Ronald Jones RB, USC
With Legarette Blount gone, Sproles’ retirement on the horizon, and Jay Ajayi in the final year of his rookie contract it makes sense for the Eagles to invest at running back.
Ronald Jones is a home run hitter who’s more than capable running between the tackles. He racked up 3,619 yards on the ground over three seasons and (while underutilized at SC) is a lethal reciever out of the backfield. There are concerns as to whether he can be an every down back in the NFL (size), but I don’t think he’ll ever need to fill that role in Pederson’s offense.
For a while I rejected the idea of taking a running back in the first round, but I’ve since come around. Having someone as electric as Jones in the backfield next to Wentz is a scary thought that will put opposing defenses in a pick-your-poison scenario (a la Goff/Gurley) — assuming they weren’t already in one. After all the additions of this offseason, this kind of feels like it would be the cherry on top.
* Depending on how the draft shakes out, Howie could trade back into the mid-second round, add another pick, and still get the running back of their choice
Tegray Scales LB, Indiana
Since my last mock draft the Eagles re-signed Nigel Bradham, making linebacker less pressing of a hole. With that said, the team still needs depth at the position to replace Danell Ellerbe & Najee Goode. On top of that, Hicks (durability) and Kendricks (inconsistency) don’t inspire the long-term confidence they used to.
Scales had the production of a day-one linebacker in college but his size and athletic limitations could push him down draft boards. He’s undersized, and if that created problems for him at the college level it’s hard to imagine it won’t at the pro level.
Those concerns aside, Scales may be the most instinctual linebacker in the class. He uses a high IQ, solid first step, and good pursuit angles to constantly make plays on the ball. Those traits should easily translate to the NFL and allow him to overcome the fact that he’s not the physical specimen of most linebackers.
Siran Neal DB, Jacksonville St.
The Eagles still have a hole at third safety and should look to fill that through the draft. While Raul Douglas, Daryl Worley, and Chris Maragos have a chance at filling that spot, the Eagles would be wise to add a rookie who can fill compete for that role, and also develop into a starting safety sometime in the future.
Neal played all over the secondary for Jacksonville St. but projects as a safety in the NFL. He has the physicality and cover ability to matchup well with tight ends, while also being capable of making plays as a deep safety. Don’t sleep on his versatility either — he can compete for the nickel corner spot if necessary. He excelled there in college, and proved to be stout against the run game.
Overall, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness in his game. He could be a Swiss army knife for Schwartz’ defense on top of being necessary depth at safety.
Cedrick Wilson WR, Boise St.
I realize the Birds added Mike Wallace, and already have Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, and few other young hopefuls as depth, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them throw another receiver into the mix who has a little more promise. While the team has expressed excitement for each of their young receivers, none of them are above being challenged for a roster spot.
Wilson has good size with average speed, which isn’t a surprise considering his NFL lineage (his dad played WR). But what stands out to me his polished route running. He has extremely impressive patience for such a young receiver, and has a nuanced understanding of how to create leverage against defensive backs.
The three receivers mentioned above all lacked the polish coming out of college that Wilson has. He may not have top-end speed, but his innate ability to get open on all three levels and from all over the formation is what should appeal to the Birds.
Parry Nickerson CB, Tulane
With Pat Robinson gone, the Eagles secondary has a gaping hole at nickel corner. While I prefer that they find his replacement at the top of the draft, I don’t think the front office is thinking that way. They seem to be hedging their bets on one of Worley, Mills, Darby, or Douglas stepping up in a similar way that Robinson stepped up last offseason.
In the event that they stick to that plan and don’t use a high pick on a corner, it would be wise to add someone in the later rounds who can at least join the competition at nickel. Parry Nickerson fits that mold.
Nickerson is an aggressive ball-hawk who plays with an edge tailor-made for Philadelphia. His lack of size or stature will pigeon hole him into the nickel spot, but his tremendous athletic ability gives him serious potential to excel at the position. While I think he’s a prospect worthy of being taken higher than the sixth round, the fact that he has size concerns and comes from a small school will keep him this late. His ball skills, speed, and competitiveness are reminiscent of Brandon Boykin — who never stood a chance on the outside but was a pro-bowl level talent at nickel.
Poona Ford DT, Texas
With Ngata brought on board to replace Beau Allen the need for defensive tackle isn’t what it used to be. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t continue adding depth at a position they place a ton of value in.
Ford is a stubby yet strong interior lineman who may be able to maximize his ability in Schwartz’ system. He has a powerful lower body and is quick at firing off the snap; he needs some development but has potential to be extremely strong at the point of attack. There’s nothing about Ford to rave about, but he’s more than capable of becoming a rotational 4-3 DT.