The NFL Combine is here and so is a new mock draft from Mel Kiper.
With three first-round picks, there are many different potential outcomes for the Philadelphia Eagles. It hardly feels likely that they’ll actually make all three selections, but here’s what Kiper thinks the Birds will do.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Let’s fill some holes for Philadelphia, which has three first-round picks and problems at a few spots on its roster. The Eagles made a run to the playoffs last season, winning six of their final eight games, but their defense was exposed along the way. They allowed quarterbacks to complete a whopping 69.4% of their passes, which ranked last in the league. McDuffie, who did not allow a single touchdown in coverage over the past two seasons, could play the spot opposite Darius Slay. He also has the ability to play out of the slot.
How the Eagles handle their cornerback position this offseason will be interesting. We could soon get some clarity on the status of impending free agent Steven Nelson. The read here is that he’s looking forward to testing the market and will end up fetching a bigger offer than what the Eagles are willing to pay him. And if that’s the case, they’ll need a new starter on the outside.
The Eagles already have a number of in-house candidates to play corner for them. The team made a concerted effort to acquire a number of young bodies at that spot, seemingly hoping at least one will stick moving forward. That group includes:
- Zech McPhearson (23)
- Tay Gowan (24)
- Kary Vincent Jr. (23)
- Mac McCain III (24)
- Josiah Scott (22)
- Other Chachers (26)
None of these guys should be considered sure-fire starters entering 2022. From that group, McPhearson has flashed the most potential. The 2021 fourth-round pick could feasibly be starting for the Eagles this year.
Or perhaps the Eagles will indeed select a corner in the first round. Despite the lack of eye-popping ball production, there are things to like about McDuffie. Check out this scouting report from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:
Three-year starter whose average size is overshadowed by skillful ruggedness, allowing him to contest throws from a variety of coverages. He’s an elite competitor with a route-hugging mentality fueled by body control, foot agility, aggression and burst. He’s a pesky press-man defender with the tools to excel in zone. He’s willing to fly downhill and hit anybody near the football. He keeps his eyes on the prize and has an itchy, twitchy trigger to close throwing windows and make plays on the ball. He lacks lockdown traits but has lockdown talent and his competitive energy is contagious. He can play outside or from the slot and carries a very high floor with the potential to become one of the league’s top corners at some point during his first contract.
Zierlein also included this note from an NFC team scouting director:
Of all the defensive backs that (former Washington) coach (Chris) Petersen recruited, he might be the best. The talent, athleticism and makeup are all really clean. ”
I tend to think there’s a reason the Eagles stockpiled all those young corners and it’s in part because they do not want to spend more major resources at the position. Jonathan Gannon has a history of getting more out of less at corner, in part because of his utilization of soft Cover 2 zones that do not put stress on his boundary defenders.
But if the Eagles believe a corner like McDuffie is a star and head-and-shoulders above other prospects on the board, it could still happen.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND) – David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan
The Eagles ranked 31st in the league with 29 sacks last season; they have to get better there. Getting pressure on the quarterback is a way to improve the entire defense. Ojabo is a pure pass-rusher who is still developing as a run defender. He had had 11 sacks and five forced fumbles, wreaking havoc opposite potential No. 1 pick Aidan Hutchinson. I’d feel better about taking Ojabo in the middle of Round 1 vs. the top 10 because he can get swallowed up in the run game, but his edge-rush upside is undeniable.
I would be shocked with a capital ‘S’ (so, I guess I should’ve just typed “Shocked”) if the Eagles do not leave the first round with an edge rusher. The Eagles value the position, it’s a big need for them, and there should be a desirable prospect available to them.
Last week, we downplayed the idea that Travon Walker would be a great fit for the Birds. Kiper has the Eagles passing on Walker to take Ojabo instead.
The latter prospect is more intriguing from a tools and production standpoint. Obajo has displayed freakish athleticism and is coming off an 11-sack season.
Ojabo’s relative inexperience – he played just 620 snaps (20 games) in college – could signal he’ll need some time to develop in the NFL. But the upside is tantalizing.
Look at what one NFC scout told Zierlein:
“I’m not saying he’s going to be a better overall player, but I think Ojabo will be a more productive rusher than (Michigan teammate and potential No. 1 overall pick) Aidan Hutchinson.”
Call it a hunch but I think the Eagles end up drafting either Ojabo or Jermaine Johnson in the first round. Kiper has the latter going off the board at No. 13 in this mock.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
One more Round 1 selection for the Eagles, who I gave defenders at Nos. 15 and 16. This could be a spot to take another receiver, their third straight draft to take one in the first round. Jalen Reagor, the No. 21 pick in 2020, has underwhelmed – I thought it was a reach at the time – while DeVonta Smith, the No. 10 choice last year, had a good but not great rookie season. I would get Jalen Hurts a different kind of receiver in Burks, who is big and physical (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and could complement Smith’s speed. Burks had 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Razorbacks last season. I’m really curious to see his athletic testing numbers at the combine; it’s not out of the question that he rises even farther up the board.
Burks was previously projected to the Eagles in Todd McShay’s mock draft last week, which we discussed here on BGN.
Speaking at the Combine on Wednesday morning, Burks did say the Eagles are one of the teams he’s spoken with. He also said that he models his game after Deebo Samuel. The idea of adding that type of player to the Eagles’ offense is a fun thought.
It also makes sense from what the team could be looking to add at the receiver position. Assuming Jalen Hurts is back, I do not know that Philly will be seeking another volume target. They already under-utilize their top option in DeVonta Smith. Then again, the Eagles should not really be making long-term decisions based on a quarterback who has not erased doubt as the franchise guy.
Overall, not a bad haul. Some might think it’s unrealistic for the Eagles to take a first-round wide receiver for the third straight year but I actually think that’s more likely than them taking a linebacker or a corner. I question how realistic the McDuffie pick is, then, but I do think Ojabo will definitely be in play.
What say you?