Philadelphia Eagles Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The Philadelphia Eagles are about to enter the home stretch in the 2014 NFL draft, and they’re doing it in style. Thanks to a trade, the Birds will kick off Day 3 with the first pick, No. 101 overall—assuming they keep it, that is.
General manager Howie Roseman has been putting in work, moving the team up and down the board with three trades already.
On Day 1, it was adding a third-round pick from the Cleveland Browns to move down four spots, where the Eagles selected outside linebacker Marcus Smith. On Day 2, it was sending a fourth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans to move up 12 spots and grab wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Roseman then traded the spare third from Cleveland to the Houston Texans for their Round 4 and 5 selections.
Now it’s time for Chip Kelly to round out his second draft class as head coach of the Eagles. He’s already filled two needs convincingly—pass-rusher with Smith and wide receiver with Matthews and third-round pick Josh Huff.
Ahead, we explore Philadelphia’s remaining needs and potential targets. I look at what the experts are saying, make a few predictions of my own and conclude with one last mock draft.
Updated Needs for Philadelphia Eagles
Two days down, two needs off the board. Smith should takeover for Trent Cole at outside linebacker by next season, and with back-to-back wide receivers in Rounds 2 and 3, I’d say that matter is settled.
So what’s left for Philadelphia?
Not to be a broken record, but the Eagles need to think about the future. Cary Williams is about to turn 30 and could be a cap casualty in ’15—the final year of his deal. Bradley Fletcher is currently slated to become a free agent next offseason. If one or both are out, who plays next season? Cornerback is the biggest need remaining by far.
Slim pickings here. After four safeties were taken in the first round, only two went in the second and third combined, which should tell you something about the quality of this year’s class. Luckily, the Eagles can get by with Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff for a year if need be.
Three starters are on the wrong side of 30, including both guards. Yes, Jason Peters and Evan Mathis are both coming off of All-Pro campaigns on the left side of the offensive line, but Todd Herremans isn’t, and decline could be sudden for any of them. A developmental prospect is a must.
It’s all about depth, or lack thereof. Specifically, who is going to give Fletcher Cox a breather at defensive end, or step in for that matter if he were to go down? I'm not sure that the Cedric Thornton/Vinnie Curry platoon is a long-term arrangement, either.
DeMeco Ryans will be 30 this summer. He’s effective, but arguably miscast as an every-down linebacker in a 3-4. His contract is up after ’15. Let’s get somebody in here to learn from a two-time Pro Bowler, rather than wait until he has nothing left and replacing him becomes an urgent matter.
The Eagles won’t necessarily draft a kicker, but technically it’s the biggest need on the roster—that’s how little I think of Alex Henery at this point in time.
Top Day 3 Targets
Once again, potential targets will either fit a team need, or they will be players the Eagles were known to show interest in via pre-draft workouts, pro days, visits, etc.
Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
Watkins tested as one of the speediest and strongest cornerbacks in the draft. He didn’t have an overly productive career at Florida, but he has the versatility Kelly loves. Watkins can play outside the numbers or in the slot, safety and contribute on special teams.
Christian Jones, ILB, Florida State
Jones possesses a rare blend of size and speed for any linebacker, which is accentuated by this year’s class. He projects as Ryans’ eventual replacement, though he could tumble further due to a failed drug test at the scouting combine.
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Doesn’t fill a need, but can Kelly pass up on one of his favorite players? Learning from a tremendous all-purpose weapon like Darren Sproles could make Thomas all the more dangerous by the time he is ready to take over the veteran’s role two years down the line.
Donate Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
Like Watkins, Johnson didn’t have an especially productive college career. However, he boasts the same type of versatility as an inside/outside corner and safety. He’s not as fast or strong as Watkins, but, at 6'2", Johnson is bigger.
Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
Hart has the size, motor and mentality to be a 5-technique end in the NFL. He’s already worked with the Eagles' defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro at Oregon, so he should fit right into the program.
Lamin Barrow, ILB, LSU
Barrow cleaned up behind Bennie Logan at LSU, and he could be doing it in the pros next. Logan can vouch for his former teammate. Barrow can learn behind a two-time Pro Bowler in Ryans.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
There’s a good chance Colvin will be long gone by this time. He was headed for a first- or second-round selection before tearing his ACL at the Senior Bowl. He’d have a redshirt with the Eagles, then compete for a starting job in ’15.
Shamar Stephen, DL, Connecticut
Stephen had a bit of an underwhelming career at UCONN, but he has the size and athleticism to make it at the next level. Perhaps he can flourish in a situation where there’s more talent around him.
Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
A huge-framed tight end with a basketball background, Jensen will be a project at the next level. Still learning the position after converting from the defensive line, he has the athleticism to be a threat in the passing game and the strength to be a people mover in the running game.
Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama
The Eagles' offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland held the same post at Alabama prior to his current role. He coached Steen, so he should fit the system, with the staff already knowing that they can work with him.
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
A big, smart safety out of the Pac-12. Kelly should be familiar with his body of work.
Chris Boswell, K, Rice
The Eagles desperately need to find a new kicker. Boswell is listed as the best available on most rankings, so this would be a match made in heaven.
What Are the Experts Saying?
The Eagles have shuffled their picks around after a series of trades, so no mock draft on earth could possibly have all of that right. Furthermore, few experts bother going this deep in the first place, so we don’t have a lot left to dissect. That being said, let’s take a look at who Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projected to Philadelphia in his final mock before the draft.
Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman
At the time of writing, the Eagles own the first pick on Day 3 after trading with the Texans, and assuming they stay there, I don’t think they’re going to come out and take an offensive guard from a small school.
That being said, I do like the pick.
As mentioned, both of the Birds’ guards are in their 30s. Dozier actually played tackle for Furman, but he’s too small for that in the NFL. With his athleticism, though, he could become a force on the interior. Learning from a technician like Mathis would help, and Dozier could be taking the place of an All-Pro a year or two down the road.
Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida
I would be somewhat shocked if Purifoy was even drafted, let alone in Round 5. He never lived up to the hype at Florida and tested poorly at the scouting combine, it’s hard to believe he was once a highly touted prospect.
There is always the lesson of Vontaze Burfict, the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker who went from driving his draft stock into a ditch and going undrafted to becoming a Pro Bowl player. The difference is Burfict actually produced at Arizona State.
Philadelphia needs a cornerback, but they probably want one who can actually play.
Bruce Gaston, DL, Purdue
The Eagles don’t own a sixth-round pick, so straight to Round 7 we go. I don’t know much about Gaston, but I don’t like the idea of waiting to address defensive line this late. They did the same last year with Joe Kruger out of Utah, and he’s still a total unknown after spending last season on injured reserve, so the jury is still out on that one.
Depth is such a serious concern along the defensive line that it would make a lot more sense to target somebody a little earlier.
5 Predictions for Day 3
Chip Kelly Isn’t Finished Picking Oregon Players
There are too many of the coach’s former players remaining not to take this wild stab in the dark. DE Taylor Hart or CB Terrance Mitchell would fill needs. Kelly continues to prove he can never have too many weapons on offense, either, so don’t rule out RB De’Anthony Thomas or TE Colt Lyerla—Chip just can’t help himself.
The Eagles Will Grab At Least One of Each of the Following: CB, OL, DL
If the Eagles don’t get some warm bodies at these three positions, I really have no idea what they are doing. Both cornerback spots could be vacant as soon as next year and three offensive linemen are in their 30s. The defensive line would collapse if any of the starters suffer an injury. This is less a prediction than it is a list of demands.
The Eagles Will Select a Running Back or Tight End
Doubling down on a Day 2 prediction here. Do they absolutely need a running back or tight end? No. Would that stop Chip Kelly? Probably not. There’s actually a solid case to be built for a tight end anyway, given that Brent Celek is approaching 30 and James Casey isn’t doing much.
The Eagles Take a Kicker in the Seventh Round
This one won’t be reflected in my mock draft, and, frankly, I don’t think the Eagles necessarily have to draft a kicker. I’m fairly certain a free agent off of the undrafted scrapheap could beat out Henery. If there is a foot the front office has its eye on though, it makes sense not to gamble on that player making it past Mr. Irrelevant.
Brandon Graham Will NOT Get Traded Before the End of the Draft
My final prediction flies in the face of my mock draft (final slide) and backs off a Day 2 prediction. The Eagles would no doubt move Graham in heartbeat, and I still believe they will—it just may not be for a pick in this year’s draft. Graham could get dealt within hours or even minutes of the draft’s conclusion, but I’m starting to believe that it will only be once the dust has finally settled.
Updated Philadelphia Eagles Mock Draft
Not to brag or anything, but if you’ve been following these primers, my mock drafting hasn’t been too far off in many respects.
Obviously, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr didn’t fall to the Eagles at No. 22, but they did wind up with a pass-rusher in the first round. I nailed Matthews to the Birds in Round 2 and even mentioned that they might trade up to get him. I even had Kelly taking one of his former offensive weapons from Oregon, albeit not the right one.
Finally, on the predictions slide, I told you the team would deal one of their selections in Round 3, which they did. Seeing as I’m on a bit of a roll, you should probably pay attention—so that you can remind me later how far off I was this time.
[TRADE] Round 4, Pick No. 101: Donate Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
Pick acquired from Houston for Philly’s third-round pick. I’m pushing Johnson up from where I had Eagles taking him in previous versions. Defensive back is the biggest remaining need and Kelly is gunning hard for versatility. Johnson can play outside the numbers or in the slot, safety and on special teams.
[TRADE] Round 5, Pick No. 141: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
Pick acquired from Houston for Philly’s third-round pick. Is Chip done picking his guys? The Eagles need defensive line depth, and know exactly what they’re getting with Hart—someone who is happy to the dirty work in the trenches.
[TRADE] Round 5, Pick No. 153: John Urschel, OG, Penn State
Projected trade for Brandon Graham. In the latest scenario, I have the Buffalo Bills finally coughing up a pick, because based on their move for Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins on Day 1, they seem to believe they are close and could use another pass-rusher. Urschel is the heir apparent to Todd Herremans at right guard.
Round 5, Pick No. 162: Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Marcus Smith is so versatile, he could probably replace DeMeco Ryans in obvious passing situations, lessening the need somewhat to find the two-time Pro Bowler’s replacement. Still, Ryans can’t play forever, so the Eagles grab his eventual replacement in Skov.
Round 7, Pick No. 237: Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
Marginally surprised the Eagles haven’t picked up another tight end already. Jensen has the basketball background that has been prevalent in so many at this position, and he should make for a fun project for Kelly.