A few weeks ago I outlined some players that might interest the Eagles in the first round of the draft, I tried to choose players that could still be on the board when the 32nd pick rolls around. Players that I’ve already highlighted are: Billy Price, Malik Jefferson, Harold Landry, Mark Andrews, Ronald Jones, Isaiah Oliver, and James Washington. After watching all the combine performances I’ve selected a few more players, but I’ve tried to highlight areas of need and BPA (best player available).
Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State: The Eagles are looking at a potential disaster at the linebacker position with the possibility of losing Nigel Bradham to free agency and Mychal Kendricks due to his contract size, not to mention Jordan Hicks’ injury history. Vander Esch was a tackling machine during his final season at Boise State notching 141 stops. He’s got excellent size and speed standing at 6’4 and 255 pounds with a 4.65 40 yard dash. He’s got fluid hips allowing him to hold his own in coverage. His biggest knock is that he doesn’t have a ton of starting experience.
Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama: Again going back to the glaring hole at linebacker. Evans isn’t a workout warrior who’s numbers are going to pop, but he’s a player that you can plug into your defense and feel confident that he’ll deliver. He’s the next in a long line of Bama linebackers that are always solid if nothing else. His ceiling might not be the highest in this class, but his floor is. At the end of the first round he’d be a steal.
Mike Gesicki, TE Penn State: Let me start by saying I find this to be highly unlikely, and a bit of a reach. But nobody can deny what Gesicki was able to do at the combine, he put up freaky numbers while measuring in at 6’6 and 250 pounds. He lead all TEs in every workout except for the bench press, which he lost by one rep. The highlight was his 4.54 40 yard dash time, which was faster than Antonio Brown’s. Trey Burton is a lock to leave in free agency, while Brent Celek is carrying a large cap hit and considering retirement. The Eagles do have a developmental player stashed in Billy Brown, but pairing Zach Ertz with Gesicki is a tempting idea.
Derrius Guice, RB LSU: This would be a huge luxury pick, but if they’re truly going best player available this very well could be the pick. Blount is a free agent and getting older, while Ajayi has serious knee concerns. This could leave Clement as the only running back on the roster after 2018. Guice is the clear number 2 back in this class, and the talent margin between him and Barkley isn’t that huge. He’s a violent runner and a true bell cow, Corey Clement would be a great compliment to his running style.
Isaiah Wynn, G Georgia: The Eagles love building their lines on both sides of the ball, and while Steven Wisniewski was solid last season, he’s not the long term answer at the left guard position. They’re also one injury away from Isaac Seomalu having to start which is a frightening idea.Wynn was a dominant tackle for the Georgia Bulldogs and held his own in the tough SEC, but projects better as a guard. This year is an extremely deep class at the position otherwise he’d be going much higher.
Mike Hughes, CB UCF: Corner is already a deep position on the Eagles roster, but can you really ever have too many? There have been rumors floating around that Jalen Mills or Rasul Douglas could eventually transition to the safety position to be the heir apparents to Rodney McLeod. Safety depth is also questionable with Corey Graham hitting free agency, the backup safety is important to Philadelphia because of how much they ask Malcolm Jenkins to play nickel linebacker. Hughes can make his case for being the best corner in the draft, but has an off field blemish due to being suspended from UNC for a misdemeanor assault charge. The Eagles locker room is full of leaders that could help teach him to be a pro’s pro. He has a strong build and plays with a mean streak, specializing in jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. He also has fantastic body control to go along with being an excellent return man on special teams. He’s got an edge that Philadelphia fans would love.
Taven Bryan, DT Florida: If there’s one area the Eagles aren’t scared to invest in, it’s the defensive line. Their strategy of building a deep rotation has paid huge dividends as they won the Super Bowl largely in part by having the best line in the NFL. However the Eagles are heading into the off-season expecting to lose their top backup at DT in Beau Allen to free agency, leaving last year’s UDFA Destiny Vaeao as the main backup. This may cause Howie and Co. to invest in the position early on. Bryan was a bright spot on a less than spectacular Florida Gators defense last year, creating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks while also crashing running lanes. He’s highly athletic for a guy his size, finishing as one of the top performers at his position in every event, even posting a 4.9 40 yard dash at 300 pounds. With Maurice Hurst’s medical issues popping up at the combine Bryan could see his stock rise significantly. Although he still needs to develop better fundamentals, his potential is sky high. Landing with the Eagles would be his perfect situation as he’d get to work with Coach Chris Wilson and learn behind two great players at the position in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan.
Mike McGlinchey, T Notre Dame: I selected him as an honorable mention because of how great a fit he’d be. Unfortunately the chances that he falls to 32 got a lot slimmer after showcasing his talents at the combine. There had been some talks he could fall, but it seems as if he’s cemented himself at the top tackle in the draft. This pick makes too much sense, he’s a Philly native and plays the position that the Eagles might have the biggest need at.
As of right now it’s almost impossible to project what direction Philly will go in when it comes draft time, there are still a lot of variables that need to play out. Vinny Curry’s contract, Mychal Kendricks’ contract, whether or not Bradham gets resigned, and whether or not Nick Foles gets traded. All of those story lines will be factors, but my guess would be that the Eagle try and trade back to accrue more selections unless a player they really value falls for some unforeseen reason. Until then, Fly Eagles Fly!