Danny Watkins was the Eagles pick last year. Who will it be this Draft?
Last year at this time I made eight predictions about what the Eagles would do in the NFL Draft. Some of them were more conservative than others, and I missed on one of my biggest guesses -- saying that the team wouldn’t draft at their assigned first round spot. Still, I managed to get six of eight correct, and predicted the general thrust of the Draft rather well (linebacker and offensive line, not defensive line).
So I’m back again for another round of likely folly. Here are my predictions for what we will see over the next few days.
Carpet-bombing the defense: early and often. Big picture: all the talented young players are on offense. You can quibble with this if you want, since there’s no reason to give up already on guys like Brandon Graham or Nate Allen. Still, the defense needs more playmakers going forward, and the only way to do that is to spend at least three out of the Eagles' first four picks on defensive players. I expect the team to come out of the Draft with as many as half their picks going toward the front seven.
No rookie running back, no safety. Unless the Eagles fall in love with one prospect, I just don’t see much benefit in adding another young running back or safety. Both positions have a single open back up job and that spot really needs to be filled with a veteran whose only responsibility is to fill in this year if something goes wrong. Instead, watch out for an Ellis Hobbs-type trade for a marginalized veteran player.
One offensive lineman, maximum. Last year the Eagles snatched up three interior linemen to build out Howard Mudd’s new blocking scheme. If not for Jason Peters’s injury, I’m not sure they would have bothered drafting even one this year, but a long-term project at tackle now makes sense.
Chad Hall 2.0. Andy Reid loves the multidimensional ability that Hall brings to the offense so much that he’s willing to overlook his complete lack of NFL-caliber skills. I think the Eagles will draft someone like Florida’s Chris Rainey to return kicks and serve as a speedier x-factor on offense. Best case scenario, the team also gets its long-term replacement for WR Jason Avant with this guy.
Choir boys. Howie Roseman made some comments to reporters recently in which he seemed to flirt with the idea of taking more character risks. His actions over the last two drafts say otherwise. I expect the Eagles’ fascination with captains, seniors and consistent, big-school performers to continue (e.g. no Vontaze Burfict).
Michael Vick is still safe. With few good quarterback options beyond the early going in this Draft and with the whole organization focused on getting Vick back on track in 2012, there’s no good case to reach for a quarterback of the future. Trent Edwards is tremendously uninspiring, but his competition is likely to be either a late-round flier (Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore) or a veteran to be pursued later.
Surprise neglect of cornerback early on. With Asante Samuel gone, there’s plenty of room to go after Dre Kirkpartrick or another cover guy in the first round. But of the Eagles defensive spots, cornerback still has the most options. The team is heavily committed to Nnamdi Asomugha over the next few years and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a likely candidate for a contract extension. Curtis Marsh is the wild card. He made no impact in 2011, but was always considered a project with all the skills. Todd Bowles may not need another youngster.
At least 10 rookies. Last year one of my failed predictions was that the Eagles wouldn’t use all of their picks. But of course, they love drafting players and will probably end up trading back to add picks at least once.
I’m not making a prediction for the first round, although I already laid out what I think the Eagles are thinking. Fletcher Cox is the potential trade-up candidate, Luke Kuechly the likely front-runner if they stay at 15 overall. A versatile pass rusher like Melvin Ingram makes the most sense of the remaining players.
Of course our friends at CSNPhilly.com have LSU DT Michael Brockers dropping to the Birds at 15 with Cox going at No. 9.