2011 NFL Draft: Top 5 Positions Eagles Should Address in First Round

Mike BurkeCorrespondent IApril 21, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Top 5 Positions Eagles Should Address in First Round

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    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 07:  Wide receiver Jeff Fuller #8 of the Texas A&M Aggies makes a reception against the defense of Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes during NCAA college football action at Folsom Field on November 7, 2009 in Boulder, Colorado
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The first-round pick.  It's something we project months before the draft takes place and change it over and over.  However, with the 2011 NFL draft just a week away, we've honed in on our needs and we know what players we're interested in.

    For the Eagles, there are two positions that jump out at me as positions that could really use a player who's ready to start on day one.  In the months leading up to the draft, I've gone back and forth as to which I think the Eagles should address earliest.

    However, a few things need to be considered.  First of all, the Eagles may not even draft at the 23rd overall position in the first round.  Truthfully, I don't believe they will.  They've been movers and shakers in the first round in past years and I don't expect much change this year.

    Also, with that being said, there's not even a guarantee they even make a pick in the first round.  If no one is on the board that they like, they can trade further back in the first round, or ultimately out of it.

    Today, I'm going to assume that they will make a selection in the first round.  It might not necessarily be at No. 23, but somewhere in the first round.

    With that in mind, here are the five positions I think the Eagles need to address during the first round.

5. Interior Offensive Lineman

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    MIAMI - JANUARY 08: Mike Pouncey #55 of the Florida Gators reacts after a play against the Oklahoma Sooners in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
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    Specifically, I'd like a guard.  However, a guy that is able to play both guard and center is always nice, too.

    Outside Todd Herremans, the Eagles don't really have any sure things at the guard position.  Mike McGlynn might be an option to bump out to guard if Jamaal Jackson returns to the center position, but that's really the most intriguing possibility I see with the players the Eagles currently have.

    Nick Cole and Max-Jean Gilles both have expiring contracts, and we don't know what the Eagles will do there.

    Generally, interior offensive linemen aren't flying off the board late in the first round. However, if the Eagles decide to go this route, they'd be able to take the cream of the crop.  The only player that really projects this high is Mike Pouncey out of Florida.

    I'd love to see the Eagles find a guy who can step in at guard and play right away, but I think they can find this player outside the first round.

4. Defensive End

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Kind of strange that this position makes the top five as the Eagles seemed to bring in so many new defensive ends last season.  However, none of them were particularly impressive.  The guy who turned the most heads last season was Juqua Parker, but he wasn't a new addition.

    The jury is still out on Brandon Graham.  He showed some good signs last season but wasn't statistically dominating like most hoped.  Expectations generally get set way too high for rookie defensive ends, so his first-year numbers don't concern me. 

    The concerning thing is his knee injury.  It doesn't appear he'll be ready for the opening game, and when he returns, we'll all have to hold our breath and hope his knee holds up.

    Outside of Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim doesn't seem destined for greatness anytime soon, Darryl Tapp looks like a good rotation guy but not a starter, and I'm not buying the recent hype about Phillip Hunt out of the CFL.  If he was that good, he wouldn't have played in the CFL.

    One guy I have high hopes for in 2011 is Ricky Sapp.  Maybe I'm holding my breath, but I liked him in college.  He's one of those guys who can't seem to avoid the injury bug, but I'm hoping he can stay healthy this year.

    There's no need to talk about Trent Cole—his role isn't changing.  Juqua Parker is aging, and Victor Abiamiri should finally be out of our hair.

    So that leaves us with only one real definite at defensive end, and that's Cole.  Who's going to start opposite of him?  Maybe Graham later in the year, but not in the opener.

    Keeping that uncertainty in mind, maybe they will consider taking a defensive end in the first round.  Could they show interest in Da'Quan Bowers, as many think he's going to plummet down the draft board? He's a risky pick but has proven to be talented. 

    If they want to avoid the risk, they could look at players like Ryan Kerrigan and Adrian Clayborn.

3. Linebacker

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Linebacker Akeem Ayers #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the game with the Houston Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Eagles draft history shows about a .01 percent chance of this happening, but I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world.

    There are plenty of questions about the Eagles linebackers next season.  Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims and Omar Gaither all have expiring contracts.  Odds are Bradley will be the only one to return from that group.  Will he return to the middle?  That's just one of the questions about the linebackers heading into next season.

    Most people believe that Jamar Chaney will take over in the middle.  Bradley would most likely move to the strong side, and Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton would battle for the weak side.

    Regardless, the group lacks depth and could still afford to be filled with more players ready to make an impact.  A first-round fit could be Akeem Ayers, a player the Eagles worked out privately. 

    Ayers spent a lot of time rushing the quarterback at UCLA and could bring that element to the Eagles linebackers, something they've lacked since the passing of Jim Johnson.

    Outside of Ayers, there aren't a whole lot of other players who are worthy of being picked around the 23rd overall selection.

2. Offensive Tackle

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    TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1: Lineman Gabe Carimi #68 of the Wisconsin Badgers sets to block  against the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2008 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 1, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  The Volunteers won 21 - 17. (Photo by Al Mess
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Although this didn't come in as my top priority, I still find this to be a very large need for the Eagles and have considered it to be their biggest need at various points this offseason.

    Why could this be their biggest need?  When a new collective bargaining agreement is put in place, odds are that the Eagles will give Michael Vick a contract extension, making him their franchise quarterback.  I agree with that move, but there is one problem.

    The Eagles don't have anyone to protect their franchise quarterback's blindside.  Sure, it's great having Jason Peters anchoring the left side of the line.  However, Vick being left-handed means the right tackle is responsible for the blindside. 

    I thought Winston Justice could be the guy, and so did the Eagles after they gave him a contract extension.  However, we saw him crumble down the stretch.  Even if he has a good training camp and preseason (assume we have both), I'd still be weary of him starting on the right side.

    This is a huge need for the Eagles, and truthfully, I won't be upset if they decide to draft a tackle in the first round.  If they do, guys like Gabe Carimi, Anthony Costanzo and Nate Solder should be available around the 23rd spot.

1. Cornerback

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    AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Wide receiver John Chiles #7 of the Texas Longhorns makes a quick cut after catching a pass against cornerback Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the first quarter on October 10, 2009 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial St
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    Debate it if you want, but I truly believe the Eagles' biggest need comes at the corner position.  How bad was the play opposite Asante Samuel last season?  It was awful.

    Outside of Samuel, there's not another player on the roster I'm ready to deem starting material.  Trevard Lindley probably has the highest ceiling, but he's still young and needs more work.

    The hopes and dreams of landing Nnamdi Asomugha have been put on hold.  Ideally, I'd love to have him lineup on the other side of Samuel, but the Eagles won't be able to make a play for him before the draft.

    There's also no guarantee that the Eagles will land him when free agency opens, so they have to look to the draft, where there is some certainty.

    With the 23rd overall pick, the Eagles should be in play for Colorado corner Jimmy Smith.  He has great size and athleticism and should be a very strong player despite all the allegations about him off the field.

    I think he's the type of player that would be able to come in and start right away, and I think that's something the Eagles desperately need.