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Strategies for the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into the NFL Scouting Combine and Draft

The Philadelphia Eagles must ensure they don’t topple from title contention this offseason. Nick Sirianni executed his first staff firings as a head coach, however begrudgingly, to equip a deeply talented roster with upgraded schemes, and the organization enters the NFL Scouting Combine with the opportunity to supplement a core of key players who remain under contract for several seasons.

The Eagles hold the No. 22 overall pick, although there’s enough precedent to suggest that may change. They’ve only once used their own first-round slot since Howie Roseman reclaimed standard general manager duties upon Chip Kelly’s 2015 firing. Roseman’s pre-draft trades with the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints supplied the Eagles with top-13 selections DeVonta Smith, Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter leading into each of the last three playoff seasons.

If the Eagles stay put, it’ll be their latest first-round pick since 2019. It’s still a favorable spot to secure a quality starter, but the franchise hasn’t yielded much success drafting in the 20s in Roseman’s tenure. Of the five players Philadelphia drafted in that range since 2010 — Jalen Reagor (No. 21, 2020), Andre Dillard (No. 22, 2019), Nelson Agholor (No. 20, 2015), Marcus Smith (No. 26, 2014), Danny Watkins (No. 23, 2011) — only Agholor lasted the length of his rookie contract.

The Eagles don’t need to chase any particular position. They could very well address their biggest needs during free agency: cornerback, running back, linebacker. They could also benefit from adding another interior offensive lineman, safety and wide receiver. That leaves open several possibilities on draft day for a war room that currently includes nine total picks.

Who are the Eagles most likely to take in the first round? Here’s our first draft board, in which we break down 20 players who could make sense based on a variety of scenarios.

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Most likely to be picked at No. 22

1. Quinyon Mitchell, CB (Toledo)

Dane Brugler’s ranking: No. 11 overall, second CB

This is the prediction that played out within our first NFL beat writer mock draft, and it’s listed here for the same reason. Mitchell addresses the team’s immediate need to strengthen a secondary that surrendered the league’s fifth-most completions of 16-plus yards in 2023. James Bradberry’s regression aside, the Eagles can be proactive by securing an All-American who can play immediately under a rookie deal. Darius Slay is 33 and his contract expires after the 2025 season. Mitchell showcased his impeccable ball skills (six interceptions, 37 pass breakups in his final two seasons) against quality prospects at the Senior Bowl.

2. Cooper DeJean, CB (Iowa)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 23 overall, third CB

DeJean, who suffered a lower leg injury late last season, won’t participate in combine workouts next week. But the unanimous All-American may still climb the draft board when he tests later in the pre-draft process. His three pick-sixes in 2022 and punt return touchdown in 2023 complete the image of an all-around defensive back whose 6-foot-1, 203-pound frame benefits him against the run.

3. Jackson Powers-Johnson, C (Oregon)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 20 overall, first C

Once Jason Kelce retires, the Eagles will carry out their succession plan. While that’s been long assumed to involve sliding 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens over to center, it still leaves open a starting slot at right guard. Powers-Johnson just won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, but he did play guard in his first two seasons. Roseman, who often invests along both sides of the trenches, could create a position battle that sorts out Philly’s interior offensive line.

4. Laiatu Latu, Edge (UCLA)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 22, third Edge

Haason Reddick’s future with the Eagles is still under question. If Philadelphia finds a trading partner willing to take on the hefty contract of a two-time Pro Bowler who turns 30 in September, the team will immediately be in the market for another edge rusher. Latu is a powerful pass rusher and run defender who won the Lombardi Award as college football lineman of the year while leading all FBS players with 21 1/2 tackles for loss. He totaled 23 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons.

5. Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB (Alabama)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 29 overall, fifth CB

McKinstry is another corner with favorable length (6-1) and size (195 pounds), and an Eagles organization that’s drafted nine SEC players in the last three drafts won’t have any doubts about his ability to compete against top talent. Brugler writes that “his game is reminiscent of James Bradberry’s,” which would place McKinstry in both an interesting and useful situation while playing with Bradberry for however long in Philadelphia.

6. Nate Wiggins, CB (Clemson)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 25 overall, fourth CB

The Eagles might be picking a little high for Wiggins, but his quickness and proficiency to eliminate explosive passes (allowed only one catch of 20-plus yards in 2023) might manifest in impressive pre-draft workouts that help his stock climb.

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Unlikely to be there at No. 22, but a possibility

7. Jared Verse, Edge (Florida State)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 21 overall, second Edge

This possibility also follows the Reddick reasoning spelled out above, but it’s still not hard to imagine Roseman supplying the edge again for a pass rush that underperformed in 2023 by tying 19th in the NFL with 43 sacks. Such a selection would be even easier to rationalize if Verse, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound force who totaled 29 1/2 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in two seasons is somehow available at this slot.

8. Brian Thomas Jr., WR (LSU)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 14 overall, fourth WR

I don’t see the Eagles trading up for a wide receiver. Not with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith under contract. But just due to the sheer volume of proficient pass catchers in this draft, the Eagles might find themselves simply unable to pass up on the 6-4, 205-pound wideout who led the FBS with 17 touchdown receptions last season. Think newly hired offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can improve an offense that features Brown, Smith and Thomas?

9. Tyler Guyton, OT (Oklahoma)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 18 overall, sixth OT

The Eagles are certainly pleased with starting tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata. Johnson, a four-time All-Pro, just earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection and said “my whole goal is to retire an Eagle” after signing a four-year, $80.75 million extension that lasts through 2026. But it never hurts to acquire contingency plans behind a soon-to-be 34-year-old, especially if a draft flush with talented tackles drops a raw player like Guyton (who could use some development) in the Eagles’ lap.

10. Amarius Mims, OT (Georgia)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 17, fifth OT

The same thinking applies here. Mims, like Guyton, is another 6-foot-7 behemoth who will weigh in around 330 pounds and possesses the kind of exceptional footwork and body control that could ensure star quarterback Jalen Hurts has high-quality protection for several seasons to come.

Might make more sense with a trade-up

11. Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 5 overall, first TE

When Bowers fell to No. 15 overall in our beat writer mock draft, I was assembling trade packages to acquire him myself. Colts writer James Boyd said it best in his reasoning: “Passing up on the best player available wasn’t an option.” When healthy, Dallas Goedert is one of the NFL’s most productive tight ends. But Moore deployed 12 personnel at the NFL’s ninth-highest rate (22.4 percent) while with the Los Angeles Chargers. If Bowers somehow reaches striking distance, the Eagles can find a way to involve a superbly unique offensive weapon in this year’s draft.

Brock Bowers had 175 catches for 2,538 yards and 26 touchdown receptions in three seasons at Georgia. (Jake Crandall / USA Today)

12. Troy Fautanu, T/G (Washington)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 19 overall, first G

The Eagles’ O-line depth isn’t dire enough to trade away too much to acquire the draft positioning necessary to secure a premier option. But Roseman has four fifth-round selections at his disposal. Philly packaged three mid-round picks to move up two spots for Davis in 2022. If enough of the tackle-needy teams ahead of the Eagles go with prospects more proven at that position, it could make sense to spend a little to secure someone with great upside at guard.

13. Dallas Turner, Edge (Alabama)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 12 overall, first Edge

Is Reddick worth a first-round pick? The Denver Broncos acquired a first-rounder and fourth-rounder by packaging two-time Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb (then 26) with a fifth-round selection in a deadline deal with the Dolphins in 2022. It would stand to reason that a deal that would place the Eagles high enough to acquire the draft’s top pass rusher would need to be even more substantial.

14. Terrion Arnold, CB (Alabama)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 10 overall, first CB

There will likely be too much supply at cornerback later in the first round to warrant the demand necessary to trade up for Arnold, but it might become sensible to secure the draft’s No. 1 corner if the first-team All-American who led the SEC with 12 passes defended and five interceptions last season somehow slides into the late teens.

Might make more sense with a trade-back

15. T’Vondre Sweat, DT (Texas)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 33 overall, third DT

Acquiring extra draft picks by trading back might help Roseman rationalize bolstering a position group that is already adequately stocked. But it’s worth noting Fletcher Cox (who logged 58.9 percent of the defensive snaps in 2023) has an expired contract, and if he doesn’t return, the Eagles could support Davis and Carter with yet another Outland Trophy winner who can collapse the pocket.

16. Darius Robinson, Edge (Missouri)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 31 overall, fifth Edge

Robinson has powerful length at 6-foot-5, 286 pounds, and he led Missouri with 14 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 sacks in his first season as a full-time edge rusher. After an impressive Senior Bowl, he could further improve his draft stock at the scouting combine.

17. Chop Robinson, Edge (Penn State)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 26 overall, fourth Edge

Chop Robinson’s numbers don’t stand out (11 1/2 sacks in three seasons), and he’ll need an impressive combine to further demonstrate his speed can make up for his lack of size (6-3, 250).

18. Jordan Morgan, G (Arizona)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 32 overall, second G

Morgan played left tackle in all five of his seasons at Arizona, and he only allowed five sacks in 1,500 passing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s a 6-4, 312-pound prospect who could fill in at guard with the possibility of moving back to tackle in the future.

19. Ladd McConkey, WR (Georgia)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 34 overall, sixth WR

The Eagles lacked a true No. 3 wideout in 2023. McConkey played 29.6 percent of his career snaps in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. The 5-11, 187-pound prospect deftly gained separation in one-on-one situations while fully healthy during a 2022 season in which he totaled 762 yards and seven touchdown receptions.

20. Keon Coleman, WR (Florida State)

Brugler’s ranking: No. 28 overall, fifth WR

Coleman (6-4, 215) assembled an impressive highlight reel of acrobatic catches in one season with the Seminoles. He transferred after playing football and basketball at Michigan State. He’d give the Eagles another matchup-winner at receiver.

Top prospects, not at positions of need: QB Jayden Daniels (LSU), OT JC Latham (Alabama), OT Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State), QB JJ McCarthy (Michigan), DT Jer’Zhan Newton (Illinois).

Others considered: WR Adonai Mitchell (Texas), C Zach Frazier (West Virginia), LB Junior Colson (Michigan), S Tyler Nubin (Minnesota), S Jaden Hicks (Washington State), LB Edgerrin Cooper (Texas A&M), TE Ja’Tavion Sanders (Texas).

(Top photo of Kool-Aid McKinstry: Gary Cosby Jr. / USA Today)

2024-02-23 12:49:32
#Eagles #NFL #Draft #big #board #players #watch #positions

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