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April 30, 2016

Grades (and analysis) of all eight of the Eagles' draft picks

Eagles NFL
041416CarsonWentz Charlie Neibergall/AP


Throughout the draft, we published an analysis of each of the Eagles' eight draft picks. For your convenience, here is the analysis and grades of all eight picks in one convenient place:

Round 1: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

After trading up with the Cleveland Browns eight days ago, the Eagles have selected North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The cost for the pick wasn't cheap. First, the Eagles were able to move from pick No. 13 to pick No. 8 when they traded Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins. The move from pick No. 8 to pick No. 2 was much more costly:

Browns get Eagles get 
 2016 1st round pick (8th overall)2016 1st round pick (2nd overall) 
2016 3rd round pick (77th overall) 2017 4th round pick 
2016 4th round pick (100th overall)  
 2017 1st round pick 
 2018 2nd round pick 

In the NFL, you either have a quarterback, or you don't, and if you don't, you have no chance unless you have some kind of historic defense, which the Eagles do not. The Eagles now believe they have their guy.

This offseason, the Eagles paid a whole lot of money to a pair of quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, who have achieved very little in the NFL. The idea was that Bradford and Daniel would give the Eagles short-term stability, but Bradford's mere two-year contract with no guaranteed money in year two was a clear indicator that the Eagles had questions about him as their long-term answer at quarterback.Bradford subsequently shriveled from the challenge and demanded a trade after the Eagles made their bold move.

There's isn't much to dislike about Wentz's game. He's big and sturdy, he has a great arm, a quick release, he's surprisingly athletic and very smart. Even if you dock him for playing at a lower level in college, Wentz operated in an offense that had pro-style concepts, prompting some to believe he's more pro-ready than other quarterbacks who played in more remedial offenses at a more competitive college level.

A veteran presence at quarterback for the Eagles will ideally allow Wentz to make the jump to the NFL without immediately being thrown to the wolves. He would also be tutored by a quarterback-focused coaching staff that includes Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, as well as Daniel, who has previously played a helpful sidekick role to Drew Brees and Alex Smith.

Here is a review of Wentz's strengths and weaknesses as a player, with visuals:



Obviously, at 6'5, 237, Wentz has NFL prototype quarterback size.

Surprising athleticism

Typically, when you think of 6'5 quarterbacks, you think of statues like Drew Bledsoe, or if you're an Eagles fan, an awkward lumbering runner like Nick Foles. However, Wentz is actually pretty nimble.

For example, I loved this play against Northern Iowa. He's going to be sacked, but he somehow stays on his feet and keeps running. You'll see wide receivers and running backs do this from time to time, but not often 6'5 quarterbacks:

Here he is avoiding the rush and making defenders miss in the open field. Wentz probably won't be changing his Twitter handle to @Cutondime11 anytime soon, but again, this is better shiftiness than you would expect from a guy his size.

The Bison even called some designed runs for him:

Obviously, there's a slight difference between the competition he's facing at schools like Montana, Weber State, and Northern Iowa than what he'd face going up against the Seattle Seahawks. He's not going to rattle off huge runs, but I think what his runs above show are that he is capable of making a play with his legs if he has to.

Quick release

Wentz has a nice, quick but effortless release, shown here:

Arm strength

Wentz has a plus NFL arm. Check out this sideline throw against Montana:

That has some nice heat on it.


Wentz can also make touch throws, which can sometimes be difficult for bigger quarterbacks. He has particularly nice touch on his deep throws. On the following throw, there's actually some good and bad. The throw placement is perfect, but he made the window a little tighter than was necessary because the ball came out too late. Still, this is pretty:


Wentz's "intangibles" often showed up in games. For example, he is crafty. In the screen game, he is excellent with his eyes. He does a good job drawing the defense in one direction, and almost kind of throws no look passes to his running backs on screens in the other direction. In the NFL, giving your running back a fraction of a second extra to hit a hole can make a huge difference.

You'll also see him manipulate safeties with his eyes, leading defenders to one receiver, then throwing to another one on the other side of the field. Wentz has a great feel for that.

Wentz also ran an offense at NDSU that had many pro-style concepts. He called his offensive line protections pre-snap at the line of scrimmage, and had the ability to audible.

As for his competitiveness, there was a play against Northern Iowa in which Wentz threw a pick, and on the return, Wentz took on a block from a pass rusher, wound up on the ground, and was able to trip up the intercepting player with his feet. He really sold out his body to make the tackle.

And finally, he's smart. He scored a 40 on the Wonderlic (that's excellent) and had a 4.0-grade-point average.

Areas of concern:

His competition

Wentz often had wide open receivers to throw to, which doesn't really give you a great read on his game in full. That's not a knock on him. It's more of a question mark. Wentz shined at the Senior Bowl, where he went up against college all-stars for a week of practices, but certainly, there's a difference between playing in real games at the Division I-AA level and the SEC.


For his college career, Wentz attempted only 612 passes. By comparison, No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff attempted at least 500 passes in each of the last three seasons.


His accuracy isn't bad. It's just kind of... meh. You'll often see Wentz throwing behind his receivers and he'll miss open receivers when he doesn't set his feet. For example:

Certainly, Wentz's strengths outweigh his weaknesses, and his physical tools were clearly very appealing to a very quarterback-focused coaching staff.

So welcome to Philadelphia, Carson Wentz. Your level of performance will only determine the fate of a whole lot of jobs in the Eagles' front office, as well as the general happiness of the fifth-most populous city in America. 

No big deal.

Grade: B+

Round 3: Isaac Seumalo, C/OG/OT, Oregon State

Seumalo's primary position is at center, where he has started since he was a freshman. In his sophomore season (2013), he moved to RT for two games after Oregon State suffered injuries along their offensive line. He broke his foot at the end of the 2013 season, which cost him the entire 2014 season.

In 2015, Seumalo played RG and LT. He is a unique player who can play all five spots along the offensive line.

When asked about what he values in offensive linemen, Doug Pederson emphasized versatility:

"You love offensive linemen that are versatile," explained Pederson. "You love to have tackles that can play left or right. You love to have guards that can also play center. The more you can have that flexibility with your guys up front, the more combinations and rotations you can have, because not everyone is going to stay healthy for 16 games and you have to mix and match that. Guys that are athletic who can get out on the perimeter and run, aggressive up front, have a little, as they say, 'piss and vinegar' in their neck are guys that you look for. I think we have a good nucleus of that."

I'm not sure about the "piss and vinegar" part, but Seumalo has the versatility thing going for him.

At the center position for the Eagles, Jason Kelce has rare athleticism, but he has had a disappointing follow-up to his first Pro Bowl season in 2014. He tore his ACL in 2012, and he missed a chunk of last season after having surgery for a hernia. Kelce returned from both injuries in impressive fashion, so it's too early to call him injury prone, or injury-damaged. 

Drafting a player to replace Kelce is probably out of the question at this point, but the Eagles could certainly use a player who can play multiple positions along the offensive line, including center. Seumalo will presumably be given the opportunity to win the starting job at LG during training camp.

Here's a highlight reel:

Grade: B-

Round 5: Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia

Running back was somewhat of an underrated need before the Eagles were able to unload DeMarco Murray's contract on the Tennessee Titans. Once they traded Murray, it became obvious. Heading into the draft, the Eagles' depth chart at running back looked like this:

 RB1RB2 RB3 
 Ryan MathewsDarren Sproles Kenjon Barner 

Mathews has a long history of injuries, while Sproles will turn 33 in June and is in the last year of his deal. Barner, meanwhile, has not shown he is consistent enough to be counted on as a reliable member of a running back rotation. Smallwood will now join that rotation.

According to, Smallwood was involved in an extremely serious off-the-field incident:

Smallwood was accused of telling someone to recant their statement accusing one of his friends in a fatal shooting case. The charges were officially dropped when his friend pleaded guilty in the murder case, allowing Smallwood to continue his football career.

Smallwood finished 14th in the nation (first in the Big 12) in rushing in 2015. His career rushing numbers at WVU:

 Wendell SmallwoodRush Yards YPC TD 
 201339 221 5.7 
 2014148 722 4.9 
 2015238 1519 6.4 
 TOTAL425 2462 5.8 12 

And his receiving numbers:

 Wendell SmallwoodRec Yards YPC TD 
 201311 132 12.0 
 201431 326 10.5 
 201526 160 6.2 
 TOTAL68 618 9.1 

At the 2016 NFL Combine, Smallwood ran a 4.47 40 and measured in at 5'10, 208. Here is Smallwood's Combine spider chart:

A highlight reel:

Grade: C+

Round 5: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, TCU

The Eagles did nothing to address the offensive tackle position in free agency, which makes sense, seeing as both starting OT spots are filled. However, Jason Peters turned 34 in January and is currently the third-oldest offensive lineman in the NFL. While Peters has had a tremendous career and is a borderline Hall of Fame talent, his career is clearly in decline and he experienced multiple injuries of the "nagging" variety a season ago. This could very well be his last season in the NFL.

Vaitai played both LT and RT at TCU but is probably best suited to play RT at the NFL level. It is expected the Lane Johnson will move over to left tackle whenever Peters can no longer play. Vaitai could be developed to eventually fill in at RT.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network projected Vaitai to be drafted in the third or fourth round.

"Yeah, I think third round value, a guy that's rising right now, especially with coaches around the league, I can't even pronounce his first name, but his last name is Vaitai, Big "V" they call him from TCU," said Mayock while speaking in a pre-draft media conference call. "He's going to go in the third or fourth round, can play both sides, and the offensive line coaches around the league love him."

After not selecting any offensive linemen since the Eagles drafted Johnson fourth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Eagles have now taken two offensive linemen in their first four picks of the Doug Pederson regime. The team also drafted versatile lineman Isaac Seumalo in the third round.

For the record, it's pronounced "hal-lah-poo-li-VAH-tee VIE-tie."

Grade: B

Round 6: Blake Countess, CB, Auburn

Countess started his career at Michigan, where he had 6 interceptions and 169 return yards and 1 TD in 2013. In his final season at Auburn in 2015, Countess had 71 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and 2 INTs.

Countess played corner, nickel, and safety for Auburn last season, and his team voted him the MVP of the defense, per Michael Niziolek of the Ledger-Enquirer

Countess had an impressive pro day, again per Niziolek:

Countess had a 36 1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10’1’’ broad jump and 21 reps on the bench press. Countess was one rep shy of his personal record on the bench press. The 21 reps at 225 pounds would have tied him for first place at the NFL combine in his position group.

Here's Countess' pro day workout:

At corner, the Eagles have Eric Rowe, who will likely start after an encouraging rookie season a year ago, and then a logjam of corners in numbers thereafter.

Heading into the draft, the Eagles' depth chart at corner looked something like this:

 CB1CB2 Slot 
 Eric RoweNolan Carroll Leodis McKelvin 
 Ron Brooks Denzel RiceJaCorey Shepherd 
 Jaylen Watkins Aaron GrymesRandall Evans 

Certainly, the Eagles could stand to bolster the corner position. At 5'9, Countess will likely compete for a job at the nickel spot, and he may even get a look at safety.

Grade: B-

Round 7: Jalen Mills, S, LSU

At LSU, Mills played at safety, on the outside, and in the slot. He has the versatility that teams now covet. Early in his career, he'll likely be a slot corner, with the potential to develop into more. 

Like fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood, Mills also has a serious incident on his record, via Emily Lane of

Mills was arrested in June after a woman who claims he punched her outside his Highland Road apartment picked him out of a lineup.  
He pleaded not guilty to the charge October.
The alleged victim, who is 5-foot-3 inches tall and weighed 113 pounds, told police she was briefly knocked unconscious and received four stitches to her lip for her injuries, according to an affidavit of probable cause
Mills' attorney Brent Stockstill, however, had denied the alleged victim's account, saying it was actually Mills' girlfriend who threw the punch and that the victim gave multiple conflicting accounts of what happened.

According to, "the charges were eventually reduced to a misdemeanor and he was assigned to a diversion program."

With his blend of decent size and athleticism, Mills can also play corner on the outside. Watch him go mano-e-mano in the slot up against Auburn's D'haquille Williams. This is outstanding coverage (via

What I don't like about Mills, however, is that he doesn't seem all that willing to stick his nose in there and make tough tackles. This is less than awesome, and kind of goes against the theme of hard hitting defenders that the Eagles have added this offseason under Jim Schwartz:

Still, this is outstanding value in the seventh round. 

Grade: A

Round 7: Alex McCalister, DE, Florida

McCalister is long and lean, standing at 6'6, with 36" arms. He will likely project as a situational pass rusher in Jim Schwartz's defense. Here's his spider chart from the NFL Combine:

As you can see above, he's in the 88th percentile in height for defensive ends competing at the Combine since 1999, and in the one percentile for weight. As you can also see, he has very good athleticism.

McCalister's number's the last two seasons:

 Alex McCalisterTackles Sacks TFL FF 
 201526 6.5 9.5 
TOTAL 48 12.5 17.5 

A highlight reel:

Ability-wise, McCalister is great value in the seventh round. However, like Eagles picks Wendell Smallwood and Jalen Mills, McCalister has character concerns, as he was dismissed from the team at the end of Florida's season, prompting him to declare for the draft with a year of eligibility remaining.

Grade: A-

Round 7: Joe Walker, LB, Oregon

Walker led the Ducks in tackles in 2015, with 87 of them. He added six tackles for loss, and two sacks.

The Eagles' starters at linebacker are set. However, they have next to nothing in terms of depth. Here's how I would project their depth chart heading into the draft:

 Nigel BradhamJordan Hicks Mychal Kendricks 
 Brandon Hepburn Deontae Skinner Najee Goode

Jordan Hicks was a steal in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he slid to the third round because of his injury history. Obviously, last season, after a brilliant start to his rookie season, he was lost for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.

Meanwhile, both Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham have missed seven games over the last two years.

The Eagles did not add a linebacker until the third-to-last pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, and Walker is likely to contribute primarily on special teams.

Here's a crazy in which a Utah player dropped the ball DeSean Jackson-style before reaching the end zone, which Walker picked up and returned for a TD the other way:

Grade: C+

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski