Nice choices in NFL's corner store
There Eagles are likely to have some intriguing cornerbacks to consider for the first round.
INDIANAPOLIS - The media portion of the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine is over. From an Eagles perspective, what did we learn?
If you're chasing the Marcus Mariota dream - I don't think it's happening, but, due diligence - the positive vibes Jameis Winston engendered in Indy, in interviews with teams and with reporters, certainly kept alive the possibility that Winston will be the No. 1 overall pick and Mariota could somehow slide down the list to a spot the Eagles might reach by trading up. Again, I see it as a really slight chance, but it didn't diminish at the combine.
Maybe the biggest thing that happened from a possible Eagles QB perspective was that UCLA's Brett Hundley and Baylor's Bryce Petty, pretty much dismissed from serious franchise quarterback discussion heading into this, threw and talked a pretty good game. Of course, there were no opportunities to be intercepted, or to ignore progressions and take off on the run, but Hundley and Petty kindled a glimmer of hope that one or both could develop into a big-time QB, especially in an offense such as the Eagles', with some of the spread concepts they worked with in college.
"After the first two guys, there's nobody really ready to step in and play," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said at the conclusion of the combine media availability Saturday evening. "I think they're all down the road a bit. Petty's a year or two away. Hundley's a couple years away."
Mayock praised Petty as "just a beautiful, natural thrower of the football," though "he has got a long way to go. It's a project, and I don't think it's a 1-year project."
Maybe more important in terms of this year's first round, the idea that need and available talent might converge around the cornerback position at the Birds' 20th overall position in the first round seems more and more prominent.
At the combine, for the first time, reporters covering the Eagles got to stand in front of some of the contenders there. Here are some relevant snippets:
LSU corner Jalen Collins acknowledged that the advisory board that helps underclassmen decide whether to declare for the draft advised him to return to school, after just 10 career starts for the talent-loaded Tigers. (The NFL changed its advisory process, because of disappointed underclassmen in previous drafts; players now are projected as first- or second-round selections, or told they should stay in school.)
But Collins seems to have emerged as a strong contender for the first round.
"I was really excited," he told reporters in Indianapolis. "I never really had a lot of hype or exposure on the big stage."
Mayock said Collins, 6-1, 203, was someone he "didn't know a lot about until a couple of weeks ago when I watched his tape, and I went 'Wow!' . . . He's a first round physical trait corner, who I need to learn a lot more about."
Mayock and other analysts rank Michigan State's Trae Waynes and Washington's Marcus Peters ahead of Collins. Peters, 6-foot, 197, helped himself in Indianapolis by seeming contrite about having been kicked off the Huskies team last season. He has mended fences with coach Chris Petersen, whose 2014 season was his first at Washington. Peters will take part in the Huskies' pro day.
Wake Forest corner Kevin Johnson is widely considered a first- or second-round talent. Johnson, 6-foot, 188, called man-press coverage "a great strength from me. I'm a longer cornerback. I got size and speed and ability to change directions at the point of attack."
Johnson called himself "a late bloomer."
Also in that mix somewhere is Florida State's P.J. Williams, 6-foot, 196, who said he prides himself on his physicality, which he developed playing safety in high school. "It was definitely an easy transition" to playing press corner for the Seminoles, he said. He said he needs improvement in his footwork, and on "being able to stay square consistently."
He said he liked playing safety growing up, "just being able to come up and hit people, and stuff like that."
Williams was ticketed in Tallahassee in October after leaving the scene of an accident, and had a suspended license at the time. He said he tells teams "just that I'm definitely a good kid, I don't have a bad background, just that you're not going to get any problems out of me once I'm on their team."
A corner who won't go in the first round but bears watching from an Eagles perspective is Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who is 8 weeks past ACL surgery. Ekpre-Olomu was considered a top prospect before he suffered a season-ending injury in practice Dec. 17, though he might not fit the Eagles' long-corner template at 5-9, 192.
Ekpre-Olomu said that he expects to be back on the field by September. Asked how he thinks the injury will affect his draft position, Ekpre-Olomu said: "I'm not really too worried how it will affect my draft stock. I'm more worried about, once I get there, how I'm going to move on from there, and how I'm going to perform once I get onto the team."