The lockout has put a damper on the usually exciting time in the NFL, it will also force teams to change the way they approach the offseason Usually they can fill some needs via free agency and then fill the rest through the draft. But with the lockout putting the free agency period on hold for now, teams will be forced to do it the other way. The 1st round of the NFL draft is less than a week away and will take place next Thursday evening. The 2nd and 3rd rounds will be completed next Friday while the remaining rounds will be completed on Saturday. It is no secret that good drafts are essential in building a championship contender.
The Eagles season ended rather abruptly last year at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Despite the lockout, the Eagles have already experienced a lot of changes during the offseason. They promoted their former Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo to Defensive Coordinator, and went out and got two of the best in the business at their positions in new offensive line coach Howard Mudd and defensive line coach Jim Washburn. The move to promote Castillo was met with a lot of criticism and he will be under the microscope by most of the fan base.
The Eagles own the 23rd pick in the 1st round; along with that pick they own 10 picks including 2 in the 4th and 5th and 3 in the 7th. They don’t own a pick in the 6th round. If by some miracle, there is an agreement in the CBA by Thursday or there is some sort of window to allow teams to trade for a limited time. They would love to move Kolb for a very nice package. It would allow them to do a lot more in the draft, but I highly doubt that would happen. They will probably be forced to decide if they are willing to trade Kolb for 2012 picks if and when the lockout is ended.
I think that corner is the team’s biggest need going into the draft. Asante Samuel had another Pro Bowl season but he can only cover so much ground. After the injury to Hobbs that eventually ended his season and possibly his career, the team was forced to use an unproven Dimitri Patterson. He filled in fine for the first few games but he was eventually exposed and became a liability in coverage. Nickel corner Joselio Hanson tried to fill in for Patterson at times but he proved he is nothing more than a nickel corner at best in the NFL. In a perfect world, they would be able to draft a Corner who would step in right in as a starter. But the best two corners will be long gone by the time the team picks at 24 and the might have to look into the 2nd round to get their corner of the future.
The athleticism of Michael Vick was able to hide some of the problems of the offensive line last year. But the team must upgrade the position or face a great possibility of Vick getting hurt at some point during the season. Vick already takes a lot of hits while running the ball, so the team must limit his licks while he is in the pocket. The left side of the line is in great shape with Peters and Herremans but the rest of line is a question mark. McGlynn filled in nicely for injured Jamal Jackson last season but he was far from perfect. The right side of the line is the biggest concern for Eagles fans right now. Nick Cole and Max Jean Gillies proved they shouldn’t be starting for a championship team. The team MUST upgrade the position at some point during the offseason. The inconsistent play of RT Winston Justice has left fans wondering if the former 2nd round pick can cut it at this level. Justice has played well and could be the teams long term option at RT. With Vick being left handed, the RT is in charge of protecting his blind side and Justice looked over matched at times against the top rushers in the league. Acquiring some competition for Justice wouldn’t hurt and would at least give them depth at a very important position.
OTHER NEEDS: Outside Linebacker, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Quarterback
Jimmy Smith CB Colorado (Private visit with team)
Smith has as much talent as any corner in the draft outside of Patrick Patterson. But his off the field issues have sent him spiraling down the draft board. He has been the projected pick in a lot of mock draft from a lot of draft “experts”. At 6-2 214 he has good size for position and his 4.42 40 at the combine shows he has the speed to play the position at the NFL level. Smith has the talent to be able to step in right away and assume the starting job opposite Samuel. But his off the field concerns might scare off Howie and Andy. If the interview process went well they might not hesitate on taking the talented corner at 23.
Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin (Private visit with team)
At 6-7 314 Carimi has great size and could potential add more bulk to his huge frame. Scouts Inc. said he has the “prototypical bulk” for a right tackle. Guard might be a bigger need than tackle for the Eagles, but Carimi could the best offensive lineman available and the team might be forced to draft Carimi and try to move Justice inside. Some mocks believe he will be off the board in the late teens but there is still a chance he will be available at 23.
Danny Watkins OG Baylor (Private visit with team)
Watkins would provide a lot of versatility to the offensive line as he played both guard and tackle in college, but he is more seen as a guard at the next level by most scouts. The one negative with Watkins is his age; he is 26 and will be a 27 year old rookie. But being 26 he is also a lot more mature than most players in the draft. Watkins also plays with grit and has a mean streak to him. This is something that I think the Eagles line has severely missed since Congressman Runyan departed. Watkins could be a fall back option if some other targets are off the board.
Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA (Private visit with team)
It is not secret that Andy Reid has never prioritized the position in the draft but the Eagles need a definite upgrade. The team has a lot of different options at the linebacker position but could use a play-maker at any of the 3 positions. Ayers has good size for a SAM linebacker and can go sideline to sideline if needed. He does have experience in pass coverage but has done a better job at rushing the quarterback in college. The Eagles have not had a dependable SAM since Carlos Emmons and Ayers could solidify the position for a long time. Ayers along with a two of Bradley, Chaney and Fokou would look very good at the linebacker spots next season.
Brandon Harris CB Miami (Private visit with team)
Harris does not have the talent or natural ability of Smith but he would be a much safer pick for the team. He was an academic All-American in 2008 and has the reputation for being a very hard worker. His character would fit very well into an Andy Reid team and the hard nose philosophy of Juan Castillo. But does he have the talent to warrant the selection at 23. The team might be forced to choose between the sheer talent of Smith and the hard working, less talented Harris. He could be a guy that Reid falls in love with during an interview.
With less than a week to go until the 1st round of the NFL draft, I still feel very uncertain of exactly where the Eagles will go. Maybe my interest has been decreased due my annoyance with the lockout or maybe the possibilities are really up in the air. I think that the pick almost has to be either offensive line or cornerback but Reid and Company has thrown many curveballs over the years. We have learned that if they like someone a lot they will not be shy about moving up to get him. I just hope that after the selection is made, we will get the chance to see how the player will perform on the field in September.