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March 09, 2017

Expect the Eagles to have a defense-heavy draft

In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected offensive players with each of their first four picks. They took Carson Wentz in the first round (second overall), followed by Isaac Seumalo in the third round, and both Wendell Smallwood and Halapoulivaati in the fifth round.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, there's a pretty good bet the Eagles will go the opposite route, and load up on defense.

To be clear, that doesn't mean that the Eagles will necessarily go into the draft with the mindset of, "We have to draft defense."

"We’ve got to get the best players," said Howie Roseman at the NFL Combine. "Having Joe (Douglas) and his staff around, one of the things when we brought him here is, you’re reminding us all the time, let’s take the best player. Let’s not miss on guys that we have a third-round grade on in the sixth round because we’re getting to the sixth round and we haven’t drafted a particular position that we need."

Still, even if the team stays true to drafting the best player available, they're still likely to draft a lot of defense. A few reasons why:

Team needs

There's a difference between drafting "best player available" and "true best player available." If you're truly drafting the "best player available," that would mean that the Eagles would take a quarterback at the 14th overall pick if he were the highest-rated player on their board. 

Obviously, that would be incredibly stupid with the team building around Carson Wentz.

Additionally, if when the Eagles are on the clock, they have two players rated similarly, they're going to take a cornerback over, say, a tight end, seeing as corner is a drastic need and tight end is not. If there's a significant difference in talent level, then sure, take the tight end.

After signing both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, wide receiver is no longer the Eagles' biggest need. It is now very clearly cornerback, followed by defensive end.

Strong defensive draft

The 2017 draft is stacked with defensive talent. For example, CBS Sports lists the top 1000 prospects in college football. Not that their list is the end-all, be-all, but here's how many players are in their top 100 at each position:

Position Players in top 100 

That would be 57 defensive players and 43 offensive players. 

If you look at Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 prospect list, 29 players are on the defensive side of the ball, 21 are on offense. Subtract the three quarterbacks on his list that are near-zero percent possibilities for the Eagles, and it's 29-18 in favor of defense.

Sheer roster numbers

Right this second the Eagles' roster stands at 72 players. Only 31 of them are defenders. A look at the current projected depth chart.

 LDEBrandon Graham Steven Means  
 DTFletcher Cox Destiny Vaeao Justin Hamilton 
 DT Beau Allen Aziz Shittu 
 RDEVinny Curry Marcus Smith Alex McCalister 
OLB Nigel Bradham Najee Goode  
 MLB Jordan Hicks Joe WalkerDon Cherry 
 OLB Mychal Kendricks Kamu Grugier-Hill 
 CBJalen Mills Dwayne Gratz Mitchell White 
 SMalcolm Jenkins  Jaylen WatkinsTerrence Brooks 
 S Rodney McLeodChris Maragos  
 CBC.J. Smith Aaron Grymes  
 Slot CB Ron Brooks  

The Eagles have obvious starter holes at cornerback, defensive tackle, defensive end, and (soon-to-be) third linebacker. Beyond that, the Eagles' defense is incredibly thin in terms of depth.

While they may add some low-cost pieces to the defense in free agency, the Eagles' first three (typically priority) free agent acquisitions were on the offensive side of the ball. That's where their money went.


I guess I kind of just went a long way to say that the Eagles' biggest needs are now very clearly on defense, and that's where this draft happens to be strong, so, you know, they're likely to draft defense.

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