So, what are the options?
Unfortunately for the Eagles, it isn’t a fantastic class to upgrade your line-backing corps. There’s plenty of talent, but aside from Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, each backer has their own pros and cons. It simply isn’t as star-studded as last year’s draft. However, that can have two inverse effects. Either teams will jump up to grab the remaining talent on the board, or teams won’t place a premium on linebackers this season and many intriguing players will fall through the cracks. Here are some options for the Eagles on both day one and two of this year’s draft:
Kenneth Murray | Oklahoma
Murray is a big backer with good sideline to sideline range that often finds himself around the football. He’s tough and difficult to move in the run game. He wasn’t asked to play much man, but his zone coverage skills are good when not tasked with anything too complex. Consistency and limiting mental mistakes will be priority number one at the next level. His fit with the Eagles is a toss-up, especially with TJ Edwards waiting in the wings.
Patrick Queen | LSU
An intelligent, fast, rangy linebacker and a fluid athlete, Queen really seems like a fantastic fit for the Eagles. He is quick to diagnose and slashes through offensive lines with speed and intent. In coverage, he has shown a knack for getting in the way of passing lanes and has a good understanding of his zones. His lack of physicality has been called into question, but having a stellar defensive line in front of him alleviates a lot of those concerns. Is he a top 20 talent in this draft? Probably not, but with an impressive combine, he could prove me wrong.
Troy Dye | Oregon
He’s just an incredible athlete. His speed and quickness jump off the screen. He’s tough, he’s got a quick first step and knows how to shoot a gap. The issue with Dye is that the mental side of the game does not match his athleticism. He may need a year or two to adjust to that side of the professional game. He’s probably good enough to start in his rookie year just based on his athletic profile, but that will be up to the coaches. Until then, he can be a great situational playmaker and an adept special teams contributor. At the very least he is a much better athlete than the Eagles other options.
Akeem Davis-Gaither | Appalachian State
Really the only knock against Davis-Gaither is size and level of competition. He’ll have to add muscle at the second level. Outside of that, he has all the tools you want from a starting outside linebacker. He’s fast, physical and has a good feel for the game. He would bump out to cover receivers at App State, which bodes well for his coverage skills. He’s not a premier athlete and would likely be a special teams guy for the first year, but that’s not a negative for an Eagles team that covets their special teams.
Malik Harrison | Ohio State
I don’t know if he’s a good fit for the Eagles, but he’ll likely be on many team’s boards on day two. Harrison steadily improved over the course of the season and that looks like it could continue into the pros. He’s a typical MIKE backer — a good run defender with limited coverage skills and lateral mobility. He’s great at shooting gaps and is frequently making tackles in the backfield. If the Eagles decide they need a middle linebacker for the future, Harrison is worth a look. He’d bring a physical edge to the defense and could eventually become one of the class’s better backers.
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