Ok, so that was good to take a couple of days off. Not much happening last week and I get tired of regurgitating the same stuff everyone else is...
But today I've got something new for you. I guarantee it won't be the same stuff you're getting elsewhere. I'm going to tell you which player I think the Eagles are going to draft with their first pick. And it's a crazy guess.
First, the process. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to pretend I followed the very systematic approach described below. In actuality, I started to get a "funny feeling" a couple weeks ago and looked for reasons why it wouldn't be right. I didn't find too many. So here's the reverse-engineered theory:
Start by eliminating positions they won't draft. The obvious one is quarterback. Also linebacker and defensive tackle. You could argue cornerback, but all indications are that Lito is on his way out, so they're going to need to bring in someone there. (Paying a gazillion dollars for Asante Samuel and then leaving Joselio Hanson on the field for opponents to target is like buying a Maybach and then reusing the tires from your Camry.)
Q: How concerned are you about the age of offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas?
A: They're getting older, so I'm concerned. You have to be. But I also know that both my guards can play tackle, so it gives me a little flexibility there.
Q: Would you prefer not to move Shawn Andrews because he's been so successful at guard?
A: Not necessarily. Shawn was one of the finest tackles I've ever seen come out of college football. I really brought him here to do that, and to get him on the field sooner I put him in at guard. I have no problem moving him, and I think he could play the left side as well as anybody in this league.
All good points. Of course, given the way Reid plays his cards so close to his vest, I have to admit this made me less convinced he would stay away from o-line in the early draft. But I'm sticking with my prediction. So those are the positions they won't draft in the first.
Look at the available talent. The Eagles have some obvious long-term needs, but we know from their history that they're not going to reach for a guy just because they want to fill a position. Based on the various player evaluations out there, we know two things about this draft:
- It's not good for first-round safeties. The Scout.com rankings have one safety in the top 50, Kenny Phillips from Miami. The Eagles might not mind if he fell into their laps, but the better value could come a little later, where Scout.com has three guys rated as third-rounders (based just on the rankings).
- There are no "slam-dunk" wide receiver choices. Each of the top guys has a question mark, either with speed, durability or production. All would be risky first choices.
Phillip is a possibility if he falls to them, but I can't see anyone else going with that first pick here.
See what needs have already been filled. A couple months ago, I thought the Eagles would go defensive end with their first selection. It's still a possibility, but the signing of Chris Clemons makes that a lot less likely. Tight end would make a lot of sense from a long-term planning perspective, but with Kris Wilson the Eagles have given themselves more options there. And not that fullback was ever going to be the first choice, but the Eagles have patched that hole too.
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So where does all this leave us? Cornerback is definitely a possibility. I would bet the Eagles are pushing for a first-round pick in exchange for Lito Sheppard. That may be tough to pull off, but if they can do it, there's every chance they'll turn around and use one of the two first-rounders on Lito's replacement. There are plenty of good corners available this year in round one and the ability to play Asante and the new kid on the outside with Sheldon in the slot on passing situations is very, very enticing.
With that said, cornerback is the safe play, and that's not what we're about here. So I'm going ... running back. Now I know what you're thinking. "Ok, I'll grant you cornerback, but dude, we have Brian Westbrook, we drafted Tony Hunt last year, Ryan Moats has a chance to make the roster, and Buckhalter ain't too shabby."
I hear you. And everyone knows I'm a huge fan of Tony Hunt. But the fact of the matter is that the Eagles were way, way too dependent on Brian Westbrook last year. Buckhalter had a fine season, but the Eagles really only used him on certain types of plays last season where he hit the hole hard and ran straight ahead. I think his success last year was more about playcalling and less about what he has left.
Reid can say, "I think we've got pretty good playmakers" all he wants, but I think it's obvious to everyone that the Eagles are really just one more home run hitter away from an offense that could be truly spectacular, rather that just very efficient. And that home run hitter's name?
Felix Jones. Take a moment and drool:
Jones' junior season in 2007 statistically has been his best as a Razorback. He ran the ball 123 times for 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns. He led the nation with 9.1 yards per carry. He once again led the SEC in kick returns, with 18 returns for 564 yards and two touchdowns. He was named to the All-SEC First Team as a kick returner and All-SEC Second Team as a running back. Jones and McFadden each gained more than 1,000 yards once again, and, like last year, McFadden finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up...
At Arkansas, Jones offered a change of pace to McFadden's style of running. Maybe a bigger version of Brian Westbrook. While McFadden relies on his size and speed, Jones is more explosive, with times reported between 4.3 and 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. He has excellent vision, shiftiness and speed that make him difficult to defend against and a dangerous threat every time he touches the ball.
Jones is also a very patient runner that will squeeze through holes, or use his quickness to bounce to the outside and spring a big gain. He makes quick cuts and is elusive once he gets into the open field. He has great leverage to earn tough yards, and makes defenders miss. He has good hands out of the back field, make him a viable all-around offensive weapon.
Many scouting reports are advising Jones to stay at Arkansas for his senior year, so he can be the #1 tailback after McFadden enters the draft. Even so, many mock drafts have him being drafted in the mid-to-late first round.
Ok, so you had me at "bigger version of Westbrook," but think about how many needs this guy would fill. Right away he could step in and be a #2 back with the hands runners need to really succeed in the West Coast offense. He's the nation's best kick returner, averaging almost 30 yards a return in his career at Arkansas. He ran a 4.44 at the combine, giving him the type of big-time speed that's more of a threat in limited action that you see out of guys like Hunt and Bucky. And if (God forbid) anything happens to Westbrook healthwise next season, Jones could do more than just help hold down the fort while Westbrook healed.
Even better, he'd have four more years (fingers crossed) to be the understudy to Westbrook before taking over the full time job as a seasoned vet without much wear on the tires.
And if you think the Eagles wouldn't draft Westbrook's replacement so soon, did you watch last year's draft?