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.