If the Eagles are going to draft a cornerback in round 1, there’s only one name who fits the bill

Jason Kelce eagles 49ers vs eagles
Philadelphia Eagles’ Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Howie Roseman, Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce celebrate after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. Roseman, the once-exiled executive who was cast aside for Chip Kelly for a year, returned to lead the Eagles to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title is back again after hitting rock bottom in 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

When it comes to the Eagles’ secondary, the debate is endless. To say that Darius Slay and James Bradberry failed to meet expectations last year would be an understatement, and it’s led to a lot speculation surrounding the future of the two starters. There are a flurry of options the Eagles could explore in the first round of the NFL Draft, but only one really makes sense.

More complicated than it looks

The Eagles find themselves in a pretty weird situation. Slay and Bradberry are proven NFL veterans who endured sloppy 2023 campaigns, but the Eagles are financially tied to them. The Dead Cap space the team would have to swallow to move on from either player makes it unlikely that they’ll be traded during the offseason.

On top of that, there is a group of hungry Dogs waiting in the wings. Kelee Ringo, Josh Jobe, and Eli Ricks headline a young pack of corners who all played well in flashes last season. While none are really ready for a starting role just yet, their presence has to be understood when addressing the position this offseason.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

To complicate things even further, Avonte Maddox returned on a one-year deal, meaning that the team have a really solid nickel spot. Isaiah Rodgers Jr. is a wildcard behind Tyler Hall and Zech McPhearson, giving Vic Fangio plenty of options when utilizing slot corners.

What should the Eagles do?

While there are plenty of viable options for the Eagles to think about when looking at the 22nd overall pick, they do face a pretty tricky challenge. If they draft an NFL-ready corner like Quinyon Mitchell, he’s not going to start over Slay or Bradberry and his first season will be spent on the sidelines. While that’s not the worst thing in the world, it’s wasting a year of upside he has, putting a ceiling over him until a starting role opens up.

As for the other corners in this Draft, Nate Wiggins doesn’t live up to the long-speed his 40-yard dash showed and struggles at the line on tape. Kool-Aid McKinstry appears to lack desire on film and leaves a lot of Meat on the Bone. For a first-round selection, neither player feels like they have that home-run hit potential, and the one player who does, would likely be wasted on the sidelines for at least one season.

If only there was a corner who fit the bill…

Meet Terrion Arnold

If the Eagles are going to draft a corner in the first-round, they have to be a potential pro-bowler AND be in a situation where they can wait in the wings for a year without it stunting their growth. Alabama’s Terrion Arnold ticks both boxes.

At just 21-years-old, Arnold only has two full seasons under his belt, but led the SEC in both interceptions and passes defensed last year. The upside is abundantly clear when watching the 6’0, 189 lbs corner on tape. He glues himself to opposing wideouts, is aggressive at both the line and the catch-point and plays with tremendous instinct to jump routes and keep an eye on the QB, knowing he has the athletic tools to stay in phase.

The only downside is that he lacks technical prowess. That’s to be expected considering his age and inexperience. Arnold has only played in 785 coverage snaps according to Jacob Brockhoff of GiveMeSport, which is a drastic drop compared to the likes of Quinyon Mitchell, who has more than double to his name.

What we have here is a Safety-turned-CB who is very young, has plenty of rubber left on the tire, and should only get better. He’d benefit from learning under a player like Darius Slay and wouldn’t be required to play instantly barring an injury to a starter. A year away from the spotlight to refine his technical tools and hand usage would do him the world of good.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, right, celebrates a catch with cornerback Darius Slay, center, and head coach Nick Sirianni, left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

There’s a reason why despite his technical flaws and lack of snaps, he’s projected to be the first corner off the board. His tape demonstrates some frankly ridiculous upside and he commands your viewing when he lines up on the field.

If the Eagles are looking at a cornerback in the first round, this is a prospect that not only has familiarity with multiple players on the roster, but ticks every possible box the Birds have when it comes to searching for a future CB1.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum