If this year’s draft will be anything, it’s going to be tough to predict. Luke Joeckel seems to be the consensus No. 1 overall selection, but no one knows where picks two through 10 will go.
There could be one quarterback in the first round of the draft, and there could be four. Teams will be jockeying to trade down and acquire more picks, given the lack of talent at the top of the big boards. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay’s mock drafts differ in significant ways, and this is coming from experts that spend months and months breaking down game film.
Kiper sees the Eagles taking a gamble on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, a player that would be expected to run Chip Kelly’s offense. Smith could go anywhere from the second overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he could drop to the second round. He had three fairly productive years in college and was on track to being a Heisman Trophy winner in 2012 before trailing off late.
Kiper says he believes the Eagles will trade up from their Round 2 pick to get him in the back end of the first round. That would make more sense than picking him fourth overall. Even Kelly has to know Smith isn’t worth that pick. Smith did run a 4.59 40-yard dash but he doesn’t seem to possess the scrambling skills Kelly usually desires from his quarterbacks.
Smith ran for just 152 yards and two touchdowns on 66 carries. He averaged a paltry 2.3 yards per carry, showing limited abilities when he took off. That’s a far cry from Michael Vick or even Dennis Dixon, who ran Kelly’s Oregon offense several years back.
He would probably have to sit for a year behind Vick. It doesn’t seem likely that Philadelphia would pay Vick his base salary for 2013 to sit on the bench behind a first-round draft pick. Smith would be better suited sitting and developing his skills, while learning how to run Kelly’s unique offense.
Meanwhile, McShay has the Eagles bolstering their porous defense from last year. Considering Andy Reid’s defense rated 29th in total defense, 31st in turnovers and 32nd in passing touchdowns allowed, the upgrade is vital. Star Lotulelei is Philly’s guy, and he would play zero-technique nose tackle in Kelly’s new 3-4 defense.
Lotulelei is a mammoth-sized man that can plug the middle of the defense. He requires constant double-teams and would free up blockers for Fletcher Cox, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham to make plays. His passion for football has been questioned, seeing as he briefly quit the game in 2009. He also tends to wear down late in games.
But he is a 300-plus pound man who won’t be asked to play too many defensive snaps initially. The Eagles do have Isaac Sopoaga, a veteran from the San Francisco 49ers, and Sopoaga has experience playing as a 3-4 nose tackle.
Lotulelei seems to be the more logical fit for the Eagles’ defense. He fills a position of need, and he will be one of the best players available if he’s still on the big board. It doesn’t seem likely that the Jacksonville Jaguars will pick him, which means it’s up to Oakland to keep him from being an Eagle.
Then again, Kelly could opt to go for a different player. Dion Jordan played under Kelly for several years at the University of Oregon, and he would be a dynamic impact in the NFL. Sharrif Floyd seems to be logical as a 3-4 end.
Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson are cornerstone left tackles that would allow Jason Peters an easier return from his torn Achilles tendon. And there’s also Dee Milliner, the shutdown corner from Alabama.
Logic would point Kelly to selecting a defensive player. The defense was the downfall of the 2012 club, and reaching for a quarterback is risky for a rookie head coach. Then again, Kelly may trade down. He may trade up. No one has a clue what he will do, but in three days, we’ll all know.