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September 12, 2015

Grocery shopping: Five college players to watch who could interest the Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft

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070815DeForestBuckner Doug Benc/AP

Chip Kelly noted that DeForest Buckner would be a scheme fit in the Eagles' defense.

The marquee matchup on the college football schedule today is Oregon at Michigan State, and as always, Oregon players will be of interest to one Mr. Chip Kelly. As long as you're taking in some college games today, here are some players who could make some sense for the Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon (6'6, 295): (7) Oregon at (5) Michigan State, 8 p.m. Saturday

The Eagles have drafted just one offensive lineman over the last three years, which is the lowest total in the NFL. Over the last two years, they are the only team in the NFL not to have drafted an offensive lineman. The Eagles failed to add to their OL despite having what is the oldest starting OL in the NFL, even after the release of both Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. They have little in the way of depth both in terms of guys who can step in and play well if someone gets hurt, and young developmental players who can be groomed to eventually become long-term starters.

Johnstone would be the latter in this scenario, as a guy who can take over for Jason Peters, perhaps as soon as 2016, or if Peters has another year in him, 2017.

In 2012, Johnstone made just about any Freshman All-American team you can find. He played LT at Oregon, despite the presence of 2015 Bengals second round pick Jake Fisher. Fisher only moved to LT after Johnstone tore an ACL in the 2013 Alamo Bowl and missed the entire 2014 season. Johnstone will resume his old spot at LT this season for the Ducks, but he has to prove he is fully recovered from his injury. Obviously, Chip Kelly proved this offseason his not shy bringing players aboard with injury histories.

In terms of what Johnstone is as a player, he's pretty much what you would expect of an Oregon offensive linemen -- He has a sleek build, he's athletic, and he does a great job getting out in space and making blocks at the second level. However, despite his smallish size, Johnstone does a good job anchoring against bull-rushing defenders.

Here's Johnstone in action against Oregon State in 2013, when he faced off quite a bit against 2014 Vikings third round pick Scott Crichton:

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (6'7, 290): (7) Oregon at (5) Michigan State, 8 p.m. Saturday

Chip Kelly essentially told reporters this offseason that DeForest Buckner is a target in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"We want taller, longer guys with longer arms that can two-gap," said Kelly. "And if you look at our D-Line, they’re taller and longer than when we first got here. That’s because we went from a 4-3 Wide-9 to a 3-4. You had to make that adjustment along the way. You couldn’t do it in one fell swoop. We did the same thing when I was at Oregon. The kid who got picked in the first round this year, Arik Armstead, most people were recruiting him as an offensive tackle coming out of high school. We recruited him as a defensive lineman. He got picked in the first round. 

"Probably a first-round pick next year will be DeForest Buckner, who was kind of a carbon copy of what Arik is. But that’s what we’re looking for. When you kind of have those height/weight/speed parameters by position, it narrows it down, narrows the pool down in terms of what you’re looking for. But that’s what you play with. It’s tough to play with a 6-foot, 290-pound guy who’s not gonna be a good two-gapper. It doesn’t mean he’s not gonna be a good football player. It just means he doesn’t fit in terms of what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Buckner had 81 tackles in 2014, a huge number for an interior defensive lineman.

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (6'4, 220): (7) Oregon at (5) Michigan State, 8 p.m. Saturday

In case you missed it, we took an extensive look at Cook a couple months ago. A year ago, Cook and the Spartans had a nine point lead with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter, but were shut out the rest of the way and lost by 19 points. Opposing quarterbacks facing the Ducks know they have to put up bigtime points to match Oregon's offense, which leads quarterbacks to making mistakes they normally might not because they press. This is an outstanding early challenge for Cook, who could be the first QB off the board in the 2016 draft.

Shilique Calhoun, Edge rusher, Michigan State (6'5, 250): (7) Oregon at (5) Michigan State, 8pm Saturday

Calhoun led the Spartans with 7.5 sacks as a sophomore, and then again as a junior last year with eight. At, 6'5, the Eagles will like his his size. However, Calhoun plays DE in the Spartans' 4-3, which makes his projection to a 3-4 OLB in the pros difficult. 

Calhoun does a good job setting the edge in the run game. However, while 15.5 sacks the last two years is good, he'll have to show more his senior season as a pass rusher if he wants to be a first round pick.

Here he is in a 2013 game against Michigan, where he is working against LT Taylor Lewan (a 1st round pick of the Titans) and RT Michael Schofield (a 3rd round pick of the Broncos). He had 2.5 sacks in this game, although I certainly wouldn't say he dominated in one-on-one battles.

Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU (5'11, 191): (14) LSU at (25) Mississippi State, 9:15 p.m. 

White is wearing the prestigious #18 jersey, which is a number awarded to "the team member considered to best exemplify what it means to be an LSU football player, on and off the field," per The number was previously worn by Eagles NT Bennie Logan. Obviously, you would have to imagine that White will pass the #culture test.

At 5'11 (assuming that's accurate), White is not as tall as the Eagles would prefer, but he's not below their threshold either, as evidenced by their selection of 5'11 JaCorey Shepherd in the 2015 draft. He's an athletic corner with very good change of direction skills who could be a good fit in the slot.

White also serves as LSU's primary punt returner. Last year he took one to the house against Kentucky, despite this wall of unblocked Kentucky defenders bearing down on him:

Tre'Davious White punt return

You can watch the punt return here.

Previously profiled players

• September 5

  1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
  2. A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
  3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
  4. Dadi Nicolas, Edge rusher, Virginia Tech
  5. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski