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August 28, 2021

Grocery shopping: Five college prospects who could interest the Eagles in the 2022 NFL Draft

During the college football season each year, as long as you're watching the games, we point out five players each week to keep an eye who make logical sense for the Eagles in the following year's draft. Here's our first installment.

Jake Hansen, LB, Illinois (6'1, 230): Nebraska at Illinois, Saturday, 1:00 p.m.

Hansen declared for the 2021 NFL Draft last December, but changed his mind and stayed at Illinois for one last season. He has been a productive linebacker for Illinois over the last three seasons after tearing an ACL in 2017. His stats:

Jake Hansen Tackles FF-FR INT Sacks 
2016 (6 games)0-0 
2018 (12 games)95 1-1 
2019 (9 games)71 7-3 3.5 
2020 (8 games)68 2-2 2.5 

His 10 career forced fumbles are already third in team history. A highlight reel:

To be determined how Eric Wilson will look in the middle of the Eagles' defense, but he is only on a one-year deal, and the Eagles could use a young playmaker in the middle of the defense. Hansen is probably a late Day 2, early Day 3 guy.

Jeffrey Gunter, LEO, Coastal Carolina (6'4, 260): The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, Thursday, 7:00 p.m.

Do you remember the "Mormons vs. Mullets" game last year between BYU and Coastal Carolina last year, when a Coastal Carolina player basically assaulted Zach Wilson after a Wilson INT? Well, it was Gunter, shown here.

That's kinda not cool. Neither was this obviously dirty facemask on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. So he apparently hates quarterbacks, which is fine, but let's chill out a little, Jeffrey. 

The dirtiness aside, Gunter is actually a good player, and he was No. 8 on Bruce Feldman's "freaks" list this year.

Part of the Chants’ special 2020 season was this playmaking stud who led the nation with six forced fumbles and also rolled up 12.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. The former two-star recruit, who has been a Dean’s List student for CCU, has measurables NFL scouts will love. At 6-4, 273, Gunter vertical jumps 39 inches and broad jumps 10-2. He’s bull-strong in the weight room too, benching 435 (doing 225 for 30 reps), squatting 525 and power cleaning — with no wrist straps — 365. His pro shuttle time of 4.37 also is terrific.

In the Coastal scheme Gunter plays the “bandit” position, which is an outside linebacker that plays to the boundary, drops into coverage and plays in a two-point stance so he can disguise rushing vs. dropping in pass coverage. In last season’s opener when Coastal whipped Kansas, Gunter ran with the Jayhawks’ most dynamic athlete, Pooka Williams, on a wheel route, and he stuck with him.

“He has great length and raw athletic ability,” said Coastal defensive coordinator Chad Staggs, “but I believe what sets him apart is his work ethic and relentless effort.”

Jonathan Gannon would clearly like to have an "Anthony Barr role" guy in his defense, but he's forced to settle on guys like Genard Avery and Patrick Johnson to play SAM, for now. Gunter would actually be a player with the skill set to play that kind of role in the Eagles' defense, and it's probably also noteworthy that the Eagles have a connection to Coastal Carolina, having selected Tarron Jackson in the sixth round of the 2021 draft.

Zach Harrison, EDGE, OSU (6'6, 268): Ohio State at Minnesota, Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

Harrison was a five star recruit out of high school who contributed his true freshman and sophomore seasons at Ohio State (5.5 career sacks), but will get his first chance to become a regular starter in 2021. At 6'6, 268, obviously he has prototypical size for an NFL edge rusher, and he's likely to test well at the Combine. A look:

To be determined if the Eagles are able to sign both Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat to contract extensions, but even if they do, Brandon Graham is aging and Ryan Kerrigan is probably just a one-year depth guy.

Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (6'9, 400): Ohio State at Minnesota, Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

If his listed measurements of 6'9, 400 pounds are accurate, Faalele will become the biggest human in the NFL when he is drafted. Oh and HEY, he's a former rugby player from Australia who doesn't have much American football experience! Remind you of anyone? Of course we're going to profile this guy.

Faalele played RT for the Gophers in 2018 and 2019, before being a COVID opt out in 2020.

The Eagles are set at OT in 2021, but Lane Johnson is getting older and he has to prove that he is permanently over his ankle issues. Jordan Mailata at LT and Faalele at RT would be very fun.

Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota (5'10, 210): Ohio State at Minnesota, Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

Ibrahim is a compact, physical runner who seems to like contact, and finishes his runs, often with authority. He also has good vision, and knows what holes to hit as blocking develops in front of him. In that respect, he has a chance to be a good short yardage guy. On the downside, he only has 15 career college catches, and spoiler, he is going to run a slow 40 time. A look:

In 7 games in 2020, Ibrahim rushed for 1076 and 15 TDs. He could give the Eagles a young power back for their inside running game that they currently lack. Day 3 guy.

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