Philly Sports Column: Eagles Draft Targets in 2014

Story posted October 9, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Blake Cohen

With the 2013 NFL regular season more than a quarter of the way finished, it is not too early for teams to begin scouting some of the top college football players for May’s draft. The Philadelphia Eagles have had a slightly disappointing 2-3 start to the season. The NFC East is bad, but the Eagles could still find themselves with a pick in the top half of the draft. While there is a ton of time for Philly to turn their season around, the following are the top five players that I would want the team to consider drafting with a high first round draft pick.

5) Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M

Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL before the season started. The Eagles’ #2 wide receiver and former first round pick is entering a contract year on top of the concerns with his surgically repaired knee. It would make a lot of sense for the Eagles to not bring Maclin back next year, and instead draft a top wide receiver to play opposite of Desean Jackson. While many would consider Clemson’s Sammy Watkins to be the best option at receiver in the 2014 draft, his skill-set resembles that of Desean Jackson, and therefore he would not be a fit in the Eagles offense.

The Eagles need a red-zone wide receiver to complement the speed threat of Jackson. At 6’5 and 225 pounds, Mike Evans of Texas A&M would accompany Jackson, to potentially form one of the best wideout duos in the NFL. Last year as a redshirt freshman, Evans received All-SEC honors after recording 82 receptions for 1,105 yards.

This year, Evans proved he could dominate even against the best of defenses by torching top-ranked Alabama for 279 receiving yards. While the Eagles might have bigger needs to address in the draft, do not be surprised if they go after the talented Texas A&M wide receiver.

4) HaHa Clinton-Dix, Safety, University of Alabama

Yes, HaHa is really his first name, but the talent of this Alabama safety is nothing you should laugh at. Clinton-Dix established himself as one of the top safeties in the nation last year with interceptions in each of his final 3 games, including one in the BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame.

He shows a rare mix of size, speed, and explosiveness that could make him a mainstay in NFL defenses for years to come. HaHa has shown to play the pass much better than the run, but that is exactly what the Eagles need after giving up the most amount of passing yards in the NFL through the first four games of the season.

Nate Allen is not getting the job done at free safety this year, so look for the Eagles to address their need at safety within the first three rounds of the 2014 draft.

3) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, University of Oregon

Continuing with the theme of strengthening the Eagles’ secondary, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu would do just that. At 5’10”, Ekpre-Olumu is a bit undersized but his physicality and leaping ability more than makes up for it. He exceled in both pass and run defense last year with four interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 16 passes defensed.

Chip Kelly would love to be reunited with his former defensive star. He has already given Jeff Maehl and Dennis Dixon (among others), two of his former players, a chance with the Eagles. Cornerback is probably the most glaring need on this Eagles team, as newly acquired Cary Williams has made more noise off the field than on, and Brandon Boykin has not shown he is capable of being an every down cornerback in the NFL.

If the Eagles do not draft Ekpre-Olomu, look for them to take some of the other highly touted cornerbacks in this year’s draft such as Loucheiz Purifoy (University of Florida), or Bradley Roby (Ohio State University).

2) Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, Clemson University

With Michael Vick in the last year of his contract, the Eagles might want to select a quarterback in the first round of next year’s draft. There are a bunch of franchise changing quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, but Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is the most talented and will fit the best into Chip Kelly’s offense.

Boyd has shown a great combination of an accurate arm and speed in the open field. He completed 67 percent of his passes and ran for 769 yards last season as a junior. Through the first few weeks of this season he has shown the ability to not turn the ball over by throwing for nine touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.

While other quarterbacks in this year’s draft are fast, it is Boyd’s arm and decision-making that sets him apart from other top signal callers such as Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Marcus Mariota (University of Oregon).

1) Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, University of South Carolina

This is a reach, a big reach.

The Eagles would have to finish poor enough to secure a top three pick in the draft to land Clowney. Even though defensive end is not the biggest need of the Eagles, he should still be at the top of their draft board, because he is said to be the best defensive to player to come out of college in years.

Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post said, “I've been doing this since 1981, and he is as good a defensive player as I have ever watched.”

At 6’6” and 272 pounds, Clowney has an exceptional combination of speed and physicality. Last year, he recorded 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks.

While teams like the Jaguars and Buccaneers might take quarterbacks over Clowney, if the Eagles were given a chance to draft him, I could not see them passing up the opportunity. Expect Jadeveon Clowney to be the

best player in the 2014 draft, and a problem that offensive lines will have to deal with for the next decade.

Blake Cohen is a freshman majoring in communications. To contact him, email bac5466@psu.edu.