July 16, 2016
Over the last week, we took a look at each of the Eagles' rookie draft picks, and compared them to current and/or former NFL players. In case you missed any of them, here is the series in full:
During the pre-draft process (and then thereafter), Wentz was compared to a wide assortment of current and former NFL quarterbacks, many of which are huge names. That list included guys like Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, and even Brett Favre.
Personally, I don't have some obscure name nobody has thought of yet, and really, I don't think there's a perfect comp for Wentz. The combination of his background, stature, and skill set are unique. However, the one common comp that I do think fits the best is Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
Like Wentz, Bortles was a late riser leading up to the draft, who was not thought of as a first-round pick when his final college season began. Bortles ended up being drafted third overall by the Jags in the 2014 draft, one spot behind where the Eagles snagged Wentz a few months ago.
When you compare the two players, Wentz's and Bortles' physical measurables are consistent, in that Wentz is a little better than Bortles in nearly every category across the board.
|Measurable||Carson Wentz||Blake Bortles|
|Arm length||33 1/4||32 7/8|
|Hand size||10||9 3/8|
|10 yard dash||1.65||1.72|
|40 yard dash||4.77||4.93|
|Vertical jump||30 1/2||32 1/2|
|3 cone drill||6.86||7.08|
|20 yard shuttle||4.15||4.21|
From a measurables standpoint, Wentz is an upgraded version of Bortles, like a next version of the iPhone.
Over his last two seasons at UCF, Bortles had a 22-5 record, winning a bowl game after each season, including an impressive victory over sixth-ranked Baylor in his college finale. Wentz, meanwhile, went 20-3 over his last two seasons, winning a pair of FCS National Championships, although obviously, he wasn't facing the same level of competition as Bortles.
Wentz probably has the stronger arm, but the area where I see the most similarity, in terms of style of play, is that both players will take shots down the field. All throughout OTAs and minicamp, Wentz was easily the most aggressive of the Eagles' three quarterbacks, throwing far more passes to the intermediate and deep sections of the field than Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Bortles shares that same gunslinger mentality.
Below is a list of every quarterback in the NFL who attempted at least 350 passes in 2015. We took their completions that traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, and compared that with their total completions. We then ranked them in order of percentage of completions in which the pass itself traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Here are the results (data via ESPN), which Bortles coming in at fifth on the list:
Here's a Bortles highlight reel, in case you don't exactly catch your fair share of Jaguars games.
Seumalo's primary position at Oregon State was at center, where he started since he was a freshman. In his sophomore season (2013), he moved to RT for two games after Oregon State suffered injuries along their offensive line. He broke his foot at the end of the 2013 season, which cost him the entire 2014 season.
In 2015, Seumalo played RG and LT. He is a unique player who can play all five spots along the offensive line.
A player with a similar college background was former Miami Dolphins 2007 second-round pick (60th overall) Samson Satele. At Hawaii, Satele's primary position was at center, but he also had extensive experience at LG and LT.
Seumalo and Satele also have similar measurables:
Satele's eight-year career began and ended in Miami, with stops in Oakland and Indianapolis in between. He started 114 games in the NFL, with his last season coming in 2014. During his career, he was primarily a center, although he also filled in at times guard.
In the pros, like Satele, Seumalo's body type is not an ideal fit at tackle. He'll be an interior offensive lineman. While his best fit may be at center, Seumalo's best chance to play early in his career will come at guard, as the Eagles have Jason Kelce entrenched as the starting center and a LG job that could be up for grabs during training camp.
The player I like as a good comp to Smallwood is the Browns' Duke Johnson. First, let's take a look at their measurables:
Smallwood and Johnson have very similar body types on paper, but Smallwood is a little faster, according to their 10- and 40-yard dash times.
As runners, Smallwood and Johnson had similar numbers in their final season in college:
However, where Smallwood and Johnson are most similar is in the passing game. In 2015 for West Virginia, Smallwood had 26 catches for 160 yards (a low 6.2 YPC average), and a long reception of just 15 yards. Over his college career, he didn't have a single receiving touchdown. However, after watching Smallwood in practice at OTAs and minicamp, it was very clear why the Eagles like him – he can catch the football.
"I really like the fact how he catches the football out of the backfield," said Doug Pederson back in May. "I think that is something that is just a gift that he has. He's a natural, a natural pass catcher."
At West Virginia, as we showed in a film breakdown of Smallwood's game, the Mountaineers didn't take advantage of Smallwood's receiving abilities, at least during his final season there. On pass plays, they would often simply send him out into the flat as a safety valve, and little more.
Smallwood explained, "I didn't get to do it a lot this past year, but in my sophomore year, (West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen) said I was the best slot receiver we had. If I wasn't in at running back, I would have definitely been in the slot ... My junior year, he needed me to run the ball, so I didn't get to do it a lot."
In his first year in the NFL, Duke Johnson racked up 61 catches for 534 yards and two receiving touchdowns, although he didn't carry the ball all that much. As a runner, he only had 104 carries for 379 yards (3.6 YPC) and no TDs.
I believe Smallwood will have a similar pass-catching role in the Eagles' offense that Johnson has in Cleveland.
From an Eagles comparative perspective, Smallwood has some similarities to Wilbert Montgomery, who was also an accomplished pass catcher in a smaller body, at 5'10, 195.
By far, Vaitai was the hardest Eagles rookie draft pick to compare to a current or former NFL player. As a player, Vaitai isn't the most athletic guy, and he struggled with speedier pass rushers at the college level.
For example, here's 227 pound Eric Striker getting inside of Vaitai after Vaitai over-committed to an outside speed rush.
And here's Oregon's DeForest Buckner drawing a holding call on a similar inside move.
However, Vaitai does get good movement in the run game. Unfortunately for Vaitai, in TCU's spread offense, he didn't often get the chance to bury opposing defenders on power runs. When he did, he was impressive. Here's Vaitai murdering an edge player on a trap play:
Here he is pushing Cowboys 4th round pick Charles Tapper four yards off the line of scrimmage, creating a space for the back to make some impressive moves of his own:
And here he is doubling Tapper, before getting to the second level and riding the linebacker off the field:
When looking for player comps, I discovered that he actually had very similar workout numbers as former Eagle Todd Herremans:
However, Herremans showed much more athleticism on tape than Vaitai. (I just thought it was interesting to show the similar numbers). I think a better comp would be former Penn State and New York Giants OT Kareem McKenzie, who had a similar lack of athleticism, but made up for it with run blocking skills and underrated footwork. Vaitai's measurables are similar to McKenzie's as well:
McKenzie had an 11-year career from 2001 to 2011, playing at RT during an era when RT was markedly easier than playing LT. After Lane Johnson moves from RT to LT, Vaitai may have the opportunity to win the RT job. However, the game is changing on the edges, in that opposing defenses are beginning to put their best pass rushers up against the RT, when in the past they would typically rush from the blind side. Vaitai will have to improve his ability to handle speed rushers if he's going to have a career anywhere near as long as McKenzie's.
At Auburn last season, Countess played corner, nickel, and safety, and his team voted him the MVP of the defense, per Michael Niziolek of the Ledger-Enquirer. From Niziolek's piece:
“Blake is a football player,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He is a football player from the word go. From what he did for us, he played safety, corner, nickel. He was one of our best special teams players. He’ll be somebody that is a very good football player at the next level.”
While Countess is a hair under 5'10, he is more than willing to stick his nose in, fight through blocks, and make tough tackles. For that reason, the Eagles have been lining Countess up at safety through OTAs and minicamp. Countess reminds me of another Eagles veteran, acquired this offseason in free agency, Rodney McLeod, another small player who plays bigger than his size.
Their measurables are incredibly similar:
Under the new coaching scheme, the Eagles clearly don't care if their safeties are a little smaller than ideal, as long as they they can cover like corners and play with a physical demeanor. McLeod went undrafted when he entered the league in 2012, while Countess didn't come off the board until the sixth round. The Eagles will be thrilled if Countess' career path mirrors McLeod's.
One player who had similar circumstances as Mills coming out of college was former Eagles seventh round pick Jordan Poyer, who is now a safety for the Cleveland Browns. Like Mills, Poyer was thought of at one time during his final season in college as a potential second or third round pick. However, off-the-field incidents and poor showings at the Combine hurt their respective draft stocks. Both players ended up being taken in the seventh round.
A look at Mills' and Poyer's measurables:
As you can see, Mills and Poyer have identical height-weight measurements. In terms of athletic measurables, Poyer's bench press and vertical jump numbers were horrendous, while Mills' 40 time of 4.61 surely scared teams off.
This is a very imperfect comp, as Poyer moved to safety, whereas Mills is likely to be a corner or nothing. Poyer showed a willingness to stick his nose in and make tough tackles, whereas Mills has too many moments on film in which he's content to watch his teammates finish the job. You can get away with that as a corner if you can cover, but it's unacceptable at safety. Additionally, Poyer had better interception numbers in college, although both players possess good instincts.
Both Mills and Poyer play with a lot of confidence, which makes sense for Mills, considering he was a four-year contributor in the SEC at LSU. A list of receivers drafted into the NFL that Mills played against during his college career at LSU:
Plus he played against Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry every day in practice.
Mills got an extended look as the nickel corner with the first-team defense in OTAs and minicamp, and he looks like he might be a player. He played with confidence, trusted what he saw, and often got his hands on the football. He didn't look at all like a rookie. Now let's see what he can do when they put the pads on.
Back in May, we took a detailed look at McCalister's game. In short, he's a physical freak, standing at 6'6 with 36 inch arms and impressive athleticism. He's also very skinny, and extremely unpolished as a football player.
Here's his spider chart, which is very unique, considering he's in the 88th percentile for height and the 97th percentile for arm length, but in the one percentile for weight:
At Florida, McCalister was able to get to opposing quarterbacks with his size and athleticism, however, he lacked an impressive repertoire of pass rush moves. Additionally, he didn't often finish tackles strongly, he was often slow to recognize fakes, and at 240 pounds he was easily moved in the run game.
In the pros, McCalister is going to be a situational pass rusher only, unless he can improve the rest of his game drastically.
A player that makes sense as a comp to McCalister is Chicago Bears edge rusher Willie Young, who also played under Jim Schwartz in Detroit. Like McCalister, Young was a seventh round pick, when Schwartz's Lions took him 213th overall in the 2010 NFL draft.
Young is tall and lean, with good athleticism. Here is how the two players' measurables compare:
Young was inactive for nearly the entirety of his rookie season. I project a similar rookie season for McCalister, who has obvious physical traits, but a long way to go before he can contribute consistently in the NFL. After learning on the job, Young had six sacks over the next three years, before breaking out with 10 during the 2014 season.
As the chart above shows, McCalister has better athletic measurables, but can he develop into a useful situational pass rusher like Young?
On the Eagles' roster, Walker is going to have play well on special teams to secure his roster spot, although certainly a lack of depth at linebacker will help his chances. Walker feels like a player who will find a role on the team as a reserve or sub-package linebacker who sticks around in the league longer than your typical seventh round pick, albeit as a back of the roster type.
One player who he reminds me of is former Chargers and current Cowboys linebacker Andrew Gachkar, who like Walker, was a seventh round pick. In San Diego, Gachkar was a quality special teams player and a competent backup at linebacker. Last offseason, the Cowboys signed Gachkar to a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. He may actually start for Dallas this season after Rolando McClain was suspended for 10 games. Walker's and Gachkar's measurables are very similar:
If not for a good pro day performance, Walker may not have been drafted, but he impressed enough to be taken with the third-to-last pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. He is a solid tackler with good athleticism, although he lacks thump. I would project Walker to make the 53-man roster, and possibly even been active on game day as early as Week 1.
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