With the conclusion of the Philadelphia Eagles season, thoughts and attention now head directly to the 2014 NFL Draft. Losing in the wild card playoff game to the New Orleans Saints and finishing 10-6 has given the Eagles the 22nd pick. Who should they target with that pick?
Defense, defense, defense. Why not offense? Let me briefly summarize the Eagles situation on offense; their 24-year old starting QB, Nick Foles, had a 27/2 TD to INT ratio; their 25-year old RB, LeSean McCoy, led the league in rushing 1,607 yards; their receivers, when healthy and under contract, are amongst the most productive and reliable in the league (when they aren’t clamoring for more money); and they have the best offensive line in the NFL.
Their defense, on the other hand, was 29th in the league in total defense, a far cry from the Jim Johnson and Brian Dawkins days. Can you imagine Dawkins letting his secondary fall to dead last in the league in passing yards per game? As a buddy of mine would eloquently put it, nah nah yo. I needn’t express why I think the Eagles should make defense their top priority in the draft further.
Obviously there’s a chance the Eagles could move up or down in the draft, depending on who they’re targeting and how the board lays out. Discussing the limitless trade possibilities and their merits is an article of itself, so for the sake of brevity, let’s assume the Birds are going to stay put with their first pick.
Cornerback and safety are pressing needs. Brandon Boykin is one of the best slot/nickel back’s in the league, and they’d love to keep him there instead of pushing him outside. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams could both be cut, leaving the Eagles in major need of viable cover men.
Joyner might be the best strategic pick here, because of his ability to play both cornerback and safety, another huge need for Philly, but I have serious doubts about his ability to play outside corner, where they need help the most.
Louchiez Purifoy (Florida) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State) could be dark horse options here, as immensely talented cover corners who were once viewed as a high first round corners but have seen their stock tumble with some poor performances in big games.
Safeties to consider here are Hasean Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville), two big and athletic guys who can play inside the box and drop back to centerfield. They’re really the only two safeties who are worthy to go this high, and Clinton-Dix could go as high as the mid-teens.
If the Eagles don’t trade up or down with someone specific in mind, and there’s no DB’s on the board worthy of the pick, they could also look to bolster the front seven. NT Louis Nix (Notre Dame) would be a perfect fit at nose in their 3-4 base, and would enable Bennie Logan to bump outside to his more natural 5-tech. That front 3 of Fletcher Cox, Nix and Logan would take considerable pressure off the beleaguered secondary.
An intriguing pass rushing option to put at OLB could also make sense here given the current situation, with Vic Beasley (Clemson) and Kyle Van Noy (BYU) presenting the best options at 22. Trent Cole will need to re-structure his deal to reduce the $6.6 million cap hit (at 31 and getting older), Brandon Graham has been a bust and Connor Barwin’s forte isn’t pass rushing.
Defense, defense and more defense. I see them spending a few mid to late-round picks on offense, notably addressing the depth along the offensive line and at wide receiver, but other than that, priorities should be focused on defense.