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April 30, 2023

Analyzing the Eagles' reported 2023 undrafted free agent class

Eagles NFL
043023EliRicks Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY Sports

Alabama CB Eli Ricks (7)

During the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles made seven draft picks. After it was over, they reportedly added an additional eight undrafted free agents. As a disclaimer, while reports of UDFA signings are usually correct, there are occasions in which a player is initially reported to have signed with one team, but instead they end up with another. 

The chart below shows a snapshot of the Eagles' reported signings, and their rankings/grades via Dane Brugler of The Athletic and Lance Zierlein of We'll update this if/when more reported signings trickle in. (H/t to Brandon Gowton for tracking all these UDFA reports down after the draft.)

Player Brugler Zierlein 
Eli Ricks, CB, AlabamaCB30 (6th/7th round) CB23 (5th/6th round)
Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU CB33 (7th round) CB42 (6th/7th round) 
Trevor Reid, OT, Louisville OT27 (PFA) OT27 (7th round/PFA) 
Ben VanSumeren, LB, Michigan State LB32 (PFA) LB39 (PFA) 
Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson WR49 (PFA) WR57 (PFA) 
Jadon Haselwood, WR, Arkansas WR41 (PFA) WR63 (PFA) 
Brady Russell, TE, Colorado TE38 (UDFA) Did not scout 
Ty Zentner, P, Kansas State P18 (UDFA) Did not scout 

A look at each prospect: 

Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama (6'2, 188)

Ricks was the 6th-ranked high school player in the country in 2020 by, and 39th by ESPN recruiting.

He was a playmaker out of the gate as a true freshman for LSU in 2020, when he had 4 INTs, including 2 pick-sixes. He has great length, and uses it to his advantage in press coverage. He is also always on the lookout for opportunities to make big plays on the ball. A look at his freshman season:  

This time last year, Ricks was appearing in the first round of "way too early" 2023 mock drafts, like Todd McShay's, for example, who had him in the top 10.

Ricks transferred to Bama after the 2021 season, and it did not go as he had hoped. To begin, he was arrested during the 2022 offseason, and during the season he found himself on the bench under Nick Saban. Unhappy with his role, he posted a picture of himself in his old LSU uniform on Instagram. 

Ricks would eventually get into the starting lineup and play well. For example, against Mississippi State:

Ricks has talent, but his personality was no doubt under the microscope during the draft process. He'll get a fresh start in Philly.

Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU (6'2, 212)

Garner is a big corner at 6'2, 212. He played his first three collegiate seasons at Louisiana before transferring to LSU as a senior. He consistently got his hands on footballs, as he had 7 PBUs in 2020, 8 in 2021, and 8 in 2022. 

Garner ran a slow 40 at the Combine, but has pretty good athleticism otherwise.

A scouting report from Lance Zierlein

Garner is a big, long corner with a jarring press. However, he’s missing the footwork and body control to phase and match NFL routes that force him to change direction. He’s a handful when he’s in position to challenge the throw, but teams might need to plug him into a Cover 2 scheme or try him at safety, where he can help support the run and cover tight ends.

The Eagles have more of a need for bodies at safety than they do at corner, and Garner has some thump in his game:

A move to the back end would make some sense.

Trevor Reid, OT, Louisville (6'4, 311)

Reid originally enrolled at Georgia Military College, but transferred to Louisville, where he was the starting LT the last two seasons. Reid is thought of as an unrefined player who has some upside because of some appealing athleticism. A scouting report from Lance Zierlein

If the long-armed, high-cut offensive tackle is to have a chance in the league, it will be because of his pass-protection potential. Reid does a nice job of utilizing his length to punch and stay connected to rushers, but his lack of upper-body and hand strength are major liabilities at the point of attack and against power rushers. Reid is a decent athlete but needs to become much stronger in his core to improve his balance and body control. He appears to lack the polish to make an NFL roster early on but has some developmental traits that might warrant a stint on a practice squad.

His measurables:

Some quick highlights: 

Reid feels like a player that Jeff Stoutland can try to develop behind the scenes for a year or so, with a chance to become a backup in 2024 and beyond.

Ben VanSumeren, LB, Michigan State (6'2, 231)

The consensus on VanSumeren is that he is a more of an athlete than he is a football player. The athleticism is certainly appealing, as he ran a 4.45 40 and vertical jumped 42.5" at 231 pounds. 

A scouting report from Lance Zierlein

VanSumeren’s production and game tape won’t draw draftable grades, but he possesses extremely rare athletic attributes for his position and that might create an opportunity with a team coveting elite traits. He’s not a thumper as a run defender and his football instincts leave much to be desired, but if he can prove himself as a special teams contributor in camp, he could force a team to give him a year on the practice squad for additional development.

VanSumeren had 81 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass breakups for MSU in 2022, his only season as a starter.

Justin Thind with the scoopage.

Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson (6'3, 217)

Like Ricks above, Ngata was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, ranked 27th by

He is a big-bodied wide receiver at 6'3, 217, with 33 1/8" arms and 10 1/4" hands.

Ngata had 88 catches for 1287 yards (14.6 YPC) and 6 TDs over his four-year career at Clemson. His best season was in 2022, when he had 41 catches for 526 yards and 2 TDs. Why wasn't he more productive? Some injuries slowed his progression, and he had difficulty getting open, per Zierlein:

Former five-star prospect with quality size, speed and length but an inability to separate from press-man coverage. Ngata is a smooth pass-catcher and has decent ball skills, but it takes him too long to elude press. When he gets into the route, it will be tough for him to uncover against NFL quickness and coverage talent.

Here's a nice game that he had against Georgia in 2021: 

If Ngata can use his size to become a quality blocker willing to do some dirty work, he can perhaps carve out some sort of Zach Pascal-type role, but that could be his ceiling.

Jadon Haselwood, WR, Arkansas (6'2, 215)

Like Ricks and Ngata above, Haselwood was a five-star recruit coming out of high school (4th nationally by Rivals, 6th by ESPN).

He is a big 6'2, 215-pound receiver who ran a slow 4.66 40.

Haselwood played three seasons at Oklahoma (including one as a freshman in 2019 with Jalen Hurts) before transferring to Arkansas in 2022. He had his best season there, catching 59 passes for 702 yards and 3 TDs, mostly operating out of the slot. 

He could be another candidate for that Pascal-like role.

Brady Russell, TE, Colorado (6'3, 247)

Russell had 20 catches for 153 yards (7.7 YPC) on an abysmal Colorado team in 2022. He was a team captain, is thought of as a good blocker, and got an invite to the Senior Bowl. He's the guy with the long hair:

Jack Stoll didn't have much in the way of college stats when the Eagles signed him as a UDFA in 2021, and he made the team.

Ty Zentner, P, Kansas State (6'2, 199)

And finally, there's Zentner, who will give Arryn Siposs some competition in training camp this year, assuming neither player is cut by then. You may have noticed that Zentner is Dane Brugler's 18th ranked punter above. While I have nothing but the highest respect for Brugler, these Puntalytics nerds have Zentner ranked fifth.

Zentner got his own article by us, which you can check out here.

History of the Eagles' undrafted free agents

Last year, three undrafted free agents — S Reed Blankenship, CB Josh Jobe, and OL Josh Sills — made the initial 53-man roster out of training camp, and Britain Covey eventually got added as well. A quick list of the Eagles' undrafted rookie free agents who made the initial 53-man roster out of camp:

2022 (3): S Reed Blankenship, CB Josh Jobe, OL Josh Sills

2021 (1): TE Jack Stoll

2020 (0): None

2019 (2): LB T.J. Edwards, OL Nate Herbig

2018 (1): DT Bruce Hector

2017 (1): RB Corey Clement

2016 (4): WR Paul Turner, OT Dillon Gordon, DT Destiny Vaeao, CB C.J. Smith

2015 (1): CB Denzel Rice

2014 (2): TE Trey Burton, K Cody Parkey

2013 (3): OL Matt Tobin, DT Damion Square, LB Jake Knott

2012 (2): RB Chris Polk, WR Damaris Johnson 

That would be an average of 1.8 per season. The only season over the last 10 years that no undrafted rookie free agents made the Eagles' initial 53-man roster was in 2020, when COVID complicated that offseason.

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