September 04, 2021
During the college football season each year, as long as you're watching the games, we point out five players each week to keep an eye on who make logical sense for the Eagles in the following year's draft.
You may as well just learn the name now, because Evan Neal could be a top 10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. At 6'7, 350 pounds, Neal will be one of the biggest human beings in the NFL, but he's also an incredible athlete. In fact, he came in at No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's "freaks" list this year.
Coaches and scouts rave about Neal’s flexibility and power. That flexibility is evident in his jaw-dropping split-leg box jump he tweeted last month. But coaches say that rare flexibility for such an enormous man is also evident in his ability to not only strike a defender and move him off the line but to get under much shorter guys and lift them off the ground.
“At his size, he is the most impressive lower body power athlete we have ever seen,” Alabama director of sports science Matt Rhea said. “His jumping power is in the top 1 percent we have ever measured. At 350 pounds, he routinely hits box jumps at 48 inches.”
Here's the split-leg box jump Feldman referenced:
I mean, I pulled hamstring just watching that. But can he play? Yes, he can. Here he is against Notre Dame in 2020:
Neal played LG in 2019, and RT in 2020. If you're the Eagles and you're considering him as a high pick, you'd probably be doing so with the idea that he's your long-term RT, but who can play an assortment of other positions (RG in the short-term?) until the Lane Johnson era is over.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, it is widely accepted that the Eagles would have taken S/LB hybrid Jeremy Chinn if they hadn't drafted Jalen Hurts. The Panthers got Chinn instead, and he finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
A player who gives me sort of a Chinn vibe is Bolden, a bigger safety at 6'3, 204, who had a productive 2020 season. In 10 games, he had 74 tackles (6.5 for loss), a sack, a pick, and 4 FFs. A look:
The Eagles already desired "positionless" players under Jim Schwartz, and that desire should only grow further in a more diversified scheme under Jonathan Gannon.
In just over 300 snaps a season ago, Anderson racked up 6.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles for Georgia, and was impressive in doing so, flashing elite explosiveness off the edge.
At a listed weight of 230 pounds, however, Anderson isn't going to be a fit as a 4-3 DE, at least in a three-down role, but he would make sense in the SAM in the Eagles' defense. The Eagles would have to feel comfortable projecting Anderson as an off-ball linebacker who can play in space, but certainly, he has the athleticism to do so.
With Azeez Ojulari moving on to the NFL, Anderson will get more pass rush opportunities, but it will also be interesting to see if Georgia uses him as more than just a pass rush specialist this season.
Kendrick played quarterback in high school, and signed with Clemson to be a wide receiver. Because of Clemson's surplus of receivers and dearth of corners, Kendrick flipped to the other side of ball, despite never having played corner. Like most converted WRs, Kendrick has good ball skills, but he was a work in progress, technique-wise. Still, his talent was rather obvious.
Kendrick got benched at various times during the 2020 season for unclear off-field reasons, he was dismissed from Clemson's football team after the season, and was arrested on gun and drug charges that were later expunged. Kendrick might have declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but made the obvious decision to stay at the collegiate level and try to rebuild his draft stock.
And so, he transferred to Georgia, where he'll face his former team in his first game with his new team. A look at his highlights:
Kendrick clearly has character concerns, but he seems to be a competitive player, given his transition from quarterback to wide receiver to top cornerback prospect, and he plays with swagger. The Eagles aren't going to have interest in many character concern players, but I believe that they will make exceptions as long as they aren't concerned about the player's want to play football, and his competitive edge. So in this case, I wouldn't immediately dismiss Kendrick as an option.
The Eagles could be OK short-term at corner, with Darius Slay and Steve Nelson, but they have clear long-term needs at the position.
Ross was a star for Clemson as a true freshman in 2018, when he had 46 catches for 1,000 yards (21.7 YPC) and 9 TDs in route to a National Championship. In the National Championship Game against Alabama, he had 6 catches for 153 yards and a TD.
He has good size, and he uses it well, boxing out defenders on in-breaking routes, and winning 50-50 balls down the field and in the red zone. He also shows good hands at times, though he will have occasional concentration drops. A look at his true freshman season:
Normally, Ross would be thought of as a highly likely first-round pick. However, he comes with major injury risks. In his sophomore season in 2019, his production fell off some (66-865-8), and in 2020, he missed the entire season with "congenital fusion in his spine," a condition he has had since birth, but only found about after getting x-rays on what was thought to be a stinger.
He was recently cleared to play in 2021, but NFL teams will certainly have interest in the long-term effects of his condition.
The Eagles can't draft another first-round receiver, right? Probably not, but at the same time, they do not have a dependable receiver with good size. If Ross slides substantially because of his condition, maybe the Eagles would have interest?