Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Bold Predictions for 2014 NFL Draft
The NFL draft is anything but predictable. Players expected to go in the top five picks can fall to the middle or later part of the first round (see: Floyd, Sharrif), while quarterbacks seem to have an uncanny ability to rise up big boards.
This year should be no exception. The Philadelphia Eagles have just six draft picks, but general manager Howie Roseman still has time to get the team more selections. He’s dangled a handful of players as bait for potential draft picks, and the draft weekend will be his biggest time to capitalize on the needs of other teams
Mock drafts can only predict so much of what the team will do. Looking at the Eagles’ current needs suggests a priority needs to be placed on addressing the defensive side of the ball, but there’s also that hole at the No. 1 wide receiver spot. Chip Kelly’s first draft certainly had some surprises—no one expected a tight end in the first two rounds or the trade up for Matt Barkley in the fourth round—so look for the same in year two.
Here are five bold predictions for the Eagles’ 2014 draft.
Howie Roseman Trades Back in the First Round and Winds Up with Nine Total Picks
The Philadelphia Eagles might as well advertise on their website that they’re looking to pick up more draft picks in the May draft; there’s no way Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly wanted to go into the draft with just six selections.
It’s the deepest draft class ever, and maximizing those picks is ideal. Roseman will be looking for a trade partner to take the 22nd selection, and their best bet is either the San Francisco 49ers or Denver Broncos. As has been typical in recent drafts, San Francisco has a slew of picks (11 in all), and general manager Trent Baalke wasn’t shy about trading up for Eric Reid a year ago.
Meanwhile, Denver needs to win now, and "now" means they might have two more years before Peyton Manning’s health deteriorates. If they see a player they like in the early twenties, they should look to trade up.
The best bet is that the Niners trade up. If UCLA's Anthony Barr falls, that would make the most sense, as he could take over as a pass-rushing linebacker should the team part ways with Aldon Smith.
Eagles Trade Bryce Brown for a Fifth-Round Pick
After showing flashes of brilliance as a rookie in 2012, Bryce Brown all but moved down to third on the depth chart in 2013, falling behind a formerly undrafted player in Chris Polk. Brown is a poor fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, and he still doesn’t seem to have learned not to bounce to the outside on every carry.
Brown’s upside is still there; he’s a 220-pound back who ran a 4.38 at his pro day back in 2012. That’s serious raw potential, plus the fact that he was previously the No. 1 high school player in the nation, per Rivals.com.
Brown’s fumbles have been his downside, but he cut that total from four in 2012 to none last year. He still has a 4.6 career yards-per-carry average, and he’s just 22 years old, even after two NFL seasons. A team should definitely take him for a sixth-round pick, maybe even a fifth-rounder.
He has the physical tools to be a lead back in this league. If he can put it together, he’s going to be a great player. It just doesn’t seem likely to happen on the Philadelphia Eagles, especially with the addition of Darren Sproles.
The Philadelphia Eagles Won’t Draft a Safety in the First Three Rounds
Since Brian Dawkins and then Quintin Mikell left the team, the Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to fulfill the safety positions.
Jaiquawn Jarrett and Nate Allen were both failed second-round draft picks. Kenny Phillips and Marlin Jackson never recovered from injuries and thus didn’t make the roster. Patrick Chung and Jarrad Page were free-agent flops. Kurt Coleman never should have been given extensive playing time.
This offseason, Howie Roseman passed on all the top safeties, electing to go with Malcolm Jenkins over Pro Bowl players like Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner. Allen was re-signed and will likely compete with last year's fifth-round pick Earl Wolff for the other starting job opposite Jenkins.
Most mock drafts seem to have the Eagles taking a safety in one of the first rounds. The problem is that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor could both be off the board by the time the Eagles’ selection at pick No. 22 rolls around. Clinton-Dix will almost certainly be gone, and Pryor seems to be a poor fit for the defense because he’s more of an in-the-box safety than a ballhawk.
Jimmie Ward is a stretch at pick No. 22, and he likely won’t last until the second round. Deone Bucannon would be a fine addition in the second round, but the Eagles will need a wide receiver after going best defensive player available in the first round. I also really think Roseman is content to enter 2014 with Jenkins, Allen, Wolff, and Chris Maragos.
Chip Kelly Picks a Running Back in the First Four Rounds
Chip Kelly coaxed a career year out of All-Pro back LeSean McCoy in 2013, getting a league-best 1,607 rushing yards and 2,146 scrimmage yards out of him. McCoy is still just 25 years old, and a strong case could be made that he’s the most talented running back in the league.
The structure of McCoy’s contract would allow the Philadelphia Eagles to get out of it at little penalty even after 2014; he’s due to make almost $39 million over the final four years of his contract. It seems illogical for the team to move on from McCoy any time soon; then again, the organization did just jettison another star player with a similarly constructed contract.
Realistically, McCoy will likely stay, but that doesn’t mean Kelly won’t be stockpiling his collection of running backs. He went out and signed Darren Sproles, whose pass-catching skills make him a terrific fit, even at his advanced age. Chris Polk is a fine third-string running back, even if Bryce Brown is traded.
With the Eagles likely going two defensive players and a wide receiver in the first three rounds, the fourth round would be a fine time for Kelly to grab a running back to add to the backfield. Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas would obviously fit due to his ties with Kelly at Oregon, but other candidates include Wisconsin’s James White or Central Florida’s Storm Johnson.
The Philadelphia Eagles Pick an Offensive Lineman in the First Three Rounds
To recap the draft thus far, the Philadelphia Eagles will trade out of the 22nd overall pick, which could bring an extra third and fourth-round pick.
The team takes the best defensive player available in the first round and a wide receiver in the second round. That leaves two third-round picks and two fourth-round picks, of which Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly will take a running back and a versatile offensive lineman, plus two defensive players (likely a pass-rushing outside linebacker and a cornerback).
The offensive line is entirely signed through 2016, thanks to recent contract extensions to Jason Peters and Jason Kelce. Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson are just entering their primes, but Peters is 32, Evan Mathis is 32, and Todd Herremans is 31. All are expected to make at least $4 million next season, with Peters and Mathis in the upper echelon of their positional groups.
Allen Barbre is a fine backup who has the versatility to play tackle or guard, but the team needs another player that can play both positions, or one that plays guard and center. Possible third-round candidates are LSU’s Trai Turner, Nevada’s Joel Bitonio, and Southern California’s Marcus Martin.