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May 04, 2017

Eagles mailbag: Is the projected 2018 running back class just as strong as this year's group?

Eagles NFL

In our weekly Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of good unanswered questions that I was not able to get to, so we'll cover them here in an Eagles mailbag.

Question from H2O: Next year’s running back class could very well be better than this year’s class. Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Royce Freeman, etc. There was absolutely no need to roll the dice on Dalvin Cook, in my opinion. He never seemed as special to me as so many think.

I believe Cook was a really good player but came with a laundry list of red flags, which I’ll pass on listing for the 80th time. I was adamant that the Eagles should not take him at 14, and was not at all surprised when he fell out of the first round. Still, he would have been a great pick at 43 if he lasted that long.

As for next year, I agree that running back looks like another strong class, though I don’t think it will be as good as this year’s group.

Prior to the 2016 draft, the Eagles looked ahead to the 2017 draft to project what the quarterbacks would look like. They determined at the time that it would be a weak quarterback class, and the consensus opinion of nearly every draft expert is that indeed it was. That was part of the reasoning in why the Eagles were so aggressive last year in trying to land Carson Wentz.

Prior to the draft this year, I asked Howie Roseman if they projected other positional groups in the 2018 draft.

“We have done that for a couple positions to make sure that we’re not sitting there saying, ‘This position is so great,’ and looking ahead to next year and go, ‘Wait a minute, it’s pretty good next year, too, so maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves,'” Roseman said. “We’ve done that with a couple positions. There are a couple positions in this draft that we know are strong, and we’ve looked ahead and kind of said, ‘Well is it uniquely strong, or is it just a position that every year there are guys coming out?’”

On a follow-up question, Roseman declined to name the positions he was referring to that are also strong next year, but it would make sense that the Eagles think that running back is among them.

Question from Ant: Is it reasonable to expect Rasul Douglas to have a better rookie season than Jalen Mills?

Jalen Mills was bad last season. I think he just gets a pass from most observers because (A) he was a seventh-round pick and thus was not expected to play well, (B) he has confidence, which can sometimes mask actual performance, and (C) at least he was young, so it was more palatable watching him get beaten than it was watching Leodis McKelvin or Nolan Carroll.

To be clear, I do think Mills is an NFL-worthy corner who took his lumps last year and should be better in 2017.

But yes, it’s reasonable to expect Douglas to be better than Mills was as a rookie.

Question from Dumbo: Any thoughts on moving Marcus Smith to linebacker? It seems there would be nothing to lose considering how light the Eagles are at linebacker, and deep at defensive end.

If the Eagles release Smith, they save almost $1.5 million, so that’s what they would have to lose by trying him at another position. It very much appears as though Smith’s time with the Eagles is coming to an end soon.

Question from Vandervelde: The Eagles said they won’t pick up Marcus Smith’s fifth-year option after 2017. Are they required to announce that before the 2017 season? Why not wait and see how he does?

The deadline to pick up a player’s fifth-year option in 2018 was yesterday.

Question from Pragmatic: You do have to like how they still value special teams, right?

Yep. Their special teams units are the best in the league and have won them games the last two seasons. This team might have been much worse without those units. Dave Fipp has proven to be a stud, and they've continued to provide him with players he can work with.

Question from BAM? Why use a long snapper who contributes nowhere else? Can’t the center long snap?

Did you miss the Redskins game last year?

Question from Norm Snead: Does DGB have any trade value?

He didn’t have much trade value last year when the Eagles got him for friggin' Dennis Kelly. If anyone watched DGB's tape last year, he’ll have even less value.

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