The Eagles hold the No. 25 pick in this week’s NFL draft, which begins Thursday in Nashville.
Our four beat writers — Zach Berman, Les Bowen, Paul Domowitch and Jeff McLane — have selected 12 players the Eagles might take, and ranked the likelihood the Eagles will choose them.
Berman: Jacobs is a good running back and fits the mold the Eagles like at the position, but I don’t see the Eagles spending a first-round pick on a running back when there’s better value elsewhere — and running backs they can find after the first night. If they went in this direction, though, they can be confident that he’d be a Day 1 contributor.
Bowen: The Eagles haven’t often had the chance to draft the guy being touted as the best running back in a draft class. It’s enticing, especially considering the problems they encountering manning the position last season, and the fact that offseason trade acquisition Jordan Howard is only signed for this season. They have done very well over the last few decades without taking a running back in the first round. Then again, if they stay at 25, we’re probably talking about choosing from a pool of second-round-level guys anyway. I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility, but with those two second-round picks, and good running backs such as Penn State’s Miles Sanders likely available in that round, it’s hard to see them pulling the trigger on Jacobs unless they are truly smitten.
» READ MORE: Will the Eagles find a difference-maker at No. 25?
Domowitch: There’s a decent chance that Jacobs, who is regarded by most as the top running back in the draft, still could be on the board at 25. But I just don’t get the sense that the Eagles are in love with the guy. He’s an explosive runner, but lacks top-end spend. And while he has natural hands, there are a number of three-down backs that will be available on Day 2 that are more dangerous in space.
McLane: Jacobs may have top 10 talent, but he plays a devalued position that could have him falling into the latter end of the first round. If he’s there at No. 25, the Eagles would have to think long and hard about drafting a running back with their top pick for the first time in 33 years. But they don’t slot their prospects in numerical order. They group them based upon projections and my guess is that if there are also lineman in that crowd (likely), they’ll go in that direction.
Berman: Because Lawrence is 342 pounds, he can be typecasted as an early-down run stuffer. I think he’s more, and the Eagles would be wise to look at the 21-year-old who has a combination of size and athleticism that is rare to find. He’s going to be a good NFL player. The question is, who else is on the board? Eagles fans should be satisfied if they wake up Friday morning with Lawrence on their roster.
Bowen: This guy checks some boxes — he’s likely to be there at 25, but he wouldn’t be considered a reach. He hasn’t shown himself to be a great pass rusher, but draft evaluators think he has potential there, and he would be a large, powerful man to contend with, next to Fletcher Cox, an absolute run-stopper, for a team that plays the Wide 9. I think there is a solid chance he could be the Eagles’ guy, if they don’t trade up or down, and if someone like, say, Lawrence’s more explosive Clemson teammate, Christian Wilkins, doesn’t slide down toward 25th overall.
Domowitch: Jim Schwartz’s taste in interior defensive linemen runs more toward explosive one-gap penetrators than 350-pound sun-blockers. But this sun-blocker is different. He is surprisingly athletic and has just 18 percent body fat. I doubt the positive PED test that kept him out of the playoffs will be much of a turnoff to the Eagles.
McLane: Lawrence is nimble for his size, but he isn’t an ideal one-gap penetrator. Which is fine if all the Eagles are looking for is a guy to play alongside Fletcher Cox. I’d want something more out of a first-round pick, but if he’s projected to be a three-down interior lineman then expending a high selection here wouldn’t be a bad move. Howie Roseman likes to draft players on the younger side and Lawrence doesn’t turn 22 until November.
» READ MORE: Ben Fennell analyzes the interior defensive linemen
Berman: This is the biggest question on the list. Based on the talent alone, if the Eagles can get Simmons at No. 25, they should. But they’d need to accept a redshirt year in 2019 and be confident of his health when he returns. There’s also video of Simmons striking a woman while in high school for which Simmons has needed to answer.
Bowen: This is the kind of bargain the Eagles like — a top-drawer talent in an outstanding group of defensive tackle prospects, who probably will be available at 25th overall only because of an ACL injury sustained in offseason training. Will their experience with corner Sidney Jones make them cautious? They still really like Jones, who won’t turn 23 until next month. Remember, the Eagles aren’t really drafting for this season so much, they feel they addressed crucial needs with free agents and trades this offseason. Given their relative lack of high draft picks the past three years, they face a real talent drain in the seasons ahead, so getting a guy you think could be a 2022 Pro Bowl candidate has allure. I think Simmons is a strong possibility if someone else doesn’t take the gamble first.
Domowitch: Simmons would’ve been a certain top-15, maybe even top-10, pick if not for the ACL injury he suffered in February. Think Fletcher Cox and you have an idea of this kid’s skill-set. You’re going to have to redshirt him for a year. But the Eagles were willing to do that with Sidney Jones. Might even be able to trade down a couple of spots and get him and also get back the third-round pick they gave up for Golden Tate last year.
McLane: I don’t think the February ACL injury which could sideline Simmons for his rookie season will deter the Eagles at all. They’re one of a few teams in position to wait a year because of their depth at defensive tackle and they’ve gambled on injured rookies before (see: Sidney Jones). Some may say Jones’ slow integration into the NFL might make it a hard sell for the Eagles, but snagging Simmons could be like getting a Top 5 talent at a No. 25 price. The main issue, the way I see it, is the video of Simmons hitting a woman repeatedly when he was in high school. Once is too many in most eyes, but if the Eagles believe it was an isolated incident, they could be willing to pull the trigger. Jeffrey Lurie has to sign off on all top picks, but he would have significant input if Roseman was serious about selecting Simmons.
Berman: If Christian Wilkins is on the board at No. 25, their only concern should be whether their representative in Nashville sprains his ankle running in the card with Wilkins’ name on it. That’s how much of a no-brainer he would be — and it’s conceivable that the proven, skilled defensive tackle slips to the Eagles if everything else breaks right. It would help if four quarterbacks are drafted in the top 17 and if there’s an early run on offensive linemen.
Bowen: If Wilkins really does last until the 25th pick, for once, all those “we couldn’t believe the guy we wanted was still on the board” quotes will actually be the truth. If the Eagles have a chance to draft this marquee talent, I think they will. But I would think they’d have to trade up several slots, at least.
» READ MORE: Why the Eagles are likely to take a defensive tackle
Domowitch: Mocks have him going as early as 14 to Atlanta and as late as 32 to New England. Personally, I don’t see any way he slips to the Eagles. But if he does and they don’t take him, Jeff Lurie should immediately give Howie Roseman a Breathalyzer test. Wilkins isn’t a great point-of-attack player, but he has tremendous initial quickness and will be in opposing backfields enough to qualify for residency.
McLane: A deep class could slip a few defensive tackles. I’m not sure if Wilkins will last till No. 25, but if he gets to the early 20s, Roseman could be willing to part with an additional pick to jump a few spots. Wilkins is a bit of a project, but with Cox and Malik Jackson ahead of him, he would have ample time to develop.
Berman: Tillery will likely be on the board at No. 25, and he would be a solid pick for the Eagles. He checks a lot of boxes with size and production. If the Eagles are satisfied with his health, Tillery has loads of potential to develop. They also must be confident he can fit in their scheme, but he should be in consideration.
Bowen: If this is the player you want, I say trade back and add a pick somewhere, then take him. Not consistent enough to be a true first-round talent, to me. Maybe in a less-star-studded defensive line class he would be, but not this year. I think he has a lot of potential, but I will be surprised if Tillery is truly the best option at 25. But the trade-back-and-add thing might be prudent, in the long run.
Domowitch: Tillery figures to go late in the first round or early in the second. The Eagles could trade down, add a draft pick and take him. But he’s not really a good fit for them. The 6-6, 295-pounder with the 81-inch wingspan and 10 ¾-inch hands figures to go to a 3-4 team that will use him primarily as a 5-technique end.
McLane: He’s a defensive lineman, which alone must have him on the Eagles’ radar. But I don’t think he’s an ideal scheme fit. Roseman emphasized the importance of environment when drafting. You want to bring in the most talented players, but you also want to drop them into systems where they can thrive the most. Tillery looks a lot like a 3-4 defensive end to me. Maybe if Chip Kelly were still in Philly he’d be the choice. Otherwise I think he’s only a trade-back option.
Berman: Ferrell doesn’t have the same athletic profile of some of the other top edge rushers, but sign me up for a defensive end with 21 sacks during the past two years at Clemson. That counts. It mattered for Derek Barnett. He can contribute as a rotational pass rusher early in his career and pair with Barnett as a starter for the next decade.
Bowen: I wish we knew whether the Eagles think Josh Sweat, a fourth-round pick last year who showed pretty much nothing, is going to mature into a useful player. That would help assess the possibility of going with an edge rusher in the first. I guess as long as Jim Schwartz is the defensive coordinator, you can never discount the possibility. And it’s a great draft for edge rushers. Ferrell is a big, strong dude who might not have star-level quickness and “bend,” but he’s a future starter for sure. Very good chance that he, like Wilkins, is gone by pick 25.
» READ MORE: Ben Fennell’s favorite edge rusher is …
Domowitch: Yet another member of Clemson’s front four who likely is on the Eagles’ short list at 25. Doesn’t have quick-twitch explosiveness, but his long arms are assets at the point of attack. He had 21 sacks and 38 tackles for losses the last two seasons. They wouldn’t trade up for him, but if he’s there at 25, he’ll get serious consideration.
McLane: Among first-round caliber defensive ends, I think Ferrell has the best chance of landing in Philly. The Eagles haven’t been dogmatic about length on the edges, but the Clemson product has height (6-foot-4) and long arms (34-1/8). His effort may be what excites the most. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are high motor ends and Ferrell can be described the same.
Berman: Burns would be an intriguing pick if he’s on the board, although I’d be surprised if a 6-5, 249-pound edge rusher who is 20 years old and ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash after recording 10 sacks at Florida State falls that far.
Bowen: Here is a speed edge rusher, in spades. Aggressive, polished, relentless — there is an awful lot to like, but as is the case with several of the prospects we’re highlighting, the Eagles might have to trade up to get him. The whole 225-to-249 pounds in a few months to satisfy scouts who wondered about bulk really gives me pause. We haven’t seen him play at 249.
Domowitch: Burns played last year at just 225 pounds. But when he showed up at the combine at 249 and still ran a 4.5 forty, he went from a Day 2 situational player to a mid-first-round pick. The problem is he’s probably out of the Eagles’ reach now, and they’re not going to trade up for him.
McLane: The Eagles have drafted lanky ends that either added significant weight predraft or needed to post-draft, but never in the early rounds. Burns has obvious skill and size-speed parameters. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine and has a freakish 83-5/8ths wing span. He also just turned 21. But I think he’s more of a trade back option than a No. 25 one.
Berman: Wide receiver is a long-term need for the Eagles and last year showed they always need short-term depth, so pay close attention to Brown. He has a special skill set that will give the Eagles a heir apparent to DeSean Jackson, and I think this is the pick if there’s not a defensive lineman they like on the board.
Bowen: All of a sudden, this is the hot mock-draft guy for the Eagles’ pick. It isn’t a great year for wide receivers, but Brown is a high-ceiling speedster, built almost exactly like DeSean Jackson. The Eagles don’t really know what to expect from Jackson this season; he turns 33 in December and tends to miss games with injuries here and there. Brown would be a long-term weapon for Carson Wentz, on a team that could use more speed. He’s coming off Lisfranc surgery but should be ready for training camp. Personally, I think his nickname of “Hollywood” should come with an asterisk since it’s a reference not to tinseltown but to his hometown in Florida.
Domowitch: Brown is a DeSean Jackson clone. An undersized vertical threat who can take the top off a defense. Why would a team that already has a guy like that take another one so early? Well, because Jackson is a short-termer. The expected run on edge-rushers and interior defensive linemen could push down Brown to the Eagles.
McLane: The Eagles need to get faster, even after acquiring DeSean Jackson this offseason, and Brown would certainly help in that regard. With NFL teams adding more college concepts to their offenses, players who can create in space have increased value. Brown will get labeled as guy who can stretch defenses, and he certainly has that capability, but he can also burn after the catch. Size is an issue. He’s 5-9, 166 pounds. But he plays bigger on downfield throws and should bring a long-term dynamic to Doug Pederson’s offense.
Berman: This would be a sensible pick for the Eagles, considering his guard-tackle versatility. The Eagles have intriguing young options on the offensive line, but they don’t have a surefire starter for the openings in the upcoming years. If the top defensive linemen are off the board, watch out for Ford or teammate Marquise Brown.
Bowen: This selection would not excite fans but there is every justification for looking to the future, given age and injury along the Eagles’ excellent offensive line. The O-line draft investment has not been strong enough over the past several years. Analysts seem to think Ford can be a starting guard right away, might need some time to develop into a starting right tackle. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein compares Ford to Brandon Brooks.
Domowitch: Never discount the possibility of the Eagles’ taking an offensive lineman in the first round, particularly with a 37-year-old left tackle, a right guard coming off a ruptured Achilles and a center who figures to retire sooner rather than later. Ford is a Brandon Brooks-like road-grader with long arms who can play both inside and outside. Many think he’ll go to Houston at 23.
McLane: The Eagles have hyped developmental offensive linemen Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor, but it’s tough to say what they really think of the second-year prospects. They likely have reservations, as well, since neither has yet to play an NFL game. So they may be willing to go O-line early with Jason Peters nearing the end. Ford has tackle-guard versatility, but some scouts project him in the interior. I don’t know if taking a guard at No. 25 is getting good value, but if the Eagles go O-line Ford seems the most likely.
Berman: If you told me Williams would slip to No. 25, this is a different story. But he’ll go much earlier — perhaps in top 10 — and won’t be in discussion for the Eagles. If the Eagles are trading up that high, it’s for a player rushing the quarterback and not protecting him.
Bowen: I just don’t see how he’s there at 25, and I agree with Paul Domowitch — there are positions the Eagles might trade up for in this draft, but O-line really isn’t one of them. Williams has gotten a lot of notice for the intricate way he prepares for opponents, doing his own filmwork and mapping out spreadsheets. He seems likely to succeed, wherever he ends up.
Domowitch: Most mocks have Williams going long before the Eagles’ pick at 25 — possibly as early as eighth to Detroit — and a trade-up for an offensive lineman just isn’t something they’re going to do. That said, if Williams, who played left tackle at ‘Bama but probably is going to get kicked inside, unexpectedly made it down to them, the Eagles likely would gobble him up.
McLane: Williams is rated higher than Ford by most evaluators and is expected to go in the first 15 picks. He’s projected to be an NFL guard by many so he could slip, but I don’t think he’ll get to the Eagles. Roseman and company need to start thinking about Carson Wentz’s long-term protection, but there are other avenues to finding starting o-linemen.
Berman: If the Eagles go with a safety this early, my guess is it’s more of a deep safety with a cornerback background than Abram. I’d watch out for Darnell Savage, Juan Thornhill, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Nasir Adderley. They make more sense in the second round, though.
Bowen: Abram seems likely to be the first safety picked, somewhere in the late 20s, but I don’t think he’ll go to the Eagles, even though fans would love his hard-hitting style. The Eagles tend to like safeties who can cover, not the quasi-linebacker guys. There ought to be much better fits available in the second round, such as Philly’s own Nasir Adderley, who played at Delaware, and Delaware’s Darnell Savage, who played at Maryland. (Is that confusing enough?)
Domowitch: The Eagles need to start thinking about eventual replacements for Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but the first round of this draft isn’t really the place to do it. The second and third rounds are. Abrams likely will be available at 25. But he’s most effective playing up close to the line of scrimmage, and that’s not really how Jim Schwartz uses either of his safeties.
McLane: The odds the Eagles take a safety in the first round, particularly one who excels more in the box than in center field, are low. But if you consider the increasing importance of versatile defensive backs, Abram may make sense here. Malcolm Jenkins isn’t getting any younger and Rodney McLeod is coming off an injury, too. Still, I can’t see Roseman drafting a defensive back this early.
» READ MORE: Philly-area players who could be drafted
Berman: The Eagles have exhausted significant draft capital in cornerbacks and recent years, and I think they’d only take one early on Thursday if the value is too good to be true. That’s not Baker.
Bowen: The Eagles and corners have been a big discussion topic in the run-up to the draft. Many mocks have the Eagles taking a corner in the first round. There seem to be two main reasons — this draft’s top corners figure to start being drafted in the 20s, and some national reporters just look at the Eagles’ ranking of 30th in passing yards allowed last season and figure they need help. But the problem last season was injuries, the Eagles used 10 corners, literally pulling guys in off the street, and this season, they figure to start with six corners they seem to like. So corner is not really a likely first-round scenario, unless you think Baker or someone else there is a slam-dunk All-Pro, and nobody else at any other position, who’s available to you at 25, projects that way.
Domowitch: Jim Schwartz is ready to go to war this season with Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills and nickel Cre’von LeBlanc as his top four corners. Yeah, Darby only signed a one-year deal and Jones has yet to prove he can stay healthy. But I just can’t see the Eagles spending the 25th pick in the draft on a corner who runs a 4.52 forty.
McLane: I’m still not sure why he’s on this list. (That statement alone and my ranking will likely mean the Eagles draft Baker).