It’s NFL mock draft season again, and what started out as a fun hobby for some football geeks has turned into big business that, thanks to the internet, now has thousands of mock drafts floating around in cyberspace.
Once again, we have taken an unscientific survey of some leading mock drafters to see what they believe the Eagles will do with their first-round pick, which, this year, is 25th overall. Then we’ll reveal which player we believe the Eagles will take in Thursday night’s first round.
We rounded up the usual suspects – ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, CBS Sports, USA Today, The Washington Post. We also included a couple of renegades – nice-looking web sites run by average joes whose batting average in these mock drafts are usually as good as the Mel Kipers of the world.
Two of those mom-and-pop sites were included because we liked their slogans. One, called Draft Blaster, bills itself as “The Thinking Man’s Guide to the Draft,” even though they use a computer to make their selections. Another, called DraftSite, boasts that it’s “The Original Full Round Mock Draft Site,” even though, of course, it’s not.
As for the mock drafters’ predictions for the Eagles, there was no real consensus, which isn’t surprising considering how far back in the back they are at No. 25 and because they have several needs.
The player who got the most votes was Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, who was named on six of the 20 mock drafts we used in the survey.
Next was safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson of Florida, with three votes, and offensive lineman Cody Ford of Oklahoma, with two votes. The players who received one vote included guard Charles Lindstrom of Boston College, linebacker Devin Bush of Michigan, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins of Clemson, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence of Clemson, wide receiver Marquise Brown of Oklahoma and linebacker Devin White of Louisiana State
Also, the two draft analysts and mock drafters that get the most air time, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN, said the Eagles would take safety Jonathan Abram of Mississippi State (Kiper) and cornerback DeAndre Baker of Georgia (McShay) in the first round.
And one mock drafter came up with an Eagles pick that would delight First State fans – Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated predicts the Eagles will select safety Nasir Adderly of the University of Delaware with the 25th pick.
Most mock drafts have Adderly going late in the first round or early in the second, and even though a couple of other predictors have said the Eagles will take a safety, Klemko is the only one we could find who said that safety played his college football less than an hour away from Lincoln Financial Field.
Here’s what Klemko had to say about the Eagles and Adderly: “He would play right away in three-safety alignments for an Eagles team that likely feels like it’s a player or two from returning to the Super Bowl, and with good reason.”
A player or two … Everyone knows the Eagles have areas of need and they did a good job of addressing most of those needs in the offseason with the additions of defensive tackle Malik Jackson (from Jacksonville), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (from Tampa Bay) and running back Jordan Howard (from Chicago).
But the Eagles still have needs. Like all NFL teams, they always say they want to take the best possible player available and not just draft on need, but that’s balderdash – every team in every sport drafts for need.
In the Eagles case, that need isn’t necessarily because of who plays the game as much as how they play the game. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz insists on rushing the passer with just his front four most of the time, which puts two kinds of pressure on the guys who have to get pressure on the quarterback.
One, if they don’t do their jobs the other team’s quarterback is going to complete a lot of passes and the other team is going to score a lot of points. Two, they have the toughest job in football. They have to wrestle with guys bigger than them and then chase after guys faster than them, and when it comes to rushing the passer, they have to be relentless, even though they know the odds are that they won’t get the sack they covet.
So, to be successful the Eagles have to pressure the quarterback with just the d-line and that means the Eagles need lots of quality d-linemen. Fortunately for them, this is a great draft for d-linemen and the Eagles won’t be able to pass on the best one of them available with the 25th pick.
The Eagles have other needs, of course, and a big one is the interior of their offensive line. Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks is out indefinitely after tearing his Achilles tendon in the playoff loss to New Orleans. And the Eagles did not re-sign his backup, veteran Stefen Wisniewski, who started for them in their Super Bowl victory over New England.
But the Eagles are built to win now, and a rookie offensive lineman usually takes a lot longer to adjust to the NFL than a rookie defensive lineman.
The Eagles will draft a guard and/or center, but it will be a developmental player who is selected in a lower round, unless they make a trade to move up and target somebody like Cody Ford of Oklahoma or Garrett Bradbury of North Carolina State or tackle Greg Little of Mississippi State.
The Eagles also have needs at running back and safety and linebacker and all of those positions will be addressed in this draft, but not in the first round. That will be reserved for a big body on the defensive line. Even though they added Malik Jackson and he’s been a good player at times, they still need someone in the middle of their defensive line to take the pressure off of All-Pro Fletcher Cox and help the Eagles put more pressure in the QB’s face. They need another quality defensive tackle and that’s the direction they’ll go in the first round on Thursday night.
We’ll take this moment to mention that we correctly predicted which player the Eagles would draft in the first round the last two years – defensive end Derek Barnett and tight end Dallas Goedert. And we applied the same logic then that we’re applying now – where do the Eagles need the most help and who is the best choice to help them?
Unless the Eagles trade up they won’t have a shot at the top three defensive tackles on the board – Quinnen Williams of Alabama, Ed Oliver of Houston and Christian Wilkins of Clemson. That leaves a second tier of DTs, including Dexter Lawrence of Clemson, Jeffrey Tillery of Notre Dame and Jeffrey Simmons of Mississippi State.
So, unless they make another draft day trade, the Eagles will use the 25th pick on Dexter Lawrence, a 6-foot-4 ½, 342-pounder from national champion Clemson.
Unless, of course, they don’t.