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October 28, 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.

M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina (5'11, 200): (8) Miami at North Carolina, 12:00 p.m.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, there were a number of intriguing slot corner prospects, and the Eagles were interested. A run of slot corners, namely Damonae Kazee (San Diego State), Desmond King (Iowa), and Corn Elder (Miami), went off the board right before the Eagles' pick in the fifth round. They traded down and ended up with WR Shelton Gibson.

As it turned out, the Eagles found a bargain bin gem in Patrick Robinson, who has been good at the slot corner spot this season for the Birds. However, Robinson is on a one-year contract, and his future with the team is unpredictable.

Whether the Eagles re-sign Robinson or not, they could still be in the market for a slot corner, and Stewart is a good one.

As you'll see in the video below, Stewart is a physical tackler, and has good ball skills:

In just 8 games so far in 2017, Stewart has 8 pass breakups. He had 11 pass breakups in 2016, and 14 in 2015. That is consistent production.

Trey Adams, OT, Washington (6'8, 320): UCLA at (12) Washington, 3:30 p.m.

If the Eagles are looking to add an offensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft, Adams is one who could be available late in the first round. He is very athletic for his size, at 6'8, 320. Below is his game last year against USC, which was among his worst. (One of his better performances was against Alabama, in which he faced a variety of elite college rushers, many of whom are now playing in the NFL.)

Still, you can see his natural ability to mirror and match in pass protection, as well as his ability to come off blocks and get to the second level in the run game:

If there's a concern I would have, you can see in the above video at the 9:25 mark that a USC defender is able to fend Adams off with one straight arm, and Adams can't get his hands on him. I'll be curious to see Adams' arm measurements at the NFL Combine. 

Adarius Pickett, S, UCLA (5'11, 195): UCLA at (12) Washington, 3:30 p.m.

Jim Schwartz has repeatedly stated that he wants his safeties to be coverage-oriented, as opposed to in-the-box thumpers, which are becoming dinosaurs in the NFL. The Eagles' personnel at safety back that up, as Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, and Jaylen Watkins all have past experience at cornerback.

Pickett is a cover safety who lines up quite a bit in the slot for the Bruins. In 2016, he had three interceptions and five pass breakups. A highlight reel:

Pickett also has experience as a punt returner, though there's nothing special about his ability there.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (6'5, 222): (4) TCU at (25) Iowa State, 3:30 p.m.

Lazard is a lesser known wide receiver prospect, but he has put up decent numbers in all four years of college at Iowa State:

 Allen LazardRec Yards YPC TD 
 201445 593 13.2 
 201556 808 14.4 
 201669 1018 14.8 
 201733 371 11.2 
 TOTAL203 2790 13.7 21 

Lazard is about what you would expect of a 6'5, 222-pound receiver. He is a threat in the red zone and is able to win contested catches with his wide catch radius.

Lazard could be a later-round prospect in the same mold as Alshon Jeffery.

Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State (6'2, 227): (21) USC at Arizona State, 10:15 p.m.

At 6'2, 227, Ballage is a big back, and as you might expect, he breaks a lot of arm tackles. He is perhaps best known for tying the FBS single-game touchdown record, when he scored eight of them against Texas Tech, shown at the end of this highlight reel:

Ballage's rushing numbers are concerning, however, because of a mediocre yards per carry average:

 Kalen BallageRush Yards YPC TD 
 201442 126 3.0 
 2015125 653 5.2 
 2016126 536 4.3 14 
 201793 378 4.1 
 TOTAL386 1693 4.4 26 

Ballage also has odd receiving numbers. In 2016, he caught 44 passes for 469 yards and a TD, which is good. In 2017, he has 17 catches for only 77 yards (4.5 yards per catch!) and a long reception of 9 yards. 

Part of the reason for Ballage's low yards per carry and yards per catch numbers are because his offensive line stinks. From a tools perspective, however, he's big, he has impressive speed/athleticism, he runs hard, he's thought of as good in pass protection, and he can catch a little bit, so he should be of interest to the Eagles.

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

October 21

  1. Trey Marshall, S, Florida State
  2. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
  3. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State 
  4. Cameron Smith, LB, USC
  5. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

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