Which position are you most concerned about?
Allow me to state the obvious: the Philadelphia Eagles don’t have a lot of glaring needs. This roster is largely the same one that just won the Super Bowl.
With that said, the Eagles do have positions where they could afford to add more depth. The Birds also have needs beyond this season that they could look to address now in the 2018 NFL Draft. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared, after all.
Here’s a quick overview of each position heading into Thursday.
The Eagles arguably have the best quarterback room in the NFL thanks to the presence of Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, and Nate Sudfeld. Unless Foles is getting traded, there’s no real need to spend one of their six picks on a passer. Philadelphia will likely sign an undrafted free agent quarterback to eat up reps and potentially be a practice squad guy in 2018. Wentz is likely to miss a decent amount of practice time this offseason as he recovers from his ACL tear so there will be some reps available for the rookie.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Sign a developmental QB to be a camp arm.
The worst kept secret is that Jay Ajayi likely won’t be back with Philly after 2018 since he’s going to be a free agent and re-signing him doesn’t seem Realistic (injury concerns, limited cap space). Corey Clement proved to be a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Is he good enough to be The Guy, though? The Eagles shouldn’t hesitate to hedge their bet, especially since they can’t rely on Wendell Smallwood or Donnel Pumphrey. There are a number of attainable running back prospects (Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, etc.) that could make an immediate impact in Philadelphia’s backfield. Drafting a sure-fire rusher would allow give the Eagles an Ajayi replacement for beyond thi season.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find a running back with lead back potential. At the very least, find someone who can immediately contribute to the rotation.
The Eagles have sure things in Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace playing on the outside. Nelson Agholor figures to be a weapon in the slot following a breakthrough 2017 season. Mack Hollins could push for playing time, but he’ll have to earn it. We’ll see if Shelton Gibson can be anything; nothing should be guaranteed for him. Philadelphia doesn’t need immediate help at receiver but they could afford to add a talented player that falls to them. Thinking about the long-term outlook, Wallace is on a one-year deal, Jeffery has an injury history, and Agholor is only signed through 2018 (or 2019 if the Eagles pick up his fifth-year option). Adding a mainstay weapon for Wentz isn’t the worst idea if the guy is truly a stud. I’m looking at you, D.J. Moore.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Don’t force a pick on a pass catcher, but don’t be hesitant to add a legitimate play-maker.
Arguably one of the Eagles’ biggest draft needs. Zach Ertz is the only returning tight end from 2017. Free agent signing Richard Rodgers isn’t necessarily a lock to make the 53-man roster. Billy Brown, Joshua Perkins, and Adam Zaruba could be something but also could easily be nothing. The Eagles must draft at least one tight end, if not two. Chris Herndon, who came in for a pre-draft visit, is a name to watch. Wouldn’t hurt to add a blocking tight end type like Nate Wozniak late in the draft.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find a tight end who can at least be a No. 3 (Trey Burton’s old role) in 2018 with the potential to be a long-term No. 2 to Ertz’s No. 1.
The Eagles don’t need a starting tackle with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson returning in 2018. But given Peters’ injury situation/age and Johnson’s suspension history, you can’t say there isn’t a need for more depth. Even if you’re high on Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s potential, the fact remains the Eagles were one snap away from Taylor Hart or Will Beatty playing at tackle last year. Offensive tackle isn’t a position the Eagles should try to get cute with. If there’s a legitimate potential successor to Peters on the board, go get him.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find an heir to Peters’ throne. At the very least, get a guy who can compete with Vaitai and make the Eagles four-deep at tackle.
Brandon Brooks, 28, is a Pro Bowl starting right guard. Stefen Wisniewski played above expectation last season but he’s not necessarily a long-term fixture on this line. Wis, who the Eagles originally viewed at a backup center, was the third option behind Isaac Seumalo and Chance Warmack in 2018. He ended up being the best of those three, but then again that’s not saying much. Make no mistake: the need at guard isn’t dire. But it wouldn’t hurt to think about the future of the position.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find a developmental guard/center combo type at some point. Maybe on Day 3. Finding a reliable guard backup could allow Seumalo to focus on playing center, where he might be best suited to line up.
Jason Kelce had an All-Pro season last year before also becoming the mayor of Philadelphia thanks to his epic Super Bowl parade speech. The bearded wonder turns 31 this season and has no guaranteed money left in his contract after 2018. Hopefully he’ll continue to play at a high level forever but the Eagles should still do their homework on eventual replacement options.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find a developmental center/guard combo type at some point. Maybe on Day 3.
The Eagles have some uncertainty here with Brandon Graham entering a contract year and Michael Bennett dealing with a legal situation. One thing that is certain about this position is there’s a lot of experience. That’s my nice way of saying “age.” Graham is 30, Bennett turns 33 in November, and Chris Long is 33. Derek Barnett is the young guy at only 21 years old. Philly could afford to add some more youth to this group. Besides, you can never have too many pass rushers. It’d be great if someone like Harold Landry fell to No. 32 but I wouldn’t count on it.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Add a developmental pass rusher.
The Eagles are pretty deep at defensive tackle in 2018. Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan are the obvious starters with Haloti Ngata working in as a strong No. 3 option. Then they have guys like Graham and Bennett who can rush from the inside as well. Beyond that, things are unsettled. The Eagles could try to settle that defensive tackle depth by adding Tim Settle. Pun absolutely intended. If a guy like Maurice Hurst or Taven Bryan falls to No. 32, the Eagles will have to think about it. That player might not have a huge impact in 2018 but the third defensive tackle plays a decent amount in Jim Schwartz’s defense. Consider Beau Allen played 41% of the snaps last season. That rookie could step up as the third guy in the future with Ngata likely gone after this year. He could also push Jernigan, who was quiet in the second half of 2017, for playing time.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Same kind of deal as wide receiver. No need to force a pick here, but there’s good reason to jump at the right opportunity.
Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham combined to form a real good starting linebacker duo in 2016. They have the potential to do the same in 2018 as long as Hicks can stay healthy, which is hardly a given. Hicks’ injury history makes it unclear if the Eagles plan to re-sign him as he becomes a free agent after this season. Bradham, meanwhile, turns 29 in September and essentially signed a year-to-year contract. Mychal Kendricks is perpetually in the state of being traded. I think he gets dealt for real this time. If that’s the case, the Eagles could really afford to add a player with long-term potential. They’ve brought in players like Leighton Vander Esch, Rashaan Evans, Darius Leonard, Uchenna Nwosu, and Jermaine Carter on pre-draft visits. I wouldn’t mind the Birds adding Josey Jewell, for the record.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Add some Hicks insurance with a player who can at least potentially be a starter. The Eagles don’t need strictly depth at linebacker since they already have a lot of bodies there.
The Eagles have a lot of bodies at outside corner but there’s a hole in the slot with Patrick Robinson moving on. Philadelphia has shown interest in a number of nickel types: Mike Hughes, Jaire Alexander, Donte Jackson, Tremon Smith, etc. It’s convenient that those guys also provide value at punt returner, another one of the Eagles’ needs. Alexander and Hughes have the potential to play on the outside as well as the slot, which give the Eagles even more insurance there, especially if Ronald Darby isn’t re-signed. With Robinson playing 69% of the Eagles’ snaps in 2017, the nickel position shouldn’t be undervalued.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Find a nickel corner who can also return punts. Shouldn’t be too hard considering this class is considered to be deep with slot corner talents.
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are locked in as the starters for 2018. It’s very realistic at one least of them could be gone after this season. Even if that’s not the case, the Eagles still need to add a No. 3 safety behind them. And not just for depth purposes. Corey Graham played 36% of Philly’s defensive snaps last season. A rookie taken in the draft would have an opportunity to make an immediate impact as a role player. Justin Reid could be a target of interest.
Realistic goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: Draft a third safety who can take over as a starter in 2019.
The Eagles should strongly considering adding an undrafted free agent punter to compete with Cameron Johnston. If Philly had more picks, I’d advocate for them to take “the Aaron Donald of punters,” but that doesn’t seem wise in their current situation. I’d also note the Eagles should look at add some kind of prospect who provides value as a returner, whether that’s at running back, wide receiver, or cornerback. The Eagles need better returners, especially if Darren Sproles won’t be back.
Which position will the Eagles draft first?
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