The 2011 NFL Draft is only one week away and the Eagles are finalizing their final draft boards to see who they might be picking to play in midnight green next season. The Eagles are one of the top teams in the NFL when it comes to scouting young talented for players to help contribute on the field. Last year 11 of the 13 draft choices from last year suited for at least one game. The Eagles are looking to continue their success building their team in the draft. They hold 10 picks, second most in the NFL. But sitting with the 23rd pick in the 1st round, what will the Eagles do?
Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman had his pre-draft availability with the Media on Thursday and, as usual, gave no clear cut direction that the Eagles will go with their first pick. Guessing who the Eagles will take is like trying to win the lottery. But we can see where the Eagles might go. The Eagles have a few needs they have to address this offseason.
Starting with the offensive line, which was a unit that struggled last year to keep QB Michael Vick from getting thrown around like a rag doll. RT Winston Justice had knee surgery in the offseason and is still unsure how severe it is while you still have your starting C Jamal Jackson recovering from a Week 1 ACL tear where he was lost for the season.
Two starters coming off injury with lack of depth screams out huge need to find someone to make an impact and protect your injury prone quarterback. They signed legendary line coach Howard Mudd. With him with the coaching staff it could be an ideal fit to have a young promising lineman to be taught by one of the best coaches at its position. But the Eagles have only taken one offensive lineman with their first pick and that was in 2004, when they picked former Eagle Shawn Andrews. The Eagles might target offensive line later on.
“This is different from past drafts where before you would have the top lineman that you would take in the top of the draft and find other guys throughout the draft,” Roseman said. “Where this year you can get a lot of players specifically offensive lineman that you can get in the later rounds and can help your ball club.”
If they can’t get the lineman they desired they might look somewhere else down the line but this a position if not addressed somehow could affect the state of the Eagles next season.
Then on the defensive side of the ball, they need a playmaking linebacker. Well you can cross a linebacker off the list, as the Eagles have never taken a LB with the first pick under Andy Reid. They have looked at a lot of LBs this offseason but only one of them had a 1st round grade. They feel they can get the same quality of players in later rounds at this position.
“You have to dig into the middle of rounds to fine talented players,” Roseman said. “Linebacker is probably an area like that.”
Then you look in the secondary where the Eagles passing defense was torched for a franchise record 31 touchdowns last season. They need to find a guy opposite of Asante Samuel that can be a shut down corner and not allow the big pass play through the air that CB Dimitri Patterson and others were unable to do. This year’s draft class might not be the answer to those problems.
“You have those couple talented corners on top of the draft,” Roseman said. “Then you have the rest of the guys that teams might reach on depending how much they like the player at that pick. There are also other avenues to fill positions of need.”
But Roseman philosophy is a great pass defense is a great pass rush from their front four. The Eagles have took nine defensive lineman under Andy Reid. Last season the Eagles took DE Brandon Graham with their first pick but had an unfortunate ACL injury that could sideline him for the beginning of the upcoming season. So with the uncertainty and lack of depth, don’t be surprised if they go that route again.
“When you have a great pass rush that can get to the quarterback, it takes the pressure off your secondary and helps them no matter who you have back their covering. This year’s draft doesn’t seem to be as deep in past years so want to take one early.”
They need someone opposite of Pro Bowler DE Trent Cole to take some of the heat off the him with the pass rush off the edges. And the interior part of the line has been non-existent when getting to the quarterback. The anchors of that line for the past few years have been Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. Bunkley hasn’t lived up to the 1st round hype and contract expires after this season. Patterson has played well but doesn’t have the strength and speed to get to the QB.
Backups Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon played well when were on field but aren’t every down players and be effective on the field. Eagles lack a three down defensive tackle and they could possibly find that in the first round. They value a pass rush and they extremely lack it on the inside of the line. That might be the avenue they go but if they don’t feel it is a deep class and if they believe that a better pass rush would sure up their secondary struggles.
But who knows if the Eagles will even stick with their pick? The Eagles have always liked to wheel and deal in past drafts. The past four seasons and six out of last eight, they have traded out of their original draft position in the first round. They have made 29 draft day trades in the past eight years. The stats show the Eagles will not stay with the current selection by either moving up or down.
In years past you would have free agency followed by the draft. But with the lockout this year we don’t know when free agency will take place. This is leaving teams and over 800 free agents in limbo. This is changing team’s whole outlook on what to do when it comes to drafting players. Teams are taking it heading into the draft that their potential free agents won’t be on their roster and will need to fill those holes with the players they draft. But Roseman feels it’s a good thing to have draft prior to free agency.
“I feel now you can head into the draft and go out and take the best player available to help your team regardless the position. Because eventually you will have those other avenues to fill those needs and fill them. Where prior a bulk of the free agents are signed and go into the draft seeing what you still need and you try to fill that where now you can fill your needs later on.”
After all of that we still don’t know where the Eagles will do come draft day. You can take what they say with a grain of salt because no matter what they say or what you think they will do, they seem to always go in the opposite direction. The one thing we know for sure is the Eagles will after Howie saying it over 100 times, they will, “Take the best player available on their draft board that will help the Philadelphia Eagles.”