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February 13, 2018

Eagles-only 2018 mock draft, version 1.0

Last offseason, we published our first Eagles only mock draft on January 3, oh and hey, look at who we had as the first round pick! This year, mock draft season had to wait a little longer for Eagles fans. I'm sure you've all survived without it. 

As a reminder, the Eagles only have six draft picks this year, and none in the second or third rounds.

1st round: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan (6'2, 280)

In 2017, Hurst had 59 tackles (13 for loss) 5.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Those numbers aren't great, but make no mistake, Maurice Hurst is awesome. He's quick, fast, he sheds blocks, and he constantly makes plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. A highlight reel from 2017:

There's no earthly reason Hurst should be available at pick 32, but it has happened with undersized defensive tackles in the past. At 6'2, 280, Hurst is far from a prototypical defensive tackle. Geno Atkins fell all the way to the fourth round in 2010, and Aaron Donald to the 13th overall pick in 2014, despite being clearly more talented than many of the players taken before him. Has the NFL learned their lesson on that?

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If Hurst were to fall, he would be an outstanding fit along the Eagles' penetrating defensive scheme, even with Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan already occupying a big chunk of the Eagles' salary cap.

4th round: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington (6'1, 192)

Pettis owns sole possession of the all-time NCAA record for career punt return touchdowns. A list of the NCAA career leaders for punt return TDs:

Player Years School Punt return TDs 
Dante Pettis 2014-2017 Washington 9 
 Wes Welker2000-2003 Texas Tech 
 Antonio Perkins2001-2004 Oklahoma 
 David Allen1997-2000 Kansas State 
 Javier Arenas2006-2009 Alabama 
 Leodis McKelvin2004-2007 Troy 
 Ryne Robinson2003-2006 Miami Ohio 
 Ryan Switzer2013-2016 North Carolina 7 
 Derek Abney2000-2003 Kentucky 
 Ted Ginn2004-2006 Ohio State 
 James Henry1986-1988 Southern Mississippi 
 DeSean Jackson2005-2007 California 
 Christian Kirk2015-2017 Texas A&M 
 Santana Moss1997-2000 Miami 
 Steve Suter2001-2004 Maryland 

Here are all nine of them:

As we noted in our running backs "stay or go" post, Darren Sproles' time is Philly is likely over, and the Eagles could stand to upgrade from Kenjon Barner in the return game. In Pettis, they'd get one of the best punt returners ever to come out of college, as well as a dangerous receiver.

As a receiver, Pettis' reception and yardage numbers aren't great, but he found the end zone 15 times in 2016.

Dante Pettis Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201417 259  15.2
 201530 414 13.8 
 201653 822 15.5 15 
 201763 761 12.1 
 TOTAL163 2256 13.8 24 

It will be interesting to see how the NFL values Pettis as a receiver. A year ago, North Carolina's Ryan Switzer, an elite returner in college and 1000-yard receiver lasted until the fourth round. Pettis would be great value there as well.

4th round: Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State (6'2, 227)

At 6'2, 227, Ballage is a big back, and as you might expect, he breaks a lot of arm tackles. He is perhaps best known for tying the FBS single-game touchdown record, when he scored eight of them against Texas Tech, shown at the end of this highlight reel:

Ballage's rushing numbers are concerning, however, because of a mediocre yards per carry average:

 Kalen BallageRush Yards YPC TD 
 201442 126 3.0 
 2015125 653 5.2 
 2016126 536 4.3 14 
 2017157 669 4.3 
 TOTAL450 1984 4.4 27 

Ballage also has odd receiving numbers. In 2016, he caught 44 passes for 469 yards and a TD, which is good. In 2017, he had 20 catches for only 91 yards (4.6 yards per catch!) and a long reception of 10 yards. 

Part of the reason for Ballage's low yards per carry and yards per catch numbers were because his offensive line stunk. From a tools perspective, however, he's big, he has impressive speed/athleticism, he runs hard, he's thought of as good in pass protection, and he can catch a little bit, so he should be of interest to the Eagles.

5th round: Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF (6'1, 223)

Shaquem Griffin is the twin brother of Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin, who had a good rookie season in the NFL. The Griffins have a cool backstory. Shaquill and Shaquem (who only has one hand) both enrolled at UCF, when Shaquill had offers from schools like Alabama, but the brothers were adamant that they were a package deal.

Despite playing with one hand, Griffin finished the 2016 season with 92 tackles (20 for loss), 11.5 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 2 FFs, 2 FRs, and an INT. That is incredible. In 2017, Griffin had 74 tackles (13.5 for loss), 7 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 FFs, 2 FRs, and an INT.

He has great speed, and simply makes plays. A highlight reel: 

Some team is going to take a chance on this guy in the draft and be rewarded with a good player. Why not a team full of overachievers like the Eagles? 

On a side note, Griffin is a layup for Jason Kelce at next year's parade. "Lane Johnson can't stay off the juice; Shaquem Griffin only has one hand..."

5th round: Adam Breneman, TE, UMass (6'4, 250)

Breneman was a four-star recruit (No. 1 TE in the country) coming out of high school who committed to Penn State. He dealt with significant injuries at PSU, even retiring at one point, which will make him a player of high interest at medical evaluations at the NFL Combine. He graduated after just three years at PSU, and then transferred to UMass. His numbers there:

Adam Breneman Rec Yards YPC TD 
2013 (PSU) 15 186 12.4 
 2016 (UMass)70 808 11.5 
 2017 (UMass)64 764 11.9 

A highlight reel:

At 6'4, 250, Breneman doesn't have great height for a tight end, but he runs well and you don't have to be an NFL scout to see how well he catches the football in the video above.

This offseason, the Eagles could potentially lose Trey Burton to free agency and Brent Celek to retirement, making tight end a significant need.

Round 6: Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State (6'5, 310)

Jones is a polarizing player whose projections are all over the map. He's only a two-year starter, having taken over at left tackle after Taylor Decker was drafted.

Jones has some nasty to him, but he has just average size and athleticism. Here's his game this year against Penn State:

Interestingly, Jones accepted an invite to the East-West Shrine Game, the less prestigious of the two main college football all-star games, after the Senior Bowl. That may give an idea of what the NFL thinks of him. 

Teams tend to over-draft offensive tackles, but if I'm the Eagles, I like him as a late-round project who can grow behind Jason Peters (if he returns), Lane Johnson, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

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