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Senior Bowl Watch List

Posted Jan 25, 2013

The week of practices has come to an end and the only thing left for the assembled prospects in Mobile, Ala., is the Senior Bowl game, which you can watch on NFL Network Saturday at 4 PM EST. So which players should you keep a close eye on? Here's one rundown of prospects to watch, based not on the best prospects at each position but rather on which players could be potential fits for the Eagles come April, broken down by position.

Quarterback: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Much of the Eagles-related focus on the Senior Bowl quarterbacks this week has centered about Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, who grew up just outside Philadelphia, and Florida State's EJ Manuel, who some believe fits in the mold of what Chip Kelly may be looking for in a prospect. But the guess here is that Nassib isn't intriguing enough to the Eagles in the top two rounds, where he's likely to get drafted, and that Manuel's skill-match to Kelly's offense is overstated. Quarterbacks certainly tend to get drafted higher than their skills may warrant because of the importance of the position, but if Wilson could pique the Eagles' interest on day two of the NFL Draft. His junior season was highly impressive, earning All-SEC honors in his first season as a starter. He, along with the rest of the Arkansas team, regressed in 2012 thanks in part to a myriad of factors. He has a strong enough arm to hold up in the NFL and has had some impressive down-the-field throws this week in Mobile.

Running back: Kenjon Barner, Oregon

There may be no position better stocked on the Eagles roster than running back, where LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown form a dynamic tandem and Dion Lewis and Chris Polk complete a deep stable of rushers. So it would be a mild surprise to see the Eagles select a running back come April, but if the team holds true to their draft board, it's not an impossibility. The case for Barner would also include a familiarity with Kelly as a coach and with some of Kelly's offensive principles. The speedy Barner racked up the third-most rushing yards in Oregon history and is likely to come off the board in the middle rounds, perhaps early in day three of the draft.

Tight end: Mychal Rivera, Tennessee

The best tight end in Mobile is Rice's Vance McDonald, but there's a good chance he is selected in the top two rounds of the draft and it's tough to imagine the Eagles spending their early second-rounder on him. Rivera, meanwhile, is likely to be selected later in the draft because he's a pass-catching tight end without exceptional speed. But Rivera has shown impressive hands this week and a comfort level in rising to the ball and outmuscling defenders. Another likely third-day pick, Rivera would challenge Clay Harbor to be Brent Celek's running mate.

Wide receiver: Marquise Goodwin, Texas

Most observers agree that the best wide receivers in Mobile this week are Oregon State's Markus Wheaton and Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton. But both players are likely to be selected on the second day of the draft and have some overlap in their skillsets to the receivers currently on the Eagles roster. Goodwin has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the Senior Bowl practices as the Olympic-level long jumper has showcased elite speed and better-than-expected route-running ability. That speed is Goodwin's biggest selling point and speed is certainly a valuable asset under Kelly. Of course, the Eagles already have the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as speed threats on the outside, but hey, the more the merrier. Also keep an eye on whether Goodwin gets reps as a return man.

Offensive line: Eric Fisher, Central Michigan and Justin Pugh, Syracuse

Fisher is probably the highest-rated player at the Senior Bowl and an impressive week of practice has solidified his status as a top-15 pick. Fisher, 6-7, 305, is likely to fall among the top 10 picks and could intrigue the Eagles. Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel has been popular link to the Eagles in mock drafts but Fisher is challenging Joeckel's status as top tackle in the draft and could also fit for the Eagles in a small trade-down scenario. Pugh, meanwhile, is actually a redshirt junior but was granted Senior Bowl eligibility because he's already graduated. A collegiate tackle, Pugh's best position at the next level may be guard, where he's gotten some reps this week. A Bucks County native, Pugh grew up a die-hard Eagles fan and is likely a second-day selection.

Defensive end: Datone Jones, UCLA

Perhaps the biggest “riser” of Senior Bowl week, Jones was the only player to give Fisher any trouble in pass-rushing drills. At 6-4, 280, Jones is versatile enough to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. A big day on Saturday would put the stamp on Jones' big week, which has created rumblings that Jones would go as high as the end of round one, though more likely early in day two.

Defensive tackle: John Jenkins, Georgia

If the Eagles were to switch to a 3-4 defense, one of the biggest needs to make the transition would be nose tackle. Jenkins is the prime nose tackle prospect in Mobile and probably ranks second in the class behind Utah's Star Lotulelei. Jenkins, 6-3, 359, has faced some questions about his motor, but he's been very impressive this week in Mobile. If he's available at the top of round two, Jenkins would be very appealing to a 3-4 team. There are a couple other intriguing nose tackle prospects at the Senior Bowl, North Carolina's Sylvester Williams, a likely second-day pick, and Missouri Southern's Brandon Williams, who has had somewhat of a coming-out party this week.

Linebacker: Chase Thomas, Stanford

Thomas hasn't had a great week of practice, but this week is not necessarily set up for Thomas, who projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. This week, Thomas hasn't excelled in coverage, but that's to be expected for someone with his relative lack of experience in that area. If the Eagles do indeed go to a 3-4 defense, a productive outside pass-rusher like Thomas could be worthy of a mid-round pick. Texas A&M's Sean Porter is another likely 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.

Cornerback: Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana

The biggest week among Senior Bowl cornerbacks belongs to Washington's Desmond Trufant, who's now being talked about as a likely first-round selection. That would keep him out of the Eagles' reach barring a trade into the back end of the round. But the cornerbacks as a whole this week have been fairly impressive, with a lot of day-two talent available. Alford, 5-9, 186, is an intriguing player who has been feisty in coverage all week. San Diego State's Leon McFadden, Connecticut's Blidi Wreh-Wilson and California's Marc Anthony are all worth a look as well.

Safety: Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International

Cyprien has stood out among the safety crop in Mobile and profiles as a physical safety with the right instincts to play in the back end. One of the questions surrounding Cyprien is whether he occasionally forfeits sure tackling in favor of going for the big hit, so his performance Saturday, the first time this week in which he can actually tackle to the ground, should be interesting. Some also question whether Cyprien truly has the speed of an elite free safety and he'll be tested game-time by the likes of South receivers Patton and Terrance Williams of Baylor.

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