With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. The Eagles are up next as we look at the areas they need to improve if they are going to repeat as NFC East champions in coach Chip Kelly’s second season at the helm. They have six picks at their disposal, including the 22nd pick of the first round.
Outside Linebacker: The Eagles relied heavily on Trent Cole to provide their pass rush last season. Cole delivered eight sacks, but he needs more consistent help and, at 32 with a big salary, he won’t be around too much longer.
Some have predicted a fall into the 20s for UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, who would fit the bill, and Missouri’s Kony Ealy is another edge rusher who could be there when the Eagles are on the board. Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu should be on the board when the Eagles pick in the first round and may be there in the second as well if they decide to address another position with their top pick.
Wide Receiver: The Eagles have maintained confidence that their offense is going to be just fine without DeSean Jackson and there’s still plenty of talent on hand for Kelly to deploy to his whims. Another body wouldn’t hurt, especially if he brings the kind of big play threat that Jackson brought to the table.
USC’s Marqise Lee and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks are both familiar to Kelly from his college days, while there’s been a lot of chatter about Philly interest in Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin would be a move in a different direction size-wise, but the Eagles are flexible enough to go in any direction at wideout.
Safety: The Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins and re-signed Nate Allen to go with Earl Wolff, giving them some quantity at the position. There’s room for more quality, though, and Philly should address the position at some point in the draft.
Depending on how things fall, they could try for a major upgrade with Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or they could wait until later rounds to add competition and depth to what’s already on hand. The latter scenario seems more likely than Clinton-Dix lasting to the 22nd pick.
Cornerback: If the Eagles went into the season with Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin and Nolan Carroll as their top four corners, they’d have a solid enough group outside with Boykin starring in the slot. A better pass rush could make them more than that, but, as mentioned, the Eagles need to improve in that area.
Should they not find themselves in position to boost the pass rush, adding a corner who could push Williams or Fletcher down the depth chart would be a worthy consideration. Would Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller or Ohio State’s Bradley Roby provide that upgrade?
Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are back and should retain their starting jobs, but there’s not much behind them and Ryans wasn’t a perfect fit in defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ first season in Philly. A player more skilled in pass coverage would be a nice complement now and possible replacement down the road.