In this installment of the defensive draft prospects I’ll cover the inside linebackers and secondary. I was going to skip over the inside backers, but recent news swirling around the possible departure of Mychal Kendricks along with other pre draft visits forced me to alter my plan. Let’s get it started with the 3-4 inside linebackers….
Murray was reported by many outlets as having a scheduled pre draft visit with the Eagles this week. His size and build would make him a fit for holding up physically as an inside every down linebacker in the NFL. However, Murray was less than impressive at the combine where he managed only 16 reps for the bench press which is below average for his size. He has been criticized for his lack of ability to move in space which most likely pegs him into a two down linebacker. Others including CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler have suggested Murray would be a better option as defensive end at the next level due to his athleticism. He did occasionally practice at the position in college. The trade rumors swirling around Kendricks makes Murray a name to watch in the upcoming month. However, with recently acquired Kiko Alonso and returning Demeco Ryans already on the roster to go along with Brad Jones formerly of the Packers I would allocate my resources elsewhere. He is viewed as a fringe first rounder and would more likely than not be available with pick 52.
Anthony was viewed before as a Day 3 Pick between rounds 4-7. Recently, his workouts and Combine performance have shot his value up most likely into Day 2. He potentially projects as a three down linebacker which is crucial in today’s game. The one knock against Anthony is his lack of body control in space and hesitation to use his quickness to make plays. He ran a 4.56 at the Combine which shows the type of skill this kid has. The Eagles have reportedly met with Anthony and similar to Benardrick Murray he could be a potential replacement for Mychal Kendricks. However, even without Kendricks there are 3 other very capable inside backers on this roster. I would love to grab Anthony in the 3rdround, but with his recent impressive workouts I don’t see that as a realistic possibility. The Dolphins, Packers and 49ers all very much in need of inside linebacker help have been connected to Anthony as well which makes it even more difficult.
Jones is a player I would have significant interest in the middle to later rounds specifically round 4. His size and frame make him a good fit to hold his own at the position. Jones impressed recently at the East West Shrine game to boost his draft stock. His ability to drop and cover in space will be an asset in transitioning to a pro style defense. He had a productive past season with the Spartans totaling 60 tackles and registering four sacks which is nothing to sneeze at for an inside linebacker. He did run a slower 40 time than most expected at the Combine, but his other on the field performances have made up for that. If the Eagles are planning on moving Kendricks, Jones would be the type of later round pick that I would be interested in drafting to provide depth to begin with. I think this team has more apparent needs than spending an early round pick on this position.
The next position is safety which is considered by many draft pundits to be a particularily weak class this year. Here are a few of the names:
Hollimon led the nation in 2014 with an impressive 14 interceptions. Two of these interceptions came against JameisWinston and Florida State. He displays both size and instincts which would be a much needed boost to the Eagles secondary. He needs to get better at tackling in open space and being stout in the run game. Hollimon replaced Calvin Pryor in the lineup this past season who was a first round selection of the New York Jets in the 2014 draft. The tackling issue is a huge cause for concern, he missed 20 this past season which is way more than a starting safety in the NFL can afford. His ball skill are arguably the best in the crop of safeties but being able to tackle as a safety in the NFL is vital to staying on the field. I’m not taking a player with such a glaring hole in the first round especially since he’s from Louisville after last year’s Marcus Smith debacle. If Hollimon is still around at pick 52 I would consider taking him based on the other players left on the board.
The Arizona State safety has recently crept up draft boards as an emerging safety prospect. While his size doesn’t jump off the charts his knack for being around the ball and making sure tackles is standing out to teams. It also doesn’t hurt that he ran a 4.46 forty. He was recently rumored to have a pre draft visit scheduled with the Eagles who could certainly use a player like Randall. His name has begun to mentioned in the Day 2 range. He makes up for his lack of size with instincts and creating big plays. I would love for the Eagles to grab him with their 2nd round pick he is far more NFL ready than Hollimon I believe. If the Eagles chose to go safety early in the draft Randall would be the target for me. He would be a nice pairing with Malcolm Jenkins going forward on the back end.
The Michigan State senior is a rangy safety who can cover some ground as the last line of defense. He is instinctual but tends to lack eye discipline which has cost him in the past. He struggles with biting on play action and having to turn to make plays with his back to the line of scrimmage. We all remember what happened to Nate Allen at the end of the Cardinals game this past year. He was a 3 year starter for the Spartans and organized the secondary most times. Unlike Hollimon, Drummond is a very sure tackler and often was among the leaders in tackles on the defense. He is most likely a late 2nd to 3rd round selection. If the Eagles do not select Randall in the 2nd round I would turn my focus to Drummond in the 3rd if he’s still available. Out of these three options listed Randall would be my first choice.
The final position we’ll cover was probably the reason the Eagles missed out on the postseason in 2014. Both starting corners Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams have moved on..thankkfully. The additions of Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond will definitely be an upgrade in my opinion. Here a few more options the team could pursue in the draft at the position…
Collins has the type of size and length that teams are starting to covet at the corner position due to the surge of talented wide receivers in the recent years. His 4.48 speed helps him turn and run with receivers while also having the size to challenge at the height of the ball. He is projected to go in the 20-30 range which would fall right in line with the Eagles. His major drawback is the lack of time he’s been playing the game of football so he’s still considered to be raw and needing work. He only started 10 games at LSU. There is a risk reward factor of still being able to break some of his bad habits since he hasn’t been playing for that long. The other side of the coin is taking him in the first round and waiting years for him to potentially develop. For the Eagles it might be beneficial to take a player more ready to contribute and with a more known quantity than Collins. If he slips into the 2nd round, however, I would start making calls trying to move up and select him.
Johnson is similar to Collins in that his size and length will make him a good matchup for the taller and more athletic type of receivers that are entering the league at a rapid rate. He will need to bulk up his 175 pound frame to endure a 16 game schedule which most likely will not be an issue. Johnson has been praised for his ability to turn his hips and his ability to pick up on route concepts. He is also willing to stick his nose in support of the run game as well which is always an added bonus for the corner position. Johnson has began to rise up draft boards according to sources within the league. I think Johnson would be a fine pick for the Eagles if they stayed at 20. He is coming in with far less concerns than Collins and also has 3 full collegiate seasons under his belt. Johnson would be my preference over Collins in the first round.
The Oregon corner tore his ACL during the bowl practice leading up to the playoff game versus Florida State. He was slated to be the first or one of the first corners selected in this year’s draft. He will most likely fall in rounds 3-4 similar to Oklahoma corner Aaron Colvin who tore his ACL last Senior Bowl and was selected in the 4th round by the Jaguars. You cannot ignore the Oregon ties here to go along with Chip’s willingness to bring in players coming off ACL injuries as apparent this offseason. Even before his ACL injury, IEO’s speed came into question as having the straight line burst to keep up in today’s game. Missing the chance to compete at the Senior Bowl and Combine did not help his stock either. That being said I would make a similar selection in the 4thround the way Jacksonville did with Colvin in last year’s draft. I’m sure Chip will be keeping a close eye on his former cornerback.