2011 NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 Players Philadelphia Eagles Should Now Target
The high-flying, offensive-minded Philadelphia Eagles rode on Michael Vick's shoulders for the better part of the 2010 NFL season.
Unfortunately, the run stopped in the NFC Wild Card round. Aaron Rodgers fueled the Packers past the Eagles 21-16 in Philadelphia—and onward to the Super Bowl that will be played today.
As the Packers and Steelers duel down in Dallas, the Eagles organization is pondering what moves they need to explore to make the next step.
The Eagles have great players in most of the skill positions, but a porous secondary and a faltering offensive line gave them problems late in the season.
Should the Eagles strengthen their offense or add to their defense?
Philadelphia's biggest needs are at these positions: cornerback, offensive guard, free safety, defensive tackle and outside linebacker.
This is who the Eagles should target with the 23rd pick in the first round. If one is taken, they should move down the list and take the next guy.
**All projections mentioned are from CBSsports.com.
1.) Prince Amukamara, CB
This is the definition of wishful thinking.
Prince Amukamara is projected to be the second cornerback taken and to be selected eighth overall. He was a running back in high school, but he was transformed into a cornerback when he arrived at Nebraska.
Amukamara has excellent speed and athleticism, making him a terror in man coverage. He has great anticipation like Asante Samuel, but also tends to give up the deep ball like Asante. Having two corners like that could be a test for the safeties.
Amukamara can tackle, making him capable NFL corner. He helped the Cornhuskers shut down Jake Locker and a potent Washington offense. He also helped hold Texas to its fewest passing yards since 1983.
If the Eagles are lucky enough to get a chance at Amukamara, they'd be foolish to let him pass by.
2.) Brandon Harris, CB
Brandon Harris of the Miami Hurricanes is a more likely option for the Eagles. Harris is projected to be taken 24th and is ranked as the third-best cornerback in the NFL Draft.
The Hurricane, who also has great speed and athleticism, is leaving Miami a year early. If he is taken in the first round, he will be the first Miami player taken that early since 2008. The Hurricanes previously had a player taken in the first round for 14 consecutive years.
Harris is great in man coverage but can be fooled by quarterbacks in zone coverage, making him susceptible for giving up big yardage. He focuses on the receiver rather than the backfield in most instances. He also could wrap up better when tackling.
Taking all that into account, Harris would still be a fantastic addition to the Eagles secondary.
3.) Mike Pouncey, OG
If this name sounds familiar, then you may have heard of Mike Pouncey's brother.
Maurkice Pouncey is the injured center for the Steelers, who had a tremendous rookie season for the black and yellow. Mike Pouncey played alongside his twin brother at Florida, but was the twin that initially impressed the Gators.
He is quick, strong and agile in run blocking, which is something the Eagles have lacked in recent memory. The Eagles love to run the screen, and Pouncey is fast enough to get out and block for the running back.
The last plus of Pouncey is his versatility. He played defensive tackle in his freshman year at Florida and has seen many different parts of the offensive line.
Many Eagles fans hope the top-rated OG in the 2011 NFL Draft ends up in Philadelphia. Some would even say he is the number one player the Eagles should target.
4.) Rahim Moore, FS
Rahim Moore is the best free safety available.
In his sophomore season at UCLA, Moore impressed everyone that watched him with 10 interceptions, which led the country. Injuries to others in his junior year caused him to take a step back and he lacked aggression. He still made the decision to leave the Bruins a year early.
Moore runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and does just about everything right. He can effectively read the quarterback. Moore can also leap, catch and cut. His only slight downfall is his tackling ability, which could be much better.
If the Eagles believe the junior captain had a season to forget and the standout sophomore campaign is a better reflection of Moore's talent, then Philadelphia should take him in either the first or second round.
5.) Quinton Carter, FS
If Kurt Coleman continues to struggle, the Eagles should have another option at the free safety position. Quinton Carter gives them a stellar backup and potential starter.
Hampered by injuries as an underclassmen, Carter began to step up to the challenge in his junior season. He recorded 88 tackles, four interceptions and five pass break-ups.
Carter is exceptionally quick for a safety, but is sometimes slow to recognize when a corner needs help—a recurring problem for the Eagles. Carter is capable of covering receivers in man coverage, and his intensity makes him a solid tackler in downfield situations.
Carter is projected to be the 55th pick in the draft, so he may be a great second- or third-round choice for the Eagles. If the three people preceding him on this list are taken, he'd be a worthy first-round pick.
6.) Corey Liuget, DT
According to CBSsports.com, this is the player the Eagles will draft.
Corey Liuget (pronounced "legit") is the third-ranked defensive tackle in this year's draft. He may not be quick like Julius Peppers, but the Illinois product's strength and smarts give him first-round potential.
Liuget can stuff the run and uses great power moves to plow through linemen. He's also the type to hustle downfield to make, or help on, a tackle. His low center of gravity makes him tough to stop, and his work ethic and leadership are tough to match.
Although he's projected 23rd, I think there are players the Eagles should draft instead of him. With that in mind, it would not be disappointing if Philadelphia ended up with Liuget.
7.) Stephen Paea, DT
Stephen Paea is the prototypical run-stopping defensive tackle.
"Quick" isn't a word one would use to describe Paea, but he gets the job done with brute strength and incredible footwork. The Oregon State Beaver was twice given the Morris Trophy, awarded to the conference's most dominant defensive lineman.
Paea won't rack up sacks or catch a running back on a toss, but he can hit a ton and will be able to push around some NFL linemen. He can bench 500 pounds and can squat 600.
He is rated as the fourth-best DT and the 37th best overall. If the Eagles could snag him in the second round, it would be an absolute steal.
8.) Aldon Smith, OLB
It is unlikely that Aldon Smith—projected 11th overall—will make it near the 20's. If there is a repeat of the Aaron Rodgers free-fall, the Eagles would drool at the chance to snatch Smith.
Smith showed unbelievable toughness when he was back on the field three weeks after a slight fracture in his right leg. He had 2.5 sacks in his last six games after the return, also returning an interception 58 yards.
Scouts rave about Smith's ability to use his hands to shake blockers. He is relatively strong for his size and can wrap up anyone on the field. Apparently, Smith has the ability to become a strong defensive end in the NFL.
For now, Smith will be a great outside linebacker for whoever drafts him.
He's this low on the list because it's unlikely, but nothing is for certain come draft day.
9.) Akeem Ayers, OLB
The Eagles already have Akeem Jordan; why not take a chance on another Akeem? Akeem Ayers decided to forgo his senior season at UCLA to join the list of prospects ready for the NFL.
Just like Rahim Moore, a stellar sophomore campaign thrust him into the national spotlight before a letdown in his junior season. He returned two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns in his second season as a Bruin. As a junior, he was more consistent, but unable to repeat the big-play ability from the season before.
He's above average for people at his position at getting into the backfield, but can be faked out by a good play-action fake. His speed is also better than the norm for a linebacker, which helps him cover his mistakes and break on throws.
He's projected to go 26th on draft day, and the Eagles would love to double their Akeem factor.
10.) Justin Houston, OLB
The fourth-ranked OLB in the draft was once an undersized defensive end.
After the switch, Justin Houston became a problem for offensives. He registered 10 sacks in 2010 and was credited with 44 QB hurries. With his knowledge of shedding blockers on the line, he is advanced at pushing past blockers as a linebacker.
He's quick enough to elude potential blockers and has the closing speed to make great plays. Can be a highlight hitter, but only caused two players to cough up fumbles in three seasons. Needs to learn more moves to get by a blocker, but can definitely improve with an NFL coaching stuff.
Projected as the 28th overall pick, Houston is a possibility for Philadelphia, but I'd be surprised to see him sporting an Eagles uniform.