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February 27, 2018

5 players the Eagles could select with their first round pick: Defense edition

As you all may know by now, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. It's true. Look it up. As such, however, they'll be picking last in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, at pick No. 32.

In previous years, it was much easier to pinpoint Eagles targets in the first round. Last year, for example, we had Derek Barnett going to the Birds in our Eagles-only mock draft version 1.0. In 2016, everyone knew the pick would be Carson Wentz, with a few saying it would be Jared Goff. In 2015, Nelson Agholor was a decent bet to be taken at 20th overall.

This year, there will be a bit more dart-throwing when it comes to predicting the Eagles' first round pick. Earlier today, we noted five guys on offense who would make some sense. Here, we'll pick out five defenders.

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan (6'2, 280)

Hurst was our first round pick in our Eagles-only mock draft, version 1.0, so we have a cut and paste alert here.

In 2017, Hurst had 59 tackles (13 for loss) 5.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Those numbers aren't great, but make no mistake, Maurice Hurst is awesome. He's quick, fast, he sheds blocks, and he constantly makes plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. A highlight reel from 2017:

There's no earthly reason Hurst should be available at pick 32, but it has happened with undersized defensive tackles in the past. At 6'2, 280, Hurst is far from a prototypical defensive tackle. Geno Atkins fell all the way to the fourth round in 2010, and Aaron Donald to the 13th overall pick in 2014, despite being clearly more talented than many of the players taken before him. Has the NFL learned their lesson on that?

If Hurst were to fall, he would be an outstanding fit along the Eagles' penetrating defensive scheme, even with Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan already occupying a big chunk of the Eagles' salary cap. The Eagles will likely need added depth with Beau Allen potentially leaving in free agency, especially considering the Eagles heavy rotation along their defensive line.

Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech (6'3, 328)

Settle is 6'3, 328, but is more than just a big-bodied fatso you plop down in the middle of the line to clog up running lanes. At Virginia Tech, he has shown to be a penetrating force, causing disruption in opposing backfields.

Here's a highlight reel from his freshman season last year:

In 2017, Settle has 36 tackles 4 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but Settle's game tape is more impressive than his stats.

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (6'5, 293)

Hey look, I'm in big on defensive tackles this offseason.

Bryan is a tall, lean, highly athletic pass rushing defensive tackle who can get after the quarterback, but the book on him is that he can struggle against the run.

In Jim Schwartz's scheme, Bryan's run game struggles would be offset by some degree because Schwartz wants his linemen to get up the field, as opposing to being responsible for two gaps.

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (6'3, 234)

Evans is a pass rusher who converted to linebacker at Bama. Over his first three years, he had a lack of playing time, sitting and watching behind guys like Reuben Foster at linebacker and a slew of edge rushers who have been drafted into the NFL.

Evans suffered a groin injury early in the season this year, so he got off to a slow start statistically, but he had 74 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. His skill set is reminiscent of Haason Reddick, the former Temple versatile edge rusher turned linebacker who was drafted 13th overall by the Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft. A highlight reel: 

Evans doesn't have huge tackle numbers, but NFL teams could view him as a high-upside guy who will continue to gain more comfort at linebacker.

Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama (6'3, 214)

When you think of 6'3, 214 safeties, you think of thumpers who play close to the line of scrimmage. While Harrison will make big hits, he is also skilled in coverage, as Bama used him as a deep half safety, with some assignments against some of the better tight ends they faced. A highlight reel:

Ideally, the Eagles would prefer their safeties to also be able to cover slot receivers, and I'm not sure Harrison can do that at the pro level. Then again, most safeties cannot. Harrison could flourish early in Corey Graham type of role with his eventual long-term outlook as a starting safety. The Eagles may even think of Harrison as a linebacker prospect in sub-packages.

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