Final 2011 big board

1. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Strong, fast, and dominant against both the run and the pass. A scheme versatile, three down player whose immaturity concerns are being blown way out of proportion.

2. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A tall, explosive receiver who can take games over. He has the skill, potential, and attitude to be a superstar at the next level.

3. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: The best pure pass rusher to come out of college football since Mario Williams can be a terror of the edge with his speed and moves.

4. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The total package at receiver who is extremely big, strong, and tough. A no-nonsense prospect very much in the mold of Andre Johnson who I consider to be a safer pick than A.J. Green.

5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: A rare talent who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and contributes on special teams.

6. Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama: A very solid football player who has no weaknesses in his game, but he’s not the twelve-sack player that Fairley can be.

7. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Supremely athletic and surprisingly powerful for his weight, Tyron Smith certainly looks like he can blossom into a top left tackle. Had he stayed in school, he would be vying for the top overall pick in 2012.

8. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Not the best athlete in the world, but is certainly good enough and is the most polished pass rush prospect to come out in some time. He will immediately be a very, very tough player to block.

9. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: A powerful interior presence who plays with great leverage and dominates his gap in the run game. He will never be a liability, but won’t wow anybody with his rush skills, although they are adequate.

10. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Nobody’s thrilled with his off-the-field antics or attitude, but Smith is as good of a man-to-man cover corner as you will find in the NFL. Think Antonio Cromartie.

11. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: A very gifted and productive pass rusher, but he needs to develop better moves to complement his amazing natural abilities.

12. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The knee injury is a serious concern, but Bowers will still have his whole career ahead of him and remains one of the most talented and complete defensive ends to come out since Mario Williams.

13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Not as explosive off the edge as Quinn or Bowers, but Watt finds a way to make plays, whether it be by penetrating, rushing off the edge, or batting down a pass. Impressive motor.

14. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA: Not only a ballhawk anymore, Rahim Moore is a sure tackler and somebody quarterbacks will not want to test in coverage. It’s hard to understand why he may not go in the first round, as he reminds me a lot of Earl Thomas, who was drafted fourteenth overall.

15. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Experience, pedigree, toughness…Carimi has it all. While he may not be an elite athlete, he’s certainly a plug-and-play at right tackle and has the potential to be a solid left tackle.

16. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Prince certainly knows how to play the game, but his tendency to disappear in big games is a huge concern.

17. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Ingram’s stock fell at the combine because he’s the type of runner that thrives when he gets the pads cracking. He should be a very effective back who can shoulder the load of a franchise runner if necessary.

18. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: He’s surrounded by allegations, but the facts say that he’s the only passer in the draft that could move his team up and down the field against the top defenses in the country in a pro-style offense.

19. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: A little raw, but Baldwin is a huge target that will wind up being a deep threat and red zone weapon. He reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress.

20. Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: A complete interior offensive lineman who has elite mobility and is worthy of a first round pick despite his position.

21. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: A sound tackle who will probably be a starter on the right side, but does not impress me as a run blocker or pass protector. Your pedestrian starting tackle.

22. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: A very powerful player who is very tough to move but extremely athletic. If he had played this season, he would be right up there with Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley.

23. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: A great 34 nose prospect as he can engulf smaller offensive linemen, but has his weight completely under control.

24. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Slightly undersized, but is very powerful at the point of attack, and is a crafty and productive pass rusher.

25. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Extremely talented, but would have liked to have seen one more year of college for this raw youngster who has quite a burst but plays far too tall.

26. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: A fiery competitor who is fast enough to start in the NFL and loves to be physical. A bit of Antoine Winfield in his game.

27. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: A tall, long cover corner who can also kick inside and play in the slot or at safety. A complete player who just needs to clean up some footwork and fluidity issues.

28. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: A 3-4 end only in my opinion, Heyward is a tough, strong player who can be a day 1 starter in the right situation. His game compares very favorably to Cullen Jenkins.

29. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: A fundamentally sound player who plays with passion. I just question whether he’s big enough to be an effective 3-4 end or quick enough to be an effective 4-3 end. He will be a solid but unspectacular player.

30. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: A do-it-all linebacker who really allows you to be flexible in your scheme. However, I’d like to see him jump out at me more on tape.

31. Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona: An explosive, relentless pass rusher who definitely reminds me of Clay Matthews a bit, although I doubt he will become that type of player.

32. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: A supremely talented player who is unshakable under pressure. He needs a ton of work, but is a big time prospect.


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The first round: who to stay away from

Everybody loves to predict busts. This guy has character concerns and that guy is too small. The truth is that writing prospects like that off is a dangerous business. For every player that wasn’t athletic enough to make an impact, there’s a Tom Brady and a Wes Welker. For every player that got caught up with off-the-field issues, there is a Ray Lewis and a Michael Vick. Most of the time, players become busts for a reason that isn’t as obvious as what “experts” are pointing to with Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Smith, and Nick Fairley. Here are the players I believe are too risky to take in the first round.

7. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple: Wilkerson has a rare combination of size and athleticism that will allow him to succeed as either a 3-4 defensive end, or as a 3-technique (DT) in a 4-3 scheme. However, coming from a small school, scouts want to see you dominate your opponents, not just your potential. While Wilkerson flashes extraordinary talent, he plays down to the level of his competition too often. If he can’t be a difference maker in the MAC, I doubt he will find much success in the NFL. He’s worth a draft pick in case the light comes on for him, but the first round comes with too lofty of expectations.

6. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Smith’s burst and athleticism are truly remarkable coming off the edge, and there’s no question that he can develop into a great pass rusher. It’s the amount of development that he has in front of him that concerns me. He needs to add a lot of strength, and he plays far too upright right now to make an impact against superior tackles. Nobody questions his ceiling or potential, but it’s no guarantee that he will go from a tall, lanky kid to a solid, fundamentally sound defensive end.

5. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Cam Newton is another one of those players who has unlimited physical ability, but is just too far away from being a productive pro. In Carolina, his playbook will not be centered around the QB draw and QB sweep. He will not be throwing ten bubble screens a game, and he will not be able to outrun safeties or bulldoze linebackers. He has no experience whatsoever in a pro-style offense, has not proven that he can throw intermediate routes, and should not be forced into the starting role, which is probably what will happen in the event that he is the first player chosen. In his defense, he performs very well under pressure, is ready for the rigors of the NFL, and is supremely talented. Still, he needs too much work and is not worthy of a high first rounder.

4. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: As I stated earlier, prospects usually don’t bust because of one obvious factor. However, poor accuracy is too important of a factor for an NFL quarterback to overcome. Locker’s character, mobility, and toughness cannot make up for this deficiency in his game, and as much as I’d like to see him succeed, the odds are truly stacked against him.

3. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Pick a random Nebraska tape. You likely see an incredibly sound cornerback who plays with great instincts, awareness, feet, and technique. He is likely blanketing receivers and being much too physical for them. You are likely ready to take him in the top ten, unless of course you picked up the Oklahoma State tape. I know it’s only one game, but when he lines up against a receiver of Justin Blackmon and gets beat over and over again, it does not look good. He’ll be expected to lock down receivers at least as good as him in the pros.

2. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: If Andrew Luck had decided to come out, Gabbert would not be a top five pick. He played in a ridiculous offense, which I thought was a spread punt formation at first. He has no pocket presence, and strikes me as arrogant. His deep ball needs a ton of work, and I see him as a fit in a west coast system only. I think the best he can be is a more mobile Chad Pennington. That’s not first-round material.

1. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Is Nate Solder really supposed to be a left tackle? He is tall and very gifted, but his athleticism does not translate to the field at all. He plays like his feet are stuck in the mud, and you cannot play tackle in this league without feet. I realize that he’s improving and new to the position, but projects like him usually go in the fourth round. I don’t understand why he’s regarded so highly.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: 12 days out

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: The Panthers seem to believe Newton is the player that can turn their franchise around. At this point, anybody else would be a big surprise here.

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: Denver has needs all over the place, but John Fox tipped his hand by cutting his best interior defensive linemen.

3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: Peterson or Gabbert could be the pick, but Miller fills a bigger need and the Bills coached him at the Senior Bowl, where he was sensational.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A quarterback is needed badly, but Mike Brown is too stubborn to admit that Palmer no longer has a future in Cincinnati.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: With so many young signal callers on the roster, I think Arizona will upgrade their defense here, where arguably the best player in the draft is still on the board.

6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Defensive end is also a huge need, but the talent evaluators in Cleveland are all offensive-minded and there is a much deeper defensive end class than receiver this year.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Gabbert is still on the board, but I think Jim Harbaugh truly believes in Alex Smith.

8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: The Titans desperately need a franchise quarterback, and one falls into their lap here.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Dallas needs to do a lot better at right tackle, and they reportedly love Tyron Smith, who has a ton of potential.

10. Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina: With two passers and two receivers off the board, the Redskins need to add a blue chip defender with this selection. Robert Quinn would be an enormous upgrade over converted offensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander.

11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri: Smith’s draft stock is rising quickly, and Houston needs some edge rushers for their new 3-4 defense.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: The Vikings love mobile quarterbacks who can throw on the run, and there is no question that quarterback is their biggest need.

13. Detroit Lions: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Yet another piece to the puzzle for an improving Lions defense. Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Kyle Vanden Bosch should really help Bowers develop.

14. St. Louis Rams: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Fairley’s draft stock is dropping due to character concerns, but there’s no way he gets past the Rams at fourteen, who need a presence on the interior.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: The Dolphin running game certainly isn’t what it used to be. However, the offensive line has as much to do with that as running back. Pouncey has a better chance to be a pro bowl player than Mark Ingram, and you want to take difference makers in the first round.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Once again, the Jags have serious problems getting to the quarterback. Ryan Kerrigan is a very, very good football player and will help out Tyson Alualu quite a bit.

17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Talent and need converge here as J.J. Watt is the dream pick here for the Patriots.

18. San Diego Chargers: Cam Jordan, DE, California: San Diego is falling in love with the 5-techniques in this class, and Cam Jordan can certainly help solidify an already talented defensive unit.

19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Every starter on the Giant offensive line is at least thirty-years-old, so they should be in the market for some youth there. If they don’t, they’ll end up like the Redskins.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Tampa desperately needs to find a sack master, and I’d say Brooks Reed is regarded as that type of player as he keeps drawing comparisons to Clay Matthews.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: Scott Pioli always takes care of his defensive line first, and he needs to upgrade Ron Edwards in the middle. Taylor is one of the few 330+ pounders coming out of college that is always on top of his weight and can overwhelm smaller offensive linemen.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: There’s little doubt that the Colts will be looking to draft an offensive tackle early on. Nate Solder is a gifted athlete and has the chance to develop into a superb left tackle.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Asante Samuel is 30, and the Eagles don’t have much to write home about behind him on the depth chart. Jimmy Smith can start at right cornerback from day 1 and eventually slide over to the left side.

24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: The Saints reportedly love Cameron Heyward, and they certainly are in the market for versatile defensive linemen that they can move around a bit.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Seattle needs to do something about their anemic pass rush, and there’s good value still on the board.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Ravens are serious about cutting ties with Jared Gaither and have been organizing visits with a bunch of pass protectors.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia: The local product will be a big addition to a team that has only one impact defensive lineman in John Abraham, who turns 33 in a couple of weeks.

28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis aren’t bad, but Mark Ingram would be a big upgrade over the perennial committee of undersized, old, broken down backs in Foxborough.

29. New York Jets: Marvin Austin, DE, North Carolina: Shaun Ellis, the Jets’ only good 5-technique, will be 34 very soon, and they need young blood on their defensive line. Marvin Austin’s stock is rising again and his athleticism makes him a good fit for the 3-4.

30. Chicago Bears: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: Tim Jennings got abused in the NFC Championship Game, and they could use an upgrade across from Charles Tillman. The Bears will love Harris’ competitiveness, physicality, and aggressiveness.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: The Steelers have an elite run defense, but are far too thin at corner. If Ike Taylor bolts in free agency, the Steelers will be in big trouble defensively.

32. Green Bay Packers: Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois: Outstanding value here for the Packers as they get to replace Cullen Jenkins with a very similar type of player.

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If I were calling the shots on draft day…

Boy would I give anything to be in this position. In the war room. Phone ringing off the hook. Trying to perfect the crapshoot called the NFL draft. As a general manager, here’s how I would want things to play out.

1. Resolve the CBA, then trade Kevin Kolb

If a new deal is not reached by draft day, no players can be traded for draft picks. That would throw a huge wrench in my dream draft for the Eagles. Assuming one is reached after the draft, I would deal Kolb for a package of 2012 picks that would likely be a first and a third rounder. Yes, you want insurance for a quarterback like Michael Vick, but I do think that Kolb is slightly overrated, and it’s a virtual certainty that if he is not traded, he will leave for no compensation after the 2011 season. Some potential trade partners would be Seattle, Arizona, and Buffalo. With the draft only two weeks away, I will assume that Kolb will be traded for 2012 picks, which may end up working even better for the Eagles in the long run.

2. Stay put at 23

I really like the 23rd slot this season. A couple players that I really like will still be available and there’s not a huge drop-off in talent from 13th to 23rd. After your six to nine elite players, there are about fifteen to eighteen prospects in the second tier. A few will be available when the Eagles pick. However, after the late twenties, the talent does thin out considerably. It would take an exceptional offer to get me to back off from the 23rd selection. At that point, I would take Jimmy Smith. He fills the Eagles’ biggest need, is probably the top talent on the board, and can make an immediate impact. He’s tall, lanky, and can flat out cover. You can plug him into the starting line-up and he will produce. The more I watch him, the more I think Antonio Cromartie. Physically, they are nearly identical and they play a very similar brand of football. Neither know when to shut their mouths and their teams cringe whenever they talk to the media. However, in Smith, you’re getting a pro bowl talent at 23, so you have to deal with the character issues. He and Asante Samuel could form one of the great cornerback duos in the league, and there would be great depth behind them with Trevard Lindley and Joselio Hanson. If by some miracle Smith is off the board, Gabe Carimi would be my pick. He doesn’t have the upside of Smith, but he’s a tough, reliable right tackle. The Eagles need a bookend for Jason Peters almost as much as a right corner, and Carimi’s length and nastiness fit the Andy Reid mold. I buy the comparisons to Jon Runyan, and I would take Carimi over Anthony Castonzo or Nate Solder. Mike Pouncey would be my emergency option, and if all three are gone, surely a talented front seven player such as Corey Liuget or Akeem Ayers would still be available.

Move: Draft Colorado CB Jimmy Smith at 23.

3. Probably trade the 54th overall pick

Either up or down, I don’t care. If Rahim Moore falls into the forties, I would trade 54 and one of my fourth rounders to go up and get him. I think he’ll be a very, very good player. He, Jimmy Smith, Nate Allen, and Asante Samuel makes the secondary a big strength. That scenario isn’t all that likely though. So, when my pick finally rolls around, I would take Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard or Miami guard Orlando Franklin if either is still around. Franklin reminds me a lot of Todd Herremans. He’s a complete player who pairs his athleticism with toughness. Sheard is very powerful at the point of attack and explosive enough to make a difference as a pass rusher. If both are gone, I would trade this pick to a team who wants to snatch up one of the last good quarterback prospects, whether it be Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, or even Ryan Mallett.

Move: Trade 54th selection to QB needy team for early 3rd round pick and 2012 4th round pick.

4. Take advantage of having 4 picks in rounds 3 and 4

With my first third rounder, I’m taking Alabama tackle James Carpenter. He can pass protect with the best of them, and can push for the starting job at right tackle or right guard. My next pick would be spent on Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy. He’s a big, tough, versatile player who isn’t the most physically gifted player, but can provide great depth and compete with Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley, and Jamar Chaney. In the fourth round, Syracuse running back Delone Carter is my man. I think he has a chance to be the next great short, thick running back as he compares favorably to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Now, those are high expectations, but he can certainly be a great back-up to LeSean McCoy and Jerome Harrison, potentially forming a new three headed monster. Carter is shifty but tough to bring down, and is natural when catching the football. My last fourth round pick goes to Greg Romeus, the Pittsburgh defensive end. He had bad injury luck and consequently did not produce in his senior season, but was regarded as a high first round pick last year when he decided to return to school. Add him to the plethora of talented, young pass rushers trying to crack the rotation including Ricky Sapp, Philip Hunt, and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Move: Draft Alabama OT James Carpenter, Miami LB Colin McCarthy, Syracuse RB Delone Carter, and Pittsburgh DE Greg Romeus.

5. Late rounds

Just take flyers on guys who have potential in areas where there is a roster spot open. I like South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley, Portland State tight end Julius Thomas, Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter.

6. Look ahead to 2012

Now, I have two first, two third, and two fourth round picks in 2012. There should be many more NFC East crowns in the coming decade…

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Assessing the Eagles: offensive line

LT: Everybody loves to call Jason Peters the most overrated player in football. He’s not. He’s not Walter Jones, but he routinely goes up against the top pass rushers in the league and rarely, if ever, gets help. In addition to being the team’s best run blocker, he is under contract for several more seasons, and is entrenched as the starter on the left side. Behind him, I really like Austin Howard. He’s not ready to play yet, but is huge, athletic, and nasty. He has as much upside as any player on the line, and could be a very good player down the road.

LG: Todd Herremans is a reliable starter at left guard who can do it all. He’s got good size, athleticism, and smarts which make him a perfect fit in the Reid system. He can also kick out to tackle if necessary. He and Peters form a nice tandem on the left side of the line, and can be counted on in the future. As far as depth is concerned, Reggie Wells was a disappointment and now that his contract has expired, I doubt he will be brought back.

C: After two straight season ending injuries, Jamaal Jackson’s future with the Eagles has to be in doubt. He’s a solid starter when healthy, but the Eagles’ patience may be wearing thin as it did in Shawn Andrews’ case. Filling in for him was Mike McGlynn, who started off the year miserably, but showed considerable improvement towards the playoffs. Still, I question whether he mastered the line calls, and he’s a much better fit at guard in my opinion. I would strongly consider taking a center in the third round of the draft such as Florida State’s Rodney Hudson or Penn State’s Stefan Wisniewski to compete for the starting role.

RG: Yes, right guard was a mess, but not as big of a mess as most make it out to be. Many fans and experts use Max Jean-Gilles as the scapegoat for the Eagles’ offensive line woes, but he was the only lineman on the team to have started a game and not allowed a sack or half-sack. Ideally, the Eagles would address this position, but I would not freak out if MJG was slated as the starter in 2011. Justin Blalock, Robert Gallery, or David Bass could be answers in free agency, and players like Lehigh’s William Rackley, Georgia’s Clint Boling, and TCU’s Marcus Cannon should be on the Eagles’ radar on the draft’s second day. Nick Cole should not be invited back to the team as his 2010 campaign was beyond miserable.

RT: The Eagles have two talented players at right tackle in Winston Justice and King Dunlap, but as this position protects Michael Vick’s blind side, the Eagles cannot afford to settle for an average player here. Having a terrible right guard likely would not impede the Eagles’ chances in the playoffs, but having a terrible right tackle certainly would. Jammal Brown and Jared Gaither are two very intriguing free agent targets for the Eagles, as both are supremely talented pass protectors who have experience as their team’s lead tackle. If those options do not work out, I would take Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi in the first round or Alabama’s James Carpenter in the third.

Verdict: Release Nick Cole and Reggie Wells and bring back Max Jean-Gilles. Sign either Jammal Brown or Jared Gaither in free agency, and spend a third round selection on an interior offensive line prospect. As long as two bookend tackles are in place and Howard Mudd develops his young players such as Austin Howard and Mike McGlynn, the offensive line should be fine as long as they are allowed to gel as a group.

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Assessing the Eagles: skill positions

QB: The Eagles have their starter in Michael Vick. He’s an unbelievable runner and can spin it with remarkable velocity and accuracy. Those are the three things you can’t teach a quarterback his age. He does have flaws, including recognizing the blitz, his height, his reckless style of play, and ball security. However, another offseason with some of the best quarterback coaches in the world will help him improve in this area. I am confident that he will only improve for next year. He does need a solid backup though. If the Eagles trade Kolb, which I think is a good idea considering I believe other teams are overvaluing him and that his contract expires after next season, they will need to find a new solution. To me, Alex Smith is the man for the job. He is very talented, but never had a good offensive coach or very many weapons to help him realize his potential. I think he can develop into a starting caliber quarterback very quickly in the Eagles’ system. Behind him, it sounds as though Mike Kafka is progressing very nicely. He is big, smart, and athletic, and the organization is very, very high on him. I am extremely eager to watch him in preseason.

Verdict: If the Eagles trade Kolb, bring in a veteran such as Billy Volek or Alex Smith, but if Kolb is not dealt, no changes are necessary.

RB: LeSean McCoy exceeded my expectations in 2010 and then some. I wasn’t thrilled when he was drafted in the second round, and didn’t impress me in 2009. However, he really blossomed into a feature back last season. I don’t expect him to get much better, but not a lot of teams can say they have a back as complete and as explosive as McCoy. Behind him, I really like Jerome Harrison. He’s a similar type of player who has thrived when given playing time in this league. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and must be retained. The third running back, Eldra Buckley, is absolutely a waste of a roster spot and no effort whatsoever should be made to retain him. At least he was good on special teams in 2009, but he even struggled in that department more recently. At fullback, Leonard Weaver will start the season on the PUP list, and his knee injury remains career-threatening. However, while Owen Schmitt is not as athletic or as good of a runner as Weaver, he is tough, a reliable receiver, and is a pretty good blocker. He could easily be a full-time starter. I believe the Eagles will take a runner in the middle rounds to complement McCoy and Harrison. A tough goal line back could be the missing piece in a talented backfield.

Verdict: Re-sign Jerome Harrison, release Eldra Buckley, and draft a bigger back in towards the fourth or fifth round such as Syracuse’s Delone Carter, LSU’s Stevan Ridley, Hawaii’s Alex Green, or Louisville’s Bilal Powell.

WR: With the most exciting receiving corps in the league and no impending UFAs, the Eagles seem to be set here. I believe that Jeremy Maclin is one of the better receivers in the league. He’s fast, a good route runner, has reliable hands, and is a willing blocker. He’s not as flashy as DeSean Jackson, but I’d much rather have him on my team. I see Jackson more as an x-factor. I would use him on special teams and line him up all over the field. He’s far from a complete receiver, and I don’t like how he can be shut down and that he’s afraid to go over the middle. The solution is to make a unique position for him, not to force him into a traditional flanker role. I would be very open to the possibility of trading him if a team would give up the farm for him (I would be looking for a top 10 pick). I was very disappointed in Jason Avant in 2010, as he dropped an uncharacteristic amount of passes. Hopefully he rebounds because he is one of the tougher receivers in the league, and the Eagles need somebody like him if they want to start DeSean Jackson. Riley Cooper has shown a ton of promise as the fourth option, and he will develop into a real player. For the final spot, Chad Hall, Sinorice Moss, and Jeremy Williams should be involved in a very, very competitive battle.

Verdict: The Eagles do not need to add another receiver, but if one they like would be a cheap add in free agency, they should jump on the opportunity.

TE: Brent Celek dropped more passes than you would like, but he understands how to play the position and gives great effort. It’s not worth trying to upgrade him. Behind him, there are question marks with unproven young players Clay Harbor and Cornelius Ingram on the team. Ingram is extremely athletic but just as injury prone, and Harbor needs a good preseason before I he can buy his talent. I wouldn’t mind adding a veteran for depth like Chris Baker, David Thomas, or Daniel Graham. Some draft prospects deserve a look in the later rounds of the draft.

Verdict: Bring in a low profile player (through either FA or the draft) for depth such as David Thomas in FA or Portland State’s Julius Thomas, Michigan State’s Charlie Gantt, or Marshall’s Lee Smith through the draft.

Overall, the Eagles are in very good shape in this area of the roster. It is the only set of positions where the Eagles do not have any pressing needs.

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Another reason to hope for CBA resolution

With every passing day, Kevin Kolb’s trade value seems to be rising. Other than Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, teams aren’t overly excited about any other prospects. With Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, and Minnesota all very much in the market for a new quarterback, only two will get their hands on a guy they view as a franchise quarterback. So, five teams will have a big decision to make. Do they roll the dice on a Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, or Colin Kaepernick? Or do they explore trade routes. Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, and Carson Palmer will be available, but Kevin Kolb is the premier quarterback who can be pried away from his current team. Now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that one of those five teams would be willing to part with a high first round pick in exchange for Kolb.

Jay Cutler netter Denver Kyle Orton, two top 20 selections, and a third round pick. Combined, those four items are worth the first overall pick. Kolb isn’t at Cutler’s level, but he’s ahead of where Matt Schaub went. In exchange for him, the Falcons received the equivalent of the 14th overall pick. So, it’s fair to assume that Kolb should be able to be dealt for a top 15 selection. Consider Arizona’s plight. Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are not likely to slide past Carolina, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. If they are both off the board, Larry Fitzgerald will not be happy. If Fitzgerald is unhappy, he likely will move on after the 2011 season, the last year of his contract. Without Fitzgerald, Arizona loses a significant portion of its fan base, its best player, and its primary building block. For the Eagles, the fifth pick would probably mean either Patrick Peterson or Von Miller suits up in Eagle green in 2011. So, the Eagles should be extremely disappointed if they are not allowed to trade players for 2011 picks.

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