The700Level

The700Level

There's very little debate about the Eagles' biggest need heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. It's cornerback. In fact, a case could be made cornerback is the first, second and third position most in need of an upgrade.

At most, that's only slight hyperbole. If the season started today, the Eagles would likely go with some combination of Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rob Brooks at corner. Now, who's ready to buy playoff tickets?

A trio of Mills, Robinson and Brooks could work out better than people think. Regardless, the Eagles aren't going to leave it at that. It's purely a matter of when during the course of the 2017 NFL Draft the cornerback position will be addressed.

The Eagles' first-round choice at No. 14 might be ideal, but that's not necessarily going to be the case. While even Howie Roseman might admit corner is the club's top priority, if you got him drunk, the draft may not shake out that way.

In other words, don't be surprised if the Eagles' pick is a running back, a wide receiver, or a defensive lineman -- or even a linebacker or tight end. Because as much as corner seems like a slam dunk, the draft is rarely that simple.

Value

It's a good year to be in the market for multiple cornerbacks, that's for sure. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has been on record as saying the class of 2017 has a chance to be historic, which means starting-caliber corners are going to be around in the second, third and possibly fourth rounds, possibly even later.

 

Obviously, the later the draft drags on, the less likely the Eagles are to hit. There are never any sure things, but the odds of hitting on a starter, much less Pro Bowl player are better the earlier the position is addressed. If the perfect prospect is sitting there at No. 14, the Eagles shouldn't pass because maybe they can get somebody later.

What the knowledge that there are quality corners later does do is give the Eagles the freedom to pass on corner in round one if that's not the best player available. Because as much as it might be a need, it certainly isn't the only area where the team could use an influx of talent. Waiting might not be ideal, but it’s certainly an option.

Value, Pt. 2

Plus, the potential issue the Eagles are facing when they're on the clock at No. 14 is there really might not be a cornerback worthy of that selection. As deep as the draft is at that spot, the dispersion of talent sure doesn't appear to be top heavy.

Based on prospect rankings from various sources, there is no real consensus on how to sort the cornerbacks beyond Marshon Lattimore, a potential top-five pick and not a consideration for the Eagles. The only thing the lists seem to agree on is a corner almost definitely will not be the best player available in the middle of the first round.

Gareon Conley, Kevin King and Marlon Humphrey look like the best options there, and somebody in the draft universe would call any one a reach that early. Injuries to prospects such as Sidney Jones and Fabian Moreau haven't helped, but the reality is it likely dropped two more high-end prospects out of contention.

The Eagles need a cornerback, but not just for the sake of getting one. If Conley, King or Humphrey aren't significantly better than the players available in the second round – and one of them might be – there's no reason to force it.

Best player available

In what is more or less a continuation of the points made above, the Eagles aren't in a position to target cornerback above all else. The team has plenty of other needs, and narrowing the focus on corners heightens the risk of reaching -- if it doesn’t turn that outcome into a virtual certainty.

Granted, prospect rankings are purely an outline and often don't reflect what actual NFL scouts are thinking, so none of this is to say the Eagles can't get a corner AND the best player at No. 14. However, given what we think we know about this draft class, the Eagles can get the best player at No. 14 -- whether that's a running back, receiver, lineman, linebacker, whatever -- and satisfy their needs at cornerback later.

That's how the draft works. Front offices may go into the process intending to address certain areas, and may even plan to pursue specific players. What good teams don't do is "target" a certain position with a first-round pick. If the Eagles wind up getting a cornerback, great. If it's a different position, so be it.

 

The most important thing is the Eagles come away with the best player possible at No. 14.