Friday, April 27, 2007

Eagles NFL Draft 2007: Predictions

By Tim McManus
The Phanatic Magazine

Pre-Draft for NFL executives is one giant mind game.

Sometimes, the acts are overt -- like when a team leaks that several first-round prospects, including Calvin Johnson, admitted to smoking marijuana.

Usually, though, the tactics are much more subtle. Higher-ups will purposefully spill information to reporters to create a story that is usually more smokescreen than substance. Take the Oakland Raiders, for example, who are leaning toward JaMarcus Russell one day, Calvin Johnson the next, then gush over Brady Quinn on the eve of the draft.

The purpose? To alter the value of a player to where the teams want it to be.

The Eagles play this game as well as anyone.

Amidst all the misinformation, journalists are forced to sift through a few tons of sand to find one pebble of truth; it's more or less an art form, really.

We'll have to wait until late Saturday to see how we fared, but here's The Phanatic Magazine's take on who the Eagles will walk away with once talk turns to action:

EAGLES FIRST-ROUND CHOICE -- PREDICTIONS

Jeff Glauser: Brandon Meriweather, safety, University of Miami.

As an alumnus of the 'U,' I'm somewhat torn about this prospective choice. On one hand, Meriweather is a Dawkins clone in many ways: A hard hitter who can play in the box and has great open field instincts. However, like many of his Hurricane brethren, there are serious character questions that come with him. Plus, recent Miami picks haven't fared too well in Philly (See:McDougle, Jerome; or Green, Jamaal). Regardless, it has become quite apparent that safety is the biggest position of need heading into this draft, but don't be surprised if the Eagles decide just to trade down to add more first-day bodies.

Steve Lienert: Brian Leonard, running back, Rutgers.

The first pick the Eagles will take is Leonard, although it will be in the second round. The Birds, after seeing both Michael Griffin, the safety from Texas, and Reggie Nelson, the safety from Florida, are already gone at No. 26, they'll trade down to the 35-36 range and nab Leonard. According to all reports, most notably from Trenton Times Eagles' beat reporter Mark Eckel on his 610 WIP radio show on Wednesday night, Andy Reid absolutely loves Leonard. If Griffin and Nelson are gone, the Eagles will/should trade down and hopefully land Leonard, who should still be on the board. If Griffin and/or Nelson are available, the choice becomes infintely more difficult, because Reid can't be blind to Brian Dawkins' age. If they don't get someone to replace Dawk this year, it may be too late to groom a replacement. But let's be honest -- no NFL roster can have enough Rutgers football players (see Smith, L.J.).

Michael Rushton: Michael Griffin, safety, Texas

Griffin fits the Eagles defensive mold. Aggressive and quick, he led Texas in tackles this past season with 126, and also blocked eight punts in his Longhorns career. At 6-foot, 205-pounds, it would be great to see Griffin learning under the 6-foot, 210-pound Brian Dawkins. Griffin is big enough to handle the big wide outs of the NFL, and as evidenced with his blocked punts, can penetrate, meaning he could be a solution to stopping the run.

John McMullen: Meriweather

Brian Dawkins will be 34 this season, Michael Lewis will soon be indicted for stealing money in San Francisco and The Phanatic Magazine has learned that Sean Considine is not the answer. So, with their first pick in the NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles will take a safety. The team seems enamored with Miami's Brandon Meriweather but, based on pure talent, Meriweather should be long gone by the time Andy Reid and Tom Heckert flex their muscles. Character concerns involving the famous fight with Florida International will work in the Birds favor, however, and Meriweather will slip. He's a bit undersized but Meriweather can play either safety position which is important. He would break in as the strong safety opposite Dawkins while being the heir apparent to the veteran Pro-Bowler at the free safety spot.

McManus: Meriweather

Tom Heckert made a small media tour this week, inventing new ways to say next-to-nothing at each stop. Interesting, though, was how Heckert rose up and defended Meriweather at every turn. He couldn't help but say how impressed the staff was with him, and how his checkered past was not a big concern once the organization got to know him. This may be early PR for a team about to take a risky but high-reward talent.

Easy to see why the Eagles think he would be a good choice: Meriweather is considered the best cover safety in the draft by many experts, and is also renowned as one of the hardest hitters despite his 5-11, 195-pound frame. And here's a tantalizing stat: Of his 31 career starts at Miami, Meriweather started 21 games at strong safety, six at free safety, two at right cornerback, one at left corner and one at nickel back. That's some serious versatility that the Birds could desperately use.

If his character issues are in fact behind him, the Eagles will be getting a gift at No. 26. Don't expect them to refuse it.
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