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.