Philadelphia Eagles Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    This offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles have taken care of their in-house business in true business-like fashion. All of their key players are signed, mostly to snug, long-term contracts, and now they're left with six draft picks in order to batten down the hatches before trying to become the first NFC East team in a decade to successfully defend its division title. 

    They have some very obvious needs at safety and wide receiver, as well as some clear luxury needs at linebacker, cornerback, guard and tackle. We'd expect Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly to address most of those spots Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

    Here's our full draft primer for the birds. 

List of 2014 Draft Picks

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    Consider Darren Sproles to be part of the Eagles' 2014 draft class.
    Consider Darren Sproles to be part of the Eagles' 2014 draft class.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Eagles hold six picks in this year's draft. They dealt their sixth-round pick to New England along with Isaac Sopoaga last year, receiving a fifth-rounder in return, but then they traded that fifth-round selection to New Orleans for Darren Sproles. They have no compensatory picks. 

    Round 1, pick 22
    Round 2, pick 54
    Round 3, pick 86
    Round 4, pick 122
    Round 5, pick 162
    Round 7, pick 237 

Position-by-Position Big Board

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    Here's a look at several players who would make sense as Eagles draft picks at key positions: 

     

    Wide receiver

    1. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
    2. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
    3. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
    4. Marqise Lee, USC
    5. Allen Robinson, Penn State
    6. Cody Latimer, Indiana
    7. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

    All of these guys have long-term starter potential and the playmaking ability to make a run at replacing DeSean Jackson.

    Evans, Cooks, Beckham and Lee would have to be first-round picks, while they'd have to hope for slides in order to get Robinson, Latimer and Benjamin in Round 2.

    Latimer and Benjamin are wild cards, though, so I really think they'd be best landing a receiver late in the first round. 

     

    Offensive tackle

    1. James Hurst, North Carolina
    2. Michael Schofield, Michigan
    3. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
    4. Justin Britt, Missouri

    The isn't an immediate need for the Eagles, so they can afford to draft a project.

    We've listed some talented middle-round targets who could potentially become solid right tackles when Lane Johnson eventually moves to the left side in relief of Jason Peters.

    Hurst and Schofield would probably be steals, while Henderson has a ton of upside. Britt is an ideal long-term right tackle, and all are solid in pass protection, which is key with Nick Foles

     

    Guard

    1. Spencer Long, Nebraska
    2. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
    3. Anthony Steen, Alabama
    4. Brandon Linder, Miami

    Again, they don't need an NFL-ready prospect here. The idea should be to find a solid run-blocker who could relieve Evan Mathis or Todd Herremans in a couple of years.

    They should be thinking about tackles and guards in Round 5, maybe Round 4. All of the guys listed above have lost draft value because they aren't necessarily pro-ready or are coming off injuries.

    That means they can be good value picks for Philly, who won't likely need them this year anyway. 

     

    Pass-rusher

    1. Dee Ford, Auburn
    2. Marcus Smith, Louisville 
    3. Trent Murphy, Stanford
    4. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
    5. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

    The Eagles will emphasize versatility, but if a guy like Ford drops to them in Round 2, he'd be almost impossible to pass up. The same might apply to Kony Ealy, but Ealy is even less versatile.

    Smith gets the No. 2 spot instead, simply because the guy appears to be exactly what defensive coordinator Bill Davis needs. Smith could even be up for grabs in Round 3, alongside Murphy, who is a big, versatile sack machine with the ability to hold his own in coverage.

    Van Noy possesses a similar skill set. 

     

    Cornerback

    1. Dontae Johnson, NC State
    2. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
    3. Walt Aikens, Liberty

    A lot of folks put cornerback up there with Philly's top needs. We don't see it that way. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are solid, Brandon Boykin is a young stud and Nolan Carroll could surprise a lot of people.

    However, they'd be smart to add a solid cover guy in the middle rounds, just to cover themselves in case Fletcher leaves and Williams fades in the coming years.

    Here, we've listed the top potential fourth- and fifth-round picks who are big and physical, per Chip Kelly's requirement

     

    Safety

    1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
    2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville 
    3. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
    4. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
    5. Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
    6. Dion Bailey, USC
    7. Ed Reynolds, Stanford
    8. Dontae Johnson, NC State
    9. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
    10. Brock Vereen, Minnesota

    Clinton-Dix has the versatility that Davis desires, while Pryor might be less reliable overall, and especially in coverage.

    If they can't land either, they'll have to focus on a shallow safety class in Round 2 or Round 3 (latest).

    The way we see it, those next three guys would become the only viable starting-caliber safeties with that No. 54 overall pick, with Bailey, Reynolds, Johnson, Dixon and Vereen serving as long-term options in Round 3 or Round 4.

Round 1, Pick 22

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    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be a better fit than Calvin Pryor.
    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be a better fit than Calvin Pryor.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Team needs: Wide receiver, safety

    The goal here should be to find an elite wide receiver of the future so that this team can forget about DeSean Jackson as quickly as possible. Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are solid, but Maclin's knee is still a concern and Cooper has only one good season on his resume. 

    It's a deep draft for wide receivers, but the No. 22 spot is a fine place to land one of the top guns.

    Sure, they'll likely lose out on Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, but Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr. and Marqise Lee would be nice selections here. All have the ability to contribute as regular receivers on the outside in 2014. 

    The only way we see the Eagles passing on a wide receiver in Round 1 is if Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are still available. Those two safeties have the ability to start immediately, and despite what the team says, that position should be a major concern with Earl Wolff and Malcolm Jenkins slated to start.

Round 2, Pick 54

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    Jordan Matthews wouldn't be a bad consolation prize at wide receiver.
    Jordan Matthews wouldn't be a bad consolation prize at wide receiver.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Team needs: Wide receiver, safety, pass rusher

    If they go safety in Round 1, there's no need to panic about that second-round wide receiver. There's a good chance someone like Cody Latimer or Allen Robinson drops to this spot in such a deep draft, but they'd also be OK if they settled for Donte Moncrief, Jordan Matthews or Martavis Bryant. 

    If they take care of that receiver need in Round 1, landing either Deone Bucannon or Terrence Brooks would become a major priority. 

    If that doesn't happen and they decide to wait for a safety or wideout, the fans will be clamoring for an outside linebacker who can boost the pass rush.

Round 3, Pick 86

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    Marcus Smith might be an ideal fit for Bill Davis' defense
    Marcus Smith might be an ideal fit for Bill Davis' defenseMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Team needs: Safety, pass-rusher

    If by chance they've gone with a pass-rusher and a receiver in the first two rounds, this will be their absolute last chance to grab a decent safety among a shallow group.

    Marqueston Huff, Dion Bailey, Dontae Johnson, Brock Vereen and Ed Reynolds would be prime candidates. At least one or two of those guys should drop to this spot. 

    Otherwise, here's your chance to grab that next pass-rushing specialist. We know that Trent Cole has lost a step and the Eagles had the worst sack rate in the NFL last season. Therefore, they'll be looking for a versatile pass-rusher who can also hold his ground against the run and in coverage. 

    For the Eagles in this spot, four versatile pass-rushers come to mind: Marcus Smith, Trent Murphy, Kyle Van Noy and Jeremiah Attaochu. 

Round 4, Pick 122

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    The Eagles love big corners like Dontae Johnson.
    The Eagles love big corners like Dontae Johnson.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Team needs: Offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver

    If indeed the Eagles fill those key needs early, this draft could transition completely at around the midway point.

    The Eagles would be smart to shift the focus in order to add depth at cornerback and offensive line. Jason Peters and Evan Mathis are both 32 and Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher aren't exactly superstars.

    Plus, the jury's still out on whether Brandon Boykin can play outside. 

    At corner, the 6'2" Dontae Johnson is really an ideal fit, and he has the ability to play safety as well. Antone Exum and Walt Aikens aren't as tall but have the strength and physicality they like. Both of those guys would be superb fourth-round additions.

Round 5, Pick 162

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    James Hurst could one day replace Jason Peters.
    James Hurst could one day replace Jason Peters.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Team needs: Offensive line, cornerback

    We've looked at some ideal cornerback fits, and since this draft is probably deeper in terms of offensive line prospects, we'll give you potential tackles and guards in Round 5. 

    Ideally, the Eagles land someone like James Hurst, Michael Schofield or Seantrel Henderson in Round 4 or 5 and then scoop up a project guard like Spencer Long or Brandon Linder in Round 5, 6 (with a trade) or 7. 

    This is all about thinking ahead, considering the offensive line is quite old outside of Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. Using these picks on so-so prospects with obvious ceilings makes less sense than swinging the bat on wild cards. The Eagles can afford that luxury here.

Round 7, Pick 237

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    Brandon Dixon is big and tough.
    Brandon Dixon is big and tough.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Team needs: Offensive line, defensive back

    Essentially, take the best player available unless you've yet to draft a tackle, guard or corner and there's an obvious candidate at one of those spots.

    This might also be a spot in which the Eagles draft one more safety as a flier and someone who can add depth to a thin spot. 

    Some intriguing potential final-round gambles include:

    • Physical Ohio corner Travis Carrie, who lacks technique but has a high ceiling. 
    • 203-pound Northwest Missouri State corner Brandon Dixon.
    • Luke Lucas, a right tackle project out of Kansas State.
    • Lonnie Ballentine, who has a lot of work to do coming out of Memphis but is a big, strong, athletic safety with good speed.

Latest Draft Buzz

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Eagles after Johnny Manziel?

    Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported on Monday that there could be interest, and now ESPN's Field Yates reports that there's some buzz regarding said interest.

    I just can't see the Eagles using a first-round pick (and more in order to trade up) on a quarterback after the way Nick Foles played last year, but Chip Kelly is a wild card.

     

    Trading up for a top-flight wide receiver?

    It makes a lot of sense now that DeSean Jackson is gone. This also comes from King: 

    Keep hearing they want in on the prime receiver action, and the receiver they want could be LSU’s Odell Beckham, who can play outside, inside in the slot and as a returner. But the Eagles would have to trade up, and GM Howie Roseman is doing his due diligence, talking to at least two teams in the mid-round neighborhood, when Beckham would likely go. But the cost could be too rich for the Eagles’ blood. They may have to settle for Marqise Lee, who would be some consolation prize.

     

    Calvin Pryor the "ideal fit" in Round 1?

    That according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who joined Bleacher Report's Team Stream Now earlier this week.