Apr 9, 2012, 5:14 PM EDT
The first round of the NFL Draft is little more than two weeks away, and the Eagles find themselves in a unique position at the 15th pick. Despite the fact they are coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season that fell far short of expectations, the roster astonishingly lacks the type of gaping holes you would expect from a .500 team. There are spots that can be improved upon, a few areas that lack depth, but what you see right now is a close approximation of what the final product will be come September.
What that means is “best player available” isn’t just a cliche this April. Unlike most clubs, the Eagles won’t feel obligated to target a certain position or positions in the first round. The front office will have almost unlimited options once the clock starts ticking, because the top of the depth chart is basically set across the board.
Arguably the biggest question mark on offense, and that’s with a four-time Pro Bowler under center. Whether or not Michael Vick has what it takes to win a Super Bowl is still up for debate, so coming away from this draft with a quarterback of the future should be on the table. Vick is under contract through 2015 though, which means there’s not necessarily any sense of urgency to find his successor. More importantly, there’s no need to reach for somebody in the first round.
Building on an impressive sophomore campaign, LeSean McCoy emerged as a premier back last year. Over the past two seasons, Shady compiled 3,296 total yards from scrimmage on 606 touches for a 5.4 average and 29 touchdowns. He’s looking for a new contract, and running backs can decline rapidly, but McCoy will only turn 24 in July, and there’s no reason to believe the Eagles wouldn’t reward that kind of production.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Few teams have embraced the concept that the NFL is a passing league more than Reid’s Eagles. The organization has invested heavily in receivers, so it’s no surprise the roster would be well-stocked with dynamic pass catchers. The front office could opt for some DeSean Jackson insurance, and it should be noted Jeremy Maclin can become a free agent next year, but all the pieces are in place for this to be an explosive offense once again in 2012.
O-line was thrust into the spotlight after the hard luck injury to Jason Peters, but the Eagles acted fast and addressed the loss by signing Demetress Bell. The rest of the group is intact, with Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis reaching long-term deals, and Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce each entering their second season in the league. Depth has become a bigger hot-button issue since the Peters scare, but the starters appear to be cemented in place for years to come.
The front four was responsible for 46 out of the Eagles’ NFL-leading 50 sacks last season, and between free agents Juqua Parker and Trevor Laws, they are only losing 2.5. Jason Babin is scary-good at rushing the passer from the wide nine, Trent Cole is an anchor on the opposite end, and Cullen Jenkins was a Pro-Bowl alternate on the interior. The rest of the rotation is a deep bunch of prospects (Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, Antonio Dixon) and consistent vets (Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp).
The Eagles believe they solved their primary off-season need already by trading for DeMeco Ryans last month. If Ryans is the three-down MIKE he was before rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2010, the coaches can probably mix and match around him with the guys who are on the team now. It’s still a position we expect the team to address in the draft, but outside linebackers can be found after the first round, so it’s no longer an absolute must on day one.
For now, the defense carries three Pro-Bowl corners, but by the time the draft is complete, they should be down to two. That’s still better than 90% of the league, so it’s not like they’ll be hurting. Behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles have a traditional nickel corner in Joselio Hanson, and a couple of prospects in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. However, DRC is a free agent in 2013, so they might be looking to the future — but clearly it’s not an immediate concern.
After using second-round picks in consecutive drafts, you would hope the Eagles don’t feel compelled to chase a safety for a third year in a row. Nate Allen looked great in some games in 2011, not so much in others, but he should improve with a full season removed from a torn patellar tendon. Jaiquawn Jarrett wasn’t ready to play after the lockout-shortened offseason, but Kurt Coleman looks serviceable at least. It sounds like a veteran could join this group to provide additional stability, but the guys who are here will get more opportunities.
Considering all of the above, what would you say their biggest need is in round one? Should they move down if the price is right, and try to gain picks in future years, or should they target an elite prospect, and possibly trade up to get him, no matter whether or not it’s at a position of great need? The beautiful thing is they seem to have to multiple options — or would you even go so far as to disagree with that assessment?
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