Despite McNabb's requests, Eagles likely to draft lineman

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb wants a playmaker. He might get a big, burly blocker instead.

The Philadelphia Eagles are far more likely to draft an offensive lineman or a defensive player than a wide receiver in the first round of Saturday's draft. They could end up satisfying their quarterback's wish in a later round or possibly through a trade, but it would be a stunner if Philly used the 19th pick on a wideout.

"I think we have pretty good playmakers where we're at, which I think was evident by the results at the end of the season," coach Andy Reid said during the NFL owners meetings earlier this month. "We went on a bit of a run there and I thought some of the guys stepped up and played well."

 A 3-0 finish that capped a disappointing 8-8 season left many in the organization optimistic about this year. The Eagles made a splash in free agency, spending big bucks on All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive end Chris Clemons. They also signed linebacker Rocky Boiman, fullback Dan Klecko and tight end Kris Wilson.

But fans want more, specifically, a No. 1 wideout. So does McNabb, who stated several times this offseason that the Eagles need more playmakers.

Philadelphia flirted with Randy Moss only to see him return to New England. There were discussions about a trade for Larry Fitzgerald before he got a new contract from Arizona. Chad Johnson, Roy Williams and Anquan Boldin are mentioned in trade rumors on a daily basis.

With a slew of picks and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard as trade bait, the Eagles are in position to make a deal.

"You win the game up front on both sides of the ball," Reid said. "If the d-line is better than the o-line, the quarterback is going to be in trouble. If the o-line is better than the d-line, the defense is going to be in trouble. That's how it worked out in the Super Bowl. That theory really rises to the top. You can have pretty good receivers, but if those guys up front aren't doing their job, those receivers aren't going to be very good."

If the Eagles stay put at No. 19, they could choose a tackle who would eventually replace Jon Runyan or William Thomas. The two veterans are entering the final year of their contracts.

Vanderbilt's Chris Williams or Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah are possibilities if they're still on the board. Boston College's Gosder Cherilus probably will be there if the Eagles want him.

Otah (6-foot-6 and 322 pounds) has been compared to Eagles guard Shawn Andrews, a two-time Pro Bowl pick. Otah can play either side, making him an even more attractive choice.

Williams (6-6, 315) is projected to be one of the best pure left tackles in the draft, though he's considered more of a "finesse" player. Cherilus (6-6, 313) has Runyan's nastiness, but scouts worry about his footwork.

The Eagles could opt for a defensive lineman to rotate with Pro Bowl end Trent Cole. Clemson's Phillip Merling, Miami's Calais Campbell and Southern California's Lawrence Jackson are possibilities.

Merling (6-4, 276) didn't work out for anyone because of surgery for a sports hernia, so his stock dropped a bit.

Campbell (6-7, 290) has great size and potential, but struggled last year after an outstanding sophomore season. The last time the Eagles chose a Hurricane in the first round (DE Jerome McDougle in 2003), it didn't work out.

Jackson (6-4, 271) had an excellent senior season and his ability to excel on special teams makes him more valuable. The Eagles need a safety to replace the aging Brian Dawkins by next season or earlier, and they'll need another cornerback if/when Sheppard is traded.

South Florida's Mike Jenkins, Troy's Leodis McKelvin, Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kansas' Aquib Talib are the top cornerbacks in the draft.

Jenkins is considered the premier cornerback coming out. McKelvin's stock has risen since the Senior Bowl and he would solve the Eagles' need for a returner. Rodgers-Cromartie had great success on a small-school level. Talib has the tools to be selected early, but may drop because he sometimes had concentration issues.

Miami's Kenny Phillips is the only safety draft experts project as a first-round selection. Phillips is an imposing safety who could make an immediate impact in Philly's secondary.



You can sort through the history of the NFL draft by using several easy navigational tools:

Under Reid, the Eagles have had more hits than misses with their first pick. Wide receiver Freddie Mitchell (No. 25, 2001) was a bust and McDougle (15th, '03) was an even worse selection.

McNabb (2nd '99), Sheppard (26th, '02) and Andrews (16th, '04) were excellent choices and defensive tackle Corey Simon (6th, '00) had a productive five-year career in Philadelphia. Defensive tackles Mike Patterson (31st, '05) and Brodrick Bunkley (14th, '06) were solid choices.

Philadelphia traded out of the first round last season and took QB Kevin Kolb as its top choice in the second round. McNabb wasn't too pleased the team started grooming his eventual successor and he began speaking out more. The old McNabb never would've campaigned for a game-breaking receiver as openly as he has since the end of the season.

Michigan State's Devin Thomas, California's DeSean Jackson, Indiana's James Hardy, Texas' Limas Sweed and Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly are the top wideouts in this year's draft. It's doubtful any one of those receivers will fall to the second round when the Eagles pick at No. 49.

Overall, Philadelphia has 11 picks, including five in the top four rounds.

"I think we're in a position now where, with the things we've done in free agency, we don't have a real, absolute need going into the draft," Reid said. "We can kind of pick and choose who the best player is."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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