the defense more than having a linebacker or two on the field for all three downs.
Ryans will definitely be a three-down guy and will be the quarterback of the defense. However, adding Kuechly to the mix will give the Eagles two linebackers who can play all three downs. When the team goes to their nickel defense package, they wouldn't have to worry about rotating linebackers in and out.
Just as it took Reid a while to figure out he couldn't get by with neglecting the wide receiver position, I'm hoping he has finally realized he should stop neglecting the LB corps and stock the position with multiple good players.
Anyway, I'll stop there in my justification for this pick. The ideal scenario in the draft is to be able to find the best player who has the combination of filling a need for your team and being the "best player available" at that slot too.
Luke Kuechly is that guy for the Eagles.
The Eagles start Day 2 of the draft with a bang! They package pick No. 46 with their third-round pick in a deal with the St. Louis Rams to move up to pick No. 33 and snatch the massive Poe.
Poe, you see, is a player I am predicting will fall in this draft. All of the hype surrounding him is solely due to his combine performance. Every scout will tell you that his game tape does not warrant first-round consideration.
As a matter of fact, AOL Sporting News is one of many draft sites who has been reporting recently that Poe's draft stock has "plummeted" since the combine after scouts started taking a closer look at his game film.
Based strictly on his tape, there's a pretty good chance Poe would even be there at No. 46. However, some team will be eyeing him up because his potential is huge.and they'll be willing to take a chance on him early in this round.
Prior to the combine, Poe was a consensus Round 2 pick who was a project but had a high upside. After he rocked the combine, he seemed to shoot up everyone's draft boards to a possible top-10 selection.
The game tape doesn't lie and that's why Poe will slide. However, that doesn't mean Poe is a bad player. Given his amazing size and athleticism, his potential is through the roof.
Since this draft should be more about quality than quantity, the safe move for the Eagles is to just make their move and secure their man. Sacrificing a third-round pick shouldn't be a big deal since the Eagles usually draft future busts in that round anyway.
With Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon, there will be no pressure for a player like Poe to come in and start. He can be a part of the rotation while Jim Washburn whips him into shape.
Interestingly, Poe came in for a pre-draft visit and was the guy that Washburn jokingly introduced as Fletcher Cox to a bunch of reporters who only happened to see them walking around the Nova Care Complex.
Not sure what that means, if anything, but it's certainly interesting.
Though the Eagles never draft players in the first round who have come in for pre-draft visits, they certainly will in Rounds 2 through 7.
Again—Bang! Another trade! The Eagles should be aggressive in this draft with the idea of landing quality players who will be difference-makers in 2012 and beyond.
This is where the Eagles and Browns hook up once again and agree on a deal that ships the Eagles' fourth- and sixth-round picks (plus pick No. 51) to Cleveland for their second-rounder.
Curry is another player I've seen as an Eagles target ever since my first mock draft in February. Most analysts have him projected to go anywhere from the late first round to somewhere in the middle of the second round.
Pick No. 37 sounds like a happy medium to me.
There have been some things that have connected Curry to the Eagles, such as a private workout and Jim Washburn running his drills at his pro day. Plus, he's apparently "extremely high" on their draft board according to Joe Everett of RookieDraft.com.
I've written about Curry multiple times over the past two months so I won't rehash that here. He's been an extremely productive player over the past two seasons and would be a good fit in the Eagles' defensive scheme.
This move caps off a stunning first two days of the draft. If the goal is to find difference-makers, they've just walked away with three of them so far.
Round 3: Traded to St. Louis in the deal for Poe
Round 4, Pick No. 114: Traded to Cleveland in deal for Curry
The first curveball of the draft. The Eagles make another deal to move up; this time they trade New England their fifth-rounder plus the sixth-rounder they acquired from Atlanta in the Asante Samuel deal so they can get back into the fourth round.
This isn't something I necessarily want them to do or think they should do, but it's something I think they would do. They love to wheel and deal and they love to take guys who are considered projects with a lot of potential.
Thompson is a 6'6", 259-pound defensive end from Southern Methodist who hasn't played tight end since high school. However, he is widely expected to convert to tight end in the pros due to his athleticism for a guy his size.
Put it this way, Thompson's measurables at his pro day were extremely similar to top-rated tight end Coby Fleener's numbers. Consider: Thompson ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (Fleener ran a 4.51), 2.67 20-yard dash (Fleener: 2.65), 4.38 20-yard shuttle (Fleener: 4.30), broad jump of 10'6" (Fleener: 9'8"), vertical jump of 37" (Fleener: 37") and 22 reps on the bench press (Fleener's number not available).
Also, Thompson put all these numbers up while weighing 12 pounds heavier than Fleener.
The obvious issue here is lack of experience. However, the Eagles do not have a real need at tight end with Brent Celek and Clay Harbor and can afford to take a chance on a player with tremendous upside here.
Being 6'6" tall, he could certainly learn some red-zone packages and possibly help in that area during his rookie season. The Eagles met with him recently so he's at least on the team's radar.
Round 5, Pick No. 153: Traded to New England
With their first pick in Round 6, the Eagles select the speedy 5'10", 187-pound receiver from Fresno State who will serve primarily as their punt returner. Therefore, this pick is all about improving the Eagles' dreadful return game, even though they still have DeSean Jackson.
Wylie is one of the fastest players in the draft and clocked an official 40-yard dash time at the combine of 4.39 seconds. However, he has also been clocked at running in the 4.30 range. In other words, the man is fast.
Wylie averaged 15.4 yards per return last season on 29 attempts. He also scored two touchdowns. As a receiver, he posted 56 catches for 716 yards and one score.
The addition of Wylie would ease the concerns of needing to endanger DeSean Jackson on punt returns, make our special teams more of a factor in field position and give us an explosive threat to score.
Round 6, Pick No. 192 (assumed pick from Atlanta): Traded to New England
Round 6, Pick No. 194: Traded in round two to Cleveland in the Vinny Curry move.
With their last pick in the draft, the Eagles have to think about adding depth along the offensive line. They currently do not have a true backup center on the roster so that's why they take the versatile Gradkowski at this point.
Gradkowski, a local prospect from the University of Delaware, has been rising up the draft boards as of late and did have a private workout for the Eagles. He stands at 6'3", 300 lbs and could provide depth at both guard and center.
1. Luke Kuechly
2a. Dontari Poe
2b. Vinny Curry
4. Taylor Thompson
6a. Devon Wylie
6d. Gino Gradkowski
Not a bad haul if you ask me! And again, I can't say it enough...quality over quantity. The Eagles have selected a total of 24 players over the past two drafts, so it won't hurt anything to come away with only six players in this one.
Furthermore, I realize there are still a few holes to fill like backup running back and possibly needing a new cornerback since Samuel will be gone. I still think the Eagles will sign a veteran running back, as there are several still available on the free-agent market, and they still have other cornerbacks on the roster who will move up a notch in Samuel's absence.
Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh (last year's third-round pick), Brandon Hughes (whom the team is high on) and Trevard Lindley round out the rest of the CB crew after the two obvious starters.
I think that's enough to not worry about drafting a cornerback early. Also, despite all the interest in quarterbacks this offseason, I don't see the Eagles drafting one. It makes no sense to back up Michael Vick with Trent Edwards or Mike Kafka with a rookie.
Neither combination is any better than Edwards and Kafka.
Ultimately, I'm going out on a limb in this mock draft by hoping that Kuechly lasts until pick 15 and Poe does, in fact, slide. Obviously, those are the key factors in this mock draft.
There is a strong chance the Eagles could trade up in this draft as well. If they do, I would have to think it would be for Fletcher Cox. If they do that, they'll be sacrificing one of their second-round picks to do it and therefore completely alter the direction of the rest of the draft.
There are many ways the draft could play out that would make me thrilled—along with a few ways that would make me want to barf—but the main thing for me is to be aggressive and go get the guys they want to fill key roles.
Quality over quantity.