While the Eagles trade with the Dolphins last week freed up the cap space for all the deals that have been making headlines lately, it also brought Philadelphia the highest draft pick they’ve had since Lane Johnson was selected fourth in 2013. The chance to nab the country’s top talent is not an excitement fans are used to. Since taking Corey Simon 6th overall in 2000, Johnson is the only selection the Eagles have made in the top ten. Get excited, you might just see one of these players in Midnight Green next season:
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The Eagles haven’t selected a defensive back in the first round since Lito Sheppard in 2003. But when the Birds’ secondary was filled with studs, the first two or three rounds of the draft is where they came from. Those days are long gone, though Malcolm Jenkins (a former first round pick) and Eric Rowe (last year’s second round selection) give hope they may return. Though he hasn’t yet played a down for the Eagles, Leodis McKelvin was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Hargreaves was a standout for three years at Florida, intercepting ten passes in his career. The main knock on him is his height: 5-foot-10. He recorded a 39-inch vertical at the combine. After Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, a corner-safety tweener, Hargreaves is widely listed as the top corner in this year’s draft class, and he should go off the board somewhere right around the Eagles’ selection.
Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame
Most mock drafts have Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil the first player off the board to Tennessee. The next man up on the offensive line is Stanley, and the Eagles’ trade with the Dolphins has positioned them well to grab him and keep repairing their tattered offensive line.
With new signing Brandon Brooks taking care of one guard spot, ideally any lineman the Eagles drafted could step into the other one from day one before ultimately sliding to tackle and replacing Jason Peters.
Stanley is tougher to project at guard than some others in the draft, as he made 40 starts at tackle in college, but he has the size and frame (6-foot-6, 312 pounds) to stay at tackle in the pros. With Peters’ health constantly up in the air, the Birds’ may need their next tackle sooner rather than later.
Miles Jack, OLB, UCLA
A year ago, linebacker was thought to be the deepest and most talented position group on the team. The Eagles have already seen a great deal of turnover at linebacker this off-season. DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso are gone. The move away from the 3-4 defense creates the question of where Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin will play. Jordan Hicks was a revelation, but is now recovering from an injury. Mychal Kendricks was injured and disappointing in 2015.
Last season it was another UCLA linebacker Eagles fans had their collective eye on: Kendricks’ brother Eric. He went 45th overall to the Vikings. Jack won’t be on the board anywhere near that long. He is recovering from his own injury – a torn ACL. Before that, he was a dual-threat for the Bruins on offense and defense. He scored seven touchdowns as a running back as a freshman, while racking up 75 tackles and winning Offensive and Defensive Pac-12 Freshman-of-the-Year honors.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Yes, the Eagles have invested heavily in wide receiver in the draft the last two years. Yes, it’s had relatively little pay off. That can lead to two schools of thought. Either a) they need to stop doing it, or b) they still need help at wide receiver.
Jordan Matthews has, despite last season’s struggles with drops, done well over his first two years and missed a 1,000-yard season by just three yards in 2015. Coleman would provide the Eagles with a very different receiver, but one no less talented.
This year he won the Biletnikoff while scoring 20 touchdowns; in 2014 he reached the endzone 11 times. Coleman could provide the Eagles the deep threat they haven’t had since Chip Kelly released DeSean Jackson. Getting that threat back might do wonders to unlock the Eagles’ run game as well.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Speaking of that run game, this is a much more direct way to invest. The rare (in 2016) running-back talented enough to garner top ten draft stock, Elliott seems to be a natural fit for Philadelphia after the trade of DeMarco Murray.
While he played well in the first half of 2015, Ryan Mathews has played in 16 games just once in six NFL seasons. He’s missed 23 games over that period. Behind him, Darren Sproles, while never to be doubted, will be 33 when the NFL season begins, and shouldn’t be asked to carry the load at running back. All of this makes Elliott, a workhorse comparable to a (non-used-up) Demarco Murray, exactly what the Eagles need.
The combination of strength and speed (he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the combine) that led to two 1800-yard seasons in college would make Elliott the most exciting Eagles first round selection since Donovan McNabb. He made sure fans saw his best on the biggest stage – helping Ohio State to the 2014 National Championship. If the Eagles took Elliott (and don’t let this dissuade you,) he would be the highest running back selected since Cleveland took Trent Richardson third overall in 2012.