Why the Eagles should draft a cornerback with sixth overall pick

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl – Michigan v Alabama
ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 01: Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) prior to the first half of the Citrus Bowl between the Michigan Wolverines and the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 01, 2020, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

The case for Cornerback

Conversely, we now see how much a top corner can do for this defense. Far from his best year of football, Darius Slay was stellar at times for the Eagles — in one of the most difficult defenses in the league for corners mind you. He had a terribly difficult stretch of 1-on-1 matchups and aside from a DK Metcalf and Davante Adams having their way, faired admirably.

The other side of the field was a nightmare no matter who was in the lineup. Dallas feasted on Michael Jacquet one game after he had the performance of his young career. Avonte Maddox looked lost before watching the rest of the season on IR. The defense as a whole could not get off the field in spite of the defensive line being one of the best in football.

With an offense in flux, the best thing the front office can do may just be to salvage the defense. That would get the ball in the quarterback’s hands more often and limit the amount of points the offense has to score in the process. In 2020 that thinking has worked for the Rams, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Saints, and the Washington Football Team, all of whom are playoff teams. 8 of the 14 playoff teams are in the top 10 in yards allowed (the Bears are 11th). Unless you’re the Chiefs — defense wins championships.

Now the Eagles could target Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons to salvage that side of the football. I wouldn’t mind that one bit. However, Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards actually looked like a decent duo in the making. I personally love the energy Duke Riley brings, even if he isn’t without his flaws. Plus, we all know Howie Roseman’s valuation of the LB position. It’s not a great bet to believe the Birds will go in that direction.

The Eagles were one of the worst in the league at creating turnovers — most of them coming from sack fumbles. A ball-hawking corner could not only get the defense off the field, but could make a world of difference in the turnover category. We know the team can pressure the quarterback, but too often would the secondary fall apart on third down just as pressure was about to end the play. On top of that, as many dropped catches as the Eagles had in 2020, it seemed as if they had nearly as many dropped interceptions.

The 2021 CB free agent list is much less promising. The top targets are mostly past their prime, although they could make decent number two options. The candidates include: Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, DJ Hayden, Josh Norman, Jason McCourty, Xavier Rhodes, Bashaud Breeland, Mackensie Alexander, and Brian Poole.

Eagles need to plan ahead

If the Eagles decide that they need a rebuild of sorts in the near future, it makes even more sense to target a corner. Unless the play is to draft a QB this year, it may be a while before that position is solidified. Why draft a position that is heavily dependent on another player? We’ve seen Amari Cooper, Mike Evans and A.J. Green struggle through lackluster quarterback play and even though their numbers have been solid, they all got used to losing records.

While it’s never down to one player, corners can make a massive difference for a young team hoping to make the playoffs. The Browns took Denzel Ward last season and are making their first playoff appearance in over a decade. The Jags played for the AFC title a year after taking Jalen Ramsey.

Finally, the road to the playoffs runs through the division. Dallas has loaded up on receivers, the Giants have a few young playmakers at the position and the Redskins have Terry McLaurin and will likely draft a running mate in this year’s draft. Although the goal for the future could be to simply score as many points as possible, the stellar Washington defense and improving Giants unit could make that difficult. Even the dreadful Dallas defense finished 11th against the pass.

Which position should the Eagles draft?

It’s the first draft in a while in which there are multiple receivers deserving of a top 15 selection. Alabama’s duo Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase could all hear their names called in the first half of the draft. Each is a talented player in their own right.

Heisman winner Devonta Smith was the most dominant player in college football in 2020 and could very well be the first receiver off the board. Chase may very well be the better prospect, and was the best receiver in football in 2019; however, he took 2020 off to prepare for the draft and scouts have not seen him play in a year. Waddle is a speed demon and has a lot of the big-play potential that excited fans about Jalen Reagor.

After the big three, there is some drop off in talent, but this will be a solid draft all around for finding a dependable pass-catcher. It may not be as deep as last year’s class, but there are a lot of intriguing candidates with tangible upside.

Addressing the corner position, there is really only one player that would fit the ticket at pick number 6. As of now, only Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II wouldn’t be considered a reach. Although, players like Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn could make a case with a solid combine and team meetings. There will likely be a talented top five or six corners that will come ready to play. After that, it’s a toss-up. A lot of prospects sat out this year and were unable to show their development.

All of this is speculation and of course your opinion may differ to mine, but it wouldn’t be like me not to look at:

The Facts

Being that the Eagles absolutely need to hit on a Pro Bowl-caliber player in this draft, let’s look at how likely it is to translate a first-round pick into a Pro Bowl receiver or corner.

Wide Receiver

  • 82 First Round Selections since 2000
  • 9 All-Pro Selections (11%)
  • 22 Pro Bowl Selections (27%)

Wide Receivers chosen in the top 10:

Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Tavon Austin, Justin Blackman, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Darrius Hayward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn, Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, Charles Rogers, Andre Johnson, David Terrell, Koren Robinson*, Peter Warrick, Plaxico Burress, Travis Taylor

29 receivers have been chosen in the top 10 since 2000, 10 have made the Pro Bowl (one as a specialist). That’s a 34% chance your top 10 pick makes the Pro Bowl.


  • 78 First Round Selections since 2000
  • 14 All-Pro Selections (18%)
  • 28 Pro Bowl Selections (36%)

Cornerbacks chosen in the top 10:

Jeff Okudah, Denzel Ward, Jalen Ramsay, Justin Gilbert, Dee Milliner, Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Antrel Rolle*, Terence Newman, Quentin Jammer

13 cornerbacks have been chosen in the top 10 since 2000, 9 have made the Pro Bowl (one as a safety). That’s a 69% chance your top 10 pick makes the Pro Bowl.

The Eagles need a winner this year. Who knows how long it will be before they draft in the top 10 again. Knowing that the play under center is uncertain and the defense is a few players away from top 10 form, it makes sense for the team to target a defensive player. The history of top 10 selections also points to the fact it is much easier to hit on a corner than on a receiver.

Tune in next time for the case for a receiver.

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire