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April 27, 2019

15 players who make sense for the Eagles in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft

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100618JaquanJohnson Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

The guy in the background is excited about Miami S Jaquan Johnson's fit with the Eagles.

In the first two days of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles made three picks, all on the offensive side of the ball. In the fourth round, they found an edge rusher. They only have one pick remaining, in the fifth round. Here are 20 players I that I think would make sense for them in Round 5.

• Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama: As a freshman in 2016, Wilson's impact was mainly felt on special teams, where he produced a lot of big hits on kick coverage. When he got his chance to start in 2017, he responded by intercepting four passes. In 2018, he had two picks, and was an enforcer at times (but a shaky tackler at other times) in the middle of Bama's imposing defense. At one point, Wilson was thought of as a potential first round pick. Somewhere along the line, his stock fell, as many have concerns about his ability to read and react. I thought his ability in coverage alone should get him drafted on Day 2, but he has fallen.

• Joe Jackson, DE, Miami: Jackson was an immediate force as soon as he got to Miami, as he had 7.5 sacks his freshman season. He finished his three-year career at Miami with 22.5 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss. At 6'4, 275, with plenty of power, he won't get pushed around as a rookie in the NFL, and his relentless style of play would fit well in a rotational role in the Eagles' defense. He's a guy who can play DE on base downs, and be an interior rusher on obvious passing downs, somewhat like Michael Bennett. I believe Jackson is one of the more underrated defensive ends in this class.

• Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon: Jelks is a long-and-lean defensive end from Oregon's 3-4 scheme that required him to play a lot of 2-gap responsibility. Remember those 3-4, 2-gap days in Philly? You'd probably prefer to forget. In the NFL, Jelks projects to 4-3 defensive end, where teams can better utilize his explosiveness. While his 3-4 background won't help his college stats (he has just 15.5 sacks in 4 seasons), his time being misused at Oregon will serve him well in the NFL as a run stopper.

• Kris Boyd, CB, Texas: In 2017, Boyd had 15 pass breakups. In 2018, he had 15 once again. My conclusion -- he gets his hands on a lot of footballs, which is good. On the downside, he had some pretty bad games in 2018, playing against high-octane offenses. However, he runs a 4.45 40, he has a thicker build for a corner, at 5'11, 201, and he's a good tackler who will lay the occasional big hit. I kinda like him more as a safety prospect in Jim Schwartz's defense.

• Gerald Willis III, DT, MiamiWillis was a highly recruited player coming out of high school who originally enrolled at Florida, but transferred to Miami after his first season there. He didn't exactly seem like the best guy off the field, or even on it. At Miami, Willis seemed to get his act together to some degree, as he had 59 tackles, with an impressive 18 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Willis is undersized, a character concern, a liability at times against the run, and he underachieved up until this past season, but he is also a very clearly talented player.

• Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami: Johnson was the leader of Miami's defense and a team captain. In 2017, he was a ball hawk, picking off four passes and forcing three fumbles while also leading the team with 96 tackles. In 2018, those numbers fell off a bit, as he had two picks and two forced fumbles. Johnson is a more-than-willing tackler, who will also deliver the occasional big hit, but he has significant size and speed limitations. 

• T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin: Edwards led the Badgers in tackles as a freshman, sophomore, and senior, and was second as a junior in 2017. More importantly, over the last two seasons, Edwards has 10 interceptions. Edwards doesn't have good athleticism, and while you don't want him covering guys like Tarik Cohen or Alvin Kamara out of the backfield, he is good in coverage, particularly in zone assignments, which is what Jim Schwartz prioritizes in his linebackers.

• Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo: Jackson has imposing size at 6'7, 249, he has a big arm (but can also throw with touch), and some nice athleticism. However, he's raw prospect with accuracy issues, a long delivery, and shaky feet. As a true developmental prospect, Jackson has the size the Eagles covet to go along with an appealing skill set. Selfishly speaking, he'd be a fun player to watch in training camp.

• Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama: Buggs was a JUCO transfer who played two seasons at Bama. As a senior in 2018, he had an impressive 9.5 sacks. In 2017, the Eagles drafted a lot of guys with big-time production in college. In 2018, the players they drafted had very impressive athletic traits. Buggs is very clearly the former, as he had a brutal Combine. 

• Cameron Smith, LB, USC: Smith led the Trojans in tackles each of the last three seasons, and was second his freshman year with 78 tackles. He is an instinctive linebacker with a lot of college football experience. After his freshman year, Smith was being thought of as a future first round pick, but his production has not improved as his career has continued. He is a good, solid, all-around linebacker prospect with a ceiling on his athleticism who could make for good depth in the mid- to late-rounds.

• Lukas Denis, S, Boston College: Denis is a smaller safety prospect, but as Schwartz has shown, he doesn't care much about size at that position. While his production was down in 2018, Denis had 88 tackles, seven INTs, 10 pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 2017. Denis is far from a punishing tackler, and you wouldn't want him playing much in the box, but his skills translate well to the McLeod role in the Eagles' scheme.

• Andrew Wingard, S/LB, WyomingWingard played safety at Wyoming, but I think he fits the mold of linebacker-turned-safety projects (think Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry) that the Eagles have taken on under Schwartz. To begin, Wingard is a good run defender who racked up 454 tackles over his college career. He's also good in zone coverage, and can be opportunistic when he has had a chance to make plays on the football, as evidenced by his 10 career picks.

• Porter Gustin, DE, USC: Gustin only played four games in 2017 because of a torn biceps and broken toe. In 2018, he suffered a broken ankle and was done for the season. He played 3-4 OLB at USC, so he would be a bit of a projection to a 4-3 DE in the Eagles' scheme, but he had good production when he was healthy. Over the 10 games he played in 2017 and 2018, Gustin had 42 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 13 tackles for loss. 

• Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech: In the summer of 2016, Allen was kicked off the Texas Tech football team in the aftermath of felony home burglary charges, notably the theft of a safe full of guns. He landed at East Mississippi Community College, which you may have seen on 'Last Chance U,' a Netflix documentary series that shows the stories of football players at a junior college trying to get back to Division I schools. Allen played for a year there, before returning back to Texas Tech for the 2017 season. He was arguably the Red Raiders' best player, and is now thought of as a leader on their team. That season, Allen had 101 tackles, six tackles for loss, two INTs, a forced fumble, two sacks, and four pass breakups. In 2018, those numbers came way back down to earth. He could be drafted partly because of his intangibles, which are now viewed as a good thing.

• Carl Granderson, DE, WyomingGranderson was a lightly-recruited player who played linebacker and tight end in high school, while being listed at 6'6, 185. You can see how skinny he was in his high school highlight reel. At Wyoming, he put on about 70 pounds to play DE, and apparently shrunk an inch. In his third year at Wyoming in 2017, Granderson broke out, collecting 78 tackles (16 for loss), 8.5 sacks, two FF, and two INTs. In 2018, those numbers fell off sharply, as he had 40 tackles (7.5 for loss), three sacks, and no forced fumbles. Granderson has good quickness and athleticism from his DE spot, but is still developing. 

• Ross Pierschbacher, OG/C, Alabama: Pierschbacher has been a starter on Bama's offensive line since he was a freshman in 2015, who had 57 starts over his college career. In his first three seasons, Pierschbacher got experience starting at both guard spots, before taking over at center in 2018. In case you haven't noticed by now, I'm projecting the Eagles to have interest in versatile offensive linemen.

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