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January 23, 2017

10 players to watch during the Senior Bowl week of practices: Offense edition

Eagles NFL

The Senior Bowl week of practices kick off on Tuesday, so today we'll take a look at some players the Eagles could be watching closely down in Mobile, Alabama. We'll start with the offense.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo (5'11, 225)

Hunt is one of my favorite players in this draft. Over his four-year career at Toledo, Hunt has racked up almost 5,000 rushing yards:

 Kareem HuntRush Yards YPC TD 
 2013137 866 6.3 
 2014205 1631 8.0 16 
 2015178 973 5.5 12 
 2016240 1355 5.6 
 TOTAL760 4825 6.3 42 

Through his first three seasons at Toledo, Hunt wasn't much of a threat as a receiver, but as a senior, he caught 39 passes for 377 yards and a TD. On those 760 career carries, Hunt has a grand total of one fumble, which was in 2013. That's insane.

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At 5'11, 225, Hunt is a short, bulky back with good speed and ability to break tackles. However, what really stands out when watching him is his balance. In a running class loaded with talent, Hunt could potentially be available a little later in the draft than he should be.

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State (5'8, 180)

Pumphrey led the nation in rushing this year, with 2,133 rushing yards. He is a very non-traditional rushing leader, at 5'8, 180 pounds, and he might remind some of Darren Sproles for his ability as a receiver.

This is far from his first productive year, as Pumphrey topped 1,650 yards in each of the last two seasons as well:

 Donnel PumphreyRush Yards YPC TD 
2013125 752 6.0 
 2014276 1867 6.8 20 
 2015309 1653 5.4 17 

In fact, earlier this season, Pumphrey broke Marshall Faulk's career rushing record at San Diego State. Pumphrey also has good receiving numbers over his career, catching 100 passes for 1,041 yards and 5 TDs.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington (6'2, 215)

Kupp's numbers at Eastern Washington were kinda decent: 

Cooper Kupp Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201393 1691 18.2 21 
 2014104 1431 13.8 16 
 2015114 1642 14.4 19 
 2016117 1700 14.5 17 
 TOTAL428 6464 15.1 73 

By comparison, former FCS player Jerry Rice had 301 catches for 4,693 yards and 50 TDs during his four-year career at Mississippi Valley State.

Kupp isn't a burner, but he makes catches that should otherwise be incompletions, and he's difficult to tackle once he has the ball in his hands. Like Carson Wentz did at the Senior Bowl last year, Kupp will have to show that he can still stand out against a higher level of competition.

Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky (6'0, 195)

Taylor has blazing speed, as FOX's Bruce Feldman named him the No. 5 freak athlete in the country, citing Taylor's 11'5 broad jump, a 39.5" vertical and a 4.33 40.

Taylor has also been highly productive the last two years. In 2015, he was third in the nation with 1467 receiving yards and second in the nation with 17 receiving TDs. Those numbers dwarfed those of 2015 teammate TE Tyler Higbee (38-563-8), who was a fourth-round selection of the Rams in the 2015 NFL Draft.

In 2016, Taylor was once again third in the nation with 1,730 receiving yards and tied for third in the nation with 17 TDs.

Again, like Kupp, the Senior Bowl will give Taylor a chance to shine against better competition.

Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss (6'3, 227)

Engram isn't your typical tight end. At 6'3, 227, he's shorter and lighter than wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Ole Miss moves Engram all over the formation, but he has wide receiver skills with great hands and very good run after catch ability. He is also a better blocker than you might assume for his size.

In my view, it doesn't matter if you want to label him a tight end, a wide receiver, or some kind of other offensive weapon. What he does is catch the ball, get first downs, and make plays. The Eagles don't have many players in their offense who do that. 

Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo (6'4, 270)

Roberts was a touchdown machine for Toledo this season, catching 16 TD passes for the Rockets. That's sixth in the nation among all players and first among tight ends. In fact, the next-closest tight end to Roberts for TD receptions had eight. Roberts' numbers the last two years:

Michael Roberts Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201521 234  11.1
 201645 533 11.8 16 

Roberts isn't the fastest guy, so you're not going to get many big plays down the field from him, but obviously, has been very good in the red zone for Toledo. The Rockets also often used Roberts on occasion in something of a fullback-type role out of the shotgun, in which he'll line up two yards behind the offensive line and lead block for Kareem Hunt. There's some good, some bad with Roberts' blocking, but there's something to work with there.

With Brent Celek potentially heading into his last year with the team, the Eagles could look to add a bigger tight end that they can develop as a blocker.

Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy (6'6, 302)

Garcia has great length at 6'6 with long arms, and he's both agile and coordinated in pass protection, which is clearly his strength. 

Garcia would be a pick who likely wouldn't play right away, as the Eagles are set at OT for at least one more year, assuming Jason Peters doesn't retire. And they'd probably have to take him in the second round. However, the Eagles are going to have to address the OT position at some point, depending on whether or not they think Halapoulivaati Vaitai is a long-term starter at RT.

Forrest Lamp, OG/OT, Western Kentucky (6'3, 300)

Lamp played LT at WKU, but most see him as a guard at the next level. Interestingly, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah sees Lamp as the 16th best prospect in this draft.

Earlier this week, we reported that the Eagles are considering moving on from Jason Kelce, which would prompt Isaac Seumalo to slide in at center in his place. We did not mention this in our report, but the Eagles are also potentially moving on from Allen Barbre, which would come as a surprise to some since Barbre can play a number of positions and isn't exactly breaking the bank.

If indeed the Eagles go that route, Lamp is a player who could slide in as a starter at LG. He would also have the ability to kick out to LT in a pinch. But would the Eagles draft a guard that highly in the first round?

Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana (6'4, 310)

The last two seasons, Indiana has gotten excellent production from their lead running backs:

 Player (Year)Rush Yards YPC TD 
 Tevin Coleman (2014)270 2036 7.5 15 
 Jordan Howard (2015)196 1213 6.2 

The Indiana offensive line has had a lot to do with that, particularly RG Dan Feeney. You can see a good film breakdown of Feeney by Alex Robbins of Crimson Quarry.

Feeney is among the best guard prospects in the country. The Eagles will at least have to consider what Feeney can do for their run game at LG.

Ethan Pocic, C, LSU (6'6, 309)

Pocic is arguably the top center prospect in this draft with the versatility to also play guard. At 6'6, 309, he is much bigger than Kelce, doing a better job anchoring against bigger defenders, but is not nearly as athletic. He's kind of like a Bizarro Kelce in that respect. While Seumalo may be the center of the future, it certainly wouldn't hurt having a pair of starters in Seumalo and Pocic who can play all three spots along the interior of the offensive line, if need be.

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