Philadelphia Eagles Draft: 5 Things That Must Happen in the Final Rounds
After all of the speculation about Fletcher Cox going as early as sixth overall in the NFL draft, he slipped past the first 11 teams, and the Eagles traded up to get their guy. The best fit for the wide-nine scheme in the entire draft is now a Philadelphia Eagle.
The Eagles sent a fourth-round and a sixth-round pick to move up three spots. They kept all of their picks in the first three rounds and still were able to move up and get the best fit for their defense.
He will team up with the likes of Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson on the line.
Cox is an athletic freak who comes into a great situation, surrounded by plenty of talent and a scheme that fits his skill set. This is one of the few first-round picks in the Andy Reid era that all Eagles fans can agree with.
The Eagles still have seven picks left, including three on Friday and four on Saturday. They aren't a team with any pressing needs, but they still have a few areas that need to be addressed.
They are in good position to make a return to the playoffs in 2012, especially if they can get a few impact players in the next two rounds and a few more players that can fight for a roster spot and eventually battle for a starting job down the road.
1. Kick Returner
And the Eagles' biggest need after the first round is...kickoffs?
Yes, the Eagles desperately need help returning kickoffs. Getting past the 20-yard line was nothing more than a pipe dream in 2011.
Dion Lewis isn't much of a return man, and the Eagles can't afford to have players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie handling kickoffs.
There are plenty of return men available throughout the draft. Brandon Boykin in the second round, Chris Rainey in the third round or T.Y. Hilton in the fourth round would all be great picks that can do more than just return kicks.
Boykin is the best slot corner in the draft and would serve two needs right away. Rainey does almost everything on offense and special teams. He is the type of player that both an offensive coordinator and a special teams coach can really play around with.
T.Y. Hilton is a dangerous return man, who also is an explosive receiver. He's comparable to DeSean Jackson.
He's not quite that fast, but he is a receiver you can put in the slot or on the outside and is just as dangerous a return man as Jackson was when he came out of the draft.
The Eagles would be smart to get a couple good return men who can make big plays after the defense just gave up a score. This has been too big of a problem to expect one rookie to handle it.
2. Strong-Side Linebacker
Strong-side linebacker is also a bit of a need for the Eagles.
Jamar Chaney is the favorite to win the job right now, but not without some competition. Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan are both signed through 2012, and both have been starters at different times.
Chaney has struggled in both pass coverage and open-field tackling. I expect the Eagles to select an outside linebacker sometime on Friday to challenge him for a starting spot this season.
The draft is loaded with capable options outside that fit the 4-3 defense. Players like Bobby Wagner, Zach Brown, Keenan Robinson, Nigel Bradham, Miles Burris and Travis Lewis all could win a starting job in their first year, and all could fall anywhere from the second round all the way to the fifth round.
The Eagles will be looking for a linebacker that can bring a physical presence against the run. They have gone after speedy linebackers in the past, and it has hurt them against the run.
Look for them to go after a sure tackler that won't be bullied by tight ends and offensive tackles.
3. Red-Zone Target
The Eagles offense is one of the most electric in the league.
It has three different players with big-play potential every time they touch it. What the Eagles offense doesn't have is a reliable third-down and red-zone receiver.
Converting critical third downs and red-zone opportunities has been a struggle for the Eagles nearly every single season under Andy Reid. They need a big playmaker, either a tight end or wide receiver who can be a physical mismatch for defensive backs.
The second round is loaded with big red-zone targets. Players like Brian Quick, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, Dwayne Allen and Juron Criner should all be available on Day 2.
If the Eagles pass on a red-zone target in the draft, they could still sign Plaxico Burress, though Burress would be a much more expensive option.
A second- or third-round receiver would be a much smaller hit against the cap and better in the long term. Expect the Eagles to bring in a similar player to Burress sometime in the second round.
4. Offensive Line Depth
The Eagles offensive line is set with five solid starters.
Even without Jason Peters, the Eagles will still be solid at left tackle either with Demetress Bell, or they move Todd Herremans to left tackle and insert King Dunlap at right tackle.
The Eagles will be looking for Howard Mudd-type players to fill out the depth chart. They will especially be looking for a reserve lineman who can play both tackle and guard.
Having a versatile lineman that can play three or four different positions means you can use one less roster spot on the line and one extra spot somewhere else.
Ryan Miller of Colorado is that type of player. He played both guard and tackle in college. At 6'7", 321 pounds, he has both the length and strength to play both tackle and guard at the next level.
He would be a good target in the fifth round.
5. Secondary Help
You can never have too many good defensive backs in this pass-happy league.
Asante Samuel was finally traded, which leaves the Eagles one injury away from being thin at cornerback. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hasn't proven himself to the Eagles yet, and Nnamdi Asomugha is on the wrong side of 30.
Both players are Pro Bowl corners, but it doesn't hurt to have a third quality corner.
The Eagles came into the 2011 season hoping to boast three unstoppable corners, but Samuel and Asomugha have two different skill sets, and it didn't mesh well.
The Eagles can still boast three shutdown corners this season if they play their cards right.
Janoris Jenkins is a top-10 talent with major off-field concerns. He could be a steal in the second round for the Eagles.
Even if he gets into more trouble, he won't be depended on to be a starter just yet. He could also be seen as Asomugha's eventual replacement.
Having three stud corners is a huge advantage in this league. The Eagles could have that advantage if they trade up in the second round and take the troubled, but very talented Jenkins.