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.