Eagles Excited About First Rounder Fletcher Cox
The Eagles hoped for the opportunity to move up and select Fletcher Cox in last night's NFL Draft, but they didn't know if it was realistic. When Cox fell past the Kansas City Chiefs, who opted for another defensive tackle in Dontari Poe, Philadelphia struck.
"We thought he would be a top six or seven pick," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "When he dropped, we started making plans."
The Eagles traded the 15th overall pick, along with a fourth rounder and a sixth rounder, to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for the 12th overall pick, which they used to take Cox, a junior from Mississippi State. The Eagles considered trading up even further for Cox, but that didn't work out according to Reid.
Cox is 6-foot-4, weighs in at 298 pounds and rated as the best pass rushing defensive end among the first round prospects. Cox said he told his agents that he believed playing in Philadelphia under defensive line coach Jim Washburn would be the best fit for him.
"They asked me what scheme I liked the most and I looked and told them, ‘Philadelphia Eagles. I would love to play in that system,’" Cox said. “I think we played the same scheme [at Mississippi State] that they play. The attack front, but also gap control.”
Washburn expressed his excitement at working with Cox, who he also called the "biggest 296 pounder I've ever seen."
“He’s an exploder and he’s tough," said Washburn. "He can’t explode, I don’t want him. If they don’t love football, I don’t have any use for him. He explodes, he can play, he’s passionate, and he likes it. He loves football.”
Cox racked up 114 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks in three seasons in college. Last year, Cox amassed five sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss and 56 total tackles. The junior also forced a fumble and recovered one.
This marks the fifth time in the last six years that the Eagles have moved up or down with their first round pick. Most recently, they traded up to take Brandon Graham in the first round of the 2010 draft. The Eagles also moved up in 2009 for Jeremy Maclin. In 2007 and 2008, the Eagles traded down and out of the first round before selecting Kevin Kolb and Trevor Laws with their top picks.
This is the fifth time in the last eight years that Philadelphia has taken a defensive lineman with its first overall pick, having previously made Brandon Graham (13th overall), Trevor Laws (47th overall), Brodrick Bunkley (14th overall) and Mike Patterson (31st overall) their first choice.
“I think you win games up front, if you can perform up front, whether it’s offensive line or defensive line, you make everybody better,” Reid said. ”That’s just how it works. In this case, with the defensive line, it puts a tremendous urgency on the quarterback that they’ve got to make these decisions that hopefully aren’t the right ones.”
Reid expects Cox to see plenty of playing time during his rookie season, but he won't automatically be expected to be a starter based on where he was drafted.
“I think with our veteran leadership that we have inside, I think that’s a positive," Reid said. "The way we rotate our defensive line with both ends and tackles, I think that’s a positive. He’s going to be asked to play four or five plays in a row, hopefully just three right, and then come out.”
Many predicted that the Eagles might move up for Cox, and according to Washburn, it wasn't hard to separate him from the other defensive tackles in this year's draft.
"We’ll have to see how it plays out but he’s so athletic he can play as a defensive end," said Washburn. "He moves like a guy who is 260 pounds. The thing about him is he is so much stronger than he looks. He’s a good one and I’m excited about him."
Reid also alluded to the fact that Cox could be moved outside on passing downs if the Eagles go with three down lineman, adding versatility.
Cox was taken with the highest pick the Eagles have used since 2000, when they chose Corey Simon sixth overall. During the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have made a pick in the top-15 six times. They've chosen five defensive lineman with those picks, with the lone exception being Donovan McNabb in 1999.
The draft resumes tonight with the second and third rounds beginning at 7 p.m. The Eagles hold the 46th and 51st overall picks, which are the 14th and 19th picks of the second round.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.