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March 08, 2018

Eagles-only mock draft, version 2.0

With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror and the Philadelphia Eagles' big trade on Wednesday, let's throw out our second Eagles-only mock draft of the offseason.

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

Round 1: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia (5'11, 220)

Speaking last year at the NFL owners' meetings, Doug Pederson was asked what he values in a running back. 

"I think that position has changed quite a bit over the years," Pederson explained. "I think that obviously every team, you look for guys that, are they a three-down guy? A guy that can play first, second and third down? Guys that are mobile in the sense of (moving running backs) out of the backfield. We do so much with empty sets (no backs in the backfield). A lot of teams do a lot of empty sets. Route-running ability (is important). Obviously the skill set of running the football, I mean, that’s what they do. Obviously, they have to be able to carry the ball and run. 

"There’s so much versatility in backs nowadays from again, those empty formations, out of the backfield, spreading the field, those are the things that we want to see. (In terms of) physical traits, can they run between the tackles? Are they physical enough to run between the tackles? Can they stretch the field in outside zone? Every run game plan every week changes. Sometimes you’re going to be more inside the tackles, and then the next week you might be outside the tackles, so you have to have the versatility to do that. So those are things we look for in these backs."

In terms of checking off those boxes, here's what I see in Michel:

  1. Run inside: Check.
  2. Run outside: Eh, maybe not a major area of strength, but he can do it.
  3. Route running ability: Check.
  4. Hands: Check.
  5. Pass protection: Check.
In his college career, Michel's numbers weren't what they could have been because he had to split time with Nick Chubb at Georgia. Despite splitting carries, Michel still finished with more than 1,220 rushing yards in 2017. A quick look:

Sony Michel Rush Yards YPC TD 
 201464 410 6.4 
 2015219 1161 5.3 
 2016152 840 5.5 
 2017156 1227 7.9 16 

Here's a highlight reel from Michel's 2015 season, when Chubb went down:

The Eagles' future at the running back position is a little uncertain. 

  1. LeGarrette Blount may or may not be back. Most (self included) would lean toward the latter.
  2. Jay Ajayi will be back next season, but he is in the final year of his deal. The Eagles have openly acknowledged his knee issues. It's very possible Ajayi won't be on the team in 2019.
  3. Corey Clement proved to be a very valuable third-down back as a rookie.

Michel could contribute as a rookie along with Ajayi and Clement, and then take on a much larger role in 2019 and beyond.

Round 4: Fred Warner, LB, BYU (6'3, 236)

Warner is among the better linebackers in this draft in coverage, which is what Jim Schwartz prioritizes in his linebackers. He doesn't have huge tackle numbers (86 and 87 in 2016 and 2017, respectively), but he makes plays in the passing game, as he had 4 INTs and 11 pass breakups the last two seasons.

In the highlight reel below, watch how many plays he makes on the perimeter in open space against wide receivers with the ball in their hands.

Warner plays a lot more like a safety, but he has the size and aggressiveness of a linebacker. He's a candidate to fill the role that could be vacated soon by Nigel Bradham. Presently, most draft sites have Warner projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, so we have him here, but more realistically, the Eagles may need to pick up a three to be able to draft him.

Round 4: Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State (6'2, 197)

When the Eagles signed Torrey Smith last offseason, they were looking for a speed receiver who would keep opposing defenses honest by making safeties respect the possibility of the deep ball. Smith made some plays, but he was too inconsistent, as he struggled with drops and would go long stretches without making plays. 

Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson doesn't have ideal deep speed, but he makes plays down the field. In just two seasons, he racked up over 2600 receiving yards, and averaged 19 yards per catch.

 Cedrick WilsonRec Yards YPC TD 
 201656 1129 20.2 11 
 201783 1511 18.2 
 TOTAL139 2640 19.0 18 

Unlike Shelton Gibson a year ago, Wilson runs the full route tree, makes guys miss after he has the ball in his hands, and I love his tenacity as a blocker. 

Here's a highlight reel:

The Eagles are already down one receiver after trading Marcus Johnson. They could be down another one soon if they move on from Smith. Wilson could be an immediate special-teams contributor and guy who competes for meaningful reps in the offense.

Round 5: Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin (6'6, 248)

Fumagalli is a redshirt senior who has put up decent numbers in a run-dominant offense at Wisconsin. In 2016, he had 47 catches for 580 yards and two TDs. In 2017, he had 46 catches for 547 and  four TDs. Still, Fumagalli is a skilled receiver with great height who is fearless over the middle, and grinds for yards after the catch.

A highlight reel:

Fumagalli isn't the most athletic tight end in this draft, but he's a great effort player who is willing to block. In that respect, he reminds a little of Brent Celek.

Round 6: Desmond Harrison, OT, West Georgia (6'6, 288)

Harrison destroyed inferior competition in the D-II Gulf Sun Conference. Here's a comical highlight reel of him putting guys on their asses:

At the combine, Harrison ran a 4.9, showing that he is a special athlete at 6'6, 288. However, there are a number things working against him:

  1. In the pros, Harrison is going to have to put on more weight, and he's going to have to be coached up by an NFL staff before he sniffs the field in a meaningful game.
  2. He's something of the "Blutarski" of the draft this year, as he was playing college football as far back as 2011 at Contra Costa Community College. I couldn't find an official age for him, but he's old.
  3. He has off-field concerns, as he transferred from that JUCO school to Texas, where he missed a year due to suspensions, before landing at West Georgia.

Still, he makes a lot of sense for the Eagles, who don't need immediate help with a stacked group at OT, but will have tackle needs down the road whenever Jason Peters retires. Harrison is a highly athletic developmental prospect that Jeff Stoutland can try to work his magic with over the next couple years.

Round 7: Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma (6'0, 186)

Thomas had a very weird combine. On the one hand, he put up a pathetic four reps on the bench press, and he ran an awful 4.64 40, which will unquestionably scare off a number of teams. 

On the other hand, he shattered the record for the best 3-cone drill in NFL Combine history. A look at his spider chart:

Way back in August 2016, ESPN's Todd McShay had Thomas as his No. 1 rated cornerback.

Thomas tracks the ball well and routinely comes down with 50-50 balls. He finished last season with five interceptions -- one of which was returned for a touchdown. He projects as an early-round pick because of his combination of size (6-foot, 192 pounds), athletic ability and instincts. But Thomas' off-field decision making -- two suspensions in 2015 and an arrest -- deserves attention from teams.

That off-field decision-making includes two different suspensions, as well as an arrest for failing to appear in court after receiving a speeding ticket for driving 94 MPH. He was also arrested in June on charges of "assault and battery, public intoxication and interference with official process." The Eagles have shown that they are willing to add character-concern players since the departure of Chip Kelly.

On the field, Thomas wasn't nearly as good in 2016 and 2017 as he was in 2015. CFB Film Room had him down for seven touchdowns allowed in each of the last two seasons, with just three interceptions. That's very bad, clearly, and it's why he could be available in the seventh round.

Still, Thomas has good size and talent. His short-area quickness could be an asset in the slot in the NFL.

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