It’s been a rough month for the Eagles, with a late season losing streak, worrying front office shake up, and Cowboys playoff run. All that said, we seem to have made it to the offseason relatively unscathed with plenty of optimism for the future. So we are on to the draft! With Chip firmly planted in the drivers seat, it should be an interesting process to watch and predict. Here are some college players you probably just saw flying around in bowl season that I think are on Kelly’s short list as potential future Eagles.
Trae Waynes 6’1” 182lbs CB Michigan State
Cornerback is obviously a huge need for the Eagles with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams being huge liabilities on the outside. Fletcher is an impending free agent that will reportedly not be re-signed and Williams will very possibly be cut due to his exorbitant cap number in 2015. Enter Trae Waynes, the rangy athletic MSU product that is probably the best cover man in the draft.
He has a perfect frame for what the Eagles have said they want at corner at 6’1” with long arms to cover the NFL’s bigger receivers. Not only is he tall, but knows how to use his size. He’s incredibly aggressive when the ball is in the air and will not back down when jockeying for position. That being said, he doesn’t grab too much and is very fluid and athletic as he mirrors his man down field. Adding to his excellent coverage ability, he is aware and aggressive against the run. The only concern in his weight, but he doesn’t play like he’s 182lbs and could add weight once he gets to the NFL.
PJ Williams 6’0” 196lbs CB Florida State
A lot of the logic here piggybacks off of the Trae Waynes reasoning. Williams is another tall, rangy, athletic corner. Not quite as long and aggressive in coverage as Waynes, but a bit bigger in the run game. Williams is probably a more well-rounded corner, but not quite as good in coverage as Waynes. Either one would be a great addition to an ailing secondary.
Offensive line is a sneakily high position of need entering 2015. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, and Todd Herremans are three of the twelve oldest offensive linemen in the NFL (as highlighted by Jimmy Kempski earlier this year). Peters and Mathis probably have at least a year or two of high level play left but Herremans is coming off a serious injury and has to be seen as somewhat uncertain entering next year. Additionally, we saw how sudden and costly offensive line injuries can be this past year. It’s not the sexiest pick, but a young and talented offensive linemen can do wonders for a franchise (ask the Cowboys).
La’el Collins is a big, powerful, versatile, athletic player who I think is extremely underrated. He has the frame and ability to play either tackle or guard, so maybe he starts at guard for a year or two and then kicks outside later on as need dictates. Collins is an absolutely mauler in the run game, with the ability to pancake smaller rushers and anchor against larger defensive linemen. He also has the athleticism to pull and slide at tackle, performing admirably all year for LSU in that role. He answered a lot of questions with his pass blocking ability as well, showing all the talent and technique needed to hold up against the best that college football had to offer. A young nucleus of Collins, Johnson, and Kelce with some veteran talent around them could form the engine of Chip Kelly’s offense for years to come.
Eric Kendricks 6’1” 230lbs ILB UCLA
Picture this in your best Merrill Reese voice: “IT’S A KENDRICKS FAMILY REUNION AT THE QUARTERBACK!”. Yep, Mychal’s brother. Little bro Eric could be the perfect addition to our linebacker group as Demeco Ryan’s status for 2015 remains up in the air. He is athletic, aggressive, and instinctual. Very stout against the run with the ability to move all over the field and cover backs and tight ends. Eric and Mychal could form a tremendously exciting duo in the middle of an emerging front seven.
Arik Armstead 6’8” 290lbs DL Oregon
The Eagles currently have a plethora of young talent on the defensive line. However, with the pace of Chip’s offense, they need to keep that rotation deep and fully stocked at all times. Armstead is somewhat of a project, but has frightening athletic ability. He and Fletcher Cox could be the bookends we need up front to both stop the run and get after the QB from the interior. Plus, Oregon bias!
Cody Prewitt 6’2” 217lbs S Ole Miss
Malcolm Jenkins needs a true compliment at safety and I don’t think that player is currently on the roster. Prewitt brings fantastic size to the position and uses it as a great physical tackler. He also lead the SEC in interceptions this past year with six from a center-fielder/zone position while demonstrating great awareness and instincts. He has decent straight-line athleticism, but ultimately has not been asked to cover receivers. I think Billy Davis could find a place for him in our secondary.
As the draft continues to near, the dust continues to settle from free agency. Of course, the Eagles did not sit on their hands. We saw them bring in a handful of solid players at a good cost to keep the cap flexible and fill holes. The Desean Jackson situation is probably still far from over, but seems like it will be fairly linear from this point on. The league is now turning its full attention to the 2014 NFL Draft and the Eagles are no exception as they look to build on last years success and overcome new obstacles.
Round 1- Kony Ealy OLB/DE Missouri 6’4” 273lbs
One of Chip Kelly’s core philosophies is versatility. He does not want players that are pigeonholed into a single role. NFL defenses are playing less and less in their “base” defense and are frequently utilizing “sub” packages such as nickle and dime (more defensive backs, less big guys up front) as teams put more receivers on the field in an attempt to stretch out defenses. Ealy has the exceptional ability to stand up and rush the passer or set the edge in the run game from the OLB position, and then come down and play DE when the Eagles want to get faster in obvious passing situations. His uncanny combination of size and athleticism are hard to find and could be a tremendous asset in the front 7.
The two players he has been commonly compared to are Aldon Smith (same college, similar role) and our own Trent Cole. Even though the Eagles are transitioning to a 3-4, they still run a sort of hybrid that saw Trent Cole playing with “his hand in the dirt” as a traditional 4-3 DE in the base defense on occasion. Ealy played from both stances in college and excelled at both, giving Billy Davis even more versatility. However, some question his explosiveness at the next level to truly edge rush. Josh Norris of Rotoworld has done some great work on which combine drills best predict success and the 3-cone for edge rushers/defensive lineman is one of them. Well, Ealy posted the best time of all defensive linemen and a top 10 performance since 2006. This puts him in a class with Von Miller, Clay Matthews, Connor Barwin, JJ Watt, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, and Barkevious Mingo among others. He’s got the talent, size, athleticism, and versatility to be and absolute wrecking ball up front in midnight green.
Check out the full Norris article here if you want: http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/46290/351/norris-nfl-combine-preview
Round 2- Allen Robinson WR Penn State 6’3” 220lbs
It will be no surprise if the Eagles go WR early in the 2014 draft, and it is not out of the question they get their guy in the first round. However, I like the value of grabbing a local guy like Allen Robinson in the second round. Robinson put up major production in college, setting many school and conference records at Penn State. He also posses almost ideal size, sporting a great catch radius and the ability to go up and get it over defensive backs. These two factors have made the analytics/measurables crowd salivate.
The knock on Robinson is his speed. He put up a less than impressive 4.60 40 time at the combine, and lacks elite NFL speed. He would be far from a direct replacement for Desean Jackson, but would rather bolster our WR corps in a more traditional way. Jeremy Maclin and Riley cooper are a middle of the road 1-2 punch at best, but adding Robinson to the equation would make it a very solid unit. The Eagles commonly played with three receivers on the field in 2013 and right now would be putting some combination of Jeff Maehl, Damaris Johnson, and Arrelious Benn out there as the #3. Robinson does however move very fluidly in space and can be deceptively quick in-game. He’s by no measure “slow” and has potential to develop into a great receiver.
Round 3- Jordan Tripp LB Montana 6’3” 243lbs
Two linebackers in the first three rounds? Yep. LB is arguably the most important position in the 3-4 defense and both Trent Cole and Demeco Ryans will in all probability be cap casualties after 2014. Tripp is an extremely versatile ‘backer who can play inside and outside in the 3-4. He is a smart player who can diagnose and attack against the run, cover tight ends and backs with ease, and rush the passer when asked. Tripp is also the type of long rangey athlete Chip Kelly covets on defense. He is by all accounts a team player and should fit what the Eagles are trying to do tremendously. I love him as a 3-down ILB that can play tough against the run, get after the QB when needed, and stay on the field in passing situations to cover and play in space comfortably. Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are probably entrenched this year but Tripp could contribute on special teams while he develops and rotates in on passing downs until he gets his chance to start.
Round 4- Dion Bailey FS USC 6’0” 201lbs
Finally, some secondary help. Bailey played a mix of OLB and FS in college but clearly projects as a FS in the pros. However, that LB experience comes in handy because he is outstanding at reading and reacting to the run game. He is not a hammer however and usually looks to try and wrap up the ball carrier instead of looking for the big hit. Like Tripp, he is a very smart and team oriented player. Additionally, Chip has even played against him multiple times. He has good but not great size and possess the ability to cover but hasn’t been a shut-down player in that role. The Eagles could be an ideal landing spot for him because he would have the ability to compete and start right away but would not be thrust into it if he wasn’t immediately ready.
Round 5- De’anthony Thomas OW Oregon 5’9” 174lbs
Here’s the sexy pick that every Eagles/Oregon fan has been dreaming about. “The Black Mamba” possesses one of the most eye-popping highlight reels in college football and has absolutely electrifying ability. He brings elite speed and agility to the table and can immediately make an impact in the return game while he develops as a change of pace back and slot receiver. I see the Darren Sproles acquisition as an indication that Chip wants players like this and Sproles is basically the master of what many want Thomas to become. The only reason he falls this far is his inability to hold up as a feature back, his somewhat lackluster combine, and the emergence of Dri Archer as the top freak athlete/undersized burner in this draft class. Chip knows exactly how to utilize his unique skillset and is currently in need of a new big play speedster, DAT could be a perfect fit on day 3 of the draft.
Round 7- Isaiah Crowell RB Alabama St. 5’11” 224lbs
The final round of the NFL draft is a literal dart board. The team could go a number of different directions here including adding depth to the offensive or defensive lines but I think they could be looking to add the next big thing at RB. Crowell is an outstanding runner with some off the field questions. He had some minor drug run-ins and has been questioned for not playing through injuries. He started his freshman year at Georgia and looked like an absolute beast. But his off field issues ended up landing him at Alabama St where he tore through lesser competition. He possess a near elite combination of speed, elusiveness, and power. The Eagles are very clearly building their offense on the run game with superstar Lesean McCoy. As we’ve seen though, the NFL is extremely volatile and anything can happen. This is even more pertinent for running backs. Stockpiling talent at the position is key for running teams, just look at what Seattle and San Fran are doing. It makes a lot of sense to have the next playmaker coming up the pipeline with a cheap 7th round flyer.
The combine and free agency are fast approaching and the offseason is here to stay for six more months. Many things will change between now and May 8th when the Eagle’s go on the clock at pick 22 in the NFL Draft, but lets take an early look at one scenario for the 2014 draft. I go seven rounds deep and examine some players that are sure to be prominent on the Eagle’s big board. In this mock they add 3 physical and talented defensive playmakers, 3 Oregon products, and one wildcard.
Round 1- Kony Ealy OLB 6′ 5” 275
Kony Ealy is one of the most interesting prospects of the draft, and could be the long term marquee pass rusher that the Eagles need. First thing that jumps off the page is his massive size for an OLB and his freakish athleticism with a frame that was built to play football. At 6′ 5” 275, he would be just about the biggest starting 3-4 OLB in the NFL. But we all know Chip Kelly’s philosophy on that matter and he has the explosiveness and movement skills to play the position. The two most common player comparisons scouts have given him are Aldon Smith (physically dominant, same school, same position) and none other than our own Trent Cole.
This year at Mizzou, Ealy lined up mostly as a 4-3 DE with his hand in the dirt. This could make him a perfect fit for Billy Davis’s hybrid scheme. Trent Cole is very probably the starter going into next year but he isn’t getting any younger and is due eight figures in 2015. Ealy would be the ideal replacement to work in behind him and learn how to truly edge rush as an OLB, as he is just starting to scratch his physical potential. Philadelphia would be the ideal situation for Ealy, and he could be a truly dominant force in our front seven for years to come.
Alt- Justin Gilbert CB
Round 2- Deone Bucannon SS 6’1” 216
Safety is the most glaring need on the Eagle’s roster with unproven Earl Wolff as the only lock going into 2014. Enter Deone Bucannon, a hulking playmaker in the secondary. The PAC-12 star is possible the most physical safety in the draft. He plays like an absolute enforcer in the defensive backfield and has a penchant for laying huge hits with his great size. He is a great athlete with surprising speed and agility, our own Jimmy Kempski saw him at Senior Bowl weigh-ins and said that “his muscles have muscles”. Bucannon also plays a good number of his snaps in the box and excels against the run. He is never afraid to law down the law on anyone, no matter where they are on the field.
All that being said, I think he has very underrated coverage skills. He is not the type of safety that will end up being a liability when asked to cover a TE or play a deep zone. This part of his game needs some work but he is very sneaky in this role and could develop those abilities greatly at the next level. Deone Bucannon represents everything the Eagles have been so sorely lacking in the secondary in recent years and could be an instant starter and impact player in 2014.
Alt- Jeremiah Attaochu OLB
Round 3- Pierre Desir CB 6’1” 205
Desir is a small school prospect from good ole Lindenwood. Never heard of it? Me either. That being said, he is an outstanding (but raw) cornerback prospect. As always, he has the size that Kelly and the rest of the NFL now covets. He reportedly runs a 4.46 40, and absolutely has the coverage skills to hang at the next level. As with all small school prospects, his biggest knock is him playing against inferior competition. With Desir however, this is much less of a factor. He performed admirably at both the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl. Him being able to show up and excel against big school talent at both of these all-star games is an extremely encouraging sign.
Once again, Philadelphia is an ideal landing spot because he can learn and work in behind veterans Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher this year with no pressure to start right away. Desir has displayed the physical tools and coverage instincts to play in the NFL, and could be an ideal fit for Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. Along with Ealy and Bucannon, Desir would be the third injection of big, physical talent at three different positions on the Eagle’s defense.
Alt- Donte Moncrief WR
Round 4- De’anthony Thomas OW 5’9” 176
Here’s a serious change of pace in this mock draft. DAT is the first offensive, sub 6′, sub 200lb player here but he more than makes up for it. The absolutely electrifying Oregon product has been making highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play and is one of the most dangerous players in college football, and a D1 All-American sprinter to boot. He was a cornerstone of Chip Kelly’s game at Oregon and will absolutely be on the Eagle’s radar in the mid rounds.
The “Black Mamba” has off the charts athleticism and could step in as an instant impact player returning kicks and punts as he develops as a receiver and running back. Eventually, he projects as a Darren Sproles type and can be the next playmaker up after Desean and Shady in the Eagle’s offense as Chip finds creative ways to move him around the formation. The only reason he will drop this far in the draft is that undersized speedy playmakers (See- Tavon Austin) never seem to translate to the NFL, and he is coming off a knee injury. His draft stock is one of the most volatile in the 2014 class with projections from the 1st to the 7th. However, the sky is the limit for Thomas and no one knows how to set him up for success better than Kelly.
Alt- Terrance Mitchell CB
Round 5(1)- Josh Huff WR 5’11” 205
How about another Chip Kelly recruit? The scrappy Oregon product projects as an excellent 3rd/4th WR for the Eagles in 2014. He is a prototypical NFL slot receiver with great short area speed and sharp, shifty route running. Pair that with great hands and a heavy dose of toughness and Huff could be the ideal replacement for aging Jason Avant. He had very good production at Oregon but has always flown under the radar, he’s the kind of player that is always gonna try and make a play with the ball in his hands.
With impending free agents Maclin and Cooper, and Jason Avant a possible cap casualty, the Eagle’s WR corps are murky at best entering 2014. I would be very surprised if they don’t draft a WR and Huff makes a lot of sense in the mid rounds.
Round 5(2)- Logan Thomas QB 6’6” 265
A quarterback? What? Yep. Nick Foles has undoubtedly earned his shot to be “the guy” and every indication is that he will succeed. However, he is still young and liable to regress. With Mike Vick probably leaving and Matt Barkley looking like a career backup, another young player at the position makes sense. Thomas has been described as having “Cam Newton-like” physical tools and could be an excellent pet project for Chip Kelly sitting behind Foles and Barkley. Coming out of high school, he was the top TE prospect in the nation but played four years of QB at Virginia Tech. Worst case scenario, he plays special teams and works in as a gadget formation QB like Brad Smith attempted this past year. Regardless, Chip will find a place for this athletic specimen one place or another.
The reason he falls this far is because he is extremely inconsistent as a passer and has wild mechanics and poor accuracy. Can it be fixed? Maybe, but it wasn’t in his four college years. He remains an interesting athletic prospect, and unlocking his great potential could be a great developmental project for Chip Kelly in the coming years.
Round 7- Colt Lyerla TE 6’5” 240
Lyerla is one of the most talented tight ends in the entire draft and would be a top 64 selection if it wasn’t for his wild off the field issues. Chip recruited him to Oregon and he excelled in the offense in 2012 as a TE/RB offensive weapon. He is a true physical freak and the sky is the limit as he develops as a route runner. However, in the 2013 season he quit the team and was then arrested for cocaine possession. His nickname around campus was “Coke” Lyerla and he has expressed some radical views on social issues and generally exhibited out of control party behavior.
My philosophy is that in the 7th round, you have to shoot for upside. Worst case scenario is the coaching staff deems he isn’t ready for the NFL and he is cut in training camp. Teams cut their 7th rounders all the time. He has been reportedly clean and working out hard at a private facility for the draft while trying to turn his life around. Teams will surely balk at a history of rampant drug abuse and character concerns after the Aaron Hernandez situation, but I believe there is no better coach for him than the coach that recruited him at Oregon (and held him stable and productive for all his years there). Lyerla’s concerns seem to be a partying college kid more than a serious personality disorder to me, he is absolutely worth a shot in the last round of the draft.
In this post, I will give a general overview of some players all Eagles fans should keep an eye on for the upcoming 2014 draft in the first 2 rounds. I chose not to present any metrics or tape breakdown here, though I encourage you to check that out if you are interested. I rather seek to let the more casual fan know what kind of player they are and why we would be interested in them. I look at twelve players total, broken down in to 6 pairs of Optimistic, Realistic, and Safe for the first two rounds. Enjoy!
1- Ra’shede Hageman DT
Chip Kelly’s philosophy of “big people beat up little people” will be a prevalent theme here and throughout the offseason. Believe me when I say, Hageman is a BIG person. At 6’6” 318 pounds, Hageman could be the Eagle’s long term answer at NT. Bennie Logan has shown promise but does not have the power to hold his own at NT on running downs and would be better served at DE. To go along with his size, Hageman possesses freakish athleticism. He puts it on display time after time on tape and is expected to post “Watt like numbers” at the combine (he can reportedly 360 dunk a basketball). Chip Kelly should be immediately drawn to a physical specimen like Hageman to anchor the Eagle’s defense going forward.
2- Darqueze Dennard CB
The Eagles need help in the secondary, that is no secret. Dennard could be just what the doctor ordered. At just a shade under 6′, he plays extremely physical and excels at press man coverage. He can also be expected to play on an island, a highly valuable trait for a corner back. Dennard is also an enforcer in the run game and is never afraid to initiate contact. This powerful, relentless, physical play from the secondary could be just what Philadelphia needs to turn around their struggling secondary.
1- Justin Gilbert CB
Justin Gilbert is a fantastic prospect at the corner back position. At 6′ tall, he possesses the size Chip Kelly covets and has the play to back it up. He is an extremely fluid and athletic player in coverage, though not quite as physical as Dennard. He is also an exceptionally talented kick returner, something that has been sorely needed for years in Philly outside of Desean Jackson. With his combination of size, coverage ability, and athleticism, Gilbert could be a perfect fit at pick 22.
2- Kony Ealy OLB
As one of the most intriguing physical prospects in the draft, Kony Ealy is sure to be on the Eagle’s radar. At 6’5” 275, he is truly a tweener between DE and OLB. He has the athleticism to move in space and rush the passer from the OLB position, but also has the frame and power to bulk up and play inside at the defensive end position. On the Eagles, he would probably (but not definitely) take over the Trent Cole role and primarily rush the passer. Cole turned it on down the stretch but is aging fast and has a huge, unreasonable cap hit next year considering his production. The Eagles need a long term marquee pass rusher and Ealy fits the bill. He has even drawn some Aldon Smith comparisons due to both attending Mizzou and playing the same role. There is no doubt Kelly and Davis will find the best way to unleash this beast and let him wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield.
1- Kelvin Benjamin WR
Finally, an offensive weapon for Chip Kelly in the first round. At 6’5” 235 with surprising speed and leaping ability, Benjamin has the physical tools to be an elite receiver in the NFL. He could be a perfect compliment to the speedier Desean Jackson as well as a sorely needed red zone threat. Benjamin is somewhat raw, but should have some time to develop in the Eagle’s WR corps. This selection will depend somewhat on what the Eagles do with impending free agents Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. I don’t see them resigning both of them and drafting a receiver in the first round. However, a trio of Jackson, Maclin, and Benjamin would be terrifying to opposing defenses for years to come.
2- Calvin Pryor S
Safety is the most glaring need on the Eagle’s roster and will almost certainly be addressed in free agency. Adding young, physical talent through the draft however is always a good idea. Pryor has the desired size at 6’2” 208 and is widely considered to be one of the most physical players in the draft. He can play either safety position and has the range and mental ability to play as a single high in the passing game, and the power to come up and pound against the run. Pryor has a penchant for big hits and is always looking to make a play, something we haven’t seen for years from the safety position. Outside of maybe HaHa Clinton-Dix, Pryor is the guy at safety this year.
1- Bradley Roby CB
Coming into the season, Roby was considered the top prospect at corner back after a stellar 2012 season. It is obvious that he still possesses the elite physical tools but just couldn’t put it together on the field this year and his draft stock as taken a tumble as a result. He would be a great value pick in the second round, and is close to the size Chip wants at 5’11” 192. He has elite speed and recovery ability in coverage and isn’t afraid to get physical at any point. Philly could be an ideal landing spot for him because he wouldn’t be expected to start right away and could jump into competition with Boykin, Fletcher, and Williams as he develops.
2- Cyril Richardson G
After this year, it may not seem like offensive guard is a need for the Eagles due to their stellar offensive line play this season. But once you take a look under the surface, it becomes obvious. Peters, Herremans, and Mathis are all on the wrong side of 30 and the chances of them staying healthy for 16 games lessens greatly. The Eagles need a long term solution at guard and Richardson is the ideal candidate. He is big, long, athletic, and powerful. An absolute mauler in the run game, you don’t not want to be in front of Richardson when he gets moving. His biggest problem is shuffling backwards and keeping balance on passing downs, but would be landing in an ideal situation to grow and develop behind a great unit as the next man up.
1- Jordan Matthews WR
Matthews, while somewhat light, at 6’3” 205 has near prototypical size at WR. He pairs that with great athleticism and well rounded hands, balance, and YAC ability. Matthews is really just a great all around wide receiver prospect that could be a steal in the second round. He had a somewhat inconsistent week at the Senior Bowl but still looked like the best wideout on the field. Paired with Desean and Maclin and/or Cooper, he could be a great option going forward for Nick Foles and has the potential to blossom into a future #1.
2- Kyle Van Noy OLB
Van Noy is a great all around linebacker. He is typically asked to rush the passer, and excels doing so from a standing position or with his hand in the dirt. However he can also play the run and cover tight ends with ease. He would be an interesting fit on the Eagles roster and would probably play more of the Barwin role long term rather than the pure pass rusher role that Trent Cole plays.
1- Jeremiah Attaochu OLB
The Eagles undoubtedly have their eyes on Attaochu, even going as far to single him out at the Senior Bowl. He is a great athlete with a high motor who could be a long term pass rusher. Attaochu has ideal size for the position and showed it with his onfield production this past season. He is one of the best speed edge rushers in the draft class who just has a natural ability for turning the opponent’s backfield into a mess.
2- Deone Bucannon S
Bucannon would keep with Chip Kelly’s tradition of drafting his old college opponents (he is from Washington St.) and is exactly what the Eagles need at the safety position. At 6’1” 216, he is an absolute enforcer who is always looking to make a big hit and set the tone in the secondary. He has very underrated coverage skills as well and would not end up being a liability if asked to play deep. He excels at coming up and playing against the run and would give the Eagles a much needed physical presence.