PHILADELPHIA -- One of the great parts about working at ESPN is all of the fun, useful tools at a writer's disposal to help make sense of things.
Our sports analytics department has come up with another one: the Draft Day Predictor, which breaks down the likelihood of a player being selected with a given pick in next week's NFL draft (April 28-30 on ESPN, ABC and ESPN App). The underlying model is based on prospect grades from Scouts Inc., expert mock drafts and team needs along with a few other factors.
Let's go head-to-head with the Draft Day Predictor by offering my own predictions on what the Philadelphia Eagles will do at picks 15 and 18 overall. It's all in the name of providing a comprehensive look at the Eagles' options and how they might be thinking entering a pivotal draft for general manager Howie Roseman & Co. May the best man/machine win.
Pick No. 15 overall
Draft Day Predictor: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie has the best chance of being selected 15th overall (12.5%), followed by Alabama receiver Jameson Williams (9%), Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd (7%), Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis (7%) and LSU corner Derek Stingley Jr. (6.5%). It's a strong list. Williams would probably be a top-10 pick if he hadn't torn his ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship, and it's easy to picture Roseman falling for a player like Williams, who possesses rare speed and playmaking ability. Stingley, similarly, can be a star if injuries don't get in the way. There is less than a 30% chance Stingley will be available at pick 15, according to the Draft Day Predictor, however, so Philly might have to trade up to get him.
This is McDuffie's sweet spot. He is most likely to be picked in the 14-15 range, per ESPN's model. He fills a big-time need -- the Eagles still don't have a starting corner opposite Darius Slay -- and has a tenacity to his play that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon would be drawn to.
McManus: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis is most likely to go 14th overall to the Baltimore Ravens, according to the predictor. If he's available at 15, he makes a ton of sense for the Eagles. We know they build their teams from the inside out. They value players who can collapse the pocket and generate pressure on the quarterback up the gut. And the man who has been doing that for them for the past decade, Fletcher Cox, could very well be on his way out after this season.
The 6-foot-6, 341-pound Davis anchored an elite Georgia defense and posted eye-popping numbers at the combine that included a 4.78-second 40-yard dash. He not only has a chance to be one of the best players in this draft, but he would fill a specific role in this hybrid scheme. Gannon wants a block-eating, O-line demolishing nose tackle who will make life easier for the rest of the unit. Davis is fully capable of that and has the physical tools to blossom into a menacing pass-rusher.
Pick 18 overall
Draft Day Predictor: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd is the most likely pick at 18 (10.5%) followed by Williams (8.5%), Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis (8.5%), Ohio State receiver Chris Olave (7%) and McDuffie (6.5%). The thinking here has been that the Eagles won't be keen on drafting a receiver in the first round for a third consecutive year and instead will wait until Day 2 to fill the need. The middle of the first round does appear to be receiver country, however, as this model illustrates. Maybe the value is simply too good to pass up.
The same could be said for linebacker, and Roseman said at the combine that the Eagles needed "to find [linebackers] that fit our coaches’ scheme."
Lloyd is a two-time team captain and Butkus Award finalist who amassed 111 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four interceptions last season -- two of which he returned for touchdowns. He would instantly upgrade Philly's linebacking corps.
McManus: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
If the Eagles picked Lloyd, they would be bucking a trend, as they haven't drafted a traditional linebacker in the first round since 1979 when they selected UCLA's Jerry Robinson. The current regime has ranked near or at the bottom in resources allocated to the position in recent years, a clear sign that they do not value linebacker highly when it comes to roster building. Trends are made to be broken, but I'm in I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mode.
Defensive end is a definite need, and Karlaftis, who has drawn Ryan Kerrigan comparisons, could be in play. But the defensive backfield is screaming for help, and the Eagles have kept their options open this offseason in the event they score a corner or safety early in the draft. The bet here is McDuffie will make it to 18 due to his lack of stellar production at the college level (he had two interceptions in three seasons at Washington). The Eagles will account for the fact that he wasn't thrown at regularly and will be won over by a skill set that should allow him to play both zone and man at a high level. So the predictor and I agree on the prospect, just not the slot. We're sinking or swimming together.
A trade back from 18 is also reasonable if the top defensive backs are gone, with Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. and Michigan's Daxton Hill worthwhile targets.