April 28, 2007

Draftniks' big day is finally at hand

By Bob Brookover
Inquirer Staff Writer

MICHAEL CONROY / Associated Press
Should the Eagles pick a safety, Miami's Brandon Meriweather might be the choice. They believe he can play either safety spot.


Thank God It's Draft Day.

The last chance for mock drafts has gone.

Now, it's time to select those college players NFL teams think they need so, so bad.
After months and months of scrutinizing players at all-star games, scouting combines and pro workout days, the Eagles and every other team in the league will finally get a chance to turn their picks into actual people.

If you're interested only in what the Eagles do in this draft, you are going to have to wait a little while longer, because if the Eagles stick with their allotted 26th overall pick in the first round, they will not make their selection until after 6 o'clock tonight.

Anyway, here's one final look at what the Eagles might do with their first-round selection:

A. Draft a safety.

B. Draft a cornerback.

C. Draft a defensive end.

D. Draft a linebacker.

E. Trade down and get an extra pick in the third or fourth round.

F. None of the above.

If the answer is A, the safety options appear to be Florida's Reggie Nelson, Miami's Brandon Meriweather, Texas' Michael Griffin, and Virginia Tech's Aaron Rouse.

Most draft experts project that Nelson will be gone by the time the Eagles pick, but the three other players on that list should be available.

Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said he believed that Meriweather, Griffin and Rouse could play either safety spot. Nelson, meanwhile, was more of a centerfielder at Florida, patrolling the secondary for interceptions rather than approaching the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

"I wouldn't call that a concern," Heckert said. "It's something you have to think about because you don't get to see him do it. I think he's tough enough and he comes up and tackles, but he has not been a box guy."

If the Eagles opt for Meriweather, it will be a fascinating selection just because of his controversial involvement in an ugly brawl Miami had during a game with Florida International last season.

"That's something we're really investigating," Heckert said.

Should the Eagles elect to go with Option B - and take a cornerback - they should have an opportunity to get a good one late in the first round.

"I think it's a pretty deep draft at cornerback," Heckert said, adding that he believes a total of five cornerbacks could be selected in the first round.

The two best that figure to be available for the Eagles are Texas' Aaron Ross and Arkansas' Chris Houston. Ross, at 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, is bigger than Houston. The kid from Arkansas, however, showed that he could be outstanding in press coverage at the line of scrimmage.

"There's one guy, you don't see him do anything but press [on film]," Heckert said of Houston. "That's why there's probably mistakes made with corners because you don't get to see them do everything you need to see."

Heckert said that was particularly true with players like Houston, who entered the draft after his junior year. Only seniors are showcased in all-star games, where NFL scouts can ask to see players in multiple roles.

Option C - defensive end - could happen if one of the higher-rated players slips to the 26th spot in the draft. It's possible, but not probable, that Florida's Jarvis Moss will be available when the Eagles select. Moss, who weighs just over 250 pounds, can rush the passer, but his size could be a detriment when he has to play the run.

As for option D - linebacker - the Eagles could make a popular pick and take Penn State's Paul Posluszny if he falls to the 26th spot. Miami's Jon Beason and Florida State's Lawrence Timmons could also still be on the board, but it doesn't seem likely that the Eagles will take a linebacker in the first round for the first time since 1979.

Though the Eagles have moved up in the draft twice in the last four years to get a higher No. 1 pick, the more likely scenario in this draft is Option E - trade down. The Eagles probably would be willing to move down a few spots if they could pick up an extra selection in the second or third round and still get a player they think has good value.

"With the new CBA, the end of the first round is a little intriguing just because you can lock those guys up for five years," Heckert said, referring to the collective-bargaining agreement. "The second round, you can't do that anymore. That could be an issue, but I doubt somebody would give you a great pick just to get an extra year on the contract."

And what about Option F - none of the above? This is the NFL draft, so anything is possible. Just be glad you don't have to read or hear any more speculation about it.

Picking 26th Is Hit or Miss

The Eagles will be selecting 26th in the first round of today's NFL draft. The recent 26th picks have brought mixed results. Here's a look at the last 12 players selected 26th overall:

Year Player Pos. College Pro

2006 John McCargo DT North Carolina State Buffalo
Made just six tackles during five games before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

2005 Chris Spencer C Mississippi Seattle
Started 13 of 16 games last year for the Seahawks.

2004 Chris Perry RB Michigan Cincinnati
Has started three games in three years.

2003 Kwame Harris OT Stanford San Francisco
Started every game the last two seasons.

2002 Lito Sheppard CB Florida EAGLES
Talk about a great pick - he's a two-time Pro Bowl choice.

2001 Jamar Fletcher CB Wisconsin Miami
Is now with his fourth team, the Texans.

2000 Erik Flowers DE Arizona State Buffalo
Had only six career starts before going to the CFL.

1999 Fernando Bryant CB Alabama Jacksonville
Serviceable player who has played last three years with Detroit.

1998 Alan Faneca OG LSU Pittsburgh
Arguably the best guard in the NFL.

1997 Jim Druckenmiller QB Virginia Tech San Francisco
A bust who played just four games in two seasons.

1996 Ray Lewis LB Miami Baltimore
Likely future Hall of Fame selection.

1995 Devin Bush FS Florida State Atlanta
Played for three teams during an eight-year NFL career.

- Marc Narducci

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