The Philadelphia Eagles Best Direction in the 2016 NFL Draft
This is an important offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Moving on from Chip Kelly after one bad season puts the franchise back at a crossroads. They have to decide if it’s time to hit the reset button and focus on the long term or if they can compete for a playoff spot with a foundation that was built by a head coach they lost faith in. By re-signing Sam Bradford and retaining most of the pieces from last year’s roster, the Eagles are apparently focused on competing right now.
There has been some talk about the Eagles trading up for Carson Wentz but that seems unlikely. Instead of adding a successor for Bradford, it makes more sense for the Eagles to try and build around him.
Arguably the biggest issue the Eagles had last year was their inability to catch the ball. The Eagles receivers were one of, if not the worst unit in the NFL last year. Miles Austin played way too many snaps, as did Riley Cooper. Jordan Matthews couldn’t catch the ball while Nelson Agholor didn’t appear certain of his assignment all the time during his rookie season. Agholor should get better in his second year and Matthews will hopefully improve also, but the Eagles should still look at Josh Doctson if he is available when they pick in the first round.
Doctson should be available. He’s not regularly mocked to the Eagles nor is he regularly mocked in the top 10 of drafts. He would immediately be the Eagles’ best receiver, creating a complementary partnership with Agholor on the outside.
Most mock drafts expect the Eagles to take Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is the best running back in this class. He is explosive in space, comfortable in pass protection and diverse as a receiver. The problem with the Eagles taking Elliott is that they already have Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles on the roster. While neither player is a star, both are quality contributors who could combine to make Elliott an unnecessary addition. Furthermore, Elliott isn’t Todd Gurley. He’s not going to be an Adrian Peterson type of back in the NFL so the long-term outlook doesn’t justify the price.
What makes Elliott more a more likely selection is head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson is coming from the Kansas City Chiefs offense, Andy Reid’s offense, where Jamaal Charles was the focal point. Charles tore his ACL for the second time in 2016 but the Chiefs relied on him more than most teams relied on singular backs when he was healthy during the previous years. It wasn’t just when Charles was touching the ball. His threat played a big role in the misdirection that Reid relied on to create easier throws for quarterback Alex Smith.
This is a good running back class. It’s got talent at the top and depth through the first three, maybe even four rounds. Passing on Elliott in the first round doesn’t mean passing on the only running back who could make an impact early on before acting as a foundational piece later.
Defensively, the Eagles should be looking to add a cornerback at some point. Taking one in the first round is a definite possibility. Vernon Hargreaves is a smaller cornerback so he could fall as far as the eighth pick, maybe even further, but he shouldn’t. Hargreaves is a very impressive prospect who would immediately start across from Eric Rowe for the Eagles. He and Mackenzie Alexander are the two most likely first round picks, both would good value picks and immediate starters.