Process of elimination gives much clearer picture of who Eagles should target in first round

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The NFL Draft is just two weeks away and it is gearing up to be an important one for the Eagles. They have a myriad of needs on both sides of the ball yet they have shown considerable interest in the top quarterbacks of the draft, even after the solidifying their starter and backup positions.

Although their interest in quarterbacks is getting most of the headlines, Roseman and the front office have also brought in top prospects like running back Ezekiel Elliottt and they’d be wise to continue to invest time in others like cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley. Nevertheless the Eagles, (unless Howie Roseman uses unprecedented wizardry), will have only one pick in the first round. The question is, who will they pick?

There is still a fair amount of time until the Titans are on the clock, but we can start to narrow down who the Eagles will select. We will start with the Eagles big board and then work down until we find the most logical choice for the Eagles in the first round.

Overall Big Board:

Below are the top fifteen available players in the draft in no particular order. This is the pool of players that we will work with to narrow down the selections.

 

Name Position College
Jalen Ramsey CB/S Florida State
Myles Jack LB UCLA
Laremy Tunsil OT Ole Miss
DeForest Buckner DE Oregon
Joey Bosa DE Ohio State
Carson Wentz QB North Dakota State
Ronnie Stanley OT Notre Dame
Jared Goff QB California
Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida
Shaq Lawson DE Clemson
Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State
Darron Lee LB Ohio State
Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame
Jack Conklin OT Michigan State
Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss

In every draft, there are a couple of elite players that will come off in the top 4 or 5 and excite a team regardless of positional needs. Unless the Eagles make a jump up to one of those slots, this year’s collection of best available prospects will be out of reach. Therefore we can scratch them off the list.

 

Jalen Ramsey
The Florida State star is one of my favorite players in the draft, plus he fits what the Eagles need in a corner, but his versatility and upside will ensure that his named is called very early.

 

Laremy Tunsil
Other than a few mocks of Ramsey going to the Titans, Tunsil has dominated the discussion for the first overall pick. Again, he would fill a need for the Eagles, but his stock is just too high and the Eagles are not desperate enough for tackles to trade up.

 

Myles Jack
Jack has not played in a while but he has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis when he’s previously suited up. He ultimately might be the best player in the draft and that is going to force a team in the top four to forget need and go with the UCLA linebacker.

 

Joey Bosa
Although I am not as high as others on the Ohio State product, his all-around ability and his high floor should be enough to warrant a top five pick. He is talented but he is not at a position of need for the Eagles and they would be smart to avoid trading up for him.

 

DeForest Buckner
He is not necessarily an elite prospect who will have teams forgetting their needs, but he will most likely hear his named called before the Eagles get a chance to look at him. He is the physically gifted defensive lineman that teams covet and he should be off the board by the time the Eagles are on the clock.

 

Eliminated: Ramsey, Tunsil, Jack, Bosa, Buckner

 

Name Position College
Carson Wentz QB North Dakota State
Ronnie Stanley OT Notre Dame
Jared Goff QB California
Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida
Shaq Lawson DE Clemson
Ezekiel Elliottt RB Ohio State
Darron Lee LB Ohio State
Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame
Jack Conklin OT Michigan State
Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss

 

Next we will look at the Eagles positional needs and weed out players that do not fit those needs.

 

The Eagles’ Needs:

  1. RB
    With DeMarco Murray’s monster contract lifted off the shoulders of the Eagles, the running back corp looks a lot weaker than it did this time 12 months ago. Ryan Mathews is very talented but is also one of the more injury prone players in the league, and Darren Sproles is neither a three down back nor a spring chicken. Kenjon Barner has all the potential but is he ready to start in the NFL? It’s a rookie season for Head Coach Doug Pederson, he is going to need the best option available at running back..and they could definitely use an upgrade.

 

  1. CB
    Eric Rowe looks to build on a promising rookie season while Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin are experienced, but in the end, it is so important for a contender to have a shutdown secondary. Until they get an elite cornerback, they should always be looking for one.

 

  1. OT
    I believe that this is an overrated need because they already have their left tackle of the future (Lane Johnson) and frankly the right tackle position can be filled with a later round pick as it is just not that important. That being said, they do not have the right tackle for when Jason Peters hangs it up, so they should be on the lookout to fill that position.

 

  1. QB
    Even after they have spent considerable amounts of money on Bradford and Daniel, they still don’t have the “franchise quarterback” that teams need to compete deep into January. There is a chance that Bradford can be that guy, but the odds aren’t great. If they get the chance to get a top QB in the draft, they should think long and hard about selecting him.

 

Eliminated: Ramsey, Tunsil, Jack, Bosa, Buckner, Lawson, Lee, Smith, Treadwell

 

After eliminating players due to lack of fit and where they are likely to be selected, we have a consolidated big board.

 

Name Position College
Carson Wentz QB North Dakota State
Ronnie Stanley OT Notre Dame
Jared Goff QB California
Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida
Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State
Jack Conklin OT Michigan State

 

Further Elimination:

 

Jack Conklin, OT Michigan State
Conklin is a nice player and should be a steady NFL offensive tackle for many years, but after the Eagles jumped from 13 to 8 in the trade with the Dolphins, they need to get someone with star potential. Conklin just does not have the makeup to be a bookend tackle and unless they trade back in the first round, he would be a reach at 8.

 

Ronnie Stanley, OT Notre Dame
Stanley has a much more enticing upside than Conklin and has the tools to become an All Pro tackle in the league. Unfortunately there have been some questions about this work ethic and at 8 overall you cannot take any risks. Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, it makes little sense to invest this pick on a right tackle when you can find one in the middle of the rounds.

 

Jared Goff, QB California
It may be surprising to see Goff “eliminated” from consideration but hear me out. Goff was in a system at Cal that really caters to quarterbacks and we have seen that those systems can inflate a quarterback’s stock (see: Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel).

Secondly, he has very skinny legs. That might seem a bit nit-picky, but there was a similarly top heavy highly touted quarterback who came into the NFL a couple of years ago, and he has had a massive amount of trouble staying on the field in the NFL due to numerous leg injuries. That player is the Eagles incumbent quarterback, Sam Bradford.

Goff might go on to have a great NFL career but there are concerns that the lack of weight in his lower body could lead to durability issues down the road. Lastly, I question whether or not he can make the transition from sunny and warm Cal to rainy and cold Philadelphia. It is not impossible, as Aaron Rodgers had an even tougher transition going to frigid Green Bay, but in the end, the hand size of Goff (9 inches) worries me.

There is merit to the idea that bigger hands are better for quarterbacks because in nasty conditions you have to rely on natural control of the ball without the firm grip of the football, which is much easier with larger hands. Due to all of these uncertainties, I am taking Goff off the board. This is not to say that he will not be picked by the Birds, but he should not selected before Hargreaves, Wentz or Elliott.

 

Eliminated: Ramsey, Tunsil, Jack, Bosa, Buckner, Lawson, Lee, Smith, Treadwell, Conklin, Goff, Stanley

 

Finally, after all the necessary trimming, we have the final pool of players.

 

Name Position College
Carson Wentz QB North Dakota State
Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida
Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State

 

Who Should They Select?

 

If each of these players are available at 8, which is somewhat likely, who should be the one to put on that Eagles #1 jersey? After taking a look at each of them, we will decide who they should select.

 

Ezekiel Elliott
A couple of years ago (think pre-Trent Richardson), Elliott would be a legitimate top five pick. He does everything that you want in a running back and he does them at an elite level. He is one of the more polished pass blocking backs in recent memory and his home run ability is on par with that of Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson. He also fits exactly what the Eagles need. However with all that being said, he is not the pick.

In the last three years there have been six teams in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks twice, Broncos twice, the Panthers and the Patriots. Those teams had two things in common. A franchise quarterback and a stud cornerback.

 

  • 2014 Broncos: Chris Harris Jr. / Peyton Manning
  • 2014-15 Seahawks: Richard Sherman / Russell Wilson
  • 2015 Patriots: Darrelle Revis / Tom Brady
  • 2016 Broncos: Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib / Peyton Manning
  • 2016 Panthers: Josh Norman / Cam Newton

 

Other than Marshawn Lynch, these teams did not have elite running backs. CJ Anderson and Shane Vereen are hardly Adrian Peterson, yet their teams went on to win the Super Bowl.

In the end, if you have a chance to grab a shutdown corner or a franchise quarterback you need to pounce. The Eagles are a quietly good team and if they can grab a player like that, it would go a long way in helping them reach the next level. Elliot is a stud and he will be a perennial Pro Bowler but it is too hard to pass up Hargreaves’ and Wentz’s potential.

 

Wentz vs. Hargreaves:
This is hard, really hard. I love both of these players. Wentz is going to be a good player in the NFL but he has a chance to be great. Franchise quarterbacks certainly do not grow on trees and it would be wise for the Eagles to lock up their future with a player like Wentz. Unfortunately this is not done in a vacuum.

There are a lot more variables going into this. Although it is not what it used to be, Bradford has genuine franchise quarterback potential, plus he has finally has just gotten comfortable as the leader in the Eagles locker room. Drafting a quarterback could derail the progress he made all last year. Even if they are sure that Bradford is not the long term answer, it makes zero sense for the Eagles to have signed him AND Chase Daniel when just signing one could have done the trick if they wanted to draft and groom a young quarterback.

This leads me to believe that their interest in a quarterback may not be as legitimate as perceived. What if Bradford plays exceptionally well this year under Doug Pederson? What would happen to Wentz? The Eagles have too many needs to waste a pick on a quarterback that, if Bradford plays well, might not even be the long term guy.

BUT…one thing not to be ignored of course is Bradford’s contract. With a $22M cap hit next year (4th highest QB in the NFL) if Bradford excels, it’s likely time for a long term deal. If not..Bradford will have a very competitive market if not that season then the season after. However if he struggles or fails, the Eagles can get out of the contract relatively simply. Neither situation is ideal and regardless of how well Bradford performs, there may be a pressing need for a future Franchise Quarterback.

On the other hand, Hargreaves not only fits a need, he also provides an immediate upgrade in 2016, with the potential to turn into a lockdown defender. Hargreaves is a no nonsense and hard-nosed defender with exceptional ball skills and while he does not possess amazing athleticism and his size could work against him, we have seen cornerbacks with those weaknesses excel in the NFL (see: Josh Norman, Joe Haden). The more I watch him, the more I see the cornerback version of Tyrann Mathieu.

Adding Hargreaves to an already impressive young defensive core under Jim Schwartz is the right move for the Eagles. Suddenly the Eagles are pretty stacked on Defense. The defensive line, headed by Fletcher Cox, is the most talented position group on the team. The linebackers could use some depth, but the starters should be very good. After inserting Hargreaves in the cornerback spot across from Rowe, the secondary set up for years to come.

Wentz is intriguing and if the Eagles did not resign Bradford, he would easily be the pick at 8. Because the commitment to Bradford, even if it is a short term deal, the combination of upside and fit is too tempting for the Eagles to pass on Hargreaves.

 

The Pick: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Florida

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