Philadelphia Eagles' Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
It’s safe to say Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft didn’t go for the Philadelphia Eagles the way most people anticipated. The team managed to pull off one of the few genuine head-scratchers with the selection of Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith in the first round.
Initial reactions are the selection of Smith was a reach, although how much that feeling is based on his lack of inclusion in mock drafts, we’ll never know. The 2013 AAC Defensive Player of the Year does fill the Eagles’ biggest need for a pass-rusher though, which means the front office can concentrate their efforts elsewhere on Day 2.
And let’s not forget, the Birds did add another pick in the process. By trading down just four spots with the Cleveland Browns so they could select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Philadelphia added an extra third-round pick. That was quite the deal.
That’s good news, because there is still plenty of work left to be done.
Updated Needs for Philadelphia Eagles
As mentioned, the Eagles filled—or at least they hope to have filled—their most glaring need with the selection of Smith. Let’s take a look at the work that remains to be done.
The good news is the Eagles are set at corner for 2014. But what about the future? Cary Williams will be 30 and, dare I say, a likely cap casualty next year. Bradley Fletcher will be a free agent as well. If one or both are out, who’s starting on the outside in ’15? The front office must bring in a prospect at some point during this draft.
To the surprise of many, Philadelphia did not go receiver in Round 1. With Jeremy Maclin returning from a torn ACL, Riley Cooper in the No. 2 role, plus running back Darren Sproles and tight end Zach Ertz lining up in the slot from time to time, that’s okay. There’s little help behind Maclin and Cooper though, so this is another must-address situation this weekend. Good thing there is plenty of talent in this year’s class.
Four safeties wound up going on Day 1, making it unlikely the Eagles will be able to land anybody worthwhile in a relatively weak class. With Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff already rostered, it’s actually not the end of the world.
No surprise the Eagles didn’t address offensive line in the first round for a second year in a row. With three starters in their 30s though, including both guards, they can’t afford to ignore it all weekend.
Depth is the primary issue here. Who’s going to give Fletcher Cox some breathers this year? Who will play nose tackle in the event Bennie Logan is out with an injury? There’s nobody behind them right now.
The Eagles first-round pick may alleviate some of the pressure on DeMeco Ryans in passing downs, as Smith can play all over the field. They still need to begin searching for a full-time replacement, as Ryans turns 30 this summer.
Still don’t expect Philadelphia to use a draft pick on a kicker. If you want to get technical though, Alex Henery is so bad, this is realistically the team’s biggest need.
Top Day 2 Targets
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Latimer’s meteoric rise didn’t push him into the first round, but with ideal size, above average strength and a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, he’s sure to be a commodity on Day 2. The question is whether he lasts to the Eagles’ pick at No. 54—or if they feel he’s worth trading up for.
In all honesty though, we could list any number or wide receivers in this space. Take your pick.
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Philadelphia used a second-round pick on Ertz last year, and he’s coming along nicely. Yet Brent Celek is on the verge of hitting 30, and James Casey hasn’t lived up to the free-agent deal he signed. If Chip Kelly wants to make the move to more two-tight end sets, it makes sense to grab one early.
Niklas projects as a great weapon in the passing game at the next level, but perhaps most of all a dominant blocker. Celek received a ton of praise for the latter this past season, and it’s a skill that will be surely missed after he’s gone if it’s not replaced.
Marcus Martin, OG, USC
Martin is listed as a center, which the Eagles definitely are not in the market for after awarding Jason Kelce a huge contract extension earlier this offseason. That being said, Martin also played guard at Southern Cal, where the Birds happen to be starting a pair of 30-year-olds.
Martin was brought to Philadelphia for a predraft visit, so it’s not a question of interest. How early are they looking to address an offensive line returning five starters from a season ago?
Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
While he didn’t have the most productive career at Florida with just three career interceptions, Watkins has all the tools. He was as quick and strong as almost any cornerback at the combine, and he can play all over the field—inside or outside, safety and special teams.
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
To what extent a failed drug test will hurt Jones’ draft stock is unknown. If it’s not a big deal, the Eagles could tab him to be Ryans’ eventual replacement. Jones has a unique blend of size and athleticism for an interior linebacker prospect, so depending what banned substance it was, that transgression could go overlooked.
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
I know, I know, the last thing the Eagles need is another running back. Players like Thomas and Sproles aren’t just ball-carriers though, they’re all-purpose weapons, maybe even receivers first. Philadelphia still needs a receiver, right? Plus, if anyone knows how to utilize Thomas it’s head coach Chip Kelly, who recruited the kid to Oregon in the first place.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Most experts haven’t published updated mock drafts as of this writing, so while the old ones have all been busted, we’re going to ignore that fact and look at who was projected to the Eagles on Day 2. Oh, and the fact that they picked up along the way.
So to clarify, these are projections for the No. 54 and, where available, No. 86 picks in the draft. No. 83 is excluded for obvious reasons.
Mel Kiper & Todd McShay, ESPN (subscription required)
Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
Well, that’s out the window. The Eagles found their pass-rusher/Trent Cole replacement in Smith, so while they are still somewhat thin at outside linebacker, there’s no reason to use first- and second-round picks on the position. What else you guys got?
Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
A 6’7”, 295-pound defensive end who fills a need. The Eagles can probably afford to wait another round or two, but nobody could argue if they took care of it in Round 3.
Rob Rang, CBSSports.com
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Because Philadelphia’s issues along the defensive line are primarily related to depth, I didn’t think they would necessarily feel compelled to address the need this early. A lot of people felt Tuitt could go in the first round though, so if he makes it this far and the Birds feel he’s a fit, it would be hard to argue with the value of this selection.
Rang’s CBSSports.com colleague Pete Prisco also had Tuitt going to the Birds at No. 54.
Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com
Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Just like Kiper and McShay’s selection, this addition is no longer necessary after the Smith selection. It seems a lot of folks assumed the Eagles would still be searching for that elusive pass-rusher on Day 2.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
There are so many talented wide receivers available, it’s hard to nail down which one the Eagles will land on. The team spent a lot of time interviewing, working out and visiting with receivers leading up to the draft though, and Landry wasn’t one that we know of. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but there should be some prospects available they looked at a lot more closely.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
The Eagles like to deploy their safeties in man-to-man coverage quite a bit, which not only isn’t an area of strength for Dixon, but also a glaring hole in his game. Whether you think they could use a box safety or not, the coaching staff wants somebody with a little versatility, not a one-trick pony.
3 Predictions for Day 2
Eagles Trade At Least One Third-Round Pick
The pick Philadelphia got in exchange for switching places with the Cleveland Browns is No. 83 overall. Philly’s own third-round pick is No. 86. There’s no rule unwritten or otherwise that says a team can’t make two selections that close together, but does the front office like two players at the same spot in the draft?
We’ll see, but I can envision the Eagles dealing one of these, either to move up in Round 2, or in a move down for more picks later on/next year.
Eagles Select a Running Back or Tight End
No need to go back to the Team Needs slide. Your eyes did not deceive you. Running back and tight end aren’t needs per se, but that doesn’t mean Chip Kelly is content with what he has.
Darren Sproles turns 31 this year. Brent Celek will be 30 before the Super Bowl. If a playmaker the Eagles really like happens to fall into their lap, they’ll take him, whether the need at that position is immediate or not—especially on offense. You just know Kelly is dreaming up a three-back or five-tight end formation.
Eagles Trade Brandon Graham
After the Eagles chose Smith in Round 1, this went from likely to inevitable. Graham simply doesn’t fit the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme, whereas he could probably start somewhere in a 4-3. Now, even if he were to stay, what little playing time he gets will get slashed. The only question seems to be whether a deal gets done on Day 2 or 3.
Updated Philadelphia Eagles Mock Draft
While UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr didn’t freefall the way I imagined he might—he only went ninth overall—the Eagles did manage to come away with a pass-rusher on Day 1 after all. Therefore, it shouldn’t alter my mock draft by too much, right?
Not so fast. By adding the No. 83 pick in the draft, that could shake up the way we look at what will happen in the later rounds.
Round 2, Pick No. 54: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The anti-DeSean Jackson. The little Matthews sacrifices in speed, he more than makes up for in size and strength. Added bonus: he's not a jerk on and off the field. The Eagles could dump a later pick to move up and get their man.
Round 3, Pick No. 83: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
Can play outside the numbers, inside the slot and safety, and he contributes on special teams. Cornerback is biggest need remaining, and Eagles fill it with one of the fastest and strongest in the draft.
Round 3, Pick No. 86: De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
The extra pick, should the Eagles choose to keep it, lands Chip Kelly a pet project in the form of one of his former players. Between Thomas and the Matthews pick, consider the wide receiver matter closed.
Round 4, Pick No. 122: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
Chip has no shame. He would have the Birds pick two Oregon guys in a row as long as they were the right guys. The Eagles know what they are getting in Hart, who's got the motor defensive line coaches like Jerry Azzinaro love.
[TRADE] Round 5, Pick No. 158: John Urschel, OG, Penn State
This theoretical pick is acquired from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for Graham. Urschel is most likely the most intelligent player in the draft. Let's see what he can learn from All-Pro guard Evan Mathis.
Round 5, Pick No. 162: Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Ryans can't play forever. Skov likes to go downhill, which is fine, because Smith can function as the nickel linebacker.
Round 7, Pick No. 237: Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
Frankly, it's surprising they waited this long to draft a tight end. Jensen has the basketball background that makes tight end prospects great receiving threats, but the size and strength to dominate at the point of attack as well.