Best- and Worst-Case Scenario for Philadelphia Eagles' Top 3 Picks
The Eagles own picks in every round bar the sixth, but general manager Howie Roseman has to be looking at potential trades to acquire more picks. After all, this would be the fewest number of picks the team has made since 2003.
Former first-round pick Brandon Graham has shown flashes of brilliance since joining the team in 2010, but he’s been placed on the trade block (per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling) because he’s said to be a poor fit in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme.
Defensive end Vinny Curry, a 2012 second-round pick, has been the subject of potential trade talks as well, while running back Bryce Brown may be an odd man out in the backfield, considering Philadelphia’s recent acquisition of Darren Sproles. None of those players will fetch a first-round pick, but if Roseman plays his cards right, he could add a few mid-to-late-round picks to the Eagles’ collection.
Roseman has long been a supporter of the philosophy to draft the best player available, and the team’s positioning at the 22nd selection allows Roseman to put that belief to test. He should have his choosing from a handful of defensive players, and the Eagles really could use an upgrade at nearly every spot on that side of the ball.
If the draft unfolds as Eagles fans want, here’s a glimpse at how the first three picks could go in an ideal scenario. In sticking with realistic expectations, you won’t find Jadeveon Clowney falling to the 22nd spot as a plausible situation—that’s just not going to happen. This article also looks at what the worst moves the Eagles could make in each of the first three rounds.
All Scouting Combine numbers are courtesy of NFL.com. College statistics are per Sports-Reference.com.
Round 1 Best Case: Trade Down and Select Best Defensive Player Available
The Philadelphia Eagles have just six draft picks in this upcoming NFL draft, which is a shame considering it’s said to be one of the deepest draft classes ever. Talent can be found in the third and fourth round that would normally be taken in the second round due to an overwhelming number of early entrants in the draft, as a record 98 players have declared.
If general manager Howie Roseman can work out a trade with a team that moves the Eagles down in the first round, it would add draft picks to Philly’s collection. San Francisco may be a logical trading partner; last year, the Niners moved from the 31st selection to the 18th selection, and this year they have 11 selections in the draft.
Should the Niners swap with the Eagles, the Eagles would pick at the 30th spot and inherit several extra picks. In that case, Roseman would be wise to take the best available player on the defensive side of the ball. UCLA’s Anthony Barr may see a fall because he’s a raw player, but it is likely asking too much for him to still be there at that spot.
Louisville’s Calvin Pryor would be a tremendous value pick while filling a position of need at the 30th spot. Auburn’s Dee Ford is a pass-rusher who warrants a first-round selection and other candidates include Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Kony Ealy, TCU’s Jason Verrett or Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman. All would play heavily as rookies and have the ability to be an impact player on the defensive side of the ball.
Round 1 Worst Case: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
With DeSean Jackson released, the Philadelphia Eagles will be on the market for a wide receiver. Riley Cooper is likely signed for just two more seasons, while Jeremy Maclin agreed to a one-year deal that allows him to test free agency again next offseason.
Darren Sproles is a running back who will see action heavily as a slot receiver, but there’s not a lot of depth to the position as it stands now. That could leave the Eagles to jump at a receiver in the first round, and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks possesses a similar skill set to Jackson.
Cooks posted a 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash, and he was the nation’s top receiver a year ago. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award, finishing with Pac-12 records of 128 receptions and 1,730 yards, while hauling in 16 touchdown receptions. Cooks would be that deep receiver who forces safeties to play back from the line of scrimmage, as he could beat a defense long for a touchdown on any play.
The problem with Cooks is that he’s just 5’10” and 185 pounds, which limits his ability to run a variety of routes. Like Jackson, Cooks doesn’t possess the ideal size to get open in the red zone. He’s not the ideal option to go across the middle, and it’s doubtful he contributes extensively as a blocker.
Chip Kelly has been on the record as saying bigger people beat up little people, and that would make it doubtful Kelly spends a first-round selection on an undersized receiver like Cooks. While Jackson did flourish in 2013 under Kelly, he’s no longer on the team. His $12.5 million cap hit for ’14 didn’t help, but aside from the alleged gang ties, it’s likely Kelly just didn’t like Jackson and preferred to move on from him.
That’s not to say Cooks would be a wasted pick. Kelly would certainly manufacture touches for him, and Cooks does possess the ability to cause trouble for opposing defenses. But Cooks is better suited as an early second-round pick than one at 22 overall, and the Eagles could definitely get some receiving talent in the third round.
Round 2 Best Case: 1st-Round Defensive Player Slips to Round 2
Every year, a handful of top prospects see a substantial fall on draft day for various reasons, whether it be a poor showing in the Scouting Combine or just luck of the draw.
Last year, San Francisco nabbed talented defensive lineman Tank Carradine in the second round. Johnathan Cyprien was a first-round talent who fell to the 33rd selection with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Johnathan Hankins, Tyrann Mathieu, Sam Montgomery and Damontre Moore all probably should have gone in the first 40 or so picks, but saw draft day falls to the second and even third round.
General manager Howie Roseman should be waiting for a player high on his draft board to still be available at the 54th selection. Possible fallers could be defensive lineman like Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, who each may be best viewed as a 3-technique tackle in a four-man front but would also provide versatility as an end and tackle in a 3-4 scheme.
A pass-rusher like Stanford’s Trent Murphy, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Oregon State’s Scott Crichton or Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attochu would provide depth as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
With Trent Cole set to enter his 10th NFL season and earn $11.6 million in 2015, his days are limited. Connor Barwin had a good first season in Philadelphia, but he’s more of a versatile, well-rounded linebacker than strictly a pass-rusher. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Barwin finished just 16th among 3-4 outside linebackers in quarterback pressures, despite appearing in substantially more snaps—1,158—than anyone else in the league. The Eagles can save $4.3 million by releasing Barwin after 2014, and the 2015 cap situation suggests that may need to happen.
A safety like Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward would add a ball hawk to the secondary, and he’s an excellent value pick at this spot. If any of the late-first-round hopeful cornerbacks, such as Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, or Kyle Fuller, fall to that selection, it’ll be a great addition to the Eagles’ defense.
Round 2 Worst Case: Reaching for a Safety Just to Fill a Position of Need
The Philadelphia Eagles desperately need a safety, despite adding Malcolm Jenkins via free agency. Jenkins’ three-year deal is really just a one or two-year deal when breaking down the figures, which certainly suggests that the organization doesn’t have a lot of faith in him as the long-term answer.
Earl Wolff will get a chance to compete with former second-round pick Nate Allen for the other starting spot, but pushing both to backup spots and adding another safety may be intriguing for Howie Roseman.
Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor will assuredly go in the first round, with the former a possible Top 10 overall pick. Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward would fit as a second-round pick, while Washington State’s Deonne Bucannon could go in the second round as well.
Should those four be off the board—as well as Florida State’s LaMarcus Joyner, who could play cornerback or safety—there’s no safety that justifies a second-round selection. The next-best available players at that position would be USC’s Dion Bailey, Florida State’s Terrence Brooks, Stanford’s Ed Reynolds or Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon.
None of those safeties should go in the top 75 picks. If the Eagles reach for a safety to satisfy a position of need—certainly not a likely move for Roseman—it may crowd a defensive backfield with mediocre talent and no standout players.
Round 3 Best Case: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The dream scenario for the Philadelphia Eagles at present would be trading down in the first round to select the best defensive player available and then grabbing another top-flight defensive player in Round 2.
A plausible situation could see the Eagles grabbing Auburn’s Dee Ford in Round 1, then Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward in Round 2. This would give defensive coordinator Billy Davis a pass-rushing force off the edge and a ball-hawking safety to compete for a starting spot from the first game.
The third round should see the Eagles targeting a wide receiver, with a bigger receiver likely working best for the offense. As previously noted, Jeremy Maclin is signed through just 2014, and Riley Cooper is likely locked onto a two-year deal. A deep receiver could still provide a promising player in Round 3.
Penn State’s Allen Robinson is a marginal first-round talent and likely second-round talent, who would be a steal should he slip to the third round. Robinson is a 6’3”, 210-pound receiver who totaled 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, finishing as a Third-Team All-American selection. He has terrific size, but posted a disappointing 4.60 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Robinson did improve that time later, running a 4.48 and 4.50 at his Penn State Pro Day, per NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. Those times could vault Robinson’s draft stock, as well as his ridiculous 42-inch vertical leap.
The best case scenario for the Eagles is that Robinson sees the same draft day fall that plagued eventual San Diego Chargers’ receiver Keenan Allen—the first-round talent who slipped to the middle of the third round because of an ACL injury and supposed drug test fail at the Scouting Combine. Robinson may drop because of maturity issues; he was suspended for disciplinary issues while at Penn State. If he somehow falls to the third round, he'll be a tremendous value pick for the Eagles.
Round 3 Worst Case: De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
Chip Kelly has added his fair share of Oregon players to the Philadelphia Eagles. Free-agent safety Patrick Chung from last offseason was a former Oregon Duck, as is current third receiver Jeff Maehl. Soon after joining the Eagles, Kelly added a handful of his former players in Dennis Dixon, Will Murphy and Isaac Remington to join up with linebacker Casey Matthews, who was already on the roster when Kelly was hired.
Speedy playmaker De’Anthony Thomas made Kelly’s Oregon offense go in college, and he was utilized all over the field. He lined up as a running back, slot receiver, receiver, and returned kicks and punts, finishing with 46 total touchdowns—25 rushing, 16 receiving, four on kick returns, and one on a punt return.
Thomas posted a slower-than-expected time in the 40-yard dash, checking in at just 4.51—although he did unofficially record a 4.34 time, which seems more indicative of his abilities. Considering Kent State’s Dri Archer—a player with a similar skill set—ran a 4.26 time, Thomas likely went from a second or third-round prospect to a later-round pick.
The Eagles also have a similar player to Thomas in Darren Sproles, a much-older version of Thomas who probably possesses similar quickness. Sproles is locked in for two more years, which means if Philadelphia did draft Thomas, they would be getting an extremely similar player to one they already have.
That doesn’t mean Kelly won’t draft Thomas, he could plan to use him as his returner and Sproles solely as a slot receiver and running back—especially considering Sproles showed an alarming drop-off in his return numbers. But reaching for Thomas in the third round would be extremely unnecessary.