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Insider

Eagles, Saints need help on defense

11/6/2012

The Monday night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints looked like one of the best of the season when the NFL schedule was announced, but both teams have had a bumpy ride so far. Each team now stands at 3-5, and each could end up picking in the top half of the first round when the April draft rolls around.

There likely will be plenty of turnover on both rosters and perhaps both coaching staffs before draft weekend, which will no doubt affect their draft boards. However, each team's current needs are apparent, and it's a fun exercise to assess how they might improve via the 2013 draft.

It should be noted that each team traded an undisclosed pick in this year's draft, the Saints in the Barrett Ruud deal and the Eagles in the David Sims trade. Based on the production of those two players, and to serve our purpose here, we'll assume New Orleans gave up a sixth-round pick and the Eagles a fifth-rounder.

With that in mind, here's one man's look at how things might unfold if both teams drafted today based on current needs. Draft-eligible non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.

Round 1

Eagles: Alabama CB Dee Milliner* (94)

Quarterback is an option, but 2012 third-round pick Nick Foles has shown flashes, so we'll go in another direction. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is set to become a free agent and Nnamdi Asomugha turns 32 at the start of the 2013, so cornerback is a need. Milliner is tops at the position on the 2013 board, and while he may never be a shutdown man-to-man corner, he has the instincts, ball skills and fluidity to quickly develop into an effective No. 2 who thrives in zone coverage.

Saints: Florida State DE Bjoern Werner* (95)

Yes, 2011 first-round pick DE Cameron Jordan is coming off a three-sack performance, but Jordan is not a dominant edge rusher, and fellow DE Will Smith is on the downside of his career. New Orleans needs to address the pass rush, and Werner bends the edge well and can win with speed. He is also an excellent hand fighter who can counter when offensive tackles are able to beat him to the spot. His ability to press the line of scrimmage and set the edge against the run is an added bonus.

Round 2

Eagles: Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner (85)

Philadelphia has had injury issues up front, so Wagner's missing time with a right knee issue could scare away the Eagles. However, he is a prototypical right tackle prospect and could prove to be a steal in the second round. Wagner is a strong drive blocker and has the size/foot speed to hold his own in pass protection.

Saints: Forfeited as part of bounty-related punishment

Round 3

Eagles: Rutgers OLB Khaseem Greene (77)

Philadelphia did well to trade for MLB DeMeco Ryans during the offseason and to pick up SLB Mychal Kendricks in the 2012 draft, but the weak side is a problem and Greene could be the solution. He's a former safety with the cover and ball skills to make an immediate impact on third down. And while he doesn't have great take-on skills, Greene is a sideline-to-sideline run defender who flashes the ability to chase down backs.

Saints: Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes* (78)

Cornerback is one of the Saints' most pressing needs and they would be wise to land Rhodes early in the third. He doesn't have elite man-to-man cover skills, but he has the length, speed and enough hip fluidity to develop into an effective corner. He also has the size and body control to develop into a playmaker when the ball is in the air.

Round 4

Eagles: Alabama S Robert Lester (69)

The Eagles should be in the market for a safety who can push Kurt Coleman for the starting spot opposite Nate Allen, and Lester would be an excellent value pick. He makes up for his average cover skills with instincts and positioning, and Lester plays the ball well. In terms of run support, he's a reliable last line of defense, taking sound angles and wrapping up well for the most part.

Saints: Tennessee DT Montori Hughes (60)

No team is giving up more rushing yards per game this season than the Saints, and adding Hughes would bolster the interior run defense. He is a massive space eater who has the power to occupy multiple blockers and enough quickness to make teams pay when they try to block him one-on-one.

Round 5

Eagles: Traded; see introduction

Saints: Notre Dame C Braxston Cave (56)

New Orleans has struggled to establish the run, and finding an upgrade over current C Brian De La Puente would be a step in the right direction. Cave has the toughness, smarts and enough power to give the Saints more of a physical presence inside.

Round 6

Eagles: SMU DE Margus Hunt Grade: 50

Philadelphia should look to boost the pass rush since DEs Jason Babin and Trent Cole are on the wrong side of 30, and Hunt has impressive upside. The native of Estonia is a former world junior champion in the shot put and discus, and he hadn't played football before walking on at SMU, but he's shown impressive flashes. Hunt has the burst/athletic ability to provide pressure off the edge and the frame to develop into an every-down player. Plus, he's shown a knack for blocking kicks on special teams.

Saints: Traded; see introduction

Round 7

Eagles: Southern Utah QB Brad Sorenson (37), Nebraska TE Kyler Reed (35)

The Eagles hold two seventh-round picks as a result of an offseason trade with the Colts. Assuming the Michael Vick era in Philly comes to an end and the Eagles go with Foles, they could add depth behind him with an intriguing small-school prospect like Sorenson. And while tight end isn't a pressing need, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor are the only two on the roster, and adding Reed would improve depth and give the Eagles another potential playmaker at the position.

Saints: Old Dominion OLB Craig Wilkins (42)

Wilkins could slip to the seventh, and he has the skill set teams look for in subpackage linebackers. He can cover and flashes the ability to get to the quarterback. There's also a lot to like about his intangibles, considering he's a four-time team captain.