Let’s go back one year shall we? Remember the off-season of 2011 Eagles fans? Big free agent signings mixed in with the already present talent, being labeled by new comer QB Vince Young as the “Dream Team”, and plenty of fans prepping themselves for Super Bowl dreams and parades, yes before the first snap of the season.
What that all quickly turned into was a team with lost identity, poor fundamental skills, and a team that could not hold a late lead. What we all got in the end was an 8-8 team that missed the playoffs and was seen as the league’s biggest letdown. Young played some at QB, and he was average at best. Kevin Kolb was gone, DeSean Jackson was threatening to leave and we were all in total denial mode as fans. Who didn’t want to see Andy Reid fired (besides me of course)? How was all of this possible? Sad but true, but in the beauty of sports, one season passes and another comes our way.
So this pre-season the Philadelphia Eagles took a new approach. They signed many of the key players to new deals, made a nice trade to bring in a quality MLB in DeMeco Ryans from Houston, and have come in with a humble attitude. They are working on clearing cap space with a dealing of CB Asante Samuel, which will save them over 9 million dollars, while also working last years trade acquisition CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie to take his place and play his comfortable position. Doing thins smart, and looking hard to fix what seemed to be broken last year, and give the fans of Philly what they want.
First Round Possible picks: 15th pick overall
Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama: 6′ 1″, 213 pounds.
The Eagles have faith in free safety Nate Allen, but need to add an all-around athlete in the back to assist. Barron is a good cover safety who has terrific ball-hawking skills. Barron can cover the run well, and pursues the ball carrier better than any safety in the draft. He can avoid blocks and finds his way into tight spaces. He has good speed and open field ability as well. Barron has big game experience from his days in Alabama which is key for the Eagles as this would be a guy they would put right to work from day 1. The Cowboys pick one spot ahead and are believed to love Barron, so the Eagles may have to move to get him, or if he falls here, in my opinion, is the best possible player for them.
Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU: 6′ 6″, 322 pounds.
The Eagles seem to love to add lineman on both sides of the ball via the draft, and if they choose the defense, this beast will serve them well. Brockers is strong and quick for his size and pursues the football with excellent precision. Although he did not have big sack numbers in 2011, he is said to have great push and swim moves to break free from blockers and be a force on either the rush or the pass. Brockers has a great passion and plays hard and fierce. For a big guy he gets low and has great leverage which breaks things open. He will need some work to fine tune his skill, but this can be the missing piece of this team’s front 4 for sure. With Mike Patterson still a question mark, this pick becomes essential.
Luke Keuchly, Linebacker, Boston College: 6′ 3″, 242 pounds.
The time has come for this team to true up its linebacking, something that Andy Reid felt in the past to be easy, but the results have never been there. They did make the nice trade to bring in Ryans, and now they can really give it a boost with Keuchly, a tackling machine with excellent pursuit and side to side speed. Luke is a great team player and leader and fierce from the linebacking position. He played more of an inside role in college, but can close in on runners and is decent enough on the pass to play outside in the NFL. He can get stood up by superior offensive lineman, but as a whole, he is a guy that adds fire to a defensive unit. There is some good LBs to be had this year, but this guy could be the best of them. His stock goes up and down, so it is hard to imagine where he will land.
Whitney Mercilus, Linebacker, Illinois: 6′ 4″, 261 pounds.
Yes, by now many Eagles fans are saying “who?” and thinking I have lost my mind, but this guy is a quality athlete, and a pure outside linebacker. Last season he racked up 16 sacks, which is a great stat being as the Eagles love to blitz from all over the field. He plays all out with a high motor and great speed, and has the strength to break through to get to the QB. He is not a great run-stopper, but does cover plenty of ground with long arms and wide body. He explodes at the snap of the ball, although not with sleek technique, but raw force. His arms and body are always moving and he always looks to make a play. This is a guy, who if he pans out, would have Eagles fans leaping out of their seats. He’s an on-field cheerleader and fires up fans and teammates. At 15 he may be a reach, so it remains to be seen if the Eagles will look his way.
Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama: 6′ 2″, 265 pounds.
With the Eagles being uncertain of a want for LB or DE, they may want to consider Hightower, who can be both. Unlike Brandon Graham who they drafted a few years ago, this guy has killer instincts and plays ferocious. He can play both the run and the pass and gets after the QB when turned loose. The knock is that his footwork is sloppy, so some wonder if he can handle being an outside linebacker in the NFL. If he can learn to pass cover, he can be a beast of a hitter at LB, and we can sure use that.
Second Round Possible picks: 46th and 51st pick overall
Mike Adams, Tackle, Ohio State: 6′ 7″, 323 pounds.
The loss of Jason Peters this off-season will be tough, and despite making some moves to fill his spots, the Eagles could always use more help up front and this is a great guy to land in the second round. A quality blocker for both the run and the pass, Adams uses long arms and strength to clear out defenders of all sizes. He is an all out blocker who plays it til the whistle on every down. He is tough as any tackle in this draft and a guy who could start every down in a year or 2. He also lead blocks well in the screen pass attack, something the Eagles love to do. His size is huge and he is sleek for it. Not too many knocks on Adams, so you’d have to be happy to land this guy.
Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame: 6′ 2″, 213 pounds.
If the Eagles can’t get, or choose to pass on Mark Barron, then this is the move they have to make in this round. Smith has the fire, leadership and all out motor of a Brian Dawkins, with the power and pop of a Troy Polumalu. He is ferocious, plays all out and can change a game with a powerful pop. He plays both the run and pass very well, and has quality instincts. He is a guy that can be a rally guy for fans and teammates on the field and a good guy off. His only knock is open field tackles, but for the rest he is a total package. A player like this in the second round can be quite a steal, as he may be one of the best overall football players in this draft.
Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech: 6′ 4″, 215 pounds:
What? A receiver after what we just paid DeSean Jackson, and we still have Jeremy Maclin? In my opinion, absolutely if you can get Hill with one of these picks. Explosive speed, great size and excellent hands, as well as good filed awareness make him the guy the Eagles could use to really open up opposing defenses. He is more of an end zone, big body threat than anyone on the current roster, and is a good morale guy too. I have told anyone that will listen that this guy may be the second best WR in this draft, and a great asset to a team that has skilled players to teach him the ropes. If he is still around, he is a guy I love here.
Dre’ Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama: 6′ 2″, 186 pounds.
It would be hard to imagine him falling this late, but if he does, Kirkpatrick is a guy ideal for Philly and the defense. He has good size and jumping skill to challenge bigger receivers in the league, and is a crowd friendly, rah-rah guy on the field. He will need to add a tad more bulk in the gym, but can be a force with great arm span, and good coverage skills. Philly will likely trade Asante’ Samuel, and they will have a need for a guy that can cover the slot and crossing patterns, something Kirkpatrick does very well. Also to his credit, he is a quality tackler. He may not be a pressing need, but in the category of best player available he would be that guy with either pick by far.
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin: 6′ 5″, 314 pounds.
He is a big, hulking guy that can anchor an offensive line with great instincts and fierce play. He blocks both in the run and the pass really well, and recognizes blitzes very well. Despite his size he has terrific mobility and is very athletic, something they could use in protection of the always moving Michael Vick. He has excellent body frame so he is not bulky and won’t get caught out of place often. His durability has been a concern, but he did manage to start 30 games for a very good Wisconsin squad. Again a position they may not be desperate at, but this is a chance to improve if Konz slips down to 51.
Other picks to be considered:
Brandon Weeden, Quarterback
David Wilson, Running Back
LaVonte David, Linebacker
Jared Crick, Defensive End
Trumain Johnson, Cornerback
Okay Eagles fans, here is hoping to make a big splash in this draft. Let’s hope that Andy and the brass get us what we need to have a big 2012!
Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to respond here, and thanks as always for reading!