Debate continues to persist amongst Eagles fans and pundits. What position and player should the Eagles pick first at the NFL Draft? As the Combine plays out this weekend in Indianapolis, we’re getting a good look at players that may just be on this Eagles roster for years to come.
We, of course, don’t know what the Eagles drafting plan is at this point. Conventional wisdom says an offensive lineman or quarterback will be the Eagles first pick. Howie Roseman and staff may decide to trade back and acquire additional picks. Much of their draft strategy will be shaped after free agency, which starts on March 9th at 4:00 PM. We expect some offensive linemen to be a target, perhaps a wide receiver and maybe a safety. What will Sam Bradford’s price be? As I said on this past week’s show, my gut is telling me that Bradford and his agent will find out they’re not worth the $20 million a year contract they desire. Perhaps he’ll find his play from last season is worth $13-$14 million. That’s a more acceptable price, in my opinion. We shall see within the weeks to come. Once Roseman rounds out his free agency strategy, including what might be in store for Bradford, the 2016 Eagles draft prospect board will begin to take shape.
Let’s first take a look at who I do not want the Eagles to pick. First, QB Christian Hackenberg out of Penn State. Never in a million years did I think I’d actually say and write that phrase. I’m a PSU alum. It’s great when the Eagles draft PSU players – which hasn’t happened all that often. RB Tony Hunt was the last one in 2007. His freshman year was something special, but after Bill O’Brien left to coach the Texans and James Franklin assumed head coaching responsibilities, things changed for Hackenberg. Whether it was his attitude and demeanor or seeming like he was going through the motions especially during his final year, he soured on me big time. If he is going to succeed in the NFL, which I don’t believe he will, his progression from college to the pros will have to be picture perfect. It’ll take him a good two to three years as skepticism follows, and I don’t want that for the Eagles.
Another quarterback I’m hoping the Eagles pass on is Connor Cook from Michigan State. When you pass up the opportunity to showcase your talent as he did with the Senior Bowl, that’s a problem for me. It should be a problem for the Eagles too. If you want the job, do everything you possibly can to show you’re the man. Cook hasn’t done that.
If the Eagles look to draft the next quarterback at No. 13, then it should be Paxton Lynch from Memphis. He’s the third best rated quarterback in this draft according to multiple sources. The first two, according to CBS Sports are, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, will likely not be available at No. 13 (and I’m not a huge Goff fan anyway). With Lynch the Eagles could groom him over the next year or two at the most – and he most certainly will need that grooming. While he completed 296 of 443 passes (66.8%) for 3,776 yards (8.5 YPA), 28 touchdowns, and four interceptions, Memphis worked around him and essentially catered to his strengths and “what worked.”
CBS Sports scouting has said: “Throws with accuracy on the move and comfortable moving the pocket with boots and motions. Good-enough arm strength to fire strikes with a quick trigger. Quick eyes to scan and make whole field reads.” However, in terms of weaknesses: “Internal clock is still a work in progress. Still learning which throws he should and shouldn’t make. Needs work on touch and timing and developing a better feel for ball speed. All the calls in the Memphis offense came from the sideline.”
Toward the latter part of his collegiate career, he was unimpressive to say the least losing some tough games. Although, it cannot be understated, he’s an amazing specimen of a quarterback at 6’7″ and 244 pounds. Teams and coaches want guys who are his size. But will he translate is the big question? While I like Lynch, I’m not sure if I were Roseman I’d take him at No. 13.
An offensive lineman seems to be the most logical course of action to take at No. 13 (if the Eagles stay at that pick without movement). The top-five picks according to CBS Sports are: Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame), Taylor Decker (Ohio State), Jack Conklin (Michigan State), and Shon Coleman (Auburn). Tunsil and Stanley will likely be gone by the time the Eagles make their first pick. He’s been mentioned a great deal in the media and he’s also the guy I really like, Conklin. He would be a starter from day one as a guard next to Jason Peters or Lane Johnson and then could transition to the left or right tackle position once Peters is no longer on the team. He would be a major upgrade from the two guards the Eagles started in week one this past season (Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner). The athleticism Conklin has allows him to play three positions on the line, a much needed trait in this day and age in the NFL. If he’s available at 13, the Birds should pick him.
We’ll be getting into more draft talent on the show in the coming weeks. I’ll be writing more columns in the future and before the NFL Draft highlighting and lowlighting players and philosophy as the Ealges look to retool their brand.