By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA—For an Eagles squad that has far too many holes on both sides of the ball, the major question that fans have is what will the Birds do with the fourth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft?
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman will probably give you the best athlete available line. In other years when the Birds were winning on a consistent basis, that might be an acceptable answer to fans.
The stark reality is that any pick the Birds make in the draft, whether it’s the first round or the seventh round, will more than likely fill a need on a team that had more than its share of flaws in 2012.
On offense, the Eagles are going to need more bodies to protect Michael Vick or whoever wins the starting job at quarterback. Last season, Eagles quarterbacks were hit 118 times and sacked 48 times. Even with left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans coming back from injuries, the Eagles definitely need some depth in the offensive line.
If you’ve learned anything from last season, you can never have too many offensive linemen. The Eagles have their eye on Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (6-foot-6, 306 pounds). The word on Joeckel is that he’s a good pass protector who plays fast and has quick feet.
In Kelly’s hurry-up read option scheme, the Eagles are going to need their lineman to move quickly to the line of scrimmage and to get out attack opposing defenders.
“You’ve got to move. You’ve got to be able to play in space against some really, really good defensive linemen in this league,” Kelly told PhiladelphiaEagles.com .
Before the Kansas City Chiefs, who have the No. 1 pick, put the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, draft experts said Joeckel would be drafted by the Chiefs. Some are speculating the Chiefs are going to go defense in the first round and pick up Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
But new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always had an affinity for offensive lineman, so he might pull the trigger on Joeckel. If he does, there are some other linemen that Kelly and Roseman might consider if Joeckel is not available.
Alabama guard Chance Warmack (6-2, 325) might arguably be the best guard in this draft. This is a player who cleared the way for 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, all of whom were either All-Americans or All Southeastern Conference.
The various mock drafts and scouting websites are saying Warmack is an athletic guard who is an excellent run blocker and knows how to lock in on a defender and finish him off. Warmack is also athletic enough to be a good pass protector and is quick on his feet.
Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6-7, 300) may not have the name recognition like his contemporaries from the big schools. But he was an Associated Press Third-Team All-American as a left tackle. The word on Fisher is that he is a good run blocker and pass protector, who does a good job mirroring opposing pass rushers.
Fisher’s weakness is that he may lack upper body strength and had gotten beaten by defensive ends who bull-rushed him during practices at the Senior Bowl.
Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6-7, 303) raised eyes of some NFL scout when he ran a 4.75 40-yard dash. Not bad for a guy his size and seems to be quick enough for Kelly’s quick paced offensive scheme.
While the scouts like his upside in terms of his ability to pass block and ability to create space in the running game, Johnson needs to put on a few more pounds and needs to learn to keep his feet under him.
Considering that he’s only played on the offensive line for the last two seasons after playing quarterback in high school and tight end and defensive end during his first two years of college ball, he hasn’t been half bad on the offensive line. I’m not certain you take him in the first round, but he has good upside.
On defense, Lotulelei, if he’s still available by the fourth pick, could be the Eagles version of Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. At 6-4, 325 pounds, Lotulelei has the potential to plug up an opposing team’s running game. Last season at Utah, Lotulelei had 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, four pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.
If the Chiefs select Lotulelei with the first pick, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is the No. 1 linebacker on all the mock drafts. In 2012, Jones led the nation in sacks with 14.5, tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven).
For an Eagles team that was near the bottom of the league in turnovers forced, Jones could be the answer in terms of having a playmaker on defense. The Eagles haven’t had a true enforcer from the outside linebacker spot since Seth Joyner .
Defensive end Dion Jordan, who played for Kelly at Oregon, can also start at the outside linebacker spot. At 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan may have to put on a few pounds, but could be a solid outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
During his senior year with the Ducks, Jordan had 44 tackles (10 for loss) and five sacks. He also has the ability to drop back in pass coverage. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Jordan ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.