April 21, 2017
There will be no shortage of options for the Eagles at No. 14 in Thursday night's NFL Draft.
That, however, is for a couple of reasons. First, the Eagles are still a team on the rise, so they have several areas of need to address. Second, those areas of need happen to line up well with the deepest positions in the draft. And finally, those two things combine to give the Birds an opportunity to trade back and acquire more picks, not because the player they want is off the board, but because several players they want are still on the board, meaning one or more will almost certainly be available when their new pick comes around.
In his latest mock draft (for ESPN In$ider), in which he and Mel Kiper alternated picks for the first three rounds, Todd McShay projected that the Eagles would take Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley in the first round. But that's hardly a given.
"It’s tough to tell right now who is actually going to be there at 14," McShay told PhillyVoice on Friday.
And therein lies the core problem with mock drafts. Once you get one pick wrong, it throws the entire thing out of whack – and we're only talking about the first round. That, however, doesn't mean there's no value in analyzing the players who could be available when the Eagles pick. Our own Jimmy Kempski gave a perfect example of that earlier this week with his 101-player Eagles draft board.
Whether or not they decide to take one will be a matter of personal (personnel?) preference, especially when some of the players have a serious injury or off-field concerns surrounding them. And with Joe Douglas now setting the draft board – Howie Roseman will have final say – it's even more difficult to know what route the Eagles will take.
McShay, who said he's a big fan of Douglas, believes they'll make the right pick, even if it's impossible to know who exactly that's going to be.
"First, [the Eagles are] in great hands," he said. "I think the world of Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl. I think they’re two of the best when it comes to college evaluations and personnel evaluations and handling the draft. ... In the end, they’ll make the right decision."
Still, those red flags could throw a giant wrench in the Eagles plans, causing some players to quickly climb and be selected before 14 as others who didn't seem likely to be available are suddenly still on the board.
With that in mind, here's a look at what McShay had to say about five positions where, for one reason or another, undervalued players could be available to the Eagles in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft:
"Jonathan Allen, to me, is one of the five best football players in this draft. He’s coming out of Alabama. Some teams are more concerned than other teams, based off the conversations that I’ve had, about his shoulder injuries. I can tell you he belongs in the Top 5. And if I’m sitting there are three, like Chicago, or at four, like the Jaguars, and my medical staff said, ‘Hey, we’re good,’ I think he’d be a good pick.
"The problem is, you just don’t know in terms of what teams cleared him medically. So is he going to be available at 14? And is he someone the Eagles would even want based on their medical [staff]? That’s something I don’t know and only the Eagles would know. But it’s interesting, at what point does it go from a risk to – well, it’s always going to be a risk. What point does it go from being too big of a risk to, ‘Hey, let’s take advantage and roll the dice a little bit.’"
"Reuben Foster is another guy [with concerns], but for different reasons. The character concerns, the off the field stuff. He has great football character, and he’s another guy that I truly believe [is a top-five talent]. I think Myles Garrett, Jamal Adams, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Solomon Thomas are probably the five best football players in this draft. And throw in Leonard Fournette at sixth. But with Allen and Foster, you’ve got concerns.
"So are those guys going to fall? And at what point are they worth taking a chance on?"
"At cornerback, it’s an interesting class because there’s so much depth. So at 14, do you feel like you’re getting a player that you couldn’t get if you moved back? I think Gareon Conley from Ohio State is a good player. Marshon Lattimore, I don’t think he’s going to fall that far, but he could slip a little bit. I think he’s the best pure man-to-man cover corner, but he’s got some hamstring issues.
"There are a lot of guys that I’ve mentioned that are in this top 15 range that have something that stands out where you just have a little bit of concern. So, I think cornerback, if they can move back and get a guy, great. But you can’t always find a dance partner."
"If McCaffrey’s there, great. If not, I just don’t know with the issues we’ve seen. Dalvin Cook [is a possibility], knowing that he’s going to slip a little bit, I just don’t know with the depth of this group.
"I’d rather just play it safe and get a running back in the second or third round, like a Samaje Perine or James Conner, Jeremy McNichol in the fourth. There’s just a lot of good backs in this class."
"There’s no offensive lineman that I’m over-excited about if you’re talking about 14. Forrest Lamp is the best interior offensive lineman, coming out of Western Kentucky. Cam Robinson has the upside, but has to develop better balance. And Garret Bowles from Utah has a checkered past and is a one-year starter, but he’s the most athletic tackle in the draft."
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