Pre-Draft Needs: CB, DT, SLB, RB
Round 1- Fletcher Cox/DT
Round 2-Mychal Kendricks/LB
Round 2-Vinny Curry/DE
Round 3-Nick Foles/QB
Round 4-Brandon Boykin/CB
Round 5-Dennis Kelly/OT
Round 6-Marvin McNutt/WR
Round 6-Brandon Washington/G
Round 7-Bryce Brown/RB
CB (veteran), RB (veteran)
The Eagles didn’t come in with a lot of needs to this year’s NFL Draft, but they had depth issues remaining at a few positions.
The one position that clearly had an obvious need was at defensive tackle. And it wasn’t exactly a secret, even a few months before the draft, that the Eagles coveted Fletcher Cox, but they were not going to trade up inside the top-10 to get him. However, once Cox fell past the Chiefs at No. 11, their path to get the interior defensive lineman became much clearer. Cox won’t be expected to start as a rookie, but he should see at least 25-30 snaps this season. He’s a perfect fit for defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s front because of his speed and ability to get off the ball. And Cox, according to a high-lever NFL personnel evaluator, had the highest grade of any defensive player for this draft on his team’s draft board.
After the team acquired MLB DeMeco Ryans from the Texans back in March for a fourth-round pick and an exchange of third-round picks, the Eagles turned their attention to improving on the outside at linebacker with the selection of second-rounder Mychal Kendricks, who will line up at SLB this season. The Eagles have lacked physicality on the outside in recent years, so his selection shouldn’t be surprising. The 240-pound defender brings a lot of intensity and physical play to his game. And because of his speed and range, the rookie could wind up being a three-down player. In fact, Ryans and Kendricks could see consistent time on third downs. A high-level executive from another NFC team said that when reviewing Ryans’ playoff games tape vs. the Bengals and Ravens, you couldn’t even tell that he was coming back from an Achilles injury—and that wasn’t the case earlier in the season.
The last of their two second-rounders, Vinny Curry, wasn’t really a need pick since the Eagles were fairly deep at defensive end coming into the draft. But good drafting isn’t all about filling needs—it’s more about taking the best player available, even if you are deep at a particular position. Curry is a high upside, high energy player. But unlike Kendricks, Curry figures to be brought along slowly this season, but in a few seasons, he could start. Just Curry’s game tape alone gave him a high third-round grade from a lot of teams. And his excellent performance during Senior Bowl week practices helped him solidify a second-round look by the Eagles. With the additions of Cox and Curry, the Eagles are legitimately 11 deep on the defensive line (DT/DE).
Coming into this draft, it was widely believed the Eagles would select a quarterback with one of their second or third-round selections, so grabbing a signal caller in the third wasn’t a surprise. But selecting Foles, who struggled a bit during Senior Bowl week practices with accuracy and mechanics and who had an up and down career in college, was a bit surprising. However, as one veteran personnel evaluator noted, Foles’ game tape is better than you think. He also has much better than average arm strength, and good arm strength is essential for the downfield passing offense which the Eagles run.
The Eagles really needed to add competition and youth for their slot cornerback position. And they did that with fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin, who should also push for a role as a kickoff returner. It was a bit surprising that Boykin lasted until the 123rd pick overall, but projected slot cornerbacks typically are not going to be selected very high. Even with Boykin in the fold, the Eagles still need to add depth on the outside at cornerback. They don’t really have anyone who is ready to step in should one of the starters suffer an injury.
Fifth-round pick OT Dennis Kelly is essentially a developmental right tackle. Despite his size (over 6-8), Kelly has decent athleticism. He’ll compete against newcomers D.J. Jones and Thomas Welch for a roster spot in training camp.
Perhaps the best value for the Eagles in this draft was sixth-round pick Marvin McNutt. The smooth wide receiver should have been selected higher based on his size and skill set, but a personnel source said, he’s not outstanding in any one area—just very solid. And this year’s draft was extremely deep at the position, so he dropped a bit. McNutt should get a chance to challenge third-year pro Riley Cooper for the No. 4 job in training camp. It’s worth noting that McNutt’s run-after-the-catch ability is what attracted some teams like the Eagles that run a similar offensive scheme. Fellow sixth-round pick Brandon Washington will transition from tackle last season inside to guard where he’s much better off. He’s built much better for guard than tackle based on his arm length and overall size.
Seventh-round pick RB Bryce Brown will have a chance to make the team if the Eagles don’t wind up signing a veteran. Just like UDFA Chris Polk, there’s an opening for a back with size for a backup role.
Overall, the Eagles did an excellent job of drafting for value, which hasn’t always been the case during past drafts. And after adding some of their UDFA signings such as Polk (third or fourth-round grade based on game tape excluding medical red flags), CB Cliff Harris (draftable grade from many teams excluding character red flags), WR/PR/KR Demaris Johnson (they beat out the Saints to sign him) and FB/TE Emil Igwenagu (draftable grade from many teams), this draft could turn out to be one of head coach/executive vice president of football operations Andy Reid’s best after reviewing it in a few years.