Eagles’ Draft Notebook: Shopping for the perfect cornerback

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With all the hubbub surrounding who the Eagles’ next receiver will be, Philadelphia draft coverage has seemingly forgotten that the team has glaring holes on the other side of the football. Expected to spend at least one top selection on a receiver, that still leaves at least two selections on day two unaccounted for. The likely candidate warranting a day two selection is cornerback, where the Eagles have struggled to find a solid starter for what seems like a decade.

The picks they have spent on corners make it difficult to place what exactly they are looking for at the position. The team has placed a premium on speed, length, press-coverage, run defence etc. only to change face with the summer wind. So, for the sake of this article, I’ve narrowed it down to four categories with multiple criteria. They are

Size:

The Eagles have had various shapes and sizes represented in their secondary, but traditionally prefer a corner with some length. However, they are not adverse to smaller corners and size has seemingly become a secondary concern for Philadelphia scouts. Physicality has been important for the Birds and it seems they value heart over sheer size in that regard.

Speed:

If you’ve watched any Eagles football over the last few years, you’re familiar with the sight of an opposing receiver screaming down the field for a touchdown without a defender in sight. Jim Schwartz’s scheme gives very little safety help to its cornerbacks and plays a ton of cover three. Therefore, whoever dons the winged helmet on the outside will need some turn-and-run speed. Ball skills also come into play. Eagles corners have failed to break up passes even when in the right position and have also had trouble tracking the football in the air.

Off-Man:

While Schwartz will switch up the coverage, off-man has become a staple of the Philadelphia defense. Being able to stay disciplined on double moves and make quick changes of direction is essential. Playing off coverage also makes a corner more susceptible to biting on play-action, as they still have a responsibility to contain the run despite starting back from the line of scrimmage. Which brings us to . . .

Run Support:

Every Eagles corner needs it. Jim Schwartz requires it. If you’re playing corner in Philly, you have to be able to tackle. It doesn’t hurt to have some grit and tenacity to fight off blocks and stick your nose into traffic.

With that in mind, let’s look at some prospects who fit the mold.

Day 1

Kristian Fulton | Louisiana State

Size: 6’0″, 200 lbs.

Long and rangy for a 6 foot CB, Fulton has the prototypical size for an NFL corner. Both in pass coverage and in tackling, his range shows on tape. He’s a physical player and has the frame and size to continue to play as such in the NFL.

Speed: 4.46 (40-yard-dash), 4.36 (20-yard-shuttle), 6.94 (3-cone-drill).

Fulton has respectable speed, although he’s not a blazing fast runner. His long speed shouldn’t be an issue, even if his 40-time wasn’t among the top at the combine. He’s not a burst-y athlete, but fluidity and fantastic footwork allow him to adjust to the football without any issue. Excellent ball skills and length also lend to his downfield coverage. However, he’s more likely to cause incompletions than interceptions.

Off Man: He’s superb in man coverage. Although he prefers to play press, where he can use his physicality to disrupt opponents, he shines off-ball as well. He is rarely caught with tied feet, or in a bad position and doesn’t give into ball fakes or double moves. He’s an incredibly fluid athlete and supplements that with a very strong football IQ.

Run Support: Willing, although not fantastic in this regard. He diagnoses well, but could be quicker to step up to the LOS. He’s not a crushing tackler, but he’s fairly reliable and not timid. He can struggle to disengage bigger receivers, but the fight is there.

Bottom Line: Fulton would be a very good fit for the Eagles defense. He brings a lot of the same traits that has made Byron Jones such a sought after free agent for the Birds. How likely is the team to spend a first-round pick on a corner? How likely is it that Fulton is still around at 21? The outlook for both questions seems to point to other outcomes.

Continued on the pages below.

Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/AJ Mast

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