If there is one thing opposing NFL quarterbacks look forward to, it’s facing the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia was atrocious in the secondary, surrendering the most yards per game to opposing gunslingers in the league last year. The Eagles know that in order to be a true contender in the NFL, fixing this unit should be their focus in not just free agency, but the NFL Draft as well.
If all goes according to plan in free agency, the Eagles should make Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert the team’s selection with the No. 22 overall pick.
Gilbert has been argued to be the best cornerback in the draft class. At 6-foot, 202-pounds, Gilbert is one of the bigger, faster, more physical cornerbacks to come into the draft class. The senior defensive back finished his collegiate career with quite the campaign, picking off quarterbacks seven times and returning two of them for touchdowns. Often debated with Michigan State‘s Darqueze Dennard for the draft’s best cornerback, Gilbert may have separated himself from Dennard by outperforming him at the combine, specifically in the 40-yard dash (4.35 to 4.42). Gilbert has been known for creating turnovers, big plays and being one of the best palymakers on the defensive side of the ball.
This is something the Eagles have lacked for a long time, and Gilbert needs to be in an Eagles uniform come draft day.
The Eagles have lacked a big-play cornerback for a number of seasons. Whether it was giving a free agent way too much money, drafting the wrong players or even guys not fitting into the system, cornerback is an issue that has plagued Philadelphia for a while. Gilbert would provide a quick fix to this secondary as he is one of the best defenders in the draft. His turnover-first mentality would give the Eagles the spark they need desperately on defense. Also, with the way teams are transitioning to bigger, more physical cornerbacks, Gilbert fits this mold completely. His combination of size and speed would help him match up with some of the best receivers in the game and would add another weapon the Eagles need on defense.
Now would Gilbert be the best option for the Eagles at 22? Maybe not. There is a good chance he doesn’t even reach Philadelphia as teams may select him first. Even if he does reach Philadelphia and the Eagles don’t solve their safety issues through free agency, Gilbert should not be selected. Safety is more of a glaring weakness for the Eagles, and having a productive safety could help affect even more parts of the defense. The coverage would be improved, having better coverage would create more opportunities for pass rushers and it would also help put a leader on the the defense. If Calvin Pryor is sitting there along with Gilbert, the Eagles should take Pryor over Gilbert with the No. 22 overall pick if the team can’t sign a big free agent safety in free agency. If not, then there shouldn’t be any hesitation by the Eagles to draft Gilbert.