When Ray Didinger, Barrett Brooks, Dave Zangaro and myself ran our Eagle Eye podcast mock draft earlier this week, we happened upon a curious scenario.
By the time the Eagles were up at No. 12, Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle had been selected by the Lions at No. 7, Alabama corner Patrick Surtain II had gone to the Panthers at No. 8 and South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn went No. 10 to the Cowboys.
In this scenario, the Eagles were left without the three players they’ve been most closely associated with since their big trade down from 6 to 12.
In our mock draft, with those guys off the board, I took Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley at 12. But would the Eagles really take him?
It’s a curious situation.
Not that long ago, Farley was considered by some the top cornerback in the 2021 draft and at worst No. 2 behind Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. He had a terrific 2019 sophomore season for the Hokies with four interceptions and made 1st-team all-ACC.
Then he opted out of the 2020 season and last month it emerged that he would be undergoing surgery on his back - a microdiscectomy procedure. That procedure was March 23 and meant he wasn't able to work out at Virginia Tech's pro day.
Based on film, Farley is as good as anybody.
When ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first mock draft - before the surgery news - he mocked Surtain at No. 10, Farley No. 12 and Horn No. 16. By his latest mock, Surtain had moved up to No. 8 and Horn to No. 10 and Farley had dropped to No. 18.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com had Farley as the first corner off the board in his first draft, going at No. 9. He had Surtain at 10 and Horn at 22. In his most recent, he has Surtain going to the Eagles at No. 12, Horn No. 13 and Farley 22.
If either Horn or Surtain falls into the Eagles lap at No. 12, it’s hard to imagine them passing them up.
But what if they’re both off the board, as well as Waddle? Does Farley’s surgery disqualify him from that No. 12 spot?
Based on film and performance, yeah, he’s that good. But will the back procedure scare the Eagles off?
Just four years ago, the Eagles gambled on Sidney Jones in the second round after he blew out his Achilles at his pro day and although he had a few moments during his three seasons here, he never came close to being the player the Eagles hoped for. He started 14 games in an Eagles uniform, picked off two passes and is now with the Jaguars.
A year ago, general manager Howie Roseman said the Eagles would be more reluctant to draft an injured player in the future.
“Hope is not a strategy when it comes to injuries,” he said. “When you bring in guys that are injured, it obviously increases the risk that they will get hurt again.’’
But the Eagles are desperate at cornerback.
They have 30-year-old Darius Slay; oft-injured 4th-year pro Avonte Maddox, whose outside CB experiment last year didn’t go well (and isn’t signed past 2021); and then guys like Michael Jacquet, Jameson Houston and Grayland Arnold.
The next-highest-rated corner is Greg Newsome of Northwestern, who has a chance to be very good but would likely be a reach at No. 12. No other corner is considered a 1st-round talent.
If the Eagles go best available in this scenario it could leave them without a CB2. They could trade down again and snag Newsome and add a pick. Or they could address corner in the second or third round.
But the last few corners they’ve drafted in the middle rounds – Maddox in the 4th round in 2018, Jones in 2017, Rasul Douglas in the 3rd round in 2017, Chip Kelly pick Eric Rowe in the 2nd round in 2015, Brandon Boykin in the 4th round in 2012, Curtis Marsh in the 3rd round in 2011 – haven’t panned out.
Farley told Peter King of NBC Sports that he needs about four months of rehab and that NFL doctors who examined him in Indianapolis recently cleared him to play in 2021.
“I got a lot of positive feedback from the NFL doctors,” Farley told King for this week’s Football Morning in America column. “The NFL doctors confirmed I would be ready for the season, and they told me this is definitely not a chronic thing. … I plan to be the best cornerback of my generation.”
The Eagles, who haven't drafted a quality corner since Lito Sheppard 19 years ago, could certainly use the best cornerback of his generation.
Taking Farley at 12 could very well be the only way the Eagles land an elite young cornerback this year. And if the injury really is behind him and he goes somewhere else, that's a disaster the Eagles don't need.
Of course, if some QB-desperate team leapfrogs the Eagles and makes it five QBs in the first 11 picks that pushes down the best non-QBs in the draft and gives the Eagles a much better shot at one of the presumed Big 3 of Waddle, Surtain and Horn.
The Eagles are going to have a huge decision to make about Farley, his back and his future.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: