Seven top draft candidates for Eagles

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. "You've got to take the best player," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. "You've got to take the best player," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. (AP)
Posted: March 20, 2013

PHOENIX - You could open up your hands and count the number of prospects the Eagles might draft with the No. 4 overall pick.

Howie Roseman narrowed the number to a shorter list of candidates on Monday.

"When you're at four it's a smaller pool of players that you're looking at with that pick. You're not looking at 10 players," Roseman said at the NFL owners meetings. "You're down at this point to six or seven names."

The ranking of top players will ebb and flow right up until the draft, and the Eagles board will be shrouded in secrecy, but the shallow waters Roseman and coach Chip Kelly will fish from should look like this:

Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.

Who else could land atop the Eagles' board? Pass-rush linebackers like LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Georgia's Jarvis Jones, or guards like North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper and Alabama's Chance Warmack, or a defensive tackle like Utah's Star Lotulelei. However, the first seven are a good place to start.

Ansah or Jordan would give the Eagles a 3-4 outside linebacker who has pass-rushing and coverage skills. Jordan (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) is a slithery runner who could be the ideal strong-side linebacker in coordinator Bill Davis' 4-3 "under" defense.

Fisher or Joeckel could start at right tackle from Day 1, allowing Todd Herremans to move back to guard.

Floyd could partner with Fletcher Cox as potent 1-2 punch in the interior of the defensive line. Milliner would address a position that is in need of an upgrade even with the free-agent acquisitions of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

Each comes with an argument against the selection. Ansah and Jordan are projects. Fisher would be unnecessary if the Eagles view Dennis Kelly as the heir at right tackle. Joeckel is better suited to the left side. Floyd and Cox play the same spot. Milliner is at a position that isn't top-five worthy.

And then there is Smith.

There are plenty of arguments against drafting him, but if Kelly believes Smith can be his franchise quarterback, there is no reason not to take him at No. 4 - even if he isn't the best available talent.

"You've got to take the best player," Roseman said, "but at the same time, the players that are evenly rated or are in the same tier and it's at a more important position, you may be leaning towards the more important position."

The Eagles spent free agency filling holes so that their nine draft picks would not have to be used to plug specific needs. But they did little this offseason to suggest that they won't take a quarterback with their top pick.

Michael Vick's contract was trimmed from three years to one and he took about a 50 percent pay cut. Nick Foles remains on the roster, but the decision to retain Vick and sign former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon implied that Kelly favors an athletic quarterback to run his offense.

The Eagles, though, have vociferously supported Foles. The team has come to the last three owners meetings looking to trade a high-profile player, and while they never flat-out said that Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Asante Samuel were on the market, they never hid the fact that other teams were interested.

"We have been adamant that we want and like Nick Foles," Roseman said. "We just drafted Nick Foles. It's hard to find quarterbacks in this league and we're excited to see him. That's where we are. We haven't changed that."

But even if Vick and Foles were to remain - and, really, the financial obligation with each would not keep the Eagles from parting with either - Kelly and Roseman could still take Smith.

But will they? The Eagles' much-publicized trip to Morgantown, W.Va., to work out Smith last week should have come as no shock. Owner Jeffrey Lurie's attendance was seen by some as indicative of the Eagles' true interest and by others as a smoke screen.

Lurie confirmed that the last prospect he visited was McNabb. But as he pointed out, the Eagles haven't had a selection this high since they drafted their former quarterback No. 2 overall in 1999. It was the Eagles doing their due diligence.

It's hard to see what the Eagles could gain if the trip was indeed a diversion. But the draft is high-stakes poker and teams will do (and say) some crazy things to disguise their preferences.

The Chiefs, Jaguars, and Raiders will select ahead of the Eagles, and any number of teams could try to trade up and leapfrog them for Smith. That may be fine with the Eagles, presuming they aren't interested. If Smith is gone, they would have another from their top seven from which to choose.

Contact Jeff McLane at or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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