The 2014 NFL Draft is just a few short days away now and all the maneuvering and positioning is sure to reach a fever-pitch by day’s end, particularly for the Eagles whose many off-season moves have placed a great deal of pressure on the front office to get it right. The shrewd acquisition of Darren Sproles (Philly traded its second 5th round pick for Sproles) this offseason has left the Birds with just six picks in this year’s draft, but one of the deepest player pools in recent memory should provide Jeffrey Lurie and company plenty of opportunity. That said, here is a look at a couple possibilities for each pick.
Round 1 (Pick #22) CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech/WR Odell Beckham, LSU. The stunning dismissal of DeSean Jackson would seem to take priority here, but with so much depth at wideout in this year’s draft, addressing an equally thin secondary first makes good sense. The Eagles have the dubious distinction of finishing 2013 as the NFL’s worst secondary at 289.8 passing yards allowed per game. Fuller has the potential to be a lock-down corner and could be the most NFL-ready defensive back in the draft. But then again, if the opportunity to get one of the most dynamic play-makers available in Beckham presents itself, it should probably not be passed on. At an unofficial 4.31 in the 40, and added value as a solid kick-returner, Beckham could become even more of a threat than Jackson was.
Round 2 (Pick #54) WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt/S Calvin Pryor, Louiville. With Jackson gone, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are pretty much it on the outside, and Matthews fits the bill on variety of levels. At 6-3, 210 pounds and 4.46 in the 40, Matthews is a big body who also has the wheels to become the vertical threat Philly is now without. And his 112 catches for 1,477 yards last year at Vandy means he doesn’t drop very many. Calvin Pryor, meanwhile, is a heat-seeking missile of a safety and at 6-2, 207 he has the size needed to matchup with some of the league’s bigger receivers.
Round 3 (Pick #86) LB Christian Jones, Florida State/DT DaQuan Jones, Penn State. Jones is one of those guys that should not be available this late in the draft, but likely will be because of such a rich talent pool. Jones goes 6-3, 240 and at 4.74 in the 40, he can lineup at either inside or outside linebacker, and still bring enough speed and quickness to slip into pass coverage without missing a beat. At 6-4, 332 pounds, DaQuan Jones could be that fireplug of a run-stopper Philly is lacking with their transition to 3-4 defense last season.
Round 4 (Pick # 122) CB Jaylen Watkins, Florida/DE Will Clarke, West Virginia. The Eagles have reportedly expressed serious interest in Watkins and understandably so. Watkins played both safety and corner with the Gators and he’s on the leaner side of the scale at 6-2, 187 pounds, but a scorching 4.41 40 time and kick return skills make him a strong candidate. Meanwhile, Clarke at 6-6, 271 pounds has the body of an NFL defensive end with the speed at 4.68 to also lineup at outside linebacker.
Round 5 (Pick # 162) OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami/DT George Uko, USC. The offensive line may not be a glaring need, but it is one of those positions that could always use depth. And at 6-7, 331 pounds, Hendersdon is a mountain of a man that excels at run-blocking. His lack of quickness, however, could be a detriment in trying to contain pass rush speed off the edge. Meanwhile, there is a lot to like about George Uko, specifically his versatility at 6-3, 284. His combination of size and 4.8 speed allows him to lineup virtually anywhere on the defensive line.
Round 7 (Pick #237) G Trey Hopkins, Texas/WR T.J. Jones, Notre Dame. Hopkins has experience at both guard and tackle so he fits in well with the versatility Kelly looks for in an Eagles player. And at 6-4, 300, there is a lot to like. Jones, meanwhile, could also possess the type of game that could minimize Jackson’s loss. On the small side at 5-11, 195 pounds, Jones had a productive 2013, catching 65 balls for 1,042 yards and his 4.4 speed and kick-return prowess would make him a good, late round steal.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat