Sunday, January 26, 2014

Part Three: First Look At The Draft

In part three of this off-season series, I wanted to take an early look at the draft.

Instead of a boring position rankings list that will drastically change between today and May, I wanted to talk about ten players who would be very interesting, and exciting, fits in Philadelphia.

These aren't just top-tier talent, I wanted to look at players with current mid-round (even late-round) grades too.

1. ILB Christian Jones (6-4, 234lbs) 

DeMeco Ryans is a great leader, but he's in the decline of his career. Pairing another play-maker with Mychal Kendricks would be lethal for this defense, especially somebody with Jones' size. Jones possesses more than just height, he also has tremendous length, which Chip Kelly covets.

Other than passing the eye test, the Florida State LB is a great athlete who's comfortable in coverage. While ILB isn't the Eagles biggest need, Jones may just be the best player on the board when the Eagles pick.

2. OLB Ronald Powell (6-3, 235lbs)

There is a lot of buzz surrounding pass-rushers Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack heading into the draft. Even Dee Ford and Jeremiah Attaochu opened eyes after impressive Senior Bowl performances. But if the Eagles take a safety, corner, or even inside linebacker in round one, Powell is a pass-rusher with tremendous upside to keep an eye on.

Here's why it makes sense: Philly is likely strapped to Trent Cole and Brandon Graham for one more year unless they find a trade partner. Ronald Powell was a five-star recruit out of high school and was an ascending star at Florida before an injury.

When healthy, Powell is a proven pass-rusher off the edge. If the torn ACL from 2012 is 100% healthy now, the Florida rusher could be one of the best pass-rushers out of the 2014 class. The Eagles could take him in the middle rounds, which limits the risk involved.

Powell isn't the most talked about OLB, but
he could be one of the best in the draft.

3. S Vinnie Sunseri (6-1, 200lbs)

Sunseri makes sense because of upside. He shockingly entered the draft after only playing seven games in 2013. He tore his ACL in October, and will likely not be ready for training camp.

As unattractive as that sounds, Sunseri was a proven play-maker on a stout defense. The injury concerns will drastically drop his stock, which means 6th-7th round potentially. Late-round players typically have trouble even making the roster, so grabbing a talent like Sunseri could pay dividends down the road.

4. OT Wesley Johnson (6-5, 290lbs)

Would drafting an offensive tackle excite the fan base? No. But Jason Peters is aging, and Johnson fits what Chip Kelly does.

As a mid-late round pick, Johnson is a highly athletic tackle who moves with ease to the second level. He's also a bright player intellectually, and handles stunts very well. Johnson needs bulk, but he won't need to play right away. The talent and skill-set are there.

5. RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas (5-9, 170lbs)

He's tiny, but he makes plays. Thomas has elite versatility and play-making ability. Chip Kelly knows him very well, and that means something.

Thomas would thrill the fan base, and the fact that he came out early, only drops his stock, which actually helps the Eagles.

There are durability concerns with the small frame, but he wouldn't be an every-down player. He would add dynamic return ability and move all over the field.

6. DE Stephon Tuitt (6-6, 312lbs)

Tuitt has as much upside as anybody in this draft. After a dominant sophomore campaign, he was inconsistent in 2013.

He's tremendously athletic for his size, providing quickness out of a powerful frame. He would be an absolute force as a 3-4 DE in Philly. Throw him in with Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin, and a speed-rushing OLB, and you have a rush to salivate over.

He can be inconsistent, but he can dominate a game. Tuitt racked up 21.5 sacks in three years for Notre Dame.

Tuitt's size and athleticism are unmatched.

7. CB Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 190lbs)

He's not big, and Chip Kelly likes big corners. But Joyner plays as big as any corner in college. As a corner, I don't think he's high on the Eagles' board. As a safety prospect (which he's shown to be capable of), I think he's intriguing.

The blitzing ability, big-hits, and knack for the big play make his size irrelevant. Joyner has started 27 games at safety and can be moved anywhere on the field. To move him down on the board just based off size, would be a big mistake.

8. DE Dominique Easley (6-2, 298lbs)

He's not of ideal size, but he has ideal quickness. Injury history and size concerns will drop his stock, but the upside is there. When healthy, he's a proven force on defense, making plays against the pass and run. Without argument, he's one of the best linemen in the SEC when on the field.

He's suffered two season-ending knee injuries in college, but if the medical staff gives Easley a clean bill of health, his presence in the NFL will be felt.

9. WR Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 235lbs)

While I think Marquise Lee and maybe even Brandin Cooks are better players right now, this post is all about intriguing players, and how could you not be intrigued by Benjamin?

Eagles fans have been clamoring for a big receiver for years, and Benjamin has as big of a wingspan as anybody in the NFL. Nick Foles has shown confidence throwing the jump-ball up for his receiver, and Benjamin is a guy who could turn a lot of those balls into touchdowns.

He's far from a finished product, but if he develops, he could be terrorizing defensive backs for years to come.

Benjamin is a huge target that would add
an exciting element to Kelly's offense.

10. S Ed Reynolds (6-2, 206lbs)

Chip Kelly knows the Stanford safety very well. Reynolds has great size and length with a great football understanding.

Reynolds has shown ability to cover tight ends one-on-one and provide deep help. He's also a great presence in the run. Reynolds seems to be everything Kelly looks for in a safety.

Please tweet me feedback. If you think my selections were great, let's talk about it. If you think I'm ignorant, tell me.

This is the first look at the draft, so much will change with the combine still looming.

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