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Mark Eckel's Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft Preview

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All right, so the Eagles are not rebuilding.Mark Eckel

They have either traded or released 10 veterans from last year’s “best roster in the league’’ including five of whom had the words "Pro Bowl" on their resume. They also have five draft picks in the first three rounds and two more in the fourth round. But again they are not rebuilding, don’t even hint that they are. Call it what you want, but the Eagles roster – best in the league or not – will have a lot of new faces on it and most of them will be younger ones.

The Eagles have enough ammunition to make several moves up in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft. They also have several holes to fill, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. So with five selections in the first 87 picks in the draft, do the Eagles go for quality, quantity, or a little bit of both?New Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims. Photo: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3113/3130155489_68f0408b83_o.jpg&imgrefurl=http://bleacherreport.com/articles/96213-2009-detroit-lions-is-there-a-road-to-recovery&usg=__qg_DRrIZkni9VcHyYA0D61WaCE8=&h=410&w=300&sz=24&hl=en&start=2&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=cPZP0hJEW3x3HM:&tbnh=125&tbnw=91&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dernie%2Bsims,%2Bbleacher%2Breport%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26rlz%3D1T4HPIA_enUS311US311%26tbs%3Disch:1

“That’s a great question,’’ a top college scout for another team, said. “I have no idea what they are going to do, but with all those picks they are going to be a team to watch this week.’’

On Monday, the Eagles made another move by trading one of their two, fifth-round picks to Denver in a three-team deal that netted them linebacker Ernie Sims, who will compete for a starting job on the outside.

The Eagles have the 24th pick of the first round and then two selections in each of the second (37th and 55th) and third (70th, 87th) rounds. If they hit it right, they could address their need for a cornerback, a safety, another linebacker, a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman before the draft turns to Saturday morning and rounds four through seven. According to the draft value chart used by most teams, the Eagles could package their first-round pick and both of their second-round picks and move as high as No. 6 overall, a pick currently held by Seattle. If they were to use No. 24 and No. 37 they could get as high as No. 10 (Jacksonville), No. 24 and No. 55 would get them to 14 (also Seattle), and No. 24 with the lower second and a third could get them to No. 11 (Denver).

They could also sit still at 24, and package their two second-round picks, or No. 37 and 70 and try to get back into the first round. eric berry

Reports have the Eagles interested in two of the draft’s top safeties – Eric Berry  of Tennessee and Earl Thomas  of Texas.

Don’t bet on it. The Eagles have never spent a lot on safeties and probably won’t start now. Brian Dawkins  was a low second-round pick, as was Wes Hopkins. Berry, who is very good, probably won’t make it out of the top 10. Is it worth trading all the way up there to get a safety? Thomas, according to some scouts, isn’t all that great. Again, not worth what it would take to trade up to get.

Two players the Eagles could use, who won’t be there by the time they are scheduled to pick at No. 24 are Florida cornerback Joe Haden, considered by most to be the best cover corner in the draft, and defensive end Derrick Morgan, of Georgia Tech, who had 19 sacks the past two seasons, including 12 ½ last year. Haden, 5-10 ½, 193, with 4.45 speed, projects as a top 10 pick and will undoubtedly be the first cornerback taken. The first true freshman to start at cornerback for the Gators, Haden is a three-year starter who broke up 34 passes and intercepted eight in his Florida career. Morgan, 6-3, 266, played in the 280s in college before weighing in at a svelte 266 at the Combines. He is considered a strong pass rusher with a good upside, but not an exceptional athlete. He is projected to be selected somewhere in the high to mid teens.

If the Eagles cannot get up high enough to get Haden, the corners they will look at closely (and they have to get a corner) include Florida State’s Patrick Robinson, 6-0, 190, 4.42; Boise State’s Kyle Wilson, 5-10, 185, 4.44; Rutgers’ Devin McCourty, 5-11, 193, 4.42, and Alabama’s Kareem Jackson, 5-10 ½, 196, 4.48. All four figure to go in the 20s and at least one of them should be there at No. 24.

If the Eagles think Sims, who never lived up to his first-round status with Detroit and has been oft-injured, is the answer at linebacker, they will likely wait until the middle rounds to take another. But if Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon  is there, he might be a good fit. Weatherspoon, 6-1 ½, 239, 4.53, is the kind of playmaker the Eagles have needed at the position for years. Keep in mind, the Eagles have not drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979 when they selected Jerry Robinson.

Another position ignored through the draft that is also a major Eagles need is center. The last time the Eagles drafted a center who actually played for them was. . . You have to go all the way back to David Alexander – drafted by Buddy Ryan.

Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey, 6-4 ½, 304, is far and away the best center in the draft and sure-fire first rounder. Most scouts feel he will be able to come in and play right away, which is what the Eagles need since Jamaal Jackson is not expected to be back from his torn ACL. Pouncey could also be gone by 24, although most teams shy away from taking a center too soon. The Eagles should take him if he’s there at 24.

Depending on what the Eagles do early, some names to look at late include Fordham quarterback John Skelton (5th-6th round); Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim (6th- 7th round); guards Ciron Black, of LSU, or Chris DeGeare  of Wake Forest (5th round); defensive tackle Brian Price, of UCLA (2nd ), and safety Myron Rolle, of Florida State (4th-5th).

(Contact Mark Eckel at meckel@njtimes.com)

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