Eagles Draft Guide: So What Happens if Fletcher Cox is Traded?

The Eagles finished tied for 2nd in the NFL with 49.0 sacks last season. They also finished in the top half of the league against the run, ceding 110.7 yards per game on the ground. And while on paper the Eagles should be able to get after the quarterback and hold its own against the run again this season with current personnel, they will have to do so without the services of Trent Cole, who was released by the team in March. Cole tallied the third most sacks for the Eagles last season with 6.5. The Eagles could also part ways with defensive end Fletcher Cox, who has been at the center of recent trade talks that would feature Philadelphia trading up in the first round to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Cox is widely considered a top-5 player at his position in the NFL, and he is arguably the most important player on the Eagles’ defense. The void he would leave if traded would be enormous (I’ll discuss this more later in the article). Connor Barwin will continue to be a stronghold in the Eagles’ defense (he led the team with 14.5 sacks last season), and in March, the Eagles re-signed outside linebacker Brandon Graham to a multi-year contract. While Barwin, Graham and Cox teamed with defensive ends Vinny Curry and Cedric Thornton to sack the quarterback 34 times in 2014, the Eagles still need to add one more reliable pass rusher prior to the 2015 regular season to solidify their aggressive defensive attack. While last year’s draft picks Marcus Smith and Taylor Hart will have every opportunity to solidify roles as situational players in the Eagles’ front seven, their entirely uninspiring rookie campaigns make them far from locks to make the 2015 regular season roster. Even if the Eagles hold steady at defensive end, the contracts of Cox, Curry, and Thornton are set to expire following the upcoming season, and talks of long-term extensions have reportedly been minimal thus far. With some fluidity and questionable depth at the positions that disrupt opposing quarterbacks the most, Eagles fans should expect Chip Kelly to target a defensive end, an outside linebacker or one of each during the upcoming draft.

Let’s take a look at the perimeter box players in this draft and how their skill-sets could translate in the eyes of the Eagles. The notes and projections that go along with each prospect are a mixture of scout consensus and personal observations formed from watching games or film. Players are listed alphabetically. Total players listed: 32

OLB Kwon Alexander- 6’1 227 lbs.
Notes: Above average athleticism and lateral movement ability. Plus speed for position. Will disrupt tight ends and running backs at the beginning of a route. Plays too high. Poor awareness at times. Takes false steps too often. Gets washed down too easily when run blocked.
Projection: Third round

DE Henry Anderson- 6’6 294 lbs.
Notes: Comes off the ball well for his size. High-motor player. Intelligent player. Has played in odd and even fronts. Small legs for his size. Struggles at times with stopping feet at contact. Lacks necessary power to play inside in the NFL, but can add to frame once in the NFL. Must improve hand placement as a pass rusher. Anderson is a player for Eagles’ fans to keep their eye on during the second day of the draft, especially if Fletcher Cox is traded. He would be a steal for any team if drafted outside of the top 75. Pac-12 connection is notable.
Projection: Third round

Henry Anderson
Henry Anderson has the size and ability to be a top-notch run stopper in the NFL.

DE Arik Armstead- 6’7 292 lbs.
Notes: When watching his film, Armstead reminded me of a taller Fletcher Cox. Elite size with the ability to add more weight if needed. Elite first move at the snap. Quick twitch player. Above average use of his arms to out leverage offensive linemen. Little production as a pass rusher while in college. Needs to improve as a finisher when tackling the quarterback or ball carrier. If the Eagles trade Fletcher Cox, there’s no player in the draft better suited to fill his void than Armstead. Due to his projection, it seems extremely unlikely that the Eagles would have the opportunity to draft Armstead if they also trade up for Mariota. Oregon and Pac-12 connection is notable.
Projection: First round

OLB Vic Beasley- 6’3 246 lbs.
Notes: Elite explosiveness. Quick feet and fluid hips. At best in a three point stance. Plus closing ability. Likely needs to add more weight in the NFL. Technique could be improved. Needs to improve block shedding against the run. Unrealistic option for the Eagles at pick 20.
Projection: First round

DE Anthony Chickillo- 6’3 267 lbs.
Notes: Consistent player. Strong hands. Effective with arms at the snap of the ball. Plus ability against the run for his position. Former five star recruit that underachieved while at Miami. Not an explosive player. Does not have a definite position in the NFL. Needs to add bulk and thickness to lower body.
Projection: Sixth round

DE Frank Clark- 6’3 271 lbs.
Notes: Arrested in 2014 for domestic violence so some teams may view him as a risky draft pick. Excels as a downhill player. Good bust up field when pass rushing. Plays low and coverts speed to power well. Relies on motor over talent. Below average agility.
Projection: Third round

DE Xzavier Dickson- 6’3 260 lbs.
Notes: Plays low and is fast at the snap of the ball. Uses leverage and strength to shed blocks. Does not dominate tight ends the way he should. Below average athlete and is stiff in the lower body. Hardly ever used in pass coverage.
Projection: Sixth round

OLB Bud Dupree- 6’4 269 lbs.
Notes: One of the most freakish athletes in the 2015 draft. Elite power for his position. Plus explosiveness. Above average at dropping back and playing zone coverage. Does not always play to his height. Technique could be improved. Lacks in-game urgency. There are whispers around the league that Dupree’s size may lead to him being the first edge rusher taken in the draft. Unrealistic option for the Eagles at pick 20.
Projection: First round

DE Mario Edwards Jr.- 6’3 279 lbs.
Notes: A player who has been trending more and more as the draft approaches. Very thick frame. Above average power at the snap of the ball. Has strength to out-leverage blockers. Very poor pass rusher. Lacks power in hands. In-play awareness needs improvement.
Projection: First round

DE Trey Flowers- 6’2 266 lbs.
Notes: High motor player. Consistent with hand placement. Good technician. Can hold his own against the run. Below average burst at the snap of the ball.
Projection: Late third round

OLB Dante Fowler Jr.- 6’3 261 lbs.
Notes: Athletic frame. Very long arms. Can rush the passer from a two or three point stance. Great range for size. Still raw as a pass rusher. Average low-body strength. Below average in recovery when knocked from position. Unrealistic option for the Eagles at pick 20.
Projection: Top 10 of first round

OLB Alani Fua- 6’5 238 lbs.
Notes: Extremely versatile player. Excellent in space. Plus ability in coverage. Above average acceleration for the position. Has habit of losing contain at times on the edge. Fua has visited with the Eagles prior to the draft and is definitely a player to keep an eye on during the third day of the draft.
Projection: Fifth round

OLB Markus Golden- 6’2 260 lbs.
Notes: Never takes a play off. Plus talent as a run stopper for his position. Plays with good awareness and has strong hands. Slow off the ball at times. Lacks closing burst. Technique needs to be improved.
Projection: Sixth round

OLB Randy Gregory- 6’5 235 lbs.
Notes: Failed the combine drug test, so some teams may be hesitant to draft him. Plays stronger than his measureables suggest. Will likely add weight in the NFL. Plus explosiveness. Can play from two or three point stance. Stays low against pulling guards. Plays too narrow at times. Often wastes movement after the snap. Slow to process plays at times.
Projection: First round

OLB Obum Gwacham- 6’5 246 lbs.
Notes: Played wide receiver before moving to defensive end in 2014 at Oregon State. Elite explosiveness. Effective in coverage for his size. Scouts question his ability as an every down NFL player due to his play strength. Needs to add variety to his moves as a pass rusher. Below average against the run. Pac-12 connection is notable.
Projection: Fifth round

OLB Eli Harold- 6’3 247 lbs.
Notes: Elite strength for position. Effective with hand on the ground or standing up. Elite closing burst. Plus agility for position. Lower body needs to get stronger in the NFL. Needs work in coverage and as a finisher when tackling.
Projection: Early second round

OLB Jordan Hicks- 6’1 236 lbs.
Notes: I am bullish on Hicks. Intelligent player. High character player in all facets of the game. Plus talent as a tackler. Above average burst. Average anticipation and instincts. Must improve on shedding run blockers. Past injuries while at Texas are a concern.
Projection: Fifth round

OLB Mike Hull- 6’0 237 lbs.
Notes: Great lateral ability. Reliable tackler. Shows awareness in zone coverage. Lacks bulk and has extremely short arms. Below average athleticism. Liability in man coverage against running backs.
Projection: Sixth round

OLB Danielle Hunter- 6’5 252 lbs.
Notes: Elite athlete for his position. Long arms. Powerful hands. Can overpower tackles at point of attack. Moves well in space. Possesses above average spin move. Active player at all times. Relies too much on athleticism at times. Needs to produce more as a pass rusher. Hunter has visited with the Eagles prior to the draft. From a value standpoint, Hunter is my favorite pass rusher in the draft. I expect the LSU standout to be on Chip Kelly’s short list beginning in the third round.
Projection: Third round

danielle hunter
LSU’s Danielle Hunter is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in the 2015 Draft.

OLB Hau’oli Kikaha- 6’2 253 lbs.
Notes: Gives relentless effort at all time. Versatile player. Excellent hands. Plus agility. Recovery ability is above average. Not much value as a run-stopper. Past injuries while at Washington are a concern. Pac-12 connection is notable.
Projection: Third round

OLB Lorenzo Mauldin- 6’4 259 lbs.
Notes: High character player. High-motor player. Plus in-play awareness. Above average agility. Plays too upright. Needs to add more mass to lower body. Lack of size is an issue as a run stopper.
Projection: Third round

OLB Owamagbe Odighizuwa- 6’3 267 lbs.
Notes: One of the most chiseled players in this draft. Plays strong at the point of attack. Elite ability as a run stopper. Strong and fast hands. Needs to continue developing as a pass rusher. Below average pursuit ability. Below average in coverage. Unless he gains weight and transitions to a 3-4 defensive end or develops as a pass rusher, Odighizuwa may not fit into the Eagles’ philosophy on defense. If he can add weight to his frame, Odighizuwa would be a prime candidate to a fill the void left by a potential traded Fletcher Cox; if he develops his skill in rushing the passer, Odighizuwa could be a top-tier 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Odighizuwa has met with the Eagles prior to the draft.
Projection: Early second round

Nebraska v UCLA
Owamagbe Odighizuwa has visited with Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ staff prior to the upcoming NFL Draft.

OLB Nate Orchard- 6’3 250 lbs.
Notes: Quick feet. Above average inside move as pass rusher. Offers scheme versatility. Flexible upper body. Poor against the run. Too stiff at times. Pac-12 connection is notable.
Projection: Early third round

OLB Shane Ray- 6’3 245 lbs.
Notes: Elite explosiveness. Elite power for his size. Arguably the best pass rusher in the draft. Elite agility for his position. Drops back into space easily. Lacks ideal length of an edge rusher. Needs to add more variety as a pass rusher. Lack of size is far and away the biggest question mark when projecting Ray’s ceiling in a 3-4 defense. Ray was an unrealistic option for the Eagles at pick 20 until recently when reports surfaced that an injured foot could keep the former Missouri star at less than 100% for an extended period of time. Ray has visited with the Eagles prior to the draft, and he could be a top candidate to be taken with the 20th pick if Chip Kelly were to shock the world and target an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft. There have, however, been some concerns voiced by scouts who question Ray’s fit as an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Projection: Late first round

DE Cedric Reed- 6’5 269 lbs.
Notes: Above average speed and first move for his position. Above average inside move as a pass rusher. Above average pursuit ability for his position. Struggles to shed blocks. Struggles as a pass rusher when he is forced outside.
Projection: Sixth round

OLB Jake Ryan- 6’2 240 lbs.
Notes: Played inside linebacker at Michigan during the 2014 season but projects as an outside linebacker in the NFL. Plus talent as a tackler. Moves well from sideline to sideline. Versatile player who has a place in any scheme. Struggles at times to shed blocks. Missed games during the 2013 season with a torn ACL.
Projection: Fifth round

DE Preston Smith- 6’5 271 lbs.
Notes: Long arms. Plus talent as a run stopper. Holds his ground at almost all times. Must improve inside pass rushing moves. Slow off the ball at times. Lacks necessary power to bull rush. Smith began trending into the first half of the draft after an impressive senior season and performance at the Senior Bowl.
Projection: Second round

preston smith
Once a late-round prospect, Mississippi State’s Preston Smith is now likely a second or third round pick.

DE Za’Darius Smith- 6’4 274 lbs.
Notes: High motor for a player of his size. Good build in upper and lower body. Strong at the point of attack. Above average strength in hands and knows how to use them. High character player. Below average ability as a pass rusher. Below average athleticism for his position. May only project as 4-3 defensive end.
Projection: Fourth round

OLB Shaq Thompson- 6’0 228 lbs.
Notes: Likely the most versatile player in this year’s draft. Played outside linebacker, insider linebacker, safety and running back during the 2014 season at Washington. Elite athleticism. Below average speed for size. Strong work ethic. Might not have a true fit in the NFL. Too easily redirected as a pass rusher. Does not always play with a high motor. Pac-12 connection is notable. Thompson has worked out for the Eagles prior to the draft.
Projection: Late second round

DE Lynden Trail- 6’7 269 lbs.
Notes: Long frame. Primarily used as an OLB in a 3-4 defense but can also play with hand in dirt. Continues to improve as a pass rusher. Raw player. Played wide receiver in high school and is still learning how to be an edge rusher. Takes wide angles at quarterback too often. Below average at using hands. Some teams project him as an NFL tight end. Trail’s athleticism and potential may lead to a team drafting him a round earlier than most projections.
Projection: Sixth round

OLB Davis Tull- 6’2 246 lbs.
Notes: High-motor player at all times. Plays stronger than his measureables suggest. Elite hands. Plus power for size. Lightning quick spin move. Overall competition while at UT-Chattanooga is a concern. Lacks desired burst. Will struggle against athletic tackles in the NFL.
Projection: Fourth round

OLB Tony Washington- 6’4 247 lbs.
Notes: Has experience playing as an outside linebacker and defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Still growing into large frame. Flashes edge-setting potential at times. Reliable tackler. Not good in man coverage. Takes wide angles when rushing the quarterback too often. The Oregon and Pac-12 connection is notable. While Washington is projected as a priority free agent by most draft experts, he is one to keep an eye on in the late rounds of the draft. If Chip Kelly chooses not to draft Washington, there’s an above average chance he’s signed as an undrafted free agent by the Eagles following the draft.
Projection: Undrafted free agent

Putting it all together: First, it’s important to understand that if Fletcher Cox has to be included in a trade for Marcus Mariota in order for the Eagles to salvage as many current and future draft picks as possible, Chip Kelly should make the deal 100 times out of 100. That said, it’s also important to realize that trading Cox would create a hole on the Eagles’ defensive line that had been plugged by an elite run stopper. How would the Eagles attempt to fill the potential void? If Cox were traded, I would expect Kelly to target a defensive end with above average size and run stopping ability. Players in this draft class that fit that mold include Arik Armstead (Projected: First round, unlikely to be available for Eagles if Fletcher Cox were traded), Preston Smith (Projected: Second round), Henry Anderson (Projected: Third round) and Lynden Trail (Projected: Sixth round). I could also see Kelly targeting Owamagbe Odighizuwa (Projected: Early second round) and asking him to add weight to play defensive end in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense.

Whether or not Cox is traded, I expect the Eagles to pursue a pass-rushing outside linebacker during the upcoming draft. With better value at this position than at defensive end, I expect Kelly to wait until the middle rounds of the draft before targeting (in order of projection): Danielle Hunter, Alani Fua, Obum Gwacham and Jordan Hicks.

Follow Sidelines and Headlines creator Ray Butler on Twitter: @RayButlerII

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