April 15, 2024   5 MIN READ

Three To Get Ready

Trio Of Draft Options For Birds


Inside of two weeks until the NFL Draft, there has been much speculation on which position the Eagles will zero in when they pick.

The Eagles, however, are hardly unique, as the conclusion of draft season typically consists of weeks connecting dots and drawing conclusions.

A roster in transition, the Eagles have adequately furnished their depth chart ahead of draft weekend to guard against the urge to plaster a position of need out of desperation.

Still, depending on where you land, positions such as cornerback, offensive line and pass-rush warrant early addressing.

For the record, I would part with some capital in a trade-up to secure versatile Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu, who aced every test in his wake during the pre-draft process.

Fautanu could fall within striking distance. A left tackle at Washington, Fautanu (6-4, 315) doesn’t offer the prototypical dimensions at the position at the pro level but would be an early-impact insertion at right guard before eventually serving as the heir apparent to right tackle Lane Johnson.

All things being equal, however, I identified three first-round prospects who would make most sense for the Eagles if they hold firm at pick No. 22.

Cooper DeJean

GETTY IMAGES: Versatility – and the ability to play safety – makes Iowa product Cooper DeJean a potential first-round pick.

Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa

I raise my hand as someone who projects DeJean as a safety. I’ve consistently maintained that viewpoint throughout the process. With that said, I understand it’s tough to envision the Eagles investing a premium pick on a position that isn’t considered priority for them, but DeJean is special. A game-changer. And considering the weighty demands new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio places on the shoulders of his safeties, perhaps the Eagles can see the Iowa standout as an exception to the rule. Though DeJean’s versatility holds plenty of value by itself, his plus-ball skills, inherent football IQ – allowing DeJean to effectively quarterback the backend – and ability to read and scan the full scope and dupe quarterbacks with his deception and throttle downhill, is what should have the Eagles sprinting to the podium to turn in the card.

This scenario, of course, would be entirely predicated on the fact that his head-turning pro day on April 8 didn’t vault him out of reach. Pairing DeJean opposite C.J. Gardner-Johnson – another ball-hawking centerfielder – would surely strike fear into opposing passers, inviting hesitation.

Graham Barton

GETTY IMAGES: Being able to play guard or tackle will be appealing for teams who like OL Graham Barton, a Duke product.

T/G Graham Barton, Duke

I’ve always been a proponent of giving young players time to learn on the job and develop, even at the expense of growing pains. But the fact is that when Tyler Steen logged his lone start at guard as a rookie, it was telling that the Eagles later in the season went back to Sua Opeta, who evidently didn’t even factor into their long-term plans. Steen deserves the benefit of the doubt that a full season under the tutelage of renowned offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland – and offseason to process and build – should serve him well in his presumed starting bid. But if a team has a chance to add a premier talent at the position, they should not shy away.

Fautanu, the most logical fit, will almost assuredly be long-gone at this point. The same probably applies to Alabama product J.C. Latham, who would also serve as a plug-and-play guard. Not sure Tyler Guyton, an immensely athletic tackle, would be the best allocation of resources, though the argument could be made for grooming Lane Johnson’s replacement.

Realistically, the offensive lineman who checks off all the boxes from a practicality, versatility and readiness perspective, would be Duke’s Graham Barton, who switched from center to left tackle and projects as a career guard at the pro level. It also shouldn’t be considered a reach, given Barton’s positional versatility and the optionality he represents. Should the Eagles revert back to their philosophical leanings, Barton would be a logical choice.

Nate Wiggins

GETTY IMAGES: Clemson CB Nate Wiggins is a likely first-round pick given his speed and college resume.

CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson

I realize it’s been 22 years since the Eagles selected a cornerback in the first-round. But to be clear, I still feel strongly that the position remains the team’s most glaring need, as the team has yet to address it this offseason.

Looking atop the depth chart, the two current projected starters on the perimeter, Darius Slay and James Bradberry, are either aging (Slay) or in the midst of a troubling downward trend (Bradberry). The younger contingent – Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks and Josh Jobe – should be factored into the equation as viable depth pieces, but if you have the opportunity to add elite-level talent at one of the most crucial positions, you pounce without pause. Every time.

Wiggins is listed third, however, because the Eagle could have a bevy of enticing cornerback options on Day 2, including the likes of T.J. Tampa, Kamari Lassiter and Caelen Carson.

But if it’s the cream of the crop they seek, Wiggins is comfortably a tier above the aforementioned. The lengthy cover man offers blistering long speed, exceptional change of direction, ball skills and is instinctive. The concerns of his play strength and slender frame are valid, but Wiggins, who reportedly added nine pounds for Clemson’s pro day, represents perennial Pro Bowl upside.

For a team like the Eagles, who have struggled to identify and develop cornerbacks to fit into the long-term vision, Wiggins would be a relatively safe projection.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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