10 Draft Prospects Every Philadelphia Eagles Fan Should Know About
The 2013 NFL draft is still two months away, but the scouting combine began on Thursday. Dozens of NFL scouts timed, measured and evaluated the nation’s top collegiate football players to determine whether they could be successful at the next level.
This can be a make-or-break day for many players. Those seen as borderline first-round prospects can boost their stock with a better-than-expected 40-yard dash. Likewise, those who run a step too slow will drop. Height and weight will affect where a player goes, as will how he fares in the interview process, bench press, broad jump and more.
The Philadelphia Eagles own the fourth overall pick in the draft. It’s the highest selection for the team since 1999, when Andy Reid chose Donovan McNabb with his first move as head coach. Chip Kelly has the same opportunity to put the Eagles on the right track with his first selection.
More About the 10 Draft Prospects
A case could be made that up to 25 different players are top-10 worthy in this year's draft. In fact, there’s not even a clear-cut No. 1 overall selection.
This doesn’t just merely list the top 10 players on Mel Kiper's or Todd McShay’s big board. It focuses on which players would specifically meet the needs of the Philadelphia Eagles. Considering the Eagles went 4-12 last year, that doesn’t exclude many positions.
But Kelly runs a fast-paced explosive offense based on running quarterbacks. The defense may be switching to a 3-4 formation. And the secondary may lose both its starting cornerbacks, which makes upgrading that position essential.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel may not be available when the Philadelphia Eagles pick fourth overall. But if he is, the team would be foolish to pass on him.
Joeckel is the real deal. He’s a prototypical left tackle who can solidify an offensive line for the next 10 years. The Eagles have Jason Peters, one of the best in the game. But he’s returning from a serious injury.
If Peters returns at full strength, the Eagles can play Joeckel at right tackle and move Todd Herremans inside to right guard. That means Philly essentially upgrades the awful pick of Danny Watkins with Joeckel. When Peters’ contract is up after 2014, Joeckel can move to left tackle and hold down the fort.
He’s too good a talent to pass up if he’s still there regardless of who plays quarterback.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Star Lotulelei is a rare talent who can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. If the Philadelphia Eagles switch to a 3-4, Lotulelei probably is better suited as a 3-4 end than a nose tackle.
He’s big at 320 pounds, but he’s not nose-tackle big. A good nose tackle weighs closer to 350 pounds and occupies two blockers handily.
Lotulelei’s speed off the edge would be an asset. The Eagles could also move Fletcher Cox to 3-4 end and Trent Cole and Brandon Graham to 3-4 outside linebackers.
Lotulelei has the talent to go first overall. Andy Reid loves his defensive linemen, so it’s not out of the question that he will select the Utah star for the Kansas City Chiefs. But if Lotulelei is still around at No. 4, he’s too good to pass on.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Most Philadelphia fans don’t seem to want Geno Smith as the Eagles quarterback. I would only have interest if he falls to the second round, and that’s virtually impossible to fathom.
Smith has some impressive attributes. He’s pretty mobile, although maybe not as fast as many would imagine. He’s a precise passer and turned in a stellar senior season. If Chip Kelly wants to get his quarterback of the future, he may be tempted to snag Smith fourth overall.
There’s always a chance the Eagles could trade down to acquire Smith. But it’s difficult to know where the Eagles will have to position themselves. The Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are all good bets to draft a quarterback.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
E.J. Manuel could be the guy Chip Kelly gets to run his offense. Manuel is physically gifted at 6’5” and 240 pounds and runs very well.
He completed 68 percent of his passes in 2012, throwing 23 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. His running stats weren’t stellar (310 yards), but he is one of the top quarterbacks in the draft who would best fit Kelly’s system.
The Eagles won’t take Manuel fourth overall, but they may have to take him in the second round or risk losing him. That’s probably a tad too high for the Florida State product, but waiting until the third round likely means missing out.
Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Many experts have deemed Chance Warmack as a top-three player in the entire NFL draft. He’s considered a near-lock to succeed at the next level.
In fact, Warmack is rated as the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson, who went 17th overall in 2001 and made seven Pro Bowls.
Warmack paved the way for Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in 2012, helping deliver a national championship. Warmack fills a huge position of need for the Philadelphia Eagles, as Danny Watkins has been awful since the team picked him in 2011.
Since 2000, only two interior offensive linemen have gone in the top half of the first round: Shawn Andrews (16th overall, 2004) and Mike Pouncey (15th overall, 2011).
Taking Warmack fourth would defy recent drafts. But considering he has almost no bust factor, it’s worth it.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
News surfaced earlier that Dee Milliner will undergo surgery on a torn labrum he suffered during the 2012 season.
That may or may not affect Milliner’s draft stock. He’s expected to be ready for training camp, so it’s likely he won’t fall out of the top 10. Milliner is unquestionably the best cornerback available in the NFL draft, and the Philadelphia Eagles should strongly consider him at No. 4.
The Detroit Lions have the fifth selection and need a cornerback upgrade. The Eagles can’t trade down and expect to select Milliner.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent and probably won’t return. Likewise, Nnamdi Asomugha is due a ridiculous $15 million and may be a cap casualty.
Picking Milliner would give the Eagles a top-notch corner who can help cover receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant and Victor Cruz.
Matt Elam, S, Florida
Kenny Vaccaro is the top safety in the draft, but it’s very doubtful the Philadelphia Eagles get him. The fourth overall pick is just too high to take him, and he’s not going to last until the second round.
That means the Eagles may have to settle for a player like Matt Elam, who is still a very good talent. Elam is a tough, physical safety who can cover tight ends and wide receivers. He tackles well and is an underrated blitzer.
He’s easily better than Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman, each of whom would be best used only in dime and quarter defenses. Elam would start from Day 1, and he could probably be obtained in the second round.
Ezekiel Ansah, 3-4 OLB, BYU
If the Philadelphia Eagles switch to a 3-4 defense, they should strongly consider Ezekiel Ansah as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
Ansah’s highlights last year speak for themselves. He never stops moving. He can play the pass and the run. He hustles until the whistle and makes tons of plays.
Ansah is huge at 6’5” and 270 pounds (for a 3-4 ‘backer), and he can get to the quarterback. He’s also big enough to stick with tight ends. The problem with Ansah is that the fourth overall pick is too high to take him, and he’s not going to last until the second round. The only way he becomes an Eagle is a trade down to the middle of the first round.
Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t really think Antonio Dixon can be their 3-4 nose tackle, do they?
Dixon spent most of 2012 unemployed. He saw 21 game snaps late in the season when the Eagles picked him up.
Expecting him to start 16 games as a nose tackle who requires double-teams is unreasonable. That’s why the Eagles need a guy like Jesse Williams from Alabama.
Williams played nose tackle for Nick Saban’s championship defense, so he’s well-accustomed to the position. He can free up space for Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to make plays.
Williams is a borderline first-round talent who would be best obtained with the 36th overall pick.
John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
John Jenkins is the man the Philadelphia Eagles should target to be their nose tackle. He’s absolutely massive at 6’4” and close to 360 pounds.
Jenkins is surprisingly quick for a man of his size, and he’s able to shed double-teams. He played nose tackle in college and would allow the Eagles to move Fletcher Cox outside to 3-4 end.
Jenkins won’t put up eye-popping stats. But what he will do is turn the game into nine offensive players against 10 defensive players, and that gives the Eagles a clear advantage.