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October 15, 2016

Grocery shopping: Five college players to watch who could interest the Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft

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101516DerekBarnett Mark Zaleski/AP

You can never have too many pass rushers.

As long as you're taking in some college football action this Saturday afternoon/evening, here are some players who could make some sense for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft.

To note, the Eagles currently have eight draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, listed here.

Ryan Switzer, WR/PR, North Carolina (5'10, 185): North Carolina at (16) Miami, 3:30 p.m.

Over his college career Switzer has seven punt return touchdowns, most of which are shown here:

A list of the NCAA career leaders for punt return touchdowns:

Player Years School Punt return TDs 
 Wes Welker2000-2003 Texas Tech 
 Antonio Perkins2001-2004 Oklahoma 
 David Allen1997-2000 Kansas State 
 Javier Arenas2006-2009 Alabama 
 Leodis McKelvin2004-2007 Troy 
 Ryne Robinson2003-2006 Miami Ohio 
 Ryan Switzer2013-2016 North Carolina 7 
 Derek Abney2000-2003 Kentucky 
 Ted Ginn2004-2006 Ohio State 
 James Henry1986-1988 Southern Mississippi 
 DeSean Jackson2005-2007 California 
 Santana Moss1997-2000 Miami 
 Steve Suter2001-2004 Maryland 

Switzer also had two punt return touchdowns called back over his career.

As a receiver, Switzer has always been a contributor in the regular offense, but has not put up big numbers by any stretch until this season:

 Ryan SwitzerRec Yards YPC TD 
 201332 341 10.7 
 201461 757 12.4 
 201555 697 12.7 
 2016 (6 games)49 589 12.0 2 

Assuming North Carolina makes a bowl game, Switzer is on pace for 100+ catches and 1200+ yards.

Darren Sproles said this offseason that he believes 2017 will be his last year in the NFL. Switzer could be a guy who takes over for Sproles as the team's primary punt returner, while also providing more depth at receiver.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee (6'3, 210): (1) Alabama at (9) Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.

The Eagles currently keep just two quarterbacks on their active roster, as roughly half the NFL does. Before they traded Sam Bradford, they would have kept three. Aaron Murray is the Eagles' third quarterback, although he resides on the practice squad. However, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie clearly stated that the Birds are looking to draft a quarterback in most years going forward.

"We’re still looking for a third quarterback, somewhere in the draft, like we used to do," said Lurie at the NFL owner's meetings back in March, before the Eagles drafted Wentz. "We would always, each year, or every other year, try to draft a quarterback. At some point, that’ll probably continue as long as there’s quality throughout the draft, and you can identify how you want to develop a quarterback over time. It’s not somebody who has to step in (immediately), then hopefully we can find somebody throughout the draft."

A list of quarterbacks the Eagles have drafted in the Jeffrey Lurie era:

 YearPlayer Round Overall 
 1995Dave Barr 119 
 1996Bobby Hoying 85 
 1997Koy Detmer 207 
 1999Donovan McNabb 
 2001A.J. Feeley 155 
 2004Andy Hall 185 
 2007Kevin Kolb 36 
 2010 Mike Kafka122 
 2012Nick Foles 88 
 2013Matt Barkley 98 
 2016Carson MF Wentz 

One developmental quarterback who may make sense for the Eagles is Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs. 2015 was Dobbs' first season as the opening day starter, although he became Tennessee's starter midway through the 2014 season. His career numbers at Tennessee:

Joshua Dobbs Comp-Att (Comp%) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
 201372-121 (59.5%) 695 (5.7) 2-6 
 2014 112-177 (63.3%)1206 (6.8) 9-6 
 2015 205-344 (59.6%)2291 (6.7) 15-5 
 2016 105-180 (58.3%)1433 (8.0) 14-8 

Dobbs also has 1653 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs over his career. His running ability is obvious, as Tennessee often calls designed quarterback runs with him as you'll see in his game against Alabama last year shows:

As a passer, Dobbs has a good arm and can be accurate when he's able to step into his throws, but he tends to lose that accuracy and can make bad decisions when he's forced to move. Also, he can be over-reliant on his running ability, as he'll often bail from the pocket at the first sign of pressure.

Still, his physical traits could make for an intriguing project in the later rounds for an Eagles coaching staff that is absolutely loaded up with quarterback gurus.

Dobbs is a senior, so there's a pretty good bet he'll get an invite to compete at the Senior Bowl in January.

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (6'3, 265): (1) Alabama at (9) Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.

Barnett is a shorter, thick, strong defensive end who reminds me a little of Brandon Graham. Barnett is equally effective against the run as he is as a pass rusher, and has been an impact player since his freshman year:

 Derek BarnettTackles Sacks TFL FF 
 201447 10 20.5 
 201544 10 12.5 
 2016 (6 games)18 9.5 

Here's a highlight reel:

Barnett is likely to be a first-round pick. The Eagles' defensive line is the strongest unit on the team, so why would they use a first round pick on another defensive end? Well, the defensive line's ability to get to the quarterback while only rushing four sets up everything else for the defense to succeed on the back end. In my view, you can never have enough talented pass rushers, especially when you're that reliant on their production up front. 

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (6'6, 310): (1) Alabama at (9) Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.

Here's a list of guys Cam Robinson has blocked during his time at Alabama, where he has been the starting left tackle since his true freshman season in 2014:

Player Team Round Overall
Dante Fowler Jr., Florida Jaguars 1 3
Joey Bosa, Ohio State Chargers 1 3
Leonard Floyd, Georgia Bears 1 9
Shaq Lawson, Clemson Bills 1 19
Shane Ray, Missouri Broncos 1 23
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss Cardinals 1 29
Kevin Dodd, Clemson Titans 2 33
Preston Smith, Mississippi State Redskins 2 38
Markus Golden, Missouri Cardinals 2 58
Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State Raiders 3 75
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia Jets 3 83
Danielle Hunter, LSU Vikings 3 88

And the above list is incomplete. There were more players he blocked who have been drafted, but the above players are just the Day 1 and Day 2 picks. Throughout Robinson's college career, there has been a new stud pass rusher that he has had to face every single week. To note, Robinson may not have necessarily blocked all of those players for the entirety of the game when he faced them, but as the LT, for the majority of the above, he did.

That list doesn't include guys like Texas A&M likely top five pick Miles Garrett, LSU's Arden Key, Arkansas' Diatrich Wise, Auburn's Carl Lawson, and Tennessee's Derek Barnett, all of whom Robinson will face (or already faced) this year. It also doesn't include the multitude of stud Alabama pass rushers he faces every day in practice, like Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson. There won't be a more battle-tested offensive line prospect than Robinson coming of college this year, assuming he declares for the draft.

As a player, Robinson is stout. You can't bull rush him, he moves defenders against their will in the run game, and plays through the whistle. Here's his game against Miles Garrett a year ago:

You can see Robinson's dominance in the run game, which is clearly his strength. Robinson is easily a first round talent, and based solely on his play on the field, he's highly unlikely to slip to wherever the Vikings' first round pick owned by the Eagles falls. 

The only way he'll slip will be due to off-the-field concerns. In May, Robinson was arrested for possession of marijuana and a stolen firearm. The latter was a felony charge, which was later dropped along with all other charges.

The Eagles' need for an offensive tackle could be dependent on the play of rookie fifth-round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai over the next 10 games while Lane Johnson serves his suspension.

Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State (6'2, 240): (2) Ohio State at (8) Wisconsin, 8:00 p.m.

With Nigel Bradham's off-the-field risks, Mychal Kendricks' poor play, Jordan Hicks' durability concerns, and Stephen Tulloch's age, the Eagles could certainly use a stable, long-term presence in the middle of their defense.

McMillan has good size at 6'2, 240, and led the Buckeyes a year ago with 119 tackles. He also leads Ohio State in tackles so far this season with 33.

McMillan reminds me a little of DeMeco Ryans, in that he's very good at taking on blockers and stuffing ball carriers in their tracks, although there may be times when he'll struggle in space at the next level, as he does not possess high-end athleticism. That comparison isn't to be confused with "late career DeMeco Ryans," who was a liability in the passing game. McMillan should be adept enough in coverage in the NFL to be a three-down starting linebacker.

Drafting a player like this could prompt Hicks to move outside, which could add to the longevity of his career.

Previously profiled players

• September 1

  1. Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt
  2. Mitch Leidner, QB, Minnesota
  3. Jonah Persig, OT, Minnesota
  4. Sean Harlow, OG, Oregon State
  5. Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

• September 3

  1. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
  2. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
  3. Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
  4. Adoree' Jackson, CB/PR/KR/WR, USC
  5. Zach Banner, OT, USC

• September 10

  1. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh
  2. Deatrich Wise, Jr., DE, Arkansas
  3. Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
  4. Jalen Hurd, RB, Tenn-essee
  5. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

• September 17

  1. Damore'ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss
  2. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
  3. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
  4. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
  5. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

• September 24

  1. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
  2. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
  3. Jalen 'Teez' Tabor, CB, Florida
  4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
  5. Johnny Caspers, OG, Stanford

• October 1

  1. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
  2. Freddie Stevenson, FB, Florida State
  3. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
  4. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
  5. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

October 8

  1. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana
  2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
  3. Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
  4. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
  5. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

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