November 06, 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 who make logical sense for the Eagles in the following year's draft.
Let's just start with Willis' highlight reel, because, well, just watch him.
Fun, right? As you saw, Willis is a quarterback who can win with his arm or his legs.
As a runner, he reminds a little of... Jalen Hurts! He's similarly sized, and he can run through tacklers in addition to running by them, though his speed isn't on the same level, as say, Lamar Jackson or Mike Vick.
As a passer, he can make throws that Hurts cannot, at least on a consistent basis. Willis has more arm strength, and better accuracy, particularly while on the run. His accuracy is a work in progress, but is probably more correctable than Hurts' with some tweaks to his mechanics. In my opinion, there's a significant difference in passing ability between the two players.
Willis is currently a consensus top two quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, alongside Ole Miss' Matt Corral. Oh, and hey (!) those two guys will face off on Saturday at noon. You can be certain that Eagles scouts will be in attendance.
Once we get into the offseason, we'll take a deeper look at all the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 draft, but for now, just note that two of the top guys are facing off today.
If you saw Michigan State's comeback win over Michigan last Saturday, you already know who Walker is, as he ran for 197 yards and 5 TDs against a Michigan defense that doesn't often allow a lot of rushing yards. On the season, Walker is second in the nation with 1,194 rushing yards. His career numbers:
|2019 - Wake Forest||98||579||5.9||4|
|2020 - Wake Forest||119||579||4.9||13|
|2021 - Michigan State||175||1194||6.8||14|
At 5'10, 210, Walker is short but dense, and well-built. He should be able to handle the physicality of the NFL. As a runner, while he may not blaze an eye-popping 40 time at the Combine, he has good short area explosiveness as well as terrific balance, and he can make defenders look silly with his repertoire of jump cuts and other ankle-breaking moves.
But what is most impressive about Walker is that he knows what he's doing. He has great vision, he understands angles, and he is able to make quick decisions when holes open or close. He reminds me a little of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but without the proven receiving ability. A look:
I think Walker will be an early Day 3 guy, because he still has something to prove as a receiver out of the backfield. He only has 14 career receptions. Still, the Eagles could be in the market for another Day 3 running back to pair with Kenny Gainwell if they don't believe they'll be able to keep Miles Sanders on a reasonable second contract.
McCreary is a physical, sticky corner with good ball production numbers the last three years for Auburn. He's tied for 12th in the nation this season with 8 pass breakups.
|Roger McCreary||Tackles (TFL)||INT||PBU|
He also had a 100+ yard pick-six taken off the board last season:
100 yard interception return by Roger McCreary! WOW! Called back on penalty though. pic.twitter.com/qM5jHsf8BN— James Newton (@gemdrafter) September 26, 2020
Here he is battling — and holding his own — against NFL phenom Ja'Marr Chase:
Roger McCreary (Auburn CB) vs. Ja’Marr Chase (LSU WR) was one of the best battles of the 2019 college season.— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) May 6, 2020
Chase won his fair share of reps (as expected), but McCreary more than held his own against the Biletnikoff award winner. pic.twitter.com/eSp5xO5Rjw
Throughout his college career, McCreary has faced the SEC's elite, from Chase to guys like DeVonta Smith, Treylon Burks, George Pickens, Terrace Marshall, and others, in addition to other great college receivers like Jahan Dotson and Rashod Bateman. He'll be battle tested when he enters the NFL. Probably an early Day 2 guy.
The Eagles love them some versatile offensive linemen, and Kirkland has experience at RG and LT for Washington. He has good length at 6'7, and will likely be able to play both sides, giving him a floor as a swing tackle who can also play guard in a pinch, with starting RT upside. He also has some nastiness to his game:
There are some who view Kirkland as a first-round prospect. I don't see that, as he doesn't have the same kind of athleticism as a number of other tackle prospects likely to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. He's also an older prospect who is in his fifth season at Washington. He's a third- or fourth-round guy, in my opinion.
Kirkland struggled mightily earlier this season against surefire first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan. He will have an opportunity to redeem himself today against Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thomas is a lesser-known DE prospect who is likely to start getting more attention as draft season ramps up. Like Milton Williams, Thomas was initially a DT in college who moved to DE. Also like Williams, he has impressive athleticism to go along with his inside-outside versatility. A quick look:
#SDSU DL Cameron Thomas is an intriguing player with great length, athleticism and inside-out versatility. Shows the ability to consistently win in the interior with quick hand usage and initial quickness.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 28, 2021
Up to six TFLs, two sacks and 19 tackles on the season. pic.twitter.com/w4o87KQjNO
After Brandon Graham went down this season, the Eagles had outside rushers like Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan kicking inside and playing in 3-tech and 4i looks, where they shouldn't be. The Eagles will hope that Williams develops into a player like Graham who can rush from the outside, but also win matchups on the interior. They'll need two players who can handle that role, if they continue forward with this Jonathan Gannon defense, and Thomas is a guy who fits that profile.