EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 26: Mohamed Sanu #6 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights carries the ball as Yawin Smallwood #33 of the Connecticut Huskies defends on November 26, 2011 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The Connecticut Huskies defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 40-22. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The Eagles starting lineup is largely set so the Eagles have the freedom to do what they like in the draft. Here's one scenario that upgrades the overall talent and addresses some areas of need.
The Eagles made a huge move this week in trading for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. He now fills the biggest hole on the depth chart and is set to be the quarterback of the defense, as coach Andy Reid put it. With middle linebacker finally addressed, I decided to put together a mock draft for the Eagles. This isn't my ideal set of players, but rather just an interesting scenario.
Quick note - I anticipate the Eagles addressing running back by adding a veteran player. There have been rumors about the team and receiver Plaxico Burress, but for now I'm assuming he won't be on the team. I am thinking the team will try to bring back tackle King Dunlap on a cheap deal since he's gotten no interest in free agency. With that in mind, here is a scenario:
1 - LB Luke Kuechly - Boston College - 6-3, 243
2 - CB Brandon Boykin - Georgia - 5-9, 183
2 - WR Mohamed Sanu - Rutgers - 6-2, 211
3 - DT Derek Wolfe - Cincinnati - 6-5, 295
4 - DE Bruce Irvin - West Virginia - 6-3, 245
5 - LB Tank Carder - TCU - 6-2, 236
6 - OT Tom Compton - South Dakota - 6-5, 314
6 - OT Jeff Adams - Columbia - 6-6, 308
6 - WR Keshawn Martin - Michigan State - 6-0, 188
Now let's talk about the picks. I would draft Kuechly to play SAM. Last night I re-watched a couple of his games. I then watched some of the Eagles season finale to see Akeem Jordan in action. I wanted to try and imagine Kuechly in the Eagles scheme and playing SAM. I think Kuechly would be a fine addition. He would also be a good insurance policy for the middle. If something happens to Ryans, you hate to turn around and have Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews once again as the men in the middle.
Eagles linebacker coach Mike Caldwell ran the drills at Boston College's recent pro day. That should tell you that the team has serious interest in Kuechly. Would the Eagles invest a first round pick in him, even after the Ryans deal? That is the tricky part. This would be a serious shift in the Eagles actions. I know many people would say this is virtually an impossible scenario to believe, but I think taking a linebacker in the first round is possible this year.
That is still an area of need for the Eagles. Kuechly is good value in the middle of the first round. He's also the kind of player that Reid and Howie Roseman have talked about in recent years. Kuechly is a leader. He is a good student and great player. There is nothing close to a character concern with him. This is absolutely a guy you want on your team on Sundays and representing your organization off the field the rest of the week.
Brandon Boykin would be an excellent fit for the Eagles. He is a slot corner and dynamic return specialist. Boykin lacks ideal size, but he can run and cover. Georgia played him in the slot most of the year, despite the fact he was their best corner. The Eagles are set on the outside with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The hole is at slot. Joselio Hanson is still set to play there, but the team should be looking to upgrade. Boykin has the kind of athletic ability and playmaking skills to be really good at that spot.
Boykin isn't a great tackler or physical guy, but he's no wimp. There are times when he flies to the ball and makes a wrap-up tackle. He just needs to do it more consistently. He did have 20 tackles-for-loss in his career so he is an active defender. Boykin will play the run. He's comfortable playing in traffic, which is important when you work the middle of the field. DRC was lost when he tried to play there last year. Boykin is right at home. Should an injury occur, Boykin is athletic enough to slide outside and handle fast wide receivers.
As a returner, Boykin was best on kickoff returns. He ran four back for touchdowns in his career. He had one punt return touchdown. Georgia also used him on offense at times. He ran for one touchdown and had a couple of touchdown receptions.
With the other second round pick I have the Eagles taking receiver Mohamed Sanu. He also is a player that is right at home working the middle of the field. With DeSean Jackson locked up long term and Jeremy Maclin still very much a part of the long term plans, the Eagles don't need help on the outside. While Jason Avant is a terrific slot receiver, he's not getting any younger (will be 29 in April). Or faster. And he wasn't fast to begin with. Avant remains one of my favorite Eagles, but he has just 10 touchdown catches in six years. If you want to move the chains, he's your guy. If you want more from the number three receiver, the team would be smart to upgrade him.
Sanu is a bit raw as a receiver so he would probably need a year of coaching and practice before he could seriously challenge Avant for his job. Sanu is a gifted athlete. He doesn't have explosive speed, but is quick and agile. He's also very tough. He can take big hits and bounce right back up. Rutgers was very creative with him. They used Sanu as a Wildcat quarterback at times. He ran the ball 125 times in his career. He also has some punt return experience. Sanu would also be good insurance on the outside. Avant was overmatched any time there was an injury and he had to spend time on the outside. Sanu is a much better athlete and could handle that role better.
The Eagles could use a bigger target in the red zone. Sanu only caught 12 touchdowns in his college career, but I think that had a lot more to do with Rutgers offense than his ability. Sanu can out-muscle defensive backs if he needs to. He is 6-2 and jumps well, so playing the ball in the air is something he should do well. Sanu could develop into a good red zone threat.
Next up is Derek Wolfe, one of my favorite players in the 2012 draft. Wolfe is tailor made for Jim Washburn's attacking style of defense. Wolfe has a tall, thin, athletic build. He loves to fire off the ball and get after the quarterback. He finished his career with 19.5 sacks, an outstanding total for a defensive tackle. Wolfe had a great senior season, finishing fifth in the nation with 21.5 tackles-for-loss. He basically lived in the backfield.
Wolfe is a player that Washburn should love. Wolfe is versatile, having spent time at end and defensive tackle. He is a natural pass rusher. Wolfe had a good showing at the Senior Bowl and then had a strong workout at the Combine. Wolfe needs coaching, but has a high ceiling and is athletic enough to play right away. He could become a good starter in time. Not all teams will value him this high, but I think it makes sense for the Eagles.
In the fourth round I have Washburn getting another talented pass rusher, Bruce Irvin. This is a trickier pick. Irvin is very talented and could go as high as the second round. He has some character issues that I think will hurt his value. Irvin dropped out of high school as a junior. He spent a little time in jail before he decided that life wasn't for him. Irvin got his GED and was able to play junior college football. He then transferred to West Virginia, where he became a star player.
Irvin is a gifted pass rusher and great athlete. He can fly off the ball. He had 22.5 sacks in his two years at West Virginia. You would think that would have teams drooling over him, but there is a problem with his game tape. Irvin isn't the most physical player, to put it mildly. He really needs to be in space, using his speed. Irvin isn't a guy you want setting the edge. I don't think he can play end in a lot of systems. I'm not sure he can play linebacker for some 3-4 teams who like physical guys.
Irvin was arrested a few days after his pro day. It wasn't anything serious, but with his background incidents like that carry more weight than if done by someone with no issues. Teams may focus on his athletic ability and potential and not care about any red flags. If he does fall, which I think he will a bit, the Eagles would be a great fit. Irvin could thrive in the wide-nine, which is all about speed off the edge. He would also be working in a positive environment, which would make it easier for him to stay out of trouble.
A year ago the thought of Tank Carder sliding to the fifth round would have seemed crazy. He was the MVP of the Rose Bowl and a celebrated prospect. Unfortunately Carder didn't have a great senior season so he is going to be a mid-to-late round pick. I still think Carder can be a good NFL player. He is a natural linebacker. He has good instincts, skills, and athleticism. There are times when Carder is a sloppy player, but overall I like his game quite a bit.
TCU has put out some good linebackers in recent years. One key is that the players have a complete skill set. They can stuff the run, but also cover and play in space. Carder broke up 19 passes in his career and picked off four. Carder can play any position in the Eagles system. He was an inside linebacker in college, but has the cover skills for SAM or the motor and toughness for the weakside spot. He should also be a terrific special teams player.
The Eagles are set with starting offensive tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, but there is a need for depth. The team likes D.J. Jones, but he is unproven. The team needs to give line coach Howard Mudd some young guys to work with to see if they can develop into good backup and potential starters down the road. First up is Tom Compton from South Dakota. He has good size at 6-5 and 314 pounds. He's not huge, but that is the kind of build that Mudd likes. Compton is a good athlete and had an impressive workout at the Combine. He really opened some eyes.
Compton does need coaching, but you never know how small school guys will respond to the NFL. When I first saw Herremans play in a Division II all star game, I thought he was a long term project. I then remember walking out to watch the Eagles practice at Lehigh and there was Herremans as the starting left tackle (Tra Thomas was dealing with a back issue). Herremans had the raw skill. He took well to NFL coaching and was able to be effective right away.
The Eagles can't rely on Compton alone so I have them taking Jeff Adams as well. He played left tackle for Columbia and is a three-year starter. I think he's got the build and skill set to play well in Mudd's blocking system. Adams didn't get invited to the Combine, but had an outstanding performance at his pro day. He also looked good in the East-West Shrine Game.
Adams must get stronger before he can come close to challenging for playing time in the NFL. Strength coach Barry Rubin would need to work with him quite a bit, but that's okay. Adams has an NFL frame and is athletic for a big guy. Those are traits that can't be coached. You have 'em or you don't. Adams is the kind of smart, coachable player that Mudd has had success with over the years.
Finally, I have the Eagles adding another receiver. Keshawn Martin is another of my favorite players. He has okay size and is a very good athlete. Looked good at the Combine, but more importantly, his game tape really impressed me. Martin was a playmaker for the Spartans, not a workhorse receiver. He would fit in well with the Eagles. He is tough enough to play the slot, but fast enough to play outside. Martin can make tough catches. He is dangerous after the catch because of his elusiveness and athleticism. He was the Wildcat quarterback for MSU. Martin is also a good kick returner. He had three return touchdowns for the Spartans.