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April 24, 2017

Eagles-only mock draft: Final edition

After a looooong offseason of speculation, hype, and about a million mock drafts, the week of the 2017 NFL Draft is finally here. Previously, we published four different seven-round Eagles-only mock draft, in which we did not duplicate any players from one mock to the next. In case you missed those, you can circle back here.

  1. Eagles-only mock draft, version 1.0
  2. Eagles-only mock draft, version 2.0
  3. Eagles-only mock draft, version 3.0
  4. Eagles-only mock draft, version 4.0

In our final edition, there will be some duplicates.

Also, in case you haven't seen our 101-man Eagles draft board, bookmark it for the draft, please.

Round 1: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama (6'3, 286)

Allen is thought to be a top five prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, talent-wise, and for good reason. Over the last two seasons, he has been the best player on a dominant Alabama defense, posting 22.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss. While not an elite athlete by any stretch, Allen does very clearly possess impressive quickness for a 286-pound man, and his country strength is evident when you watch him shed blocks. Some have made the comparison to Fletcher Cox, which I can see.

A highlight reel:

Allen is what people used to call a "tweener," because he doesn't have prototypical measurements specifically for a DE or DT. In today's NFL, "tweeners" have become guys who are considered versatile because they allow defensive coordinators to have multiple fronts. In the Eagles' scheme, Allen could primarily play DE, and then move inside on passing downs.

So if Allen is so good, why might he be available at 14? Some teams will be concerned that there were so many good players around him in Alabama's defense that it was difficult for opposing offenses to key on him. Star defenders at other schools don't get that same benefit. 

The bigger concern, however, is that Allen has an arthritic shoulder, which has caused teams to lower his draft grade. For example, an NFC college scouting director acknowledged that his team bumped him down a bit, via Eric Edholm of Yahoo:

“I put a higher grade on him before the medicals came in and we had to lower him because of that. That was really it. You don’t see too many like him; he’s that good to me. It is what it is. He’s an interior rusher and we badly need one. I honestly don’t know where he’ll go because of the [shoulder concern].”

The Eagles are confident in their sports science program, and over the last few years have been among the healthiest teams in the NFL. The thought of a front four of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and Jonathan Allen on obvious passing downs could be too scary a proposition to pass up if Allen is still available at 14.

Round 2: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma (6'1, 226)

We published a thousand-word piece on Mixon a month ago, which you can go check out for more detail, but the "too long; didn't read" version is that there isn't a running back in this draft that better fits what the Eagles need than Mixon from an on-field perspective. He's a first-round talent with size, speed and receiving ability who could help complete the Eagles' offense. However, he comes with "baggage," if you can sum up a disgusting video of Mixon punching a woman as hard as he can in the face "baggage."

In a poll of 16 personnel executives conducted by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one executive labeled Mixon as the best player in the draft:

In a Journal Sentinel poll asking 16 executives in personnel to identify the best player regardless of position, Texas A&M's Garrett got 11 votes compared to two for LSU safety Jamal Adams and one each for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Not just the best running back... the best player. That might be overdoing it a bit, but there's no question that Mixon's talent is special. A highlight reel:

As of last week, Mixon was still on the Eagles' draft boardIf the Eagles want him (I strongly suspect they do), the second round is where they would have to take him, and obviously, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas would need the approval of Jeffrey Lurie.

Round 3: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington (6'0, 186)

Jones ruptured his Achilles at his pro day, killing his draft stock. Had that not occurred, he would be among the options the Eagles would consider at pick No. 14. Some players come back from a ruptured Achilles and play at a high level. Some lose their effectiveness to some degree. Clearly, it's a risk. 

When he's healthy, Jones has outstanding ball skills and confidence. In an interview with PhillyVoice, Ron Jaworski said Jones was the best corner in the draft before he got hurt.

"Sidney Jones would have been the top guy," said Jaworski. "He was the best of the bunch if he didn’t get hurt. No doubt in my mind. He’s physical. If you look at that whole Washington secondary, that would be a Pro Bowl secondary out there. They were all very good, but clearly, he was the best of the bunch. He was a guy who could play zone, he could play man, and I don’t want to throw buzz words out there, but the transition ability that you have to have, the ability to tie your hands to your feet, your mobility, he had all those things. 

"When you watch these guys play after play after play, you kind of develop a sense of if a guy can play or not. There are guys I look at for maybe a half, and I’m done. For six months a year, I look at all NFL football play, and I know what those attributes are to play those positions, and you can tell pretty quick on the eyeball test with Jones."

A highlight reel:

While he may be ready to play by the end of October, Jones will have missed the entire offseason program of whatever team drafts him, so this would be a pick for 2018 and beyond. Because this class is so loaded with cornerbacks, teams may find it hard to pass on a talented healthy player in favor of a player who won't help until next year.

I believe the sweet spot for Jones to be drafted is in the back end of the third round, which is where the Eagles reside.

Round 4: Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State (5'10, 190)

Kazee is a lesser known player on a very good San Diego State team who does a great job attacking the football in the air. Over the last two seasons, he has 15 interceptions. His career numbers:

Damontae Kazee Tackles (TFL)INT PBU FF 
2013 41 (3)
2014 58 (4)12 
2015 75 (5.5)
2016 46 (3) 
TOTAL 220 (15.5) 17 29 

But Kazee isn't just a ballhawk. Watch how he attacks ball carriers in the run game:

The NFC East is loaded up with quality slot receivers, in Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley, and Sterling Shepard, not to mention Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, who often line up there. In addition to the need for outside corners, the Eagles have to find themselves some slot corner help as well.

Round 4: George Kittle, TE, Iowa (6'4, 247)

I only discovered this kid recently because he ran a 4.52 at the Combine, but he can play. Kittle has good hands, and obviously, good speed at 4.52. But in watching him, look at this kid's tenacity as a blocker. Here's his game last year against NDSU. Watch him drive defenders into the ground:

Kittle is only eight pounds lighter than Brent Celek. With Celek likely to be a cap casualty next offseason, Kittle is a guy the Eagles can try to bulk up a bit to be an inline blocker in 2018 and beyond.

Round 5: Shaquill Griffin, CB, UCF (6'0, 194)

Griffin has good size at 6'0, 194, and he ran a 4.38 in addition to other impressive numbers at the Combine:

Griffin has a cool backstory. He and his brother Shaquem (who only has one hand) both enrolled at UCF, when Shaquill had offers from schools like Alabama, but the brothers were adamant that they were a package deal.

Griffin is an aggressive tackler that Schwartz will like, and has the size-speed combo that will allow him to play on the outside in the pros.

Round 6: Damore'ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss (6'2, 211)

Stringfellow has some character concerns and he wasn't super productive in three years at Ole Miss (1394 receiving yards during those three seasons combined), but he does have the ability to make plays down the field. As a player, while he's not a burner, Stringfellow had good size, leaping ability, and strength. He also breaks tackles after the catch. A highlight reel:

I like Stringfellow's fit as a developmental receiver in Doug Pederson's offense.

Round 7: Dan Skipper, OT, Arkansas (6'10, 309)

The Eagles certainly aren't hurting for interior offensive line depth at the moment, but they could perhaps use some extra depth at tackle. In 2018, Jason Peters will probably be gone, with Lane Johnson moving over to LT and perhaps Halapoulivaati Vaitai sliding in at RT. 

At Arkansas, Skipper played both at LT and RT, which could make him useful as a swing tackle behind Johnson and Vaiati. Also, at 6'10, he would have some usefulness on the field goal block team. Over his college career, Skipper had 7 blocked kicks. Here's a blocked kick at the end of regulation against TCU that forced overtime, and an eventual Razorback win.

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