The NFL Draft will kick off on the Ben Franklin Parkway just over a week from today and nobody — no expert, no guru, no draftnik worth a damn — has any idea who the Eagles are going to take in the first round.
By this time last year the Eagles had already made two moves to jump up to the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The only debate last year was if the Birds were going to take Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, simply based on which quarterback the Rams didn’t pick with the No. 1 selection. Even then, Wentz was so likely to fall to No. 2 for the Eagles, it was all but assured he’d be with Philly before the draft even began.
This year, the Eagles pick 14th after dealing Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings before last season began. This is a deep draft, and the Eagles have so many needs on their roster it might make sense — read: it totally, absolutely, unquestionably makes sense — to trade the 14th pick to either move up for a blue-chip, top-10 prospect or, more likely, move down in the first round, add a pick or two later in the draft and still get a player of comparable quality to who they could take at No. 14.
Outside of maybe the top four or five picks, the NFL Draft is rarely about getting the best player. It’s about finding the player with the most value to your team, and clearly there is no consensus as to who that player is for the Eagles. So with this many options, look for the Eagles to potentially upset the amassed crowd outside the Art Museum and move down in the first round. Oh, let’s pause to imagine Eagles fans booing on national TV. Just imagine it. Because it might happen.
Or, it might not. Nobody has any idea.
Here’s who the experts think the Eagles will take in the first round.
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio St.
Ohio State has two first-round caliber cornerbacks in this draft, and the Eagles definitely need a cornerback. NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein thinks in his latest mock draft the Eagles will snag Gareon Conley, the second of those two Buckeye corners. Zierlein wrote:
The Eagles need a cornerback, and Conley has good size and the ability to press and cover all over the field. His strong combine performance helped his stock.
ESPN’s celebrated draft guru Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft is behind a firewall, but thankfully his picks are so celebrated some of the NFL’s team publish them in slideshows. Here, via the Bears website, Kiper also thinks the Eagles will take Conley.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
While one ESPN guru has gone with Conley, the other — Todd McShay — has gone with the hot name on many draft boards, Christian McCaffrey from Stanford. McShay isn’t the only one to pick the do-everything back to the Birds.
NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks wrote that Doug Pederson could “transform the Brian Westbrook clone into a star in the Eagles’ offense.”
CBS Sports writers Will Brinson and Jared Dubin also have McCaffrey going to the Eagles, as does NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler, who wrote, “adding a versatile threat like McCaffrey is something that should frighten the rest of the NFC East.”.
So that settles it. McCaffrey is the closest we’re getting to a consensus pick. Only… He probably won’t be around by 14, given many of the latest projections.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St.
Cook would be a stretch for the Eagles at 14. Cook is talented enough to be a top-half of the first round pick, but he might be the third running back selected this year after Leonard Fournette and McCaffrey, and if three running backs go in the top 14 picks then something is messed up with this draft. Some mock drafts have Cook sliding into the second round, or going in the very late first, so if the Eagles do want him, trading back would be the smart move. Alas, both USA Today and Bleacher Report have mock drafts up linking Cook to the Eagles at 14.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The safest pick in the draft at No. 14 heading into the NFL Combine might have been Foster, but Foster was sent packing in Indianapolis, opening up some question marks about him. And while linebacker isn’t at the same level of need as cornerback, running back or, perhaps still after some free agent signings, wide receiver, good teams can never have too many solid linebackers. More mock drafts would have Foster going to the Eagles if they had him still on the board at 14. Alas, the only mock draft we found with Foster to the Eagles is Daniel Jeremiah at NFL.com.
Like most draftniks, Jeremiah wrote, “Keep in mind, we are still a few weeks away from the actual draft and there will be plenty of movement between now and then,” which is NFL Draft wording for the shruggy emoji guy.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Corner might be the deepest position in the draft, and it might be the position the Eagles need the most, but who can pass up a top-flight wide receiver when-and-if he lands on the top of the board when the Eagles are picking?
Williams might be the best receiver in the draft, and he would be a fan favorite type of pick on the Parkway. Chad Reuter wrote at NFL.com, “Williams helped Deshaun Watson at Clemson, and now is in position to aid Carson Wentz, who is need of more receivers.” Dan Kadar at SB Nation hedged on picking Williams to the Eagles, writing, “If Williams is there, the Eagles have to strike and come back on positions like cornerback and linebacker later in the draft.”
If. Well, sure, if.
Pete Schrager of Fox Sports thinks that signing Alshon Jeffery won’t preclude the Eagles from taking Williams at No. 14. “I don’t think Philadelphia is done adding playmakers for Carson Wentz just because it added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith… Coming off a broken neck, he had a breakout season and has been compared to everyone from Demaryius Thomas to Plaxico Burress. Alshon Jeffery or not, I like this fit.”
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
As good as Williams is, he may not be the best receiver in the draft. That’s probably Davis, who many think is perhaps the best receiver prospect in several years. ESPN’s Louis Riddick told 97.5 The Fanatic that Williams may not be the best fit at No. 14, because of Davis.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.
When looking for the best player available, it’s pretty clear that would be Lattimore, who has been tabbed as high as third in the draft this year. Should he fall to No. 14, it would be a major surprise, but stranger things have happened in drafts in the past. Which is, perhaps, why Walter Football, has him going to the Eagles with the 14th pick.
So will it be Lattimore, or Conley? Or, perhaps, another corner?
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Matt Miller, the lead guru at Bleacher Report, thinks the Eagles will take Wilson, the corner out of Florida. Miller ranks Wilson as his top cornerback in this year’s draft, writing, “His game is perfect for a press-man system, and he spent time in that role at Florida. He uses his hands well to jam and stick receivers to the line of scrimmage. Wilson has superb strength and short-area quickness—especially for a big corner. His balance, body control and agility are noticeable on film and in drills. Wilson has a high football IQ and can read and recognize routes on the go.”
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Rob Rang of CBS Sports has the Eagles taking Humphrey with their first pick, one selection before he has Temple linebacker Haason Reddick getting selected. Of Humphrey, Rang wrote, “Humphrey, the top-rated corner on some boards, is an NFL legacy with a rare combination of size (6-0, 197 pounds) and speed (4.41). At just 20-years old, Humphrey appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.”
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Pete Prisco, also of CBS Sports, also has the Eagles taking a cornerback and also has that cornerback coming out of the SEC, but not from Alabama. Prisco thinks the Eagles will take White, the LSU product, writing, “White is one of the corners the scouts like more than draftniks,” which is Prisco-speak for, “I talk to people who make picks, I don’t guess my own picks.”
Cris Collinsworth of NBC Sports also does work with Pro Football Focus and also has the Eagles taking White.
I want to give the Eagles a receiver with the speed of John Ross to play alongside Alshon Jeffery, but Philadelphia has to have a cornerback, and White is the next best available. He may drive Jim Schwartz nuts if he refuses to tackle, but Schwartz has no choice — you can’t compete without corners. I love White’s ability to find the ball in the air. Most young corners are afraid to turn their head and look for deep balls, and they end up getting beat. White is rock-solid there.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Ron Clements of Sporting News also thinks the Eagles are taking a cornerback. Only, he says it’ll be Awuzie of Colorado at No. 14. “Awuzie has gained steam over the last couple of months and was invited to Philadelphia for the draft,” Clements wrote. Maybe he’ll stay here!
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Yes, the Eagles need help everywhere, but it would seem defensive end in the first round isn’t the spot to get the most value. Still, “best player on the board and all.” Josh Norris of NBC Sports/Rotoworld thinks Harris might be that player at No. 14.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports had the Eagles taking Barnett back in March. He wrote this: The Eagles need a cornerback in a big way, but their need on the defensive line looms larger in the moment. Philadelphia can wait on a cornerback — there’s a ton in this class. They can’t wait on replacing Connor Barwin.”
In February, he had them taking Williams and said: “The Eagles need a cornerback and they need wide receivers. This is the best wide receiver in the class. They can snag a strong CB later.”
As of now, he has them taking Conley, the CB. His logic?
The Eagles fill their giant need at corner. Conley might be considered a reach by some — he’s ranked as a fringe first-rounder on my board — but considering his upside (and, again, astounding need) it’s not worth waiting around to pick a cornerback.
For what it’s worth, he now has Williams going fifth and Barnett going eighth. So, sure, now it’s not worth waiting around to pick a corner.
And no, you shouldn’t have any idea who Kurtenbach is. I’ve been doing this for years and only included him because I went to Fox Sports and clicked NFL Mock Drafts and his is what came up. That said, take all of these, even the seasoned pros, with a grain of salt. Nobody has any idea, which is the point. We have local guys doing this too, for sure. Want a cornerback from Washington? Because you can have one, right now. Or maybe you can’t. Who knows?
The only truth the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft is this: The Eagles are not taking a quarterback. Probably.