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January 21, 2020

Eagles Senior Bowl preview: Players we'll be watching this week

Eagles NFL
012120KristianFulton Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

If there's a player competing at the 2020 Senior Bowl who could interest the Eagles in the first round, my bet would be on LSU CB Kristian Fulton.

NFL coaches, front office guys, scouts, and media will overtake the city of Mobile, Alabama this week, as the Senior Bowl week of practices will kick off on Tuesday, and run through Thursday, with the game being played on Saturday. 

PhillyVoice will be there, and here's who we'll be watching:

The wide receivers (duh)

The 2020 NFL Draft is going to be loaded with wide receiver talent, both at the top of the draft, and throughout. 

The receivers projected to go Round 1 (or early in Round 2) are underclassmen, and won't be competing at the Senior Bowl. That group includes guys like Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs of Alabama, CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma, Tee Higgins of Clemson, Justin Jefferson of LSU, and Leviska Shenault of Colorado.

As we pointed out in our "stay or go" series, the Eagles don't have any wide receivers that they can feel good about, long-term, and while a burner is perhaps of highest importance, the Birds will be shopping for receivers in all shapes, sizes, and skill sets. Here are the receivers competing at the Senior Bowl, sorted by overall prospect ranking, via

 WRHeight/weight TDN ranking 
 Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State6'1, 206 43 
 Devin Duvernay, Texas5'11, 201 66 
 Michael Pittman, USC6'4, 220 88 
 Denzel Mims, Baylor6'3, 215 89 
 Collin Johnson, Texas6'6, 220 97 
 Bryan Edwards, South Carolina6'3, 215 105 
 KJ Hill, Ohio State6'0, 195 106 
 Quartney Davis, Texas A&M6'2, 200 112 
 Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty6'4, 220 114 
 Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt6'1, 200 161 
 Chase Claypool, Notre Dame6'4, 229 166 
 James Proche, SMU6'0, 193 196 
 Van Jefferson, Florida6'2, 195 221 
 Jauan Jennings, Tennessee6'3, 205 226 

I agree that the top receiver among the Senior Bowl crop, at least heading in, is Aiyuk, who we profiled back in November. He could be a second-round pick, whereas the rest of these guys are likely to be selected anywhere from rounds 3-7, and some perhaps not at all.

The cornerbacks (again, duh), and safeties

The corners aren't as interesting as the receivers from top to bottom, but there is a player who has been mocked to the Eagles in the first round in LSU's Kristian Fulton, who will be among the highest-rated players in Mobile, though it appears that he won't participate in practices or the game.

In addition to the corners (specifically outside corners who can actually run a little, ideally), the Eagles will likely be doing their homework on safeties as well, seeing as Rodney McLeod is a free agent, and Malcolm Jenkins has said that he isn't playing for the Eagles in 2020 on his current contract.

Here is how TDN ranks the defensive backs competing at the Senior Bowl:

 DBHeight/weight TDN ranking 
 Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU6'0, 200 14 
 Ashtyn Davis, S, California6'1, 200 49 
 Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA5'10, 198 95 
 Antoine Brooks, S, Maryland5'11, 215 120 
 Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame5'11, 194 130 
 Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest5'10, 190 135 
 Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska6'3, 215 142 
 Alohi Gilman, S, Notre Dame5'10, 202 149 
 Jalen Elliott, S, Notre Dame6'0, 210 156 
 K'Von Wallace, S, Clemson5'11, 205 177 
 Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir Rhyne6'2, 220 195 
 A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State6'1, 180 204 
 Jared Mayden, S, Alabama6'0, 200 218 
 Terrell Burgess, S, Utah6'0, 188 225 
 Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh6'0, 190 241 
 Khaleke Hudson, S, Michigan6'0, 220 261 
 Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois6'3, 212 294 
 Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern5'11, 190 333 
 Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa6'1, 200 N/R 
 Reggie Robinson, CB, Tulsa6'1, 197 N/R 
 Josh Metellus, S, Michigan6'0, 218 N/R 
 Brian Cole, S, Mississippi State6'2, 210 N/R 

Unfortunately, in addition to Fulton, a number of senior corners are not competing at the Senior Bowl this year. They are TCU's Jeff Gladney, Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Virginia's Bryce Hall, and Ohio State's Damon Arnette, all of whom are logical Eagles targets.

Pass-rushing defensive tackles

The Eagles need to start developing some youth in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball, as they have not been able to stay healthy at DT. The Senior Bowl is loaded this year with disruptive defensive tackles who could interest the Eagles. The four most noteworthy, in my opinion:

Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (6'6, 305): Chiseled monster with very good strength and athleticism, who will likely be a first-round pick. If there's a player I could see the Eagles eschewing a wide receiver or cornerback for at 21, Kinlaw is a guy who would make sense.

Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma (6'2, 302): Underwhelming college production, but he's an absurdly athletic freak of nature who some believe will go Round 1.

Raekwon Davis, Alabama (6'7, 312): Davis has a similar body type as Kinlaw, and is high-energy, high-character player who was perhaps hurt by staying in school. After a highly productive 2017 season, his numbers plummeted, which is odd. He'll still easily go in the the first two rounds, barring any surprises.

Larrell Murchinson, North Carolina State (6'3, 291): Undersized, penetrating one-gap defensive lineman with an assortment of pass rush moves, power, quickness, and savvy. I could see the Eagles having interest late on Day 2.

Defensive ends (as always)

The defensive ends are always worth paying attention to, obviously, because the Eagles draft so many of them. In fact, they've selected a DE in each of their last 8 drafts. The edge rushers that I'll be watching:

Jonathan Greenard, Florida (6'4, 263): He has the size the Eagles like, and he is thought of as an excellent run defender. 10 sacks, 3 FF in his one season at Florida. Day 2 guy.

• Bradlee Anae, Utah (6'3, 265): 13 sacks in 2019, and 30 for his career.

Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (6'4, 260): His name popped up all season long while I looked for players to profile for my Grocery Shopping series, but I never profiled him. He's a hustle guy who plays sound assignment football, but doesn't bring much in the way of explosiveness, though he does have good production (18 sacks the last two years). He does make sense as a rotational guy who makes opposing tackles work hard when the starters come out.

Alton Robinson, Syracuse (6'4, 260): Lesser-known edge rusher with good blend of size and athleticism. Has some off-field concerns.

Coverage linebackers

The Eagles are going to need more linebacker depth this offseason, and they tend to prioritize LBs with some coverage chops. In my opinion, the following two off-ball linebackers fit the mold of what the Eagles look for:

Logan Wilson, Wyoming (6'2, 225): 4 picks and 7 PBUs as a senior, and a former safety. 

Kyle Dugger, Lenoir Rhyne (6'2, 220): Comically dominant player at D-II level. He'll work out at safety in Mobile, but I think he's a linebacker in the pros.

Swing tackles

If Halapoulivaati Vaitai moves on in free agency as we expect him to do, and the Eagles have concerns about Jordan Mailata, as they should, the Eagles will need to find a swing tackle to develop, and the Senior Bowl is a great place to evaluate mid-round guys who can fill that role.

A short list of the players with LT-RT experience in college, who are likely to be Day 3 picks, who I think make some sense for the Eagles:

  1. Colton McKivitz, West Virginia (6'7, 312)
  2. Matt Peart, UConn (6'7, 301)
  3. Terence Steele, Texas Tech (6'6, 320)
  4. Alex Taylor, South Carolina State (6'9, 310)
Of particular interest are Peart and Taylor, who offer intriguing athleticism.

Versatile interior offensive linemen

At some point soon Jason Kelce is going to retire, so the Eagles either need to have a player ready to step in at center when that happens, or have a LG ready to start if they view Isaac Seumalo as the center of the future.

LSU's Lloyd Cushenberry is high-character player with guard and center experience who could step in for Kelce and lead the offensive line whenever Kelce calls it a career. Temple's Matt Hennessy is another center who makes sense.

Between-the-tackles bangers

The belief here is that the Eagles will draft another running back this year, and a tough inside runner would make sense, as Jordan Howard is likely a year-to-year guy even if he re-signs with the team in 2020. The Day 3 running backs who I believe can contribute in that kind of role:

  1. Joshua Kelley, UCLA (5'11, 219)
  2. Lamical Perine, Florida (5'11, 218)
  3. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt (5'10, 218)

And then another back who really intrigues me is Memphis' Antonio Gibson, who is sort of a running back / wide receiver hybrid.

No. 3 quarterback

We'll see if the Eagles try to draft-and-develop a backup quarterback again, like they did in 2019 with Clayton Thorson.

There are a pair of quarterbacks who will get a lot of attention at the Senior Bowl this year, in Oregon's Justin Herbert and Utah State's Jordan Love, but they'll be long gone by the time the Eagles would consider drafting one. 

If there's a Day 3 quarterback that I could see the Eagles falling for, it's Colorado's Steven Montez. At 6'5, 230, with a strong arm and leadership qualities, he fits the profile of quarterback the Eagles tend to prefer.

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