Super Bowl Champions typically see valuable depth poached in the offseason by teams willing to overpay for a piece of a winning culture. The Eagles won’t be an exception. They’ll likely see Corey Graham, Trey Burton, Beau Allen, Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, and possibly starter Nigel Bradham all leave for bigger roles and more money.
Depth played an integral role in last season’s success. Not only did it allow us to use deep rotations in certain spots, but it gave us the ability to sustain injuries without a hiccup. If Howie and Doug want to repeat as champs then replacing that is vital.
The Eagles didn’t need to rely on many rookies in 2017, but that should change this year. With limited cap space and only a few reserves ready to step into bigger roles, the NFL Draft is a key opportunity for Howie to fill our depth needs.
With the NFL Scouting Combine set to start on Friday, here’s my full seven-round mock draft for the Eagles:
Round 1, Pick #32:
Kolton Miller Offensive Tackle, UCLA
While I’m in favor of trading back to get another mid-round pick – we’ll stay at 32 for the sake of this projection. Based on what I’m seeing so far, offensive line has been the popular choice at this spot. I recently wrote about potential prospects for the Birds to watch in round one, and the tackle I highlighted was Kolton Miller from UCLA.
Miller is lauded for athleticism – a trait that will make scouts salivate over his potential. He has the bend and size to stick on the left side, which is important for keeping Lane Johnson at right tackle. Like many tackle prospects he may need time to develop, but for the time being Vaitai is more than capable as a stop-gap until Miller is ready. Ideally this would be the long term solution for Carson Wentz’ blindside.
Round 4, Pick #127:
Terrell Edmunds Safety, Virginia Tech
Replacing Corey Graham turns out to be a bigger priority than anyone could have imagined; the Eagles had three safeties on the field for 40% of snaps last season. With Schwartz using Malcolm Jenkins as a nickel/extra linebacker more and more frequently, another safety has become critical to his system. Special team ace Chris Maragos may be able to fill that role as he did at times last season, but adding another safety to the conversation wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Terrell Edwards was a 2-year starter alongside his brother Tremiane (ILB) – who projects as a top-15 pick in this years’ draft. While he may be the lesser prospect of the two, his talent isn’t going unnoticed by some scouts who rave about his top-tier athleticism. Edwards displayed good ball skills and cover ability while at Tech. The knock on him is his strength and tackling – which is what holds him back on most draft boards. What alleviates this concern for me is that he’s described as a “willing” tackler. Technique and strength are things that can be added in the NFL; it’s hard to develop a competitive edge in someone.
Round 4, Pick #128:
B.J. Hill Defensive Tackle, N.C. State
It’s not a guarantee that Beau Allen leaves in free agency, but it’s more than likely. Reserves Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls will get a crack at filling his role, but the Birds would be wise to add another linemen to that battle through the draft.
B.J. Hill played for a dominant line at N.C. State and fits the mold of a one-gap interior rusher that Schwartz likes. He’s extremely quick off the snap and has enough wiggle and athleticism to consistently win one-on-ones against interior linemen. He could stand to add some strength, as his biggest area of concern appears to be his inability to handle double-teams and maulers. Either way, Hill has the physical tools to develop into the type of explosive 4-3 tackle that Schwartz’ covets, and could probably crack the rotation from day one.
Round 5, Pick #147:
Oren Burks Outside Linebacker, Vanderbilt
For the record, I think we find a way to re-sign Bradham; making this position far less of a need. But with Najee Good and Dannell Ellerbe also set to hit free agency this position has depth issues that will warrant a late round pick regardless.
Oren Burks is a versatile backer who filled many roles for Vanderbilt’s defense. Most of his value comes from his athleticism and ability to cover in space, but concerns around his tackling (red flag) will likely make him as a day 3 pick. At this point in the draft potential is something to look for, and Burks certainly fits that criterion. He should be able to contribute immediately on special teams with the potential to develop into Kendricks’ role.
Round 5, Pick #160:
Taron Johnson Cornerback, Weber State
For once the Eagles enter the draft without a serious need at cornerback. However, with Patrick Robinson potentially leaving via free agency the nickel spot could become a question mark that may not have an answer on the roster. A late round pick may be Howie’s best bet to fill this role.
Johnson played at a small school, but paired solid physical traits with good cover skills to catch the attention of scouts. He projects mainly as a nickel corner because of his quickness, and is also a willing and physical tackler at the line of scrimmage. While he does have “size” concerns, what nickel prospects don’t? I like Johnson more than most projected ‘day 3’ cornerbacks, and if Howie can find an underrated player this late who can contribute as a rookie – much like he did with Jalen Mills – it would do a lot to fortify a soon-to-be thin secondary.
Round 6, Pick #192:
Ethan Wolfe Tight End, Tennessee
With Celek potentially retiring and Burton set to move on in free agency the Eagles need a couple of tight ends. I think they’ll look for a cheap option on the open market to replace the Celek’s complementary role as a blocker, and a late draft pick to find Burton’s replacement.
Wolfe had a long, productive career at Tennessee as both a pass-catcher and blocker. He has above-average athleticism and size to complement his solid hands, which gives him the potential to develop into a very capable receiving threat in the NFL. The question surrounding Wolfe is his ability to be a consistent blocker as the pro level. If he can’t do that then he’ll never be more than what Burton was, but with a pick this late that’s okay.