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November 26, 2016

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

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112016GareonConley Bradley Leeb/AP

Ohio State CB Gareon Conley is a projected first-round pick.

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.

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (6'0, 195): (3) Michigan at (2) Ohio State, 12:00 p.m.

One of my favorite players in this draft is Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis, who is as sticky and competitive as a corner as you'll find in the country. In 2015, Conley's coverage numbers were comparable to Lewis':

Conley needs work as a tackler, but his coverage skills are very good. Here are Conley's coverage numbers the last two seasons:

 Gareon ConleyTargeted Comp Yards TD-INT 
 201558 21 412 3-2 
 201632 95 1-2 
 TOTAL90 30 507 4-4 

Allowing 30 completions on 90 targets is pretty good, right? 

Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State (6'2, 300): (3) Michigan at (2) Ohio State, 12:00 p.m.

At 6'2, 300, Elflein isn't the biggest guy, but he's mean and nasty. He also possesses the positional flexibility that Doug Pederson values. At Ohio State, Elflein played both guard spots in his sophomore and junior seasons, and center as a senior, where he is now.

"You love offensive linemen that are versatile," explained Pederson during the 2016 pre-draft process. "You love to have tackles that can play left or right. You love to have guards that can also play center. The more you can have that flexibility with your guys up front, the more combinations and rotations you can have because not everyone is going to stay healthy for 16 games and you have to mix and match that. 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. I think we have a good nucleus of that."

This past offseason, the Eagles drafted Isaac Seumalo, a rare player who can play all five positions along the offensive line. The Eagles' fifth-round pick, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, started at right tackle in 2014 and left tackle in 2015 for TCU. The Eagles also brought in the versatile Stefen Wisniewski in free agency. Wisniewski has started both at guard and center during his time with the Jaguars and Raiders, but he is unlikely to return in 2017.

As we've witnessed this season, the Eagles have had to replace two offensive line starters. The more positional versatility you have along your offensive line, the better equipped you are to weather the inevitable injuries (or suspensions, or whatever).

Here's Elflein's game last year against Michigan, when he was at RG.

As you can see, he can anchor in pass protection, and he opens up holes in the run game.

Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan (6'1, 215): (3) Michigan at (2) Ohio State, 12:00 p.m.

Michigan has dominated their opponents in the majority of their games and, as a result, have an extremely lopsided run-to-pass ratio. On the season, they've run it 495 times and have attempted just 296 passes. That's 62.6 percent run plays.

As a result, Michigan receivers don't exactly have eye-popping numbers. Their best receiver is probably Darboh, who leads the team with 44 catches for 758 yards (17.2 YPC) and 6 TDs.

In 2015, Darboh was credited with eight drops on 93 targets, which is a concern, although he has been much better in 2016 (three drops on 66 targets).

What Darboh does well is make defenders miss tackles after he has the ball in his hands. In 2015 and 2016, he is credited with forcing 21 missed tackles. Here is a long video of Darboh's catches in 2015. A lot of them are on quick screens. Like them or not, the Eagles run a lot of that, and Darboh is very good at getting positive yardage on those plays:

Also note that while Darboh struggled with drops at times in 2015 (which is the year the above video shows), he also made some spectacular catches.

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado (5'11, 205): (22) Utah at (9) Colorado, 7:30 p.m.

Last offseason, the Eagles brought in Ron Brooks, a physical tackler at the slot corner spot who also contributes on special teams. Over the next two years, Brooks' cap numbers will be $2.1 million and $2.4 million. If Brooks cannot recover fully from a ruptured quadriceps tendon, the Eagles would save $1.6 million if they moved on from him next offseason.

Awuzie is a physical tackler who also contributes on special teams for the Buffaloes. He has an abnormal number of tackles from his corner spot over the last four seasons:

 Chidobe AwuzieTackles (TFL)Sacks FF INT 
 201353 (5) 
 201463 (2) 
 201585 (12) 
 201646 (5) 
 TOTAL249 (24) 

Most linebackers don't rack up 249 tackles over their college careers.

Marquez White, CB, Florida State (6'0, 181): (15) Florida at (14) Florida State, 8:00 p.m.

White was very good in 2015 at his corner spot in the Seminoles' defense. On the season, he allowed a grand total of just nine completions, 131 yards and no touchdowns on 28 total targets. This season, while he has still been good, he hasn't had quite as much success, as he has been overshadowed by sophomore Tarvarus McFadden, who leads the nation with eight interceptions. White's numbers the last two years, via

 Marquez WhiteTargeted Comp Yards TD-INT 
 201528 131 0-1 
 201634 19 251 2-2 
 TOTAL62 28 382 2-3 

If you think the low number of targets is because White's not on the field much, nope. According to PFF after Week 10 last year, White was first in the country in yards allowed per coverage snap

The former four-star recruit is shutting people down. On 316 coverage snaps, he has allowed only 104 yards this season. There were eleven cornerbacks that gave up more than 104 yards last week. That is good for first in the country on a per snap basis. He also ranks first in coverage snaps per reception at 31.6. Opposing quarterbacks have an NFL-style rating of 31.4 when White is targeted. 

In a Florida State secondary that has been absolutely loaded with great defensive backs, White is flying under the radar a bit, but he could be a good coverage corner at the next level.

Previously profiled players

• September 1

  1. Zach Cunningham, LB, 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, Tennessee
  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, LB, 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

• November 5

  1. Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern
  2. Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh
  3. Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech
  4. Curtis Samuel, RB, Ohio State
  5. Ethan Pocic, C, LSU

• November 12

  1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
  2. Greg Pyke, OG, Georgia
  3. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
  4. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
  5. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State

November 19

  1. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
  2. Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
  3. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
  4. Tyler Orlosky, C, West Virginia
  5. Chad Wheeler, OT, USC

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