Restocking The Cupboard
DiCecco Mock Draft 1.0: Birds Hit Secondary, Pass Rush Early
The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis unofficially kicks off the whirlwind that is NFL Draft season.
It falls within that brief period of relative inactivity between the Super Bowl and start of free agency, marking the point in the off-season when teams begin preparing to replenish their respective rosters with future building blocks.
For the Eagles, who hold only six draft picks and face a number of tough decisions in free agency, the offseason projects to be a fascinating case of cap wizardry and valuation.
In the first Inside the Birds Mock Draft of this cycle, I analyzed each selection, identifying the best values and fits.
Round 1, No. 10: Devon Witherspoon, CB Illinois
The Eagles are in prime position with the No. 10 pick. An early run on the core four signal-callers – Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson – could conceivably push a handful of elite-level blue-chip defenders within feasible striking distance for the Birds. Perhaps they aggressively jump the pecking order for a defensive lineman or maneuver a couple of spots to ensure they land their cornerback of choice. The team would also be in position to comfortably trade back if they so choose, depending how the first hour-plus unfolds.
While those scenarios are certainly something to consider, right now I have the Eagles staying pat and landing arguably the draft’s most complete cornerback. Witherspoon, 6-0, 180, is a lengthy, athletic, ball-hawking perimeter defender who reminds me of a throwback cornerback in the way that he craves contact, competes for the football and pursues ball carriers.
At 180 pounds, Witherspoon could stand to add another 10 pounds to his frame to sustainably play his style of game at the pro level, but it’s hard to identify a better complement to Darius Slay, who will serve as his mentor during his rookie season. In four seasons, Witherspoon managed to accumulate 115 tackles (11.5 for loss), 25 passes defended, five interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries.
Round 1, No. 30: Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
The Eagles desperately need another pass-rushing building block to complement 25-year-old Josh Sweat, and I was torn between Carter II, Georgia’s Nolan Smith, or Kansas State’s Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Carter, once an unranked recruit out of Houston’s Westbury Christian High School came into his own during his second season at Army, racking up 14.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, an interception, and four forced fumbles. Though Carter lost a bit of his luster due to an uninspiring 2022 campaign relative to expectations – producing just 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 10 games – the 6-foot-7, 260-pound edge rusher boasts an intriguing combination of freakish size, athleticism, and intangibles. Carter boasts an 82-inch wingspan. A raw prospect with an immense ceiling, Carter could stand to add another 15 pounds to his frame, develop his play-strength and refine his skill set, but teaming him with another superhuman pass-rusher in Sweat – along with mountainous defensive tackle Jordan Davis – feels like a perfect match. Carter is poised to put on a show in Indianapolis.
Round 2, No. 62: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
Miles Sanders expressed his desire to remain in Philadelphia. It remains to be seen if the feeling is mutual. Coming off a career season at 25 years old, Sanders figures to garner some interest on the open market. But how much would the Eagles realistically be willing to dole out for the NFL’s most volatile offensive position? Should they heavily invest in a player who surprisingly accounted for just 57 percent of the team’s snaps? Perhaps the Eagles go the low-cost veteran route in free agency and consider adding more of a power back to the stable, along the lines of Jamaal Williams or D’Onta Foreman. For my money, though, it benefits the organization for the long haul to add to the position via the draft, pairing a high-level rookie with third-year pro Kenny Gainwell, and retaining veteran Boston Scott at a favorable price point.
Charbonnet, who rushed for 1,359 yards and 14 touchdowns on 195 carries in addition to reeling-in a career-high 37 passes for 321 yards as a receiver last season, has the skill set to be a three-down runner at the pro level. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound rusher comes equipped with power, decisiveness, a downhill mentality, and outstanding contact balance navigating through traffic. The biggest drawbacks associated with Charbonnet are his lack of homerun hitting ability and fluidity, but the former UCLA Bruin would be an ideal complement to what the Eagles already have in place – giving the Eagles their version of thunder and lightning.
Round 3, No. 94: Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
There is a distinct possibility the Eagles could lose both Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox to free agency, leaving a wealth of inexperience and uncertainty in their wake. Sure, the team could opt to fill the void via bargain signing on the open market, but with the priority seemingly fixated on retaining as many of their own free agents as possible, would that be a viable solution?
In this scenario, I have the team bolstering their interior depth with Wisconsin’s Benton, a 6-4, 315-pound mauler who compiled a career-best 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in his senior season. Recognized primarily as a space-eating nose tackle specializing in run defense prior to last season, Benton has evolved as a rusher, utilizing his power, length, and violent hands to push the pocket. While limited as a pass-rusher, Benton has the tools to develop into a well-rounded interior lineman at the next level, and would present the Eagles with a strong third option in the rotation as a rookie.
Round 7, No. 221: WR Michael Jefferson, Louisiana
With just six picks, it will be tough for the Eagles to address the wide receiver position earlier, given their plethora of more pressing needs, but here they land an intriguing vertical weapon in Jefferson, who could see his stock rise after the Combine. Jefferson, 6-4, 205, is an athletic pass-catcher possessing savvy, nuanced route-running and high-level ball skills. The former Ragin’ Cajun can play inside but predominantly aligns out wide and provides special teams experience. An Alabama State transfer, Jefferson reeled in 69 receptions for 1,291 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two seasons at Louisiana. If the Eagles are looking for cost-effective option to challenge the embattled Quez Watkins in camp, Jefferson could be that guy.
Round 7, No. 250: Clayton Tune, QB, Houston
With Gardner Minshew poised to depart in search of a destination in which he can compete for a starting job, his absence leaves Ian Book at the only other quarterback on the roster behind Jalen Hurts. While I’d expect the team to seek a low-cost veteran arm in free agency – perhaps Mike White or Taylor Heineke – there is also a strong possibility they add one at some point in the draft in hopes of finding a young player to nurture, either on the practice squad or active roster. With pick No. 250, I have the Eagles selecting Houston’s Tune, a three-year captain who has logged a ton of snaps throughout his collegiate career, completing 956 of 1497 pass attempts for 11,994 yards and 104 touchdowns against 41 interceptions.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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