Why Eagles Need to Focus on Drafting Cornerbacks + Best Prospects
The 2021 NFL Draft is just a couple weeks away and with the Philadelphia Eagles sitting at the 12th overall pick, there is a lot of focus on what they should and shouldn't do.
After 4-11-1 season, there is some contention among the Eagles fans, the local media, and national media about who the team should target in the NFL Draft. Some people are hyperfocused on the talented Alabama Wide Receivers Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith while others would love to see Penn State's Linebacker Micah Parsons in an Eagles uniform.
On Sports Bash Saturday, I spoke with Yahoo Sports NFL Writer and Draft Analyst Eric Edholm about the 2021 NFL Draft; I asked him what the Eagles needs are and what they should focus on the the Draft:
"With the Eagles it's really interesting to try to guess what their positional needs are; I would suggest Cornerback has to be up there, maybe Wide Receiver although they have invested pretty heavily in recent drafts at that spot too so that could maybe knock it down (the list of importance) just a little bit."
Eric makes a great point about the Eagles last few drafts, as the Philadelphia Front Office has selected four Wide Receivers in the last two years along with Tight End Dallas Goedert in 2018. There was no traditional NFL Offseason due to the Pandemic and many of these young players missed a year of development along with playing in a dumpster fire offense that led to the firing of the Head Coach Doug Pederson and the trading of the former Franchise Quarterback Carson Wentz. We still don't know for sure who and what last year's rookies can be. We saw flashes from Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, and John Hightower while Greg Ward has proven to be a reliable Slot Receiver.
So if the Eagles do zero in at Cornerback, Eric Edholm names one top tier prospect who he thinks makes the most sense:
"If (the Eagles draft) Cornerback, I think Jaycee Horn makes a ton of sense; You want somebody to be able to start opposite of (Darius) Slay, he's got great length, great competitiveness, (Horn) faced quick Receivers like (Alabama's) Jaylen Waddle and he faced big targets like (Florida's) Kyle Pitts at 6'6" 245 pounds and (Horn) didn't back down from any of them, I loved his competitiveness out there. And his playmaking is developing, he had a couple of (Interceptions) last year after not having any in his first couple years (in college). Horn is somebody who I think is going to go in the first 15 picks (in the 2021 NFL Draft) and that is a spot I can see him landing in Philly."
Jaycee Horn, the son of Four-time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Joe Horn, is a physical playmaker at South Carolina who showed the athletic tools to be a high caliber NFL Cornerback. Some Draft Analysts compare his potential to Jalen Ramsey, which is high praise. I would be thrilled if the Eagles got a CB like Horn because its been over a decade since this organization invested serious Draft Capital in a top tier Defensive Back talent. When your best high draft picks in the Defensive Secondary are Sidney Jones and Nate Allen, consider me underwhelmed. This team has not had a legit two man Cornerback tandem since the days of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown.
The NFC East Rival Teams have a bunch of talent at the Wide Receiver positions:
*New York Giants: Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard
*Dallas Cowboys: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb
*Washington Football Team: Terry McLauren and Curtis Samuel
So who is playing across from those guys for the next few years? After Darius Slay, do you have any confidence in Avonte Maddox, Craig James, Grayland Arnold, Kevon Seymour, Michael Jaquet, and Jameson Houston?
Eric Edholm explains why it would make sense for the Eagles to draft multiple Cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft and what players to keep an eye on:
"If you go with an Outside (Cornerback) like Jaycee Horn or Patrick Surtain II in the First Round, it wouldn't upset or shock me if they (drafted in the second round) with a Nickel (Cornerback) like Aaron Robinson from Central Florida, like Elijah Moulden from Washington - Asante Samuel Jr played Outside a lot but some teams will look at his size and say he is better off playing the Nickel....With guys like Keyvon Seymour and Avonte Maddox and Michael Jaquett...there's just not that many options (for the Eagles) and in this league you need three, four, five Corners to feel good about the comfort at that position."
Notice there is one top prospects whose name he does not mention above: Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. Despite being a top prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, there are concerns about his injury history along with his availability for the 2021 season. Doesn't that sound like Sidney Jones? I don't think Eagles fans will ever forget that fiasco with his Achilles then Hamstring then who knows what else was wrong with him that doomed his time in Philadelphia.
Eric Edholm explains why NFL teams are warry of Caleb Farley despite his talent and potential of an NFL Draft Prospect:
"(Farley) was a High School Quarterback who was trained to be a Wide Receiver his Redshirt Freshman year before tearing his ACL, another Red Flag. Then you have a Back Pain in 2019, he played through it (and) had to miss the last two games. (Farley) had this procedure, this Minor Back Surgery; Look, I've never heard the phrase 'Minor Back Surgery' uttered without a little bit of an eye roll afterward. That's (two Back surgeries) now, couple weeks ago he had the procedure, wasn't able to workout at his pro day. If you draft him, you have to be prepared for him to start the year on the PUP List possibly."
We all know there will be a ton of Mock Drafts released by numerous analysts between now and April 29th when the 2021 NFL Draft First Round kicks off. But based on everything we know at this point about the Eagles roster needs, hiring former Colts and Vikings Defensive Backs Coach Jonathan Gannon to be the Defensive Coordinator, along with who are some of the top talent in the NFL Draft, there are plenty of signs pointing to them selecting at least one Cornerback. Here is how I rank the Cornerbacks in terms of players who make the most sense for the Eagles to pick:
*Patrick Surtain II (6'2" at 202 lbs): Arguably the most pro-ready CB who could be a starter day one, he got flagged zero times in 2020 season. He is the most fundamentally ready player and give the Eagles a starter for the next decade who is a smart player with NFL Bloodlines.
*Jaycee Horn (6'1" at 205 lbs): A physical freak who is not afraid of contact, Horn has evolved his game to becoming one of the best Press Coverage CBs in all of collge football. He competes on every play, he is unrelenting and his work ethic will elevate him as far as his talent will take him in the NFL as a physical Corner.
*Asante Samuel Jr (5'10" at 184 lbs): He lacks the physical size of his contemporaries in this draft class, but he makes up for that with explosive athleticism with elite speed, change of direction, and he plays the ball in the air as well as anyone. He also is an unafraid tackler who a player his size who can play both man and zone defensive coverages.
*Tyson Campbell (6'2" at 185 lbs): He is not as polished of a coverage CB as Samuel Jr or Surtain II, Campbell makes up for that with elite speed and athleticism. He is a playmaker who showed he can excell against the Run Game and the Pass Game equally when competiting against SEC competition.
Checkout my full conversation with Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm about the 2021 NFL Draft Prospects including Quarterbacks, Linebackers, and more