Philadelphia Eagles Draft Stock Watch: 7 Players Rising and Falling on Board
We’ve been through the shrine games, the scouting combine, free agency and a fair portion of the important pro days. Now, with the NFL draft little more than six weeks away, the Philadelphia Eagles’ draft board is beginning to take shape.
Along the way, players’ fortunes have changed. Some are rising up the Eagles’ board based on strong performances and team need. Others are slipping further down for the exact opposite reasons.
Ultimately, game tape is still the most important tool used to base decision on these kids’ futures. That being said, we’ve also gotten a better sense about who the Eagles are interested in by watching who they’ve been talking to, which pro days they’ve been following and what the team needs following their offseason moves.
It’s not a complete portrait by any means, but you can get a sense for who the Eagles like and what they may need simply by following the news. Here’s a rundown of some of the key risers and fallers to watch as we continue barreling toward draft day.
Rising: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Whether DeSean Jackson gets traded or not this offseason, his future in Philadelphia is murky at best. With a talented, deep class of wide receivers entering the draft, it’s only logical the Eagles invest in an insurance policy.
As potential replacements go, Brandin Cooks is as close to a Jackson clone as there is. The trait they have most in common, that defines them both: Blazing speed.
At 4.33 seconds, Cooks timed the fastest of all wideouts in the 40-yard dash at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. That’s two one-hundredths of a second faster than Jackson back in 2008.
Cooks is coming off of an insanely prolific junior season during which the Biletnikoff Award winner hauled in 128 receptions, 16 touchdown catches and led the nation with 1,730 yards receiving. He ran for another 217 yards and two scores while trying his hand as a punt returner as well.
The main knock on Cooks is size—5’10”, 189 pounds—but small stature hasn’t prevented Jackson from succeeding in the NFL to the tune of three Pro Bowls in six seasons. Should Cooks last to the Eagles’ pick at No. 22, the Oregon State product will be the closest facsimile to Jackson on the board.
Falling: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
There’s been buzz for Kelvin Benjamin to Philadelphia ever since ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had the Eagles taking the Florida State wide receiver in his original mock draft (subscription required) back in January. Two months and a handful of red flags later, Benjamin might not go in the first round at all.
At 6’5”, 240 pounds and a 34 7/8” wing span, Benjamin is one heck of a physical specimen with an amazing catch radius to boot. There’s more to the receiver position than being the biggest guy on the field though.
Benjamin’s stock took a hit at the combine, where overall athleticism proved to be lacking. His 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash was on the low end of the spectrum, albeit not horrendous for that size. It was his poor time in the three-cone drill—a test that measures a combination agility and quickness—that indicated a lack of explosion.
Another year in school probably couldn’t have hurt, either. Benjamin recorded 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to a national championship, but the redshirt sophomore might be a little raw for the next level.
The Eagles may be interested in Benjamin on Day 2 of the draft, but with plenty of tall, well-rounded wideouts to choose from, there’s no need to reach.
Rising: OG Xavier Su'a-Filo
Speaking of potential trades that could affect draft-day plans, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting Evan Mathis is on the block could thrust this year’s offensive line class to the forefront for the Birds. Frankly, the Eagles could stand to add an offensive guard anyway.
All of a sudden, the front office has to give serious thought to selecting Xavier Su’a-Filo out of UCLA, the consensus top guard in the draft. Yes, even if it means potentially using a first-round pick.
Both Mathis and Todd Herremans are already in their 30s to begin with. Now that he’s coming off of an All-Pro season, Mathis is no longer content with his current contract, which these days seems to automatically result in being shopped around the league when you play for the Eagles.
Chances are Mathis will be back in ’14, but if not, Su’a-Filo could step into his spot at left guard immediately. Even if Mathis does return, Su’a-Filo would be in line to replace either guard a year or two down the road. Any way you slice it, Su’a-Filo should be on the radar.
Falling: RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
De’Anthony Thomas was already reeling from a disappointing showing at the scouting combine. Any hopes of a reunion with former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly were effectively dashed though when the Eagles sent a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Darren Sproles.
Sproles quickly signed a contract extension that runs through 2016, so while he’ll turn 31 before opening day, it would appear Kelly has found the all-purpose weapon for his offense for the next few years. Between Sproles and LeSean McCoy in the role of workhorse back, Thomas would only rot on the bench.
Thomas enjoyed his best seasons under Kelly at Oregon, racking up 2,346 yards from scrimmage and 32 offensive touchdowns over his freshman and sophomore years. He would be a natural fit in Philadelphia.
There simply isn’t any room.
Rising: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
When defensive coordinator Bill Davis makes it a point to introduce a player to Chip Kelly, as reportedly happened to Kyle Fuller at Virginia Tech’s pro day, according to Tony Pauline, it’s probably a good sign.
With Bradley Fletcher entering the final year of his contract and Cary Williams about to turn 30, it’s time to start thinking about replacing one or both of the Eagles cornerbacks. With the top prospects expected to be off the board by the time Philadelphia is up at No. 22, the Hokies defensive back could be the top target of a team in need of secondary help.
Fuller only recorded two interceptions and one forced fumble over his final three collegiate seasons, so pure playmaking isn’t necessarily his thing. At just a shade under 6’0” though, he has the prototypical height the Eagles desire.
As a sophomore, Fuller also played a hybrid role in Virginia Tech’s defense where he was used as an attacker. Based on his 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2011, I’d say he is perfectly comfortable playing close to and behind the line of scrimmage.
What the Eagles might like best about Fuller is his scouting report describes him as an off-man/zone corner. Davis’ scheme relies on a lot of zone concepts, so it would seem this kid could wind up being the perfect fit in the first round.
Falling: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
It’s not so much a matter of if Jason Verrett is tumbling down the Eagles’ draft board. It’s a question of whether the Birds were ever very high on him in the first place.
Philadelphia needs help in its secondary, but it seems there’s a size requirement to play cornerback for the Eagles. The club has signed three free agents to man the perimeters in the past two offseasons, and of Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Nolan Carroll, not one has been shorter than 6’0”.
Verrett is 5’9”.
The TCU product was extremely successful in college, leading the nation with 22 pass breakups as a junior and earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors a year later in ’13. But as Chip Kelly once famously quipped, big people beat up little people.
It’s clear by their moves in recent years that there is a certain prototype the Eagles are looking for on the outside, and Verrett doesn’t fit the mold. Chances are he’ll be sitting there when Philly is on the board at No. 22, but it would be shocking if they didn’t pass.
Rising: OLB Marcus Smith, Louisville
Chip Kelly recently attended Louisville's pro day, and call it a hunch, but I don’t think he was there to scout quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Eagles head coach undoubtedly had eyes for safety Calvin Pryor while there, but he may be gone before Philadelphia is on the clock at No. 22.
That could leave Marcus Smith as the potential top target, a highly productive hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker for the Cardinals. In other words, quite possibly the pass-rusher Philly desperately needs.
Smith isn’t garnering nearly enough attention from draftniks, but the numbers speak for themselves. The 2013 AAC Defensive Player of the Year was a disruptive force, registering 18.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.
Here’s the part the Eagles are really going to like: He’s versatile. Smith moved around Louisville’s defense, playing end and outside linebacker, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. He should feel right at home inside the Birds’ 3-4.
Smith only became a starter and produced big numbers in his senior season, so that is of some concern. That being said, as pass-rush prospects go in Rounds 2 or 3 go, he could wind up at the top of Philly’s board at one of those picks.