Five positions and players the Eagles could look to draft
You can never have too many pass rushers, and the Eagles are lacking on depth at the outside linebacker position after allowing Trent Cole to walk in free agency. Last year's first-round pick, Malcolm Smith, cannot be counted on to play major snaps. Re-signing Brandon Graham was a great start, but the Eagles need to add talent that can spell both Graham and Connor Barwin. Alvin 'Bud' Dupree is an edge rusher prospect who really flashes on his Draftbreakdown.com videos. He has the size and explosiveness to develop into a pass rusher who can also set the edge in the run game. He is raw, and this will likely slide him down the draft board, but he is a solid fit as a situational pass rusher to spell the Eagles' starters at outside linebacker.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
The Eagles used free agency to aggressively address arguably their biggest weakness in 2014. They signed Byron Maxwell to a massive deal and also added Walter Thurmond. My analysis on these additions can be found here. Thurmond has made his name in the slot, but he has the size to project to the outside. This will allow the Eagles to keep Brandon Boykin in his natural position as the slot cornerback. The team can still benefit from depth and a long-term solution at outside CB, and they are reportedly ‘very high’ on Utah CB Eric Rowe. He is a great fit for Billy Davis’ scheme because he has the length — 6-foot-1 — and speed — 4.45 40-time— to play press-man on the outside without always having safety help.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
With Evan Mathis rumored to be on his way out of Philadelphia and Todd Herremans now a member of the Colts, the Eagles lack depth at the guard position. Even if Mathis stays, he's 33 years old and spent a portion of the 2014 season on the sideline due to an injury. Allen Barbre is expected to slot in at right guard, but he lacks experience and could ultimately flop. It's important that the Eagles replenish the offensive line. Cameron Erving has played both tackle and center in college, and he projects to all five positions along the line. He has quick feet and fits the mold of Kelly's other offensive lineman as a fast mover. Erving could start immediately at right guard and eventaully take over for Jason Kelce at center.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportRobert Hanashiro
Like their rivals within the division, the Eagles have a glaring need at safety after allowing Nate Allen to walk in free agency. Allen was never a plus player for the Eagles, but his departure leaves them even more desperate for help at the position. This year's safety class is weaker than normal, but the top dog is clearly Alabama's Landon Collins, and the Eagles might be in a good draft slot to take him without reaching. Collins is more of an in-the-box safety — he had over 100 tackles last season — but he shows much better range than people expect. If the Eagles want Collins, they will have to use their first-round pick to secure him.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY SporJohn David Mercer
Jeremy Maclin's departure left a major hole in the Eagles' wide receiver corps. Although Chip Kelly has praised the talent already on the roster, the Eagles would benefit from finding a wide receiver who can win on vertical shots. After all, the Eagles attempted the most deep passes in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus. Ohio State's Devin Smith might be the best vertical-route runner to enter the draft since DeSean Jackson. Like Jackson, he wins on deep passes not only with his straight-line speed but also with a unique ability to track the ball in the air. Smith can replace Maclin's production in the vertical game, and there won't be a huge drop off in the short and intermediate game either. The Eagles would likely need to use their second-round pick to secure him.