At the start of the 2013 season, odds were pretty high that the Philadelphia Eagles would be spending their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. That's certainly not the case anymore, and that's something that Eagles fans need to be thankful for heading into May's draft.
The Eagles had an explosive, big-play offense in 2013, thanks to the emergence of Nick Foles, career years from LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, and a healthy offensive line. Oh, and head coach Chip Kelly proved his worth as a legitimate offensive genius, taking a team that scored 280 points in 2012 to 442 points in 2013.
It's the defensive side of the ball that could use some work. Although the Eagles surprisingly ranked in the middle of the pack in points allowed, they don't have a single Pro Bowler on their defense. They could use an upgrade at every single position and they could use a major upgrade at both safety positions.
As we head into the Scouting Combine, let's take a look at 25 different players who the Eagles could look to draft with their first-round pick.
1. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Mel Kiper's first mock draft had the Eagles selecting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, although their plans will obviously change depending on whether they re-sign both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Benjamin is a huge, physical receiver who will be able to flat-out make plays in Chip Kelly's offense. Nick Foles likes to throw the long ball and I think everybody would prefer him throwing a jump ball to Benjamin instead of DeSean Jackson.
2. HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Eagles cannot enter the 2014 season with Earl Wolff and Patrick Chung as the safeties on their team, especially if Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson all end up leaving via free agency. HaHa Clinton-Dix has the size, speed and toughness to add some much-needed intimidation to the Eagles' defense.
3. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Dee Ford became a household name following standout performances throughout the entire 2013 season, notably the national championship game and the Senior Bowl. He isn't one of the draft's bigger prospects but he's versatile and projects very well as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.
4. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Eagles really need another red zone target, especially if Riley Cooper leaves during free agency. Mike Evans was Johnny Manziel's favorite weapon at Texas A&M and he has the size and strength to dominate near the goal line.
5. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Eagles have been trying to replace Brian Dawkins for five seasons. They really haven't come close. Hopefully Calvin Pryor breaks the team's streak of misses at safety. He's an extremely physical safety who is very willing to throw his body around and make necessary big hits. He's versatile too, and would be able to line up close to the line of scrimmage or back as a center fielder who could help cover opposing receivers and tight ends.
6. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
In his most recent mock draft, ESPN insider Todd McShay has the Eagles improving their defense by taking cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Dennard had some dominant performances against a number of top wide receivers this season. He likely wouldn't open the season as a starter, although drafting Dennard could cause the Eagles to release either Cary Williams or, more likely, Bradley Fletcher.
7. Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Opinions tend to vary on Anthony Barr but the general consensus is that he would be a great pass-rusher for Chip Kelly to use, similar to how he used Dion Jordan during his time at Oregon. Barr likely wouldn't fall to the 22nd pick so the Eagles may need to trade up if they want to acquire a player of his caliber.
8. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Roby had a disappointing junior year of college but he's still expected to earn a first-round selection in the draft. He has all the necessary tools to develop into a solid starter in a few seasons, although he probably would spend the majority of his first season on the bench.
9. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Odell Beckham is the kind of player Chip Kelly would love to work with. He's explosive with elite speed and he could play both outside and in the slot. He catches everything and could also handle return duties.
10. Kyle Van Noy, DE/OLB, BYU
Kyle Van Noy is the type of versatile player the Eagles need on their defense. As a junior, he rushed the quarterback on 70 percent of his plays, collecting 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. But in his senior year, he focused on covering opposing tight ends. He would make an immediate impact at outside linebacker.
11. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt struggled at the beginning of his senior year following offseason surgery for a sports hernia but the massive 312-pound lineman translates to a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. He has impressive athletic ability and strength and surprising speed.
12. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert would be a viable option for the Eagles if he's still on the board with the 22nd pick. He has good size and excellent closing range. As an added bonus, he's an exceptional returner too.
13. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Eagles' defensive line was pushed around by the New Orleans Saints during the postseason, enough that the franchise might consider using their first pick on a huge nose tackle like Louis Nix to anchor the middle of their line.
14. Zach Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
Zach Martin played left tackle in college but would likely translate to guard in the NFL due to his smaller length. He could fill in for the aging Todd Herremans or Evan Mathis in a year or two.
15. Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
Trent Murphy had a monster 2013 season, recording 15 sacks, 23.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. He's 6'6'', weighs 261 pounds and projects as an ideal pass-rushing outside linebacker. His size, along with his athletic ability, will really catch Chip Kelly's eye.
16. Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
Walter Football has the Eagles using their first-round pick on Kony Ealy, a dominant pass-rusher who can project as a defensive end or, more likely, an outside linebacker. He could be the guy to get to the quarterback that the Eagles lacked in 2013.
17. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A disappointing 2013 season really hurt Marqise Lee's draft stock but the bottom line is that this kid can be one of the explosive players in the game with the ball in his hands. The odds of the Eagles drafting Lee, or any receiver, will obviously increase if Maclin and/or Cooper don't return.
18. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley didn't post dominant stats during his senior year of college but he was all over the field making plays. He's a terrific tackler who could potentially take over DeMeco Ryans' starting job after the 2014 season.
19. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Eagles like to draft big players and Jason Verrett is an undersized corner. However, if they fall in love with his toughness and cover ability, they could spring for him anyway.
20. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan would probably project to a 3-4 defensive end. He is solid as a pass-rusher but his strength is stuffing the run, which is something the Eagles really struggled with down the stretch in 2013.
21. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald projects much better to a 4-3 defense than a 3-4 so it's not likely that the Eagles spend a pick, especially their first-round pick, on him. However, if they do find themselves enamored by him, he could be a rotational piece on the defensive line starting in 2014. He's one of the biggest rising stars right now.
22. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Marcus Roberson didn't have a dominant season but the Florida junior has declared for the draft anyway, where he is expected to be a first- or second-round selection. He struggles against the run but he has good ball skills and excellent physicality.
23. Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
Jeremiah Attaochu could be a surprise pick for the Eagles at pick number 22 but it makes sense. He has more career sacks than any current player in college football and would spend his rookie season competing for playing time behind Trent Cole.
24. David Yankey, G, Stanford
It would surprise everybody if the Eagles went for a guard in the first round but they plan to follow their best-player-available strategy so if they deem David Yankey to be the BPA, they'll take him and groom him as a replacement for Evan Mathis or Todd Herremans. Yankey is a tremendous run-blocker and would fit in perfectly, blocking for LeSean McCoy.
25. LaMarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
LaMarcus Joyner is everything a team wants in a safety. He's extremely physical and versatile, able to play either safety position or slot corner. He also excels as a kick returner. The big question is his size. He's just 5'8'' and Chip Kelly is known for wanting bigger players. That could move him off the team's big board, at least for the first round.
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