After breaking down the Eagles positions of need and some possible draft strategies they may employ to move up or down, here are some potential draftees of the Birds in tonight’s first round.

 

Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Cox is the best pass rusher amongst the top defensive tackles in the draft, both as a bull-rusher and by using his quickness. Cox doesn’t move side-to-side overly quickly, but between his strength and first step, he can collapse the pocket.  He’s also rated well against the run, in part due to being able to chase more plays down than the average defensive tackle.  At 6-foot-4 and 298 pounds, some would call Cox slightly undersized for an interior lineman of his height, but he’s not too far off from the build of Cullen Jenkins (6-2, 305 pounds) and Mike Patterson (6-1, 300 pounds).  Cox will likely add a few pounds in the next few years as he hits NFL weight rooms, and his 4.79 40-yard dash time is a big asset.

 

Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Brockers is better against the run than Cox, in part due to having some extra weight at 6-5, 322 pounds.  He’s not as good of a pass rusher though, despite a good first step.  Brockers could improve as a pass rusher with NFL level coaching, as part of his problem is in technique and awareness, but his 5.36 40-yard dash time means it’s going to take him longer to get to the quarterback than Cox.  That’s the tradeoff for adding 24 pounds of tough-to-run-against weight.  Brockers is more raw than Cox, which has caused him to slip down some boards.

 

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Poe is a freak of nature, but has boom or bust written all over him.  Despite standing 6-3 tall and weight in at 346 pounds, Poe ran a 4.98 40-yard dash.  Poe completed 44 reps on the bench press compared to 30 for Cox and 19 for Brockers and has similar measureables to Haloti Ngata.  He has shorter arms than his counterparts, though, which sometimes limits his ability to get off of blocks.  Poe does not have an explosive first step and his effort isn’t always 100 percent as he wears down through games.  Poe’s effort on passing downs has been questioned.  He’s likely to either be one of the top two or three defensive tackles in the league someday, or a first-round bust.  Poe might also be a better fit in a 3-4 than a 4-3, based on his size.

 

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Kuechly is the only linebacker the Eagles could really consider in the first round, based on his size at 6-3 and 242 pounds.  Don’t’a Hightower will be a late first rounder, but is about 20 pounds heavier than the typical Eagles linebacker.  Other first-round talents are tweeners that are linebackers in a 3-4, but defensive ends in a 4-3.  Kuechly ran a 4.58 40-yard dash and is considered to be very good against both the run and pass.  Kuechly’s instincts and ability to dissect plays and react quickly make him a top-flight linebacker.

 

Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Jones is moving up boards quickly as the draft approaches.  His big brother, Art, plays on the Ravens defensive line.  Both are known as hard workers with big motors, but Chandler is a bit raw at the moment.  His long arms (35.5”) are a tremendous asset, while his 4.87 40-yard dash time is good, if not elite.  Jones frame has been compared to that of Jason Pierre-Paul, and he was at times moved inside on the Syracuse defensive line.  He may not be the pure speed rusher that the Eagles like in Jim Washburn’s wide-nine, but his versatility and all-around pass rushing ability make him an interesting option if the Eagles stay at 15 and look for the best player available.

 

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Ingram has slightly better speed than Jones, having run a 4.79 40-yard dash, and is consider a better pass rusher.  Ingram’s got a tremendous first step but needs to improve his snap anticipation.  His size is both an asset and a weakness.  At 6-1 and 264 pounds, Ingram’s frame is about right for a defensive end, but he’s on the short side and his arm length is only 31.4”.  That means he can have more trouble getting off blocks than some other defensive ends.  Ingram’s weight matches his frame, but is a bit light for a defensive end, although that likely won’t bother the Eagles. Ingram started his career as a linebacker.

 

Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Barron projects as a strong safety and is a hard hitter who steps up well in run support.  He has high-level instincts and reads plays well.  Barron typically makes good decisions about when to break on the ball and when to play it safe, and has great arm length for a defensive back at 33.5”.  Barron is 6-1 and weighs in at 213 pounds, but did not participate in the combine as he was recovering from sports hernia surgery.  He’s expected to be 100 percent in time for training camp.

 

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Reiff is projected to go in the middle of the first round, and the Eagles may want some insurance in case Demetress Bell doesn’t pan out and Jason Peters’ recovery doesn’t go as planned.  30 percent of NFL players who undergo Achilles surgery never play again. Reiff is 6-5 and 313 pounds and is a durable lineman who is good at everything, but perhaps not elite in any category.  Reiff’s arms are an inch shorter than the average for an offensive tackle (33.2”), which could cause problems for him at the NFL level.

 

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Gilmore stands 6-0 and weighs in at 190 pounds and ran a 4.40 40-yard dash. He started every game at corner for the “other” USC and also played a role in the return game and occasionally played as a Wildcat quarterback.  His versatility was due, in part, to his work ethic.  His speed is impressive for his size, but he often gives too much cushion and can be hesitant to jump routes.  Gilmore has played more off-coverage, which doesn’t mesh with the Eagles current schemes, but scouts say he’s better when he’s up at the line of scrimmage, which does match.  Gilmore probably wouldn’t get on the field for a year or two, given the Eagles depth, but might be tough to pass on given his combination of size and speed.

 

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Some consider Floyd to be the best wide receiver in the draft.  Has tremendous size at 6-2 and 220 pounds, with a similar build to Terrell Owens. Floyd ran a 4.47 40-yard dash.  He was arrested and charged with a DUI in March of 2010, and also was caught drinking underage twice.  Floyd makes a lot of big plays, but since he typically lines up on the outside, he would be battling DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to get on the field.  His size makes him tough to cover, and he is very good at going up and making plays on the ball even when covered. He doesn’t have elite top end speed, but it’s good for his size.

 

Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

The Eagles ran more double tight end sets last year than they typically have under Andy Reid, and might consider being on the leading edge of a trend the Patriots likely started due to their success with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.  Fleener is 6-6 and weighs 247 pounds, but did not run a 40-yard dash at the combine.  Scouts say he has very good top end speed, and he can be moved around the formation as a result.  His play speed is likely better than his actual speed.  Fleener has good hands and can stretch the middle of the field to make big plays.  His blocking is his weakness, and he’ll need to improve it at the next level.

Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM.  Follow him on Twitter.