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September 19, 2015

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

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091915LeonardFloyd David Goldman/AP

Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd should be a clear player of interest to the Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Today is the first day of college football where there are a number of good games stretched throughout the day. As long as you're taking in some college football games today, here are some players who could make some sense for the Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (6'6, 315): (14) Georgia Tech at (8) Notre Dame, 3:30pm

Stanley is becoming one of my favorite prospects in this draft. I watched two of his games last year against two completely different types of edge rushers. The first was against Florida State, when he battled Mario Edwards all day. Edwards goes 6'3, 280, and is a powerful defensive end who was selected 35th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Edwards didn't catch a whiff of Notre Dame's QB, and he was moved off the line of scrimmage all day in the run game:

The other game was against LSU's Danielle Hunter, who is an athletic freak. Different type of player, same result:

Stanley will likely be gone by the time the Eagles pick where I would project them to be picking, but he's worth keeping an eye on nevertheless.

Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia (6'3, 232): South Carolina at (7) Georgia, 6:00pm

Floyd is what the Eagles hoped Marcus Smith would be -- a player who can get after the passer and drop into coverage, like Connor Barwin. While Floyd will need to put on weight to be able to effectively set the edge in the run game at the next level, he has great speed and quickness to rush the QB, and looks natural in coverage. Here's his game last year against Clemson:

Obviously, the Eagles are short on depth at OLB. That will likely be a focus of theirs this offseason.

Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State (6'2, 188): Colorado at Colorado State, 7:00pm

The Eagles have invested heavily in the wide receiver position in the draft over the last two years, so it would be somewhat of a surprise to see them go that direction again. Then again, next offseason will be the Eagles' first chance to be able to rid themselves of Riley Cooper's awful contract and Miles Austin will be another year older.

The three receivers the Eagles drafted the last two years were all very productive heading into the pros. Here were their numbers their final seasons in college:

Player Rec Yards YPC TD 
 Jordan Matthews112 1477 13.2 
 Josh Huff62 1140 18.4 12 
 Nelson Agholor104 1313 12.6 12 

A year ago, as a sophomore, Higgins led the nation in receiving yards (1750) and TDs (17). Here's Higgins' highlight reel (note his sweet Nerlens Noel-like flat top):

Jared Goff, QB, California (6'4, 210): California at Texas, 7:00pm

Goff and Cardale Jones are my favorite two quarterbacks so far in this year's crop. We took a very detailed look at Goff's game during the summer that's worth a look if you have any doubts about Sam Bradford.

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6'6, 242): (15) Ole Miss at (2) Alabama, 9:15pm

Howard has a huge frame at 6'6, 242, and very good athleticism to go along with it. He was the 16th ranked high school recruit in the country by when Alabama was able to sign him for their 2013 enrollment. However, through his first two years in college he has been unproductive, catching just 31 passes his freshman and sophomore years, combined. This year, his role has been heightened some, as he has seven catches for 105 yards (a 15 YPC average) through the first two games. 

The Eagles are set at TE with Zach Ertz as their starter, but Brent Celek is scheduled to make $5 million next season, which is an unwarranted figure for a player whose production has been in a steady decline for years, quality blocker or not. Ertz and Howard paired together could pose significant matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Ole Miss has a pair of good, physical safeties who should test Howard tonight.

• 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

September 12

  1. Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon
  2. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
  3. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
  4. Shilique Calhoun, Edge rusher, Michigan State
  5. Jalen Mills, CB/S, LSU

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