Defensive Draft Prospects Part I

In the previous draft post I discussed potential offensive targets for the upcoming draft in late April.  This time around I’ll focus on possible front 7 players that could fit into the defensive scheme Billy Davis and Chip Kelly want to utilize.  Defensive backs to follow shortly.

 

Let’s start with 3-4 defensive ends…

 

1. Arik Armstead- Oregon (6-7, 292 LBS)

I’m sure what stands out to most Eagles fans is the university where Armstead played his college ball and the running Oregon joke around these parts over the past two years.  Armstead is considered to be one of the top 5 talents by many in this draft.  However, his production at Oregon didn’t seem to correlate.  While some argue that the scheme he was asked to play, two-gap, played a factor into that others see other concerning factors.  Like many young defensive linemen he tends to struggle with his pad level and technique in the trenches.  Despite his athleticism he has issues with changing direction.  On the positive side he has great initial burst with his hands off the snap which is key to go along with his brute strength.  Many teams will be enamored with his raw ability and take an early flier on him just based off pure skill.  Personally, I feel confident in the current crop of defensive ends on the roster so I’ll pass on Armstead.

2. Henry Anderson- Stanford (6-6, 294 LBS)

The senior entering the draft out of Stanford has the ideal size to play the 3-4 defensive end position in the NFL I believe.  He has a good mix of size and quickness off the ball which allows him to disrupt plays in the backfield.  He does tend to struggle with his leverage as he tires which is why he would fit better as a rotational defensive end.  He has slid over to the nose in Stanford’s defense before, but I think his lack of weight would prevent that at the next level.  The versatility is always nice to have though as a tool.  I would be interested in Anderson in the 5th round as a backup to Ced Thornton and Fletcher Cox.  Pairing him with Vinny Curry, if he’s still on the roster, would make for a nice backup tandem in my opinion.  His two potential challenges would be Brandon Bair and last year’s 5th round pick Taylor Hart both Oregon alums.  Bair’s age and lack of pass rush ability are his biggest downfalls, but he did flash multiple times on kick blocks.  Hart never saw a snap in the regular season last year so it’s really tough to judge his worth at this point.  At the very least Anderson has Stanford going for him seeing as the two previous drafts under Chip Kelly the Eagles have selected Zach Ertz and Ed Reynolds both from Stanford.

 

Decided to list only one nose tackle prospect…

 

1. Terry Williams- East Carolina (6-1, 353 LBS)

I decided to list only one name for this particular part of the defense.  Bennie Logan’s improvement and the 7th round selection of Beau Allen from Wisconsin last year makes me think the Eagles might place the priority on the nose tackle position farther down the list.  Williams is an interesting player mainly because of his mammoth size at 350 plus pounds which is a perfect build for interior d linemen.  He put on nearly 30 pounds for the 2014 campaign and according to scouts did not lose any ability in movement for East Carolina.  Williams has been characterized as a “bowling ball” which is music to many defensive line coaches ears’.  The main issue with Williams seems to be his conditioning and lack of focus to hone his craft.  The conditioning I think would be a perfect challenge for Chip, however the lack of focus is always a concern for young players coming into the league.  Unfortunately, Williams was not invited to participate in the NFL combine which would have been a great chance for him to display his talents.  He was also ruled ineligible for East Carolina’s bowl game this past year versus Florida for undisclosed reasons.  Overall, I would love if the Eagles took a chance on Williams in the 7th round or even if he went undrafted.  I feel his size and disruptiveness would be an upgrade over Beau Allen.

Next up we’ll cover the 3-4 outside linebackers…

I decided to skip over the three top rated prospects for this position: Shane Ray, Dante Fowler and Randy Gregory.  I just don’t see the Eagles getting up to the spot where they would need to select any one of these player.  That being said I do think they will target a pass rusher in the middle to late rounds.  Here they are:

1. Alvin Dupree- Kentucky (6-4, 269 LBS)

Dupree is a freakish athlete that has displayed just that at the Combine in Indianapolis a month ago as well as his pro day for Kentucky recently.  He ran a 4.56 at the Combine which is a tick slower than the average for cornerbacks in the past five years.  Scouts seem to agree that he is by no means a finished project, but his size and speed make him a likely first round pick.  His score of 13 on the Wonderlic test has some questioning whether he can successfully make the jump to the next level by combining smarts to go along with his raw athletic talent.  Dupree lined up as both 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker for Kentucky’s defense this past season.  He played against eight read option teams which tends to lower your numbers in the sack department.  However, this can prepare him for the apparent shift in philosophy for some NFL offenses.  He has met with the Eagles and four other teams.  Personally, I think the Eagles have more apparent needs than to take another potential project with a first round pick the way they did last year with Marcus Smith.  The resigning of Brandon Graham makes this position less of a need at the moment.

2. Eli Harold- Virginia (6-4, 250 LBS)

Harold’s size and quickness make him the ideal fit for an edge pass rusher.  He totaled seven sacks in 2014 along with 14.5 tackles for loss which is key for setting the edge in a 3-4 defensive scheme.  He ran a 4.60 at the Combine which is very good for his size and position.  He needs to continue to work on his strength to be able to hold up over the course of a 16 game season.  Scouts and draft experts vary on the range where Harold could possibly be selected.  Some view him as a fringe first round talent where other see him as more of a mid 2nd round selection.  It could mostly depend on the run of pass rushers that may occur in the first round causing other teams to take him earlier due to the fact he might not be there come their next pick.  This is pretty much in line with what the Eagles did last year selecting Marcus Smith in the first round.  I would not trade up in the 2nd round to take Harold, but if he for some reason was still there at pick 52 he would be atop the list for players to draft at that spot.

3. Deon Barnes- Penn State (6-4, 255 LBS)

Barnes was a surprise early entry into the 2015 draft.  After winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year his play has tapered off over the past two seasons.  However, he doesn’t lack the size or athleticism to compete at the next level.  Barnes needs to find consistency in his play in order to make any type of impact in the NFL.  His snub from the NFL combine could possibly light a fire under him going forward or could potentially backfire the other way only time will tell.  Penn State has had a recent success with outside pass rushers making the transition into the league.  Pro Bowlers TambaHali for the Chiefs and Cameron Wake of the Dolphins represent the school well.  Barnes has a long way to go before entering that conversation though.  I would have interest in Barnes as a late round selection to compete for a roster spot this upcoming season.  He could also learn behind two solid NFL linebackers in Brandon Graham and specifically Connor Barwin.

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