Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Greg Romeus would be a high-risk, high-reward selection at DE.
The Eagles traded up in the first round last year to select defensive end Brandon Graham out of Michigan. But Graham couldn't crack the starting lineup and tore his ACL midway through the season.
The Eagles have a stud on one end of the line in Trent Cole, but lack someone to hold down the other bookend position. Juqua Parker is getting up there in years and is more of a situational pass-rusher. Philadelphia may not want to rely on Graham making a quick recovery from knee surgery.
If the Eagles do choose to address the defensive end position, they picked the right draft to do it. As many as eight defensive ends may be drafted in the first round.
The Eagles brought in highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and will want to give him pieces he can use. There's no doubt that Washburn would enjoy incorporating one of these highly-regarded players into his schemes.
1. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin: Watt has been projected to go a few picks ahead of where the Eagles draft, but could slip if other prospects start to climb up boards. Watt is a relentless player who put up fantastic numbers at the combine. As a result, he's been climbing up draft boards. The Eagles might have to trade up to get him, but they showed last year they're not above doing that.
2. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue: Kerrigan was regarded as a high-motor player coming out of Purdue, but has shown he's more than that. Some questioned his physical skills, but ran a 4.67 at the combine with a good vertical. On top of that, he was a senior and team captain with great leadership qualities at Purdue.
3. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa: Clayborn was the top-ranked defensive end coming into the 2010 season, but didn't post great numbers. Some say he was less impressive, others say that Iowa asked him to drop back in coverage more this year, which hurt his stats. Clayborn is also surrounded by off-field concerns, including an an altercation with a cab driver before the season. He still possesses the rare physical attributes that should make him a first round pick.
4. Justin Houston, Georgia: Houston's forte is as a pass-rusher, not a run-stopper. Even at 270 pounds he managed to run a 4.63 at the combine and post a 33+ inch vertical leap. He needs polish and could stand to develop additional pass-rush techniques, but the attributes are there for him to develop into a sack machine.
Dark Horse Candidate:
Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh: Romeus was the Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 with eight sacks, but injured his back before the 2010 season and then tore his ACL in his first game back. The Eagles have taken chances on players with injury questions before—notably CB Jack Ikegwuonu in 2008.
Romeus put up great numbers at Pittsburgh when healthy, and played only one year of high school football, so there's room to grow. If the Eagles choose to take another chance on an injury risk, Romeus could pay big dividends down the line.