My recent column, my first Eagles draft preview, focused solely on the first-round of the upcoming NFL Draft and how I believe the Eagles can obtain Marcus Mariota by moving up the board. As we listen to pro football commentary leading up to the draft, read through the over analysis of the player available to the NFL’s 32 teams, all eyes are truly on the Birds as they’re probably the most intriguing team to follow. This column will focus specially on positions and players the Eagles should look to draft in the second through seventh rounds.
DB Eric Rowe (Utah) – I’m hoping Rowe is available in the second-round. If he’s available when the Eagles pick, this is who I’d like to see the team draft. Kelly and Bill Davis would likely have a day-one starter on their hands. Not only did he play safety at Utah, but cornerback as well. According to reports, NFL scouts are seeing him playing safety in the pros. At 6’1” and 205 pounds, he ran a 4.45 at the Combine and has the speed the Eagles need in the secondary. He’s extremely aggressive with a wide receiver all the way through a route and disrupted passes consistently on the field in college. Rowe earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014 at cornerback, registering 57 tackles and 13 passes broken up in just 11 regular-season games. With his ability to know where the ball is, his unreserved speed and acceleration would be welcomed at the strong safety position for the next few years.
OG A.J. Cann (South Carolina) – At 6’3” and 313 pounds, Cann is slated as one of the top offensive guards in the draft. During his four years on the field at South Carolina, he only missed one start in 2012. It has been reported that his run blocking is outstanding and he’s the kind of lineman who can get to the next level, which Chip Kelly will need moving forward with an “older” o-line. After an injury-plagued 2014 season, the Eagles need consistency and that’s what Cann brings to the table. There’s no real outstanding quality he possesses, but the consistency factor is key. He’s slated to be a second-round selection. If Rowe is already drafted when the Eagles pick in the second-round, he’d be a great second choice.
WR Sammie Coates (Auburn) – Coates ran a 4.43 at the Combine and is 6’1”, 212 pounds. He’s the kind of blocking wide receiver that Kelly likes. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s run-heavy attack required his receivers to excel in blocking. He’s great at pulling away from defenders because of his sheer speed and has an amazing 41” vertical jump. Some scouts have said that he’s basically a one-trick-pony in that he mainly ran vertical and quick out routes in college. While I’m doubting Coates will be the next big thing at the NFL level, he has the tools to be an important component of this Eagles offense. He’s a projected late second-round pick.
OLB Shane Ray (Missouri) – I’ve seen some video on Ray and he would make an tremendous pass rusher behind Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. At 6’3” and 245 pounds, Ray finished his college career with 120 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks and five forced fumbles. Interestingly enough, 14.5 of those sacks came in 2014. Some are looking at Ray as a first- to second-round pick, but he could fall to where the Eagles would have to draft this kind of talent. Even though he played in a 4-3 scheme at Mizzou, he’s tremendously explosive off the line and can get into the backfield quickly. Not knowing how or if Marcus Smith II will improve, Ray has the ability to learn the defensive system at the pro level and become a significant impact pass rusher and defensive threat in the years to come.
OT Donovan Smith (Penn State) – This guy is just big and athletic. He measures in at 6’6” and 338 pounds and CBS Sports has him projected to be a mid-round pick. If available he’d be a good snag for the Eagles in the third-round. Watching PSU games throughout the season, he’s a lineman who has brute strength and foot quickness that can translate well to the next level in Kelly’s system. On a few occasions in pass protection, I remember him picking up two guys at once – the defender in front of him and another defensive playing coming into blitz. That’s great awareness. While there’s not too many negatives in terms of the scouting reports, he’ll need to work on his hand technique and bending more at the knees, which shouldn’t be a problem working with o-line coach Jeff Stoutland. The 6’6”, 338 pound lineman played 31 career starts as a Nittany Lion all at left tackle and could be the next replacement for the 33-year-old Jason Peters.
WR Dezmin Lewis (Central Arkansas) – Lewis has nice size for an NFL wide receiver at 6’4” and 214 pounds. Last season he earned First Team all-conference honors. He caught 64 receptions for 945 yards and nice touchdowns – all of career-highs. He’s the kind of receiver Kelly may look to bring on board due to his athletic frame and muscular upper body, which will be needed for productive blocking. While there are questions about his straight-line speed, he’s the kind of receiver who can pick up yards after the catch (YAC), which is a critical component of the Eagles receiving corps. Last year the Birds were 6th in the league in YAC’s. Lewis has great hand-to-eye coordination and can make the first defender miss. Let’s keep an eye on him. He’s a projected third- to fourth-round pick.
S Adrian Amos (Penn State) – Yes, another Penn Stater! The one thing I’ll say about Amos is that he’s not a huge playmaker and sometimes he’ll miss an open-field tackle every now and then. So, why draft him? Well, he has major upsides and could be one of the top three versatile safeties in the draft. At 6’0”, 218 pounds, Amos ran a 4.56 at the Combine. He has been compared to Husain Abdullah – not someone who completely knocks your socks off, but was outstanding in zone coverages at PSU. At State College, he was known for taking aggressive angles toward the ball and showed great start/stop quickness to recover and alter his path mid-momentum. He’s projected to be drafted in round three or four.
C Shaquille Mason (Georgia Tech) – Mason is projected to fall to the fifth-round. Although, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was taken in the fourth or sooner. He’s a 6’2”, 302 pound center who accumulated 40 starts at Georgia Tech (great experience) while helping lead the No. 1-ranked rushing team in the nation (342.1 ypg) last season. We know how important the rushing game is to Kelly and Mason would be a fine prospect to mold as Jason Kelce, who turns 28 this November, is no spring chicken. Due to his size and weight, Mason will be a shorter center in the NFL but one of the most physical as well. Drafting him could be a situation where the Eagles want to pick best available on the board.
WR R.J. Harris (New Hampshire) – Harris is projected to be a day three draft pick if he’s drafted at all. Although he’s ranked the 76th best wide receiver in the draft, he would bring essential tools that Kelly wants in his wide receiver corps. From reports, Kelly traveled to New Hampshire for Harris’ pro day. Overall traits that Kelly finds invaluable that Harris has – size, length, versatility, outstanding character, and high football IQ. His collegiate accomplishments are very noteworthy. He caught 310 career passes for 4,328 yards and 36 touchdowns. In 2014 the breakdown was: 100 passes for an FCS-leading 1,551 yards last year and 10 touchdowns and made three different All-American teams. He’s 6’0”, 201 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds. Yeah, this kid is good and will contribute on just about any team in the NFL.