PJ Williams, cornerback, FSU
This 6’0″ 194 pound cornerback Seminole has really fallen out of favor in recent weeks. Originally projected into the first round, some projections have him falling as low as the end of round three or early fourth round. I don’t see that happening, but would be tickled if he was there for the Eagles in round two (if some incredibly talented young man fell to us at the 20th pick).
This young man can play ball when the chips are on the line and he is playing man. But he tends to give less than his all if the play is not on him, nearly dogging some of the zone coverages. That willingness to display roller coaster interest during game film indicates he has more of a risk than a first round prospect should and could explain his slide from the top. When he decides to play, he does play at a high level. He can remain in a receiver’s back pocket, even on deep routes by fast receivers. Times plays very well, shows up just before the ball arrives with a hand to knock pass away. Good tackling abilities.
Josh Shaw, cornerback, USC
At 6’0″ and 201 pounds, this Trojan is larger than most prospects. With a background in both cornerback and saftety, his current projection of third round may be understated if a team decides to select him and return him to a safety role. With a shallow pool of safety talent and a question mark remaining there, I would not be the least bit surprised if the Eagles do not have that in their options in this draft.
While raw, he has many of the skills sought in a cornerback and safety. Sure tackling. An ability to play press man coverage. Aggressive in underneath routes. His top speed is not ideal for a top cornerback prospect. While he is physical, he continues to rely upon that physicality down the field, which will result in penalties all day in the NFL.
Eric Rowe, cornerback, Utah
A 6’1″ 205 cornerback from the University of Utah. Projected to come off the board in the fourth round, he has the height and wingspan of a pro cornerback. He also has great football instincts, and makes great plays breaking on the ball. However, there are questions about his speed. Once beaten, he does not have overdrive to enable a quick recovery. He did suffer and play through a leg injury in 2014, but game footage shows a corner that needs help over the top to succeed in the NFL.
He could be another corner who is converted to safety if the team need warrants.
Alex Carter, cornerback, Stanford
A 6’0″ 196 cornerback from Stanford, scouts have trouble agreeing on Carter’s projections. Rated to come off the board anywhere from round one to four, Carter has the right size to succeed in the NFL . He does a good job of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage, and held his own against NFL calibre talent during his time at Stanford. However, he does allow separation with double moves, and shows some vulnerability to quick inside moves of receivers.
He has good upside, but whether he is coached up to play consistently at NFL level will be a goal for his first defensive backs coach and teammates.
Byron Jones, cornerback, Connecticut
The final cornerback we’ll discuss is the 6’1″ 199 pound cornerback from the University of Connecticut. The reason for his inclusion is he is one of the most intelligent cornerbacks of the draft, and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly loves intelligent players. He anticipates routes and is skilled at avoiding rub routes. Has enough recovery speed to close on receiver if he misses on a move, and is a reliable tackler. Projected by some into the high second round, and others deep into round four, I see him as a round 3 or 4 option for the Eagles.
Like many, he has his weakness. Jones will follow play with his upper body, but have trouble communicating that change of direction to his feet and lower body. His footwork needs improvement, as does his physicality. He had a season ending injury to his shoulder, and without knowing the full medical report, must weigh in on where this young man plays.
The Eagles are doing things in a new way, with a complete overhaul to the familiar faces on both offense and defense. But the fan base and clearly the coach felt the time for change is now. Some things never change. To win in the NFL, you need a strong defensive backfield – ideally from players you draft and coach up from college into a seasoned veteran who becomes a champion of your defensive scheme.
This is the year to complete the transition. Not on offense as so many discuss, but on defense. Without an investment of fresh and quality talent, the team will drift along hoping that other parts of the roster can overcompensate. That’s how it’s been done for some time now. That’s why this is as good of a time as any to try something different.
There are plenty of high caliber young men who would like nothing more than to bring a Lombardi to Philadelphia, and plenty of fans would be okay with that too.
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