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September 02, 2017

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

Eagles NFL

College football season kicked off last week, with a few games on the schedule. Today, it is back in full force, with a full lineup of games, including a major showdown between No. 3 ranked Florida State and No. 1 ranked Alabama.

The first 10 prospects we looked at were mostly mid- to late-round types of players. Today, we'll look at a bunch of first-round possibilities. As long as you're taking in some of the action, here are five players to watch.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (5'11, 223): Akron at (6) Penn State, 12:00 p.m.

Barkley is as elusive a runner as you'll find for a guy with his size at 5'11, 223. He has the ability to make tacklers miss with his impressive speed and lateral quickness, but he also can run with power behind his thick frame. In his first two seasons at Penn State, he has racked up over 2500 yards, to go along with 25 rushing touchdowns:

 Saquon BarkleyRush Yards YPC TD 
 2015182 1076 5.9 
 2016272 1496 5.5 18 
 TOTAL454 2572 5.7 25 

As an added bonus, Barkley is weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. His receiving numbers as a freshman and sophomore:

 Saquon BarkleyRec Yards YPC TD 
 201520 161 8.1 
 201628 402 14.4 
 TOTAL48 563 11.7 

At the NFL Annual Meetings in March, Doug Pederson talked about the need for do-it-all backs in the NFL.

"There’s so much versatility in backs nowadays from again, those empty formations, out of the backfield, spreading the field, those are the things that we want to see," he said. "(In terms of) physical traits, can they run between the tackles? Are they physical enough to run between the tackles? Can they stretch the field in outside zone? Every run game plan every week changes. Sometimes you’re going to be more inside the tackles, and then the next week you might be outside the tackles, so you have to have the versatility to do that. So those are things we look for in these backs."

Barkley fits all of the above. He can run inside with power, he can get to the edge with his speed, and he's a quality weapon in the passing game. He is a true "three-down back." A highlight reel:

The one area of Barkley's game that could use some work is pass protection, but again, at 5'11, 223 pounds, he has the bulk to be able to take on pass rushers. The other potential concern I might have is heavy usage in college. In 2016, Barkley had 300 touches. How much will James Franklin ride Barkley in 2017 knowing that it will almost certainly be his last year at Penn State?

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6'7, 310): Temple at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.

McGlinchey is a Philly native who played RT his first two seasons at Notre Dame, but moved to LT last season with Ronnie Stanley having moved on to the NFL. That'll check off some versatility boxes for Doug Pederson. 

McGlinchey doesn't have Stanley's power or athleticism, but he has great length and is thought to be technically sound. Here's his game last season against Joey Bosa (for a few minutes, anyway) and Ohio State:

At some point Jason Peters is going to retire. When he does, the Eagles will have a need at tackle, whether that be in the form of a starter or a swing tackle. If the Eagles aren't 100 percent sold on Halapoulivaati Vaitai at the end of the 2017 season as a long-term starter, a guy like McGlinchey could make sense in the first round.

Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida (5'11, 197): (11) Michigan at (17) Florida, 3:30 p.m.

While the Eagles' receivers are much better than they were a season ago, they still need to get better there. Torrey Smith may turn out to be a nice addition, but he may only be a short term fix. The Eagles may look to add a young speedster on the outside, like they did in the 2017 draft, when they took Shelton Gibson, although obviously that has not worked out.

Callaway could be just that, as his game is all about speed. Callaway can beat you over the top, or with run after the catch ability on short throws. He has good hands, and is also a very dangerous kick and punt returner.

A highlight reel:

On the down side, there are concerns about his route running, and he has a laundry list of off-the-field character issues, which the Eagles seem to be less concerned about now than they were under Chip Kelly.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama (6'1, 190): (3) Florida State vs. (1) Alabama, 8:00 p.m.

Ridley had something of a down year statistically after a great freshman season in 2015. His numbers:

 Calvin RidleyCatches Yards YPC TD 
 201589 1045 11.7 
 201672 769 10.7 

While his yards per catch are low, Ridley does have great speed, and was perhaps not used as effectively as he should have been in Alabama's offense. Like Callaway above, he can be a down-the-field threat in the Eagles' offense.

A highlight reel: 

Ridley is a smooth, athletic receiver who could be a first rounder with a big year.

Tarvaris McFadden, CB, Florida State (6'1, 201): (3) Florida State vs. (1) Alabama

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles drafted West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas, who tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions in 2016, with 8. The player he tied with was Tarvaris McFadden. Like Douglas, McFadden is a tall corner with good instincts, but he has better athleticism.

Coming out of high school, McFadden was a five-star recruit, but he has struggled at times at Florida State. While he has produced a high number of turnovers, he also gave up five touchdowns last season. There are also concerns about his physicality, both at the line of scrimmage, and willingness to tackle. 

A highlight reel:

While he still has some flaws to iron out, McFadden's combination of ball skills, athleticism, and size will likely make him a first round pick.

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

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