When the Eagles re-signed Ronald Darby to a one-year contract on March 15, I thought the mock drafters would cease having the Eagles pick a cornerback with the first overall pick on this year’s NFL Draft.
It didn’t happen.
I suppose it’s not a far-fetched idea that the team could go in that direction when the draft commences on Thursday night, with the Eagles currently in possession of the 25th overall pick that evening then the 53rd and 57th pick when the second round rolls into Friday night.
It may be particularly enticing for the Birds to take someone like Deandre Baker (pictured above) in the first round. The Eagles used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on Baker, who has the potential to be a shutdown corner in a league where those kinds of players are in the minority. He could compete to be a starter from the day he sets foot in the Eagles’ facility.
The Eagles, however, appear to have a full cupboard at the corner, with last year’s starters Darby and Jalen Mills returning. Except both are coming off serious injuries, with Mills missing the final eight games of the season and the team’s two-game playoff run with a foot injury and Darby missing the final seven games and playoffs with a an ACL tear.
Further complicating matters is whether or not the NFL will step in and suspend Mills for his role in a recent fight at a Washington, D.C. nightclub.
The other in-house Eagles corners are Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, and Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Injuries have prevented Jones from coming anywhere near the expectations the team had for him when they drafted him in the second round two years ago. Douglas played better in each game he played following the injuries to Mills and Darby and LeBlanc was a revelation.
The question surrounding Douglas is, has he reached his ceiling or can he get even better than what he showed late last season?
The question about LeBlanc, who is on his third team since entering the league in 2016, is can he maintain the consistency he showed last year and finally stick with a team?
As for Maddox, he is the only one where there are very few questions, except for whether the Eagles should keep him at corner or convert him to safety after a strong showing there last year.
So there are enough questions to make cornerback a realistic pick in the first round.
I’m just not buying it, not after the Eagles invested heavily already in the position, drafting Mills, Jones, Douglas and Maddox with the last three years and all four are under the age of 25.
They could dip into the position in the second round of if they trade further down the board and Baker is still sitting there. Even LSU’s Greedy Williams or Washington’s Byron Murphy could be the best players available if the Eagles trade down out of the first round or if they are still available in the second round, something highly unlikely.
There were two other corners the Eagles used their top-30 visits on: Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye and Houston’s Isaiah Johnson.
Unlike Baker, who is just 5-11, 190 pounds, both Oruwariye and Johnson have size, with Oruwariye checking in at 6-2, 205 and Johnson at 6-2, 208. Johnson is very raw, though, after beginning his career at Houston as a receiver before being moved to corner in his final two years there.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes bigger corners, and maybe Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson (6-2, 213) or Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams (6-4, 211) fit the bill.
Chances are, the Eagles would have to try to recoup a third-round pick to take any of the aforementioned corners because it is unlikely they would be sitting their when the fourth round begins on Saturday. If any of them are still available when the Eagles are on the clock in the fourth round with pick Nos. 121 and 138, then maybe – just maybe - they grab one.
Coming next: Making a case for a wide receiver