We are just a week out from draft day in Philadelphia and are beginning to get a better sense of when some of the prospects will go in the draft. Another eventful free agency period has improved the Eagles’ roster, but the team still has holes yet to be filled. Fortunately, the draft class’s strengths match up nicely with Philly’s weaknesses and the team should be able to fill most (if not all) of them with Joe Douglas leading the charge.
One thing I’ve noticed about mock drafters is they don’t include contingency plans. Draft night will be full of surprise selections and trades, and you can never be too prepared for the event. This mock draft is designed to not only pick a player for the Birds, but include two backup picks.
Option B represents the top backup plan and who I believe the Eagles should draft in the event the top target at that spot is taken. Option C represents who the Birds should take if the top two options are taken. With that being said, let’s hop into it!
Round 1- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Viewed as the consensus No.2 pass rusher behind Myles Garrett, Barnett is my ideal selection at #14. He is not the most athletic guy in the world, but the 6’3, 235 lbs, pass rusher consistently wins on the edge. He does a great job of bending his body when trying to get around tackles and finishes plays with authority when he gets in the backfield.
Barnett was a sack machine at Tennessee, recording 32 in just three seasons, breaking the school sack record held by some guy named Reggie White. What impresses me the most is that 17 of his sacks came against SEC opponents, showing he is more than capable of handling premier competition. If he is still on the board at #14 the Eagles should be sprinting to the podium.
B. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
I have never, ever, ever been a fan of drafting running backs in the first round. I think if a team’s scouting department is good enough, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find one in the middle rounds, but there is one running back in this class I am willing to toss my philosophy for. Enter Christian McCaffrey.
The former Stanford Cardinal is a swiss army knife and can hurt you in so many ways on the field. He is an excellent route-runner and pass catcher out of the backfield, and is incredibly elusive and explosive as a runner. McCaffrey is also an electric punt/kick returner. In his final season at Stanford, McCaffrey broke the single-season all-purpose yards record held by Barry Sanders, rushing for 1,603 yards and 13 TDs, receiving for 310 yards and 3 TDs, and 318 yards on just 14 returns. It would honestly be like drafting two players with how he would double as the lead back and one of Wentz’s most reliable options in the passing game.
C. Trade Back (CB Kevin King)
Aside from the Barnett and McCaffrey I don’t think there are many prospects that will be available at 14 that are much better than prospects at the tail end of the first round. I get the feeling the Eagles aren’t overly in love with anyone expected to be available at 14,
and with Howie’s wheel and deal nature, a trade is certainly possible. If I was GM (I’m sure many of you will remind me I’m not in the comments) I would see if I could get the Texans to bite. Houston recently dumped Osweiler in Cleveland and are now left with Tom Savage as their de facto starting QB. They are just a QB away from Super Bowl contention and may be inclined to trade up and select one of the top quarterback prospects.
In order to trade from 25 to 14 they would need to give up their first round pick, second round pick, and at least a fourth rounder. For this mock’s sake, I’ll say Philly receives the 25th overall pick, the 57th overall pick, and a 2018 fourth round pick.
With the 25th pick the Eagles would likely be able to select CB Kevin King. King possesses the ideal height that defensive coordinators dream of at 6’3. He is more than just tall, however, as he was excellent in coverage at Washington.
The California native didn’t allow a single touchdown in 2016 and only one in his last 28 games, per Pro Football Focus. He does a superb job of pinning receivers to the the sideline and giving them minimal room to operate.
King is still a bit raw, but his tools and impressive Combine performance has him firmly in the first round discussion. He dominated the Combine, posting a blazing 4.43 40 time, 39.5 inch vertical, 3.85 20-yard shuttle, and 11.14 60-yard shuttle.
The former Washington Huskie has the tools, athleticism, and aggressiveness to develop into a lockdown cornerback and would be a terrific fit in Jim Schwartz’s scheme.
Round 2- Jalen “Teez” Tabor
I’m simply mocking him just to add another Jalen to the roster, in hopes that the Eagles will take a late-round flier on me so we could form a dynamic trio. Oh, I’m not draft eligible? I don’t even play football? Moving right along then.
All jokes aside Tabor is being crucified for his poor 40 time at the Combine, and people are over correcting his value. Here are the facts: Tabor is an aggressive corner that has nine interceptions, 23 pass breakups, and has allowed just two touchdowns in the past three seasons. According to Pro Football Focus he allowed an NFL passer rating of just 41.2 during that span. To put that in perspective, the rating for throwing a ball in the dirt every play is 39.6. He simply doesn’t get beat often and would be an instant upgrade across from Mills, despite his lack of top speed.
B. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
If it weren’t for tearing his ACL at his Pro Day, Jones would be a top-15 selection. The sad reality is that it did happen and his draft stock took a hit as a result. Although he’ll miss most of his rookie season, he should still be considered for a team heading into Year 2 of a rebuild. He is an excellent cover corner with great ball skills, and could provide the Eagles with a CB1 for years to come.
C. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Can you tell I want the Eagles take a corner in the second? I’m not as high on Jourdan Lewis as I was before he was arrested for domestic violence, and I would personally take him off the big board for such an act. Unfortunately, the Eagles have been more willing to take chances on players with off-field issues since the departure of Chip Kelly, and may view Lewis as too talented to pass on.
Lewis is spectacular in one on one situations and sticks to his man like glue. He was targeted 175 times and only allowed 36.6 percent of his targets to be completed, according to Pro Football Focus. Lewis also does a great job at tracking the ball, and is responsible for an absurd 37 pass breakups in four years for the Michigan Wolverines, 20 of which coming in his junior year. The Eagles have had a revolving door at the cornerback position and plugging Lewis in to play across from Jalen Mills would provide some much needed stability to the group. Again, I am not personally advocating for the team to draft him, but history suggests the team may would consider him.
Round 3- Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
Witherspoon is probably my favorite corner in this draft and I wouldn’t mind if Philly drafted him a round earlier than this spot. He is a big corner, standing at 6’3, and regularly uses his length to prevent pass completions. Witherspoon ranked 1st in pass breakups with 13 and 5th in the nation in completion percentage at 31.8 percent last season. Witherspoon’s potential is sky high, as he only started playing football his senior year of high school, and it’s encouraging to see how quickly he’s developed. The young corner also plays with a high football IQ and has a swagger about him that Philly fans will fall in love with.
B. Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
Smart has been an absolute beast at Tulane. He registered seven sacks, seven hits, and 33 hits in 2016, which is terrific at his position. Smart possesses a relentless motor and often commands a double team. He is incredibly strong and is able to put o-linemen on their backs. Smart has a high football IQ (no pun intended) and quickly finds the best route to the passer. His level of competition will raise questions for some teams, but he has all the tools necessary to contribute at the next level.
C. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Cooper Kupp is one of my favorite receivers in this class. He has some of the most reliable hands around and was D O M I N A N T at Eastern Washington. He finished his collegiate career with a mind-boggling 6,464 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns at EWU. Similarly to Tabor, however, people are putting too much stock into his lack of speed. Speed is not the only way to get open as a receiver, and Kupp runs crisp routes and knows how to find soft spots in the defense that allows him to consistently get open. He has a lot of Jordan Matthews to his game, and I’m sure the Eagles wouldn’t mind having a second serving of that.
Round 4- Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
The Eagles land a deep threat that can stretch the field in the fourth round. Gibson is stupid fast and blows by guys with ease. He is somewhat of a one-trick pony but he does his trick to perfection and would be a welcome addition to an Eagles offense that played in a box last season.
Round 4 (Cleveland)- James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
The Eagles are rumored to be interested in Conner and that is music to my ears. In his first season back after beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma (while simultaneously rehabbing a serious knee injury), Conner was an absolute tank for the Panthers. He ran for 1,092 yards on 221 carries– good for 5.1 YPC. What makes Conner such a good fit in Philly, however, is his running style. He is a bruiser that repeatedly runs defenders completely over, and has a little Marshawn Lynch to his game. Conner is one of the toughest players in the entire class, physically and mentally, and I would be ecstatic to see him in midnight green this fall.
**Same backup options for both fourth selections**
B. Ardarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Stewart has flown under the radar a bit to this point. He is a quick receiver who is not afraid to lower his shoulder to punish defenders and fight for more yards. Stewart has long arms and crazy hops, giving him a large catch radius, despite not being the biggest receiver around. His route tree will need to be developed a bit but he is a solid option in the fourth.
C. Rasual Douglas, CB, West Virginia
After leading the Big 12 in interceptions, Rasual Douglas is looking to carry his ballhawking skills to the NFL. Douglas is actually a better cornerback than his draft stock would suggest, and is a victim of a loaded cornerback class. At 6’2, the young corner uses his length well to break passes up when he isn’t picking them up. Douglas is also a solid contributor in the run game as well. He’s a bit too handsy at this stage of his career, and would be frequently penalized in the NFL, but he has the tools for Undlin and Schwartz to develop.
5th Round- Hunter Dimmick, DE, Utah
Dimick just capped off a stellar senior season at DE for Utah in which he led the Pac-12 in QB pressures, sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (21). Dimick has a relentless motor and beats offensive lineman with a variety of moves around the edge. At 6’2, 272 lbs, he is built similarly to current Eagles DE Brandon Graham and would be a great addition to the defensive line.
B. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
There hasn’t been much buzz around Cannon, but he is a player the Eagles should keep an eye on in the later rounds. He is an athletic deep threat who put up impressive numbers at Baylor. Cannon would add some much needed speed and athleticism to the Eagles’ wide receiving group.
C. Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan
Stribling quietly enjoyed a solid season across from Jourdan Lewis on an impressive Michigan defense. QB’s had a rating of just 22.7 when throwing into his coverage, according to PFF, and he’s allowed a 32.3 rating the last three seasons. Stribling recorded 11 pass breakups and 4 interceptions on the year. He possesses a long frame but definitely needs to add muscle in order to defend the receivers at the next level. The potential is there, however, and with the proper coaching could end up being great value in the 5th round.
6th Round- Robert Davis, WR, Georgia State
New WR Coach Mike Groh gets a project with tantalizing tools with this selection. Standing at 6’3, Davis impressed at the NFL Combine. Davis ran a 4.44 40, leaped for a 41.0-inch vertical, and finished first among all wide receivers with a 136-inch broad jump. Although he enjoyed a productive career at Georgia State, he’ll require some coaching, but the Eagles have to be intrigued by this:
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 4, 2017
B. Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
Doug Pederson has expressed his desire to have a third quarterback to groom under Carson Wentz, and Evans just may be the guy. Evans threw for 3,552 yards and 29 TDs to just 8 interceptions- showing good decision-making. He also rushed for 846 yards and another 12 TDs on the ground. Evans is a big body, dual-threat QB with all the tools to one day develop into an NFL starter, and with Wentz entrenched as the starter the Eagles could afford to be patient with him.
C. Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois
Golladay is a big body, athletic receiver but will need to be severely coached up to become an impact player in the NFL. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take a chance this late, and he has the raw tools to carve out a role down the line.
7th Round- Best Player Available
In the last round the Eagles should simply take the best player on the board, regardless of position. Hopefully Joe Douglas can find someone with a high ceiling with this pick.
So, if everything breaks just right for Philly, their 2017 draft class will look like this:
1st- DE Derek Barnett
2nd- CB Teez Tabor
3rd- CB Ahkello Witherspoon
4th- WR Shelton Gibson 4th- RB James Conner
5th- DE Hunter Dimmick
6th- WR Robert Davis
I think this a pretty good haul and can envision each of the first five selections contributing from Day 1. Even if the Eagles drafted the top backup option in each round we would be in good shape:
1st- RB Christian McCaffrey
2nd- CB Sidney Jones
3rd- DT Tanzel Smart
4th- Ardarius Stewart
4th- Rasual Douglas
5th- KD Cannon
6th- Jerod Evans
It’s not as nice as the first, understandably, but is still loaded with potential. McCaffrey and Jones are both top 15 talents, and the rest of the bunch have the potential to be impact players for the Birds.
The actual result of the Eagles’ draft will likely be a mixed up combination of the options, including some not listed in this mock, but I wanted to provide insight on who the top option should be for the team and what they should do in the event things don’t go according to plan.
What would you grade the mock with all the top options? And what option combo do you think suits the Eagles best? Feel free to comment down below!
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Do YOU want to advertise on Philly Sports Network?
Here at Philly Sports Network, we want to help local businesses grow. We have various ways of promoting YOUR company to a target demographic of die hard sports fans within Philadelphia, and a viewership of over 50,000 per week. If you want to learn more about potential sponsorship, ad placement or any other ideas, simply email [email protected]