By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONIVILLE — So much for the best-laid plans, huh?
A day after I worked out a mock draft for the ages – yes, a roadmap to Utopia for the Philadelphia Eagles – they have done what they have done to me since I got into this Draftnik business.
Made a mock of mockery (even though, through my tears of seasons ended in disappointment, I often have the last laugh).
For the sake of posterity, I want it put into the Kangaroo court record that my original mock went like this: First round (8th overall), Myles Jack, LB, UCLA; Third Round (77th overall) – Vernon Butler, DT, Lousiana Tech; Third Round (79th overall) – Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas; Fourth Round (100th overall) – Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple; Fifth Round (153rd overall) – Willie Beavers, OT, Western Michigan; Fifth Round (164th overall) – Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA; Sixth Round (188th overall) – Mike Jordan, CB, Missouri Western; Seventh Round (233rd overall) – Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan and Seventh Round (251st overall) – Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State.
Quickly, the rationale for my PF (Posterity File).
I saw Jack as a top-five talent, and maybe the best defensive player – if not linebacker – in the draft. A knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season pushed him out of the Top 5 and most reputable mock drafts, much to my surprise, still had him on the board at pick no. 8. With Conner Barwin and Brandon Graham moving to defensive end, the chance was there to line up three young studs – Jack, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks at linebacker. Because all three have injury histories, I doubled-down on Matakevich, whose exploits at Temple should be well-known to all, in the fourth round.
With the futures of both Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan in doubt after this year, Butler was a gift from the football gods in the third round. Most years, a player with his size (6-foot-3½, 325 pounds) and raw ability would go earlier, maybe as early as the late first round, but the depth of the defensive line in this draft class would have pushed him into the Eagles’ laps in the middle of the third.
Collins is hard-charging, decisive runner with more than 3,700 career yards – including close to 1,600 last season – to his credit. Coming out after his junior year, there is plenty of fuel still in his tank.
Beavers has the feet to play left tackle but the girth to project to the right side. He would have been a project worth the investment.
Payton was the all-time leading receiver in UCLA history whose only knock is lack of a “wow” factor. Jordan is a Division II standout with good size (6-foot-½-inch, 200 pounds), speed (4.48 in the 40) and production at the Division II level. He would be a special-teams standout from the jump, with upside to help in the secondary down the line.
Braverman is a slot receiver cut from the Edelman-Welker-Amendola cloth and will make somebody’s roster, so why not ours? Only an ACL injury in his past is hurting his stock. And if this is not the year to draft to a quarterback of the future, why not the ideal backup quarterback of the future in the strong-armed but undersized Bercovici?
Then, well, Wednesday happened.
Trade changes everything
Not only did the Flyers avoid a sweep at the hands of the Washington Capitals, the Eagles mortgaged the farm for a farm boy, moving up to the second overall spot held by the Cleveland Browns. The price was steep. The eighth overall pick and the first of two third-rounders – the 77th pick – and the fourth-rounder this year, plus a first next year and a second the following year.
Cleveland was gracious enough to toss in its fourth-round pick next year.
With that, let’s start this thing all over again. While I could mail it in – and deploy my wife’s logic of just keeping all the picks the Eagles still have the same – one with a true football brain knows it is more complicated than that. The dominos, in terms of wants and needs, fall completely differently.
So here, until Howie Roseman busts my groove again before Thursday, is my revised 2016 full mock draft for a Philadelphia Eagles franchise that has been flagless since 1960.
First Round (2nd overall): Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Listen, it’s not that I don’t like Wentz. To the contrary. I was one of three people watching practices at the Senior Bowl on the NFL Network, and he was throwing darts through the strong winds in that morning session. Watched him some more on You Tube, and there was nothing not to like. I have always maintained that if you are going to draft a franchise quarterback, he needs to have it all – size, arm strength, mobility, smarts (he has a 4.0 GPA at a school where basket-weaving is not an acceptable major) and the ability to win (two FCS titles).
If he fell to the Eagles when they were still at 13, which is more around where he was slotted until the recent league-wide lovefest, I would have pounced. To the No. 8 spot, where the Eagles moved in a deal with Miami? With Jack still on the board? I don’t know. I just don’t know. What I do know, is that it offends my draft-geek sensibilities when any team gives up too much for one player. This it is my team, so it only makes it worse.
There is a small chance that the Los Angeles Rams, who traded up to No. 1, take Wentz. However, the loud whispers in the league winds have it that California’s Jared Goff will be their franchise quarterback of choice. I don’t think the Eagles would have made their move had they not been pretty certain that Wentz would be there at No. 2, as he is reportedly their first choice to build around.
At No. 2, I would take Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, but there is no point in going there, right?
Wentz it will be, so Wentz it is.
Third Round (79th overall): Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Collins, despite being part of a rotation with the Razorbacks – and only being the “starter” one year – posted the production cited earlier, doing it with more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons. In fact, only Herschel Walker and Darren McFadden have more rushing yards in the history of the SEC. At 5-10 and 217 pounds, with 4.59 speed, Collins has the type of physical and instinctive running style that translates well into the NFL. He was not asked to block or catch much in college. While it doesn’t mean he can’t accrue those skills, the lack of tape in those areas will likely hurt his stock enough to leave him on the board toward the end of Day 2. He would be an ideal stunt double for oft-injured starter Ryan Mathews.
It wasn’t easy choosing him over Butler, but the Eagles need another first- and second-down runner in their stable and they may as well make a talented one.
Fifth Round (153rd overall): Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
He lacks the upside of my first choice at this position, Butler, but he is probably more shovel-ready. A two-year starter for the Longhorns, Ridgeway lined up all over the line. At a shade over 6-3 and 303 pounds, he projects more inside in a 4-3 front and has an intense style of play to go along a quick first-step. While breaking up was hard to do with Butler, the Eagles are lucky that the defensive line depth in this draft will have a guy like Ridgeway left on the board.
Fifth Round (164th overall): Joe Haeg, OT, North Dakota State
Hey, if you are going to take Wentz and bring him to the big city, you may as well have a best buddy for company. And it doesn’t hurt that Haeg, a walk-on who played ice hockey in high school, emerged as the dominant offensive lineman – albeit on the FCS level. At 6-6, he will need to add a good 15-20 pounds of bulk to a 304-pound frame that was more than enough, with his advanced footwork, to make him an immovable object in front of Wentz. The four-year starter, who moved from right tackle to left tackle over the course of his highly-decorated career, would be an ideal candidate to develop at right tackle for when Lane Johnson moves to the left side.
Sixth Round (188th overall): Mike Jordan, CB, Missouri Western
Yes, the Eagles could have used a corner earlier – even though I didn’t have one in my original mock – but the reality is that may be able to get by without one as raw-but-exciting as the physical Jordan, who could even be looked at as a safety.
The only knock on Jordan is that he played on the Division II level and easily locked down the top receivers on opposing teams (collecting five interceptions last year, despite not much coming to his side of the field). He wouldn’t be the first late-round corner from a small school to make an impact, and he won’t be the last.
Second-year man Eric Rowe, last year’s second-round pick, will start at one outside spot and Nolan Carroll will likely man the other corner while Leodis McKelvin handles the slot. Another free agent signed out of the Buffalo, Ron Brooks, is likely to press for time. Behind them, likely battling for one or two roster spots, would be several young guys who are roster holdovers. That list includes Jaylen Watkins and Denzel Rice, the only undrafted rookie to make last year’s roster, and 2015 sixth-round selections JacCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans. Add Jordan to the mix and see which one or two – depending on how many safeties are kept – earns it in camp.
Seventh Round (233rd overall): Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
For the reasons stated above, I can’t quit on this guy. The fact that he is a shade under 5-10 and 175 pounds works to his benefit, as he uses his deceptive 4.52 speed to dart in and out of spaces in the middle of the field. And you can’t knock this production last season: 109 catches for 1,367 yards (12.6 average) and 13 touchdowns. He can also return punts and kicks.
Seventh Round (251st overall): Jatavis Brown, LB, Akron
OK, let’s dispense with the only major negative first. Other than he is not Myles Jack – or Matakevich, for that matter – Brown measures at 5-11½ and 219 pounds. However, he is the type of intense player – with sideline-to-sideline quickness and outstanding read-and-react skills – that will make a roster and help as a situational role player and special-teams ace. On that alone, he is worth the shot. And this is the pick acquired from Arizona for Matt Barkley, so consider it a steal after his first tackle.
Priority Free Agents: Sorry class, we are not dismissed yet. Unless Roseman can weave some hidden magic and come up with some extra picks, the Eagles will be active after the draft. While Chip Kelly rarely gave undrafted players a shot to do much more than make the practice squad, new coach Doug Pederson’s mentor, Andy Reid, almost went too far the other way and put undrafted rookies on a level playing field with later-round draft picks.
Who to look for? Start local, with the only football team playing out of the Linc last year to actually have a winning season: Temple. Matakevich – along with defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and slot corner Tavon Young – are likely to be drafted. Lanky wide receiver Robby Anderson and center Kyle Friend, who wowed scouts at his pro days with his bench-pressing prowess, would be nice additions. Defensive lineman Hershey Walton won’t be drafted, but he is a high-character guy who would bring intensity to the practice field. Nate D. Smith, the brother of Reid-era tight end L.J. Smith, is an undersized pass-rushing specialist worth a look.
Since we are going all out on North Dakota guys, fullback Nick Bonnet could be brought to battle for that spot. Considering the best option at fullback could be third tight end/special-teams beast Trey Burton, the Eagles should look hard at an undrafted tight end like David Grinnage of North Carolina State or Henry Kreiger-Coble of Iowa.
At linebacker, Don Cherry of Villanova runs a better 40 time (4.71) than most inside linebackers. Nick Kwiatkowski of West Virginia would be another heart-and-soul type to push for a roster and position where depth is a concern.
In the secondary, Kansas State corner Morgan Burns is worth a look just on speed (4.38) alone. A safety job could easily be wrestled away from Ed Reynolds or Jerome Couplin, and someone like Mississippi’s Trae Elston – four interceptions, including two for touchdowns, last season – or Connecticut’s Andrew Adams could be the guy to do it.
So there you have it, long-suffering members of the Eagle Nation. A plan that is too big to fail – at least until the “experts” screw it all up.
This column originally appeared at http://www.phillyphanatics.com