PHILADELPHIA – Four years later, the 2017 NFL Draft haunts the Eagles like the specter of Nnamdi Asomugha.
Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, taken in back-to-back rounds that year - Jones in the second at No. 43, Douglas in the third at No. 99 - are gone, released last summer.
If they had hit on even one of those two cornerbacks, Jones or Douglas, the position situation wouldn’t seem as desperate as it does now heading into this spring’s draft.
The Eagles had to trade for Darius Slay last year, and now he’s 30 and, after a contract restructure, will have a salary-cap charge of $22 million in 2022 and $23M in 2023.
The Eagles tried Avonte Maddox opposite Slay last year, with results that didn’t inspire too much confidence. Maddox is a better slot CB, and, potentially, a better free safety, than he is an outside corner.
It gets really thin and inexperienced after that.
This coming draft feels like another swing at selecting two cornerbacks.
There are plenty of options, too, including with their 12th overall pick, where Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and/or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn could be waiting. So could Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, but he is a medical red flag after recent back surgery.
“When the teams look at the imaging and get the real information, I don’t think it will be an issue,” said Farley. “I accepted my draft invite, so I’ll be in Cleveland. If a team wants the best corner in the draft, they’ll come find me.”
Surtain and Horn were raised around football, with both their fathers enjoying long NFL careers – Patrick Surtain as a defensive back and Joe Horn as a wide receiver.
“The best advice he’s given me is to treat it like a business interview, just a longer process,” said Horn. “Every day, just think someone is watching you and you have to be on your toes and make smart decisions. As far as my career, it’s been about staying humble, keeping an empty cup, learning from any and everybody wherever I am, and just trying to get one percent better every day.”
After those three, there are plenty of other options, perhaps in the second round, including a pair of Georgia corners in Eric Stokes and Eric Campbell, the son of former Eagles CB Asante Samuel, Asante Samuel, Jr., and Central Florida’s Aaron Robinson.
Here’s a closer look:
CB1: Darius Slay
CB2: Avonte Maddox
Depth: Keyvon Seymour, Michael Jacquet, Craig James, Jameson Houston, Shakiel Taylor, Lavert Hill,
BUILDING THE PERFECT CORNERBACK
Press coverage – Patrick Surtain II, Alabama: Surtain, whose father was a second-round pick of the Dolphins in 1998 and spent seven years with them and 11 years total in the NFL, played 227 snaps in press-man coverage the past two years and is a four-year starter for the Tide. He wasn’t flagged once this year, a tribute to his ability to maintain contact with a WR without grabbing or being too physical.
Zone coverage – Greg Newsome II, Northwestern: Newsome has some of the best footwork among his peers, and that helps him play well in space, with very little wasted motion to cover ground quickly.
Recovery speed – Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State: Samuel’s size and length aren’t ideal for an outside corner, but he checks plenty of boxes, including speed, burst, change of direction ability, and leaping ability. And his dad, Asante Samuel, played corner for 11 years in the league, including four with the Eagles.
Run support – Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse: One scouting report calls the 6-3, 213-pounder an aggressive striker who can end catches quickly with the ability to cast a wide net as an open-field tackler.
Nickel – Aaron Robinson, Central Florida: He can play inside or outside, but no matter where he lines up, he is an effective cover corner.
Physicality – Jaycee Horn, South Carolina: Horn won’t back down from anyone, but sometimes his physicality with receivers can lead to PI flags. He may have to tone that down a bit at the next level and adjust his play accordingly.
EAGLES MAVEN TOP 10:
Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
Jaycee Horn South Carolina
Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Aaron Robinson, Central Florida
Asante Samuel, Jr., Florida State
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
Eric Stokes, Georgia
Tyson Campbell, Georgia
Elijah Moulden, Washington
Sleeper: Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Boom or Bust: Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven and host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.