Philadelphia Eagles Mock Draft: Final 7 Round Predictions
Will the Philadelphia Eagles go wide receiver or defense in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft? Will they focus their six selections on reinforcing the league's No. 2 offense or on rebuilding a defense that ranked 29th overall last season (dead last against the pass)?
And what does our latest—and final—mock draft have to say about it all?
At long last, we’re about to start getting some answers beginning on May 8, when Round 1 kicks off at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. But until then, with there still being time left to kill, let's take one last stab at predicting the Birds’ moves on draft weekend.
Yes, the wait has been excruciating. You probably feel as though every possible configuration for Philly has been done by now. Maybe it has! Using the most up-to-date information that’s available however, we think it’s worth one last look into our crystal ball to project whom the Eagles will wind up with.
Round 1, No. 22: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
I can’t shake the feeling that, in a draft as deep as this, somebody unexpected lasts to No. 22.
It could be linebacker and SEC Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Mosley or consensus All-American safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, both products of Alabama. It could be the Jim Thorpe Award winner out of Michigan State, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, or even 2012 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.
I can’t imagine many players the Eagles would be more ecstatic to see fall into their lap, though, than Anthony Barr—pass-rusher being arguably the franchise’s biggest need, after all.
Philadelphia ranked 20th with 37 sacks last season, just six more than the team ranked last in that category and a whopping 23 in back of the first-place unit. Furthermore, Trent Cole turns 32 in October, and his salary cap hit is set to balloon to nearly $12 million in ’15.
A converted running back with only two years of experience on defense, Barr still has a long way to go in terms of honing his technique and instincts for the next level. Yet there’s no denying he has a natural ability to get to the quarterback. Barr finished second in the nation with 13.5 sacks in ’12, and racked up 10 more last season en route to back-to-back first-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Barr could make an instant impact in the NFL as a situation pass-rusher. With the Eagles, he would have a year to learn from Cole, a two-time Pro Bowler, before being thrust into a starting role.
Such a drop to No. 22 is entirely plausible, too. If Barr makes it past the Tennessee Titans at No. 11, there aren’t many teams ahead of Philly with both the overwhelming need for a pass-rusher or that utilize a 3-4 defensive system for which he appears to be best suited.
If Barr goes into free-fall mode, the Birds could trade up a few spots to ensure they land their stud pass-rusher. They could even attempt to move down and gamble he’ll last a few picks longer. Or the Eagles can stay right where they are, and if somehow he does make it to No. 22, do the simple thing here.
Hand NFL commissioner Roger Goodell an index card with Barr’s name on it.
Round 2, No. 54: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Of all the wide receiver prospects in this draft, why Jordan Matthews? Because he’s everything DeSean Jackson was not.
There are two prevailing theories as to why the Eagles straight-up released a 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler coming off of a career year. The first, currently being perpetuated by the organization itself, is this was entirely a football decision. The second, through various reports, is Jackson’s attitude and extra-curricular activities were at the very least a distraction.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. And let's not forget that Jackson was owed in excess of $30 million over the next three seasons—the majority of which was saved by his departure.
Regardless, Matthews is the polar opposite in almost every conceivable way.
For one, he’s a much bigger, stronger target for quarterback Nick Foles. At 6’3”, Matthews is almost half a foot taller than Jackson, while only one wideout invited to this year’s combine completed more reps in the bench press. Matthews does sacrifice a tenth of a second in the 40-yard dash, but 4.46 seconds is superb for a receiver of his size.
The two-time first-team all-SEC receiver also had a more productive career as a wide receiver in a tougher conference. Over the past two seasons alone, Matthews hauled in 206 receptions for 2,800 yards, meaning that he was more productive than Jackson was in three seasons at Cal.
And if character was, in fact, the biggest issue with Jackson, no such concerns exist with Matthews. Scouting reports describe the Vanderbilt team captain as a professional.
There’s a reasonable chance Matthews is off the board before the Eagles’ pick, but the fact that similar talent can be found this late is why I strongly recommend the team hold off on receiver in Round 1.
Are consensus first-rounders such as Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, USC’s Marqise Lee and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. far superior prospects than Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Indiana’s Cody Latimer, Fresno State’s Devante Adams or Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin? Because one of those players still should be available at No. 54.
Round 3, No. 86: Christian Jones, ILB, Florida State
By and large, the Eagles have to be pleased with what they got out of DeMeco Ryans last season given the general feeling that he’s miscast as an every-down linebacker in a 3-4 at this stage of his career. The two-time Pro Bowler set new personal bests with four sacks and two interceptions, and is still reliable in most situations.
Ryans turns 30 this summer though and has two years left on a contract that’s paying him $6.9 million per. It’s time to start thinking about the future.
Besides filling a need, Christian Jones could be the most complete prospect left on the board at this stage in the draft. There simply aren’t a great deal of standout interior linebackers in this year’s class, far fewer who stand 6’3”, 240 pounds and run a 4.7 40.
Jones wasn’t especially productive at Florida State, although he was obviously a major contributor during last season's national championship run. Impact plays were lacking throughout his career, however, as he recorded just eight sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles in four seasons for the Seminoles.
That being said, you can’t teach this kind of raw ability. Jones is a sound tackler who can pressure quarterbacks, run sideline to sideline in pursuit of ball-carriers or drop into coverage.
The latter might be his specialty. With his length and athleticism, Jones has the potential to be special in coverage. As a rookie, he would likely be able to replace Ryans in obvious passing situations, and in time, perhaps take over in that every-down role.
Round 4, No. 122: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
Nobody is better positioned to select Taylor Hart than the Eagles, because no NFL team could possibly share their level of insight. After all, head coach Chip Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro were at the University of Oregon for close to the entirety of Hart’s collegiate career.
That should eliminate a lot of the mystery normally associated with the crapshoot that is the draft.
Hart should be able to step right into a reserve role as a 5-technique defensive end .in coordinator Billy Davis' defense. Right now, there’s only 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox at one end and the duo of Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry at the other as far as proven players are concerned. Beyond nose tackle Bennie Logan, the Eagles are painfully thin along the defensive line.
Hart isn’t likely to become a star. A three-year starter, he enjoyed his best season as a junior with 11.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. However, Hart’s productivity regressed to 6.0 TFL and 3.5 sacks in ’13.
Still, at 6’6”, 281 pounds, he has the size to play at the next level. He’s got the motor, and scouting reports indicate he’ll do the dirty work.
The Eagles desperately need somebody to give Cox a breather, as he seemed to wear down as last season went along with little in the way of help behind him. Hart could provide that necessary depth. Fourth round might be a bit of a reach, but the Philadelphia front office and coaching staff knows exactly what they're getting with this particular player.
[TRADE] Round 5, No. 158: John Urschel, OG, Penn State
My guess is the Eagles deal outside linebacker Brandon Graham to the highest bidder between Day 2 and 3 of the draft. There is a perception the 13th overall pick of the 2010 draft simply does not fit Philadelphia's current defensive scheme, whereas he could potentially start at end in a 4-3.
In this scenario, I have Philadelphia shipping Graham to the Dallas Cowboys, because no team has more pressing issues along the defensive line, to the point there’s no way they can fill every hole in one draft. The Birds have shown no fear when trading within the division in the past, and if Dallas makes the best offer, I can’t imagine it will be a problem now.
The who doesn’t matter anyway.
Meanwhile, I don’t anticipate the Eagles moving guard Evan Mathis, despite an earlier report by Ian Rapoport for NFL.com that the All-Pro left guard is on the trade block. Mathis arrived on schedule for the voluntary portion of the offseason program, so it seems any issues may have blown over for now.
That being said, Mathis will be 33 this year. Right guard Todd Herremans will be 32, and while the 10-year veteran picked it up in the second half, his play slipped noticeably last season. Regardless how good either one is now, the clock is ticking.
John Urschel isn’t the most dazzling athlete out there, but he’s an absolutely brilliant young man. Not only was he two-time first-team All-Big Ten, but Urschel earned his master’s degree in mathematics at Penn State with a 4.0 GPA last year. His intangibles are incredible.
In short, anything this kid applies himself at, he could likely accomplish. Playing in the NFL actually might be the least interesting career choice he could make.
Also keep an eye on Anthony Steen as a possible target for Philly. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was Steen’s position coach at the University of Alabama, giving the organization an insider’s perspective of sorts about his future.
Round 5, No. 162: Dontae Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
The Seattle Seahawks just won a Super Bowl largely on the strength of one the best defenses that's been assembled in the past couple decades. Perhaps what’s most interesting about that unit though is the lack of high draft picks in its vaunted “Legion of Boom” secondary.
Of the primary contributors in Seattle’s defensive backfield, only All-Pro safety Earl Thomas went higher than the fourth round coming out of college.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to rely on late-round picks, but when Barr fell to Philadelphia at No. 22, that changed everything. The Eagles stayed true to their board, didn’t force any picks just because cornerback is a need and now they’ve wound up with Dontae Johnson in Round 5.
At 6’2”, Johnson certainly looks like a Seahawks corner, at least in terms of size. He ran well at the combine as well, clocking a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.
He’s not a player who produced a great deal in college, though, recording just three career interceptions at NC State—all of them his senior year.
Then again, what Johnson does bring to the table is tremendous versatility. He’s played all over the secondary, from outside the numbers to inside the slot and safety. He even contributed on special teams.
It would be quite a leap to suggest Johnson might be the next Richard Sherman. However, given that he can play a number of different positions, and the fact that his scouting report describes him as “smart and hardworking,” the Eagles could no doubt find a roster spot for Johnson.
Round 7, No. 237: Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
In all honesty, I would not be the least bit shocked if Philadelphia comes away with a tight end much earlier. We’re talking Day 2.
As it stands, it’s slim pickings by this point in the draft. Brent Celek turns 30 before the Super Bowl, and James Casey hasn’t made the impact many thought he might after signing a free-agent contract last offseason. Zach Ertz is ready to step into a huge role this season, but two productive tight ends are still better than one.
Marcel Jensen may or may not wind up being a pass-catching threat at the next level. A converted defensive end, he’s really only been playing the position for two seasons, pulling down career numbers of 48 receptions for 708 yards and eight touchdowns at Fresno State.
That being said, at 6’6”, 259 pounds, Jensen has better than the prototypical size teams look for at the position. He also has the basketball background that’s proven successful in the development of some NFL tight ends. He even has the strength to be an effective run blocker.
Whether Jensen will still be around in the seventh round or not is another story. If he is, and the Eagles haven’t loaded up on tight end already, he could make for an intriguing Chip Kelly pet project.