PHILADELPHIA (AP) It’s all about defense for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles took Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd with the 191st overall pick and selected Kansas State defensive back Randall Evans at No. 196. They finished the day by choosing Boston College defensive end Brian Mihalik in the seventh round.
Five of Philadelphia’s six picks play defense, including three secondary players. The Eagles moved up to draft Utah cornerback Eric Rowe in the second round on Friday night.
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”They haven’t drafted a lot of DBs in the last 10 years,” coach Chip Kelly said. ”We need to develop those guys and try not to rely on free agency to go out and get those guys. We had to because of the situation we were in, but we hope to continue to get defensive backs through the draft and develop them.”
The Eagles let starting cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher go after last season. They signed former Seattle standout Byron Maxwell to a $63 million deal in free agency and also signed Walter Thurmond.
Improving the defense has been a priority. While Kelly’s up-temp offense puts up plenty of points and racks up lots of yards, the defense has struggled in his two seasons. The Eagles ranked fourth-worst in yards allowed in 2013 and fifth-worst in 2014.
The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Shepherd began his college career as a wide receiver before switching to the secondary his sophomore year. He was projected by several scouts to go earlier in the draft. Shepherd had two interceptions as a junior and three last season. He also averaged 21.4 yards on 63 kick returns.
”I knew that they liked me a lot and I knew it was a possibility that I could end up landing there,” Shepherd said. ”I liked the people there when I met with them during my visit. I was hoping (the Eagles) would actually be one of the teams that had a chance to get me.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Evans was a three-year starter and can also play safety. He finished his career with seven interceptions, including four last season.
”He’s a physical player. He’s an outstanding special-teams player,” Kelly said. ”You’re getting a Bill Snyder coached football player. They love him in Manhattan in terms of what they say about him. He’s a guy that we’ve had our eye on for a while.”
The 6-foot-9, 295-pound Mihalik had 8 1/2 career sacks in four seasons at Boston College.
The Eagles entered the final day hoping to add an offensive lineman, but they traded their fourth-round pick to Detroit for a third-rounder in 2016 after three straight linemen went before they were supposed to pick at No. 113. They didn’t have any fifth-round picks after trading two to Miami to move up five spots to get Rowe.
Philadelphia has four starters returning on the offensive line after releasing veteran guard Todd Herremans. Two-time Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis has been on the trading block, but it’s unlikely he goes anywhere now.
”Evan has been available to trade for two years now, and we’ve never had an offer for him,” Kelly said.
The Eagles selected USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round at No. 20 after failing to move up to No. 2 to get Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. They picked Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round.
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