Marcus Mariota is better than Jameis Winston, so says Chip Kelly. That does not, however, mean that the Eagles will draft the Oregon product who Kelly recruited out of high school during his time as the Ducks head coach. Kelly put that speculation to rest on Wednesday.
“We’re not mortgaging our future for any particular player,” Kelly said. “We have too many other holes we have to take care of.”
The trade for Sam Bradford, which sent Nick Foles and draft picks to the St. Louis Rams, would certainly seem to indicate the same. So if we rule out quarterback from the Eagles’ draft needs, what other positions will they target?
Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles leading receiver from last year is now in Kansas City. This leaves a huge hole in Philly’s offense. With Shady McCoy gone too, one would assume the Eagles need to rely on the passing game more. The only problem is they have no one to catch passes at the moment. The only receivers left on the roster are Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff. While Matthews excelled as a rookie (67 catches for 872 yards), he primarily played in the slot and a move to the outside would most likely involve some growing pains.
Players to watch: Auburn’s Sammie Coates and Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham
Cornerback: Even after the signings of Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, CB is still a position of need for the Eagles. The team’s defensive backfield has been painful to watch wince Kelly took over two years ago, finishing last in passing yards allowed by opposing quarterbacks in 2013 and second to last in 2014.
Players to watch: Florida State’s P.J. Williams and Michigan State’s Trae Waynes
Safety: As atrocious as Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams were at the cornerback position for the Eagles, starting safeties Nate Allen and Malcolm Jenkins weren’t much better. Look for the Eagles to further upgrade their backfield at this position as well.
Player to watch: Alabama’s Landon Collins
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker: While not as pressing as their other needs, the Eagles could certainly use more edge rushers. The same could be said about most teams in the NFL as pressuring the quarterback without blitzing has become one of the most valuable skills in the league.
Players to watch: Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Utah’s Nate Orchard
Defensive Tackle: In addition the litany of other defensive needs, the Eagles simply need to get bigger up front. A good candidate for doing just that is..
Player to watch: Texas’ Malcom Brown
Clearly, most of the Eagles’ needs are on the defensive side of the football. The team has been very aggressive so far in free agency, so these needs might change depending on signings or trades in the next few days or even weeks leading up to the draft.