March 14, 2017
As soon as the Eagles addressed wide receiver in a big way by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, my focus shifted to defense (specifically, the secondary) for the 2017 NFL Draft. You replaced Nelson Agholor, which is great, so now replace Leodis McKelvin as well.
And looking at some of the more popular NFL mock drafts, the people that pay attention to this stuff were generally on the same track. ESPN’s Todd McShay (Insider Only) and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah both sent cornerbacks to Philly in their latest mocks, albeit different players.
What if the Eagles looked elsewhere in the first round besides receiver or defensive back, though? Writing for CSN Philly, legendary scribe Ray Didinger makes the case that the Eagles should draft Florida State running back Dalvin Cook if he’s available at 14:
I know the argument: You don't draft running backs in the first round. The NFL is a passing league. You can find serviceable running backs later in the draft. Sometimes you can find really good ones. LeSean McCoy was a second-round pick. Brian Westbrook was a third. Wilbert Montgomery was still there in the sixth round. It is a mistake to draft one high. That is the conventional wisdom but I think it is about to change.
As we say in “the biz,” Cook does good YouTube:
Ezekiel Elliott is Didinger’s counter to the conventional wisdom that you don’t draft a running back in the first round, and after the Cowboys’ 2016 season, I can understand the feeling. The Eagles offensive line is probably a Top-10 unit, Zach Ertz is a decent, if unspectacular, tight end and a Jeffery-Smith-Jordan Matthews trio looks a lot better than what Carson Wentz was throwing to last year. What if the Eagles also added an elusive young three-down back equally adept in both the run and pass game? In the words of Bob Ryan, is that something you might be interested in?
With the Eagles expected to move on from Ryan Mathews, drafting Cook and adding him to a running back room that already has Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood could help Wentz and the offense come out firing in 2017:
The Eagles have needs in the secondary, that's for sure, but this draft is uncommonly deep in cornerbacks. There will be good ones on the board in rounds two and three and even four. The Eagles could take a running back in the first and still fill the defensive needs on Day 2 and 3.
I know it’s a stacked defensive back class, but as Jimmy wrote last week, the Eagles are going to need their draft picks in the secondary to play right away. As talented as Cook is, I would hate to see the Eagles fail to maximize a golden opportunity to shore up what is by far the weakest position on the team.
3. Making it fit: The Eagles like that all of their receivers can do different things.
4. “A lot of work to do”: Howie Roseman seems to understand that the Eagles are still have some significant steps to take.
When asked which team he felt moved up a tier after NFL free agency, former safety Matt Bowen said the Eagles:
In Jeffery, the Eagles give quarterback Carson Wentz a true No. 1 option who has the size, matchup ability and catch radius to go up and get the football. And with Smith, that vertical speed is going to clear out space in the middle of the field while also creating deep-ball opportunities to challenge the top of the secondary. Wentz needed weapons outside of the numbers, and both receivers will facilitate more growth in the young QB.
2017 NFL Free Agency Grades: Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Prisco gave the Eagles a C+ for their early free agency work:
The Eagles made landing help for Carson Wentz a priority, which is why they signed receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They will help the passing game, and Jeffery only got a one-year deal (while Smith’s deal is for so little guaranteed money it’s essentially a year-to-year commitment). They also re-signed guard Stefan Wisniewski and added Titans guard Chance Warmack. They lost corner Nolan Carroll and nose tackle Bennie Logan.
Eagles Draft Talk: Tommy Lawlor, Iggles Blitz
Lawlor has some good info on where the Eagles coaching staff has headed around the country in preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann