Some say Sidney Jones was the best cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft, right up until he fell victim to a torn Achilles at Washington's pro day. Just like that, a potential top-five pick's fortunes were dramatically altered, as multiple lists of prospect rankings immediately downgraded Jones to a second- or third-round choice.
Meanwhile, the Eagles' most immediate and obvious need is at cornerback, and Jones is a level of prospect the club previously may not have gained access without making a trade. Instead, the two-time All-Pac-12 defender will undoubtedly be on the board at No. 14, though his availability when the Eagles are up again in round two (No. 43) is far from assured.
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All of which begs the question: at what point should the Eagles consider taking a chance on Jones?
We reviewed three cornerbacks who the Eagles could target with the 14th-overall selection in the draft, but aside from being healthy, none grade as a superior prospect to Jones. Should an injury -- even something as significant as an Achilles tear -- degrade a player's stock to the point where lesser athletes become more realistic options?
For what it's worth, despite the gaping hole at cornerback, that's not necessarily where the Eagles are going in the first round. In fact, it may not even be the most likely direction. Regardless, if corner is even an option at 14, why wouldn't Jones merit some consideration?
This is a prospect who's drawn comparisons to two-time Pro Bowl selection, 2015 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and former college teammate Marcus Peters. Jones racked up 21 pass breakups, 8 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles in three seasons for the Huskies, a nose for the football unlike any other top corner in the draft.
If healthy, Jones is a game-changer. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock still has him as the top corner in this class.
Clearly, the injury is a risk, although athletes recover from torn Achilles more routinely and more rapidly than ever before. That doesn't guarantee Jones will, too, but his doctors are optimistic. Due to the timing of the tear on March 11, Jones was informed he has a shot to be on the field and contributing in 2017.
That still may not be a chance worth taking at No. 14. Then again, if the Eagles don't, somebody else likely will -- perhaps even an NFC East rival.
Whether it was done knowingly or not, the Cowboys sort of raised the stakes with injured prospects in the NFL draft last year. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was set to be a top-five pick as well before a devastating knee injury struck during his final college game. With multiple tears and nerve damage to the knee, some felt Smith would never play football again.
The Cowboys swooped in at No. 34 in the second round and took Smith well before anybody thought was possible. And while it's impossible to say at this point how that worked out, and Smith spent the entire year rehabbing his injury, the Cowboys are confident he'll be on the field in 2017.
Jones doesn't even have what is believed to be a career-threatening injury. He's expected to recover, possibly even play this coming season. After the Cowboys stunned the league last year, it's hard to imagine Jones makes it back around to the Eagles at 43. He may not even make it past the Cowboys at 28.
Which presents a dilemma for the Eagles with their first-round pick. Jones was understandably dropped down many boards for medical reasons. The Eagles don't necessarily need to take a cornerback with their first choice, either, as there will be plenty of good prospects in round two or later.
Yet, there's a very real possibility that Jones will be the best corner available to the Eagles, and at 14, maybe even the best talent overall. Conventional wisdom would suggest avoiding injured athletes with such a valuable pick in the draft, but how could it not be tempting?
If Jones is somehow still around in the second, it's a no-brainer. If the Eagles pass in the first, nobody can blame them. Of course, somebody is going to get an amazing prospect at a bargain price. Why shouldn't the Eagles?