With only a few days left until the 2014 NFL Draft, the unofficial climax of this year’s offseason, Eagles fans everywhere are anxious to see what Head Coach Chip Kelly will do in his second-ever professional draft.
Five weeks since releasing wide receiver DeSean Jackson in a high-profile personnel move, for which Kelly has been called anything from “arrogant” to “brilliant,” Kelly will have all eyes on him as the pro football world descends on Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 8.
Here is just one man’s take on what the Philadelphia Eagles will do this time around in the first few rounds:
1st round, Pick 22: WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)
Brandin Cooks told Philly.com last month that he can “do it like DeSean Jackson and do it better.” I do not necessarily disagree with the Oregon State product.
Cooks has an extremely similar style to Jackson; he’s undersized, listed at only 5’9 3/4″, 189 pounds, but he has blazing fast speed—he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash of any player at the combine—and a keen ability to make people miss in the open field. While he does not have the size to be considered a “matchup nightmare” for any cornerback, his impressive ball skills help make up for it.
After losing a small, speedy receiver who made big plays and opened up the field for his teammates, expect Kelly to grab a similar player with a lot of upside to help sustain his team’s high-octane offense in 2014 along with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
2nd round, Pick 54: S Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
Deone Bucannon is a hard-hitter who has a knack for playing the run. We know that. As the Eagles’ strong safety, he would be a force to be reckoned with the in the run game, and with his improved ball skills and NFL quickness, could be an extremely effective zone pass defender. There is a reason he had 114 tackles and 6 interceptions during his senior season at Washington State.
The knock on Bucannon, however, is his coverage skills against slot receivers or tight ends. He has often been criticized as slow to turn his hips in coverage and a guy who lacks great instinct in that area of his game.
As a coach who values versatility at the safety position, as evidenced by the Malcolm Jenkins signing, Chip Kelly would be hard-pressed not take Bucannon, even at 54. He has skills in both the pass and run game, and with some development in the slot as a cover safety, he could become one of more versatile safeties in the NFC. Pairing him early on in his career with Jenkins or a guy like Nate Allen will give him the experience and chance to develop that he needs.
With safety as high as it is on the Eagles’ list of needs, I do not see the Eagles passing up on this guy in the second round.
3rd round, Pick 86: LB Christian Kirksey (Iowa)
The Philadelphia Eagles could use some depth at the outside linebacker position; if they do not end up taking a game-changing pass rusher, which would be tough to do given their needs at wideout and safety combined with the scarcity of great pass rushers in this draft, a player like Kirksey is not a bad option in round three.
Kirksey is not a player who makes game-changing plays often, but he has great instincts, rarely makes mistakes, and can cover opposing tight ends extremely effectively. He does not have great size, but he rarely loses contain and takes direct routes to the ball to force backs inside.
His footwork is also very smooth in coverage, making him the perfect tool to use in nickel packages against opposing tight ends. He would make a nice complement to the Eagles’ current group of OLBs, namely Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, and Brandon Graham. In addition, Kirksey visited with the Eagles, one of the 30 they are allowed, leading us to believe Howie Roseman and Kelly are at least interested in the former Hawkeye.