Investigating the usual suspects at 23

April’s draft is creeping up on us, and mock drafts are out in full force. I’ll show you the seven players that I think stand a legitimate chance of being selected by the Eagles, assuming Andy Reid and Howie Roseman decide to stay put at that slot. Then, I’ll name some later round prospects who would be great additions if they fall.

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: At this point, Carimi is the most logical fit for the Eagles at 23. He fills a big need, presents good value, and fits Andy Reid’s scheme perfectly. At 6’7″ and 314 pounds, his frame screams Jon Runyan and he has the ideal skill set for a right tackle. Most analysts tab him as a run blocker, but Carimi was a very skilled pass protector as a left tackle in college. He is my top rated offensive tackle in the entire draft, and he will be very tough to pass up should he fall to 23rd.

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Nate Solder appeared to be well on his way to being the first offensive tackle selected. However, after the emergence of Tyron Smith and Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder looks like a prime candidate to experience a draft day free fall. Philadelphia could very well be the team to end that free fall as they will undoubtedly love Solder’s 6’8″ frame. However, Solder is merely a developmental prospect who I consider to be severely overrated. He has a ton of potential, but is disturbingly inconsistent and unsound in pass protection despite his athleticism. He cannot be counted on to start from day 1, and should not be taken in the first round. I would be concerned if the Eagles took him, but I will admit that the possibility of Solder in midnight green is not far-fetched.

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: I personally think Jimmy Smith will be selected either by Houston at 11th overall or by Detroit two slots later. However, a lot of other mock drafts have him sliding down to the Eagles. Smith played against elite competition, and has unbelievable triangle numbers at 6’2″, 211, 4.38. The concerns with him are with his character concerns and when I watch him on tape, there’s just something missing. He can blanket receivers, play press coverage, and tackle, but doesn’t seem to show real aggression or very good instincts. I would compare him to Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie is a great cover man due to his rare combination of length and athleticism, but just doesn’t seem to be in the right place at the right time as much as say a Troy Polamalu or Asante Samuel. Smith could prove me wrong though, and his talent is undeniable. I couldn’t argue with picking him at 23 at all.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: The writers on the Eagle website are spewing out a whole bunch of nonsense about how defensive end is a huge need. I get the feeling that the Eagles will be looking to add a big upgrade there this offseason. Trent Cole and Juqua Parker really got worn down towards the end of the season, and none of the rookies really lived up to the hype around them. If Adrian Clayborn is still around at 23, he would be a great player to plug in on run downs as the quicker Darryl Tapp and Philip Hunt could be used as pass rush specialists. Clayborn would be good value, but I’d rather have Jimmy Smith or Gabe Carimi.

Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: If Gabe Carimi is off the board, please don’t reach for a tackle Andy Reid. Derek Sherrod is a decent player, but nothing really stands out to me that makes me believe he’s a first round pick. He’s a finesse player who looks like he’ll need another year of development or two before he’s ready to take over a starting job. Sometimes, that’s fine, but when you don’t have that much potential, you’re not worth a first round pick. Period.

Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Akeem Ayers was very disappointing at the combine, and will likely slide down draft boards leading up to the big day. I think there’s a very good chance that he falls into Andy Reid’s lap. He would fill a need, but I don’t consider outside linebacker to be a very important position in a 4-3. I wouldn’t argue with the pick, but there are other players I would rather have. If I was planning on drafting a 4-3 linebacker in round one, he’d better be special, and while Ayers can do everything well, he can’t do anything great. I don’t see him developing into a star.

Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida: Andy Reid should be very interested in Mike Pouncey because his unbelievable lateral mobility would be great for the Eagles’ screen-oriented offense. He could immediately be counted on to be the starter at right guard, and he would add stability to an offensive line that has been plagued by injuries and roster turnover in recent years. Pouncey would be a perfect fit for Reid and Morninwheg’s scheme and I would have no problem with selecting him in the first round, despite the fact that he has no ability to play tackle.

After the first round…

Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: If Kolb is traded, the Eagles will be in the market for another quarterback. Devlin could fall into the fifth round since there are so many second and third round quarterback prospects this year.

Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State: The Eagles have already shown interest in Hunter, and he has the toughness and receiving ability the Eagles love out of their smaller running backs. He’s a fourth or fifth rounder.

Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State: Brent Celek is a quality tight end, but he needs a more athletic complement. Julius Thomas is a late round pick who is extremely fluid catching the football.

James Carpenter, OT, Alabama: James Carpenter will be a huge steal. If he’s around in round three, the Eagles need to pounce. He reminds me a lot of Rodger Saffold, who looks the Rams’ franchise left tackle.

Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU: Sheppard is tough, instinctive, and very good at filling running lanes. He’s a perfect fit for the Eagle system, and could be a valuable member of the linebacker corps if drafted in the third or fourth round.

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: The Eagles need to take a hard look at Johnny Patrick in the second round. He is an intense competitor who loves to hit and has the height, long speed, and ball skills to be a starter. He reminds me of Sheldon Brown, who was taken late in round two back in 2002.

Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: The former receiver really caught my eye at the Senior Bowl. He’s 6’3″ and he can stick with receivers. He plays intelligently and has great length. The best part is that his skills are still a relative secret and since he is new to the position, there is still a lot of room for improvement in his game. If he’s still on the board in the fifth round, the Eagles will be forced to take him.

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