Full Philadelphia Eagles Primer for 2017 NFL Draft

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVApril 25, 2017

Full Philadelphia Eagles Primer for 2017 NFL Draft

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia Eagles welcome the 2017 NFL draft to their hometown with the awareness that they need to make as good use of their picks as any team in order to contend next season.

    The organization has made serious strides over the last year-plus to move forward from the disastrous Chip Kelly era, making a bold move for Carson Wentz in last year's draft and implementing a West Coast offense that fits him well. The front office reloaded his weaponry in free agency, with the savvy signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

    But at many positions of need on the Eagles roster, there remain gaping holes and lack of depth that will almost assuredly derail their 2017 season if they aren't shored up via the draft. 

    The Eagles could go in a number of directions early on to shore up their issues, but there's no doubting where the help is needed most personnel-wise as the draft looms. With that in mind, let's dive right into the Eagles' upcoming draft and explore every angle.

Draft Picks and Recent Trends

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Any team trying to rebuild its roster needs a heavy pile of draft picks to give itself the best chance to make the necessary additions to move things forward. While the Eagles are hopefully on the back end of their rebuild, it's not off-base to give them that label.

    Here are all of the Eagles' 2017 draft picks:

    • Round 1 (No. 14 overall)
    • Round 2 (43)
    • Round 3 (99)
    • Round 4 (118)
    • Round 4 (139)
    • Round 5 (155)
    • Round 6 (194)
    • Round 7 (230)

    Now that we've addressed the picks in particular, let's delve into historic trends from this front office to figure out what may be their course of action.

    The Eagles have proved themselves privy to targeting high-potential players early who made convincing immediate impacts. In particular, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman had his fingerprints all over former first-round picks like Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson who have developed into key cogs in the Eagles' system.

    Eagles fans like to harp on the first-round misses of defensive end Marcus Smith and wide receiver Nelson Agholor, but it can't be overlooked that Kelly seemingly pulled the trigger on those two picks.

    It's easy for teams and front offices to say publicly that they're targeting the best player available and not specific positions of need, but over the last several years, the Eagles have appeared to put more stock into the latter. 

Biggest Needs

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    In a perfect world, the Eagles could have addressed all of their most serious needs via free agency. But entering free agency with little to no cap room left the team's hands tied and forced them into prioritizing.

    To their credit, the team did extremely well to shore up the issues at wide receiver and lock down a couple of impact players at other positions. But they were never going to be anything close to a finished product until the draft, and that puts pressure on Roseman and company to make clever and decisive moves.

    In order of most important to least important, let's address those needs.

    Cornerback: It's the worst-kept secret in the NFL that the Eagles need cornerback help in a serious way. Veteran stopgaps haven't worked, and it's time for the team to invest in its secondary with impact youngsters. Don't be surprised if the Eagles look at corner with their first two picks in the hopes of locking down a starting duo for 2017 and beyond.

    Defensive End: Brandon Graham proved to be the only formidable pass-rusher on the unit in 2016, and a defense led by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz desperately needs consistent pressure on the edge. The addition of Chris Long will only help minimally. Philly needs another quarterback tormentor it can trust to wreak havoc immediately.

    Running Back: It's hard to envision Ryan Mathews returning to the Eagles in 2017, and that leaves the door wide open for an impact back in the draft. Wendell Smallwood appears ready to take on a larger role, but he'll need considerable help.

    Wide Receiver: The 2017 outlook may be positive with Jeffery and Smith in the fold, but it's a possibility that neither is on the roster next offseason. 2016 proved to the world that the Eagles' young core of wideouts can't get it done, and they could use an infusion of some more young guys to push them.

    Linebacker: The Eagles are in a good place with Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham developing into capable every-down linebackers, but the third slot is up for grabs with Mychal Kendricks appearing to be a bad fit. Philly could use an all-around athletic presence on the weak side, as well as some dependable depth.

    Offensive Line: If nothing changes, the Eagles' starting lineup up front is formidable for 2017 but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of long-term sustainability. With the aging Jason Peters at left tackle and the ability to move pieces around in the interior, developmental prospects would be well-received.

Potential Targets

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Many Eagles fans have identified to themselves a prospect or two they want with the first-round pick at No. 14 overall and will be livid if it doesn't happen. But there are a number of directions that the team could go that would help the cause tremendously.

    Let's target a handful of players who could have their names called early on by the Eagles in the draft.

    Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: It's somewhat of a pipe dream that Humphrey would be there at No. 14 overall, but if he is, the Eagles cannot hesitate to pull the trigger. The former Alabama corner is arguably the most polished cornerback in an immensely deep draft class and would be a Week 1 starter.

    Derek Barnett, DE, TennesseeThis is also unlikely, but Derek Barnett is the type of player the Eagles may kick the tires on trading up a couple of picks for. The edge-wrecker is an easy top-10 talent and has the overall game to potentially usurp possible No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett in production.

    Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: McCaffrey is a jack-of-all-trades back who can make an impact with 10-15 rushing attempts and a handful of looks in the passing game. His versatility would be a great fit in the West Coast offense.

    Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: Cook may be a reach at No. 14 overall, but it's easy to see how his arrival would immediately add an extra dimension to the Eagles' offense.

    Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: Conley would also be a reach but is slowly marching his way up draft boards as a potential top-20 pick, and his elite cover skills would be a dream come true for the Eagles' needs.

    John Ross, WR, WashingtonIt may not be the smartest thing to go after a receiver early on considering the free-agent signings, but Ross would provide a home-run hitting option who would take the top off of defenses.

Trade Bait

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    Potential draftees aren't the only ones who find out where they'll be playing in 2017 over the course of a draft. It's also a time for teams to try to move misfits and heavy contracts off the books in exchange for draft capital.

    There's no secret that the Eagles have a number of players who they would benefit from moving. There are some players, like Mathews and Kendricks, for whom the team would likely take any form of draft pick just to move on and get an immediate return.

    However, the biggest value of any player potentially on the trading block would be from center Jason Kelce. The 29-year-old is a dependable starter, but his contract weighs heavily on the Eagles' tight cap and they secured a replacement option when they re-signed Stefen Wisniewski.

    Of course, it may not even take moving a current player for the Eagles to make some headway moving around the draft board. With two fourth-round picks, they are stocked with mid-round selections that could allow them to move up in the first round.

    Just as well, the Eagles may decide their best bet is to move down several spots, stockpile a few more mid-round selections and still get the player they're after in Round 1.

Resource Hub

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Nobody outside of those nestled in the Eagles' front office knows what to expect in terms of their approach in the draft, but the months leading up to the draft have given us plenty of time to explore every option.

    There will be time for second-guessing later, but our work diving into the Eagles throughout the pre-draft season has allowed us to put resources at your disposal to be as informed as possible when Philadelphia goes on the clock.

    It's not clear at all yet exactly where in the draft that the Eagles will choose to address their biggest needs, but it's clear as day what those needs are. While that makes identifying prospects easier, it adds a layer of difficulty in keeping the teams in front of you in the dark on what players you want.

    In the 16 months since the Kelly divorce, the Eagles have done an admirable job of fixing some of the issues created by his tenure and moving forward with a clear plan. But there's no doubt that the Eagles lack a lot of the personnel needed to execute that plan, and that's what makes this draft so critical.

    Immediate impact players at cornerback, running back and defensive end are a must for the Eagles, and if they don't address all of them early on, then they better have some serious moves ready for Day 3.

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