A report from Browns analyst Mary Kay Cabot has the Eagles inquiring about the 4th overall pick, but it seems unlikely given that they don’t really have needs at the positions of the players who they’d use it for.
With the signing of left tackle Demetress Bell to fill the hole left by injured Pro-Bowler Jason Peters, the biggest need on the team seems to be a defensive tackle.
Reid has never been afraid to select a defensive tackle early in drafts, picking them in the first round in both 2005 and 2006—those selections were Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson—when the Eagles had a dearth of tackles. In 2008, when it seemed unlikely that either of the previous two would pan out, Reid again used his first pick on a defensive tackle, this time a second-rounder, selecting Trevor Laws out of Notre Dame.
It wouldn’t be out of the question for him to do it once again, and it would make sense given the state of the position.
Here is list of current Eagles’ defensive tackles, their 2011 production, and the state of their contracts:
|Player||2011 Stats||Contract Situation|
|A. Dixon||4 TKL, 0 SCK||1-yr, $1.93 million|
|M. Patterson||25 TKL, 2.5 SCK||5-yr, $24.9 million|
|C. Thornton||Practice Squad||1-yr, $.47 million|
|C. Jenkins||40 TKL, 5.5 SCK||4-yr, $23.5 million|
The Eagles also re-signed Derek Landri to a one-year deal, but again its only for a short time period.
Given Dixon’s injury concerns and Thornton’s inexperience, the Eagles depth at the position seems to be less than adequate. Jenkins was a nice pass rusher, Patterson has shown flashes of brilliance, and Dixon seemed a serviceable run-stopper in 2010, but the Eagles really need a hole-clogging, run-stopping giant for the future at the position.
Of course, the race for the top defensive tackle in this year’s draft class is now a two-horse race between Memphis’s Dontari Poe and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox. So, who should they select?
Poe may have struggled mightily during his tenure as a Memphis Tiger, but his stunning combine performances did a lot to bump up his draft stock. In addition, reports indicate that Poe visited the Eagles himself, which shows that Juan Castillo and Andy Reid are at least interested in the massive prospect.
The negatives that come with drafting Poe are somewhat clear. He is extremely raw, as his awareness and rush technique just don’t equate with his size and athleticism.
Dontari is often sealed out of running plays due to the fact that he over-compensates a lot, and his repertoire of moves is slightly predictable; he often uses the rip move, meaning that offensive linemen don’t necessarily have to account for any others like bull rush or swim moves.
In addition, he stands tall at 6’3″, which is somewhat of a problem for a nose/defensive tackle like him. The most successful defensive tackles hover around 6’1″ so that they don’t lose leverage battles. At Memphis, Poe often was pushed off the line because of his height.
On the flip side, Poe’s natural athletic ability is something that simply can’t be overlooked. Using his size and agility, he clogs up lanes, draws double teams, brings down runners easily, explodes off the line, can penetrate deep into the backfield, and has a strong motor. At 346 pounds, he ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times (4.98) of anybody that size.
And all of that comes with him being a natural leader, someone who would help rally a defense that hasn’t been the same since Brian Dawkins left in ’08.
The Eagles would be taking a moderate-to-large risk by selecting Poe in the first round. If he can really develop under the tutelage of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, he has the potential to be one of the better DTs in the league, similar to a Haloti Ngata. In fact, Poe actually had better 40-yard dash and bench press numbers that Ngata.
However, if he can’t develop, he could be a huge bust due to his being mistake-prone.
Fletcher Cox, on the other hand, had an excellent collegiate career playing for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, especially in 2011.
Even though he missed a game early in the season, Cox still finished in the top 20 among defensive tackles when it came to tackles for loss, with 14.5. He also had nearly twice as many tackles (56) and sacks (5.0) than Poe. The highly-touted junior elected to skip his senior season in order to keep his draft stock as high as possible.
Cox is obviously a much different player, seeing that he weighs nearly 50 pounds less than Dontari. He uses his quickness to explode off the line, get around the edge, and then penetrate and pursue rushers as they try to evade being tackled.
He is known for popping into offensive lineman hard, disengaging quickly, and getting deep into the backfield in order to make stops. His technique for getting out of trouble is excellent, and again his ability to make plays happen all over the field far exceeds that of Poe.
However, Cox does have his limitations. He isn’t nearly as big as the Memphis product; not only is it tough for Fletcher to clog up holes, but bigger offensive linemen and double-teams work extremely well against him.
This size disadvantage against Poe is something the Eagles really need to consider, seeing that their biggest priority at the position is someone who can stop runners near or at the line of scrimmage by simply blocking their path.
Cox, like Poe, has a ton of potential. If he can use the workout specialists the NFL has to offer, and bulks up a little, he could be as much of a run threat as Poe. However, until then, the most desirable facet of his game is still his pass rush/outside run defense.
So, given those scouting reports, who should the Eagles select at No. 15?
My heart yearns to say Dontari Poe, due to his ridiculous athletic ability, but I think Cox is more NFL-ready and has just as much potential. As you could see in the highlight reel, he is adept at making plays and adjusting on the fly, and size is something that will come quickly. Right now, I simply think he’s the best fit.