Helping Defense Could be Under-the-Radar Move by Eagles with 6th Pick

A closer look at two CBs - and others - who could interest Eagles and new DC Jonathan Gannon, who worked the last three years as Colts' secondary coach
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Me, I would probably go offense with the Eagles’ sixth pick in this draft, but my name's not Howie Roseman.

It’s an offensive league, the Eagles just hired an offensive coach in Nick Sirianni, but that defense, whew, it needs some work.

So, maybe the Eagles go all in for a defensive player at No. 6, getting new coordinator Jonathan Gannon some help.

The most glaring need is at cornerback, where the Eagles need to find somebody to play opposite Darius Slay, who turned 30 on New Year’s Day making him nearly one year older than special team coordinator Michael Clay.

Anyway, Gannon has a history of coaching DBs, having done it the last three years with the Colts, and it just so happens that there are two cornerbacks who should be available at No. 6 in Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.

The Eagles haven’t taken a cornerback in the first round since taking Lito Sheppard in 2002 with the 26th overall pick. That was also the year that the Eagles drafted their last player from Alabama, taking receiver Freddie Milons in the fifth round.

The Eagles could have taken an Alabama player in the 2017 draft when they took Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick, letting cornerback Marlon Humphrey slip to No. 16 where the Ravens picked him and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen go at No. 17 to Washington.

That was also the last year the Eagles took a defensive player with their first pick in the draft.

As for Farley, Virginia Tech isn’t known as a bastion for producing cornerbacks, though it did crank out DeAngelo Hall, the 8th overall pick in 2003, Brandon Flowers, the 35th pick in 2008, and Kyle Fuller, the 14th pick in 2014.

Safety Kam Chancellor was a fifth-round pick in 2010 and he won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks and had several Pro Bowl seasons.

The last Hokies CB the Eagles took was Macho Harris in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, but he played 15 games as a rookie, went to Washington the following year, and played three games that year, then never played again.

Both Surtain and Farley are 6-2 and weigh around 205 pounds, so good size there.

The defensive line will likely remain the Eagles' engine, based on personnel alone, but a young stud defensive tackle or end is something they could certainly use, given that warhorses Fletcher Cox turned 30 in December, Brandon Graham will be 33 in April, and Barnett is in the final year of his rookie contract, assuming the Eagles follow through on picking up the team option, something they announced months ago they would do.

That’s what makes Alabama’s Christian Barmore an intriguing prospect in that he can play both inside and out and has the kind of size, at 6-5, 310, that the Colts employed at defensive end.

No. 6 may be too steep to draft him, but the best philosophy in a draft is that you’d rather take a player you really like too soon than let him slip to somebody else.

Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau could also be in play, but like Barmore, is probably not a good bet with the sixth pick.

One to keep an eye on is Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 6.

There are some off-field red flags that would need to be sorted, and a philosophy of the Eagles not taking a linebacker in the first round (the last one was Jerry Robinson in 1979, though Marcus Smith was technically considered a LB when they took him in 2014), but Parsons is considered to be the best linebacker to enter the draft since Luke Kuechly came out of Boston College in 2009 and was taken ninth by the Panthers in 2012. 

All Kuechly did was stack All-Pro teams on top of All-Pro teams before an injury ended his career after eight years.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.