The 2013 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the new-look Philadelphia Eagles led by head coach Chip Kelly are looking to fill some major holes in the draft.
With the switch to the 3-4 defense, the Eagles could add a weak-side outside linebacker, a 3/5-technique DT, or a nose tackle. They also need to make at least one addition in the secondary, which is returning ZERO starters from last season. Offensively, an offensive lineman isn’t out of the question in the first round, as is a quarterback.
Now, these “rankings” don’t just take need and talent into consideration; it also takes whether these guys will be on the board when the Eagles select. Now, without further ado, here are the ten likeliest names to be next to the Eagles logo come the 2013 NFL Draft:
10. Barkevious Mingo (DE – LSU)
Barkevious Mingo, the first of six SEC prospects on this list, is a defensive end/outside linebacker out of Louisiana State University. An explosive, potential-laden outside rusher, Mingo is best suited as a 4-3 defensive end because of his somewhat “petite” size, if that word can be used to describe an NFL prospect, but many experts believe he can make the transition to OLB similar to Miami’s Cameron Wake.
That is the reason I have him so low on this list; while he could definitely transform into a great pass-rusher, he can’t play DE in the 3-4 and the Eagles already have two weak outside linebackers—Brandon Graham and Trent Cole—and Mingo can’t play strong-side, which makes him a one-trick pony in the 3-4.
9. Luke Joeckel (OT – Texas A&M)
Luke Joeckel is arguably the most complete prospect in the draft, featuring the skill set to replace Jake Long, Joe Staley, and Jason Peters as the league’s premier offensive tackle within a couple years. He’s mocked by many to the Chiefs at No. 1, however, which makes the likelihood that the Eagles draft him low. But just know this: if he somehow falls to No. 4, it’d be hard for the Eagles to pass him up regardless of whether they want Todd Herremans to play tackle or not.
8. Jarvis Jones (DE/OLB – Georgia)
Following the end of the 2012 NFL season, a lot of people pegged Jarvis Jones to the Eagles, especially after it was made clear that Chip Kelly was intending on switching to some form of the 3-4. Now, after he fell a little bit on draft boards and seemed to be off the Eagles’ radar, Jones announced after his Pro Day that he would attend a private workout with Howie Roseman and Kelly in Philadelphia.
Jones is clearly a talented defensive prospect. Despite struggling a little bit the workout portion (he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash), he did lead the nation with 14.5 sacks last season while at Georgia. The biggest question mark with him is that he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a very serious ailment causing narrowing of the spinal cord. The Eagles will be more cautious about using their first pick on him because OLB is a position where they already have a fair amount of depth and the risk associated with picking him might be too great to warrant the No. 4 overall selection.
7. Star Lotulelei (NT – Utah)
Coming into the offseason, the biggest need this team had defensively was nose tackle. They had a lot of hybrid 3-4 ends, outside linebackers, inside linebackers, and the like, but one thing they were missing was a big space-eater to clog the middle of the 3-4. For that, they signed former 49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga to a three-year, $12 million deal. But the story doesn’t end there; while the Eagles are paying him like a productive starter, whether he can actually be one is a completely different story. He struggled mightily against the run during his tenure in San Fran, the most important job for a 3-4 nose tackle.
And that’s why Star Lotulelei is in this position on the list. Lotulelei, who could technically play 5-tech in regular formations and NT in the nickel, was a very productive defensive tackle in college, with 5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss in 2012. The Eagles just paid pretty big money to reel in Sopoaga, then again, they do have a fair amount of cap space and Lotulelei is versatile enough to play 5-tech in non-nickel situations. It will all come down to how well Lotulelei graded out in Howie Roseman’s mind.
6. Geno Smith (QB – West Virginia)
The Eagles apparent fascination with Geno Smith confuses me, but since they are clearly considering Smith strongly at No. 4, he has to be pretty high on this list. In his senior season at WVU, Smith threw for 4200 yards and 42 touchdowns, completing 71.2 percent of his passes. The Eagles recently held a private workout with Geno, which is nothing special in and of itself, but owner Jeffrey Lurie attended the workout; the last time he did that, the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb in the 1999 draft. Smith has his flaws, including slow reads and sometimes sloppy footwork, but he is a young, mobile quarterback who could certainly run Chip Kelly’s offense.
For more on Smith’s scouting report, read this.
Then again, Kelly recently said that he doesn’t need a franchise QB for his offense to thrive. He called it an “11-on-11 game”, suggesting that QB isn’t the most important position to him. The Eagles already have three starting-caliber QBs on the roster, Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon, and Nick Foles. The position is not the most pressing on the team, which makes it even more likely that the team goes with a QB at No. 4. I don’t see the Eagles going with Smith, but it is certainly an outside possibility.
5. Chance Warmack (OG – Alabama)
Chance Warmack is hands down the most likely player on this list (besides maybe Luke Joeckel) to become a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL. So, why is he fifth on this list? Because adding the players who are ahead of him would make the team better overall.
But still, Warmack would be a great addition to an Eagles offensive line that is returning 3 injured starters this season. With Todd Herremans being paid like a tackle ($5.2 million per year), the team might not go after another offensive tackle in the draft, rather an OG to replace failed 1st-rounder Danny Watkins.
I recently profiled him here; basically, he’s your typical mauler. At 6’2″ he’s a little on the short side, but his 317 pounds more than makes up for it in the run game. He pushes any and all linemen back in the run game and is even good when he gets to the second level. He’s also reliable in the pass game, always backing up methodically and taking more aggressive DEs out of the play early. He would come in to Philadelphia and automatically make the Eagles offensive line one of the best in the NFL, along with Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Herremans, and Jason Peters, but he’s not versatile enough to play tackle, which makes him less valuable to the Eagles right now than he would have been otherwise.
4. Dion Jordan (OLB – Oregon)
Last year, people were debating whether the Eagles should select one of two defensive tackles, Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox. Poe was a workout warrior with great physical attributes but a poor collegiate record, while Cox wasn’t as strong or athletic but had played extremely well in college. The Eagles ultimately went with Cox, who has blossomed into a future All-Pro defensive tackle. Poe, meanwhile, didn’t do much with the Kansas City Chiefs in his rookie season.
Now, Jordan is not as much of a “workout warrior” as Poe, but a large part of his resume is his incredible combine performance. Yes, he has great athleticism, but his film tape doesn’t speak wonders about his game. He’s raw, I know, but he needs a lot of work on his pass-rushing and run defense. He’s fantastic in coverage, but gets taken out of the play too easily by patient offensive linemen and can’t shed any blocks in the run game. Also, OLB isn’t a huge need for the Eagles after free agency: they signed their starting SAM in Connor Barwin and have two weak-side OLBs/Predators in Brandon Graham (likely starter) and Trent Cole.
I just don’t see Jordan being higher on Roseman’s draft board than 1-3 on this list, but with Chip Kelly as the head coach, picking a guy from Oregon isn’t out of the question whatsoever.
3. Sharrif Floyd (DE – Florida)
When the Eagles went about rebuilding their 3-4 defense, they did a very thorough job. They added a strong outside linebacker—Connor Barwin—a nose tackle—Isaac Sopoaga—and four defensive backs. The one position, however, that is still up for grabs is the 5-tech DE position. Fletcher Cox could play there, but it is more likely that he plays 3-technique. The Eagles recently brought in journeyman Clifton Geathers from the Colts, but it is unlikely Geathers will do anything more than compete for a starting job.
With the news that the Eagles will bring in Floyd for an official visit, it has seemed likelier and likelier that the team will pay very close attention to Floyd when they pick at 4. Floyd is a big, aggressive lineman who has the quickness and explosiveness to put pressure on the quarterback in the 3-4. He also has long, strong arms, which allows him to slow down runners and lock up with offensive linemen, which is the primary job of a 3-4 DE. This allows inside linebackers to find holes in the offensive line and make plays behind him.
The Raiders (who select at No. 3) are interested in him, and the likelihood of picking him has risen now that they have QBs Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb lined up to replace Carson Palmer. If he does fall to the Eagles, however, he’ll be near the top of Roseman’s draft board because he both brings Pro Bowl talent and addresses a need.
2. Eric Fisher (OT – Central Michigan)
OT Eric Fisher is another prospect the Eagles have shown public interest in. They will be bringing him in for a visit sometime in the coming week.
The second-best OT prospect in the draft, Fisher has great athleticism, footwork, and patience. In the run game, he uses his athleticism to get out on pull/trap blocks which is a big part of the Chip Kelly offense, and in the pass game he is patient enough to let aggressive DEs take themselves out of the play (like Joeckel). He is also very versatile, having played both tackle positions and guard in his football career. That is something very valuable to this Eagles team which has a lot of uncertainty in the offensive line heading into the season.
But the guy who I think the Eagles will pick is…
1. Dee Milliner (CB – Alabama)
The Philadelphia Eagles secondary was really, really bad in 2012, and the front office recognized that. In free agency alone they added four defensive backs, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and Cary Williams. But the rebuilding is not done just yet; it takes more than that to replace all four starters from the previous season.
That’s where Alabama’s Dee Milliner comes in. For a more complete analysis of Milliner, check out our official player profile, but for now I’ll be concise: Milliner has elite NFL speed, and when you combine that with play-making ability with the ball in the air and uncanny physicality at the line of scrimmage, you have one heck of a corner prospect. He has his flaws (backpedal, run game), but even in his rookie season he’ll be a huge upgrade over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha and has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro within a couple years. The Eagles are also switching to a more man-oriented coverage system, which fits Milliner’s skill set very well.
Oh yeah, and the Eagles could trade down (to No. 8) to get an extra 3rd-round pick and still get him. That is value.
The Eagles need a playmaker in the secondary, and Milliner fits the bill. The fact that the Eagles’ secondary was so poor last year is what gives Milliner the nod on this list over Fisher, although both are likely 3- or 4-time Pro Bowlers.