With free agency in full swing and the draft just over a month away, the big boards are constantly changing. The NFL Combine has painted a new brighter picture for some prospects, while leaving a little more to be desired for others. The result is a new landscape for the Eagles to discover, with pre-draft visits and pro days already picking up in frequency. There isn’t long to go and after such a rollercoaster first week of free agency, how has the Eagles draft direction changed? I decided to take a dive into mock drafts once again, bringing a fresh seven round outlook on what could be for the Eagles.
Round 1: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The second Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback projected to go in the first round, Conley has largely been under the shadow of Marshon Lattimore, whom many consider to be the top cornerback prospect this year. While Lattimore may dazzle and cement his place inside the top 10, Conley’s style of play is far more suited to the Eagles.
At 6’0, 195 lbs, Conley is a longer cornerback who has an impressive frame. Given that the Eagles will be facing a flurry of lethal wideout threats in their own division this year alone and will enter the year with two new starters, they need a corner who isn’t afraid of contact and will go up and make a play.
Conley ended his final year as a Buckeye with 26 tackles, four picks and eight pass breakups. Where his strengths lie however, are where the Eagles desperately need them. Allowing just a 37% completion rate when targeted, Conley defines a press-coverage specialist. With a wide stance at the line, he’s able to jam efficiently and mirror opposing routes stride for stride.
A true dinner cornerback who feasts at the top of routes, Conley would be a welcome addition to the Eagles Defense and even though his tackling can be sporadic at times, like Jalen Mills, he has the instincts to drive for the ball and make a big hit. In the shadow of Lattimore, Conley could fall snugly into the laps of the Eagles at 14.
Round 2: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
As the title of this draft suggests, the Eagles go back to back with picks to bolster their secondary.. There’s arguably no better fit in the second round than this Colorado corner. He would be the perfect compliment to Conley. Unlike the Ohio State standout, Awuzie wins at the start of his routes and while he has the speed to keep up with receivers, his specialty lies in tackling and knocking balls loose.
As a freshman, he made 59 tackles and broke up 4 passes. One year later, he led the team with 64 tackles before suffering an injury in practice. One year later, he amassed 90 tackles from the nickel spot, as well as four sacks, 10 pass breakups and two picks. A sterling 2016 went hand in hand with his career to date and if he plays alongside a dinner cornerback, he could be the perfect weapon to combat multi-dimensional offenses.
With an ability to play in the slot or hold his own outside, the versatility of Awuzie would be a huge asset to a team that is looking to build a young corps that can help unleash the pass rush.
Round 3: Ryan Anderson, DL, Alabama
The second member of the Crimson Tide to meet with the Eagles thus far, Anderson ranks as the 5th highest outside linebacker in this year’s draft class. At 6’2, 252 lbs, Anderson has a powerful frame that he utilizes well. Although he played as an outside linebacker, Anderson could be a great fit as a 4-3 defensive end for the Eagles. There’s a phenomenal breakdown from the guys at Steelers Depot, detailing his strengths, weaknesses, and showing it on film. If you don’t have time to sink your teeth into this powerful pass rusher, here’s a short summary from the article:
Not only does Anderson do what you would like to see out of an edge defender, he also does it well. The Alabama edge prospect could be a great consolation prize for a team unable to grab an edge rusher in the first round. The Steelers are in the market for an edge rusher but I believe by the time their second-round selection rolls around, Anderson will be already taken.
As a redshirt senior, Anderson amassed 61 tackles and led the team in stops for a loss with 19. He also racked up 9 sacks, forcing 4 fumbles in the process of being names first-team All-SEC. But if you’re still not convinced, let his playmaking do the talking. Although he’s been mocked anywhere from the first to the third, the abundance of outside talent could easily see Anderson dip into the third..and if he does, it’s a no brainer.
After letting Connor Barwin go and now facing a lot of uncertainty at the DE spot, Anderson is a player who will not only compliment the pass rush with speed and consistency, but he’s a versatile prospect who could even fill in as a third linebacker, replacing Mychal Kendricks and giving the Eagles trust to run the Nickel formation a little less, relieving the pressure on Ron Brooks and Malcolm Jenkins.
Round 4: Davon Godchaux, DL, LSU
Godchaux simply should not be available in the fourth round. But with a suspension after an arrest tarnishing his reputation and missing the combine due to an injury, his talents could be available in the heart of the NFL Draft, again making this a no-brainer for the Eagles.
At 6’3 and 310 lbs, Godchaux is expected to emerge as a defensive tackles in a 4-3 or play on the outside in a 3-4. Both are positions of need for the Eagles after Bennie Logan joined former Head Coach, Andy Reid, in Kansas City. Needless to say that he would add starting talent to a corps thin on depth as of right now.
He led LSU in tackles last year with 62 and 8.5 for a loss, amassing 6.5 sacks, finishing with 62 tackles in the process. One of his most notable performances came against the Louisville Cardinals and Lamar Jackson. The high-powered offense was kept to just 220 total yards against the Baton Rouge, with Godchaux picking up four tackles, one sack and batting away one pass in the Citrus Bowl.
One of LSU’s most dominant and consistent starters, Godchaux is a defensive monster that plays with such ruthlessness it’s almost hard not to envision him in midnight green. The Eagles took a chance on former LSU CB Jalen Mills one year ago..and Godchaux could fit that same trend and bring some elite potential in the depths of the draft.
Round 4: Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
At 6’2 and 214 lbs, the wideout who led Michigan in receiving yards last year has great NFL size and followed an impressive senior year with a solid combine.
Clocking a 4.45 40-yard dash time, he also completed 17 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press, tying for fourth among wideouts who participated.
With experience in a pro-style offense under Harbaugh, Darboh could fit in perfectly with the Eagles. He had at least one catch of 30-yards in eight of his opening nine games, showing his capability to become a deep threat. That was a sign of things to come, as Darboh went on to have a career year, racking up 862 yards on 57 receptions for seven scores.
More importantly for the Eagles, he’s a wide receiver who adjusts his routes to help the quarterback..which is something Carson Wentz could really benefit from. Although Darboh is a slot option, the long-term future of Jordan Matthews is uncertain as he enters his contract year. “Redshirting” Darboh could be a solution for the Eagles, although someone of his frame and natural blocking nature could also be a huge special teams asset.
Round 5: Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State
Although the Eagles have bolstered their offensive line considerably already this offseason, adding an extra interior guard wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Starting all 41 games for San Diego State as a left guard, Siragusa was one of the huge contributors behind the success of elusive running back, Donnel Pumphrey, who went on to set an NCAA career rushing record. He’s able to pull with ease and his 6’4, 319 lbs, frame makes him extremely prominent in run blocking
Often regarded as a powerful guard as opposed to an athletic one, he would be the perfect compliment alongside Jason Peters to anchor the left hand side, should the Eagles insert Seumalo elsewhere or want to have a much tougher look on the outside. Athleticism from Kelce, Seumalo, Brooks and Johnson would fit snugly with the power of Siragusa, who alongside Peters could set the tone on the left hand side if such a scenario were to occur.
The Eagles need to balance the offense and while Siragusa may not start in year one, his ability to force holes open for a running back would appeal to a team striving to create momentum on the ground who already have sufficient pass blockers.
Round 6: Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
A two year starter for UCLA, Brown has gone under-the-radar for most of his career, largely due to playing behind Myles Jack, who went on to be drafted by the Jaguars. This only works to the Eagles advantage, who could snap up a coverage linebacker with star potential in the later rounds of the draft.
At 6’0, 231 lbs, Brown started nine games in 2015 in the absence of Jack, who suffered an injury. He went on to lead the team in tackles with 93 and break up 6 passes. One year later, he again led the Bruins with 105 tackles and breaking up another six passes, adding three picks to his tally.
Those stats are impressive, but according to Pro Football Focus, Brown allowed a stunningly low 50.4 quarterback rating when targeted. When you factor in the play of Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the potential for a truly dominant front seven speaks for itself.
Brown isn’t afraid to meet running backs head on, but is comfortable going sideline-to-sideline as an instinctive pass defender. Many disregard the need for a linebacker due to the Eagles playing in nickel formations so often. But the reason for that was due to a lack of coverage ability from Mychal Kendricks, who is much more of a refined pass rusher. If Brown falls into the sixth, the Eagles would be a perfect landing spot for a linebacker who fits the same mould as Jordan Hicks and can grow in a very young defense.
Round 7: Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple
The Eagles need to bolster their backfield and Thomas would be a suitable compliment to the styles of Mathews and Sproles, who as of right now lead the position.
The Temple back averaged 4.6 yards per rush in 2016, amassing 953 yards and 13 touchdowns in the process. Where he really stands out, is as a dual-threat back. The 5’10, 180 lbs, rusher who underwhelmed at the combine with a 4.62 40-yard dash time, made up for it in versatility. Thomas caught 33 passes for 418 yards and 6 touchdowns last year, adding 216 yards in the year before.
Thomas is a running back who can cut to the outside with ease and really maximize the potential of the Eagles rushing attack. Coming out of a pro-style offense at local-school Temple, he was also the team’s starting kick returner..which is a position of major interest for the Eagles, with Josh Huff being cut last season and Darren Sproles nearing the end of his career.
The Eagles may not be looking for a starter in the backfield if they do decide to commit to a group effort and if that is the case, the specific skill set of Thomas would add tremendous value. He may not have the desired size or speed of an NFL running back, but he could certainly contribute in numerous facets of Pederson’s Offense..and for a seventh round pick, that’s exactly what the Eagles need.
Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports