With the pre-draft visits starting to heat up and most of the major free agent signings completed, this is as good of time as any to do a new Philadelphia Eagles 2012 mock draft.
There are a few things to consider here when trying to surmise what the Eagles will do while imposing my opinion on what I think they should do. The obvious thing is to look for the position of greatest need and look at prospect who could fill it.
However, when it comes to the draft, it’s all about value and at what point you should take a player when looking at position of need vs. quality of player available.
With the addition of MLB DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles have filled their weakest position on the team. Outside of that, there aren’t too many other dire weaknesses that we can point to and think they’re definitely going to draft a particular position in round one, or any subsequent round.
Here are the positions, ranked in order by biggest need, that the Eagles need to address:
Strong side linebacker
Defensive line depth
Offensive line depth
Notice how all but one are marked with “depth?” The starters at almost every position are now set, with the exception of strong side linebacker (I believe Brian Rolle will be the weak side starter).
Furthermore, other positions where the Eagles could use depth and/or a role player are running back, safety and wide receiver. However, I think the Eagles will likely fill those roles with free agents.
The Eagles now have a ton of flexibility in the 2012 draft. They could easily just go for the best available player at their given slot or trade up and down at their leisure. The Eagles usually are one of the biggest movers and shakers in the draft, especially in the mid to late rounds.
With all that said, this mock draft will be part of what I think the Eagles should do and what I think they will do based on their tendencies. However, I am not going to predict any trades they might make during the draft at this point and base my picks on players I think have a decent shot at being there when their turn comes.
My lone trade prediction for this for this exercise is that Asante Samuel will be moved prior to the draft. We all know he’s on the trading block and unfortunately I don’t see the Eagles getting as much in return as they could have last year.
At the current time, I am participating in a community mock draft so I will use the trade scenario we were able to work out in that exercise: Samuel to the Panthers for a fourth round pick.
With that said, here’s my ideal break down of hopeful draft picks in 2012:
Round 1, Pick 15: LB Luke Kuechly, 6′ 3″ 242 lbs, Boston College
This is more of a what I think the Eagles should do kind of pick. Past history and draft tendencies say that there is no way they will pick a linebacker in the first round. Plus, they just added DeMeco Ryans to man the middle.
However, as I recently wrote, it still makes a ton of sense for the Eagles to go after Kuechly here.
For one, the linebacker corps in general is the weakest unit on the team. Adding one player (Ryans) doesn’t fix everything. Adding Kuechly fills three important needs: he could start out at strong side linebacker, be a backup plan at middle linebacker should Ryans get hurt, and be the future starting MLB once Ryans’ career starts winding down (3 to 4 years from now).
As we learned last season, the Eagles need linebackers who can play smart, fill gaps, and tackle well when playing behind a wide-nine defensive front.
Kuechly is exactly that player and would be the perfect combination of player value and positional need at slot 15 in the draft. Ultimately, the Eagles may need to trade up a few spots to ensure they get him, and it would be well worth it if they did.
Round 2, Pick 46: DE Vinny Curry, 6′ 3″ 266 lbs, Marshall
Curry is currently projected as a second-round prospect but could very well go higher than pick 46. However, I’m hoping he lasts until this pick because he would be tremendous value here and we all know how much the Eagles love defensive ends.
In his last two seasons at Marshall, Curry posted 23 sacks and 40 tackles for a loss. The first thing scouts mention when talking about him is his “relentless motor.” Does that term ring a bell for Eagles fans?
However, he is far from the “motor midget” some Eagles fans think about when the Eagles draft DEs. Curry had an average combine performance that didn’t really hurt or help his draft stock, but he did redeem himself at his recent pro day.
At the combine, Curry ran a slow 40-time (4.9) but improved that to 4.6 at his pro day. He also did 28 reps on the bench press (which he didn’t do at the combine). This has likely improved his draft stock from about mid-second to high second-round consideration.
So again, if the Eagles wanted him, they may have to move up a little bit. Curry is the type of defensive end that I prefer, but the Eagles may prefer someone who is built a little sleeker and who has a little more speed off the edge.
If that’s the case, my secondary option here would be DE Andre Branch. He’s built more like the Eagles prefer at 6′ 4″ and 259 lbs and is a speed rusher that can get around the edge in a hurry.
With Jim Washburn’s wide-nine technique, Branch is arguably the better fit for that scheme. While I like Curry better and see him as a more complete player, Branch would be good value here and could be the guy the Eagles would have ranked higher on their draft board.
With Juqua Parker gone, Brandon Graham still an unknown, Darryl Tapp being just mediocre and Phillip Hunt a bubble player, the Eagles could use a young guy to work into the rotation at defensive end.
Round 2, Pick 51: DT Kendall Reyes, 6′ 4″ 299 lbs, Connecticut
With the arrival of DeMeco Ryans, defensive tackle is now seen as the most likely position the Eagles will target in round one. However, the draft is much deeper at this position than it is at 4-3-type linebackers.
This is why I believe it would be better value to draft Kuechly in round one and a DT in round two.
Reyes is the kind of player I think the Eagles will target. He’s a one-gap player who should fit well in Washburn’s scheme.
As a senior, Reyes recorded 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss. He had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl practices and capped that off with a solid showing in the game with one sack and a tackle for a loss.
Reyes is also viewed as being versatile enough to play defensive end and was a team captain for the past two seasons. The Eagles love versatility and high character players.
If Reyes isn’t their man, I definitely expect the Eagles to use one of their top three picks on a defensive tackle and it could very well be their first-rounder.
Round 3, Pick 89: CB Chase Minnifield, 5′ 10″ 185 lbs, Virginia
The Eagles could end up taking a corner higher than this pick, especially since it’s likely that Asante Samuel will be traded. However, they did spend a third round pick last year on developmental prospect Curtis Marsh and he is still very much in the picture at cornerback.
In his last two seasons at Virginia, Minnifield posted nine INTs and 12 pass break-ups. He’s seen as a player with good instincts and coverage skills who isn’t afraid to take on ball carriers.
Though he is generally viewed as having somewhat of a down senior campaign, he is still seen as a talented player and can play both man and zone coverages.
Round 4, Pick 105 (from Carolina): WR Devon Wylie, 5′ 10″ 187 lbs, Fresno State
The Eagles use the pick they receive from the Asante Samuel trade on the speedy receiver that will serve primarily as their punt returner. Therefore, this pick is all about improving their dreadful return game, even though they still have DeSean Jackson.
Wylie is one of the fastest players in the draft and clocked an official 40-time at the combine of 4.39. However, he has also been clocked at running in the 4.30 range. In other words, the man is fast.
Wylie averaged 15.4 yards per return last season on 29 attempts. He also scored two touchdowns. As a receiver, he posted 56 catches for 716 yards and one score.
The addition of Wylie would ease the concerns of needing to endanger DeSean Jackson on punt returns, make our special teams more of a factor in field position, and give us an explosive threat to score.
Round 4, Pick 115: OT Nate Potter, 6′ 6″ 303 lbs, Boise State
The Eagles currently have nobody of note on the roster as far as backup offensive tackle. Winston Justice was traded and King Dunlap has yet to re-sign. Therefore, they need to add a player who can add depth in this area.
Potter seems like a Howard Mudd kind of guy. He is viewed by scouts as having good athleticism and agility and excels in pass blocking. He also has the skill to get to the second-level on screen plays and uses his hands well.
Some scouts have Potter ranked a little higher than fourth round value but the general consensus seems to be that he’ll go somewhere in the middle of this round. Right about where the Eagles pick, as a matter of fact.
Round 5, Pick 146: C David Molk, 6′ 1″ 298 lbs, Michigan
Just as the Eagles don’t have a backup tackle, they also don’t have a true backup center either. Molk is built similarly to current starter Jason Kelce and while maybe not quite as athletic as Kelce, he would provide good depth and experience at the center position.
Round 6, Pick 162: LB Tank Carder, 6′ 2″ 236 lbs, TCU
How can you not like a linebacker with a name like “Tank?” Unfortunately, he doesn’t play like his name would suggest.
However, he is a developmental type prospect who would make his impact on special teams and provide competition for players like Greg Lloyd and Monte Simmons.
Round 6, Pick 185: G Desmond Wynn, 6′ 5″ 303 lbs, Rutgers
Now we’re getting down towards the end of the Eagles’ picks and further into obscurity. Wynn would serve as more competition for offensive line depth and has enough skill to win a roster spot.
His draft stock has slipped a little bit because of his injury history with knee, shoulder, and head issues.
Round 6, Pick 191: S Brandon Hardin, 6′ 2″ 216 lbs, Oregon State
With the last pick in the draft for the Eagles, they select another player who would have an immediate impact on special teams. Hardin took pride in kick coverage in college as a gunner on special teams.
As far as viewing him as a safety, he translates mostly to a strong safety in the NFL due to his size, feistiness, and lack of coverage skills. The Eagles could use a backup who is more of a free safety since they have Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett, but Hardin’s special teams prowess is what gets him the nod.