Eagles fans might take extra interest in Saturday's mega-matchup between Alabama and Georgia for the right to face Notre Dame in college's BCS National Championship Game.
That's because Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner and guard Chance Warmack are blue-chippers the Birds might consider with their first-round pick.
ESPN even rates Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones as the draft's best prospect, although that position hasn't been the club's highest priority for years.
True, the draft's not till May, but it's not too soon to speculate. Geeks have been doing mock drafts for weeks, naming names. Fans can still see many top college players live. Finally, the 3-8 Birds could wind up with a pick as high as No. 1, either by continuing their collapse or trading up from, say, No. 5.
The Washington Redskins sure don't regret trading from 6 to 2 last spring to land quarterback Robert Griffin III, a sensation so far as a rookie.
Neither of this year's top two quarterbacks - Geno Smith of West Virginia or Matt Barkley of USC - is being called as promising a prospect as Griffin or Andrew Luck, drafted No. 1 by Indianapolis.
Although some mocks have Smith the top pick, and others have Barkley, on other boards they fall much lower. "There are obvious weaknesses in their games right now," said Todd McShea of Scouts, Inc., writing for ESPN.com. He puts Smith as the draft's 16th best player, Barkley the 24th, though he admits either could go much higher to a team desperate for a quarterback.
"I have two quarterbacks on the Big Board, but Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are barely holding that status, as they are listed at Nos. 24 and 25 this week," agrees ESPN's Mel Kiper.
Bad timing for Philly. Mick Vick's injuries and pricey contract have raised doubts about his returning to the Eagles next year, and rookie Nick Foles has yet to prove he's the real deal.
Smith can be seen in action Saturday, hoping to raise his stock against hapless Kansas in a 2:30 p.m. game on Fox Sports Net.
Barkley's season ended a couple of weeks ago because of a shoulder injury.
Here are other names experts have been eyeing.
Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. 6-foot-6, 310-pounds. Texas A&M (no Saturday game, but likely to get a bowl bid). "He has plenty of size and strength, but he also moves incredibly well," says CBSSports.com, where Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both had the Eagles taking Joeckel at No. 4. "Their tackle position is in shambles," writes Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com, projecting Joeckel to the Birds at No. 5. "Jason Peters tore his Achilles; Demetress Bell has been a bust signing; while King Dunlap simply sucks. Even if Peters comes back close to 100 percent, an upgrade could be made at right tackle, which would allow Todd Herremans to move back to his natural guard position." Also slotted at 6 to the Eagles by OpposingViews.com.
The next-best offensive tackle, Taylor Lewan, a 6-7, 302 pounder from Michigan, was a suggestion for the Eagles by Bleacher Report, but he might be more of a trade-down pickup. McShay ranks "the tenacious player" at No. 17.
Cornerback Dee Milliner, 6-foot-1, 196 pounds. Alabama (plays SEC Championship game Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS.) For the Eagles, "early picks will probably go to the OL or defensive secondary," argues DraftTek.com, projecting the Birds to have the third-overall pick. ". . . Rewind 18 months and no one would have dreamt that would be the case. A CB group of Samuel, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie? A D coordinator's dream, right? Well Samuel's gone, and it's possible that both DRC (free agent) and Asomugha (trade bait) could be too." More cautious is McShay, who ranks Milliner as the 11th best prospect. Despite exceptional instincts, he's "not an elite playmaker at this point," McShay says.
Offensive guard Chance Warmack. 6-foot 2, 325 pounds. Alabama. Although not a pick by Eagles in a dozen mock drafts, Warmack fits an obvious team need: offensive line. "The best guard I've evaluated in the past decade, Warmack is the rare interior lineman worthy of a top-10 overall pick," writes McShay, who ranks Warmack as the third best pick overall, after Jones and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei of Utah. "Warmack is a big, strong, nasty lineman with good smarts and athleticism. He shows awareness, is an easy mover in pass protection and has power as a run-blocker," says McShay.