A Dream Mock Draft For Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles' Dream Draft
March is mock draft month. While most mock drafts attempt to get into each NFL GM's head in order to predict which players will be available at specific slots, it is more fun to play the "what if?" game.
What if every time the Philadelphia Eagles pick, the perfect player who fits their most pressing need happens to be available?
Before dismissing the idea, remember that every year a significant number of prospects who had graded out as second to third round picks fall into the fourth and fifth rounds. And an even larger number of late round-graded prospects go undrafted. Quality prospects slip in the draft for numerous reasons. A player's draft stock can plummet due to off-the-field behavior, a glut of talent at a particular position, a bias against a particular college or conference, a negative remark from a former coach or a misunderstanding of a player's demeanor or character.
Philadelphia has very specific needs, and fortunately, those needs are at positions like safety and middle linebacker that are typically sourced in the later rounds. Given the unpredictable nature of the NFL Draft, it is conceivable that the Eagles could have a perfect draft. Here are the Eagles' most glaring weaknesses:
1. Cornerback: Carey Williams is a bust.
2. Safety: Nate Allen is not a difference maker.
3. Middle Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans is a liability.
4. X Wide Receiver: Riley Cooper is overrated.
5. Edge Rusher: Trent Cole is getting old.
6. In-line Tight End: Brent Celek is overpaid.
With this shopping list of positional needs in-hand, let's take a stroll through the mock draft aisles and imagine the best possible values that could reasonably be available to the Eagles in each round. Philadelphia has picks in Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 5 (from Patriots) and Round 7.
Round 1: Justin Gilbert, CB
After posting a 4.37-40 yard dash time, the best among cornerbacks at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, the buzz around Oklahoma State's star defensive back Justin Gilbert has ramped up considerably. Some NFL experts have gone as far as labeling him the best collegiate cornerback since Patrick Peterson.
At 6-foot, Gilbert has the requisite length to match up with No. 1 wide receivers in the NFL. He also possesses game-breaking lateral agility and explosive change-of-direction ability. He frustrates opposing wide receivers by playing physical at the line of scrimmage and then quickly recovering if caught out of position. With 12 interceptions on his collegiate resume, Gilbert may have the most finely tuned playmaking instincts in the draft. Against the run, he aggressively pursues opposing running backs and explodes into the ball carrier at the point of contact.
In most years, Gilbert would be chosen in the top 10. However, a significant number of stud quarterbacks, offensive lineman and defensive ends are projected to be selected early in the first round. The depth at the top end of this year's draft class could push Gilbert down to the Eagles at pick No. 22. If he is available then, Eagles GM Howie Roseman will select him without hesitation.
Round 2: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE
Chip Kelly's play calling primarily focuses on exploiting match-ups, and he believes a team can never have enough versatile tight ends on the roster. From his time coaching in the Pac-12, Kelly knows all about Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins' rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. Though lesser known than some of his fellow tight end prospects, his ceiling is higher than any other TE in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Often compared to Rob Gronkowski, Seferian-Jenkins is a freakishly fluid pass catcher for a 6-foot-6, 258 pound football player. And as a blocker, he handles himself well when matched up one-on-one with opposing edge rushers.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins' blocking ability sets him apart from the other elite tight ends in this draft class, Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro, who were rarely asked to block by their respective teams. The Eagles are a running team at their core, and Seferian-Jenkins would be the perfect young player to groom as the long-term replacement for Brent Celek, the team's primary in-line blocking tight end. With luck, he would evolve into a devastating Gronk-like red zone specialist.
How could the most talented tight end in the draft slip to the Eagles at pick No. 54? Seferian-Jenkins broke his left foot at the start of the Combine. This both prevented scouts from evaluating him apples to apples against his peers and led to questions about his durability and injury status heading into the 2014 regular season. If not for the injury, Seferian-Jenkins would have certainly been drafted in the late first, early second round. If he slides into the late second round, Chip Kelly will insist that the Eagles select him.
Round 3: Donte Moncrief, WR
Donte Moncrief helped his draft stock more than any other wide receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine. With a 40-yard dash clocking in at 4.4 flat, he was the fastest WR prospect with a height of 6-foot-0 of more.
Where would Moncrief fit on the Eagles roster? Across the field from DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin signed a one-year "prove it" deal a day after Riley Cooper signed a contract extension notably light on guaranteed money. Maclin is likely gone in 2015 and Cooper is one of the slowest starting wide receivers in the NFL. Furthermore, neither Maclin nor Cooper is a true long term solution at the X wide receiver position. Given this year's draft is incredibly deep at the wide receiver position, Howie Roseman likely hopes to compliment DeSean Jackson with a go-to X receiver with elite size and speed in rounds 2-4. Moncrief fits the No. 1 NFL wide receiver profile perfectly.
Donte Moncrief was expected to be drafted in the middle rounds before showing off his blazing speed at the Combine. Roseman will feel fortunate if Moncrief is available in the back half of the third round.
Round 4: Terrence Brooks, S
Safety Terrence Brooks played a key role for the national champion Florida State in 2013. The athletic defensive back has started every game for the Seminoles since 2011, exhibiting both durability and leadership qualities.
Terrence Brooks is lanky yet athletic. With a combination of fluidity, range and physicality, Brooks can make plays deep to the sideline as well as in the tackle box. At Florida State, he proved to be an instinctual defender who could be deployed in space to help create turnovers.
While current free safety Nate Allen has proved to be underwhelming, Terrence Brooks' rangy athleticism would be a welcomed sight in the back end of the Eagles' secondary. Fortunately for the Eagles, Brooks' reputation as a lazy tackler has negatively impacted his draft stock, and he could very well slip into the fourth round.
Round 5: Shayne Skov, ILB
Chip Kelly knows former Stanford inside linebacker Shayne Skov well from his time coaching at Oregon. Skov signed with Stanford as a highly regarded recruit and immediately stood out as a freshman in 2009. Skov features uncharacteristic quickness for a 250+ pound prospect and demonstrates terrific field instincts, particularly in big moments. He has ideal size and temperament for the inside 'backer position at the NFL level.
With DeMeco Ryans' play eroding fast, Skov's ability to stuff the run as well as blitz the A-gap makes him a perfect fit for the Eagles' 3-4 defensive scheme.
Though he tallied 109 tackles with 5 1/2 sacks as well as 13 tackles for a loss in 2013, he is not viewed as an elite prospect due to his age (he will be 24 years old this summer) and the perception that he is a compiler who has already maxed out his athletic ability. Additionally, like running back, inside linebacker is now viewed as a commodity position around the NFL. Teams often pass on highly decorated inside backers in the early rounds assuming that comparable players will be available later on. The perceptions that Skov has peaked at an easily replaceable position could allow him to slide to the Eagles in the fifth round. If he is available, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman will surely pounce.
Round 5 (from Patriots): Phillip Gaines, CB
Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at the this year's NFL Scouting Combine. At 6-foot-0 he has ideal NFL height and would be the perfect compliment to Justin Gilbert.
How could a player with these measurables have such a low round grade? Gaines was suspended and frequently hurt during his time at Rice. His on-field play was considered underdeveloped and demonstrated a lack of explosion at the point of contact. Scouts believe he is unequipped to cover NFL receivers one-on-one and would be a very poor tackler at the next level.
Gaines' character, durability and physicality concerns contributed to his seventh round grade pre-Combine. However, his super-fast 40 time has now created some buzz around a player who looks like an NFL starter on paper. Regardless, lingering concerns about his strength and passion for the game, as well as being tagged with the dreaded "tweener" label, will temper enthusiasm for Gaines. The Eagles would not let him get out of the fifth round.
Round 7: Michael Sam, Edge Rusher
Undersized for his position, Michael Sam had received a fourth-round grade from most draft experts heading into the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Clearly bothered by the media swirl around him, Sam publicly flopped. His pathetic vertical jump was played every 30 minutes on Sportcenter. Already lacking ideal size and speed, Sam's draft stock deteriorated from mid-round prospect to late round flier in less than 24 hours.
Despite concerns about his measurables, Michael Sam is an explosive edge rusher and was a terrific all-around football player at the college level. Beyond Trent Cole, the Eagles are incredibly thin at that position, and players who can pressure the quarterback are always in-demand around the league. If Sam's free-fall lasts into the seventh round, the Eagles would be wise to grab him.