Philadelphia Eagles: Post-Scouting Combine 7-Round Mock Draft
The Philadelphia Eagles have been busy thus far in the offseason, agreeing to contract extensions with Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, while locking up free-agent wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
Most mock drafts recently have had Philly targeting a wide receiver in the first round, but the team’s decision to retain both Cooper and Maclin should sway the momentum more to the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis coaxed fine seasons out of his 11 starters in 2013, but he needs a superstar to build his unit around, and this would be a good time to get one.
The Eagles pick 22nd overall in the first round. The ideal scenario is that the team picks a safety to upgrade a positional group that rated among the league’s worst a year ago. If Philly signs a playmaker like Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd or Cleveland’s T.J. Ward, this isn’t as much of a pressing need.
Regardless though, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly would be wise to look on the defensive side of the ball.
The defense overachieved in 2013 under Davis, actually ranking in the top half of teams for points allowed. Davis has a handful of future stars on his roster in defensive end Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and cornerback Brandon Boykin. Adding another top-quality defensive player would certainly put Philly on the right track heading into ’14, and that’s who the team will assuredly target early in the upcoming draft.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
1st Round: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt isn’t the most exciting player on the board, and he doesn’t fill a glaring position of need. But Roseman is a strong advocator of drafting the best player available, and in this case, it’s Tuitt. This would make the fifth straight first round the team selects an offensive or defensive lineman, but football games are won and lost in the trenches.
Tuitt is a classic 5-technique defensive end who would contribute immediately on the Philadelphia Eagles’ three-man front. Cox and Cedric Thornton are terrific ends, but Tuitt would take snaps as a rotational player while allowing Davis the flexibility to use a four-man front when he desires.
Tuitt is a 6’6”, 310-pound lineman who can play end or nose tackle in the 3-4 system. He did not participate in the NFL Scouting Combine due to a foot injury, but that shouldn’t affect his stock heading into training camp. Tuitt registered 12 sacks as a sophomore and 7.5 more as a junior, all the while playing on the interior section of the line.
Selecting Tuitt certainly isn’t as flashy as grabbing a stud receiver like Kelvin Benjamin. But with both safeties off the board, he’s a viable option for a team looking to get better on defense.
2nd Round: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
It still remains to be seen whether the Philadelphia Eagles will sign a big-name safety in free agency. They may not get Byrd or Ward, seeing as those two Pro Bowlers may be franchised by their respective teams. But the organization has to get someone—whether it be Donte Whitner, Ryan Clark, Louis Delmas or any of the available safeties on the open market.
Even so, drafting a safety is almost a requirement should the Eagles expect to get better on defense in the upcoming seasons. They’ve swung and missed recently on a handful of players, whether it be a high-round player like Nate Allen or a seventh-rounder like Kurt Coleman. They need to develop a young player who can turn into a future star.
In this case, they get Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward, a classic center fielder who can cause problems for opposing quarterbacks with his ball-hawking skills.
Ward registered seven interceptions as a senior, giving him 11 in his collegiate career. Ward lacks ideal size for his position, as he’s just 5’11” and 192 pounds, but he’s a talented-enough player in pass coverage that he will likely go in the second day of the NFL draft.
3rd Round: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
The Philadelphia Eagles need defensive players more than they do on offense, but Kelly has to take at least one offensive player in the first three rounds. After all, he’s an offensive-minded head coach, and in Paul Richardson, he gets another weapon for an already-talented group of receivers.
The re-signing of both Cooper and Maclin means Nick Foles will have a talented group of receivers to work with—DeSean Jackson will be the No. 1, Maclin likely the No. 2 and Cooper as the No. 3. But veteran slot receiver Jason Avant will assuredly be released due to a high cap hit, and there’s no proven depth among Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, Brad Smith or Jeff Maehl.
Richardson is a similar player to Jackson or Maclin, in that he’s speedy, thin and a deep threat. Richardson is listed at 6’0”, but he’s just 175 pounds, which would make him one of the lightest players in the NFL. He ran an impressive 4.40 40-yard dash, and he hauled in 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns at Colorado a year ago.
His obvious flaws are his frame, which makes him a durability concern and a poor blocker. Despite the influx of receivers on the Eagles, though, the team could be on the market for another one soon.
Maclin is locked up to just a one-year deal, Cooper hasn’t proved he can duplicate his success yet and Jackson is owed over $30 million for the next three seasons, which means he may end up being a cap casualty if Richardson can prove to be Jackson’s long-term replacement.
4th Round: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Cornerback isn’t a glaring need for the Philadelphia Eagles, but it is an important position to address in the middle rounds of the NFL draft. Cary Williams played surprisingly well in his first year with the team in ’13, but he’s due to make $6.4 million this coming year and $8.1 million in ’15, which suggests he won’t be around much longer.
Bradley Fletcher is an adequate starter who will probably give way to future Pro Bowler Boykin soon. Still, there isn’t depth on the team, and the Eagles were exposed when dime cornerback Roc Carmichael had to step in for a play in the Wild Card Game loss to the New Orleans Saints. That’s where Lidnenwood’s Pierre Desir comes in.
Desir is a tall corner (6’1”) with good ball skills who beat up on inferior competition (Division II) a year ago. The key will be determining if his success against lesser players can translate to succeeding on the NFL level. Desir is looking to become just the third player ever from his school to play in the National Football League.
The success of recent tall cornerbacks—notably Seattle’s Richard Sherman—bodes well for Desir, who would be one of a handful of NFL cornerbacks checking in at 6’1” or taller. Desir is a natural playmaker who records a high number of interceptions. He would begin as the Eagles’ fourth cornerback, with the ideal scenario that he can eventually start on the outside.
5th Round (Pick 1): Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Philadelphia Eagles will need another quarterback for 2014, considering Michael Vick is sure to compete for a starting job elsewhere. Foles is entrenched as the starter, and Matt Barkley may be the odds-on favorite to be the backup if Kelly doesn’t sign a veteran free agent.
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has seen his draft stock plummet as of late, but he’s a project for Kelly to develop. Boyd has the physical skills to succeed in the NFL, given that he’s quick (4.84 40-yard dash) and can buy time for himself in the pocket. Last year at Clemson, Boyd threw for 38 touchdowns, ran for 10 more and completed an impressive 68 percent of his passes.
He’s seen his stock fall due to a poor showing at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, and it may even be a slight stretch for Boyd to be picked up in the fifth round. But he has high upside, given that he was once viewed a potential first- or second-round prospect.
Boyd will need a smart head coach to work with him, namely his ability to read NFL defenses and make good decisions with the football.
Kelly has proved himself to be a quarterback guru, seeing as what he did with Foles. Even Vick was on track for career-best numbers before he got hurt and subsequently lost the starting job. Boyd is a long-term developmental prospect and potentially a future trade candidate.
5th Round (Pick 2): Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
The Philadelphia Eagles are the perfect landing spot for tight end Colt Lyerla. Lyerla has tremendous physical skills and played under Kelly at Oregon. It’s Lyerla’s off-the-field concerns that will hurt his draft stock.
Lyerla played just three games in 2013 before he withdrew from the team for personal reasons. But he’s a proven player in college, having led all Pac-12 tight ends in yards per catch (15.7) in 2012. Lyerla has 4.61 40 speed and he can line up as an in-line tight end, a slot receiver or even out wide as a regular wide receiver.
Lyerla is a gifted playmaker with a 40-inch vertical leap. He could be an exceptional target in the red zone if given the opportunity to play at the NFL level. The Eagles likely won’t be bringing back James Casey, as he’s set to make $3.96 million in ’14 after having played minimal snaps the previous season. That leaves open a spot for a third tight end on the roster.
7th Round: James Morris, ILB, Iowa
The Philadelphia Eagles have a solid linebacking corps, with Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, and Kendricks.
Kendricks is an up-and-coming star, but Ryans is a veteran and is entering his final years as a starter in the league. He's set to make $6.9 million against the cap in '14 and can be released at no penalty. That suggests he may be a cap casualty, given that that's a lot of money for a player who makes a lot of tackles but has lost a step in the field.
James Morris would just be added to compete for depth behind Ryans and Kendricks. The Eagles haven’t gotten much from Casey Matthews. Najee Goode is a fine special teams player but a limited linebacker. Taking a chance with a player like Morris would be a solid move.
Morris racked up three consecutive 100-tackle campaigns in college, and he’s a physical player who could compete for a job in the NFL.