We’re just two days away from the NFL Draft and for Eagles fans, suspense is at an all time high. From a peculiar Corey Davis tweet, to rumors of players rising and falling becoming even more unpredictable than the Stock Market, the fate of the 14th overall pick is among the most exciting questions that fans can’t wait to find out the answer to. But it might not be the 14th pick that the Eagles pick with in the first round. It’s time to dive in to my third and final seven-round Eagles mock draft for this year!
Round 1: **TRADE ALERT**
The Eagles send the 14th pick and LB Mychal Kendricks to the Houston Texans in exchange for:
Round 1 25th overall pick
Round 3 89th overall pick
Round 5 169th overall pick
Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas made it known recently that the team have adapted a grading system that doesn’t focus on draft stock, but instead their potential upside in a tier system. It’s something that Ozzie Newsome and Bill Belichick have used for years and as a result, the Eagles are suddenly in a position of luxury in the first round.
With several players graded inside the same tier, should any of them fall to them at 14, the decision is that much easier. But if it looks likely that they could fall down to the bottom of the first round..or those of a different tier could, trading back makes a lot of sense.
The Texans not only need a quarterback to rectify the mess that has spilled into the team’s playoff hopes next year, desperately, but also need an inside linebacker. Kendricks may not fit that mold perfectly..but he’s far more impressive in pass-rush situations than he is in coverage looks, which led to his expendability in Philadelphia under Jim Schwartz. He’d arguably fit the Texans Defense a little better or at very least be available at a cheap price.
The Eagles have plenty of wiggle room here due to how badly the Texans need to leap-frog teams to secure a franchise quarterback..and if they’re willing to part with a third round pick, the addition of Mychal Kendricks could squeeze out some extra value for the Birds.
Round 1: CB, Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
If the Eagles trade back, that’s one less team needing a cornerback in the first round, knocking the mass of top-tier corners back a step. This means that the team can pick up arguably my favorite cornerback in this year’s draft, Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.
Awuzie is one of very few breakfast cornerbacks in this year’s draft..with a strong punch at the line of scrimmage and a knack for wrapping up receivers 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. Next season, 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. Playing four positions on the back end in his college career (free-safety, Strong-Safety, outside Corner, and nickel), Awuzie has developed into a playmaker who has great top end speed to cover faster WR’s and would easily become a strong option for the Birds’ defense.
More than willing to get down and dirty in the run, Awuzie may be the perfect fit for the Jim Schwartz Defense..and if the Eagles can grab him at 25, it’s a move that needs no hesitation.
Round 2: DT, Malik McDowell, Michigan State
McDowell has done nothing but cause plenty of debates in the last few weeks..which means the ruthless 6’6, 295 lbs, DT could fall into the Eagles lap at number 43.
The 20-year old has a rare combination of a dominant frame and speed just as impressive. The problem was that 34 tackles, 7 for a loss and 1.5 sacks didn’t scream an elite DT. Character concerns have long shrouded the career of McDowell, but they haven’t stopped the Eagles from meeting with him.
The fact he has experience all over the Defensive line could hold a lot of weight for the Eagles, but it also means he hasn’t really emerged as a solid starter at any particular spot..which could be a blessing or a curse. McDowell is freakishly athletic and has all the physical skills to dominate at the next level..but with character concerns doing anything but dying down, the question becomes is he a fit for the Eagles at 43?
Given their need for long-term solutions at DE and DT, it’s a risk worth taking. Fletcher Cox and Chris Long could be great mentors for McDowell and with Beau Allen’s recent injury, the thrill of competition might just spark a chip on the shoulder of the Spartan who has so much untapped potential.
Round 3 (From Texans): CB, Ahkelllo Witherspoon, Colorado
I got goosebumps typing this. Witherspoon is one of my favorite cornerbacks in this class, as is first round pick, Chidobe Awuzie. If the Eagles could nab BOTH Colorado cornerbacks..the rewards they would reap could be huge.
The strongest part of Witherspoon’s game is his ability to jump up and bat passes down. A true dinner cornerback, he was able to swat away 17 in his two seasons as a starter with 14 coming alone in 2016. The jump Witherspoon made in 2016 only shines a light on his overall potential and commitment to improving each season. A willing tackler and a corner who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in the run game, Witherspoon could end up being the steal of this historic cornerback class here in the third-round.
When discussing Teez Tabor, many point to the emphatic PFF stats that continue to do the rounds. In 2016, the percentage of passes thrown in Witherspoon’s direction that were completed? 26.5%. He also tied for second in the country with 20 pass defenses.
I mentioned earlier that Awuzie would be an amazing addition if he had a dinner cornerback. The Eagles get his match made in heaven in the way of former teammate, Ahkello Witherspoon.
Round 3: WR, Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
The Eagles love Senior Bowl standouts..and not only does the 6’2, 200 lbs’, Yakima, Washington native, fit this mold..but he also worked out with Carson Wentz previously and expressed admiration for the young quarterback. Kupp has incredibly reliable hands and ended his college career with 6,464 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns at EWU.
Kupp’s route-running may be among the cleanest in the class..the problem is that many see his skill set better suited to a slot receiver..
For the Eagles, that problem could become a solution. The future of Jordan Matthews, who is entering his final year, is uncertain. Drafting an insurance policy in Kupp would ensure that in the instance that Matthews tests the free agency waters, the Birds have a slot wideout who can wreak just as much havoc. The versatility to play outside could see Kupp have that “sleeper” wideout effect. A receiver who can catch unsuspecting Defenses off-guard, while competing for the backup WR1 spot..or even more realistically, spicing up the battle between Agholor and Torrey Smith.
Round 4: LB, Duke Riley, LSU
Leading the Tigers with 93 tackles in 2016 after starting all 12 games Duke Riley could be the perfect all-round linebacker..and another player who stood out at the Senior Bowl. The 6’0, 232 lbs, linebacker could the a snug fit in Schwartz’s scheme.
Not only can he burst downhill and fly into opposing running backs, but he’s just as comfortable covering tight ends and slot receivers. He’s able to dissect plays quickly and more importantly, get sideline-to-sideline with relative ease. The downside is that predictably, his lack of size. The fear is that he lacks the short-area burst and height to really finish tackles against NFL talent and keep up with them.
To put it simply though, Riley would be a perfect project WILL linebacker, giving some breathing room to Hicks and Bradham, as well as adding some depth at a position that craves it.
Round 4: OL, Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell
The 6’7, 318 lbs lineman, started 44 games at left tackle for Bucknell and could act as a long-term replacement for Jason Peters, or at least add another option. The Eagles are said to be high on the tackle with a 36.5 inch wingspan, although his lack of athleticism in comparison to the likes of Halapoulivaati Vaitai could work against him.
The OL crop isn’t screaming elite as it was last year, but this does lend value to the Eagles who have been on a mission to bolster the fortress for Carson Wentz. Davenport was simply dominant at Bucknell and if he can be coached by Jeff Stoutland into refining a sometimes scrappy technique, his sheer physical prowess and leadership alone could see him emerge as a starter one day.
Round 5: RB, Jeremy McNichols, Boise St.
If the Eagles do opt to trade back in round one and miss out on Christian McCaffrey, McNichols could be the perfect budget option. In 2015, McNichols showed his versatility, combining for 1,337 yards and 20 scores. He tied second in the FBS for total touchdowns with 6 receiving touchdowns and backed it up one year later. Averaging 138.6 rushing yards per game and receiving for a further 474 yards and four scores, the 5’9, 214 lbs, running back was the ultimate swiss army kinfe.
A quick cutter, McNichols has the ability to turn up the heat in the blink of an eye. His vision is second to none and the decision making that accompanies this may be among the best in the RB’s in the class. What’s more impressive is that he isn’t a natural zonal rusher, he’s a back who can punch it up the gut and would prefer to keep a low center of gravity and physically battle through the trenches than tip-toe around the outside..which is the one rushing element missing from a dynamic Eagles backfield.
The Eagles found great value in the fifth round with Wendell Smallwood last year, expect a similar formula to emerge in 2017.
Round 5 (From Texans): LB, Alex Anzalone, Florida
With Mychal Kendricks traded and replaced by Riley, the Eagles still need to add depth to their corps rather than replace what’s currently there. Enter a potential steal in this years draft, Alex Anzalone.
An injury to his arm plagued a promising year in 2016, but the 6’3, 241 lbs, Eagles fan still put together an impressive resume, including a 12 tackle game against Tennessee and 3 total sacks on the year. The worrying part is that he only played in 18 games for the Gators throughout his four season career, so to still be projected as a mid-round pick until recently exemplifies his talent level.
It’s not the first time that the Eagles have gambled on a linebacker with injury history, you only have to look as far as Jordan Hicks to see a player who had similar concerns coming out of college. The Eagles are among the healthiest teams in the NFL..and IF Anzalone wasn’t able to play heavily, he would only have to play in 30% of snaps to succeed what Kendricks was able to do in 2016. If the Birds are comfortable in Nickel formations, it works even better for Anzalone..but if they want to run 3-LB sets, Joe Walker could be the hidden gem to rotate in, as Destiny Vaeao was at DT one year ago.
Bradham, Hicks, Riley, Anzalone and Walker? Suddenly the Eagles linebacker corps sounds extremely exciting. The move seems all too obvious for the Eagles..and with good reason. If Anzalone is still on the board by the time the Eagles are on the clock, it’s a no brainer.
Round 6: DE, Keionta Davis, Chattanooga University
At 6’4, 265 LB’s, Davis has an intimidating frame that could dominate at the NFL level. Not convinced? His 31 career sacks rank second all time at UTC.
Still not convinced? Well instead of boring you, here’s an exclusive quote from Fran Duffy of the Philadelphia Eagles and the infamous Eagles Eye in the sky podcast.
“Keionta Davis may not look like a future NFL starter to some because of some athletic limitations, but he can fill a role as a rotational Defensive End, in any 4-3 scheme. He ‘gets it’ as a pass rusher by using his hands and I believe he will grow into a very good run defender. I like the way he competes; he performed well at the Senior Bowl and in his biggest test this season against Alabama (Crimson Tide). Davis is a player with limited upside.”
We profiled Davis not too long ago and documented his Senior Bowl performance that saw some buzz begin to surround the impressive prospect. In the sixth round, he could be of extreme value to the Eagles.
Round 7: CB, Brendan Langley, Lamar
One of the youngest cornerbacks in the draft, Langley has an incredibly high ceiling. Although it’s is his speed that has been so highly touted (with a 4.43 40-yard dash), Langley has shown to be a proven tackler. In his senior year (Full time starter) he collected 43 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and averaged 11.7 yards a return on punts. The coaches used him in many different ways, aside from Corner, as he branched out to Free-Safety and some Linebacker on defense. Also being used on offense as a wide receiver and running back, he had a rush of 55-yards and a Touchdown against Baylor University.
What stands out to me, even as a raw prospect, is his ability to win at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles gave up too much separation on intermediate routes due to a lack of jamming at the line last season, but at just 21-years old, Langley isn’t afraid to get “handsy” and deflect the opposing route, getting in the receivers face.
Technically, there’s still much to learn for Langley..but his age, size, aggression and speed present a raw prospect who ticks all the intangibles for Jim Schwartz and Cory Undlin to work with. Projected to go in the latter rounds of the Draft, Langley could be a four-core special teamer out of the box, who could develop into a starter over the course of a few seasons.
Round 7 (From Texans): TE, Tyler Scalzi, Texas Tech
The Eagles have become increasingly high on one of the most underrated players coming out of Texas Tech this year. Working out with Pat Mahomes and Luke Stice has not only boosted his stock, but showed an incredible amount of versatility to scouts. From TE, to LB and FB, Scalzi can do it all. For a more comprehensive breakdown, two interviews with the sleeper himself and quotes from Mike Mayock and NFL Scouts, check the links below:
Eagles Draft: Catching up with one of this years most versatile prospects, TE Tyler Scalzi
Oh, and he’s going to be joining us on today’s special edition of The Outside Insider Podcast!
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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