7 Risky Picks Philadelphia Eagles Must Consider in 2014 NFL Draft
The Philadelphia Eagles will have to make the most of their six selections on draft weekend in May.
It's unusual for the franchise to have so few picks; in fact, this is the fewest since 2003.
General manager Howie Roseman will need to be sharp with his selections. A good draft class can propel a franchise to a Super Bowl title. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks, who won last year's game largely because of the production of middle and late-round picks from 2011 and 2012.
Roseman's last two draft classes have yielded a high number of impact players. Eight can be seen as starters or guys pushing for a starting role. The key will be capitalizing on the players selected after the first few rounds—the same area of the draft that brought the Seahawks Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.
The Eagles know the value of a player selected late. All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters was undrafted. Trent Cole was a fifth-round selection. So was Brent Celek. Pro Bowlers Evan Mathis and Nick Foles were taken in the third round. Right guard Todd Herremans was a fourth-round choice.
The trick of a GM is to also know when to overlook players who come with certain risks. DeSean Jackson was a first-round talent who fell to Round 2 because of character concerns. While he's no longer on the team, he did make three Pro Bowls in six seasons.
For every Jackson, though, there's a player like Cornelius Ingram. A fifth-round tight end in 2011, Ingram was thought to be a steal if he held up medically. Unfortunately, Ingram tore his ACL soon after being drafted (the same injury that plummeted his draft stock) and he never played a down for the Eagles.
If Roseman and Chip Kelly choose wisely in this year's draft, they may be able to find long-term starters, even in late rounds, and they can capitalize on players who may have red flags next to their names for reasons ranging from injuries to size to off-field issues.
Here are seven risky picks that the Eagles should still consider for the 2014 NFL draft.
All Scouting Combine results are per NFL.com. College statistics are per Sports-Reference.com.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The prospect of spending a first-round pick on Kelvin Benjamin terrifies me. He's blessed with exceptional size at 6'5", 240 pounds, which would make him one of the more physically imposing wide receivers in the National Football League.
Beyond his sheer size, there's not much to like about Benjamin.
— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) April 13, 2014
He's an awful route-runner. He didn't time particularly well in the 40-yard dash (4.61). He was slow in nearly all measurements that test a prospect's speed. He was weak in the bench press, which may mean he'll struggle to get off the line of scrimmage.
He blew off a visit with an NFL team. He's already 23 years old, which is three years older than Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans. And he drops way too many passes.
Drop rate for Kelvin Benjamin is high at around 9%. Some really easy drops for him - not sure if it's a concentration thing or what
— Greg Peshek (@NU_Gap) December 19, 2013
Spending the 22nd overall selection on Benjamin would be a mistake, but he's definitely worth a look if he's still available in the second round. After all, the combination of Nick Foles and Chip Kelly brought out career seasons in both DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper.
That certainly bodes well for Benjamin, who would be eased into an offense that will feature plenty of underneath passes to backs Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy and tight end Zach Ertz.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Chip Kelly has shown an affinity to his Oregon players, as one would expect any former collegiate coach to do upon reaching the NFL.
It will be interesting to see if he shows any interest in tight end Colt Lyerla, a talented prospect who has had alarming series off-the-field issues. Lyerla ran a 4.61 40-yard dash and posted an unofficial time of 4.47; his 35-inch vertical leap ranked first among his positional group. He’s an undersized tight end who would benefit from playing in the slot, much as the Philadelphia Eagles will surely utilize Zach Ertz in 2014.
NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki wrote a less-than-flattering review of Lyerla, calling him "immature" and "prone to emotional outbursts."
Per Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, a handful of teams have completely removed Lyerla from their draft boards.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 15, 2014
There’s a good chance Lyerla will go undrafted, and if that’s the case, it wouldn’t hurt Kelly and the front office to sign Lyerla as an undrafted free agent with an invite to camp but no guarantees.
The talent is evident in Lyerla; it’s whether he can adhere to the structures of an NFL team and (literally) keep his nose clean away from the field.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The hype surrounding Mike Evans isn't surprising, given his impressive size (6’5”), speed (4.53 40-yard dash and phenomenal collegiate production. Still, there are enough concerns surrounding the former Texas A&M wideout to make him a questionable first-round pick.
Evans is being touted as a potential top-10 overall selection, and there’s a chance he could go in the top five. Evans did show an uncanny ability to come up with contested catches while at Texas A&M, finishing with a ridiculous 20.4 yards per catch and 12 touchdowns. There’s a sentiment among some that Evans made Johnny Manziel more than the other way around, as noted by Mark Eckel of The Times (Trenton, NJ).
Still, Evans was surprisingly weak in the bench press at the combine, putting up just 12 repetitions. That ranked him near the bottom of the pack, two reps fewer than 174-pound Tavon Austin registered a year ago.
If Evans is able to handle press-man coverage and get off the line of scrimmage, it won’t matter how many repetitions he put up on the bench press. But the fact that Philadelphia would have to trade up—and package a handful of picks to do so—suggests he’s not worth the risk unless he falls to the 22nd spot.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
General manager Howie Roseman has always stated his draft philosophy is to take the best player available. In this particular draft filled with quality wide receivers, his mantra as the first round unfolds should be to take the best defensive player available.
There’s a chance UCLA’s Anthony Barr could fall to pick No. 22, but even if he’s there, the Philadelphia Eagles should think twice before taking him. Barr has loads of potential, having racked up double-digit sacks in each of his last two collegiate seasons.
He’s extremely raw, though, having played outside linebacker for just two years at UCLA. He’s a former college running back who ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash. His time in the three-cone drill was fastest among his positional group, and his sheer athleticism will attract Chip Kelly. And his Pac-12 background won't hurt.
Barr will have to refine his technique to excel in the NFL, however. He’s going to have to be more refined as a natural pass-rusher. He can’t rely on simply overpowering blockers as he did at the collegiate level.
He would fill a position of vital need for the Eagles, though, as Trent Cole is entering his 10th season and Brandon Graham is being dangled as trade bait.
If Barr does slip to pick 22, he’s worth a selection.
Brandon Thomas, G, Clemson
Clemson’s Brandon Thomas was a borderline first-round selection before tearing his ACL in a private workout for an NFL team.
Thomas can play both tackle and guard, and he may be of interest to Chip Kelly, who loves versatility in his players. Thomas will obviously slip in the upcoming NFL draft due to his injury; he may fall to the fifth round or even later, considering he will likely spend his entire rookie season on injured reserve.
There is a need for a younger guard on the Eagles, though. Evan Mathis is an All-Pro and in the prime of his career, but he’s going to be 33 next season. Todd Herremans will be 32, which gives Philly a pair of the league’s oldest starting guards. If Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman view Thomas as a potential starter one day, he’s worth a late draft pick.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
It will be very interesting to see where Logan Thomas goes on draft weekend. His size (6’6”, 250 pounds) and speed (4.61) are extremely intriguing, although he may benefit from a position change from quarterback to tight end.
Per Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, Thomas’s results are most comparable to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Thomas led quarterbacks in nearly every category at the combine, and a coach like Chip Kelly may see Thomas as a long-term project at either position.
As a pure passer, Thomas certainly isn’t talented enough to succeed in the National Football League. His accuracy barely improved over his career at Virginia Tech. He’s a solid runner though, contributing with 24 rushing touchdowns over his last three seasons.
Some team may take a gamble on Thomas as a second or third-round prospect. The more likely scenario is that he falls to the fourth or even fifth round. He doesn’t seem to be an ideal fit for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he is the kind of versatile player Chip Kelly would take a chance on.
Jerick McKinnon, RB/WR, Georgia Southern
Perhaps no one impressed at the NFL Scouting Combine as much as Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon, a multi-talented athlete who played quarterback and running back in college.
McKinnon worked out with the running backs, leading his position group with a 4.41 40-yard dash time, a ridiculous 32 repetitions in the bench press, a 40.5 inch vertical leap, an 11-foot broad jump, a 6.83 three-cone drill time, and a 4.12 posting in the 20-yard shuttle. Those are insane numbers that will certainly get the attention of a handful of teams, even if McKinnon doesn’t really have a position.
Chip Kelly loves versatility in his players, as proven by his recent trade for Darren Sproles. McKinnon would be a risk as anything more than a sixth or seventh-round selection, and if he does make the team, it’s likely going to be as a kick returner.