Who will NFL Commissioner Roer Goodell announce as the Birds' top pick?
Let me preface this post with a reference to last year, when I predicted that the Eagles would trade back out of the first round. Turned out the Eagles did the exact opposite and traded up 11 spots to grab defensive end Brandon Graham.
Howie Roseman, Andy Reid and the rest of the Eagles front office are pretty unpredictable. So why try? Because it's fun.
The draft will kickoff Thursday night with the first round in prime time. Before you sit down to watch, check out my predictions and sound off if you have other opinions:
- The Eagles will not take Jimmy Smith. Despite his talent, Smith has a whole host of alleged behavior issues. "Two abortions, aggravated assault, two minors in possession, three failed drug tests... that's a little excessive," an anonymous NFL personnel man told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Eagles have never drafted a player with that much criminal history. Yes, they took a chance on Michael Vick, but only after weeks of due diligence and a very low-risk contract. I don't see the front office taking that chance with their No. 1 pick. Plus, I think if the team were interested in Smith, they wouldn't have let all these rumors stand about him being their top interest. The media have largely anointed him as the Eagles pick, and I think the team is content to let that smokescreen stand.
- But the Eagles will take a top cornerback in the top few rounds. I have my eye on the second round crop, where the team could draft a player of similar caliber to Nate Allen, who they snatched with the 37th overall pick last year. Virgina's Ras-I Dowling sticks out as a possibility. Lots of talent, senior year lost to injury -- he's tailor-made for the Eagles.
- The Eagles won't pick at 23rd overall. They haven't gone with their assigned spot since 2006, which not coincidentally was their highest pick in a long time. With the Eagles consistently drafting in the latter half of the first round (26, 19, 21, 24 over the last four years), it makes sense to either move up to snatch a truly valued player (Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Graham) or drop back into the second round and get similar value at a lower price (Kevin Kolb, DeSean Jackson).
- At least two more linebackers in this year's draft plans, after the team snatched Keenan Clayton and Jamar Chaney in 2010. As I wrote about last week, there are only three linebackers who will definitely be around in 2011 -- Clayton, Chaney, and Moise Fokou. Even if you assume Stewart Bradley returns, that's just four players for six or seven spots.
- Less than 10 rookies. After taking 13 players last year and seeing three of those never take a single snap in 2010, the Eagles won't use all of their selections this year. Some of those picks will be packaged to move up in this draft or get future picks in 2012.
- No quarterback. Sorry conspiracy theorists, it just doesn't make sense for the Eagles to add another quarterback this year with Mike Kafka in place as a back up and plenty of veterans on the market. Plus, drafting another quarterback before trading Kevin Kolb takes away some of that leverage the Eagles have by arguing that they could just keep him.
- Correll Buckhalter 2.0. With Brian Westbrook admirably replaced by LeSean McCoy, the Eagles need a running back who they can develop to be the long term back up. Neither Jerome Harrison nor Eldra Buckley is that guy, but mid-round prospects like Hawaii's Alex Green, Cal's Shane Vereen, Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray or Oklahoma State's Kendal Hunter could be.
- Ignoring the defensive line? After heavily targeting pass rushers in last year's draft, the Eagles have a glut of young players along the defensive line. Outside of Trent Cole, none of them really stand out (especially with Graham's ACL injury). But you can't address every weakness and if the Eagles don't add a top d-lineman early, I could see them passing entirely in favor of additions along the offensive line and elsewhere.