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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles have some pretty clear weaknesses on their roster heading into the 2020 offseason.
With both starting corners reaching free agency and a cornerback room that was already not among the best, the team has a clear weakness there.
With Rodney McLeod a free agent and an aging Malcolm Jenkins wanting a new contract, the rest of the secondary is also in need of reinforcements.
Finally, a receiver room whose top player in 2019 was Greg Ward Jr. will be in need of some help, especially if either or both of the veterans in that room, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, are cut or traded.
The Eagles are in position to address the issue in multiple ways with the cap space to re-sign some guys, bring in some free agents as well as enough draft capital to both inject young talent into the positions as well as trade up or back (or into 2021) in the draft.
Those draft selections will be key to forming the Eagles that will lead the team in what they hope is their second Super Bowl run.
With that in mind, these draft targets for the team will heavily consider positional need, which will not necessarily be the way the team approaches the draft.
Additionally, this list will focus on where the Eagles picks are now. If it seems that there is no chance for a player to drop to an Eagles pick in that round, they will not be considered. Draft stock will surely be changing from now until the draft, but at this point in time, here are some targets in each round of the draft that the Eagles have a pick.
Linebacker Kenneth Murray, who could solve the Eagles longstanding problem at linebacker. It’s fair to wonder whether the Eagles even have the position available to them this high on their draft board, but Murray would easily be the team’s best linebacker since Jordan Hicks and he figures to be even better than that, though he may not have the amount of turnovers that Hicks managed in his first few seasons.
While linebacker seems to be a forgotten position for the Eagles, Murray has all of the intangibles that the Eagles coaching staff seem to like. He is excellent sideline to sideline, has some quickness, he has a high football IQ and an ability to recognize plays in an instant, but most importantly he has a high-motor.
Effort and a high-motor are among the things that the Eagles look for and it is why they acquired Genard Avery midseason in 2019. It will almost certainly be a reason that Murray should find himself rather high on the Eagles draft board despite his linebacker position.
Henderson may not be top of the class in overall coverage skills, but he manages to keep most of his receivers close by. Setting him apart from what the Eagles coverage has recently looked like is that Henderson seems to have a knack for getting his head around and locating the football. Anyone who saw the Eagles play in 2019 knows how many interceptions were passed up just by the defensive backs never looking for or locating the ball and Henderson can certainly address that issue.
Henderson is also an effective blitzer and can make plays at the line and that is perhaps when his own high-motor shows itself off. Along with a never-quit attitude and a reportedly quiet off-the-field personality, Henderson would be a talent that also appears to be an excellent fit for the Eagles locker room and it would not be all to shocking to see the Eagles select the corner with their first pick.
Fulton could surely assist the Eagles cornerback room and would be one of the outside starters for a team that, currently, doesn’t have one. He’s got the coverage skills and size needed to be a top corner and has a bit of a knack for jumping routes.
Perhaps more importantly is his physicality and his willingness to keep going through the entire play that allows him to break up some additional passes. That physicality is something that some of the Eagles corners have been missing over the past few seasons and Fulton has the strength to be effective with it.
Surely many have noticed that Ruggs is the first, and only, receiver listed as a target in the first round. He’s got blazing speed and he may be the most unlikely of the bunch to actually make it to the 21st pick of the draft.
Ruggs is exactly the type of receiver the Eagles need to open up the field and would be an excellent compliment to DeSean Jackson, especially when Jackson misses games. With such a stacked receiving class, Ruggs remains the only receiver that has a chance to make it to 21 that it would make sense for the Eagles to take him over someone who could address other needs that may not have impact players later in the draft.
McKinney is certainly a top talent in the draft and his versatility and ability to play all aspects of the game would benefit a team that is in transition everywhere in the secondary with not a single starter set in stone.
McKinney would be a starter that would allow the Eagles to fill out the rest of the spots with the best available players regardless of fit with others and could be an ideal target because of it. His versatility is also along the lines of Malcolm Jenkins, making him a candidate to take Jenkins’ spot over whenever and however the Eagles depart with the veteran.
If Delpit is there, the Eagles could certainly jump on him. The team will likely look to negotiate a new deal with Malcolm Jenkins, but Delpit can be that same guy for the Eagles. He has coverage skills and plays extremely well on the line of scrimmage.
Delpit had some injury concerns and is not coming off of his best season, but both of those are what has allowed him to drop from a top-five pick last season to an area where he could well be in range of the Eagles. He’ll be a great value at 21.
Higgins is one of the most variable players early on in the draft. Some project him to be selected before the Eagles first round pick, but other have him falling to the end of the second round. Higgins is a do-it-all receiver that would be able to take carries and run with trick plays. He could be an excellent combination with Greg Ward Jr. in that regard.
Higgins appears to be almost a Josh Huff type of player, just with far more skill and far less off-the-field concern. Higgins isn’t someone with blazing fast speed, but he manages to get separation and can both gain yards after the catch as well as win in jump ball scenarios. If Higgins is on the board at this point and the Eagles have gone defense with their first pick, this is really a no-brainer.
Reagor is another receiver that some have going late in the first round but has the potential to drop to the Eagles in round two. He has the speed that could make him a true deep threat and would be an excellent pickup if the team is unable to land Ruggs in the first round.
Many Eagles fans are high on KJ Hamler, quite possible because of his Penn State connection, but Reagor has that same electric playmaking ability with a less talented team around him. He also comes with a much bigger body and does not have the same tendency to run backward and lose yardage in an attempt to create an even bigger play. Reagor might be the best fit for a team that either moves on from or plans on an injured DeSean Jackson.
Winfield is part of the reason why I have safeties as the lowest priority in round one. He seems unlikely to go before the Eagles pick based on his current draft stock, but he will be an absolute steal.
Winfield can be the exact type of safety that the Eagles would look for to pair with Malcolm Jenkins. He has the speed and reading ability to be a successful deep safety and is able to quickly recognize run plays and get to the line of scrimmage from center field before the runner is much beyond the line of scrimmage. He has also had punt return experience and is always around the ball, so he will get turnovers and they can lead to big returns to setup an offense in excellent position.
If Jim Schwartz is sticking around, which he hopefully will for the foreseeable future, Terrell is a big name to watch for that defensive scheme. While Terrell has shown the ability to cover deep, many of his best plays involve him coming from off his man in the short field. With the way that Schwartz lines up his corners at the line of scrimmage, Terrell could be a huge beneficiary of that type of play.
Terrell also doesn’t shy away from contact and can be an effective tackler in the run game.
Hall is probably not the pick for fans who want a sure thing. He is someone who may not thrive in each scheme and it is quite possible the Eagles are not someone that he would do well with because of his limitations. Hall is a big dude who uses his body and length to cutoff receivers from the ball. He is someone who will be excellent in jump ball situations and is almost like a cornerback version of Alshon Jeffery.
With that said, speed may be an issue for Hall and the team may not opt to go with another corner who can make big plays but be vulnerable to the deep ball. That factor might force the team that drafts him to keep a deep safety on the field and/or maintain zone coverage. Hall is a player that figures to be a boom or bust type of pick.
Ruiz can play any of the interior line positions, but would be most valuable as a center to develop behind Jason Kelce, though his early action may come at the guard position. He has a good chance of falling into the second round because of some work that needs to be done for him to become a good pass protector, but he has obvious skill in the run game.
Much like the pillars of the Eagles offensive line over the past half a decade, Ruiz has incredible quickness for a 320 pound guy which allows him to get down the field and to the outside for big gains on wheel routes and outside runs. Ruiz would be a good player to have as the first man off the bench inside and, if he can glean anything from Jason Kelce, could help the team with the eventual transition from one of the greatest centers to ever take the field upon Kelce’s decision to retire (whenever that may be).
Round three seems to be the point at which, with such a deep receiver class, receivers who would easily gone in other years have fallen well beyond their true value. No one embodies that more than Tyler Johnson. Johnson is not coming out of a program known for producing NFL talent and seems to be falling into the same trouble that previous dominant B10 receivers Mike Thomas and Chris Godwin fell into.
Johnson is my personal favorite receiver in the draft and his stock may very well rise to make him a second-round pick, but for now he should be available in round three. He is a game changer that can do almost everything. He is the kind of receiver that will get above average grades on physical tests, but his true impact will be far greater because of his football IQ and ability to run routes and create separation. He is a player that the Birds should not miss out on, even if it requires some trades being made.
Mims looks a lot like Alshon Jeffery on much of his film except he has a bit more speed. That allows him to both create some additional separation as well as navigate the open field and get yards after the catch.
Mims did not have the greatest quarterback play behind him but, oddly enough, that might help him get drafted higher. With a lot of passes being too short or too high, Mims has displayed a large catch radius with tapes filled with high-point receptions and catches being made over top of a defender.
Aiyuk brings speed and elusiveness to the table and would likely be in line for the return man job. He could become a high-impact gadget player to the table and should bring some big-play ability to a team that was sorely lacking it in 2019.
The downside is that Aiyuk is not all that skilled in most other respects as a receiver. At least at the start of his career, he figures to be more of a guy that will go for 150 yards one game and then less than 10 the next as he seeks big plays. The Eagles would need to manufacture ways to get him touches to avoid that kind of scenario.
Biadasz has had an inconsistent college career, but has shown enormous strength. He was a center at college, but he will also get looks at guard in the NFL. He has enormous strength and can make it look like he is throwing rag dolls aside at times while other times defenders appear to be unable to get away from him.
Aside from inconsistency, his biggest concern appears to be his mobility as he has not shown an ability to continuously reach the outside or make it to the second level, often falling behind the play by the time the runner crosses the line of scrimmage.
Hodgins has excellent size and a deadly double move, allowing him to create an opening for his quarterback. It allows him to be that jump-ball winning receiver that the Eagles have seemed to go after for the past few years.
He may be limited to that jump ball role, however as he lacks elite speed or burst and isn’t the most physical player out there. That limitation brings his ceiling down even if his floor as a jump-ball guy is higher than other options in the draft.