NFL DRAFT: Eagles likely targeting a safety Print
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Tuesday, 24 April 2007 12:19
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 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Brian Dawkins could find himself grooming his eventual successor this season.
With the 26th pick in the first round of the NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are leaning toward selecting a safety. Dawkins, an All-Pro last season, turns 34 in October and is signed through 2008. Sean Considine and Quintin Mikell are the only other safeties with pro experience currently on the roster.
Florida's Reggie Nelson, Texas' Michael Griffin and Miami's Brandon Meriweather could be available when the Eagles pick. Scouts have compared Nelson to Dawkins because of his playmaking ability and his explosiveness to the ball. Griffin is considered an excellent all-around athlete. Meriweather is versatile enough to play cornerback in some defensive packages, which certainly interests the Eagles.
``I think there are a couple of safeties that could possibly be corners and a couple of corners that could be safeties,'' general manager Tom Heckert said. ``Not to say you would move a guy from safety to corner, but if he's got that type of ability, it's an added bonus.''
Meriweather's role in Miami's brawl during a game against Florida International last year could affect his position. The Eagles usually shy away from players with character concerns, but Meriweather isn't considered much of a risk.
The Eagles have never used a first-round pick to select a safety. Since Andy Reid became the coach in 1999, Michael Lewis was the only safety they've taken in the top three rounds. Lewis, a second-round pick in 2002, became a Pro Bowl player in 2004. But he lost his starting job to Considine last year because his coverage skills were lacking. Lewis signed a free-agent deal with San Francisco after the season.
Considine had a tough time against the run, but he's penciled in as the starting strong safety.
``I may be completely out of my mind, but I think he's going to be a great player,'' Heckert said. ``I really do. I have no problem with Sean Considine.''
Though many mock drafts predict the Eagles will take a linebacker in the first round, that's unlikely. The last time Philadelphia selected a linebacker in the opening round was Jerry Robinson in 1979. The acquisition of two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes last month also reduced the team's need at that position.
``Linebackers, I'm not saying this is the case all the time, the first-round guys might be solid players, but they're not impact players,'' Heckert said. ``But if we have a guy graded that high, we wouldn't not take a guy just because he's a linebacker.''
The Eagles have used three second-round picks on linebackers under Reid: Barry Gardner (1999), Quinton Caver (2001) and Matt McCoy (2005). Gardner lasted four seasons, Caver was a total bust and McCoy lost his starting spot to rookie Omar Gaither last year.
Given Donovan McNabb's injury history, it's not unthinkable the Eagles would draft a quarterback for the future. Heckert is confident McNabb will return healthy after tearing a knee ligament in Week 11, but didn't rule out taking a quarterback.
``Donovan is coming back healthy, and he looks great and all that stuff,'' Heckert said. ``But if a guy you think is a franchise quarterback falls to you wherever, I think you have to consider it.''
Always active with trades, it's more likely the Eagles would trade down than up, especially because they don't have a fourth-round pick after sending it to New Orleans for wide receiver Donte' Stallworth last year.
Philadelphia also picks 57th overall (second round) and 90th (third round) on Saturday. The Eagles have one pick each in Rounds 5-7 on Sunday.
``Chances probably aren't real good that we're going to move up,'' Heckert said. ``At least right now, we're not thinking about that as much. Obviously, if somebody fell far enough that we could get to him with what we have, we would think about it, but that's probably not the way we're leaning right now.''
The Eagles have had mixed success in the draft under Reid. The best draft came in 2002 when they took cornerback Lito Sheppard in the first round (No. 26), Lewis (No. 58) and cornerback Sheldon Brown (No. 59) in the second round, and running back Brian Westbrook in the third round (No. 91).
First-round busts include wideout Freddie Mitchell (No. 25 in 2001) and defensive end Jerome McDougle (No. 15 in 2003).

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