The Philadelphia Eagles filled out their roster more than most at the beginning of the 2017 free agency period. Both sides of the ball were helped with the additions of Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, and Timmy Jernigan. The stipulation of the signings is that they’re all one to three-year contracts that for some can turn into a future signing but for others are just a likely pit stop.
Such ostensible patchwork from free agency places more importance on selecting prospects in the draft that will turn into reliable pieces. There are few players ever taken in the draft that are a surefire starter at the NFL level, but at least the Eagles know where they need the most help.
Cornerback: The Eagles owned a calamitous secondary in 2016 that netted them the last place ranking in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Ironically, two of the preseason bright spots before the 2016 season, Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll, are no longer in Philly. Between Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, and Leodis McKelvin, the Eagles will enter the 2017 season with two new faces at cornerback making it the third straight season without the same two starting cornerbacks.
Top cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State and Marlon Humphrey from Alabama will likely be gone before the Eagles’ 14th pick. However, the highest cornerback remaining by then should be high priority.
Left Tackle: It’s about as un-sexy as a necessity gets, but the Eagles’ future outlook at the position is dim. Jason Peters has one year remaining on his contract with a large question mark as to what will come after. The current depth chart only has Dillon Gordon behind Peters, while every other offensive line position has at least three players.
The Eagles have done a decent job of shuffling linemen to different positions when needed, but that type of patchwork should hardly be the plan going into the season.
Quarterback: This one feels obvious, but then anyone can spout, “You never know,” because Russell Wilson was a third round pick. Nick Foles and Matt McGloin are fine backups that are capable of filling the role. Teams that are nearing the three quarters mark of their starter’s career and need to develop something where they can then bridge the gap without suffering a complete downer of a season or two make mid-draft quarterback selections. None of this fits the Eagles.
Other than quarterback, there aren’t any high profile positions that are inadvisable to at the very least look at the possibilities. The new defensive scheme of Jim Schwartz merits around 12 players for rotation on the defensive line alone, while the Eagles’ running back position feels like it will be going through a transition within the next couple of seasons. What will come of the wide receiving corps this season is enough of a mystery to consider taking one in the draft if there’s a best available situation and other positions in need have been filled.
Teams that finish last in a division typically aren’t picky when it comes to passing on the best available. However, the Eagles are far from being a bottom of the league team that needs to grab at anything. The weaknesses and holes in the roster are obvious and the benefit of having played a season before this draft will only help in making a selection that’s a proper fit versus merely a good pick.
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