The Philadelphia Eagles are a long way off from being an elite NFL franchise. The team’s weaknesses on the offensive line, the inability of the secondary players to defend the pass, the small and injury-prone receiving corps and the questions surrounding the quarterback position have left the team and its fans struggling to paint a clear picture of the Birds’ future.
Although nothing is definite until it comes to fruition, the closest thing to definite about the Eagles’ future is that Andy Reid will likely not be coaching the team. Although the idea of the Eagles under different leadership may conjure the kind of sentiments in some fans that would hate to see Reid go, for others, it is a welcomed prospect that is rich with the fruits of change.
One of the biggest and most promising aspects of the idea of a new head coach and management regime is that of a different draft style. After all, it’s no secret that Andy Reid isn’t a very good drafter. If you need evidence for this, aside from the fact that he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, the current situations of most of his draft picks and the success of the players who were drafted after the players he picked (especially in the first round), you can reference the Birds’ activity on the free-agent market. Reid has tried to make up for his lack of talent and depth by signing big-name free agents instead of developing young players in his system over recent years. That’s a big part of why the Eagles’ 2011 and 2012 campaigns turned out the way they did.
Although a team cannot be “fixed” with a single draft, a team can most certainly be placed on the right track with one.
Although the Eagles offensive line was historically bad this year, it’s not the team’s biggest weakness because next season will see the return of Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and Todd Herremens. The Eagles doubtlessly need offensive line depth; however, they need a linebacker more.
Since the Eagles will have a high pick and there are no can’t-miss quarterbacks, the best-case scenario for the Eagles is one in which they are on the clock and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is on the board.
For years, the Birds have been without an elite linebacker and a defensive leader. Though I can’t speak to the intangibles Manti Te’o has, I can trust the many opinions of experts who laud him as a leader on and off the field.
I can also see that Te’o is fast, strong and has a nose for the ball. These are qualities that not only Eagles linebackers are missing, but most of the team’s defense is as well.
Te’o also doesn’t miss tackles. The Eagles linebackers, especially Mychal Kendricks, miss a lot of tackles.
If the Eagles want to rebuild themselves on the defensive side of the ball, a great way to start would be with a core of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Manti Te’o.
But if Te'o is off the board when it's the Eagles' turn to make their first-round selection, drafting offensive tackle Luke Joeckel wouldn't be a bad move.
After all, Joeckel is a formidable 6'6" and 310 pounds. He offers the kind of size and strength the Eagles offensive line needs.
Andy Reid’s pass-first philosophy has baffled and angered the team’s fans for years. Why? Because the Eagles haven’t had an elite WR since Terrell Owens was in town.
Terrell Owens and players on his level are great not only because of their skill, but also because of their size. That’s not to say that only big receivers can be elite; there are exceptions to every rule.
However, it is to say that in an NFL where passing dominates, a team needs to have a WR with size who can go up and get balls and fight his way forward for extra yards. Most of the time, that’s a big receiver. The Eagles receivers don’t have that kind of size.
Justin Hunter is 6’4" and weighs 200 pounds. He is young, so he can (and probably will) bulk up his thing frame, but a receiver like Hunter is exactly what the Eagles need. The only thing about Hunter that would raise any concern about his future in the NFL is his tendency to drop passes, which he recognizes and has improved on.
Other than that, Hunter should be an early second-round pick that the Eagles should make. He’s got breakaway speed and outstanding instincts. Some experts have him going as early as the mid-first round. But, he’s not the best receiver out there, and there are a lot of other good players who will go before him.
However, if Hunter is not available, then his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson may be. Patterson is 6’3", 205 pounds. He’s also got the kind of size the Eagles have been lacking at the WR position. He’s also a fast, a gifted athlete and an outstanding punt returner.
A third option would be Barrett Jones, a versatile offensive lineman from Alabama who would, at the very least, bolster the Eagles’ depth chart. Jones is 6’5" and over 300 pounds. He is a decent athlete who can block the edge, and he helped pave the way for Mark Ingram’s Heisman season.
It’s sad to say that the Eagles are so weak at the safety position that just about anyone could start and it would be a welcome change.
The consensus about projecting what round USC safety TJ McDonald will be taken lands him in the third round here, and in great position for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Though McDonald is not the best safety in the draft, he has been a standout at USC. He’s been compared to a linebacker, and some have challenged his ability in coverage. However, he has gotten better with time and shows no signs of slowing.
McDonald is one of college football’s hardest hitting defensive backs, and he’s great against the run. Seeing him in Eagle green would be a welcome sight.
If McDonald is off the board, however, then the Eagles should look to yet another Tennessee wideout in Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers has been compared to Julio Jones. He is a 6’3’, 206-pound receiver with the kind of strength SEC defenses have not been able to stop with press coverage.
To compliment his speed, Rogers is explosive and comfortable outside and in the slot. However, he has a slight propensity to drop passes because he often tries to do too much. Even if the Eagles do draft a WR in the second round, taking Da’Rick Rogers if he is available wouldn’t be a bad pick in any scenario.
Things get tricky in the fourth round. As if projecting the first three wasn’t hard enough, now we’re going to get into a lot of what-ifs and question marks.
Since there are no more worthwhile Tennessee WRs left, let’s turn our attention to Mr. Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Mathieu. It sounds crazy, but if he is available in the fourth round, the Eagles should take a chance and select him.
Mathieu isn’t the first college football player with a slew of off-the-field issues, and there have been a few players in his position who have made a name for themselves in the NFL, the most recent being St. Louis Rams defensive back Janoris Jenkins.
Mathieu’s size doesn’t make him an ideal fit at any position. However, he has a nose for the ball, he’s good against the run and he can cover the deep play. Mathieu’s ability to defend the deep ball alone at least warrants giving him some consideration, especially considering the Eagles’ vulnerability against the deep pass.
Mathieu would best be suited as a hybrid player who can sub in for certain packages at cornerback, safety and even linebacker.
But for the less-daring draft analyst, a safer fourth-round selection would be California CB Marc Anthony.
Anthony has the kind size and athletic ability that would make a pro scout salivate. However, he doesn’t have the best ball skills. Anthony hardly ever intercepts passes, but he can defend them.
He may be more of a project than most would like, but he is worth a fourth-round selection.
Who knows what the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft could have lined up for the Philadelphia Eagles?
One thing that is for certain is that if South Carolina outside linebacker DeVonte Holloman is available, the Eagles should take him.
Although most experts say that Holloman will be nothing more than a good special teams player, he can play strong safety as well as OLB, and that makes him valuable to the Eagles.
Holloman is big and athletic, but he is a bit lacking in the speed department, which could lead to some reservations regarding his prospects in the NFL. Nonetheless, he’s worth a fifth-round pick from the Eagles because of how desperate they are at both OLB and SS.
But, if the Eagles don’t feel like gambling on Holloman, they could address their need CB and take Johnny Adams, who is undersized but has a lot of upside.
For starters, Adams is physical and disciplined. He also exhibits great ball skills—especially when it’s in his hands. Some mock drafts have Adams going between picks 50 and 100, but a more reasonable projection is probably somewhere in the fifth round, which could make him a steal.
Graham Pocic is a 6’7” aggressive, tough, strong center from Illinois. He has also been playing in a conference that has turned out several NFL defensive linemen over the last few years, so he is battle-tested.
Pocic brings the kind of size and brute force the Eagles offensive line has been without because of Andy Reid’s “technique and finesse” approach to the offensive line.
If Pocic is available in the sixth, maybe even the fifth, round, the Eagles need to take him.
But if he isn’t, North Carolina’s Travis Bond comes to mind.
Bond is a 6’6”, 340-pound guard/monster who eats defensive linemen. Again, Bond is not the best, ideal candidate, but a worthy one nonetheless.
The seventh round is usually one in which it’s all right to take a flyer. In the Eagles' case, Oklahoma guard Lane Taylor should be on the board. If he is, the Eagles should take him.
He’s not the fastest, most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. However, Taylor is disciplined, dedicated, and coordinated.
Though he is only 6’2”, he works very well in his assignments and he is durable.
If the Eagles feel like taking a shot on a QB, Matt McGloin and Colby Cameron might be worth a look.