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December 20, 2018

Eagles' 2018 rookie class is small, but promising

The Philadelphia Eagles' 2018 draft class included just five players, the smallest draft class the franchise has had since 1989, when they only had four picks. So far, despite the smaller class, and the lack of a first-round pick, the results have been promising. Let's take a look at the Birds' rookie class and how they've progressed this season.

2nd round (49th overall): TE Dallas Goedert

Goedert would already be an above average starting tight end on most teams that don't employ Zach Ertz, and he has made it impossible for the coaching staff to leave him on the sidelines. In each of the last four games, Goedert has played more than half the snaps:

 Dallas GoedertSnap count Percentage of snaps 
 Week 12 vs. Giants36 of 65 55.4% 
 Week 13 vs. Redskins39 of 75 52.0% 
 Week 14 vs. Cowboys31 of 52 59.6% 
 Week 15 vs. Rams39 of 64 60.9% 
TOTAL 145 of 256 56.6% 

The Eagles' 12-personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) look has easily been their best offensive package in 2018, and the Eagles' staff is beginning to realize that their best chance of winning is utilizing it heavily.

Goedert's numbers aren't eye-popping. He has 27 catches on 38 targets for 277 yards (10.3 YPC) and four TDs. Of course, he had a 75-yard TD taken off the board on what may have been the worst offensive pass interference call of the NFL's 2018 season.

Numbers aside, Goedert has shown good hands and the ability to break tackles and run after the catch. He has also been a surprisingly good blocker.

"That's one of the areas that he's shown a tremendous amount of improvement in," Mike Groh said of Goedert's blocking. "He was not asked to do a ton of that in college, so to really being doing it for the first time in the NFL is something that usually takes tight ends a year or two. He’s really developed. [Tight ends coach] Justin Peele has done a great job in getting him coached up. Dallas is a tough guy and he has a lot of strength at the point of attack."

Going forward, the Eagles are going to have to strongly consider building their offense around Ertz and Goedert, with Ertz being the move tight end (the "F") and Goedert being the in-line tight end (the "Y").

4th round (125th overall): Avonte Maddox

What a steal in the fourth round. After beginning the season as the backup slot corner, Maddox was forced into action initially in the slot, and then as the free safety, and last Sunday against the Rams, at outside corner. He has played all three spots well, and looks like a valuable moving piece for the Eagles for the foreseeable future.

"I don't know if we win that (Rams) game without Avonte," said Jim Schwartz. "Not just making the interception but played really good in the pass game. That tackle he made in the two-minute drive at the end, that's as big-time play -- the plays that you'll see from him, if you're watching highlights of the game or the last play of the game, his interception, but that tackle had every bit as much to do with us winning that game and it's really encouraging to see. We've talked a lot about Avonte, but he played a major part in getting that win."

On the tackle Schwartz is referring to, I originally chalked it up to a stupid play by Todd Gurley, and while it certainly was, Maddox did indeed make an awesome play. It looked like Gurley thought he'd get a better block from Brandin Cooks, except, Maddox shoved Cooks aside, guarded the sideline, and made the tackle in bounds. He outplayed two veteran stars on the play.

The thinking here is that Maddox will play in the slot in 2019, with Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones on the outside, and Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod at safety. But certainly, Maddox gives the Eagles options with how well he has played at three different positions.

4th round (130th overall): Josh Sweat

Sweat was something of a project as a fourth-round pick. He was forced into action in a small role after Derek Barnett was lost for the season, but was mostly a non-factor. He had one tackle on the season, and no sacks. His highlight of the season was getting a QB hit on Drew Brees on a day in which the Eagles got zero pressure otherwise. 

Sweat was placed on IR with an ankle injury after the Eagles' Week 14 loss in Dallas, and he remains a project.

6th round (206th overall): Matt Pryor

Pryor was one of the young standouts in training camp, often dominating in one-on-one drills, but his play in the preseason games did not live up to the hype. Pryor made the 53-man roster, but he has been a healthy scratch for all 14 games so far.

Still, there's upside with Pryor, who can play both guard and tackle. To be determined if he can progress to the point where the team feels comfortable with him as a reliable backup on the right side.

7th round (233rd overall): Jordan Mailata

Mailata was sort of the reverse of Pryor. He struggled in training camp, but looked great at times in the preseason games, showing his impressive blend of size and athleticism. He certainly impressed a few former NFL offensive linemen, like Brian Baldinger: 

And Ross Tucker: 

Those were Jets third-and fourth-stringers in the Baldinger video above, but Mailata's physical attributes are obvious. Because he's such an oddball draft pick, having never played the sport until this season, projecting his standing with the team is nearly impossible. Can the team plan around him being the LT of the future, or is that premature? It'll be interesting to see what they do at the LT position going forward, on the assumption that Jason Peters retires this offseason.

Undrafted free agents

RB Josh Adams: Adams didn't make the initial 53-man roster out of camp, but he was added to the roster after the Eagles suffered a number of injuries to their running backs, eventually becoming the lead back. On the season, Adams has 98 carries for 440 yards (4.5 YPC) and three TDs. He is a bigger back who can gobble up yards in chunks when he gets some space, but he has not shown much power in short-yardage situations. He also needs work as a receiver and pass protector. Still, as an undrafted free agent, Adams has been a find, and should be a nice low-cost backup RB going forward.

DT Bruce Hector: Hector impressed in training camp, but he has been on and off the roster this season, going back and forth between the 53-man roster and the practice squad. He has two tackles and a half-sack on the season.

CB Chandon Sullivan: Sullivan had a nice camp and preseason, but he was badly overmatched when forced into real games.

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