With the Senior Bowl upon us, fans of both the NFL and college football have a lot to look forward to in Saturday’s game.
On one hand, college football fans wait with anticipation to see the best of the collegiate world’s athletes that they’ve followed for months.
On the other hand, NFL fans will be tuning in to catch a glimpse of any players with the potential to help their teams in the future.
No matter what, the Senior Bowl promises to be a showcase of college football’s biggest game-changers competing against each other for pride and the promise of making it to the NFL.
In the case of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Senior Bowl will be more of a platform for potential NFL players to display which holes they can patch in the Birds' sinking ship.
The Birds need help just about everywhere. But in the interest of time, the following slideshow will take a look at a few of the team’s biggest needs by position.
If there is anyone out there who thinks Nick Foles and Chip Kelly can run a Patriots-style offense, this slide is not for you and your blind faith in No. 9.
There are two quarterbacks the Eagles should keep their eyes on in this game, and they are the South’s EJ Manuel and the North’s Ryan Nassib.
Of all of the names of potential quarterbacks the Eagles could draft, Ryan Nassib is the second-most intriguing.
Nassib is a local product, and he’s a mobile quarterback with a big arm. He certainly has the skill set to run a Chip Kelly offense, but that doesn’t mean that he can.
There are questions about Nassib. After all, he threw 10 interceptions and 26 touchdowns. However, he has greatly improved the Syracuse offense.
The Eagles probably shouldn’t look to draft him, but if they did it wouldn’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened.
The other quarterback the Eagles need to watch is EJ Manuel. His name has come up recently in many conversations about who the Eagles could draft to run Chip Kelly’s offense.
Manuel isn’t exactly blowing anyone away with his skills, but he is a very good college quarterback. He also threw 10 interceptions this year, but he threw 23 touchdowns (three fewer than Nassib). However, Manuel has the mobility that one would expect a Chip Kelly quarterback to have.
His decision-making is highly questionable, and that hurts his stock even though he has a rocket arm and can run.
Regardless, Manuel should be given a look and considered somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. So, the Eagles should pay close attention to him this Saturday.
The Eagles need offensive line depth. They’ll need to part ways with most of their O-line players because most of them just were not good enough to be on an NFL roster.
Who is going to back up Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and whoever the fifth lineman is going to be?
The Eagles should keep a lot of their attention on tackle Oday Aboushi out of Virginia, who plays the left side but has experience on the right. That’s the kind of versatility that isn’t necessary for every team, but it’s what the Eagles need given their lack of O-line depth.
Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson will be representing the South in the Senior Bowl, and he’s as NFL-ready as any of the other O-linemen who will play this weekend.
Johnson is 6’6” and 302 pounds. He’s pretty strong and he’s pretty athletic, but he’s not the strongest or the most athletic. Regardless, he is also someone the Birds should watch. If the Birds pull a disappointment and trade down, Johnson wouldn’t be a bad pick if he’s available.
Brian Schwenke is a 6’3", 311-pound center out of California. Although he probably will not be drafted until the middle rounds, he could prove to be a steal. He’s quick and he’s got good technique, despite the fact that he’s not the strongest lineman on the field. He’s also shown in Senior Bowl practice that he can handle bigger defenders.
Really, the Eagles should be looking all over for offensive linemen, but these are three to keep an eye on this weekend.
Could Denard Robinson usurp Jason Avant as the Eagles' No. 3 wideout and No. 4 quarterback?
It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to turn into a wide receiver: Take Anquan Boldin for example. In reality, saying Robinson could be like Boldin is like saying a sixth-round quarterback could be Tom Brady. There is only one Brady, and there is only one Boldin.
All kidding aside, the Senior Bowl isn’t exactly a budding garden of big wide receiver prospects (which is what the Eagles need), but there are a couple to keep an eye on.
Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton will be one of them. He’s 6’1” and about 200 pounds. He’s probably not a No. 1 NFL receiver, but he’s got hands and he’s pretty fast. He’s also not going in the first round of the draft.
Aaron Dobson will be representing Marshall in this Saturday’s Senior Bowl, and he’ll probably see his stock rise. Right now, he’s a second-rounder with upside. By the end of the weekend, he could be a mid-to-late first-rounder.
Dobson has good size at 6’3”, 203 pounds. He’s exactly the kind of wideout the Birds need—not only because of his size, but also because he personifies a favorite word of football analysts: explosive. Dobson is a phenomenal athlete who can get open and create separation in bursts. He’s certainly a player to watch.
Chris Harper out of Kansas State is another wideout to watch because of his natural ability to catch the ball. He’ll probably go in the later rounds, and he’ll prove to be a steal if that’s the case. The Birds should watch him closely.
Brent Celek has either leveled out or is on the decline. Clay Harbor is nothing more than a decent backup. Evan Moore is what he is.
The Eagles need to watch the tight ends in this Saturday’s game. After all, Chip Kelly loves tight ends, and they are becoming more and more a part of every team’s offense.
Nick Kasa is a 6’6”, 270-pound tight end out of Colorado and he will be representing the North. He’s enormous. He’s also raw. But Kasa can block, and he has the athleticism to warrant a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Although he’d be a project, Kasa’s upside could be very much worth a late pick.
Another tight end to keep an eye on is the South’s Vance McDonald out of Rice. McDonald is 6’4” and 262 pounds. Right now, he’s probably a third- or fourth-round pick, and he may be worth it. He can catch the deep ball, but he isn’t the best blocker out there.
Is this year’s college senior class stacked with linebackers?
There are certainly a few interesting prospects out there the Eagles should keep an eye on. However, we don’t know yet whether or not the Birds will come out in a 3-4 or 4-3 in 2013—and that makes a huge difference in the NFL.
Khaseem Greene is a LB/DB out of Rutgers who will be representing the North. He recorded two interceptions, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks this season. He could work in either a 3-4 or a 4-3.
Sean Porter will probably get drafted in the second or third round. He’ll be playing for the South out of Texas A&M.
Porter can rush and he’s good in coverage. He’s also one of the better athletes in the Senior Bowl. He’s another guy to keep an eye on.
Since there are so many intriguing linebacker prospects that won’t be on display in the Senior Bowl, Greene and Porter are the two that the Eagles should watch the most.
The Eagles have been desperate for defensive backs for a while now. But Dee Milliner won’t be playing this weekend because he’s a junior.
Since we’re talking about cornerbacks, Washington’s Desmond Trufant will be playing for the North and he’s someone the Birds should watch closely. Trufant may see his stock go up. Right now, he’s probably going in the second round.
Desmond Trufant is the younger brother of Isaiah and Marcus Trufant, and Desmond certainly has NFL ability as well.
Trufant is outstanding in coverage, but he’s not the best tackler. He’s still young, so that could change. Regardless, it wouldn’t be a disappointment to see the Eagles acquire him in some scenario.
However, the Eagles also need safety help, and they probably won’t look to draft one until the third round. At that time, there will probably be a guy named Johnathan Cyprien out there.
Cyprien will be representing the North out of Florida International University. Cyprien plays hard, he’s aggressive and he’s physical. These are all things Eagles fans admire. Furthermore, his athletic prowess and ball skills could make him a steal for the Birds at strong safety.
There are a few talented safeties who will be playing this weekend aside from Cyprien. Another is free safety Bacarri Rambo out of Georgia.
Rambo will be playing for the South, and he’s one of the top safeties in this weekend’s game. He has outstanding ball skills. In fact, he recorded 16 interceptions during his college career. Along with his nose for the ball, Rambo has great instincts. These are two skills the Eagles have been lacking at the safety position for quite some time.