2011 NFL Mock Draft: The Philadelphia Eagles over Seven Rounds (With Video)
With the 2011 NFL Draft still forty-three excruciatingly long days away, teams are still in the process of bringing in rookies for workouts and attending Pro Days.
By now, everyone has identified the Eagles' biggest needs going into the draft, but who will be available to fill those needs?
The front office has eight picks to play with, plus several more if you account for Andy Reid's inevitable draft-day trade. However, for the sake of this mock, we'll stick with the original picks.
Starting with the twenty-third overall selection, here are eight young men who could hear their name called for the Eagles when Roger Goodell takes to the podium on April 28th.
Round One (23rd Overall): Derek Sherrod OT, Mississippi State
WIthout a doubt, one of the Eagles' top needs this offseason is a boost to the right side of the offensive line. Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gilles simply couldn't handle protecting Michael Vick's blindside from the top-tier defensive linemen of the NFC East and were part of a line that allowed 44 sacks last season.
While many mock drafts have Philadelphia selecting Wisconsin senior Gabe Carimi with the 23rd overall pick, Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod presents an intriguing option for the Eagles. The former Bulldog has been climbing the draft boards after a solid showing at the NFL Combine, wherein he allayed many doubts about his size by bulking up to a respectable 321 pounds.
Sherrod has the ability to play either left or right tackle, but would likely supplant Winston Justice on the right side if chosen. At the Combine, Sherrod displayed above-average footwork in both pass and run protection, as well as a surprising level of quickness considering his recent weight gain.
Under a skilled offensive line coach such as the Eagles' Howard Mudd, Sherrod would be able to work on his awareness against pressure and develop into a quality starting tackle in the NFL. All of the tools are there, Sherrod just needs a little push.
In order for the Eagles to have a legitimate shot at the 2011 Super Bowl, they're going to need to give Vick more time in the pocket on passing downs. Sherrod could very well be the solution.
Round Two (54 Overall): Brandon Burton CB, Utah
After Dimitri Patterson's disastrous 2010 season, the right cornerback position is a huge need for the Eagles. Unfortunately, with the current state of the NFL labor dispute, the team can't rely on snagging a big-name free agent like Nnamdi Asomugha. The solution will have to be found in the draft.
Although still a bit raw, Utah's Brandon Burton has all of the tools necessary to become a solid starting cornerback in the NFL. He plays with an aggressiveness reminiscent of Sheldon Brown and can use his six-foot frame to effectively battle receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Although he possesses good speed (4.50 40 time at the combine), Burton will occasionally get burned deep by the more skilled receivers. However, in a jump ball situation, you can count on Burton to be the one with his hand on the ball.
After a year or two of learning the tricks of the trade from Asante Samuel, Burton should develop into a key cog of the Eagles defense and reward the team for years to come.
Round Three (85 Overall): DeAndre McDaniel S, Clemson
With longtime Eagles veteran Quintin Mikell rumored to be on his way out of Philadelphia, the team will have a gaping hole at safety. Nate Allen, last year's second round pick, is still recovering from a ruptured patella tendon. Kurt Coleman, while impressive in his limited playing time, still needs a good deal of experience under his belt.
Behind the two second year players are special teams ace Colt Anderson and an assortment of practice squad safeties. Depth is clearly a pressing need here.
When Brian Dawkins still roamed NFL fields in midnight green, one of his most feared qualities was his skill in blitzing and run support. With McDaniel, the Eagles would once again have a large-framed safety to roam the box and attack opposing runners.
In addition to his blitzing ability, McDaniel is a freak of an athlete, ranking among the top five safeties in both the vertical jump and broad jump. His strength brings a ferocity to his hits that Eagles fans will quickly come to love.
Round Four: DeMarcus Love OL, Arkansas
In last year's draft, the Eagles neglected to pick up a single offensive lineman, despite many analysts declaring the position to be a need. This year, the Eagles will likely need to make up for the losses of reserve guards Nick Cole and Reggie Wells, and will need to grab a replacement in the middle rounds.
Enter DeMarcus Love, one of the hardest-working guys on the Razorbacks last year. As shown in the interview above, Love displays a terrific attitude both on and off the field, always seeking to improve himself and using "we" statements instead of "me" statements. This guy is a team player.
As for his skill on the field, Love uses his ideal size (6'4" 315 lbs.) to excel in the run game. If he is able to improve his awareness on passing downs and in space, he could easily supplant Max Jean-Gilles at right guard within a season or two. For his rookie year, however, he would be an asset in goal line formations and on special teams.
Round Four: Roy Helu Jr. RB, Nebraska
Although former Brown Jerome Harrison performed adequately during his short time with the Eagles, there is no guarantee that he will be re-signed to a new deal for 2011. The team will need to bolster the depth behind LeSean McCoy, as special teamer Eldra Buckley has previously shown that he cannot handle the workload.
At 6'0" 219 lbs., the durable Roy Helu would provide a nice change of pace for McCoy. Although he doesn't have the speed needed to escape the quicker defenders in the open field, Helu runs hard and uses his big frame to his advantage.
He excels at getting to the outside and turning upfield, having a good sense of where the sideline is located.
Helu's receiving skills will need a bit of polishing if he wants to be truly successful in Andy Reid's offense, but until then, Helu can still provide a nice underneath option for Michael Vick.
Round Five: Ross Homan LB, Ohio State
The offseason addition of ex-Bengals starter Rashad Jeanty went a long way in improving the Eagles' linebacker reserves, but additional help is still needed. Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither did not receive tender offers and will likely depart Philadelphia via free agency. Fresh faces at the outside linebacker position are clearly a necessity.
Now that Pro Days are in full swing around the nation, the Eagles have been holding workouts with several mid-to-late round linebacker prospects, Ohio State's Ross Homan among them.
Although undersized at 6'1" 241 lbs., Homan has demonstrated a knack for making plays. During his senior year, he earned first team All-Big Ten honors after racking up 73 tackles, one sack, one interception and two forced fumbles.
At the combine, the former Buckeye turned heads with 32 reps at the bench press, which was good enough to top all linebackers in attendance.
Even if he never grabs a permanent starting position with the Eagles, Homan's speed and tackling ability will be an asset to the Eagles special teams, making him a worthy selection in the fifth round.
Round Five: Jeremy Kerley WR/KR/PR, TCU
Beyond DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have virtually zero help in the return department. Ellis Hobbs' severe neck injury could force him to retire, and replacements Jorrick Calvin, Gerard Lawson and Chad Hall have been less than impressive.
Jeremy Kerley could provide a long-term solution to a position that hasn't seen a quality specialist since Brian Mitchell in 2002. Kerley managed to put together an impressive return resume during his four years at TCU, averaging 27.7 yards per kick return his senior year. He also returned two punts for touchdowns during his junior year.
In the open field, Kerley is nearly impossible to bring down. He has great acceleration after the catch and displays a fluidity in his movements that can make defenders miss.
As for his receiving ability, Kerley projects to be a slot receiver at the professional level and displays the great ball security that will be required of him. With a few years under his belt, Kerley has the potential to supplant Jason Avant as the team's third wide receiver.
Round Seven: Charlie Gantt TE, Michigan State
With only second year man Clay Harbor backing up Brent Celek, the Eagles will need to draft a reliable blocking tight end for use in goal line situations.
Michigan State's Charlie Gantt will likely never be a starter in the NFL, but his blocking ability makes him one of the better tight end options for the Eagles in this year's draft. Gantt will be able to use his skilled positioning to help out immediately in goal line rushing plays.
Gantt was able to demonstrate his substantial strength at the combine, tying with Luke Stockar for the most bench press reps among tight ends (27).
As for his receiving ability, Gantt is good for the odd trick play or two (see above) and can snatch the jump ball, but he will also occasionally drop routine passes. He will likely be used as a blocker for the majority of his NFL career.