The time between free agency and the NFL draft is the slowest portion of the NFL off-season. The free agent pool has been depleted, new rules implemented (sorry Marshawn), new logos created (looking good Miami), playbooks explored and re-written, all that is left is the final piece of the NFL personnel puzzle: the NFL draft. The Philadelphia Eagles will draft fourth overall in this year’s draft, and have eight other selections in addition. The Eagles have draft picks in each of the first five rounds, and four selections in the final round of the draft. With much help needed on the roster, and an abundance of quality picks in April’s draft, the Eagles will look to improve across the board starting in round one. But who are the Eagle’s targeting, and why? Here are a few players with first and second round talent who are rumored to be on Chip Kelly’s watch-list.
First round talent:
Geno Smith- A former Mountaineer and top QB prospect in this year’s draft, Smith would provide versatility to the Eagle’s offense, and his cannon for an arm has left no questions regarding arm strength. Smith would be a good fit specifically in Chip Kelly’s style of offense, a style that requires fluid versatility, quick decision making, all the while keeping up a frenetic pace. If the Eagles draft Geno here, Smith would be able to grow into a system without the pressures of being expected to start from day one. While drafting the former Heisman candidate so early may be a stretch, there is a possibility the Eagles plan for the future with their first rounder, instead of attempting a get rich quick style of draft management. Philadelphia has had enough of that particular strategy for sure. (See: Cullen Jenkins and Nnamdi Asomugha). While Geno Smith is clearly the best Quarterback on paper, there are some questions about his mental readiness. In his senior season, Smith threw for 42 touchdowns while throwing only 6 interceptions. Match that with a completion percentage over 70% and Smith stands alone at the top of this year’s crop of passers.
Sharrif Floyd- A monster of a defensive end, Floyd would give the Eagles significant depth on the defensive line, and cement Philadelphia’s front seven with quality starters at every position.If drafted by the Eagles, Floyd would line up next to new acquisition nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and last year’s rookie standout Fletcher Cox in Billy Davis‘s new hybrid 3-4 set. Either Floyd or other top defensive tackle Star Lotulelei would be a great addition to the new look Philadelphia pass rushing corps, but Floyd stands out because of his versatility, which is of the utmost importance in a 3-4 hybrid scheme like the one the Eagles are expected to run this season. Floyd has played both inside and on the edge, and would make an excellent weapon to add to Billy Davis‘s arsenal, whereas Loutelei is suited solely(lei) to a run stopping role in a 3-4 set.
Dion Jordan- Where Sharrif Floyd would add depth and talent to the interior of Philadelphia’s defensive line, Dion Jordan would be an equally effective weapon on the outside edge. As a former Oregon Duck, Dion Jordan is familiar with Chip Kelly, and his skill set fits perfectly as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme. At 6’6″, Jordan is a man-mountain with lightening quickness, but is his type of talent what the Eagles need at this particular time? With the addition of Connor Barwin through free agency, the Eagles now have three quality starters with edge rushing talent, but only two spots on the roster. Adding Jordan would create a quartet of edge rushers in Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and the aforementioned Barwin. While this depth would be a nightmare for opposing offenses, Philadelphia would be wise to focus on other areas of need so early in the draft.
Eric Fisher- Fisher will likely be the best tackle left on the board by the time the Eagles pick in round one as Luke Joeckel is likely to be made the number one overall selection by former Eagle’s coach Andy Reid. From Central Michigan, the former Chippewa would solidify the Eagle’s line as one of the best in football . Fisher is 6’7″ and weighs just over 300lbs, so size is of no question. If he makes it to fourth, Fisher would likely play right tackle, protecting either Michael Vick‘s blindside, or Nick Foles‘ strong side. If the Eagles choose to draft a tackle at number four, versatile all pro Todd Herremans would likely move back inside to guard, as position he has played numerous times in both his collegiate and professional career. While the need on the offensive line will surely be addressed via the draft, the Eagles would be wise to wait a round, as there is considerable depth of talent on the offensive line available throughout this year’s draft class. Rumors have also indicated that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking to improve on the offensive line with the second overall selection, so there is no telling if Fisher will be available by the time of the Eagle’s first selection.
Demarcus Milliner- A standout corner and veteran member of the NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide, Milliner combines superb speed with incredible ball hawking skills. The Alabama graduate’s 40-yard dash was timed at 4.38 seconds, and add that blazing speed to his impressively quick acceleration, Milliner is the best available corner in this year’s class. The premier defensive back would make the most sense of any of the players that the Eagles have visited with, as he would fill the massive void of talent at the QB position after the departure of both of last season’s starting cornerbacks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and his oft abused cohort, Nnamadi Asomugha. The tandem of free agent acquisition Cary Williams and Milliner would have the potential to be one of the NFL’s best tandems, and would help solidify the Bird’s shaky secondary.
Second round talent
Matt Elam- The former Florida Gator was praised by Eagle’s ring of honor member Brian Dawkins as the best safety in this year’s draft. Elam combines run-stopping ability with enough speed to cover all but the fastest wide receivers. Standing at about 5’10″ Elam’s 4.55 40-yard dash time makes him a perfect size fit for the safety position, and his aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage would fit well in Billy Davis‘s system. Elam had 76 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 interceptions last season with the Gators, a production level cementing him as one of the best safety talents in this year’s crop of defensive backs.
Menelik Watson- A former Seminole, Watson possesses the quickness to play in a Kelly style offense, and would fill a big hole on the offensive line for the Eagles. Watson has above average height and size, and matches those traits with surprising quickness. While Watson is better suited for a zone blocking scheme, his excellent pass protection cemented him as one of the top tackles in this year’s class. Watson needs some help regarding his run block ability, but the veteran experience on the Eagles’ offensive line could counteract his lack of in-game exposure.
E.J. Manuel- Perhaps one of the most under-rated passers in this year’s draft, Manuel has blazing speed for his 6’5″ frame, and is an excellent pocket passer as well. In four seasons at Florida State University, Manuel never recorded less than a 65% completion percentage, nor a passer rating less than 124.7, which was his freshman year. In his senior season, the former Seminole recorded just under 3400 yards passing, and threw for 23 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions all while recording a 68% completion percentage. Ej Manuel clearly possesses the tools to succeed as a professional, and if he has time to learn an offensive system, Manuel could be throwing passes instead of flaming spears. Recent reports have speculated that Manuel could be drafted earlier in the first round. This scenario is feasible, think of Ryan Tannehill‘s value in last year’s draft, the Dolphin’s second year gunslinger’s stock rose drastically as other team’s with needs at.
Zach Ertz- Ranked as the second best tight end in this year’s draft, Ertz is a reliable receiver who can use his 6’5″ frame to separate himself from corners because of his size. Ertz shows excellent quickness for his size as well, and is ranked as one of the top route runners coming out of college. Furthermore, Ertz also has shown little fear going over the middle, an excellent competitive spirit, and the kind of speed and endurance needed to play for a coach like Kelly, who is familiar with the former Cardinal as Oregon suffered its only loss against Stanford last season. Ertz would be a massive upgrade over the underwhelming Brent Celek, and run blocking talent, Clay Harbor.
Jamar Taylor- A 5’11″ corner from Boise St. Taylor is an NFL ready prospect with good size and quality speed. Taylor ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, and has excellent field awareness. Taylor would be a good compliment to Cary Williams in the Eagles system, as the two would become one of the fastest defensive back tandems in the NFL. Taylor will also appeal to Billy Davis‘s aggressive tendencies as he is more than capable tackler who plays the run well. There is a significant change the Eagles draft Dee Milliner in the first round, but should they opt to go in another direction, Taylor could be a great value talent in the second round.
No one knows how the events of April 25th will play out. The Eagles could very well trade down and accrue more picks, missing out on Jordan and perhaps Milliner, yet stockpiling for the future. Chip Kelly could choose Geno Smith, and become an instant media target in Philadelphia (see Juan Castillo or Reid, Andy). Regardless of what the draft will entail, Kelly’s future in Philadelphia looks bright, and a successful draft could bring a competitive future closer than one might expect. Faced with a soft division and the implementation process surrounding Kelly’s new system, Philadelphia could put a competitor on the field in the near future with some deft choices in the draft. As for now, we wait for Roger Goodell’s announcement on the night of April 25th.Tags: acquisitions, Andy Reid, Brandon Graham, Brent Celek, Chip Kelly, Clay Harbor, Connor Barwin, Dee Milliner, Dion Jordan, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, EJ Manuel, Isaac Sopoaga, Jamar Taylor, Juan Castro, Luke Joeckel, Matt Elam, Menelik Watson, Michael Vick, NFL, NFL Draft, Nick Foles, Nnamadi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles, players, prospects, Roger Goodell, Ryan Tannehill, Shariff Floyd, Star Loutelei, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Zach Ertz