Four players who could interest Eagles at No. 20
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, CB Marcus Peters, S Landon Collins and offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings all could be available.
UNTIL IT becomes official on draft day, until Roger Goodell stands at the podium and announces to all the world that someone else has wed Marcus Mariota, there will be people clinging to the hope that Chip Kelly will find a way to rescue the former Oregon quarterback from the clutches of Ken Whisenhunt or some other head coach who has no clue how to maximize his talents, and they will live happily ever after at One NovaCare Way.
Hell, even after he is claimed by someone else, there no doubt will be some who hope against hope that Chip can pick up the phone and snooker the poor sap in a postdraft trade and still wind up with Mariota.
For now, though, let's be a little more realistic. Let's stop thinking with our hearts and start thinking with our heads.
Let's pretend the Eagles don't trade up for Mariota on draft day, or anyone else, for that matter. Let's pretend they hunker down right where they are at No. 20 and pick someone.
Who might it be? With the draft just 3 weeks away, here are four interesting possibilities:
I talked to an NFC personnel guy who told me his team has Green-Beckham rated as the second-best wide receiver in the draft, behind only Louisville's DeVante Parker.
"He is better than both White and Cooper," the scout said. "Obviously he won't go that high because of his off-the-field situation. But skillwise, this guy is Fitzgerald. He's Calvin Johnson. He's Dez Bryant. He's that good. But he's not going to go nearly as high as he should because of his off-the-field issues. He'll probably be there at 20."
Green-Beckham started out at Missouri but was kicked off the team, wound up at Oklahoma and never played for the Sooners.
It's easier to take a chance on a character risk at 20 than it is at 6 or 7. The prospect of getting a guy with Green-Beckham's size, speed (4.49) and upside has to be more than a little intriguing to Kelly.
At worst, Peters is the second-best corner in the draft behind Michigan State's Trae Waynes. And some NFL scouts I've talked to think Peters actually might be better than Waynes. But Peters, like Green-Beckham, has character questions that probably will cause him to still be unclaimed when the Eagles go on the clock at 20. He was dismissed from Washington's team during last season.
As with Green-Beckham, the question is, are the Eagles comfortable enough with his past problems to take a chance on him at 20? If he behaves, he'll be a bargain. If he doesn't, well, what's another blown first-round pick, right?
"He really can cover," an AFC scout said. "He's a press guy, who can play off. He's instinctive. He'll get lazy at times and not be totally focused in and give up routes he shouldn't give up. But I think that's more of somebody just to stay on top of him. He's a good tackler who likes to tackle. He has average speed. He's not a burner. But he knows how to play whoever he's playing against. I'm not so sure he's not better than Waynes.''
Collins, out of Alabama, is the only first-round-worthy safety in the draft. While that could cause him to get taken higher than his talent might deserve, most NFL people I've talked to think there's a good chance he'll be on the board at 20. The Eagles obviously need a safety, so you're thinking this is a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. The truth is Collins is more of an in-the-box type of safety, which isn't what the Eagles really are looking for. The top priority of a safety in Bill Davis' scheme is being able to cover really well. Defending the run is a distant second.
The NFC personnel guy I talked to said he doesn't think Collins is as good as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, another Alabama safety who was selected by Green Bay last year with the 21st overall pick.
"He's instinctive and aware and he can diagnose and all of those things,'' the scout said. "It's not that he can't play in the back end . But his skill level, he's a good tackler, he's physical. That's his strength. If I'm them, I don't know if that's the direction I'd go, given the defense they play.''
It's hard to say how high a priority Kelly feels drafting an offensive lineman is right now. He seems surprisingly comfortable with the prospect of Allen Barbre and his eight career starts replacing Todd Herremans at right guard. But his two All-Pros on the left side, tackle Jason Peters and guard Evan Mathis, both are 33.
Mathis has been the subject of trade speculation the entire offseason. Right tackle Lane Johnson will eventually move over to left tackle when Peters succumbs to Father Time, which probably will be after the 2016 season when his cap number jumps to $11.2 million.
Iowa's Brandon Scherff is expected to be the first offensive lineman taken in the draft, but probably not until somewhere around 8 or 10. After that, there are six other guys, including Clemmings, who are pretty much lumped together, depending on what you're looking for. Clemmings, out of Pittsburgh, is a former defensive lineman with long arms and explosive upper-body strength who would be a good fit, inside or outside, in the Eagles' blocking scheme. He's not really a left tackle, but could play right tackle or guard.
Figuring the Eagles
* I'm sorry, but I'm not buying LeSean McCoy's explanation that the reason he was traded was because Chip Kelly doesn't like or respect "star" players. While I don't think Kelly ever was crazy about McCoy's personality, his departure had more to do with his cap number, his nearly 1,800 touches in six NFL seasons and his running style.
McCoy is one of the league's top running backs. Even Kelly has acknowledged that. Over the last four seasons, only Marshawn Lynch has notched more rushing yards. But McCoy's tendency to "dance" and look for the home run rather than just hit the hole frustrated Kelly. While he has acknowledged that he won with different types of runners at Oregon, he prefers one-cut downhill runners who won't put his offense in a lot of negative situations. That's what DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are. That's not what McCoy is.
Over the last two seasons, McCoy has rushed for 2,926 yards. The only NFL back with more is Murray (2,966). That's the good news. The bad news is that 75 of McCoy's 626 carries, or 12 percent, resulted in negative yards. Just 8.7 percent of Murray's 2013-14 carries, and 7.2 percent of those by Mathews, have.
Last season, 20 of McCoy's 119 second-down carries, or a whopping 16.8 percent, resulted in lost yards. That put the Eagles in way too many third-and-longs. They had a league-high 200 third-down situations of 3 yards or more. Their 37 third downs of 2 yards or less were the seventh fewest in the league. Just one of the six teams with fewer (Arizona with 36) finished with a winning record.
A 4-year look at the percentage of runs that resulted in negative yards for McCoy, Murray and Mathews:
Total First Down Second Down
Att./For Loss Att./For Loss Att./For Loss
McCoy 1099/149 584/76 410/64
(13.6%) (13.0%) (15.6%)
Murray 934/90 582/49 282/36
(9.6%) (8.4%) (12.8%)
Mathews 765/57 470/35 258/20
(7.4%) (7.4%) (7.7%)
* When both are healthy, I think Sam Bradford is a better quarterback than Nick Foles and certainly a better fit for Chip Kelly's spread offense. If you look at their career numbers, though, Foles has a better completion rate and yards-per-attempt average on throws from every distance. Foles has a plus-18 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential on deep balls (throws of 20 yards or more), while the stronger-armed Bradford is at just plus-3. Forty-one of Bradford's 60 touchdown passes have come on throws of 0 to 19 yards. Just 16 have been on 20-plus-yard throws:
NICK FOLES SAM BRADFORD
Cmp. Yds. Cmp. Yds.
Pct. /Att. TD Int. Pct. /Att. TD Int.
20+ Yards 38.0 11.8 27 9 35.4 11.6 16 13
10-19 Yards 60.9 10.1 9 5 49.7 8.2 15 11
0-9 Yards 72.2 6.6 8 3 70.0 5.8 26 12
Minus Yards 91.1 6.7 2 0 86.3 5.7 3 2
Source: Pro Football Focus
This and that
* Chip Kelly said Brandon Boykin, the team's 5-9-and-change nickel corner, will be given an opportunity to win the outside corner spot opposite Byron Maxwell. I'll believe it when I see it. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has made no secret he clearly prefers longer corners on the outside and feels Boykin's skill set is better suited for playing inside. "Show us what we have and what's available to us and everybody competes,'' Kelly said. "Whoever is best out of that outside corner group is going to play for us.''
* Let's get something straight. Contrary to what you may have read, there is zero chance the Eagles will trade Mychal Kendricks. He's one of the top young linebackers in the league. He has All-Pro potential. The reason Kelly made those comments about Kendricks missing four games and most of a fifth last year with a calf injury wasn't because he's looking to get rid of him. It was to send him a message about the importance of sometimes having to play hurt.
- Paul Domowitch
On Twitter: @Pdomo