The Eagles 2018 draft can at the moment be split into two very distinct parts: their first-round choice, the final selection on the first day of the draft, and everything else, which includes five picks on the third and final day, from rounds four through seven.
That might not be anything like what their final draft looks like. Their first round pick should be a prime target for teams looking to trade up and grab a player who has fallen, and the Eagles could be eager to recoup some of their missing draft picks in a trade.
But if they stay at 32, here are three players the Eagles have been showing interest in (two have reportedly visited the Eagles since the combine) that could be available when the first round closes. Later, we’ll preview players they might target during the latter half of the draft.
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Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Running back isn’t the most obvious choice for the Eagles. Even with LeGarrette Blount a newly minted Lion and Darren Sproles future up in the air, the Birds are in good hands with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, and a seeming commitment to a rotational system would make spending a first round pick on a runner seem a bit imprudent. But if you look a little deeper into the future, a case for drafting another running back can be built.
Ajayi’s rookie contract will be ending after the 2018 season and depending on how that season goes he could be due for a big payday the already cash strapped Eagles can’t afford while they’re planning Carson Wentz’ own payday. Adding Guice would give the Eagles a potential feature back to step into Ajayi’s shoes and replace Blount’s aggressive style in the meantime.
Guice is a physical runner whom NFL.com compares to Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. But the easier comparison might be last year’s first round selection from LSU and Guice’s former teammate. He’s not the freak of nature Leonard Fournette was, and won’t be a top five pick himself, but while Fournette dealt with injuries in 2016 it was Guice that led the Tigers (and the SEC) in rushing yards and it’s Guice who set the school record for rushing yards in a single game with 285.
The comparisons between the two LSU prospects doesn’t end with their style. While Guice took advantage of Fournette’s injuries to star in 2016, he became victim of his own in 2017. Like Fournette, Guice will be drafted based on the strength of earlier seasons than his most recent.
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
A second player who is hoping teams focus on their 2016 tape is Texas tackle Connor Williams. This is a position that it would be much less surprising to see the Eagles target when the first round comes to a close in a month. It’s clear that they prioritize building from the offensive and defensive lines above virtually everything save quarterback, and the long term future of the offensive line is murky.
It’s hard to say they need to improve when the entire group returns from a Super Bowl winning line and their Hall of Fame left tackle gets added back into the mix for good measure, but drafting a tackle now would be a move for the next five years, and
getting one at the end of the first round would ensure the Eagles of a fifth-year option on a rookie contract down the road.
To that end, we’ve talked about a lot of offensive tackles already this off-season entering and leaving the combine, and Williams is a name that came up as early as mid-college season. Part of the reason for that is that he made his mark two years ago, being named First Team All-American as a sophomore. In 2017 injuries limited him to five games and saw him surpassed in the Big 12 by Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown. Now Brown has fallen back to the rest of the pack after a legendarily bad day at the NFL Combine.
Williams on the other hand, used the combine to show teams he was back in 2016 shape. It’s hard to nail the first round offensive tackle prospects down to any sort of order, and their ultimate order is going to fall down to teams picking their favorites.
Williams could be on the board when the Eagles pick, or he could be the first tackle to leave it. But if they can bring him along carefully and get him back to the player he was in 2016, they’d be getting a steal.
Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Reid is the brother of former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who himself was a first round pick from LSU in the 2013 draft. It would be a bit surprising to see the Eagles take a safety this high, something they haven’t done since 1990. But they also haven’t picked this late in the first round since, well, ever.
The case for getting younger at safety starts with the fact that the Eagles aren’t especially young there. Malcolm Jenkins is 30, Corey Graham is 32 and a free agent, and Chris Maragos is 31 and primarily a special teamer. Rodney McLeod meanwhile, has a contract with the look of a potential cap casualty in coming years when the Eagles salary structure shifts dramatically. Even now, with Graham’s future with the organization unclear, adding a third safety for when Jenkins slides to the slot or linebacker is a priority.
Reid played an athletic game on the field at Stanford and backed it up at the combine, posting a 4.4 second 40-yard dash and excellent three-cone and broad jump marks. At 6-foot-1 and with a 36” vertical, it’s also easy to see how he ended his junior season with five interceptions. He’s a ball hawk and a hitter, and the Eagles have the veterans on the team to mentor a great safety.
A lot of mocks have been sending cornerbacks the Eagles way, be it USC’s Donte Jackson or Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. And while replacing Patrick Robinson is important, it might make more sense for the Eagles to test and evaluate the young corners they already have stockpiled (Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas) in 2018 and count on Jenkins as a backup plan if none of them prove to have the skill-set necessary to excel in the slot. If that’s the route they have to go, someone has to be there to step onto the field at safety.