How a lockout will affect Eagles’ draft strategy

Regardless of whether a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached by March 4th or not, the 2011 NFL Draft will take place between April 28th and April 30th in New York. However, the likelihood of a lockout is increasing with every passing week, and if one is not reached by the deadline, free agency will occur after the draft instead of before hand if there’s a season in 2011 at all. Holding the draft prior to free agency will force teams’ hands a little bit as they will have had no opportunities to fill their most glaring need before the college draft. However, it will also afford them more freedom and flexibility because they will not have to fill every need, knowing that there will be a chance to go back and patch up some weaknesses on the roster. Still, teams will be grounded more on winning now than building for the future because their depth charts will not be as close to finished products as usual at that time of year.

When the draft finally does roll around, the Eagles won’t have any luxury selections. Their first three to five picks need to be spent on players who can contribute in the near future. Now, the Eagles don’t have to play themselves into a corner by drafting somebody only because he fills a need. However, they need to focus on areas where they could use somebody else to play right away or push a veteran for playing time. There is no reason to take a developmental player who will sit on the bench for two or three seasons in the first couple of rounds. Here are ten players who can help the Eagles immediately.

First round:

Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Kerrigan is one of the most polished pass rusher I’ve ever seen coming out of college. He has mastered the art of the sack-fumble and is the prototypical Washburn rusher. He can immediately be inserted into the defensive end rotation alongside Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp and collect 6-10 sacks as a rookie as he continues to get stronger and more adjusted to the pro game.

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Carimi is extremely talented with great size and good feet. He won his battle against fellow first round prospect Adrian Clayborn and looks like a rock at right tackle who has drawn comparisons to Jon Runyan. He could also kick inside to right guard in case he is not ready for NFL edge rushers yet. His biggest problem is inconsistent effort against lesser competition. Good thing there is no lesser competition in the NFL.

Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida: In 2010, Pouncey’s brother Maurkice was excellent as a rookie center. Mike is not quite as good a center, but could immediately step in at right guard (where he played for most of his college career) and be a huge upgrade over Max Jean-Gilles or Nick Cole. He would be a great pick for the Eagles at 23.

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: The Eagles played the second half of last season with a gaping hole at right corner. Aaron Williams has the speed and length that Dimitri Patterson will never be lucky enough to be blessed with and is a solid cover man who should probably be a nickel corner as a rookie before being thrusted into the starting lineup. He and Trevard Lindley would form a formidable tandem of inside corners who could shut down James Jones, Earl Bennett, Anthony Armstrong, or Jordy Nelson.

Second round:

Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Sheard is possibly the most underrated player in this year’s draft class. He is a force against both the pass and the run and has the frame that Washburn loves to work with in his defensive ends (6’3″, 255). He would be a great rotational pass rusher who could play on run downs unlike guys like Phillip Hunt and Ricky Sapp.

Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU: Kelvin Sheppard has played at a very high level for the past two seasons in the SEC and has the size and speed to thrive at the next level. He has great instincts and pretty good range for his size. He reminds me a lot of Sean Weatherspoon, who went 19th overall to Atlanta last year. Sheppard isn’t as fast, but can be a very effective player from day 1 who is either a SAM or MIKE. Sheppard, Stewart Bradley, Jamar Chaney, and Moise Fokou are four quality ‘backers who the Eagles should feel confident in.

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: Johnny Patrick doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He loves to hit and has the speed to run with faster receivers on deep routes. He’s one of those players who has all the physical tools and the mindset that makes a better pro than college player. He should challenge to start at the right corner spot.

James Carpenter, OT, Alabama: James Carpenter is another underrated prospect who has been a phenomenal left tackle since arriving at Alabama in 2009. He doesn’t have elite physical tools, but he is very fundamentally sound, experienced, and plays against top competition. I think he can start at right tackle from day 1.

Later rounds:

Shareece Wright, CB, USC: The Eagles need a lot of corner help, and Shareece Wright impressed me at the Senior Bowl. He can push Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindley for playing time.

Colin McCarthy, LB, Miami: McCarthy is a tough, instinctive, strong linebacker who can play SAM or MIKE for the Eagles. He shouldn’t be counted on as a day 1 starter, but he’ll provide great depth.

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