March 05, 2017
The Eagles brass was on hand in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, getting a first-hand look at hundreds of college prospects, several of whom will be wearing midnight green by the time minicamp opens later this spring.
And while their draft board is far from set in stone, the Birds did get some clarity last week about where they'll be picking in the first round (14th overall thanks to winning Friday's coin toss) this April, when the NFL comes to Philly for the first time ever.
That first-round pick originally belonged to the Vikings – the Eagles didn't have one after trading it to the Browns in order to move up and acquire Carson Wentz No. 2 overall last year – but Howie Roseman was able to get his team back into the first round by sending Sam Bradford to Minnesota after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL in training camp.
Because of that deal, the Eagles will now look to add pieces around Wentz, who they believe to be their long-term answer at quarterback. Sure, some of that help can come through free agency, which begins this week and includes the likes of Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson, or (perhaps more likely) via a trade – just look at their reported interest in Saints WR Brandin Cooks – especially when you consider Roseman's statement's this week regarding the dangers of overpaying players in free agency.
According to reports, the Eagles had (or will have) meetings with several of the top wideout prospects in Indianapolis (more on that in a bit).
Let's take a look at what several NFL writers are saying about the Eagles, which players they're interested in, and who they might take with the 14th pick in the draft.
As part of his Eagles-only seven-round mock draft, Steven Cook of Bleacher Report identified Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis as a potential fit for the Eagles in the first round. Of course, none of this means a whole lot until the 13 teams picking ahead of the Birds have already made their selections, but it's still fun to speculate, and Davis' skill-set certainly makes him an intriguing option:
WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan): There's been plenty of talk about the Eagles drafting one of the undoubted top two receivers in the draft, Clemson's Mike Williams and Western Michigan's Corey Davis. If either of them fall to the Eagles in the middle of Round 1, it should be an easy decision.
Williams is the more likely early pick, but fans shouldn't feel like they got the consolation prize with Davis. The star wideout from a Western Michigan squad that went undefeated during the regular season in 2016, Davis may be the more complete receiver with more of a dynamic ability to extend plays after the catch. [bleacherreport.com]
Davis had quite a career for Western Michigan, whose only loss last season came to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Here's more from WalterFootball.com's draft scouting report for Davis:
Summary: Corey Davis is the most prolific wide receiver in the history of the FBS. Let that sink in. He produced at a level that no player ever has before. During his senior campaign, Davis set the FBS record for career yardage after passing Nevada's Trevor Insley. Insley's record stood at 5,005 yards before Davis ended up totaling 5,285 yards over his college career. While Davis played at a lesser level of FBS competition, he has the skill set to be a good NFL wide receiver. [walterfootball.com]
According to Walter Football.com's Charlie Campbell, Davis draws NFL comparisons to Demaryius Thomas and the Eagles are listed as one of the teams with which he would fit well. Although his size ("not big") and speed ("not overly fast") are listed under weaknesses, the list of strengths is much longer, and includes a number of qualities that offset those weaknesses, including: "deceptive speed," "long arms," "wins 50-50 balls," and "leaping ability."
It's those kinds of skills that led to Davis being named the 2016 MAC Offensive player of the year while leading all FBS receivers with 19 touchdowns.
But perhaps the best strength listed for Davis, at least for Eagles fans, is that he "rarely ever drops a pass," a skill that he put on display with this TD grab against Northern Illinois:
It's worth a second look.
Most of the country isn't watching this game...doesn't mean you should miss this catch pic.twitter.com/SVpaxrTBWu— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) October 9, 2016
Hands like that could be a huge help for Wentz, especially after all those drops we saw from Eagles WRs. But Davis is hardly the only wideout with a first-round grade, and the Birds are going to take a long look at each of them.
With the No. 14 pick (thanks to the coin flip), there are really just three wide receiver options: Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Washington's John Ross.
"I think the Eagles have to figure out what their order of preference is, what kind of style they want," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said earlier this week on a conference call. "But they've got to be looking hard at all three of those guys and know up front if one or two or all three of them are available, who they're going to take." [csnphilly.com]
You're probably more familiar with the other two names mentioned here – Mike Williams played on the best team in the country, alongside one of the best QBs, and John Ross posted the fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL Combine history (4.22).
Luckily for the Eagles, there seem to be a few options for them if they decide to go the WR route in the first round.
Last week, Roseman spoke about Carson Wentz's ability to draw free agent talent because "he's a guy you want to play with." That might not mean much in the draft – players go where they're drafted, more or less – but it's a two-way street. Wentz, by working out with some WR prospects, has also gotten a look at some of them.
And although the Eagles can't talk to Wentz about football for another month and a half, they'll have to wait before getting his impressions of the guys with whom he worked out this winter. But at the combine, Eastern Washington wideout Cooper Kupp spoke about what it was like catching passes from the Birds QB.
Here's more from Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com:
"It was awesome," the Eastern Washington wideout said during his media availability at the combine on Friday. "Any time you can spend time with a quarterback, a guy that's been through this thing. To play a year like he has and found some success. And he'll be the first one to tell you, they have a long way to go and he's excited about tackling that. It's very clear in his attitude and his mentality right now in the offseason.
"Just to be around him, pick his brain and be a sponge was pretty special."
Rep1 Sports, which represents Kupp and Wentz, tweeted out a photo of the two of them and Cal receiver Chad Hansen on Feb. 17. While in California, Wentz also had a chance to work out with USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and North Carolina receiver Mack Hollins. [csnphilly.com]
Of course, the Birds might go a totally different route, opting for the defensive equivalent of the players we just mentioned.
But, according to draft guru Mike Mayock, the cornerback position may be the deepest its ever been. Turron Davenport of The Eagles Wire has more:
“The average is 12 corners going in the first two rounds over the last few years,” Mayock explained at his Combine press conference on Saturday. “I can give you 17 to 18 names that I have grades in rounds one through three. I had some coaches tell me the other night that they will get a guy in the fifth-round that should go in the second round.”
Mayock has an early round grades on the following prospects:
Sidney Jones, Washington
Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
Teez Tabor, Florida
Tre’Dvious White, LSU
Adoree Jackson, USC
Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Cam Sutton, Tennessee
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State
Gareon Conley, Michigan
Quincy Wilson, Florida
Cam Sutton, Tennessee
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
Howard Wilson, Houston
If the Eagles want to make a big splash in free agency, they're likely going to need to clear out some cap space. Tom Ignudo of InsideTheIggles.com wrote about five players who could be in danger, and one name popped out, especially if the Eagles don't take a cornerback in the first two rounds of the draft: Ron Brooks.
Brooks came in last season as a cheap cornerback that had experience playing in Schwartz’s system, but he suffered a torn quad against the Minnesota Vikings in October that sidelined him for the rest of the season. He’s 28-years old, and releasing him could open up an opportunity for a young corner, assuming they take one in the draft, to start for the Eagles.
Leodis McKelvin was released recently, so Brooks’ history with Schwartz helps. It still doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s safe either. [insidetheiggles.com]
Daniel Jeremiah, a former Eagles scout, told the story of the time neither he nor RB coach Duce Staley could convince an undrafted free agent to sign with the team ... until they put head coach Andy Reid, who knew exactly what to do in this situation, on the phone.
You can watch the video below, but here's part of the transcript, thanks to the guys over at Bleeding Green Nation:
“So then I go into our running back’s coach’s office, in Duce Staley’s office. I go ‘Duce, you’ve gotta help me out here, man, we’ve gotta get this done. So he gets on the phone, trying to convince this kid to sign with us, can’t get it done. So he looks at me and says ‘Walk with me.’”
“So we go down to Coach [Andy] Reid’s office, and we tell Coach Reid, ‘Hey, we’ve got Chris Polk on the line here, we’re trying to get him as a free agent. We hand him the phone. Coach picks up the phone and goes ‘Let me talk to your mother.’”
“That’s the first thing that he said. Because Coach is smarter than we are. So he got the kid’s mom on the phone and convinced mom to get the kid. And once we got mom on board, it was done, we got him.” [bleedinggreennation.com]
Who knows, maybe he winds up back in Philly (some day)...