The NFL Draft is just over a week away, and fans are still eagerly anticipating what path the Eagles will take with the final pick on the first day...and no picks on the second. Stay where they are and take whichever surprising draft day fall we’re witnessing at the time? Draft for “need”? Trade back in order to recoup some second and third round picks, as hard as it may be to let Dallas fans go a day without hearing “The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles select…”?
One enticing choice is to further strengthen one of the team’s strongest points. It worked last year on the defensive line and it could well work this year on the offensive front. The Eagles have displayed time and again that they prioritize the two lines when it comes to valuing cap space and draft collateral — and with good reason when you realise that one of the units is tasked with protecting Carson Wentz for hopefully the next decade.
That unit is coming off a tremendous season but facing questions surrounding the return of Jason Peters from injury, the general age of the starters, and the options waiting in the wings for the future. The Eagles could use their first round pick to add a new face to that future.
This draft offers a unique opportunity at offensive tackle as well: generally there would be several players lined up to be off the board before the Eagles pick, and one or two well removed inside the top ten. This year’s class is different, features no agreed-upon hierarchy, and could leave the Eagles favorite option available when they walk to the podium. With that in mind, here are five players that pick could be. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is excluded, as the only player routinely mocked ahead of the Eagle’s selection.
Kolton Miller, UCLA
After McGlinchey, Miller is probably the second least likely candidate to be available at 32. He’s been rising up draft boards quickly after staring at the combine and analytics also hype Miller: he is only charged with two sacks allowed in 2017.
But analysts have pointed out footwork issues that could beg for a total rework. That’s a problem, but it’s one some team will always be willing to believe they can fix, especially on a 6-foot-9 tacke whos athleticism topped the charts. The Eagles are strong enough currently along the line that they might think they can give Miller time to develop.
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Next up, the polar opposite in prospects: Brown finished the 2017 season as a First-Team All-American and was ranked right at the top of this group of draft prospects, notable for his 6-foot-8, 360-pound frame. Instead of improving that stock at the combine however, Brown had one of the worst performances in combine history, highlighted (or lowlighted) by a 5.85 second 40-yard dash and only 14 reps on the bench press.
His college game was strong enough that CBS Sports still ranks him as the best tackle prospect, but it’s hard to see the Eagles, who value athleticism among their offensive lineman so highly, being enthralled by Brown.
Connor Williams, Texas
Williams is another player it would have once been hard to imagine falling to the bottom of the first round, but his 2017 season was nothing like his 2016 one. As a sophomore he was named First-Team All-American, but as a junior knee injuries limited him to five games before he declared himself eligible for the draft.
He was recovered enough to turn in a fine combine, but another question scouts have about Williams is his size: 6-foot-5 and with 33” arms, some project him as a guard at the next level. PhillyVoice reports the Eagles have hosted Williams on a visit, so they’re clearly interested in the former Longhorn.
Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
Now for a couple of tackle prospects that make more sense if the Eagles do trade back from 32 to gain more picks on the second day of the draft. One of those picks could well be spent on Okorafor. The MAC tackle has been starting for three years for the Broncos, but is still considered a bit of a prospect who didn’t play football until arriving in America during high school.
At 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds, he has the size of some of the other prospects mentioned here, but his athleticism didn’t outshine any of them save Brown. Nevertheless, he’s another player the Eagles have had in for a pre-draft visit and his college performance was impressive enough to be named an Outland Trophy Finalist.
Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh
And finally, O’Neill is a bit of the middle rounds Kolton Miller: an athletic riser post-combine. NFL.com compares him to Jake Fisher, a tackle often connected to Philly before the draft a few years ago, though not least because of his Oregon history. O’Neill doesn’t have that on his resume, but he is a converted tight end, something the Eagles have loved featuring at the tackle position.
He started for three years for the Panthers, and his athleticism gave way to two touchdowns on gadget plays in college. That may not be the biggest indicator of professional success, but it’s as good an indicator of his mobility as the 4.82 forty he turned in at the combine. There’s a lot about O’Neill that we know the Eagles have liked in other players.