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May 01, 2015

How do the Eagles' first three draft picks fit in on the depth chart?

Eagles NFL
050215EricRowe Rick Bowmer/AP

Can Eric Rowe win a starting job on the outside as a rookie?

The three newest Eagles are USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor, Utah cornerback/safety Eric Rowe, and Texas inside linebacker Jordan Hicks. Let's take a look at where each new guy will fit in on the depth chart:

Nelson Agholor, WR

The Eagles' wide receiver position isn't completely clear, but we'll take a stab at it. In 2014, Jordan Matthews played almost exclusively in the slot. Earlier this offseason, Matthews noted that he'll begin getting more opportunities on the outside, which will increase his playing time. The Eagles could certainly opt to move Matthews back inside to the slot in three wide receiver sets, but it's hard to imagine the Eagles taking Matthews off the field, seeing as he's currently their best weapon in the passing game. We'll call Matthews the "No. 1 WR" for now, who can also be a movable piece.

Chip Kelly was asked if Agholor would be groomed the same way Matthews was. "We haven’t gotten that far," said Kelly, speaking to reporters at the NovaCare Complex. "It's a good question, but let's get him in the building and start talking to him a little bit. We also felt that because we knew we had [former Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin] and some guys on the outside that we felt comfortable with. But we lost Jason Avant.  

"The one thing about Nelson is he's played both. He's played all over the field for them. He’s played inside receiver, he’s played outside receiver. [USC head coach] Steve Sarkisian did a great job of moving him around. He had 104 catches this past year. He lined up everywhere. He lined up in the backfield. Really versatile guy, smart guy, understands the game. So I think in his situation, you could line him up anywhere, and I think he can handle that from a mental standpoint. But where they're going to play and all that other stuff, we're a ways away. We're still in April, and we've got a lot of time. We'll get him in here next week for mini-camp and go from there."

As a first-round pick, Agholor will almost certainly play immediately. However, with Matthews being such an effective weapon out of the slot, it might make sense to allow Agholor to learn the outside role initially in the Eagles' offense, while giving him the chance to beat out Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, and Miles Austin for a starting job.

The Eagles have a number of players who could conceivably play both on the outside and in the slot. It'll be interesting to see how they can get creative with their wide receiver personnel.

Eric Rowe, CB/S

Rowe played three seasons at safety for Utah before moving to corner for his senior season. Within the Eagles scheme defensively, the Eagles will most likely look to utilize Rowe's impressive size at a corner spot opposite Byron Maxwell. At 6'1, 205, Rowe is a physical, violent corner who is very good at press coverage, and excellent in run support on the edge.

If he proves ineffective on the outside, the Eagles could also look to move him to safety. While it has become more difficult to find good safeties, cornerback is still the more important position.

The Eagles currently have a mix of players in Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin, and Walter Thurmond at CB, none of whom the Eagles would ideally like to start on the outside. The Eagles would be thrilled if Rowe can earn a starting job at CB in camp.

Jordan Hicks, ILB

The Eagles are bloated at ILB. They have Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brad Jones, Najee Goode, Emmanuel Acho and now Hicks on their roster at ILB.

Despite trading for Alonso, re-signing Ryans, signing Jones in free agency, and now using an early pick on an ILB, the Eagles are adamant they will not trade Mychal Kendricks. OK. Perhaps they are going to run a 1-9-1 defense. 


That should confuse the hell out of the Falcons' offense in Week 1. Regardless of Kendricks' status on the roster for the 2015 season, Hicks' role on the team seems fairly straightforward. He'll likely serve as a backup at ILB and contribute on special teams, with an eye toward eventually taking over for Ryans in the middle of the Eagles' defense.

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