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April 24, 2017

2017 NFL Draft: The best and worst-case scenarios for Eagles, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr.

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042417_Mel-Kiper_ESPN Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images

Mel Kiper

A lot can happen in 13 picks. And no one person knows exactly how they'll play out in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

That, along with the fact that they have more than one area of need, is what makes predicting who the Eagles will select with the 14th pick so difficult. All it takes is one player to start falling, or one wild, out-of-the-blue pick to send the whole thing into chaos.

But no matter what happens before, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas should be in a great position to improve their roster when they're placed on the clock some time around 10 p.m. on Thursday night.

According to ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., the best way to do that would be by drafting the best cornerback available.

“I think, just looking at what they did in free agency, then with the trade for [Tim] Jernigan and all that, you think about where they are right now as a football team, and it would be whoever they deem the best corner," he told PhillyVoice on Monday.

That, no matter how likely you think, is just one of the ways it could go down. 

Some potential scenarios would leave them with a plethora of options. Others could be less forgiving, depending on how the Birds rank these players on their draft board.

But what would be the ideal scenario for the Eagles, the one that might have them re-thinking the idea of addressing their most glaring need (cornerback)?

“Obviously, Christian McCaffrey would be the best scenario if he were somehow to be available," Kiper said. "He’s a running back out of Stanford, but he can wear a lot of hats – slot receiver, wide receiver, punt/kick returner, all that. So certainly I think McCaffrey would kind of be the best scenario. ...

That's seeming less likely the closer we get to the draft. So they may wind up with that cornerback after all, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

"Like I said, whoever they deem the best corner [would also be a good pick]," Kiper added. "Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State will probably be gone, but Gareon Conley, his former teammate, [and] Marlon Humprey, cornerback Alabama. Whoever they deem the second best cornerback will also likely be in play at No. 14 as well.”

Basically, Kiper believes that no matter how the 13 previous picks shake out, the Eagles will have plenty of options at 14th overall. 

And because of recent off-field issues surrounding players projected to go in the first round, including Reuben Foster and his diluted sample at the combine, the best player available may not be a cornerback or running back.

According to Kiper, there's a good chance it's the aforementioned linebacker from Alabama.

“Reuben Foster will be there more than likely, if they want to take a chance on Reuben Foster after the issue at the combine and all that," Kiper said. "Everybody in Philadelphia wanted Reuben Foster, now he might be there. If he doesn’t go to Philadelphia, he’ll probably go to Baltimore at 16 or Indianapolis at 15. So he’ll probably go the pick right after them or two picks right after them. So Reuben Foster is in play now."

But what about the glass-half-empty view of how Thursday night's first round plays out? What's the nightmare scenario for the Eagles? 

To hear Kiper explain it, the glass may be half empty, but what's left is still plenty refreshing. 

“Worst-case scenario is hard because I don’t know if they’ll be in a worst-case scenario. Even if two corners are gone, the third corner is pretty good, and they may like the third corner just as much as they like the first," said Kiper, who also added there's a chance that no cornerbacks are taken before the Eagles go on the clock.

“Same thing with, say, a McCaffrey being gone, because there’s a lot of running backs in this draft. McCaffrey is a wildcard, but that’s not going to kill you. And the expectations are now that McCaffrey is going to be gone by 14. So if that’s the case, it’s not like everyone is going to be, ‘Oh, no! McCaffrey’s gone!’ Everyone expects him to be gone [so that’s not really a worst-case scenario].” 

Sure, the fact that the Eagles' needs line up with the deepest positions in the draft will help keep their options open, but it's more than that. 

“There are so many question marks in this draft," Kiper explained. "You go through the first-round guys, and finding players who are completely without any red flags is not easy. I mean, between underclassmen coming out who are one dimensional, guys who have a lot of ability but have medical questions, charter questions, whatever it may be – there’s a lot of those guys. 

“Guys who came out early like [UNC QB Mitch] Trubisky has limited experience – 13 career starts – or [Texas Tech QB Patrick] Mahomes, out of a system that hasn’t produced quality quarterbacks. Then you throw red flags in for guys like [Michigan DB Jabrill] Peppers and Foster with the off-the-field stuff; injury concerns with Lattimore, with [Alabama DE] Jonathan Allen, with [OSU DB] Malik Hooker, [UCLA DE] Tak McKinley, [UCLA DB] Fabian Moreau, obviously [Washington DB] Sidney Jones with his injury. Then you get into the one-year-wonders.

"And there’s no offensive lineman in the top 15, so that affects this whole thing. Normally, there is. There’s no A.J. Green or Julio Jones type wide receiver. That impacts where these guys go too. Normally, you get that elite receiver, one or two offensive linemen; this year you don’t have any of that.

“So it is kind of a weird draft to predict what’s going to happen.” 

But that won't stop us from trying.

On a related note, here's a look at Jimmy Kempski's final Eagles-only mock draft.

RELATED: ESPN's Todd McShay: How Eagles can – and should – address biggest draft needs

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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