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March 31, 2016

Eagles big board: Ranking the top college prospects from 1-8

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033116CarsonWentz Charlie Neibergall/AP

Do the deal, Howie.

In our weekly Eagles chat yesterday, a number of questions came in asking me how I'd rank the top eight prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft. Rather than throw out eight names on the spot, I decided to make the topic its own post.

To note, this wouldn't be how I'd rank these prospects on a grading scale. These are how I would rank them in terms of who the Eagles specifically should be prioritizing. Let's get to it.

1) Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (6'5, 237): If you read me regularly, you know that this is my broken record speech: The Eagles are going nowhere until they have a legitimate franchise quarterback. In the NFL, you either have a quarterback, or you don't, and if you don't, you have no chance unless you have some kind of historic defense, which the Eagles do not.

This offseason the Eagles paid a whole lot of money to a pair of quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel who have achieved very little in the NFL. Bradford and Daniel give the Eagles short-term stability, but Bradford's short two-year contract is a clear indicator that the Eagles have questions about him as the long-term answer at quarterback.

There's isn't much to dislike about Wentz's game. He's big and sturdy, he has a great arm, a quick release, he's surprisingly athletic, and very smart. Even if you dock him for playing at a lower level in college, Wentz operated in an offense that had pro-style concepts, prompting some to believe he's more pro-ready than other quarterbacks who played in more remedial offenses at a more competitive college level.

The presence of Bradford and Daniel would allow Wentz to make the jump to the NFL without immediately being thrown to the wolves. He would also be tutored by a quarterback-focused coaching staff that includes Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, as well as Daniel, who has previously played a helpful sidekick role to Drew Brees and Alex Smith.

Would Wentz help the 2016 Eagles? Probably not, but who cares? Forget 2016. Go get the guy who can be your answer at the most important position in sports for the next decade.

2) Jared Goff, QB, Cal (6'4, 215): Again, if you don't have a quarterback, blah blah blah. I like Wentz more than Goff, although Goff has certain traits that are better. He has outstanding pocket presence and a very accurate arm, but lacks what Wentz has in terms of arm strength and mobility.

The Eagles have drafted in the top 10 three times in the last 20 years. In other words, you don't get many opportunities to draft top 10 type of prospects at the quarterback position very often, and I believe that's what Goff is. The Eagles would be wise to make that happen if they get the chance.

3) Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss (6'5, 310): Tunsil is probably going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, barring a trade back by the Titans. Tennessee got their quarterback in Marcus Mariota a year ago, and now they should get the best OT in the draft by a mile to protect his blind side for the next 10 years. If for some reason Tunsil fell, and by "fell" I mean to around pick No. 4, then maybe he's the one non-quarterback I could see the Eagles trading up for. With Jason Peters' career winding down, Tunsil could step in at LT instantly, which would give the Eagles a pair of great bookends for the foreseeable future. 

4) Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State (6'1, 209): At Florida State, Ramsey played a myriad of roles, from corner to safety to linebacker to special teams stud. He's fast. He's aggressive. He's physical. He can cover. He can hit. He can rush the passer. He's an incredible football player, and will be gone by the time the Eagles pick at 8.

5) Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (6'1, 245): The last two years, I've watched a pair of UCLA defensive prospects in OLB Anthony Barr and ILB Eric Kendricks, because they both made sense for the Eagles. Both Barr and Kendricks have played very well early in their NFL careers. However, when trying to watch Barr and Kendricks at UCLA, Myles Jack would do something ridiculous, I'd get distracted, and I would just start watching Jack. 

Like Ramsey above, Jack is simply a beast. He played both LB and RB for UCLA, and it's impossible not to notice him watching UCLA's games. Jack is recovering from knee surgery, which may be some cause for concern, but he is going to be difference maker for whoever drafts him. The Eagles are set at starting linebacker, so Jack in theory wouldn't be an immediate need. But this is a case where you'd just say "Screw it," and take him if he's still there at pick No. 8, which again, he won't be.

6) DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon (6'7, 291): Buckner has a perfect frame to be a 3-4 DE, but he's so good that it would be foolish to put too much stock into marrying up his body type with a specific scheme. Buckner is extremely athletic at 6'7, 291, and could be a guy who plays both at DE and DT in Jim Schwartz's defensive front. While Joey Bosa may be a more prototypical 4-3 DE on paper than Buckner, I would take Buckner over him in a heartbeat.

7) Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (5'10, 204)As a true freshman and sophomore, Hargreaves had 6 interceptions and 24 pass breakups. He made an immediate impact in the SEC in his teens. As a junior last season, even with teams staying away from him, Hargreaves had four more picks, with 152 return yards. Hargreaves is a player the former regime may not have had an interest in, because of his height at 5'10. That seems to be less of a concern to Schwartz. The Eagles have cornerbacks in quantity. Hargreaves would give them a quality playmaker on the outside.

8) Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6'5, 269): I'm not as high on Bosa as others. As a sophomore in 2014, he had 55 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, and 4 forced fumbles. That season had people calling him the best prospect in the country. He followed that season up with a junior year in which he had 51 tackles, 5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. Bleh. While Bosa drew more attention from opposing offenses, opening up more opportunities for his teammates, he was not the same play-making force. 

I think Bosa can be a very good DE in the NFL, but he doesn't have the same kind of elite athleticism that you'd prefer from an edge rusher you'd normally find in the top 10. If you're a Cowboys hater, this is the guy you want them to take at pick No. 4.

Did not make the cut:

 Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (6'7, 244): I like Paxton Lynch a lot. He is a physical specimen who checks off all kinds of boxes in terms of what NFL teams are looking for in a quarterback. He has great size, a strong arm, touch, and good mobility for his size. The big knock on Lynch is his ability to hang in the pocket and deliver throws to his second or third progressions, or when he faces pressure. He also played in extremely remedial offenses both in high school and college, and is not accustomed to taking snaps from under center.

Some feel that Lynch has as many as two years to go before he'll be ready. That's fine from the Eagles' perspective, who have the luxury of being able to be patient with a young quarterback. However, if indeed Lynch is that far behind, it would be hard to take that kind of project with the eighth overall pick.

• Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6'0, 225): There is no denying that Elliott has a chance to be a special talent. However, when you factor in the value of his position, drafting Elliott at pick No. 8 just isn't worth it to me. Working against Elliott is that running backs have extremely short shelf lives in the NFL and that they are not safe picks (in terms of bust probability) any more than most positions. 

However, more specific to 2016, Elliott is the only sure-fire first round pick. In 2017, there is an absurd number of really good running backs who will be eligible to enter the NFL Draft, such as LSU's Leonard Fournette, FSU's Dalvin Cook, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Oregon's Royce Freeman, Georgia's Nick Chubb, and the list goes on and on. Is is better value to draft Elliott with the eighth overall pick, or get one of those other very talented backs a year from now at a much more palatable spot in the draft?

• Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (6'6, 312): Last week we noted that the Eagles are unlikely to draft an offensive lineman in the first round. In speaking with a variety of NFL people, one thing that NFL talent evaluators generally agree on is that the 2016 NFL Draft has exactly one elite offensive line prospect. That's Tunsil, who as noted above is not expected to make it anywhere near pick No. 8 and could very well be the No. 1 overall pick. After that, there is a small cluster of offensive tackles who are in the next tier. It appears that most evaluators believe that Stanley should be rated similarly to Michigan State's Jack Conklin and Ohio State's Taylor Decker.

Logically, if Stanley, Conklin and Decker are all rated similarly, it shouldn't make a huge difference which of the three the Eagles wind up with if they had interest. Since at least one of those three players are extremely likely to make it to pick 13, the Eagles' urgency to trade up from 13 to 8 to target Stanley wouldn't make much sense if he's rated similarly or just marginally better than Conklin or Decker.

The Eagles are more likely to add offensive line talent later in the draft, as Howie Roseman has stated that the Eagles have more offensive linemen on their draft board than they have had the last few years. In other words, there's depth along the offensive line this year, so the value simply won't be there at pick No. 8.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski