You can look at all the mock drafts you want, but recent history says the Eagles won’t end up drafting with the 23rd overall pick. The Eagles have traded both up and down during the Reid era, and typically seem to have a good handle on what they’re doing.
If the Eagles find a guy that they’re interested in, they won’t hesitate to make a move up the board to get him. Here are a couple possibilities.
1. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
This is a guy that draft experts have all over the board. Some think that he’ll be around at the 23rd overall selection while others have going in the top 15. Smith is one of the biggest corners coming out of college and could potentially be a nice compliment to Asante Samuel’s ball-jumping style.
He’s ranked among the top three corners in the draft alongside Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara.
Although most Eagles fans, including myself, want the Eagles to make a strong push for Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles will more then likely still need to draft another corner.
I don’t think the Eagles would make a significant jump for Smith, but if they like him and he’s creeping towards or into the 20’s, they may move up a few spots for him.
2. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
With Winston Justices inconsistent play and recent surgery, the Eagles really need to find a solution to protecting Michael Vick’s blindside. Solder is regarded by many as the top offensive tackle coming out of the draft and has monster size at 6-8, 315 pounds.
Personally, I think that drafting a young and talented offensive tackle is the Eagles biggest priority. Jason Peters has been solid on the left side, but with Vick taking over the reins, Peters is no longer responsible for the blind side.
Unless he does something devastating leading up the draft, Solder won’t be there at the 23rd selection. If the Eagles want him, they’ll have to go get him.
3. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Those that don’t have Solder ranked as the highest offensive tackle coming out of college have Tyron Smith in that position. He’s a bit smaller at 6-5, 290 pounds but has great athleticism.
As mentioned, the Eagles need to find a long-term solution to protect Vick’s blindside. Smith has been given high remarks about his footwork and should fit in well with an offense that throws as much as the Eagles do.
Much like Solder, it doesn’t appear that Smith will be around at the 23rd overall selection, so the Eagles would have to move up a few spots to get him.
4. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Outside linebacker is another big position of need for the Eagles. They have a number of current linebackers with expiring contracts and won’t bring them all back. Early indications seem to be that Ernie Sims will be out the door which creates an opening in the starting lineup.
Keenan Clayton showed some potential towards the end of last season, but the Eagles could use some more stability at the position.
Ayers isn’t the biggest guy but has proved to be a very versatile player. He’s shown that he can be effective in coverage which is something the Eagles have struggled with for quite some time now. Despite his size, he’s proven to be a good run stopper and can also get after the quarterback with his great athleticism.
Ayers shouldn’t go super-high in the draft, but the Eagles would more than likely have to move up a few spots to acquire him.
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Although the Eagles have bigger needs and drafted a defensive end in the first round last year, don’t rule out the Eagles drafting another one this year.
After a double-digit sack total in 2009, Clayborn’s sack total fell to just four in 2010. However, he is a very complete player with the ability to defend the run as well as pass rush.
With Juqua Parker and Trent Cole beginning to age, the Eagles infused the defensive end position with some youth last year and may continue that effort in 2011.
This is a guy I can’t see them making a huge jump for, but they may pay close attention to him if he starts falling down the board.