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.