Taking a stab at Howie Roseman’s 10 draft prospects the Eagles have targeted with the 8th overall pick

 

When the Eagles and Dolphins completed their trade Wednesday that sent Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, and the 13th overall pick to Miami in exchange for the 8th overall pick, it drastically improved Howie Roseman's ammunition for his first draft back in power. While the top of every year's draft class takes on its own shape, the 2016 crop is particularly front-loaded with some of the more unique prospects that have declared over the last few years. When executive vice president Howie Roseman addressed the media Thursday, he made it clear that moving up to acquire a higher pick was a major priority for the Eagles.

“The way we looked at it, we felt like there were 10 players that really stood out to u…Picking 13th, we felt like if we were in position to get one of those top 10 guys, there was tremendous value in that, and to be able to do that before draft day and spend time vetting all those guys, we knew that would really help us so doing it before draft day – we’ve seen in the past that it’s not always able to do that on draft day – so to be able to do that and put it in our pocket and have it, it would help us with our direction of our offseason.

“We’re very comfortable picking at eight. For us, we know that we’re going to get a really good player. We’re just going to go into it with best available player and we know that whoever falls to that spot is going to have a chance to be Pro Bowl caliber. It’s really exciting for us, but again, we’re open to anything that we think improves our football team. No options are off the table as we go into the draft.”

 

Though Roseman has shown in the past that he will not close off the lines of communication as far as potentially moving the 8th overall pick, it sounds as if he would need to be blown away from a team's offer to move back down in the draft order. Roseman revealed he has 10 players that the Eagles have identified as options for their first round pick in 2016, and acquiring the 8th overall pick assures they will end up with one of them. The year that the Eagles drafted Marcus Smith they had reportedly identified six players as their first round targets. When the last of them was scooped up the pick before theirs, Roseman admittedly made a reach and drafted Marcus Smith. If Roseman isn't lying about the team's number of potential selections to draft with the 8th pick, the Eagles will end up with a player they consider an elite prospect.

(All prospect measurements and combine information is courtesy of NFL.com's draft prospect page)

THE PIPE DREAMS:

 

DB-Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)

Jalen Ramsey is the total package when it comes to a defensive back prospect. He has size (6'1", 209 pounds, 33 3/8" arms), speed (4.41 40-yard dash) and versatility. Ramsey has been on the 2016 draft radar since he starred as a freshman during the Seminoles run to the National Championship in 2014. Though he has just three interceptions to his name in his three years in Tallahassee, the cornerback/safety was impossible to miss when it came to watching Florida State's defense. From an athletic standpoint, he checks every box and will likely step in week one as a starting cornerback for whatever team lucky enough to draft him.

Some knock Ramsey for not possessing the type of swagger that seemingly goes hand-in-hand with cornerbacks these days. Very much unlike his Seminole predecessor from generations ago Deion Sanders, Ramsey is a bit more reserved and businesslike on the field. Though it may seem trivial to knock a player for something like this, cornerbacks are being asked to shut down elite talents on the outside in the NFL and having the confidence to do so is essential. I do not expect this to be an issue for Ramsey at the next level, but it's certainly something to think about. The Eagles likely won't have an opportunity to draft Ramsey with the 8th pick. If he's available that late, it's likely because he suffered an injury or an unforeseen red flag came to knowledge. Seeing this as an astronomical unlikeliness, it's best for Eagles fans to eliminate the possibility of Ramsey donning the midnight green from their hopes and dreams. I'm doing my best. 

OT-Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss)

Hard to imagine a general manager being able to construct a more ideal offensive tackle prospect from a physical standpoint than Laremy Tunsil. His technique, footwork, and demeanor are textbook when it comes to the second most important position on the offensive side of the ball. Were it not for some injuries and red flags that lingered with him during his time in Oxford, Tunsil would already be negotiating his first contract with the Tennessee Titans, owners of the first overall pick. Tunsil will still likely be the first name called by commissioner Roger Goodell when the draft kicks off in April, but the door is open for other options. 

Andy Reid made it a point to solidify his two tackle positions when he was constructing his Eagles team over a decade ago. Lane Johnson seemingly has one of the two spots locked down for the better part of the next decade, but the other spot is very much a question mark. Tunsil is good enough to probably start on the left side of the vast majority of teams in the NFL starting week one of 2016. If he can keep his nose clean and injury-free for the next month, he'll most likely be put in charge of protecting the blind side of Marcus Mariota. Like Ramsey, Tunsil's availability at pick number eight would set off major concerns considering his stature as the top offensive prospect in the draft. It's irresponsible for personnel departments to close off the possibility of these types of players being available at any point in the top ten. That said, Roseman probably considers Ramsey and Tunsil to be extreme long shots with the 8th pick.

THE FRANCHISE FACES

 

QB-Carson Wentz (North Dakota State)

Eagles coach Doug Pederson is no fool when it comes to the importance of the quarterback position. From performance on the field to demeanor off of it, the former quarterback didn't hesitate for a moment when he declared the position to be the 'Face of the Franchise'. 

So let’s talk about the quarterback position, clearly the most important in the game of football. Pederson on Thursday called it “the face of your franchise. Quarterback is the key to the kingdom,” and that just about says everything.

That quote courtesy of an article by Eagles scribe Dave Spadaro

North Dakota State's Carson Wentis the beneficiary of his own lack of exposure. A broken wrist sidelined Went for the majority of his senior season for the FCS juggernaut, and he shined on a national stage when he helped the Bison capture the national championship. Wentz showed no ill effects of his injury in his final collegiate performance, and parlayed that into some serious buzz heading into the offseason circuit. Mix in a strong Senior Bowl showing and an impressive combine performance to his unique final season at North Dakota State, and you've got a formula for some serious QB prospect buzz.

Wentz was garnering some lofty comparisons a few weeks back as teams were able to poke, prod, and interview quarterback prospects at the combine. There were even some Andrew Luck comparisons trickling out of Indianapolis when it came to the athletic, statuesque North Dakota State product. In reality, Wentz is much more of a project than Luck and could probably benefit from at least a year playing behind a veteran starter as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the NFL game. Though FCS schools are producing more and more professionals, Wentz did not have to face the type of competition that SEC or Big Ten quarterbacks had to face in terms of defenses laden with NFL-caliber prospects. That's not to say that Wentz isn't an impressive prospect, but to mention him in the same breath as the highest graded quarterback prospect in the last 25 years.

Wentz has been consistently mentioned as an option for the Browns with the 2nd overall pick. With Hue Jackson taking over, Cleveland is likely looking for a fresh start after the colossal failure that was the Johnny Manziel experiment. Even with them sniffing around Colin Kaepernick, one would still figure the offensive-minded Jackson would want a signal caller he could build from the ground up. It would not surprise me if the Eagles would be very interested in taking a player like Wentz with their first round pick and shore up the present and future of the quarterback position in one offseason. That said, it's hard to imagine he'll pass through the seven teams, two of which have major questions over the future of that position, and wind up as an option for the Eagles with the 8th pick.

  

QB-Jared Goff (California)

Unlike Wentz, Cal product Jared Goff was front-and-center for the majority of the 2015 NCAA seasons as the likely top quarterback prospect for the 2016 Draft. Goff checks all the boxes in terms of the type of pedigree that NFL teams are looking for. A Pac-12 quarterback that started upon his arrival at Berkley with a family background in professional sports (Jared's father Jerry played professional baseball) is a good place to start when it comes to impressing NFL decision-makers. From a physical standpoint, Goff has the height (6'4") that translates to the next level, but there were some concerns over his 9" hands. Depending on what one makes of this increasingly popular metric, it was a topic of conversation surrounding Goff at the combine.

Goff has the ability to make all the necessary throws to start in the NFL. He was the most polished passer at the combine and dispelled any questions over whether his accomplishments at Cal were a product of a pass-heavy, quarterback friendly system. Anyone who was able to watch Goff during his junior year know he was able to operate and excel when things broke down and make some truly remarkable throws in high pressure situations. Though Wentz is seemingly the flavor of the month given his impressive physical traits and intriguing tape, there are some that still feel Goff is the top quarterback in the class.

The debate between Goff and Wentz is mostly based on preference. The two prospects both have attributes that make them attractive to NFL teams and there will always be quarterbacks drafted towards the top of the first round. Despite the resources the Eagles have put into the position this offseason, it would not surprise me one bit if they have considered using the 8th pick on one of these two prospects should they be available. I do not believe they are necessarily targeting one of these player per se, but know how either one could possibly benefit the long-term state of the franchise if they could land either.

THE THROW-BACK

 

RB-Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

In a different time, teams would be salivating over Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott as the potential first overall pick in the draft. He is a remarkable prospect across the board and back when NFL offenses leaned heavily on the running back position, it would be hard to create a more ideal option than Elliott. Change is part of professional sports and the more offenses trend towards a pass-heavy attack, the more teams feel they can take more of a moneyball approach with the running back position. Elliott will likely put this to the test by the time the draft rolls around. 

The former Buckeye can catch, block, run with physicality, and break away from opposing defenses with staggering speed. Elliott was the best player on one of the more talented college teams in recent memory and has teams questioning whether he is the prospect who can break the trend of running backs falling from the top of draft boards. One could make a case that he is the most prolific offensive prospect in the class, regardless of position. The question teams will have to ask and answer is: can we justify using a top-10 pick on a player that plays a position that has a short shelf life? When teams pick in the top ten, they likely do so thinking the player will be a key cog in their franchise for a decade. That simply is not the case with running backs in the NFL anymore. 

Having shipped off Demarco Murray to the Titans, the Eagles are clearly re-assessing their priorities in the backfield. Even with Ryan Mathews potentially returning, one will have to figure there will be at least one new face on the Eagles running back depth chart when the new season rolls around. Whether or not Doug Pederson prefers to lean on one player or opt for the running back-by-committee approach is yet to be determined. Elliott is likely the most enticing running back prospect to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. He has no injury concerns and is the do-it-all type back that teams can lean on for the better portion of a game. There will likely be a team that does use their high first round pick to make Elliott the workhorse of their offense. The debate will undoubtedly rage on for the next month or so as to whether that team could/should be the Eagles.

THE PREMIUM RUSH

 

DE-Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

The latest pass-rusher to emerge from Clemson could very well Shaq Lawson. After waiting for a few years as a reserve, Lawson burst onto the scene last year as a terror along a very good Tigers defensive line and notched 12.5 sacks for an undefeated team. Given the premium teams place on pass-rushers, Lawson's stellar season will have likely earned him millions of dollars as he was able to impress even in Clemson's dramatic National Championship game loss to Alabama. There may be some questions over whether he is better served as a defensive end or a larger 3-4 outside linebacker, but there are far fewer when it comes to Lawson's ability to get to the quarterback.

Lawson isn't the type of generational talent that some saw Jadeveon Clowney as when he was coming out of South Carolina, but teams are stocking up on pass-rushers more and more as offenses trend towards pass-heavy attacks. The Eagles, as they transition back towards a 4-3, are lacking depth in that department and will have to address that issue sooner rather than later. Vinny Curry is a 4-3 end by trade and Brandon Graham could very well produce opposite Curry doing the same, but the cupboard is rarely thin beyond that. There are questions over whether Connor Barwin can maintain his productivity as a defensive end instead of a linebacker. Lawson would likely step in as the team's primary pass-rushing option of the future and could serve in an effective rotation under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

The Eagles seem to have made a point this offseason to equip Schwartz with plenty of weapons for his attacking-style defense as he takes over for Billy Davis. Seeing as the defensive line is the most crucial level of Schwartz's defenses, it would stand to reason that premium resources would be allocated to a player like Lawson. It would not surprise me one bit if the Eagles had already honed in on Lawson as one of their primary targets with the 8th pick. 

DL-Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Though fans of the Nittany Lions may not be doing cartwheels over the notion of Buckeye Joey Bosa donning the Eagle green, there is no doubt that the mammoth defensive end is a prolific talent whose personality would seemingly fit right in to the type of attitude fans love on the defensive side of the ball. Bosa was a standout for Ohio State from the moment he stepped on the field as a freshman and possesses the rare combination of confidence and skill that could make him the face of a team that drafts him. Some have questions over whether he could dominate the way he did for the Buckeyes, but there are few who doubt he will be, at the very least, a productive NFL player capable of contributing from day one.

Bosa shook off a so-so combine performance with a pro day showing that reportedly answered many questions over his strength-speed-agility combination.  

 

In a conference noted for offensive line play, Bosa was able to dominate and terrorize for the better part of three seasons at Ohio State. Even having not put up huge sack numbers as a junior, he still lived in opposing backfields and excelled unlike most collegiate linemen against the run. Some of his limitations from a phsyical standpoint may prevent him from notching eye-opening sack numbers, but there is little doubt over whether he can help most NFL teams right away. Given his personality, it would not shock me if Jim Schwartz and he hit it off from the moment he'd arrive in Philadelphia. Bosa may go in the top four picks in the draft, or he could land towards the bottom end of the top-10. It will likely depend on whether he's capable of 'wooing' a team trying to make a decision. 

THE BOOKEND

 

OT-Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

When they were still slotted to hold the 13th overall pick in the draft, many pundits had the Eagles opting to select one of the offensive linemen in the second tier of the 2016 class for that category. By moving up to the 8th pick, the team could have a shot to land a potentially elite left tackle in Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley. Stanley is a strong enough prospect that it would likely mean that Lane Johnson would spend his career on the right side of the line if things were to go as planned. He could potentially serve as the team's starting left guard for one year while Jason Peters wraps up his Eagles career before kicking out to the all-important left tackle position in 2017. Landing Stanley with this pick would essentially assure the future of the Eagles offensive line for years to come.

Stanley is generally seen as a more polished and bank-able prospect than both of the quarterbacks in this draft and plays a more desirable position than Elliott when it comes to drafting offensive players in the first round. Though there are questions as to whether he has the necessary demeanor to play such a vital position at the highest level, there is no doubting Stanley's physical tools. Tunsil is the unquestioned top player at this position, but Stanley isn't far off and does not have the same red flags as the Ole Miss book-end. The idea of having both tackle spots locked up for the next decade is an attractive one to any NFL team. Andy Reid recognized the importance of this when his Eagles teams were achieving their most success. There is no doubt that his protege Pederson has a similar philosophy when it comes to building on this side of the ball. Stanley would likely be seen as a home run pick at #8 and it's difficult to argue otherwise.

THE JACK OF ALL TRADES

 

LB/S-Myles Jack (UCLA)

Were it not for an early season knee injury for UCLA's Myles Jack, he would likely be unattainable for a team picking in the bottom half of the top ten like the Eagles. Heading into the 2015 season, the Bruins' two-way star was seen as perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the class and a veritable lock to be one of the top two defenders in the class. Jack was UCLA's most devastating presence on defense and even chipped in on offense for the Bruins, playing running back on a limited basis. While there is no way Jack would see that side of the field at the NFL level (save for some potential novelty plays, perhaps) it's a bonus when a linebacker can see the game from both sides of the ball like that. Jack has recovered well from the knee injury that cut his college career short and is ramping up his prep work to convince teams he can still be one of the top players in this year's draft.

If the draft were based solely on picking the best player, it would be tough to imagine Jack falling out of the top-five, maybe even the top-three even with the injury to consider. Like Elliott, though perhaps to a lesser extent, Jack plays a position that some don't value quite as high as perhaps a pass-rusher or shutdown cornerback when it comes to defense. Carolina proved last year how valuable it can be to have playmakers at the linebacker position. That said, the team that finally put a stop to the Panthers Super Bowl run had a world class defense highlighted by a ferocious pass rush and stifling secondary. Though the best-player-available moniker is a common one towards the tops of drafts, sometimes teams weigh the rating system based on drafting that can skew the percentage points of their scale towards certain positions.

It's possible that Jack is too tantalizing a prospect for seven other teams to pass up and the Eagles won't even have to weigh the decision over whether to take the UCLA star. There is no doubt he is on their radar at this point and it would give defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz perhaps his most unique weapon on the defensive side of the ball. The 2016 offseason seems to have emphasized providing the Eagles coaches with pieces they are both comfortable with and capable of maximizing their skills. Jack could likely star at multiple positions for any team in the league. He can play any linebacker position and is even athletic enough to be considered as a safety by some teams. The idea of Jack rounding out a linebacking corps along with Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks is a tantalizing one for Eagles fans. With Ramsey likely out of the question with the 8th pick, Jack would be my personal favorite with this pick.

THE GATOR CLAMP

 

CB-Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida) 

Executive VP Howie Roseman is a Florida alum and there's little doubt he hasn't considered the possibility of keeping it in the Gator family with the 8th pick and drafting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III with the 8th pick. In a class with an impressive collection of corners who could land in the first round, Hargreaves has been mentioned as the 2nd best (behind Ramsey) the most often. The Eagles find themselves drafting this high due to their shipping off of Byron Maxwell who they thought could be the number one corner they had so desperately sought after. It would be poetic if they used the pick acquired from the Dolphins to land his replacement.

Hargreaves III is a football lifer and could be just as prepared as Ramsey to step on the field and contribute at a high level to whatever team that drafts him. He was one of the headliners of an elite-caliber Florida defense and was often tasked with the role of slowing down the best receivers in the SEC. The only 'knock' on Hargreaves could be his size (5'10", 30 5/8" arms), which is of increasing importance in NFL circles when it comes to the CB position. Were Chip Kelly still coaching the Eagles, Hargreaves probably would not even be on the Eagles radar. With a new regime in place, there will likely be a bit more flexibility when it comes to size constraints. It's a relief that's the case with the team owning this pick, because Hargreaves is a special enough talent to ignore the fact that he isn't taller than six feet.

Hargreaves has drawn some comparisons to another Florida alum: Cleveland's Joe Haden. His footwork is elite and probably even more polished than Ramsey at this point. Hargreaves is a terrific, quick jumper who is capable of contesting jump balls and has excelled in hauling in interceptions at a higher rate than his Seminole counterpart. Hargreaves is a willing participant in defending the run and has a nose for the ball, given his already lengthy high-level football career. He did struggle a bit in Florida's biggest games this season (Michigan, Alabama), but was also playing for a team with no offense to support it's elite defensive unit. The notion of drafting a Florida cornerback should be a comforting one to Eagles fans, who saw an undersized Lito Sheppard play at a high level for them seven seasons. Hargreaves III projects as a more impactful player than Sheppard and if one were to ask me today who the Eagles will land with the 8th overall pick, he would be it.

Somers Price is a contributor to Eagledelphia.com and can be followed on Twitter @somersprice