With the NFL Draft being held later this month outside on the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (rain guaranteed), you can sense the seconds ticking down and your heart beating faster.
As the pendulum swings, so do projected seven-round mock drafts for the host team. Here goes a second try:
Round 1 (14th overall, from Vikings)
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Staying with the same pick here. I know it is not as sexy as running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State, who had pedestrian combine numbers and is a known fumbler, or fleet-footed receiver John Ross of Washington. However, when you have only added Patrick Robinson in the offseason to your weakest area, it is pretty clear how this pick – and at least two more – is going to be spent. Some mocks have Humphrey landing in the top 10, but those tend to be the mocks that project trades. Based on straight needs of the 13 teams currently ahead of the Eagles, the son of former NFL running back Bobby Humphrey should still be there at No. 14. Humphrey is not a finished product, and we see too much of the back of his jersey while the ball is in the air right now, but last year he was considered a redshirt sophomore. Still, he already has the skill set to be a learning-curve starter (with yellow flags chasing him around the field) as a rookie. Long-term, well worth the investment.
Round 2 (43rd overall)
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
This is a change from my first mock Eagles draft, where I had the Birds taking mercurial Adoree’ Jackson of USC. Some in the know, including the likes of Mike Mayock and Ray Didinger, considered Jones the best corner in the draft. However, and for reasons unknown, Jones still worked out on his Pro Day and promptly tore his Achilles tendon. That injury not only casts doubt on his ability to turn and run with NFL receivers during his career, but it also puts him on the shelf for next season – and likely out of the first round. For the corner-starved Eagles, who at least made a fast food run by signing the aforementioned Robinson, it is worth the second-round risk. As for Jackson, a freakish athlete who isn’t ready to start but can play in sub-packages on both offense and defense and return kicks and punts while learning the nuances of being a pro corner, I confess to wishful thinking that he gets past the better teams in the back end of the first round who can afford to wait. Still, keep him in mind for the Eagles should they trade down in the first round – a possibility that would be more likely if the draft was out of town and the brass was less afraid of having springtime snowballs thrown at them.
Round 3 (99th overall from Ravens)
Alex Anzelone, LB, Florida
Another third-round change from my last mock, which had the Eagles weighing the risk-reward on running back Joe Mixon and deciding it was worth the risk in Round 3. And while there are whispers the Eagles are still not ruling out Mixon, whose well-documented baggage weighs him down and out of the late first or early second round, the flipping of third-round picks with Baltimore to acquire defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to replace Bennie Logan (signed with Kansas City) may cost them a shot at Mixon. The gut feeling here is that he goes before 99th, and maybe even to the Ravens at the Eagles’ old spot. Still, with more needs than picks, the Eagles have wisely addressed defensive line by signing end Chris Long to replace Connor Barwin and trading for Jernigan. As for Anzelone, he is one of the draft’s true wild cards. His ability would dictate a higher grade, but his injury history is a red flag. Sounds a lot like another Eagles third-round pick who now happens to be their best linebacker – Jordan Hicks. Whether or not Mychal Kendricks is an Eagle next year – the guess here is that he is released, after no one bites during the draft after June 1 (and then joins his brother in Minnesota and plays well alongside him) – the depth at the position is rail-thin. Anzelone is tough enough to go inside, which could free up Hicks to play outside, and athletic enough to play outside and allow Hicks to stay put.
Round 4 (119th overall)
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
While the Eagles value versatile running backs, they will need a power back in their projected committee approach that was lessened by the foolish decision to let Kenjon Barner leave the nest. Terrell Watson (240 pounds) was given a look-see at the end of last season and seemed to show enough to get a shot (9 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD in the season finale), but not enough to be guaranteed anything beyond a fair shot. Foreman – at 250 pounds (but reportedly slimmed down for individual workouts with interested teams) – was only recruited out of high school by Texas to seal the deal with his twin brother, a receiver. Turns out, after injuries opened the door to be the main back in a spread attack, the middle-level recruit had the better career, rumbling north to south for a national-best 2,028 yards last year and winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. He has almost no experience catching the ball out of the backfield (13 career catches) or picking up the blitz, but that’s why teams choose to run by committee these days and take part-time backs later in drafts. At best, he’s James Stewart. At worst, he’s Ron Dayne.
Round 4 (139th overall, from Browns)
Donnell Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Worried about what happens when Darren Sproles calls it a career? Worry no more. Meet his clone, the record-setting Pumphrey, who checks in around 5-foot-8 and a soaking-wet 170 pounds (Sproles is 5-6 but a more stout 190ish). Pumphrey has all the right moves, but also runs in the 4.4 range. The three-year starter, who ranks first in FBS rushing yards (6,405) and ninth in all-purpose touchdowns, is more likely to be a third-down back/return man at the next level. Then again, they said the same thing about Brian Westbrook. That may be dreaming a bit, but the reality is that a fourth-round combo of Foreman and Pumphrey could equal one roll of the dice of a three-down back that may not pan out earlier in the draft (while other needs get pushed aside). And yeah, I’m talking about burgeoning fan favorites Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery.
Round 5 (155th overall)
Javarius Lemon, OT, South Carolina St.
The back end of this draft is loaded with humongous offensive linemen who are, pretty much, Herman Munsters right now. There are several from big schools, but one has to wonder why they are ranked low in what is weak offensive line class. May as well grab one from a small school – like the 6-7, 330-pound Lemon – and see what develops. Scouting report says raw but rare in terms of athleticism.
Round 6 (194th overall)
Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi
Talent-wise, the nephew of Jim Kelly is a Day Two selection (second- or third-round pick). But quarterback in the NFL is as much cerebral as it is about ability. Kelly is a bit undersized (6-2, 224), though somewhat mobile (more than 1,000 rushing yards in 22 career starts). However, he has skipped schools as much as Huck Finn (Clemson to JC to Mississippi). His medical report reads like that of Joe Namath – twice torn ACL in right knee and sports hernia surgery. He has reportedly has been diagnosed with ADD. Not to be insensitive, but that seems like a bad idea inside an NFL helmet. Nonetheless, considering the production and the bloodlines and his arm strength, it may be well worth a sixth-round gamble.
Round 7 (230th overall)
Nate Hairston, CB, Temple
Last mock draft, I went with Jahad Thomas of Temple, whose stock is hurt by his 40 time – although his time making cutbacks would help it – and it even drew a “like” from his mother, Connie, on Facebook. I’m now starting to think other teams – i.e. Dallas – are seeing the light on Thomas and he won’t be around anyway. Plus, we went for thunder and lightning in the fourth round with Foreman and Pumphrey. Still, while the Eagles themselves have been evil landlords to the Owls – with high rent and rare opportunities for players to crack the roster – I am being true to my school here. In other years, with weak corner crops, Hairston would be more attractive as a developmental pick. He is a former wide receiver, so the hands are there to reel in picks, and his speed – in the 4.5 range – is adequate. He was not one of the more acknowledged players at Temple last year, but came on strong as the season wore on. Some time on the practice squad, and we could be looking at a fourth corner/special teams contributor.
NOTES: I did not take a wide receiver, but keep that June 1 date in mind. That’s when second-tier veterans will get walking papers. Former Eagle Jeremy Maclin, among others, will be on the street. He is no stranger in town, nor to the playbook of head coach Doug Pederson. … It was with great sadness that I did not select Michigan tight end Jake Butt this time around, as I did in the fourth round in my first mock. However, Jones is at a more priority position and one medical red-shirt is enough per draft for a 7-9 team. … If Penn quarterback Alex Torgersen goes undrafted, don’t be shocked to see him signed and brought in as a fourth arm. … The Eagles would probably like to add a developmental safety, but that’s where that pesky needs vs. picks thing comes into play.