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November 18, 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.

Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis (5'10, 190): SMU at (21) Memphis, 12:00 p.m.

Two years ago when doing this series, we profiled a lot of quarterbacks, including Paxton Lynch, who attended school at Memphis. In watching Lynch, I can remember thinking, "this WR #3 is really good." It turns out that was Anthony Miller, who has put up big numbers at Memphis.

A look at his production:

Anthony Miller Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201547 694 14.8 
 201695 1434 15.1 14 
 201767 905 13.5 11 
 TOTAL209 3033 14.5 30 

Here's Miller's game against UConn this season, in which he went off for 15 catches, 224 yards, and 4 TDs.

Miller runs good routes, he has excellent hands, good body control, he tries to break tackles, and he gets yards after the catch. He's going to be a good professional wide receiver, and could even make sense for the Eagles in the back end of the first round. 

Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh (5'11, 195): Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech, 12:20 p.m.

At 5'11, 195, Whitehead is an undersized safety, but it would seem that Jim Schwartz and the Eagles don't care much about size, particularly at safety. During the 2016 offseason, they signed 5'11, 183-pound safety Rodney McLeod, and during the 2016 draft, they selected 5'9, 184-pound corner Blake Countess, who they moved to safety.

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"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," said Schwartz 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."

Schwartz likes safeties who were cornerbacks at one time, and while that's not true of Whitehead, he is a great athlete, as he has also played running back at Pitt. In his Panthers career, Whitehead has 42 carries for 365 yards (8.7 YPC) and 3 TDs.

As a safety, Whitehead has good production, mostly in tackles. In 2015 as a freshman, he had 110 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 76 passes defensed, a pick, a forced fumble, and fumble return for a TD. Here are some highlights from his freshman year, both as a safety and as a running back: 

While he has missed time over the last two seasons, in 16 games since 2016, he has 113 tackles, 2 picks (one for a score), 5 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries.

He's a "Swifty" that also brings some thump that Schwartz could like.

Ito Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi (5'9, 195): Charlotte at Southern Mississippi, 3:00 pm

After a 150-yard performance against Rice last Saturday, Ito Smith has now topped 1000 yards in each of his last three seasons. His career rushing numbers:

Ito Smith Rush Yards YPC TD 
 2014136 536 3.9 
 2015171 1128 6.6 10 
 2016265 1459 5.5 17 
 2017188 1018 5.4 
 TOTAL760 4141 5.4 38 

Smith is also an accomplished receiver, as he has 132 career receptions for 1409 yards (10.7 YPC) and 7 TDs. Here's his game last year against LSU:

The Eagles are going to love what they see on the wheel route at the 3:27 mark.

OK, so, Smith is a highly productive, smaller running back from a non-power conference. He's Donnel Pumphrey, obviously. Meh, maybe. At 5'9, 195 pounds, Smith is certainly much thicker than Pumphrey, and he seems to have more explosion and tackle-breaking ability in his runs. If the Eagles view Pumphrey as a bad draft pick, I can see them trying again with a player they see similar qualities in with Smith.

Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa (6'1, 192): Purdue at Iowa, 3:30 p.m.

Jackson is a one-year wonder, as this is his first year as a starter at Iowa in his junior year. When Jackson first got to Iowa, the team tinkered with moving him to wide receiver, where he played in high school, but eventually moved back to corner. His one year as a starter has been incredible, as those wide receiver ball skills have shown up in a big way for Iowa this season. Jackson leads the country in interceptions (7) and passes defended (23).

Here's some of Jackson's wide receiver ability coming out against Ohio State, who he picked off three times a couple weeks ago. Look at this catch:

And then last week, he had two pick-sixes against Wisconsin, which served as Iowa's only points in the game. Jackson's tackling (or more accurately, his want to tackle) needs improvement, but there's little doubt that he can cover and make plays on the football.

The Eagles don't need corners at this point anymore, but it truly is a position where you can almost never have too many.

Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon (6'5, 320): Arizona State at Oregon, 7:00 p.m.

Crosby has been a starter along the Ducks' offensive line for four years dating back to the 2014 season, when Oregon played in the National Championship Game. He has experience both at left tackle and right tackle, which in theory should interest the Eagles, though he looks more like a guard to me at the next level.

Here's his game from last year against Virginia:

As you can see in the above video, Crosby puts defenders on their asses. He's powerful in the run game, and very physical both in pass protection and drive blocking. However, it's pretty clear to see that he doesn't exactly have cat-like quickness, which will pose problems against speed rushers in the NFL.

In 2016, Crosby missed most of the season with a foot injury, but he is back this season, and playing well. 

Last week, Crosby received an invite to play in the Senior Bowl. I think the Eagles could like him as a physical left guard, who has some versatility to kick out to tackle in an emergency.

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

• October 28

  1. M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina
  2. Trey Adams, OT, Washington
  3. Adarius Pickett, S, UCLA
  4. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
  5. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State

• November 4

  1. Brian Allen, OG, Michigan State
  2. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
  3. Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State
  4. Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
  5. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama

November 11

  1. Jaylen Samuels, RB/FB/TE/WR, NC State
  2. Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
  3. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State
  4. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
  5. Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame

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