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April 12, 2018

Eagles-only mock draft, version 4.0

With just two weeks between now and the start of the 2018 NFL Draft, now feels like an appropriate time to put out our fourth 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.

And as always, we don't repeat players from previous "Eagles-only" mocks:

• Eagles-only mock draft, version 1.0

• Eagles-only mock draft, version 2.0

Eagles-only mock draft, version 3.0

Version 4.0:

Round 1: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (5'10, 212)

Before the start of the 2017 college football season, I thought there was a legitimate debate over whether Saquon Barkley or Derrius Guice was the better player. To be clear, I thought it was Barkley, but not by as wide a gap as others. After a 2017 season in which Guice battled through injuries and saw his yards per carry drop significantly, he was no longer thought of by anyone as being anywhere close to the same category as Barkley.

Still, Guice is very gifted, and I think he's going to be a great player in the NFL. With the draft two weeks away, it's crazy to me that many expect Guice to fall anywhere near where the Eagles are picking at 32nd overall. If he's there, I can't see how the Eagles can pass on him.

Guice has good speed, quick feet and cutting ability in traffic, as well as good balance and change of direction at top speed. He also runs with violence. A highlight reel: 

After losing LeGarrette Blount to the Detroit Lions, the Eagles' depth chart at running back now looks like this:

RB1 RB2 RB3  RB4
Jay Ajayi Corey Clement Donnel Pumphrey Wendell Smallwood 

While the Eagles have not yet given up on Donnel Pumphrey or Wendell Smallwood, they also cannot be counted on for any kind of meaningful role until they prove they deserve one. As such, the Eagles are left with just two running backs who are certain to be on the roster in 2018, in Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.

Ajayi is now in the final year of his deal in 2018, and the Eagles have openly acknowledged his knee issues. Will the Eagles let him walk in free agency next offseason? It's very possible he won't be on the team in 2019. That leaves Clement as the only sure-fire long-term back on the roster, and so, the Eagles would be wise to draft one now who can be a long-term answer at the position, while also potentially becoming an immediate contributor.

It doesn't take long for running backs to make significant contributions in their rookie seasons. In fact, in each of the last two seasons, a pair of rookies (Kareem Hunt in 2017, Ezekiel Elliott in 2016) led the league in rushing yards. With a team like the Eagles who are trying to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, Guice would give them a potential impact player from Day 1.

From a long-term perspective, because Guice was Leonard Fournette's backup at LSU for two seasons, he has low mileage:

Derrius Guice Rush Yards YPC TD 
2015 51 436 8.5 
2016 183 1387 7.6 15 
2017 237 1251 5.3 11 
 TOTAL471 3074 6.5 29 

He's also only 20 years old, and could be a high impact, low cost player for at least five years.

Round 4: M.J. Stewart, CB/S, North Carolina (5'11, 200)

During the pre-draft process, the Eagles have brought in a number of defensive back prospects who can potentially play in the slot. One who has not yet visited the Eagles (or at least it hasn't been reported that he has) is M.J. Stewart of UNC. At the NFL level, I believe Stewart will be best utilized as a safety and slot corner.

Stewart's stats at North Carolina:

 M.J. StewartTackles (TFL) INT FF-FR PBU 
 201426 (0.5) 0-0 
 201562 (2.5) 1-0 14 
 201666 (3.5) 2-3 11 
 201745 (5) 0-0 12 

That stat to note above is Stewart's pass breakups. Breaking up more than 10 passes in three straight seasons shows consistent production. He's also a physical tackler in the run game from the corner spot, something that will appeal to Jim Schwartz, who took pride in the Eagles' top-ranked run defense a season ago. A highlight reel:

Schwartz loves his safeties to have cornerback in their backgrounds. The Eagles are thin on safety depth, and I believe that Stewart could be a good third safety, with the potential to contribute early in his career in the slot.

Round 4: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame (6'5, 253)

This is a very unsexy pick, as Smythe's college production wasn't exactly all that impressive.

 Durham SmytheRec Yards YPC TD 
 201518 6.0 
 2016112 12.4 
 201715 244 16.3 
 TOTAL28 381 13.6 

By comparison, over the last two seasons, South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert had 164 catches for 2404 yards and 18 TDs. BUT... Smythe is very good blocker, and could seamlessly fill the role vacated by Brent Celek. Here's a cut-up of Smythe against LSU last season. There are a couple receptions thrown in (he can catch, despite the numbers above), but focus on his blocking.

After losing Celek and Trey Burton, the Eagles were clearly going to be in the market for a tight end. First, they signed Richard Rodgers to a veteran minimum deal in free agency. I believe that he'll fill the back pass-catching role, while the Eagles will look to add a mid-round tight end with good blocking ability in the draft, and Smythe would be a good fit.

Round 5: Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU (6'5, 309)

At the 2018 NFL Combine, Noteboom ran a 4.96 40 (94th percentile among OTs since 1999) and a 4.44 shuttle (96th percentile).

As such, he possesses athletic traits that will appeal to Doug Pederson and Co. The downside is that Noteboom is thought to be deficient, technique-wise, and could take some time to develop into a player worth seeing the field in the NFL.

For the Eagles' purposes, that's fine, as they already have impressive depth at OT, but could benefit by continuing to fill the offensive tackle pipeline in anticipation of the eventual retirement of Jason Peters.

Round 6: Kentavius Street, DE/DT, North Carolina State (6'2, 280)

During the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected Sidney Jones, who had ruptured his Achilles during the pre-draft process, knowing that he likely wouldn't play at all during the 2017 season. He was a pick for 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, a player who might make sense as a draft-and-stash guy would be Kentavius Street, who tore his ACL while working out for the Giants a week ago.

Street is an interesting prospect from the Eagles' perspective, as a player who can play inside and outside, much like Michael Bennett. Street's best attribute is his strength. Here he is squatting 700 pounds, which is ridiculous:

The Eagles don't have many team needs, so they don't have to worry about their later-round draft picks providing any sort of immediate contributions. At DT, they have Haloti Ngata on a one-year contract, and Bennett (who kicks inside on obvious passing downs) essentially on a string of one-year team options, so DT depth is a potential need in 2019 and beyond.

Round 7: Quadree Henderson, WR/KR/PR, Pittsburgh (5'8, 190)

The Eagles need a returner, and Henderson was one of the best in the country for Pittsburgh during his career, as he had seven returns for scores (4 KR, 3 PR). 

A highlight reel:

Offensively, Henderson is little more than a gadget player. As you can see in the above highlight reel, Pitt loved using him on jet sweeps. In the first half of the 2016 season, Doug Pederson seemed intrigued by Josh Huff's ability as a ball carrier, as he tried to find creative-yet-simple ways to get the ball in his hands. He could potentially do the same with Henderson. 

Still, Henderson has a long way to go before he'd ever be used as a traditional receiver (even in the slot), and may never be anything more than a returner / gadget guy, which is why he could be available this late in the draft.

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