By Steven Lienert
Ah, the proverbial war room. Grown men poked and prodded like pieces of meat and herded through the combine like cattle. Now, it's decision time. Although I wasn't invited into the Eagles' war room for some strange reason, that doesn't mean I haven't gotten a milk crate to prop myself up to sneak a peek at their strategy through a window at the Nova Care Complex.
PLAN A: Word on the street is that the Eagles are looking to trade up to No. 8 (Buffalo's pick) to get Brodrick Bunkley, the defensive tackle from Florida State. That's the ideal situation. If the Birds land Bunkley, they can focus on linebacker and receiver in their next two picks. Bunkley is athletic, plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage, is solid against the run and is the space-eater Jeremiah Trotter needs to be more successful than last season. This pick, along with a solid outside linebacker, would complete the defense.
PLAN B: If a deal can't be worked out, the Eagles will try to trade down, somewhere between 20-25, to select Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter or Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes. If this happens, the Birds will receive an extra second-round pick to help fill their needs at receiver, linebacker or defensive tackle later in the draft.
Another Ohio State product, center Nick Mangold, has moved up into the late first round, where he almost certainly will be selected with the Jets' second first-round pick. Adding D'Brickashaw Ferguson (whom the Jets should trade up to take at No. 2) and Mangold will do wonders for New York's depleted offensive line. But Mangold is also on the Eagles' radar, so the Jets should be nervous if the Eagles trade down and both Carpenter and Holmes are gone.
PLAN C: Let's say the Eagles are forced to stay at No. 14, which means Bunkley and Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the top two defensive tackles in the draft, will be gone. Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims, who might still be on the board, would fit Jim Johnson's blitzing style perfectly. If the Eagles stand pat and Sims is there, the Eagles have to go with him. I realize they just don't draft linebackers in the first round -- the last one being Jerry Robinson in 1979 -- but this guy is too talented to pass up at that pick.
USC offensive tackle Winston Justice might slide to No. 14 as well, but how many times can the Birds afford to take an offensive lineman with the first selection? Especially with Tre Thomas and Jon Runyan in the fold. Still, he would be a better choice than Florida receiver Chad Jackson.
My opinion of Jackson is that he's not a seasoned as Holmes, who is much more explosive and is a constant big-play threat. Jackson caught 88 balls for 900 yards and nine touchdowns last season, which are some pretty gaudy stats. Upon further review, however, Holmes caught just 53 balls, but he gained 977 yards and scored 11 TD's. I'd rather have Holmes, frankly. Besides, the Eagles have their quota of Florida receivers already (see Gaffney, Jabar).
SECOND ROUND PLAN: The Eagles may get lucky in the second round, especially if they trade down. Let's say they land Holmes. Miami defensive tackle Orien Harris should still be on the board at No. 45 and, if they traded into the 20-25 range, the other second-round pick could yield players like Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali or offensive tackles Chris Chester (Oklahoma) or Marcus McNeil (Auburn).
An intriguing selection in the late second or third round is Colorado receiver/kick returner Jeremy Bloom, who would fill a major need at the kick and punt return positions for Philadelphia. If nothing else, Bloom, an ex-Olympic skier, knows how to go downhill.
For the Birds, this is a pivotal draft.They are in position to get an impact player or two to fill major needs if they choose correctly. If they choose poorly, however, Eagles fans may sentenced to a few more years of crushing seasons like 2005.
Steve Lienert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org