The yearly tradition of once-coveted NFL draft prospects falling from grace is in full force with less than four weeks remaining until the first night of the draft.
There’s a handful of prospects climbing draft boards, and someone has to take their places in the middle of the pack. As a result, there are a few players who were once projected as top-5 picks now at risk of falling to the Eagles later in the first round.
If one or multiple of these players are available when the Eagles are on the clock, should they take them or follow the lead of the teams before them?
Let’s start with an easy one.
Kyle Hamilton’s lack of a defined position was always going to scare some teams off, but the Notre Dame safety’s less-than-stellar athletic testing numbers at the combine and his subsequent pro day have raised questions about his status as an early-round pick.
Hamilton ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine, which was a 42nd-percentile time among safety prospects, according to MockDraftable.com. He followed it up with a much slower reported time at his pro day, somewhere in the 4.7-second range, according to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.
As a result, it’s looking like Hamilton, once projected as a top-3 pick, could go outside the top 10.
Drafting a safety in the first round, especially with those testing numbers, goes against some conventional wisdom. Trading up for one could be even more prohibitive. Still, the league is shifting to defensive systems that ask for more from their safeties, and the Eagles have a significant need at the position. If Hamilton gets into their range, even a slight move up for such a talented player makes sense.
Watching Hamilton, it’s clear he’s got the range to play deep safety and the size and toughness to play closer to the line of scrimmage. He logged plenty of man-coverage snaps over slot receivers and tight ends and has made plays in the backfield as a run defender or a blitzer.
He’d give the Eagles the flexibility to utilize multiple alignments and disguise coverages more effectively because of his versatility. Hamilton will be at his best with a creative defensive coordinator that has a plan for him, but he’s the type of difference maker teams should target in the first round.
Verdict: Thumbs up
Dean has long been a crush for linebacker-hungry Eagles fans, but the former Georgia standout has slid down draft boards after a shoulder injury precluded him from athletic testing. At 5-foot-11 3/4, 229 pounds, he’s undersized and there are valid concerns about his ability to take on run blocks at the next level.
Watching Dean against teams like Alabama, he struggled at times getting off blocks against bigger interior linemen. He still has shown the ability to get to the quarterback as a blitzer, is a plus in coverage, and has the speed to be a sideline-to-sideline linebacker when kept clean.
The Eagles’ rationale for taking him could be the amount of money they invest on defensive line talent and the assumption that Dean would be untouched on plenty of run downs. Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, and a potential draft pick or two should keep Dean from dealing with offensive linemen.
Is that convincing enough to break the decades-long streak of avoiding first-round linebackers?
Verdict: Thumbs down
Thibodeaux’s pre-draft process has been tumultuous for different reasons than Hamilton or Dean. His arm length wasn’t much to write home about and he didn’t run the three-cone drill at the combine, but the real reason for the Oregon edge rusher’s slide has been concerns stemming from interviews with teams, according to an ESPN report.
Thibodeaux has an impressive highlight reel, but there are valid concerns about his consistency and his effort if he doesn’t win his matchup early. Even though he’s got the tools to be a dominant edge rusher, he never really became that at Oregon.
As a result, Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker has leapfrogged Thibodeaux in most mock drafts, a steep falloff for a player who was once projected as the No. 1 overall pick.
It’s difficult to know whether any team should dispel the personality and effort concerns with Thibodeaux without having time to get to know him. If the Eagles are confident the concerns are misguided, he’s far too talented to pass on with the 15th pick. If they’re unsure, it’s a big risk to take.
Verdict: Thumbs sideways
Finally, an offensive player.
Linderbaum was an easy connection to the Eagles when Jason Kelce’s future was still undecided, but his draft stock has cooled a little and Kelce is coming back.
The 296-pound Iowa center isn’t going to be a fit for every team because of his size and centers with limited scheme versatility aren’t typically first-round picks. Most mock drafts have him going somewhere in the 20s.
Taking Linderbaum in the first round and redshirting him for a season would ensure the Eagles’ offensive line has a chance at remaining dominant even if Kelce retires next offseason. His athleticism would pair well with Landon Dickerson and Jordan Mailata and give the Eagles a trio of young, talented linemen.
Still, there are a few mid-round prospects that have a chance to be starter-level linemen in due time, and reaching for a center in the first round feels like a luxury pick for a team with so many needs.
Verdict: Thumbs down
Ojabo was another logical Eagles target as recently as two weeks ago, before the Michigan edge rusher blew out his Achilles at his pro day.
What exactly that does to his draft stock remains to be seen, but a player that relied so much on explosiveness coming off an injury is a risky proposition.
With so many talented edge rushers expected to go in the first few rounds, using a first-rounder on Ojabo feels too risky. Trading up in the second could be excellent value depending on if he’s still available. There’s a chance he becomes the next Sidney Jones, but Ojabo is still a tantalizing prospect at the right spot in the draft.
Verdict: Thumbs up (in the second round)