In this segment I will determine the few players that the Eagles will likely pursue in the draft at each position of need, and when they will select them.
Earlier in the offseason we discussed the Eagles’ biggest positional needs. Today we will take a look at the defensive tackles in the draft. The Eagles have held onto a strategy along the defensive line where they acquire “fastballs,” or guys who can get to the quarterback. While this sounds pretty usual for NFL teams, the Eagles rotate their linemen constantly throughout the game to keep them fresh while the opposing offense gets worn out. The idea is to keep up constant pressure to exhaust the opposing line, while having the depth to always have someone fresh who can generate a pass rush.
The Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning team is the best example of this. Just look at this depth:
|Brandon Graham||Fletcher Cox||Tim Jernigan||Vinny Curry|
|Chris Long||Beau Allen||Destiny Vaeao||Derek Barnett|
|Steven Means||Elijah Qualls|
Graham, Cox, Long, and Barnett are either studs or young, good talent. Jernigan is a good player who has been marred by injuries recently. Curry and Allen got paid in Tampa Bay, and the other guys were decent depth, with Means probably being the best name amongst them.
As of right now, the Eagles’ defensive line looks like this:
|Michael Bennett||Fletcher Cox||Tim Jernigan||Derek Barnett|
|Chris Long||Trayvon Hester||Haloti Ngata||Josh Sweat|
|Daeshon Hall||Bruce Hector|
We are assuming that Brandon Graham will be gone in free agency in this scenario. Jernigan could very easily be cut this offseason, as his contract hasn’t matched his production, and Ngata will almost certainly be cut. Without them, the depth chart looks like this:
|Michael Bennett||Fletcher Cox||Trayvon Hester||Derek Barnett|
|Chris Long||Bruce Hector||Josh Sweat|
Take into account that Michael Bennett and Chris Long are 33, and Chris Long has been considering retiring for a couple years now, and you can see the long-term issues the Eagles have at defensive line.
Cox and Barnett will likely be with the team for many more years, but the team needs fastballs to play alongside them while the Eagles still have the capabilities to compete for a Super Bowl.
We will address the defensive end needs in another article as well, but lets get into today’s prospect for defensive tackle.
The Prospect: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
In our first mock draft, we have the Eagles selecting Wilkins at pick 25. This has become slightly less of a possibility now that Jeffery Simmons tore his ACL, and will certainly fall to day two in the draft. That fall will theoretically move every other good player up one spot in the draft, and Wilkins already might not’ve been available at 25 in the first place.
We at Underdog have, at the moment, seen Wilkins to be a tad overrated. We plan on getting more in-depth into his film, starting with this segment now, but there is a fear that his production in college was helped significantly by the presence of guys like Clelin Ferrel, Dexter Lawrence, and Austin Bryant.
Wilkins was 51st in our big board, and was our 7th best defensive tackle in this year’s very loaded draft. We rated Wilkins behind Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones and Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery, because of their quickness around blocks. Wilkins did receive a good pass rush grade from us, with an 8.8/10.
Christian Wilkins weighs in at 315 lbs. and stands tall at 6’4″. In his final season at Clemson, Wilkins recorded 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and was involved in 51 tackles in total.
Here’s his film against Boston College:
Wilkins has a nice tackle at 0:25, moving down the line to get the running back. At 0:41 you can see his pass-rushing ability, though he doesn’t finish with the sack (it’s still a good play). He has another good fight-through-the-block tackle at 2:23, and on the very next play he gets excellent penetration to get to the running back at 2:31.
On a botched play at 4:30 Wilkins finishes by catching up to the Boston College QB, which is a good effort but not necessarily a sign of his own skills. At 4:51 he gets his hands on a pass to make it uncatchable.
And here’s a highlight reel to show you Wilkins’ best plays:
We at Underdog believe that the Eagles have their eyes on Wilkins as a possible first-round target. As of yet we do not fully agree with that possible decision, but it is our duty to put out content even if it reflects possible team opinions that we don’t see as best. Wilkins is obviously a talented player, and will be drafted and expected to be a day-one playmaker by an NFL team. That team could be the Eagles, and he would work into the rotation well.
Would he be the best player the Eagles could take at 25? Maybe not. I guess we’ll have to keep a close eye on him throughout the draft process.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has Wilkins going to the Colts just after the Eagles at pick 26.