Philadelphia Eagles executive: ‘Significantly higher’ number of top-tier CBs in this draft
PHILADELPHIA — The leaders of the Eagles’ front office prefer to remain tight-lipped about their evaluations as the NFL draft nears. While teams across the league jockey for position to acquire their favorite prospects, the Birds are careful not to tip their hand and lose leverage in potential deals.
But in a half-hour long chat with the media Thursday, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas conceded one opinion that’s been spouted by analysts throughout the offseason: This draft class, he explained, is loaded with quality cornerbacks.
“I’m not going to give you the exact number of draftable cornerbacks that we have,” Douglas said. “I can say that it’s significantly higher than probably the past three or four years.”
And that’s important to the Eagles, who carry a clear weakness at cornerback toward the first day of the draft, set for April 27. Philly parted ways with both of last year’s underwhelming starters at the position, Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll, and didn’t make hefty splashes to bolster the talent.
The Eagles signed 29-year-old Patrick Robinson, who has experience as a starter, but the roster still lacks a top-tier cornerback.
So, reporters in Philadelphia pushed Douglas. Exactly how many more draftable corners are there in this draft class than in the past?
“More than a handful,” Douglas responded.
Yeah, not super descriptive. But the point stands that the Eagles view this cornerback class as a deep one, which could alter their approach.
The Eagles need help at corner and might target one in the first round — Douglas praised Ohio State’s Gareon Conley on Thursday — or they could find unusual value in the later rounds. There is danger to sidestep, though. The Eagles don’t want to assume they’ll nab one of their top-rated cornerback prospects in the later rounds, because it’s difficult to predict how the draft unfolds.
Douglas, who was in the Bears’ front office last year, said the 2016 draft class was packed with quality defensive tackles, and Chicago hoped to select one in the mid or late rounds. But many other teams followed a similar plan, and the Bears had to watch as their favorite targets dropped off the board one by one.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles went through a similar experience.
“Obviously, defensive tackles were really strong part of last year’s draft,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “We went and we thought there were some guys in the fourth and fifth round that we really liked, but by the time we come back and picked, they were basically cleaned out.”
The Eagles, though, won’t just sit back and hope the draft pieces fall in their favor. Like other teams, they’re proactive. Pro scouting director Dwayne Joseph leads his team in an expansive analysis of other teams’ needs and habits, with the aim of helping the Eagles predict how things might play out in the early rounds, Roseman said.
Still, that’s an inexact science. The Eagles know many different scenarios could emerge as they inch toward the draft with a need to fill and their eyes fixed on an abundance of cornerback prospects.
“You don’t know,” Roseman said. “There are years where the positions are deep, and you get into the fifth, sixth round, you see guys that you really like, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with some of those positions.”
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