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DT & OLB in the draft

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DT, WR, & OLB (specifically strong side). Those are the top 3 needs that most any expert or fan would tell you the Eagles have. The order of the needs, well… that’s still up for debate. The Eagles are making their highest draft pick since 2000, so they are in a position to draft a player that can make an impact right away. I’ve already written on the subject of what’s out there at defensive tackle, so I’ll quickly touch on that and then move on to LB. Later this week, we’ll do the WR category.

At DT, this team needs a big 2 gap player. A 2 gap DT is one whose primary job is to run stuff. He’ll often take on 2 blockers in the middle, which frees up the LBs to attack gaps or react more. A one gap DT is one who uses quickness to rush the passer, and who is usually smaller. His main job is to rush the passer beating a guard. This is why he’s called a one gap player, he’s usually going to fill one gap as he tries to beat his man and create pressure up the middle. Patterson is a pass rushing DT that uses explosiveness and speed, so is one of the top DT prospects, Broderick Bunkley. Those guys are one gap players. We need a 2 gap player there, not a clone (albeit better prospect) of Patterson. Bunkley is nice player, but I think Haloti Ngata would fill our needs better. He'll eat up blocks, take on two guys up the middle and let Trotter & co be freed up to make plays. With Ngata, rarely will Trotter have to deal with a center or guard coming to block him. He's also not going to get pushed back and allow the QB the step up to avoid the edge rush like they all were last year. A trade up would probably be needed to draft Ngata, but it doesn’t seem like from the many recent mock drafts that they may not even need to trade up into the top 10. Gabe Watson out of Michigan would also fill this role.

OLB is another easy to see need on this team. Now, while I’m of the opinion that a solid front four will make most LBs look good… that doesn’t mean that upgrading the talent there would be a bad thing. On the weak side the Birds have Shawn Barber here on a one year deal & Matt McCoy, who was drafted in the 2nd round last year. On the strong side, there’s Dhani Jones who by all standards had a bad year last year. Most people are of the opinion that a SAM or strong side LB is needed, but honestly any upgrade in talent on either side would be useful. The top prospect is Ohio State’s AJ Hawk, but he’s probably a top 5 pick so he’s not worth discussing here. Other than that, the Eagles should be in a position to grab whatever LB they want.

The guy that’s rocketed up draft boards is Ernie Sims. He has a ton of speed for a LB and is more suited for a weak side LB, but could possibly play SAM too. He’s not the biggest guy, but he plays very aggressively. A criticism of him is that he plays too aggressive and can over pursue on plays. A lot of people have compared him to Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Bucs, which is a guy I think anyone would take…

Probably the most interesting and well suited prospect that a lot of early mock drafts had the Eagles taking is Chad Greenway. His stock has appeared to fall recently, due to less than great 40 times, however he plays very fast and by all accounts has great instincts. He’s a former safety who is very good in coverage, he’s a film junkie, has great recognition skills, is a sure tackler, and looks like he could even be a good pass rusher. Almost any scouting report on him says he’s ready to step in and start right away at the SAM position. Greenway would not be a risky pick, and though he may be had lower than #14, he is not the type of player that anyone would regret taking. He has superior physical skills to Dhani Jones, and has shown himself to be the kind of smart player that won’t have the kind of trouble Matt McCoy had in picking up Jim Johnsons’ complex defensive scheme.

The other options at OLB that have first round quality would be Bobby Carpenter, who is big and fast but would be a huge stretch at #14. The other prospect would be Demeco Ryans who stock has taken a hit after some poor workouts, but the fact is that he was a great college LB. He’s a very smart, fast player but has not been great in coverage. He may very well slide into the second round and would have great value if the Eagles got him with their pick there.

In the end, my picks are Haloti Ngata and Chad Greenway. These guys are not big risk players and both should certainly be able to step in and start for the Eagles this year at need positions. We’re going to look into the WR class later this week, but it’s not likely that anyone from that class is going to be able to make the kind of immediate impact that these 2 players will at serious need positions.

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