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November 05, 2016

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

Eagles NFL
110416LeonardFournette Gerald Herbert/AP

No, not Leonard Fournette. The guy to his right.

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.

Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern (6'1, 235): (8) Wisconsin at Northwestern, 12:00 p.m.

As a sophomore in 2015, Walker filled up the stat sheet, compiling 120 tackles, 20.5 of which were tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

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The best thing Walker does is close on a play once he has read what the offense is doing. For example, think of the plays Jordan Hicks made against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago – one where he attacked a run to the outside for a six-yard loss, and one where he looked like he was shot out of a cannon to bat down a Sam Bradford pass after Bradford was flushed from the pocket. When you watch Walker's games, you see a lot of that.

Here's Walker's game last year against Stanford:

Beyond Hicks at linebacker, the Eagles have Nigel Bradham, who could potentially face punishment from the league for his two arrests, and the highly inconsistent Mychal Kendricks. They could absolutely use more depth, and Walker's attacking style will likely appeal to Jim Schwartz.

Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh (6'5, 300): Pittsburgh at Miami, 12:30 p.m.

Bisnowaty started in 30 games prior to this season, all at left tackle, however, he'll likely move either to right tackle or to guard in the pros. The words you'll often see to describe Bisnowaty are physical, scrappy, tough, etc. That's often a kind way of saying a guy isn't athletic, but he tries hard.

Bisnowaty has decent athleticism and he excels in the run game. Unfortunately, scouts don't often get to see Bisnowaty in traditional pass protection, as Pitt has 363 rushing attempts this season vs. just 184 pass attempts.

Doug Pederson likes the scrappy types. When asked what he looks for in offensive linemen, Pederson once said, "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." That's Bisnowaty.

Bisnowaty is sure to receive a Senior Bowl invite, where the Eagles will have a chance to determine if Bisnowaty can transition from left tackle to right tackle.

Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech (5'10, 228): (19) Virginia Tech at Duke, 3:30 p.m.

About a month ago, we previewed Florida State FB Freddie Stevenson. As we noted then, we'll say again here that Doug Pederson wants a fullback on his roster.

"Down the road, as we go, if we can develop a fullback at some point, we will do that," said Pederson. "We're constantly looking at that position, not only around the National Football League but on our roster."

Rogers is an interesting player. While he doesn't have great size at 5'10, 228, he's a useful cog in Virginia Tech's offense, as Rogers has 57 catches for 656 yards (11.5 yards per catch), and 6 TDs. Here's his game against Tennessee to get a sampling of how they use him. Note that they line him up all over the formation.

Rogers is a very good athlete for a fullback. He's very good in pass protection, keeping himself in between blitzers and the quarterback, and while he's not a punishing run blocker like Lorenzo Neal, he does a great job of moving his feet to get in the right position to block, more often than not getting the job done.

Rogers could be a potential (very) late round target.

Curtis Samuel, RB, Ohio State: (10) Nebraska at (6) Ohio State, 8 p.m.

Samuel leads NCAA running backs with 539 receiving yards on 44 receptions. He also has three receiving touchdowns. As a runner, Samuel has rushed 71 times for 558 yards (a lofty 7.9 YPC) and 5 TDs. As you'll see in his game earlier this season against Bowling Green, Samuel is a very skilled route runner.

Earlier this offseason, Darren Sproles said that 2017 will likely be his last year in the NFL, and the Eagles recently released Josh Huff. While he's not as explosive a returner as either player, Samuel can replace a lot of what both Sproles and Huff do in Doug Pederson's offense.

Ethan Pocic, C, LSU (6'6, 309): (1) Alabama at (13) LSU, 8:00 p.m.

In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected Isaac Seumalo, who started at four of the five positions along the offensive line at Oregon State, with his primary position being center. They also signed Stefen Wisniewski, who has started 77 games during his six-year career at guard and center, again, with his primary position being center.

There's very little chance Wisniewski will be back in 2017, so the Eagles will likely be looking to add players along the interior of their offensive line who can play multiple positions.

And then there's Jason Kelce, who is as athletic an offensive lineman you'll find in the NFL, but a player who can be overpowered by bigger interior defensive linemen. If the Eagles were to cut or trade Kelce next offseason, they would save $3,800,000 of his $6,200,000 cap number in 2017. 

While the Eagles love Kelce's smarts and have credited him with making life easier on Carson Wentz by making correct line calls, it is unknown whether the Eagles would prefer a a bulkier center who can move defenders in the run game, or if they prefer Kelce's skill set which allows him to get to the edges on screens and sweeps. Personally, I lean heavily toward Kelce being back in 2017.

Still, Pocic is arguably the top center prospect in this draft with the versatility to also play guard. At 6'6, 309, he is much bigger than Kelce, doing a better job anchoring against bigger defenders, but is not nearly as athletic. He's kind of like a Bizarro Kelce.

Here's Pocic's game last year against Florida. Watch how many Gators end up on the ground when Pocic blocks them.

Pocic is likely to be a Day 2 pick. While the Eagles are in bigger need of an offensive tackle, they certainly aren't done building on their interior offensive line.

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

• October 15

  1. Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
  2. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
  3. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
  4. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
  5. Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State

• October 22

  1. Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse
  2. Dawaune Smoot, DE, Illinois
  3. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
  4. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
  5. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

October 29

  1. John Ross, WR, Washington
  2. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
  3. Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
  4. Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
  5. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

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