People ask me frequently who I think Philadelphia will draft in the first round, and my tongue-in-cheek response is always, “who was drafted in the rounds before the Eagles?” Predicting the draft is like guessing the lottery correctly; it never ends up the way anyone expected it to. However, in looking at some of the pre-draft visits, a pattern has emerged.
The Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly seem to have brought in a disproportionate amount of big wide receivers for visits. That’s not to say it’s a problem they have done so, but you can tell that they are definitely looking in the large, physical WR direction. With the departure of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, it’s no surprise Philadelphia would look to replace his talent. In reviewing the current Eagles roster, the two position groups that might have some risk in the 2014-2015 season in my opinion, are a pass rushing defensive end and wide receiver.
So far, just some of the WR draft prospects the Eagles have visited with include:
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M – 6’5”/231 lbs
WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers – 6’6”/225 lbs
WR Cody Latimer, Indiana – 6’3”/215 lbs
WR Marqise Lee, USC – 6’0”/192 lbs
WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama – 6’2”/198 lbs
WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU – 5’11”/198 lbs
WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State – 6’5”/240 lbs
What’s interesting about this list is that these are not the DeSean Jackson-like replacements one might expect the Eagles to be interested in. Of the visits, only LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be considered close to a Jackson type standing at 5’11” weighing 198 pounds. Beckham is a superior route runner and has a fantastic ability to pick up yards after the catch.
One other point before I make my Eagles (probably wrong) prediction; this is one of the deepest wide receiver drafts the NFL has seen in a very long time. One could easily make the case that A&M’s Mike Evans, Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, USC’s Marqise Lee, LSU’s Odell Beckham, and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin are ALL first round talents, and I would be hard pressed to argue against that sentiment.
Because of that depth, the Eagles could easily wait until the second round and grab a first round WR talent. However, I think the need is pressing enough that Philadelphia will choose a WR in the first. So…with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Cooks is an explosive first round talent, but Philadelphia has NOT brought him in for a pre-draft visit, as far as we know. He’s a Jackson-like prospect at 5’10”, 189 pounds and thrives in the slot. He was also the 2013 Biletnikoff winner as the nation’s top receiver.
By the look at the list of players the Eagles have already visited with, conventional wisdom says GM Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly seem to be looking at big, physical receivers who can out-jump opposing cornerbacks and make catches in small spaces.
However, in most Eagles drafts, subterfuge and smoke-screens are a constant, and the Eagles are rarely ever linked to their eventual first round picks. The only consistent pattern that emerged was that they would likely draft a player who played in the Senior Bowl.
There are plenty of reasons why the Eagles may not draft Cooks in the first round, but I believe his fantastic hands, quick footwork, toughness (he never missed a single game at any level), and his outstanding experience as the full-time punt return man during his final (junior) year at Oregon make him too valuable for Chip Kelly to pass up.
Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter: @MattThorntonNFL