The 2017 NFL Draft is just over a week away. The Philadelphia Eagles, thanks to the trade that sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota in 2016, found their way into the first round. Ownership put extra emphasis on getting into the first round this year, since the draft will be help in Philadelphia for the first time since 1961.
After a frantic free agency period, the Eagles still have some holes to fill. Owner Jeffrey Lurie, VP Howie Roseman, and the Eagles are a traditionally good drafting team (the Chip Kelly era notwithstanding). They will look to plug those holes with the youth and promise that the NFL draft has to offer, starting with pick number 14 next Thursday.
Let’s examine some of the positions in need of an upgrade heading into next Thursday’s festivities.
Cornerback – It feels like we have this discussion every year. In recent seasons, analysts pinpoint the cornerback spot as a position of need for the Birds. In recent seasons, the Eagles have filled this position via free agency. And in recent seasons, it has not worked.
Since 2012, the Eagles have ranked in the bottom third in the league in yards allowed. Last year was a better year (13th), but starters Nolan Carroll (left in free agency) and Leodis Mckelvin (cut) are no longer on the team. If the season were to start today, Philly would be left starting second year player Jalen Mills and free agency afterthought Patrick Robinson.
The Eagles need to inject some youth into their secondary, and after focusing primarily on the offense in free agency, it’s time that Philly puts cornerback at the top of their list.
Potential Pick – Marshon Lattimore – First Round: Lattimore has the size, speed, and athleticism to hang with the best receivers in the game (two of which reside in the NFC East). He would be a no-brainer if he was available at 14.
Running Back – I’ve seen a lot of hype for Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook at number 14 for the Eagles, and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why. Running back, while not deep for the Birds, isn’t nearly as pressing as the cornerback slot is.
This is an incredibly deep draft for running backs, and there is recent success for running backs being drafted on Friday and even Saturday. Last year, five running backs drafted in the third round or later started at least one game for their team (C.J. Prosise (3rd), Deandre Washington (4th), Devonte Booker (4th), Paul Perkins (5th), Jordan Howard (5th). Three of them, (Washington, Perkins, Howard) are projected to start for their respective teams in 2017.
That being said, running back is still a position of need for the Eagles in 2017. A backfield threat is needed to take some pressure off Carson Wentz, and spread out opposing defenses. Ryan Mathews is not the answer. Darren Sproles is amazing, but he’s going to be 34 years old when the season starts. Wendell Smallwood is a nice piece, but hasn’t shown the Eagles anything to make them believe he is capable of being a featured back. If the Eagles go in this direction, it should signal the end of Mathews in Philadelphia.
Potential Pick – Alvin Kamara – 2nd/3rd round: Kamara is the epitome of the modern day back: a big physical runner who can catch passes out of the backfield. He can stop and start on a dime. He had some off-field issues in college, but if he gets his head on straight he can be a force in the NFL.
Offensive Line – Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys. Anywhere you look, these three teams possess offensive lines that rank in the top 5. The combined records of these teams in 2016? 36-12. The formula is simple: in today’s NFL, success starts from the lines and is built outward.
The Eagles didn’t have a bad offensive line in 2017, and they made some moves in free agency to shore up the offensive line. But you cannot have enough protection in the NFL. With Jason Peters (35), Allen Barbre (34), and Jason Kelce (29) getting on in age, the Eagles would be wise to look towards the future when it comes to the O-Line.
Potential Picks – Ethan Pocic (C)- 3rd/4th round: He may be gone when the Eagles pick at 99, but his versatility and athleticism would be intriguing if the opportunity comes for them to pick Pocic up.
Antonio Garcia (OT) – 3rd/4th round: Another player that could be gone when the Eagles pick at 99, but if he is there, he would be an interesting option. He has crazy athleticism, but issues with his weight and his arm length leave a lot to be desired for an offensive tackle. He would be a project for sure, but his potential could be impossible to pass up.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know on Twitter @ZachBonanno