Philadelphia Eagles Mock Draft: Instant Contributors PHI Can Find in Every Round
Now that the Philadelphia Eagles have released DeSean Jackson—whatever the reasoning—the pressure is on the front office to find an instant contributor in May’s draft to replace the three-time Pro Bowler. Or is it?
While popular thinking would suggest wide receiver just became a necessity in Rounds 1 or 2 in lieu of Jackson’s departure, that’s not automatically going to be the case.
There’s no denying the No. 2 offense in the NFL just took a step back, but the unit isn’t exactly lacking talent at the skill positions. All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Brent Celek all reprise their roles from 2013, while several players will have opportunities to step up in Jackson’s absence.
A healthy Jeremy Maclin—a first-round pick himself in ‘09—certainly helps fill the void. Darren Sproles is no substitute for Jackson down the field, but the veteran back’s production in the passing game should further ease the transition. Expect tight end Zach Ertz’s role to increase in his second season as well.
It doesn’t hurt that the incoming wide receiver class appears to be one of the strongest in recent memory. Potential contributors and perhaps even future starters could be unearthed much later in this year’s draft.
Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman told Reuben Frank for CSNPhilly.com back in February that there will be a wide receiver the team likes “in every round.”
Then there’s that whole “best player available” strategy, which Roseman has been promoting throughout the offseason. The Eagles aren’t going to push receivers up the draft board all of a sudden, not when there are still holes at every level of the defense.
None of which is to say the Eagles wouldn’t take a wideout early—by my own reckoning, it’s the club’s third biggest draft-day need. Targeting one to take the place of Jackson should be an afterthought though, most of all because replacing a dynamic athlete like Jackson might not be as simple as using a high draft pick.
Round 1, Pick No. 22: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
An increasing number of mock drafts show 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Mosley still on the board when Philadelphia is up at No. 22. Talk about best player available.
A back-to-back consensus All-American, Mosley arguably has top-10 talent. However, he may slip due to a seeming lack of elite playmaker skills and the diminishing value placed on interior linebackers around the league. That being said, he’s probably as close to a sure thing as there is at this point in the draft.
A two-year starter for the Tide, Mosley managed to record only 17.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and nine pass breakups over his final two seasons. But at 6’2”, 234 pounds with (unofficial) 4.6 speed, he certainly possesses the size and range to anchor a defense at the next level.
With DeMeco Ryans turning 30 over the summer, obviously the Eagles should start grooming his replacement. Who better for Mosley to learn from than a fellow Alabama alum?
Mosley could be much more than an understudy in ’14. Given his declining athleticism, Ryans is becoming increasingly miscast as a three-down linebacker. At the respective stages of their careers, Mosley would be an instant upgrade over the two-time Pro Bowler in obvious passing situations.
Round 2, Pick No. 54: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
It was disappointing to learn from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that the Eagles placed Evan Mathis on the trade block because the All-Pro left guard sought to renegotiate his contract. That being said, were the Birds able to land Xavier Su’a-Filo in Round 2—a big if—the franchise could use the extra draft pick(s).
Mathis may be the best in the biz, but he turns 33 this year, making him the oldest guard in the league to begin with. Right guard Todd Herremans will be 32 and struggled at times last season. As good as the offensive line was in ’13, the organization has to be thinking about the future.
Su’a-Filo could step into Mathis’ spot immediately. A 38-game starter at UCLA, the main knock on the 23-year-old is a lack of ideal strength training according to his NFL.com scouting report. That’s something a little time in Chip Kelly’s famed conditioning program would undoubtedly cure.
Kelly would be familiar with the two-time All-Pac-12 first-teamer from the Eagles head coach’s time at Oregon.
If somehow Su’a-Filo was allowed to fall to Philadelphia on Day 2, moving Mathis for the fourth-round pick Jason La Canfora for CBS Sports reported might actually make some sense. The Eagles get younger along the offensive line, pick up a possible elite player and add picks in the process.
Round 3, Pick No. 86: OLB Marcus Smith, Louisville
Chip Kelly was snooping around Louisville’s pro day some weeks back, and I have a feeling quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was not his primary target. Seeing as safety Calvin Pryor is destined to be gone before the Birds’ first-round pick too, that wasn’t it, either.
The Eagles need pass-rush help, and with most of the top outside linebacker prospects scheduled to be off the board before the No. 22 pick, it looks like they’ll be slumming it on Day 2 of the draft. Then again, Marcus Smith actually might be the perfect fit.
Smith played a hybrid role in the Cardinals defense, lining up at outside linebacker, defensive end and anywhere else. The 2013 AAC Defensive Player of the Year was a disruptive force his senior season, recording 18.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
The downside is Smith never put up big numbers prior to 2013, and only did so after Louisville relocated from the defunct Big East to a lesser conference. Of course, he naturally had more opportunities after finally becoming a full-time starter.
He could be the heir apparent to Trent Cole, who is on the verge of turning 32 and has a salary cap figure scheduled to balloon to over $11 million in ’15. Smith could relieve either Cole or Connor Barwin at either outside linebacker spot as a rookie though, finally providing the Eagles with a much-needed situational pass-rusher.
[TRADE] Round 4, Pick No. TBD: S Craig Loston, LSU
This is the pick the Eagles received in a theoretical exchange for Evan Mathis. The Cleveland Browns (106, 127), Jacksonville Jaguars (105, 144) and New York Jets (104, 115) all have two selections in the fourth round, so let’s project a selection between 104-106 to Philly for fun.
Obviously, there is always the chance—if not likelihood—Mathis does not get traded at all.
One way or another, the Eagles need to come across an extra pick or two in this draft, because right now they simply do not have enough on them to address all of their needs. Believe it or not, safety could be one of the odd positions out if another selection doesn’t come along.
With an extra pick, Philadelphia could land Craig Loston in the fourth round. At 5’11”, 217 pounds, he has better size than most of the safeties slated to go in this area. Coming from the LSU football factory, he’s played against the best competition college football, aka the SEC, has to offer.
Loston may not possess the versatility the Eagles like from their safeties, as scouting reports suggest he’s a work in progress in coverage. It also says he’s a student of the game though and has a reputation for being a big hitter, the latter being something this defense is definitely lacking in the secondary.
Loston would immediately be thrust into a competition with Nate Allen and Earl Wolff for the starting safety job. If nothing else, he could be used in a situational role as a short-yardage/pressure/crowd-the-box specialist.
Round 4, Pick No. 122: CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
The Eagles have been rumored to have their eyes on fellow Virginia Tech alum Kyle Fuller in the first round, but Mosley falling into their lap changed the plan. If that turns out to be the case, Antone Exum isn’t a bad consolation prize.
One of the aspects that is most appealing about Fuller, and in turn Exum, is that the Hokies play a scheme similar to that of the Birds. Philadelphia mixes man-to-man press on the outside with zone coverage concepts with physical corners.
Exum measures in at a hair under ideal size at 5’11”. He has a lengthy injury history as well which is a turn-off, including missing essentially all of his senior season.
He makes up for it in a variety of ways. A converted safety, Exum has the versatility Chip Kelly covets. He can make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage, registering 5.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in ’11. He can make plays when the ball is in the air, coming up with five interceptions and 21 pass breakups in ’12.
As long he checks out medically, Exum seems like a fine addition to the roster. After watching Roc Carmichael struggle when Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher went out with injuries last season, providing depth at cornerback would be more than enough contribution for Exum’s rookie year.
Round 5, Pick No. 162: WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
This is undoubtedly much longer than most people think the Eagles should or will wait to draft a wide receiver. That opinion could very well be the correct one, yet as we already explored, this offense doesn’t necessarily require a superstar on the outside right now, either.
Which isn’t to say Cody Latimer couldn’t become just that. The Indiana product is coming off of a productive junior season in which he recorded 72 receptions, 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. He certainly looks the part at 6’2”, 215 pounds.
The unofficial 4.38 Latimer ran in the 40-yard dash at his pro day didn’t hurt, either. Oh, by the way, the Eagles saw enough that they plan to bring him to Philadelphia for a pre-draft visit according to Zach Osterman for the Indianapolis Star.
Size. Speed. Production. His scouting report even says he blocks. Latimer would probably be introduced into the Eagles offense slowly, but he could easily become the primary third receiver by season’s end. In any other draft, Latimer might be more than a late mid-round pick.
Round 7, Pick No 237: DL Jason Bromley, Syracuse
The Eagles have a strong three-man front in Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and a Cedric Thornton/Vinny Curry combination. Behind them, there is next to nothing in the way of depth at a position that is traditionally reliant on rotations.
Jason Bromley arrived in his senior season at Syracuse, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks and three forced fumbles—more than his first three years for the Orangemen combined. He may lack elite measureables, and one year of production is a concern, but he at least looks the part at 6’3”, 306 pounds.
Gil Brandt for NFL.com notes an Eagles defensive line coach was in attendance at Syracuse’s pro day.
Given just how sparse the roster is along the defensive line, Bromley could definitely win a spot in training camp and even see meaningful snaps during the season. He is a raw prospect, but a quality project to take on at a position of need in this late stage in the draft.