Assuming that things remain the status quo and no player movement is allowed before the draft, who should the Eagles be considering with their 1st round pick? This is a difficult draft class to get a read on in the sense of where a given player may be selected. There is not a stone cold lock on who will be the #1 overall pick like there usually is and there are players who are projected to go in the top 10 that could find themselves sliding quite a bit. By the time the Eagles’ pick rolls around, the best value will probably be at the OL position. Here’s a look at who I think the Eagles should be considering at #23:
1. OT Gabe Carimi, 6′ 7″ 314 lbs. Carimi is generally regarded as the #3 OT prospect in the draft this year and is projected to go in the 2nd half of round 1. Many mocks either have or had the Eagles selecting him with their pick. He is a 4 year starter and has excellent experience against top notch competition. He’s known more as a run blocker and may need some improvement with his pass blocking. You might think that’s not a good fit for our pass happy philosophy but pass blocking is mainly about technique, which is easily coachable as long as you have the tools…and he certainly has the tools. Frankly, Carimi is my favorite OT in this draft because he has a little Runyan in him and that’s what our OL needs…some of that nastiness.
2. OT Anthony Castonzo, 6′ 7″ 311 lbs. He is generally rated as the #2 OT in the draft and like Carimi, is expected to go in the 2nd half of round 1. Castonzo is known as a finesse player who plays with intelligence and agility, think of him as somewhat of a “tactician”. He is a 4 year starter with good experience against good competition. While I prefer a nasty mauler like Carimi, Castonzo has good skills and should certainly be considered.
3. C/G Mike Pouncey, 6′ 5″ 303 lbs. He is the #1 rated guard in the draft and played that position for his 1st 3 years at Florida before moving to center in 2010. Andy Reid has never drafted a college guard this high but we need help along the interior of the OL. With Jamal Jackson coming off of 2 consecutive season ending injuries and Mike McGlynn merely being “ok”, it would be wise to add someone who can play well at any of the 3 interior positions. He’s not as good of a prospect as his brother Maurkice was last year but he’s still a good prospect in his own right.
4. DE Ryan Kerrigan, 6′ 4″ 267 lbs. He is rated as anywhere between the 4th – 6th best DE in this draft and is projected to go somewhere between picks 14 and 24 in round 1. He has been a steady riser on draft boards in recent weeks since the combine where he displayed good athleticism. He was voted Big 10 Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year. In the past 2 seasons at Purdue he accumulated 43 TFL’s and 23.5 sacks. Many teams view him as an OLB in a 3-4 defensive scheme but he may actually be even better suited as a pure DE in a 4-3. I know, another DE in the 1st round. Well, Graham cannot be counted on in 2011, Parker is aging, Tapp is best suited as a rotational guy, and Cole wears down as the season goes on. The Eagles would probably have to trade up to secure Kerrigan and if they like him enough, they will. Potential trade partner: Miami at pick #15.
5. DT Stephen Paea, 6′ 1″ 303 lbs. He is generally rated as the 6th best DT in the draft but is still projected to go late in round 1. The fact that the Eagles brought him in for a private visit doesn’t bode well for our chances of selecting him (for reasons I’ve stated in other articles). However, I still think this guy is going to be a good player. He is a powerful player as evidenced by his record setting combine performance on the bench press (49 reps of 225 lbs). In the past 3 seasons he has totaled 29.5 TFL’s and 14 sacks. He doesn’t have the size or current buzz as, say, Muhammad Wilkerson’s (who could be available at #23 as well), but I feel he’s a better fit for our scheme with Jim Washburn (1 gap).
In my opinion the Eagles’ top need is a CB. But I just don’t see any that I can say I’d be happy about drafting at #23. In my original mock draft I had the Eagles selecting CB Jimmy Smith but recent reports about character concerns and how talented he really is have made me back off of him. I’m not overly thrilled with players like Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris at #23 either, they just were not productive enough for me. In my opinion, there are 2 CB’s to keep an eye on as I feel the Eagles could certainly select one (or both) at some point during the draft…Davon House and Demarcus Van Dyke. House would be a 2nd or 3rd round pick while Van Dyke would be about a 6th rounder. Not that either of them would be “the answer” to our CB issues, I just think that they’re 2 players we will draft depending on how things fall.
The 5 players I’ve mentioned above all have 2 things in common: They are high character guys (leaders, work ethic, etc) and they have all been very productive against quality college competition. They all fit the Eagles’ mold in many ways (although I think Castonzo may be the least “Eagle-like”) and have a much less “bust risk” than some other 1st round prospects. All 5 would make for a great addition to our team.