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March 01, 2019

Why do analysts keeping giving the Eagles cornerbacks in mock drafts?

In our first two mock draft roundups this year (version 1.0 and version 2.0), a number of draft analysts had the Philadelphia Eagles selecting a cornerback in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. More recently, the O.G. of mock drafts, ESPN's Mel Kiper, had them taking a corner as well.

If someone were to look up the Eagles' team stats in 2018, they could quickly identify that the Eagles were ranked 30th in yards against the pass. As such, it's easy for one to immediately think, "They need a corner," and move on, kinda like this:

Of course, if you're a close follower of the Eagles and watch all their games, you'd know that they had an absurd number of injuries in the secondary, which contributed heavily to their struggles against the pass. In fact, the five corners on the roster at the start of the season -- Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox -- missed a combined 35 games in 2018. Not to mention, starting safety Rodney McLeod, and his replacement, Corey Graham, missed a combined 18 games on top of that.

If you just caught a handful of widely viewed games like the ones where DeVante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan, and an obviously hobbled Jones were getting lit up by the Saints and Cowboys, then sure, you might go, "OMG, their corners suuuuuuck."

These people aren't dumb. Well, most of them aren't, anyway. They just aren't drilling way down deep into the nuances of the team picking 25th in the draft, because, well, by the time you get down that far, you probably just want to not be thinking of something to write anymore, and you're content to just mail it in. I've been there.

The Eagles have drafted four cornerbacks in the last three years, all of whom are still with the team. They are as follows:

Year Player (Age)Round Games (starts) 
 2018Avonte Maddox (22) 13 (9) 
 2017Sidney Jones (22)10 (4) 
 2017Rasul Douglas (24)30 (12) 
 2016Jalen Mills (24)39 (25) 

• Mills has had his struggles against the deep ball, but he's a physical tackler and has provided good coverage in the red zone.

• Maddox had an outstanding rookie season, playing outside corner, slot corner, and safety, oftentimes at a high level.

• Douglas had a bad start to the season when he was forced to play due to injuries, but he rebounded and played very good football down the stretch.

• Jones was OK before his hamstring flared up, and he wasn't the same thereafter. He has to prove he can stay on the field, but he has at least shown flashes of talent.

• The Eagles also added Cre'Von LeBlanc (24) during the season, who turned out to be one of the pleasant surprises for the 2018 Eagles, filling in at the slot corner spot.

• And then of course there's Darby (25), who is likely to walk in free agency, with realistic scenarios existing of him returning to the team.

While there certainly isn't an established star among that group, the Eagles corners' under contract in 2019 have an average age of 23.2*.

"We’ve invested a lot of draft picks at that position," Howie Roseman said on Wednesday. "You have to give players at that position a chance to grow. You have to give everyone a chance to grow in their roles. We’re looking forward to them taking another step."

Could the Eagles take a corner in the first round of this draft? Sure. If he's legitimately the best player available on their board, then they should go right ahead and take him. However, in a draft class that is thought to be weak at corner and "historic" along the defensive line, that scenario feels very unlikely.

*They'll all be a year older before the start of the 2019 season.

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