New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly inherits a team in desperate need of a change of pace. The Eagles went just 4-12 last season, losing 11 of their final 12 games.
The Eagles have just one major player (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) hitting free agency, but Kelly can’t expect to be competitive with the same group that was on the field in 2013.
What will help is the return of most of the offensive line from injuries. The defense will likely be switching to a 3-4 formation, and that means new players will be needed in the front seven.
The fourth overall pick is intriguing in that the Eagles could have their choice of a lot of great players.
Andy Reid will probably take the top offensive tackle, Luke Joeckel. Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders could use an upgrade on the defensive line. But there’s a slew of intriguing options for Kelly at pick number four.
The secondary was the weakest positional group of the Philadelphia Eagles. Nnamdi Asomugha played like an old, tired 31-year-old man, and the Eagles can’t afford to bring him back at $15 million.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent which could signal the end of his tenure with the team. Safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are vastly overmatched as starters. No matter which defense the Eagles play (4-3 or 3-4), they need a big-play cornerback.
Dee Milliner is projected to be the top cornerback in the 2013 NFL draft. He’s been picked in the top 10 of most mock drafts. It may be a bit of a stretch for the Eagles to take him at pick four, but if Chip Kelly does select him, he has an instant starter.
Milliner had one of his finest performances against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game. He has the ability to be a lockdown corner, and that’s going to prove vital in a division with Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, and Victor Cruz.
If the Philadelphia Eagles switch to a 3-4 and Star Lotulelei is available at pick four, he’s worth taking. Lotulelei is a huge, disruptive defensive tackle that can occupy two blockers on any given play.
He’s listed at 6’4” and 325 pounds. Lotulelei resembles Ndamukong Suh with his play, and Suh went as high as second overall in the 2010 draft. Lotulelei was a First-Team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011, and his stats as a senior were pretty solid. He registered five sacks, three forced fumbles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 42 total tackles.
Lotulelei, paired with Fletcher Cox, would give the Eagles an unstoppable interior line in a 4-3. Add in Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, and that’s a line that can accumulate tons of sacks. And if the Eagles go with a 3-4, Lotulelei is the nose tackle that can do for them what Haloti Ngata did for the Baltimore Ravens.
The fourth overall pick is too high to select a guard, as good as he may be. And Chance Warmack is a very good one.
Warmack has been considered the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson back in 2001. He helped pave the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2012, delivering a national championship to Alabama. Warmack is said to be a perfectionist with an unbeatable work ethic, and he has almost no bust potential.
Warmack could go in the top 10 of the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles should probably trade down if they want him. But if they do get Warmack, they’ve got themselves a fine guard that can fill the void left by Danny Watkins.
If Luke Joeckel is still here at pick four, Chip Kelly has absolutely no excuse not to snap him up and say thank you to the three teams that passed on him.
Joeckel is physically gifted and he’s a tremendous blocker. Joeckel should translate to the NFL well considering he’s an offensive lineman.
Take a look at the top offensive linemen of the last eight drafts: Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, Trent Williams, Jason Smith, Jake Long, Joe Thomas, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Jammal Brown. Those eight players have combined for 17 Pro Bowl selections. Seven of the nine have made it. Tyron Smith is well on his way. The only genuine bust was Jason Smith.
Joeckel would step right in at right tackle, allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to move Todd Herremans to right guard. That would put Danny Watkins on the bench where he belongs, while solidifying an offensive line that was awful in 2012.
Jarvis Jones was initially seen as a potential number one overall selection in the upcoming NFL draft. Concerns about his future in the league have dropped his stock, but he should still go within the top 10 picks.
Jones was a standout pass-rusher at the University of Georgia, registering 12.5 sacks during the regular season and two more in the bowl game. Jones is already 23 years old though and he has spinal sternosis, a condition that forced former offensive lineman Marcus McNeill to retire at age 28.
Jones would fit right in the Philadelphia Eagles’ new 3-4 defense. He’s a natural fit as an outside linebacker, and he and Brandon Graham would generate serious pressure off the edge.
Regardless of his recent off-the-field issues, Manti Te’o probably isn’t worth a first-round pick. The Philadelphia Eagles would be downright foolish to consider this Notre Dame star with the fourth overall selection.
But if the second round rolls around and Te’o is still there, he’s worth considering. Te’o’s stock in the draft was probably overrated by a terrific surrounding defensive cast and an easy schedule. His performance in the BCS National Championship Game was frighteningly bad.
However, the Eagles will probably be switching to a 3-4. This would put less pressure on Te’o. DeMeco Ryans has already played in a 3-4, and the two together would be very solid in the inside. A dream scenario would have the Eagles selecting Jarvis Jones or Star Lotulelei in the first round and Te’o in the second round.
The Philadelphia Eagles could select a safety in the fifth round and he would have a chance to start. Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen were that bad in 2012.
That being said, Matt Elam is one of the very best safeties in the nation. He had a really good junior season for the University of Florida, making a lot of plays. Elam had four interceptions, two sacks, nine tackles for a loss, and a whole bunch more solo tackles.
Elam would solidify a secondary that was historically awful down the stretch last season.
Either Matt Elam or Kenny Vaccaro will go as the top safety in this year’s NFL draft. Vaccaro will probably be drafted somewhere around picks 15-25, which means the Philadelphia Eagles would be wise to trade down and select him.
Vaccaro is a terrific all-around safety who can cover, stop the run, and even rush the quarterback when needed. He’s already better than either Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman.
If the Eagles draft Vaccaro and sign a top free agent like Jairus Byrd, Dashon Goldson, or William Moore, the secondary will be greatly improved.
There’s a chance Damontre Moore may not be available when the Philadelphia Eagles make their selection fourth overall.
But if he’s still there, Moore is worth a very good look. He’s an outside linebacker/defensive end that would excel in the new 3-4. Moore registered 12 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss in 2012, and he would be a force in the NFL from day one.
Moore is undersized but he would fit well as a hybrid pass-rusher in the 3-4. The Eagles registered just 30 sacks in all of 2012. Trent Cole underachieved and Jason Babin was released midway through the season. Moore and last year’s first-round pick, Fletcher Cox, would get the Eagles back on track.
Like Damontre Moore, Bjoern Werner has all the tools to be an All-Pro pass rusher in the NFL. Werner picked up 13 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, and eight passes defensed in a stellar 2012 season.
Werner would also fit in the 3-4 for the Philadelphia Eagles extremely well. He was a tremendous force for Florida State in college; just ask Florida fans who saw him torch the Gators for 3.5 sacks, three tackles for a loss, and a fumble recovery in their in-season matchup.
Werner would have to be snagged with the fourth overall pick, since there’s no way he would last further than that. He might even go at pick number two.
Eric Fisher isn’t talented enough to take fourth overall in this year’s draft. And he probably won’t last until the second round.
The only way the Philadelphia Eagles get him is if they trade down and select Fisher around the 10th overall pick. Fisher is one of the top three offensive tackles available in the draft. He’s massive at 6’8” and over 300 pounds, and he could still afford to put on another 20 pounds or more.
Fisher played left tackle, right tackle, and guard in 2012. He’s a natural athlete and excelled at getting downfield to make blocks. That should fit him well in Chip Kelly’s offense, as Kelly likes versatile linemen.
Like the scenario that has the Eagles picking Luke Joeckel, Fisher would step right in at right tackle. Jason Peters should be fully healthy and ready to return at left tackle. Todd Herremans would take over for Danny Watkins at right guard. And Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce complete a very formidable offensive line.