Who the Philadelphia Eagles will select with their first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will be a hot topic between now and May. At this point, there have been several players mocked to the Eagles at pick No. 22.
For the most part, the buzz for who they’ll draft is centered around players like Safeties Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Cornerbacks Darqueeze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, as well as Wide Receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham, and Mike Evans.
You may also see players like DE Kony Ealy, pass rusher Dee Ford or DT Louis Nix III as possible first round picks for the Eagles.
While Safety, Cornerback or a pass rusher are the most logical of targets in the first round (or at least just a defensive player), the Eagles have steadily maintained they will take the best player available regardless of position.
Even after extending LT Jason Peters, Howie Roseman stated he would still draft a tackle in Round 1 if he were the best player on their board. Obviously, he could be blowing smoke, but maybe he’s not.
Therefore, I’ve thought about players at other positions that could entice Howie and Chip Kelly if they were on the board at slot 22. Players that maybe most people haven’t even entertained the notion of the Eagles taking due to either a perceived lack of need, or that the player will be long gone by the time the Eagles’ pick.
However, we’ve seen many times where players don’t get picked where most analysts believe they will be. There are always a few shocks as far as players being picked early along with other players getting picked later than thought.
With that said, here are three players that I think the Eagles would have a decent level of interest in that, if they happened to be available, they may give serious consideration to drafting…
TE Eric Ebron, 6′ 4″ 250 lbs, North Carolina
Ebron fits both categories for non-consideration because he’s generally thought to be long gone by pick 22 and tight end isn’t exactly a “need.”
With that said, his combine performance was good but not “special.” Before the combine, most people had him going top 15, some even top 10. Post combine, I’ve seen a few mock drafts that now have him going between picks 18 and 23.
Obviously, mock drafts aren’t exactly a spot-on indicator of where a player will end up being drafted, but for sake of this discussion we can use them as somewhat of a guideline.
Ebron is this year’s consensus top tight end. Last year it was Tyler Eifert, who was Mike Mayock’s 13th best player in the draft, and he lasted until pick 21.
Kelly places a high value on tight ends because they can create matchup problems for the defense. Adding a player like Ebron to the mix would give the offense another receiver with size and speed.
Like the Pats when they had Gronkowski and Hernandez, the future for the Eagles would be Ertz and Ebron (with a season including Brent Celek in between).
Imagine the mismatches Kelly could create with Celek, Ertz and Ebron in the lineup. Recall this quote from Chip Kelly last year prior to the draft:
“We are going to go three tight ends in a game. Now, do they go three linebackers? We split them out and throw passes. If they go three DB’s, we smash you. So, pick your poison. Simple game. Isn’t hard. You guys thought coaching was hard. They bring little guys in, you run the ball. They bring big guys in, you throw the ball.”
If the Eagles part ways with James Casey, there would be a roster spot open for a tight end. Is this a far-fetched idea? Only in the aspect of whether or not Ebron would actually be on the board at pick 22.
If he is, I can almost guarantee you they will be thinking long and hard about taking him.
OT Zack Martin, 6′ 4″ 308 lbs, Notre Dame
Back-to-back years with an offensive lineman as their first round pick? And with so many needs on defense? Yes, there is at least one very good reason for doing so…
If Chip Kelly wants Nick Foles to be the future, he needs to protect his asset. Foles isn’t an escape artist who can duck and dodge oncoming defenders. He needs protection to succeed for the long term.
Though Martin is listed as a tackle, and some analysts project him as a tackle in the NFL, his best fit will still likely be at guard due to his relatively short arms (32 7/8″). Martin’s availability at pick 22 will depend on how teams view him (tackle vs. guard).
Just like Ebron above, in recent mocks I’ve seen Martin going around picks 19 or 20. Therefore, it may not be out of the question that he’d be there at 22, especially if teams see him as a guard.
Evan Mathis is still playing at an elite level, but Herremans seems to have dropped off a bit in 2013 (though to be fair, he was recovering from an injury during the first half of 2013). Either way, Martin is a versatile player who may be primarily a guard, but could be seen as someone who can slide in at tackle when needed.
Also, out of the top projected guards in this draft, Martin would likely be a better scheme fit than say, David Yankey, for the Eagles due to his athleticism and ability to get to the second level.
And again, if the Eagles stick to the best player available approach and Martin is there, he could certainly be one of the options they will consider.
QB Johnny Manziel, 5′ 11 3/4″, 207 lbs, Texas A&M
I know, I know…”No friggin way dude!” Right? Maybe. Maybe not.
By most accounts from draft analysts and mock drafters, Manziel is going to be a top 10 pick, if not top 5. But, as I noted above, players can certainly “slide” in the draft…just ask Geno Smith!
Manziel might be a better overall prospect than Smith, but he is certainly a polarizing figure. Where he gets drafted will be the single-most talked about topic come draft day.
Based on everything I’ve read so far about Manziel, he is either going to be a top 10 pick or he’ll take a Geno-like slide or maybe even further.
He played two games this year, LSU and Missouri. If those were the first two games you put on and watched, you’d say he was almost undraftable,” Cosell said on the “Midday 180” radio program in Nashville, Tenn. “He was so bad in those two games, that you’d struggle to figure out, ‘Can I even draft this guy?'”
In essence, Manziel comes with a lot of questions about whether or not he can succeed at the NFL level. With his style of play and being of relatively slight stature, can he stay healthy? Can he learn an NFL offense? Can he thrive in the pocket? Can he go through his progressions properly?
Is he a “prima donna”? Arrogant? Will he be a distraction both on and off the field? There are lots of questions about him. Nobody questions his overall talent as a football player, they just question whether or not it can be harnessed and developed for the NFL.
So far, it almost sounds like I’m making a case not to select him. No so. I’m making my case for why he could still be available at pick 22. But the question is, would the Eagles have interest if he was?
That’s a tough one to answer since Kelly blew our collective minds and apparently doesn’t want and/or need a mobile QB. However, his value at pick 22 could make the “best player available” case for the Eagles.
Plus, the Eagles did designate one of their slots to interview him at the combine.
If Kelly thinks he could “coach him up” to not play “sandlot football”, Manziel has the kind of athleticism and competitiveness that I’m sure he would love.
At the end of the day, if Manziel was there and the Eagles drafted him, it would indicate a lack of confidence in Nick Foles. He could try and cover it up with a “you need two good quarterbacks in this league” type of sentiment, but you wouldn’t spend your first round pick on a QB unless you envisioned him becoming your starter.
In any case, I wouldn’t advocate drafting him, but he’s certainly an “out of the box” candidate to think about.