Draft for need or best player available? The Philadelphia Eagles can go either way in upcoming draft

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Linebacker Brandon Smith. Safety Jaquan Brisker. Pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie. And linebacker Jesse Luketa.

All from Penn State, and all were official-30 visits for Philadelphia.

The Eagles have held official visits with more Penn State players (four) than from national champion Georgia (three), according to information available to the public.

Those four Nittany Lions, though, have something else in common: They all play defense.

And if you go by the list of names taking (or have taken) official visits, 12 of 18 play defense. That includes two linebackers, one safety, and three defensive linemen, three pass rushers and three cornerbacks.

On offense, Philadelphia has official visits with three receivers.

Therefore, it’s reasonable to surmise that Philadelphia will focus on defense and receiver in the upcoming draft.

Overall, Philadelphia has 10 picks in the April 28-30 draft, including two in the first round at picks Nos. 15 and 18 overall. The Eagles also have a second-round pick and two thirds, giving them 5 of the top 101 picks.

Of Philadelphia’s most-pressing needs, pass rusher likely tops the list. The Eagles finished last season with 29 sacks, second-worst in the league. Even more troublesome? Only 10.5 of those sacks came from the team’s pass rushers.

After that on the needs list is cornerback. Despite the presence of 31-year-old Darius Slay and drafting a cornerback in the fourth-round last year, the cupboard remains relatively bare at the position.

And then there’s receiver. On the surface, you wouldn’t expect WR to be high on Philadelphia’s priority list. After all, the Eagles have taken a receiver in the first round three times the past seven drafts while also drafting one in the second round of the 2019 draft.

However, only one of them has stood out, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, who was taken with the No. 10 overall pick last year. Hence why receiver is always a popular pick for the Eagles in various mock drafts.

The team also has needs at linebacker, defensive tackle and safety (so, basically, the entire defense needs help).

What round to draft those players

An anonymous GM told Peter King in his latest Football Morning in America column that he “could see seven (offensive) tackles and edge players going in the top 10. Maybe there’s a fourth tackle” followed by the top two corners, Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley.

Therefore, you can probably cross off Gardner and Stingley. The same goes for the top four pass rushers: Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson.

What’s left out of the cornerbacks and pass rushers is Washington CB Trent McDuffie and Purdue Edge George Karlaftis.

That also means the receiving corps has remained relatively untouched, with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London and Alabama’s Jameson Williams all still available.

Therefore, the Eagles should be able to come away from the first round with some combination of McDuffie-Karlaftis and a receiver. Whichever position is not selected would then seemingly be the target in Round 2.

But that’s where things get a little tricky.

Who could be available on Day 2

Before Philadelphia pulls the trigger on its two first-round picks, the Eagles need to look at who might be available at those three positions in the later rounds.

Start with pass rusher; it’s a relatively deep year for Edge defenders, with a whopping eight who are ranked between 33 to 64 in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, most of any position in the second round. After that is cornerback, with five ranked in the second-round range.

That leaves wide receiver – and there’s only one who is ranked between 33 to 64, Skyy Moore of Western Michigan, who is ranked just outside of the first round at No. 35 overall.

Keep in mind, the big board rankings will be updated soon, so those numbers could change slightly.

But that nonetheless shows where the talent lies in the second round.

Therefore, it makes sense for Philadelphia to take the highest-rated remaining WR in the first round.

But don’t panic if the Eagles miss out on any of those three positions in the first round. That’s because the third round is chock-full of players at receiver, cornerback and pass rusher.

Overall, there are seven WRs ranked between 65 to 105, along with six CBs and five pass rushers.

Philadelphia has two picks in the third round, Nos. 83 and 101.

Therefore, the Eagles could take the best player available in the first round, regardless of position.

Although that strategy would seemingly force the team to draft for need with its next three picks, that’s totally reasonable due to how the talent is spread out in this draft.

Will Philadelphia draft for need in the first round or take the best player available? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest Eagles mock draft.

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