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November 25, 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.

Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan (6'6, 330): Western Michigan at Toledo, 11:30 a.m.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, Western Michigan had a player go fifth overall. That was wide receiver Corey Davis. In the 2018 NFL Draft, they may have another prospect land in the first round. That would be Okorafor, a big 6'6, 330-pound offensive tackle with very light feet.

Okorafor was named one of six semi-finalists for 2017 Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman (offense or defense) in the country. The others are Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson, Houston DT Ed Oliver, and Ohio State C Billy Price. You have to be very impressive to be included among a semi-finalist group like that if you play at a smaller school.

As you might expect of a 6'6, 330-pound man, Okorafor can move bodies in the run game, and he anchors very well in pass protection. He also has experience both at RT and LT, which will interest the Eagles. On the downside, there are concerns about his hand fighting and his overall technique, though that can be improved with NFL coaching. And personally, I like to see offensive linemen play through the whistle, which isn't Okorafor's calling card, but that's just a bonus.

And hey, this game starts at 11:30 a.m., so why not?

Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana (6'4, 248): Indiana at Purdue

Thomas is a lesser-known TE prospect, as 2017 is his only year with any kind of production at all. This season, he has 25 catches for 376 yards and 5 TDs. He will compete at the Senior Bowl in January.

While his numbers aren't impressive, Thomas looks the part of a skilled receiving tight end. Here's a long catch and run against Georgia Southern:

And here's a nice foot drag in the end zone vs. Ohio State: 

Trey Burton will be a free agent this offseason, and Brent Celek's career is winding down. The Eagles could be looking to add a tight end, and Thomas could be a late-round option for them.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn (6'0, 212): (1) Alabama at (6) Auburn, 3:30 p.m.

Johnson and the Auburn Tigers have already taken down one No. 1-ranked team this season. On Saturday, they'll look to make it two, and Johnson has gotten some hype as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

On the season, Johnson has been a workhorse back, carrying 220 times for 1172 yards and 16 TDs. He has also chipped in 18 receptions for 166 yards and 2 TDs. A highlight reel:

Johnson reminds me a little of former Clemson running back Wayne Gallman, who like Johnson was a tall, skinny-ish back who didn't have elite speed, but ran hard and was a factor in the passing game. Gallman was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. I believe that would also be good value for Johnson.

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson (6'5, 260): (3) Clemson at (24) South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Carson Wentz aside, the biggest reason for the Eagles' success this season has been the play of the defensive line, both against the run and getting after the passer. With the Eagles having to make a decision on Vinny Curry's big contract this offseason, along with some of their other DEs getting up there in age, it may be wise for them to continue to load up on the D-line, and Ferrell could be a candidate in the first round.

When the Eagles selected Derek Barnett in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, in addition to his extremely impressive productivity, Barnett was also very young, as he was still only 20 years old when the Eagles picked him. Ferrell is a redshirt sophomore, and if he declares for the 2018 draft, he too will only be 20 years old the day of the draft.

In 2016 as a redshirt freshman, Ferrell had 44 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. So far this season, he has 54 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. Here's Ferrell's game against Auburn, in which he was a menace: 

Ferrell is good against the run, which will appeal to Jim Schwartz, and he has high upside as an athletic pass rusher who has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. I would expect Ferrell's stock to rise (media- and fan-wise) over the next few months, but he looks to me like a no-brainer first-round pick if he declares for the draft.

Marcus Davenport, DE, UT San Antonio (6'7, 255): UT San Antonio at Louisiana Tech

Davenport is another defensive end whose stock will likely rise as draft season approaches. Playing at UT San Antonio (Conference USA), Davenport has 49 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles. He earned a Senior Bowl invite, and will be a player of interest there, having played at an off-the-radar college program. You can see his blend of size and athleticism here:

I'd be a liar if I said I've watched much of Davenport, since there isn't much in the way of readily available game video. However, if you want to see some clips of Davenport, there's an extensive write-up of him from Chris Trapasso of CBS.

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

November 18

  1. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
  2. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
  3. Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
  4. Ito Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi
  5. Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon

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