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August 26, 2017

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

Eagles NFL

College football season is back this Saturday afternoon and evening, as there are five games on the slate. As long as you're taking in some the action, here are some players who could make some sense for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 NFL Draft.

To note, only one of the teams playing today has any players listed among CBS Sports' top 100 prospects for the 2018 draft. Also to note, the Eagles currently have seven draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, listed here, and none in the second or third rounds, so digging a little deeper on mid- to late-round prospects maybe makes more sense anyway.

Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State (6'1, 200): Oregon State at Colorado State, 2:30pm

For a guy not many people have heard of, Gallup put up some serious numbers in 2016. He caught 76 passes for 1272 yards and 14 TDs. A big chunk of that production came at the end of the season, as he had 40 catches for 702 yards and 9 TDs in his final five games. He also had at least one reception of 30+ yards in 10 of 13 games, catching passes at every level of the defense. That will appeal to an Eagles offense that highly values players who can create chunk plays.

A highlight reel (use your mute button accordingly):

While the Eagles have far better receivers in 2017 than they did in 2016, you're really never done adding them, and Gallup could be an intriguing middle-round type of prospect.

Adam Breneman, TE, UMass (6'4, 250): Hawai'i at UMass, 6:00pm

In 2016, Brent Celek signed a contract extension that essentially served as a pay cut. This offseason, he took a million dollar pay cut, reducing his salary from $4 million to $3 million. In 2018, Celek is scheduled to count for $5 million against the cap, $4 million of which the Eagles would save if they released him. There's no way Celek will ever see that money, which means that he'll either be taking another pay cut, retiring, or being released. That's just the business of the NFL.

It's also not a lock that Trey Burton will return in 2018. He will make $2,746,000 as a restricted free agent this season, and is an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

As such, the Eagles could be in the market for a new tight end. One who could appeal to the Eagles in the middle rounds is UMass' Adam Breneman, who caught 70 passes for 808 yards (11.5 YPC) and 8 TDs last season. He led the nation in catches and yards by a tight end last year.

Breneman was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, ranked 78th in the nation by, who committed to Penn State. He dealt with significant injuries at PSU, and even retiring at one point, which will make him a future player of interest at medical evaluations at the next NFL Combine. He graduated after just three years at PSU, and then transferred to UMass. 

A highlight reel:

At 6'4, 250, Breneman doesn't have great size for a tight end, but he runs well and you don't have to be an NFL scout to see how well he catches the football in the video above. 

Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida (6'0, 210): (19) South Florida at San Jose State

Obviously, Carson Wentz is franchise quarterback until he proves that he shouldn't be. However, at the 2016 Owners Meetings, before the Eagles drafted Wentz, owner Jeffrey Lurie said that the Eagles were going to look to draft quarterbacks with regularity, like they used to in the Andy Reid days.

"We would always, each year, or every other year, try to draft a quarterback," he said. "At some point that’ll probably continue as long as there’s quality throughout the draft, and you can identify how you want to develop a quarterback over time. It’s not somebody who has to step in (immediately), and hopefully we can find somebody throughout the draft."

A list of quarterbacks the Eagles have drafted in the Jeffrey Lurie era:

 YearPlayer Round Overall 
 1995Dave Barr 119 
 1996Bobby Hoying 85 
 1997Koy Detmer 207 
 1999Donovan McNabb 
 2001A.J. Feeley 155 
 2004Andy Hall 185 
 2007Kevin Kolb 36 
 2010 Mike Kafka122 
 2012Nick Foles 88 
 2013Matt Barkley 98 
 2016Carson Wentz 

In the 14-year Andy Reid era (1999-2012), the Eagles drafted six quarterbacks. In a draft class loaded with intriguing quarterback talent, it wouldn't be crazy for the Eagles to snap one up in the middle rounds to develop over time.

The Eagles are likely to head into the 2017 season with just two quarterbacks, assuming Nick Foles' "arm soreness" ever goes away. Foles is in Philly on a two-year deal, so grooming a quarterback for his backup spot in 2019 and beyond would make sense.

One player with very intriguing ability is Flowers. 2016 was Flowers' second as the full-time starter at South Florida. His career numbers:

 YearComp/Att (%) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
 20148/20 (40%) 111 (5.6) 0-2 
 2015163/276 (59.1%) 2296 (8.3) 22-8 
 2016207/331 (62.5%) 2812 (8.5) 24-7 

Those are decent numbers, but not eye-popping for a top-100 type of prospect. But, oh yeah, Flowers can run. His rushing numbers:

Year Rushes Yards YPC TD 
 201413 73 5.6 
 2015191 991 5.2 12 
 2016198 1530 7.7 18 

At South Florida, Flowers runs a very basic offense, so the learning curve from college to the pros will be steep, especially in a west coast system. He also has a lot of things to correct, such as a very loopy windup and delivery. But holy crap, Flowers' running ability is impressive. A highlight reel:

On a team with a coaching staff loaded up with quarterback knowledge (Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, and Mike Groh, for example), drafting a player like Flowers and giving him time to develop makes sense.

Or maybe you just make him a running back. 

Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford (6'1, 195): (14) Stanford vs. Rice

Quenton Meeks is the son of Ron Meeks, who was a defensive backs coach in the NFL with eight different teams (Cowboys, Bengals, Falcons, Redskins, Rams, Colts, Panthers, and Chargers). He was also the Colts' defensive coordinator for seven years, and the Panthers' defensive coordinator for two.

“I’ve been doing DB drills since elementary school,’’ the younger Meeks said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Meeks is a corner with good size at 6'1, 195. At Stanford, he has experience playing both on the outside and in the slot. A lack of top-end speed, however, may force a move to safety at the next level, making him a potential fit for the Eagles, who highly value safeties who can drop down into the slot and cover wide receivers.

There's no question Meeks will be tested this season, as Stanford faces quarterbacks (in chronological order) Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Luke Falk (Washington State), and Jake Browning (Washington).

Here's Meeks with a pick-six working from the slot in the Rose Bowl:

In two seasons at Stanford, Meeks has 57 tackles, 5 INT, and 10 pass breakups.

Justin Reid, S, Stanford (6'1, 198): Stanford vs. Rice

Reid is the little brother of San Francisco 49ers safety (and former first round pick) Eric Reid. If you read anything about Reid, you'll almost always see people refer to his "football IQ." 

The Eagles may have shown that they weren't happy with their safety depth when they signed Corey Graham off the street a few weeks ago. Reid isn't flashy, but he's well-rounded player who could be available in the later rounds if he opts to come out after his junior year.

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