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October 07, 2017

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

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 2018 NFL Draft.

Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest (6'4, 275): Wake Forest at (2) Clemson, 12:00 p.m.

In 2016, Ejiofor had 50 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 batted passes, and a pick. A highlight reel:

In some ways, Ejiofor reminds me a little of Derek Barnett. Like Barnett, Ejiofor doesn't have an explosive first step at the snap, but he does a great job winning with his hand fighting, and he possesses good instincts. Unlike Barnett, he does not have any elite pass rush moves, like Barnett's dip and bend around the edge, but he has a more well-rounded repertoire of moves.

Despite their strong defensive line at the moment, defensive end is a sneaky potential need for the Eagles next offseason. While they drafted Barnett 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Vinny Curry's future is in doubt, Chris Long is in the twilight of his career, and Brandon Graham will turn 30 next offseason. It's never a bad idea to continue to load up on pass rushers, even when you already have them.

Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh (6'6, 305): Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 12:30 p.m.

O'Neill is a local kid from Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE, who enrolled at Pitt as a tight end before moving to RT, where he started the last two years. He is now playing LT in 2017. Under Doug Pederson, the Eagles have prioritized versatility from their offensive linemen, and have embraced the long-term potential of tight ends converted to tackle, as evidenced by Dillon Gordon, who the team was very high on at one time, but did not improve enough from last year to this year to make the team.

O'Neill is so athletic and versatile, in fact, that Pitt has found ways to get the ball in his hands from his tackle spot. Here's a weird throwback lateral to O'Neill that went for a touchdown:

Get that ball in your outside arm, O'Neill! 
And here's an end-around Pitt ran with him that also resulted in a score:

The Eagles love using an extra tackle as a tight end in their jumbo sets. O'Neill would fit that role perfectly in the short-term, with a long-term ceiling as a starting left tackle.

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (5'11, 200): (1) Alabama at Texas A&M, 7:15 p.m.

Kirk has been a productive receiver since he arrived at Texas A&M, where he put up over 1000 yards as a receiver his freshman year in a crowded wide receiver room that included players like Josh Reynolds (a fourth-round pick of the Rams), Ricky Seals-Jones (now playing for the Cardinals), and Speedy Noil (a former No. 21 overall recruit out of high school, via

Kirk's numbers at Texas A&M:

Christian Kirk Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201580 1009 12.6 
 201683 928 11.2 
 2017 (5 games)23 264 11.5 
 TOTAL186 2201 11.8 20 

At 5'11, 200 pounds, Kirk is built more like a running back. Think Josh Huff, but with actual receiving ability, as in, polished routes and good hands. In the NFL, he probably projects to the slot, but he can be a great one.

In addition to his receiving ability, Kirk is a star returner. Through 31 career college games, he already has 6 return touchdowns (5 punt returns, one kick return). You can see some of those returns here:

With Darren Sproles' career likely over and Donnel Pumphrey having showed next to nothing in the way of a viable return candidate, the Eagles could (and should) be looking to add one.

Additionally, Kirk could fill the role that the Eagles were perhaps trying to carve out for Pumphrey and Huff, as a versatile weapon in the passing game who could get occasional carries on end arounds and in the backfield, similarly to the way the Chiefs use Tyreek Hill.

The difference would be that Kirk is a legitimate receiver and returner, with the ability to catch the football, break tackles, and get yards after the catch. The only question would be if the Eagles were willing to use a high pick on a slot receiver, especially with current slot receiver Nelson Agholor seemingly beginning to overcome the nightmare start to his career.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon (5'11, 231): (11) Washington State at Oregon, 8:00 p.m.

Though he does not have the speed or elusiveness of, say, a guy like Saquon Barkley, Freeman is a big back at 230 pounds who moves faster than you would expect. Over his first two seasons at Oregon, Freeman put up huge numbers, though they fell off some in his junior season partly due to leg and chest injuries.

Royce Freeman Rush Yards YPC TD 
 2014252 1365 5.4 18 
 2015283 1836 6.5 17 
 2016168 945 5.6 
2017 (5 games) 103 592 5.7 10 
 TOTAL806 4738 5.9 54 

Freeman also has receiving skills. Over his career at Oregon, Freeman has 65 catches for 650 yards (10.0 YPC) and 4 TDs. His highlight reel:

LeGarrette Blount's stock is up at the moment, but Freeman could be more of a long-term answer as the Eagles' big back with better receiving skills.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford (5'10, 196): Stanford at (20) Utah, 10:15 p.m.

Love is a Heisman Trophy candidate, as he has racked up nearly 1100 yards already in only five games. A quick look at his game log this season:

Opponent Rush Yards YPC Long TD 
 Rice13 180 13.8 62 
 USC17 160 9.4 75 
 San Diego State13 184 14.2 53 
 UCLA30 263 8.8 69 
 Arizona State25 301 12.0 61 
 TOTAL98 1088 11.1 75 

As you can see from his game log, Love has an absurd 11.1 yards per carry, a rush of at least 50 yards in every game this year, and his worst game was a 160-yard performance against USC. A quick highlight reel:

He is an extremely explosive runner with obvious home run potential.

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

• August 31

  1. Richard Lagow, QB, Indiana
  2. Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana
  3. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
  4. Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
  5. Vita Vea, DT, Washington

• September 2

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  2. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
  3. Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
  4. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
  5. Tarvaris McFadden, CB, Florida State

• September 9

  1. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
  2. Tyrone Crowder, OG, Clemson
  3. Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma
  4. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
  5. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

• September 16

  1. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
  2. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
  3. Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
  4. Jaire Alexander, CB, Lousiville
  5. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

• September 23

  1. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
  2. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
  3. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
  4. Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
  5. Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa

September 30

  1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
  2. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
  3. Jamar Summers, CB, UConn
  4. Adonis Alexander, CB, Virginia Tech
  5. Dante Pettis, WR, Washington

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