April 16, 2015
Earlier this week, I argued that the Eagles aren't going anywhere until they find themselves a franchise quarterback. I do not believe that Sam Bradford will be that for the Eagles, and remain steadfast in my belief that the Eagles should (and will) try very hard to move up to draft Marcus Mariota.
There are other much smarter analysts, like NFL.com's Heath Evans, who believe in the importance of the fullback.
It's an undeniable truth that Super Bowl glory is attained via the fullback. Therefore, before we get started, let's first bang out an all-Eagles Heath Evans mock draft:
• Round 1 - Jalston Fowler, FB, Alabama, 5'11, 254 - Fowler is the #1 FB in this draft, so there's a good chance he goes #1 overall. If he slides to #20, however, this would be a steal.
• Round 2 - Tyler Varga, FB, Yale, 5'11, 222 - Varga can do complex math equations while catching flare passes in the flat.
• Round 3 - Zach Zenner, FB, South Dakota St., 5'11, 223 - South Dakota TOUGH.
• Round 4 - Aaron Ripkowski, FB, Oklahoma, 6'1, 238 - No draft is complete without a Polish FB in the 4th round.
• Round 5 - Conner Neighbors, FB, LSU, 5'10, 242 - NFL linebackers won't think Neighbors is so neighborly when he blasts them in the mouth on a lead block.
• Round 5 - Hunter Joyer, FB, Florida, 5'11, 232 - There's no joy when you're hunted by Joyer.
• Round 6 - Joey Iosefa, FB, 6'0, 247 - Like former Hawaii FB Nate Iloao, Iosefa is a former Hawaii FB who is destined to dominate in the NFL.
• Round 7 - Jimmay Mundine, FB, 6'1, 237 - JIMMAYYYYY!!!!!
If the Eagles cannot find a way to land Mariota or any of the above fullbacks, here's my mock draft, version 4.0. To note, I did not duplicate any picks from my versions 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0, so if there's a player you like better than the ones below, there's a good chance I already used them.
It's no secret the Eagles are going to run the ball in 2015. The style with which they run it, however, will likely look a little different. After trading away the shifty LeSean McCoy, the Eagles added one-cut, north-south runners in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.
While the Eagles have a very talented interior offensive line with Pro Bowl players like Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce still in the fold, both players have typically won with technique and athleticism. Allen Barbre, who is penciled in for now at RG, is in the same mold as Kelce and Mathis. What the Eagles lack is a player who can move defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage with sheer power. Players like La'El Collins and T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh can be those kinds of guys for the Eagles.
With power runners like Murray and Mathews in the backfield, it makes sense to add a more physical presence to the interior of the line. That's not to say the Eagles have to change what they do. They still have more than their share of players who can get up to the second level or out in front of backs and receivers in the screen game. But they don't have anyone they can really feel great about running behind in those important drive-extending short yardage situations. Collins can be that for the Eagles, and oh by the way, it's not as if he can't hold his own in the athleticism department. Athletically, at a minimum, he'd be an upgrade over the recently departed Todd Herremans.
There are a number of offensive tackles in this draft who are being projected to right tackle and/or guard at the next level. Players like Collins, Clemmings, Brandon Scherff of Iowa and Jake Fisher of Oregon are all players who could potentially start right away at RG and eventually kick out to RT.
From the Eagles' perspective, those guys are perfect fits from short term and long term needs perspectives. Any of those players could potentially start from day one at RG, which would allow Barbre to resume his role as a quality reserve at four of the positions along the OL. Then down the line, possibly as early as 2016, Lane Johnson could move over to LT to replace the aging Jason Peters, with Collins (or fill in the new Eagles offensive lineman of your choice) kicking out to RT.
Rollins was among the prospects who impressed me at the Senior Bowl. Here's what I wrote then:
Rollins is a playmaker. During the week of practices, he showed a knack for locating the ball in the air and making plays on it, something Philly fans rarely saw from Eagles starting corners in 2014. In the Senior Bowl game itself, he made a very nice over the shoulder interception. Rollins was a star basketball player at Miami (OH) for four years, and didn't play footbal until his senior year, when he had seven interceptions. He has an enormous ceiling. To be determined if 5'11 is too short for the Eagles' liking.
After his Senior Bowl showing, Rollins was getting buzz as a potential first round pick. And then he ran a 4.57, which ended all of that talk. Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com thinks Rollins could move to safety, and I buy his logic:
Rollins would be perfect for the Eagles scheme. He could play deep, in the box, Cover 2 or slide down and play the slot. He has the size, skill set, athleticism and toughness to handle those roles.
If he doesn’t pan out at S, you can always put him back at CB. I think he could be a good starting corner in the NFL. I just think Safeties are harder to find. And Rollins combination of ball skills and instincts makes me think he could thrive at that position.
Tommy also found the following clip of Rollins planting an offensive tackle on his ass (skip to the 4:23 mark):
Love that. And some highlights:
In Jordan Matthews' last season at Vanderbilt, he was responsible for 49.93% of his team's receiving yards. That was the highest percentage of any of the 32 receivers who were drafted in 2014. Vanderbilt had the 67th ranked passing offense in the nation, and Matthews finished fourth in the nation both in receptions and receiving yards. In other words, Vanderbilt's opponents knew who was getting the ball and Matthews still found a way to put up huge numbers anyway.
In a similar way, Greene was the focal point of Florida State's passing game, and he produced anyway. His senior season, Greene had 99 catches for 1365 yards. The next closest Seminole wide receiver, Travis Rudolph, had 38 catches for 555 yards.
Greene's numbers speak for themselves, as he quietly had one of the best careers of any wide receiver in Florida State history, a school that has churned out a number of high draft picks at that position. In fact, he set the school record at FSU for career receptions and receiving yards. He has been a contributor in every one of his seasons at FSU since his freshman year, improving his production with each new season:
Florida State lined Greene up all over the place. He has good speed and is able to juke defenders in small areas, which makes him a threat to gobble up yards after the catch. He's also a polished route runner, he's happy to go over the middle to make catches in traffic, he is a willing (although less than awesome) blocker, and he also has value as a punt returner. Basically, he does a lot of the dirty work that Chip Kelly likes from his receivers, although at 5'11, 182, he does not have good size.
Greene has a skill set similar to that of USC's Nelson Agholor, but you don't have to draft him in the first round to make sure you get him. In my opinion, Greene presents a far better value if you can get him in the third round. Watch him work:
The Eagles recently brought in Amos for a visit to the NovaCare Complex, which makes sense. Whenever Alabama's Landon Collins' name comes up in a mock draft to the Eagles, Philly reporters are quick to shoot it down, as Collins isn't a great fit for Bill Davis' scheme. The Eagles seem to target versatile safeties, valuing cover skills over in-the-box skills. Does Amos' scouting report strengths on NFL.com sound like a fit?
STRENGTHS Athletic with good range. Fluid in space with easy backpedal and smooth hips. Has ability to turn, run and recover when ball is in the air. Good route recognition. Trustworthy in coverage and is rarely out of position. Can line up defense. Offered versatility in coverage. Played some slot corner in sub packages. Outstanding in zone coverage at Penn State. Can crowd receivers and closes throwing windows. Allowed just 3.9 yards per target in 2014. Has twitch to trigger and close on throws.
The downside is that Amos isn't noted for his in-the-box prowess, but I'm not sure the Eagles care all that much.
In Chip Kelly's and Billy Davis' first offseason in Philly, they had Ricky Jean-Francois in for a visit, but Jean-Francois would eventually sign a ridiculous 4 year, $22 million deal with the Colts. Why do I bring up Jean-Francois? Because that's the comp that Walton received by NFL.com:
SOURCES TELL US: "I have a feeling he's going to be one of those guys who ends up being an NFL player that nobody sees coming. He was a baseball and basketball player, which means he has good hands and feet. More coaching might be able to unlock an NFL player." -- AFC West scout
NFL COMPARISON: Ricky Jean-Francois
BOTTOM LINE: High-motor interior lineman who could become a five-technique in a 3-4 defense with more technique work. Walton has the traits to become an above-average player against the run and should be able to play in both odd and even fronts.
In limited access to game action of Walton, I came away very impressed with Walton's athleticism for a guy who goes 6'5, 319. The Eagles are strong along their defensive line, but Walton could be a great fit as a big DE in Davis' scheme.
Jones is a big ILB who can hit, but is probably only a two-down linebacker because of his lack of quality cover skills. Jones could fill a similar DeMeco Ryans-like role, as he was thought of as a leader on a very impressive Michigan State defense, via Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:
STRENGTHS Outstanding size and durability. Card-carrying tough guy with take-on traits. Looks to own the middle of the field. Happy to strike a heavy blow on offensive linemen drifting to second level. Play strength to redirect off a block and leverage gap. Heat-seeking missile as A-gap blitzer, jolting centers and/or running backs while inverting pocket. Wrap-up finisher with unexpected closing speed for his size. Well-respected leader. Moved from outside to inside linebacker and made front adjustments during 2014 season.
The Eagles traded for Kiko Alonso and re-signed DeMeco Ryans to a contract extension. That leaves starting ILB Mychal Kendricks' future with the team in doubt. In 2014, the Eagles suffered a number of losses at ILB during the season. They lost Ryans to an Achilles tear mid-season, Najee Goode for the season Week 1, and Kendricks missed four games. That has led some to ponder the idea of simply keeping Alonso, Ryans and Kendricks for depth purposes. However, while depth is important, you have to do what is best for the roster as a whole. Kendricks is in the final year of his contract anyway, and if you can flip him for a valuable asset at another position, then go ahead ahead do it if it makes your roster better as a whole.
If the Eagles head into 2015 without Kendricks, which I would lean toward happening, they'll have Alonso, Ryans, Goode, Emmanuel Acho, and recently signed Brad Jones at ILB. Taiwan Jones could be another ILB to add depth and special teams help.
As of April 16th, CBS Sports has Antwan Goodley as the 275th ranked prospect in this draft and the 36th ranked WR. That seems absolutely crazy to me, but if NFL personnel people view Goodley the same way, he could be a late round steal for the Eagles.
In terms of build, Goodley reminds me a lot of Josh Huff. They are both short, thick, explosive players who almost look more like running backs than wide receivers. Both Huff and Goodley can do damage after the catch, and have value as returners. Like Huff, Goodley thrived in a spread offense in college, and both could do the same in the pros under Chip Kelly.
Goodley's numbers fell off a bit in 2014 because he was hampered with a quad injury, but he had a tremendous junior season for the Bears:
You can watch a Goodley highlight reel here, but for me, his signature highlight is below. You can see his YAC ability summed up here:
Brent Celek's receptions, yards, and first down catches have declined (or stayed the same) in each of the last four years.
|Brent Celek||Catches||Yards||First downs|
Celek is the best blocking tight end on the team, but his blocking ability doesn't warrant the $4.8 million he'll count against the cap in 2015, and it certainly won't warrant the $5 million he'll count against the cap in 2016 if he continues to be less and less productive as a receiver.
Last offseason, the Eagles found a nice player in undrafted free agent Trey Burton, who had a similar skill set as James Casey. This offseason, Burton's presence on the roster enabled the Eagles to release Casey and shave off his $4 million cap hit. Telfer could be a player who allows the Eagles to shave off Celek's $5 million cap hit in 2016. His strengths sound exactly like Celek's strengths, via Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:
STRENGTHS Aggressive and determined run blocker who says he learned his aggressiveness from former Trojan tight end Rhett Ellison. Uses outstanding hand placement to strike and sustain in run game. Able to base block or work in zone scheme. Plays with football intelligence. Shows willingness to do whatever it takes to get his guy blocked. Willing to play and practice through pain. Gets all the meat off the bone in catch-and-run situations, looking to put his shoulder down and finish rather than juke.
While Telfer may be a good blocker, he never had much in the way of production as a pass catcher at USC:
Here are highlights of Telfer from his freshman year, which was his best as a receiver at USC. You can see what Zierlein is referring to when he says he gets all the mat on the bone once he has the ball in his hands:
Only 14 days until the draft!
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