Big Red will look to fill some major holes on draft day.
The Eagles were an absolute enigma last season. At times, they looked like a team poised to make a Super Bowl run. At other times, they couldn't seem to take the next step with a talented squad.
Despite a bevy of talented players--Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and others--this is a team with some glaring holes.
Specifically along the offensive and defensive lines and in the defensive secondary, the Eagles will be looking to add impact players and immediate contributors during the draft.
Here, we handicap what positions the Eagles will be looking to target, and which players they'll be looking at to fill those needs.
As a side note, this article ignores players who will be gone when the Eagles draft in the first round. Yes, the team needs a cornerback; no, Patrick Peterson will not be available.
Could character concerns push talented Jimmy Smith into the Eagles' hands?
The Eagles secondary was a mess last season. Asante Samuel had a typically strong year, but across from him Ellis Hobbs and Dmitri Patterson didn't get the job done.
Hobbs got injured and knocked out for the season, and has since retired. Patterson was torched repeatedly throughout the season, most unceremoniously by Mario Manningham.
Philadelphia will definitely look to upgrade the corner position in the draft this year. Here are five players they could look to add.
1. Brandon Harris, Miami: Harris is an extremely tough, physical cornerback. Despite less-than-ideal size (5' 10"), he's solid in run support. He ran a decent 40 at the combine (4.43), and was one of the most fluid performers during the drills.
2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado: Smith is an electric talent. On top of ideal size (6' 2", 210 lbs), he ran a very fast 4.38 and put up great numbers in the bench press. If anything, character concerns have hurt Smith's draft stock. He is extremely cocky, and went so far as to say he had better hands than Nnamdi Asomugha.
3. Aaron Williams, Texas: Some think Williams underachieved this season. He has nice size, but put up just average numbers at the combine. On top of that, he didn't look all that great in drills. Some think he may need to move to free safety at the next level.
4. Curtis Brown, Texas: If the Eagles choose to wait a round or two on a cornerback, they may target Aaron Williams' defensive mate, Curtis Brown. Brown didn't flash great speed at the combine, running a 4.51. But he's got phenomenal hands and nearly a 40-inch vertical, which will help him pick off his share of passes.
Dark Horse Candidate:
DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami: Van Dyke put up pedestrian bench press numbers and a below-average vertical leap, but man is he fast. The former Hurricane posted a 4.33 in the 40 at the combine, one of the top times of any player. He also had a strong Senior Bowl week. The Eagles have already held a private workout with Van Dyke; if they liked what they saw, they could look at Van Dyke in the middle rounds.
Gabe Carimi could remind Eagles fans of Jon Runyan.
Jason Peters bounced back last year to have a strong season for the Eagles at left tackle. However, with the left-handed Michael Vick starting at quarterback, the right side actually becomes the blind side.
That's where the Eagles have had some trouble. Opening-day starter Winston Justice played inconsistently throughout the year, and was actually benched during the Eagles' wild card game for backup King Dunlap.
Even with the ultra-mobile Vick behind center, the Eagles gave up the fourth most sacks in the league last season. They could certainly look to upgrade the right tackle position, potentially by picking one of these players.
1. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College: Castonzo could easily be gone by the time the Eagles pick, but depending on how other teams rank the available tackles, he could slip. Castonzo is huge at 6' 7" and 311 pounds, and displayed impressive athleticism at the combine.
2. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State: Sherrod added weight before the combine, climbing well above 300 pounds. Fortunately, bulking up didn't take away any athleticism. Scouts say Sherrod looked great at his pro day, despite a fairly slow 40 time. Sherrod has almost certainly solidified his status as a first round pick.
3. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: Plenty of prognosticators have mocked the Outland Trophy winner as the nation's best offensive lineman to the Eagles. He has also drawn comparisons to former Eagles standout Jon Runyan. Carimi is a monster run blocker, but needs to develop in pass protection. He may have slipped behind Sherrod and Costanzo, but projects well on the right side.
4. Nate Solder, Colorado: Solder was perhaps the top-ranked tackle heading into the combine, but a poor showing in the bench press and a seeming inability to keep on weight has pushed him down some boards. That said, Solder has consistently shown great athleticism that could overshadow some poor tape.
Dark Horse Candidate:
Joseph Barksdale, LSU: Barksdale was one of the top tackles in the country heading into the past season. Though his stock has slipped since then, he has ideal size at 325 pounds and is a fantastic technician. His pass blocking is particularly strong, which would help him protect Vick's blind side.
Mike Pouncey could solidify the Eagles' interior line.
Tackle wasn't the only position to give the Eagles trouble along the offensive line. Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole each spent time on the right side, but neither took charge of the position.
Todd Herremans was solid again at left guard, but the Eagles could definitely look to bolster the interior of the offensive line.
The team will be looking for either Mike McGlynn or Jamaal Jackson (coming off injury) to reclaim the starting center gig, so right guard is the most likely target. These players could fill the hole.
1. Mike Pouncey, Florida: Mike Pouncey is the consensus top guard in the class. The brother of Steelers rookie Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey, Mike isn't quite his brother's equal as a prospect. At 303 pounds, he may have to put on a little weight, but showed well at the combine and solidified his status as a possible first round pick. Pouncey can also play center.
2. Marcus Cannon, TCU: Cannon was the top offensive lineman on a strong TCU offense. He's also a mountain of a man at 6' 6", 349 pounds. Despite his size, Cannon is athletic enough that some teams believe he may be able to play right tackle.
3. Danny Watkins, Baylor: Teams are extremely torn over Watkins. He was dominating on Baylor's offensive line in college, and worked out extremely well at both the combine and his pro day. The reason he's way down on some teams' boards? He'll be 27 years old when the season starts. Despite his age, a team ready to win now–like the Eagles—may be willing to take the plunge.
4. Rodney Hudson, Florida State: Hudson is another interior lineman who can play either guard or center. Though he showed well at the Senior Bowl, Hudson tips the scales at barely 300 pounds, leading some teams to ask whether he's big enough to stand up to defensive tackles on the next level.
Dark Horse Candidate:
Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova: Ijalana is one of the top FCS prospects in the 2011 draft. He performed as well as any other offensive lineman at the combine, and measured in with extremely long 36-inch arms. The biggest knock on Ijalana is the level of competition he faced with Villanova. However, the Eagles had a lot of success with another Villanova prospect—running back Brian Westbrook.
The Eagles could target four-year starter Bruce Carter to fill a hole at linebacker.
The Eagles have had a real revolving door at the outside linebacker position in recent years. Takeo Spikes, Omar Gaither, Will Witherspoon, Akeem Jordan, and Ernie Sims have all failed to hold down a starting spot.
Andy Reid does not have a great track record drafting outside linebackers. He's spent second round picks on Barry Gardner, Quinton Caver, and Matt McCoy, none of whom have made an impact in the league.
That makes it unlikely that the Eagles will draft an outside linebacker. However, Sims probably won't be back after a subpar year, meaning the team will need to find someone to fill in on the weak side. It could be one of these players.
1. Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Ayers is probably the top 4-3 outside linebacker prospect in a weak class, and could potentially fall to the Eagles' position in the first round. Ayers hurt himself with a slow 4.80 time in his combine 40, and his lack of any one outstanding characteristic has him falling down some draft boards. That said, many believe he has strong potential and could step in right away.
2. Bruce Carter, UNC: Carter was a heralded player coming into the 2010 season, but was overshadowed by an underachieving North Carolina team devastated by NCAA sanctions. He has great size at 6' 2" and 241 pounds and flashed decent speed at the combine. A four-year starter at UNC, Carter rebounded from a torn ACL in 2009 to earn a nomination for the Butkus Award in 2010.
3. Mason Foster, Washington: Foster had a strong junior season, recording 85 tackles for the Huskies. He showed good athleticism at the combine and played well in coverage for Washington. He didn't quite put up Carter's combine numbers, but could make an immediate impact for a team with a hole at outside linebacker.
4. Ross Homan, Ohio State: Homan is another player with whom the Eagles have already held a private workout. Homan is a little smaller and slower than some of the prospects above him, but posted a great 32 reps on the bench press and is strong in run support. If the Eagles choose to wait until the middle or late rounds to address the position, they could target Homan to boost their run defense.
Dark Horse Candidate:
Brian Rolle, Ohio State: Like his college teammate Homan, Rolle has already worked out for the Eagles. Probably too small to play linebacker in the NFL (5' 10", 229 pounds), Rolle may transition to strong safety. Despite his small stature, Rolle is quick and strong and has all the makings of a special teams ace.
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.