Third in a series of looks at positions the Eagles might target in the May 8-10 NFL draft:
What they have: The Eagles last year signed two veteran corners, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, who fit the size and strength profile Bill Davis' defensive system requires. They can play physically, battling tall receivers for the ball. The nickel corner, Brandon Boykin, is the Eagles' most athletic defensive back, with the most potential. Boykin intercepted a team-high six passes last season, despite playing a little more than half of the snaps. He's going to want to move outside eventually, because that's where the money is in cornerworld. But Boykin is 5-10 and the Eagles think he's best suited to playing in the slot. They also think the way offenses are evolving, the slot corner is just as important as the other two.
What they need: Fletcher is only signed through this coming season, Williams through 2015. They are not long-term building blocks. There's a real good chance, if the Eagles stay at 22nd overall in the first round, that the best player available there will be a cornerback, and if that's the case, the Birds should take one, even if it isn't a huge 2014 need. Yes, they need safety help more this season, but if the choice is between a good, unspectacular safety and a potential Pro Bowl corner, they need to take the corner.
What's available: If the Eagles stay at 22, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert are likely to be gone. Virginia Tech's fluid, physical Kyle Fuller might be available, and is becoming a popular mock draft pick for the Eagles. Fuller, 6-0, 190, is known as a hard worker. He has the long arms and big hands the Eagles look for.
TCU's Jason Verrett is 5-9, 189, with short arms and a slim build. He'll probably go somewhere in the first couple of rounds, probably not to the Eagles. Ohio State's 5-11, 194-pound Bradley Roby is fast and strong, but if you watched the Buckeyes last season, you saw their defense melt down more than once, and Roby was as up-and-down as anyone. The word "reckless" keeps coming up in scouting reports. After the first round, and probably after the second, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-3, 218) and N.C. State's Dontae Johnson (6-2, 200) might be worth keeping an eye on. Johnson could be converted to safety. (Remember, the Eagles got Earl Wolff out of N.C. State in the fifth round last season, and he looks like a keeper.) There's also Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin (5-11, 177), a top prospect who probably will sit out this season after suffering a right ACL tear at the Senior Bowl. Again, the Eagles are looking for a long-term building block, not a starter for 2014.