Now that the free agency dominoes have fallen, the NFL will now shift their collective focus to the premier event of the off-season, the NFL draft. The Eagles will draft in the top five for the first time since 1999, the same year Andy Reid chose Donovan McNabb second overall just after the Browns drafted Tim Couch. With a high draft pick comes a high salary, and thus necessity for grade A talent, and here lies the pressure for NFL general managers. The future of Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia tenure starts on April 25th, and his draft choice will influence his success rate for the entirety of his time in the city of brotherly love.
So who will be the first face of the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia? To answer this question, one must first analyze those drafting ahead of the Eagles, and their needs. Only three players will be selected before the Eagles have their shot, but who will those players be?
Kansas City Chiefs
With the first overall selection in this year’s draft, former Eagles’s head coach Andy Reid must address the needs of his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City has already addressed their largest need this off-season, quarterback. The Chiefs traded their second round selection this year, and a conditional third rounder to the San Francisco 49ers for Alex Smith, and released their former starter Matt Cassel. The Chiefs also re-signed left tackle Branden Albert by using their franchise tag, though rumors have indicated that he may be on the trading block, in fact every member of the Chiefs reported to off-season conditioning training Monday morning except Albert. Kansas City has needs on defense as well, especially on the defensive line.
Based on lack of depth on their roster, and the players they have targeted, the Chiefs will draft one of the following players, should they not attempt to trade down from first overall: OT Luke Joeckel, QB Geno Smith, Shariff Floyd DT, or Star Lotulelei DT.
By adding Joeckel, or alternate OT Eric Fischer, the Chiefs would cement one of the best offensive lines in football, and offer large support to one of the best speed backs in the league, Jamaal Charles.
Geno Smith would provide the foundation at QB for the Chiefs for the next decade, and with Smith on the roster, there would be no pressure for Geno to develop quickly, plus think of all the Mr. and Ms. Smith jokes that could be made?
If the Chiefs neglect their offense and decide to shore up their front seven, Shariff Floyd would be a great addition as he fits will in a 3-4 scheme. Doctors have also cleared Utah’s premier defensive tackle Star Loutelei for competition, so he will rocket back up the draft board. Loutelei has a heart condition which made many teams wary prior to his recent medical clearing.
Regardless of their many options, it is likely the Chiefs will choose the sure bet and take the best available talent, which would be Texas A+M graduate Luke Joeckel.
The next two teams drafting before your Eagles are the virtual punchlines of the NFL. Second on the list are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have so many needs I would have to incorporate some sort of spreadsheet to cover them all. As both teams need help in so many areas, and are both likely to be back in this same position next year, they would be wise to choose the best available talent, over what they may deem to be the best fit for their franchise.
The Jaguars already have two quarterbacks to experiment for this upcoming season, in former first rounder Blaine Gabbert, and former Dolphins second rounder Chad Henne. Both players have been informed by Head Coach Gus Bradley that their position will be an open competition going into training camp. Furthermore, with no definitive top talent QB in the draft this year, Jacksonville would be wise to create a foundation at another position, possibly on the defensive line.
Due to a surplus of talent, I believe the Jaguars will go with the best defensive talent available, either Florida’s Shariff Floyd or Utah’s Star Loutelei. The Jaguars would do well to add a building block to their defense, as they are far from a contender at this point.
Jacksonville has held visits with potential draftees: Joeckel, Fischer, Jordan, Floyd, QB E.J. Manuel, and WR Ryan Swope, though Manuel and Swope are second round value talent. If Jacksonville opts to bolster their run game, tackle Eric Fischer would be the best fit, as many believe him to be a top tier talent on the offensive line. Regardless, Jacksonville needs to improve across the board, and as those knowledgeable about the NFL know, improvement starts at the line of scrimmage, so Jacksonville will take Floyd or Loutelei here.
The Raiders recently completed a trade in which they sent compensatory picks to Seattle in exchange for the man without a home, Matt Flynn. The Raiders believe Flynn can find the same success as the man he used to backup in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers. Oddly enough, the Raiders have solidified a deal to send Carson Palmer to Arizona, before the Bengals even got a chance to use the second round pick they got in exchange for the beleaguered ex-Trojan. Palmer is a good fit in Arizona, but will the Pryor-Flynn mix in Oakland mean the bay-area is a likely landing spot for Geno Smith? I’m not so sure.
Oakland needs to get better on defense, specifically against the run, where they got absolutely bar-b-qued last year giving up a pedestrian 118 yards per game. Oakland has yet to set a defensive scheme in the upcoming year, so picking a player with scheme versatility is a must. Furthermore, they must get younger in the center of their defense. Thus, the Raiders will likely select the best available defensive tackle on the board. Should the Jaguars choose Fischer, the Raiders will have their choice of Floyd and Loutelei, but if Jacksonville picks one of the two, expect the other defensive center-piece to end up in Oakland.
Thus we return to the problem at hand. Who will be Chip Kelly’s first choice as Eagles head coach? And will said player have as much impact as McNabb did regarding Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia?
Prior to free agency, the obvious choice for the Eagles would have been Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan. But with the addition of Connor Barwin, and the depth the Eagles already have at defensive end, Jordan likely would only be a rotation player at the start of his career. With the current roster, Isaac Sopoaga will play nose tackle, with Fletcher Cox and Trent Cole alongside him rounding out the down linemen. Of the four line-backer positions, expect Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin to play outside, leaving Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans to fill out the front seven. Dion Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah could come into play here, as they would make an excellent fill in as an edge rusher in a 3-4 set. While Philadelphia may look for depth in the heart of their defense, this depth could come later in the draft. The Eagles may also consider DT Star Loutelei should he not be selected in the top five as another option. If the Eagles choose Loutelei or one of the other top defensive line talents, their front seven would be one of the deepest in football, yet leave the secondary exposed in a dangerous fashion.
Based on the Eagles other needs, at corner and safety, many believe the Eagles to be interested in other players than the former Duck, Jordan. Alabama standout Demarcus Milliner would be a great fit for the Eagles at number four, as the Birds must look to improve in the secondary via the draft. Drafting a corner at number four overall may be a reach, as other talent in the secondary could be found later in the draft, specifically in the second round with Florida safety Matt Elam. Philadelphia currently has Kenny Phillips, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and either Colt Anderson or Patrick Chung as potential starters in the secondary, so depth is needed, but the need may not be as urgent as the number four overall selection.
Philadelphia also has a need on the offensive line, at either right guard or right tackle, depending on where the versatile Todd Herremans lines up. Should Eric Fischer fall to number four, the Eagles would be wise to select him, though many believe he will not be available at number four due to Jacksonville’s lack of depth on the offensive line. Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Herremans should all be healthy in 2013, so expect a rejuvenated group of blockers around Michael Vick come September. While the addition of another all pro on the right side of the line would be beneficial, if may not be the Eagles primary concern in the draft.
Philadelphia has visited Geno Smith, Ezekiel Ansah, Dion Jordan, Eric Fisher, and are expected to visit with Joeckel and Milliner in the weeks leading up to the draft. Ansah falls into the same category as Dion Jordan in regards to the Bird’s first selection in that neither of them are really a desperate need at this point.
Based on team needs, who the Eagles have visited with, the spread of talent at various non-skill positions in the draft, and common wisdom, the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2013 first round draft pick should be none other than Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama.
Milliner had 80 tackles, 2 sacks and 5 interceptions in his career as a member of the NCAA Champion Crimson Tide, and his addition to the Eagles defense would make the other bullies from broad street’s defense one of the best in football; Assuming Chip Kelly and Billy Davis create an applicable scheme for the talent they acquired. By addressing the secondary in the first round, GM Howie Roseman would be free to address needs on the offensive and defensive lines in following rounds. The Eagles’ next selection comes at number 35, and their third rounder will be pick number 67. With three selections in the top 75, Philadelphia will be able to add talent in all three areas of need, the secondary, the offensive line, and the defensive line. With deft choices and an adequate vision of available talent, the 2013 Eagles could be closer to a contender than many would lead you to believe.Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Alabama, Andy Reid, Bradley Fletcher, champion, Colt Anderson, Davis, Dee Milliner, DeMeco Ryans, Dion Jordan, draft, Eric Fisher, Ezekiel Ansah, Fletcher Cox, Football, Gamble, Geno Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Kelly, Luke Joeckel, Mel Kiper, Mock Draft, NFC, NFL, NFL Draft, Oakland Raiders, Oregon, Patrick Chung, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Eagles, Roseman, Star Loutelei, Texas AandM, Tom Gamble