The Philadelphia Eagles have an extremely important decision regarding their first-round pick in the NFL draft, which is just over a month away. General manager Howie Roseman has already openly stated that the team will draft the best player available.
In 2012, the Eagles followed the best-player-available philosophy throughout the entire draft, coming away with four playmakers: Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Nick Foles and Brandon Boykin. They did the same thing in 2013, selecting Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Bennie Logan.
All seven have bright futures as starters in this league, and a number of other players from the two years will be key backups.
The big decision for the Eagles in 2014 is whether the team will pick a wide receiver in the first round to replace DeSean Jackson, who was just recently released.
Jackson's departure left the Eagles with a hole at receiver. There's a chance that the return of Jeremy Maclin, the addition of the versatile Darren Sproles and the development of tight end Zach Ertz will be able to replace Jackson's production on the field adequately.
But there's also a chance that Maclin won't return completely healthy, and Riley Cooper will struggle without Jackson drawing double-teams on the other side of the field.
If I were the general manager, I would pick the best player available—but only on the defensive side of the ball.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock feels this year's draft class is one of the most wide receiver-friendly classes in years. The Eagles should be able to grab a future starter in the second or even third round, while using their first pick on a defensive player. And they really don't have any other offensive positions that could warrant a first-round selection.
After all, there's nowhere on the defensive side of the ball where the Eagles are set for the future. They're at least average at most positions, but they lack stars at almost every position, especially in the secondary.
Many will want the Eagles to select a safety. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix likely won't be around by the 22nd pick, and Calvin Pryor has enough red flags to make me question his role on the team. He's a tremendous hitter, but in today's NFL, that's just going to draw frequent 15-yard flags. He's also somewhat of a liability in coverage. The Eagles need coverage men.
They also need pass-rushers, and I strongly considered Auburn's Dee Ford. But the most ideal fit to me is TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, a first-team All-American during his senior season.
Verrett is considered by many to be a late first-round pick. He should be available when the Eagles pick at No. 22.
He's the kind of player who would fit in perfectly on this team. He's not particularly big (5'9", 189 lbs), but he plays larger than his size. He's impressive against the run and very physical, but he's made his mark in coverage. He's one of the best pure cover men in the 2014 draft class.
During his senior year in college, Verrett intercepted six passes and defensed 22. Both totals were the best in the Big 12. He would be the best playmaker the Eagles have had at defensive back since Asante Samuel, but he's much better as a tackler.
If the Eagles drafted Verrett in the first round, he would be able to compete for a starting job from day one. It's more likely that the Eagles would look to keep him as a backup and develop him as a future starter.
Verrett's addition to the team would give the Eagles five players who could start if needed: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll and Verrett. Drafting Verrett could also allow the Eagles to part ways with Fletcher, who is scheduled to earn $3.275 million in 2014 and can be released without any penalty to the salary cap, per EaglesCap.com.
The Eagles' biggest problem in their secondary is the lack of elite players. Williams and Fletcher performed adequately in 2013, but the Eagles could upgrade on one or both of them.
Imagine Boykin and Verrett as the starting corners in 2016. I like the sound of that a lot better.