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January 19, 2017

Eagles Mailbag: Is the Birds' best draft strategy to try to trade back and accumulate more picks?

Yesterday, during our weekly Eagles chat, I answered questions for an hour and 40 minutes, and there were still a few dozen unanswered questions left in the queue when I had to leave to pick up my daughter from school.

Today, I'll answer some of the better questions that I wasn't able to get to.

(From Nick): In a deep draft that aligns with the team’s needs, conventional wisdom suggests trading back might be a good option. Do you think there’s a chance of that, or is Corey Davis too enticing?

A week ago, we ranked the Eagles' biggest team needs from 1-15, with wide receiver, cornerback, defensive end, and running back leading my list. Most believe that cornerback, edge rusher (defensive end), and running back are three positions that are particularly strong in the 2017 NFL Draft. So yes, to begin, I would agree with your premise that this draft aligns nicely with the Eagles' needs.

I'll go on to further state that this draft isn't just very talented at those positions. It's also very deep, particularly at cornerback and running back. There's a good chance that a cornerback who would normally be off the board in Round 2 might still be there in Round 3, for example.

The Eagles have an interesting draft slot, at 14 or 15, depending on the coin toss. I think that one position to watch closely before the Eagles' pick is quarterback, which the Eagles obviously don't need. On the one hand, if, say, three quarterbacks are taken before the Eagles' pick at 14/15, that will push better prospects down the board to them. On the other hand, if there is still a first-round-worthy quarterback on the board when the Eagles are on the clock, maybe they get lucky and have a team willing to pay the cost to move up and get one.

I think the Eagles are in a good position in this draft, in that they can "just let it come to them." If there's a prospect they love at 14/15, like Corey Davis as you mentioned or someone else, then just take him. If you have a team that makes you an offer you can't refuse, then sure, acquiring more picks and filling holes in a draft that aligns with your needs also makes a lot of sense.

(From Phil): Will DGB make strides this offseason or does he just not get it or want it?

I want to be careful with my phrasing here. I don't want to say that "he doesn't want it," in terms of work ethic off the field, because I really don't know. What I will say is that he certainly doesn't look like he has a killer mentality or a scholarly approach on the field.

The play that was particularly bothersome this season to me was against the Lions Week 5. The Eagles ran a fade to DGB, in which he was being covered by shrimpy Nevin Lawson, who goes 5'9, 190. DGB had nine inches and about 50 pounds on him, and yet, Lawson easily out-muscled DGB on the play for an incompletion. Frank Reich said during the week that the Eagles should win that matchup 90 percent of the time, but the unfortunate reality is that DGB doesn't play to his size.

And then, of course, he kept getting called for offensive pass interference on screen plays because he didn't know the rules.

The Eagles are looking for a new wide receiver coach. With players like DGB and Nelson Agholor not having lived up to their potential early in their careers, that is a crucial hire.

(From Ryan): What do you think of Alvin Kamara trying to replace Sproles? At least as a third down pass-catching back?

We profiled Kamara back in December. Good speed, really good hands, and he breaks tackles. Tennessee underused him. He was only a complementary back and the team's punt returner. I figured him to be something like a third-round pick. That's probably wrong, as it would appear that he may go much higher.

Daniel Jeremiah, for example, has Kamara as his 26th rated prospect overall  and thinks he may actually become the best RB prospect in the draft.

Kamara has ideal size, speed and instincts for the position. On inside runs, he has a slashing running style and the ability to get skinny through the hole. His lateral quickness is off the charts and he gets up to top speed in a hurry. He has surprising power at all three levels. Against Vanderbilt, he broke six tackles on the same play. He has the speed to get the edge on outside runs and he's very elusive in space. He is dangerous in the passing game. He has natural hands and has shown the ability to make special catches (see one-handed grab vs. Texas A&M). The major knock on Kamara is the lack of carries he had during his college career; he's never carried the ball more than 18 times. However, he has an elite skill set and could end up being the best running back in the entire draft class.

Because of his ability as a receiver, Kamara would be a great fit for the Eagles, but you would want to get a lot more out of him than you get from Sproles. If he's there in Round 2, it would not surprise me if the Eagles had interest.

(From someone who wrote their name as “Google”): Wouldn’t drafting a stud safety allow Jenkins to play the slot where he is at his best? I’d take Budda Baker in the second round and have him and McLeod at S with Jenkins in the slot.

Jenkins is at his best at safety. In 2015, for example, he put himself in a position to make HUGE plays all season long. (Unfortunately, he didn't finish on all of them, dropping a bunch of picks). In 2016, while he capitalized on the times he was in position to make big plays, those opportunities were fewer and further between. 

I think he's a great player no matter where you put him, but his potential for making game-changing plays increases when he's on the back end, in my opinion. In fact, I think the Eagles need to find depth at slot corner so that they aren't forced to have Jenkins drop down into the slot again.

As for drafting a safety, if there's one there that you think is much better than the next best prospect on your board, then sure, go ahead and take him. Team needs change from year to year, so I really do believe in the "best player available" approach. However, because Jenkins and McLeod are entrenched at safety, it would have to be a pretty sizable gap between the safety and the next guy to pull the trigger on one early.

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