One if the most common mistakes that fans make is assuming that the Eagles will draft a player because of immediate need. That rarely happens. Most of the time, the team papers over current roster flaws with free agent signings and trades, acquiring DeMeco Ryans being a prime example.
You should never expect even a first round pick to contribute much in their rookie year. If you end up with a quick starter, great. But relying on guys like Danny Watkins right away will disappoint you early and often.
The question of what position is ripe to be drafted early has more to do, in my opinion, with looking a year or two down the road. Where are the aging veterans? Where are the likely holes in the team a year from now? Let’s take a look at the 2013 roster as it looks right now:
QB: Michael Vick, Mike Kafka
RB: Dion Lewis, Stanley Havili
WR: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OT: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans
OG/C: Danny Watkins, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, J. Vandervelde, M. Gibson
DE: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt
DT: Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins
LB: DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, Brian Rolle
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Curtis Marsh
S: Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman
With the notable exception of LeSean McCoy, every Eagles offensive starter and most of the backups are signed through the next two seasons. That’s great for the team, since the offensive unit has been much more consistently good than the defense over the last few years. There’s no reason to sit on that and not draft anyone, perhaps more OL and WR depth, but there’s no major need at any of these positions.
Defense is a different story entirely; there you are more likely to need guys than not. Defensive end is probably in the best spot going forward, with two Pro Bowl starters and two players with potential already lined up. The rest is a real crap shoot.
There are only two defensive tackles signed through 2013 (although Tommy’s presumably camped out on Derek Landri’s lawn right now). Both Jenkins and Patterson are starters, but they are getting up in age, too. At linebacker there are five players but it’s tough to trust any of them, with the possible exception of Ryans. Cornerback really only has Asomugha and Marsh, with Samuel packing his bags. And safety brings us three youngsters, none of whom have proven they can be above average starters.
With all that said, I think it would be justifiable to draft any defensive position, outside of DE, in the first round. There are a couple more factors to keep your eye on as we get closer to the draft. First, will Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie get a contract extension? I already discussed this at length, but some movement there could allow the Eagles to delay drafting another corner in the first round. Second, what do the Eagles do at outside linebacker? If they obtain another starter there, they could pass on Luke Kuechly and take a flier on a second or third round LB instead.
If the Eagles take action on both of those counts, odds are that the team will be picking among the deep class of defensive tackles with pick #15.
Photo from Getty.