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October 21, 2017

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

Eagles NFL

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.

Trey Marshall, S, Florida State (6'0, 210): Louisville at Florida State, 12:00 p.m.

There's little secret what Jim Schwartz prefers in his safeties by now. The Eagles' top four safeties – Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, and Jaylen Watkins – were all corners at one time either in their professional or college careers.

"I go back, I've been around a while, when safeties were named ‘Thumper’ – and I had a guy in Tennessee, first name was Tank, and I joked – Tank was a hell of a player, Tank Williams out of Stanford," Schwartz said back in September. "But Tank was a 235-pound safety. We saw a lot of two-back sets. He was sort of an extra linebacker in there, even though he was fast. I don't need guys named ‘Hammer’ and ‘Tank’, I need guys named ‘Swifty’ and ‘Ball Hawk’ and ‘The Glove’. Those are nicknames we're looking for now."

Trey Marshall is more 'Tank' than 'Swifty,' as he serves as an enforcer in the middle of Florida State's defense. Below is Marshall's game last year against Ole Miss. You can see the good and bad in his game. In the good column, he wrecks receivers and running backs. In the bad column, you can see his deficiencies covering receivers deep down the field.

At FSU, Marshall played some "star position" in the Seminoles' defense, which is a hybrid linebacker-safety role.

The Eagles may view Marshall as a linebacker at the next level. In the same way Schwartz likes safeties with corner experience, it would appear he also likes linebackers with safety experience. For example, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry were both safeties in college who now play linebacker for the Eagles.

Marshall is a thumper who could bring more attitude to the Eagles' already physical defense.

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama (5'11, 216): Tennessee at (1) Alabama, 3:30 p.m.

Harris is the lesser known of Bama's backs, but he outproduced Bo Scarbrough in 2016, needing only 145 carries to gain 1040 yards (7.2 YPC), though Scarbrough got the goal line chances, as Harris scored just 2 TDs.

In 2017, Harris is again tearing it up on a modest number of carries. Through seven games, he has 68 carries (less than 10 per game) for 625 yards and 9 TDs. That would be 9.2 yards-per-carry. A highlight reel:

As you can see in the video above, Harris is a no-nonsense, one-cut, north-south runner who doesn't possess great long speed but has very good acceleration and gets up to top speed quickly. He is also a coordinated runner with good balance. In that sense, he reminds me a little of Kareem Hunt, but perhaps without the same level of receiving ability.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State (6'6, 252): (19) Michigan at (2) Penn State, 7:30 p.m.

Gesicki is a local kid from Manahawkin, N.J. (near Long Beach Island), where he was a three-sport star in football, basketball, and volleyball. As with players like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron, and other basketball-oriented tight ends, you can see Gesicki's hoops skills transfer onto the football field.

Here's a highlight reel from Gesicki's basketball days in high school:

Gesicki didn't become a big part of Penn State's offense until last year when he caught 48 passes for 679 yards (14.1 YPC) and 5 TDs. So far in 2017, he has 22 catches for 176 yards and 4 TDs.

A football highlight reel:

If you pair a 6'6, 252-pound guy with that kind of receiving ability with Zach Ertz, opposing defenses will have a tough time matching up.

Cameron Smith, LB, USC (6'2, 245): (11) USC at (13) Notre Dame. 7:30 p.m.

Smith led the Trojans a year ago with 83 tackles, and he already has 62 tackles through seven games. That leads the Trojans once again. He is a highly instinctive linebacker who is always around the football. 

Here are some highlights from Smith's freshman year:

There are some who believe Smith is a potential top 20 pick. I don't see that, as Smith doesn't possess the same kind of athleticism as, say, Reuben Foster from last year's draft. However, Smith is a good, solid all-around linebacker prospect.

Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame (6'5, 329): (11) USC at (13) Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.

You don't often see 10-minute highlight reels of college football left guards, but, well, here you go. I legitimately laughed at loud about a half-dozen times watching this guy finish blocks. Quenton Nelson is a jerk, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible:

There isn't much mystery to what Nelson's game is. He's a big, 330-pound dude who mauls defenders in the run game, and plays through the whistle. In pass protection, you can beat him with speed, as Nelson gave up six sacks in 2015 and 2016, combined. 

It's clear that the Eagles love them some mauling run blockers, as evidenced by their insistence to play Chance Warmack. I'd be shocked if Jeff Stoutland didn't love this guy.

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

October 7

  1. Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
  2. Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
  3. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
  4. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
  5. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

October 14

  1. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  2. Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
  3. Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
  4. Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah
  5. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

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