NFL draft 2019: 3 prospects to fix the Eagles' secondary
By Jake Meluskey
Of The Morning Call|
Dec 11, 2018 | 8:00 AM
The Eagles started 13 different defensive backs this season. That number is by far, the most in the NFL. It is mandatory the Eagles bolster their secondary this offseason in the NFL draft.
It’s only December, but here are a few prospects to consider:
Cornerback, Washington, RS-Soph.
Projected Pick: Mid-first round
Despite being one of the youngest players in the draft, Murphy plays with the same swagger of former Husky defensive backs before him. The third-year sophomore has recorded seven interceptions over the past two seasons and sticks to receivers in coverage so well, you could call him Elmer. He is a bit undersized but a smart tackler who hits harder than anticipated.
Murphy makes up for his lack of size with elite coverage abilities. His hyper-athleticism mixed with veteran route recognition make him a superstar prospect at the corner position. He has blue-chip ball skills, unreal quickness and is slated to be one of the NFL’s top cover corners in only two-to-three years.
On top of that, he is being coached by Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who’s produced several NFL defensive backs including Eagles second-year corner Sydney Jones as well as Los Angeles Rams All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. If Ronald Darby, who tore his ACL this season, decides he does not want to come back next year, the Eagles will be looking for someone to take the No. 1 cornerback position.
Safety/Cornerback, Florida, Junior
Projected Pick: Second round
Gardner-Johnson has shown the ability to play multiple positions at a high level in Florida’s secondary. He has 66 tackles this season — nine for loss — three sacks, two pass breakups and two interceptions. He has spent most of the season playing a hybrid safety/nickel position, similar to former SEC phenom, Tyrann Mathieu.
Last year, he spent the season as the Gators’ strong safety but struggled to make his presence known as a superior run defender. After he made the switch to his new position under new coach Dan Mullen, Gardner-Johnson’s coverage abilities were finally put to the test, and he has been lockdown.
Gardner-Johnson separates himself from others with his ability to play good man coverage on one play and rush the passer the next. His hybrid style of play draws such similarities to the aforementioned Mathieu, a former NFL All-Pro selection.
They both have great ball skills, a high motor and an incredible nose for the football. His skill set makes him a good fit for an Eagles’ defense that may need a possible replacement for star Malcolm Jenkins, who turns 31 in two weeks.
Cornerback, Notre Dame, Junior
Possible Pick: Second round
Love is a little undersized and his speed is questionable. However, he plays with unexpected power and has the quickness to mirror receivers off the line. His tackling in the open field may grade higher than any other cornerback in the draft, and he is an expert at zone coverage.
Love has been Notre Dame’s top corner for the past two years, recording a team-record 35 pass deflections. He has 61 tackles this season with 15 pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and an interception. He recovered a fumble and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown in a Week 6 victory over No. 24 Virginia Tech.
With his comfortability playing off coverage and his tremendous tackling ability, Love may switch to safety in the NFL. But that could be the reason the Eagles add him. With their numerous defensive back issues, the ability to fill any hole in the secondary may make Love an appealing pick.
You can watch Love in action when No. 3 Notre Dame faces No. 2 Clemson in the first round of the College Football Playoff on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. on ESPN.