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August 31, 2017

Grocery shopping: Five college players to watch who could interest the Eagles in the 2018 NFL Draft

Eagles NFL

College football season is back, as there are a couple dozen games on the slate Thursday and Friday night. While the Thursday games will conflict with the Philadelphia Eagles' fourth preseason game, if you've had your fill of Matt McGloin, here are some players to watch who could make some sense for the Eagles in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Richard Lagow, QB, Indiana (6'5, 238): (2) Ohio State at Indiana, 8:00 p.m., Thursday

Over the last two offseasons, the Eagles have spent a lot of money on a pair of backup quarterbacks in Chase Daniel and Nick Foles. One is gone, and the other's arm doesn't work at the moment.

Foles' contract runs through 2018, so the Eagles would be wise to draft and develop a quarterback in the middle- to late-rounds in 2018 so that they can take over backup duties behind Carson Wentz in 2019 and beyond.

One player who has some of the same traits as Wentz is Lagow, Indiana's 6'5, 238 quarterback. Lagow's size is similar to Wentz, and both players have a strong arm as well as some ability to move around in the pocket (though Lagow isn't a threat to run, like Wentz). If the Eagles had to go from Wentz to Lagow during a game, in theory, they would not have to drastically alter their game plan.

Lagow's numbers in 2016 were, to put it kindly, not impressive:

 Richard LagowComp/Att (%) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
 2016253/438 (57.8%) 3362 (7.9) 19-17 

Bleh. Those 17 interceptions are not ideal, especially considering that QB coach John DeFilippo said recently that the one stats that matters to him the most is interception percentage, which he prefers to be around 2.0 percent.

Still, Lagow's size intriguing, and he has an NFL arm. Here's his game last year against Ohio State.

He could be an option late in a loaded quarterback class.

Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana (6'4, 220): (2) Ohio State at Indiana, 8:00 p.m., Thursday

Whenever you hear the Eagles talk about Alshon Jeffery, they always talk about his catch radius. At 6'4 with long arms, Simmie Cobbs has that, at a minimum. In 2015 as a sophomore, Cobbs had 60 catches for 1035 yards (17.3 YPC) and 4 TDs. 

A highlight reel from that season:

Cobbs missed the 2016 season with an ankle injury, and was also arrested this summer on misdemeanor charges of refusal to identify and resisting law enforcement. To note, the team may hold him out of this game as a result.

Still, when healthy, Cobbs is a big target capable of moving the chains as well as making big plays down the field, much like Jeffery.

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State (5'11, 184): (2) Ohio State at Indiana, 8:00 p.m., Thursday

In the last four drafts, five Ohio State cornerbacks have been drafted, with four going in the first round.

Year Player Team Round Overall 
 2014Bradley Roby Broncos 31 
 2015Doran Grant Steelers 121 
 2016Eli Apple Giants 10 
 2017Marshon Lattimore Saints 11 
 2017Gareon Conley Raiders 24 

Playing behind Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Denzel Ward still managed nine pass breakups, a highly impressive total considering his limited playing time. Ward is sticky in coverage, obviously, has good ball skills, and is not afraid to stick his nose in and tackle. Here's his game last year against Nebraska:

You can see hints of how good Ward might be. Thursday night will be his first shot show that he can be the next really good OSU corner.  

Azeem Victor, LB, Washington (6'3, 222): (8) Washington at Rutgers, 8:00 p.m., Friday

Victor is a tall, lanky linebacker who lacks ideal instincts and needs to bulk up if he's going to take on offensive guards in the NFL. On the plus side, Victor is highly athletic, and a good blitzer. 

Here's a highlight reel. It shows a few nice hits, but is unrepresentative of his physicality (or occasional lack thereof), in my view:

Victor reminds me in some ways of a taller Mychal Kendricks, which may or may not be a fit in Jim Schwartz's defense. On the one hand, Schwartz barely blitzed his linebackers last season. On the other hand, he has said it's something he would like to do more once he has more trust in his cornerbacks.

But certainly, the 2017 season is an important one for Victor, as NFL scouts will want to see progression in some of the mental areas of his game. On the strength of his athleticism, I like him as a mid- to later-round project.

Vita Vea, DT, Washington (6'4, 332): (8) Washington at Rutgers, 8:00 p.m., Friday

Vea is a dominant run stuffer along Washington's defensive line. While run stuffers have become devalued in the NFL to some degree and Jim Schwartz would probably prefer penetrating defensive tackles over big-bodied anchors, it's perhaps noteworthy that two of the Eagles' division rivals -- the Cowboys and Redskins -- have dominant run blocking offensive lines. A run stuffing defensive tackle could make sense for the Eagles.

Vea played less than half of his team's snaps last season, but he is a better pass rusher than he is given credit for. If you try to single-block Vea, he can simply overpower interior offensive linemen and walk them back into the pocket. 

Like this:

And this: 

As such, he could create a "pick your poison" scenario if paired with either Fletcher Cox or Timmy Jernigan.

Previously profiled players

August 26

  1. Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
  2. Adam Breneman, TE, UMass
  3. Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida
  4. Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
  5. Justin Reid, S, Stanford

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