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August 24, 2019

Grocery shopping: Five college players to watch who could interest the Eagles in the 2020 NFL Draft

The college football season begins tonight, and for a welcomed change it's actually a game worth watching, as the Miami Hurricanes will take on the Florida Gators in Orlando. 

As long as you're taking in some of the action, here are some players who could make sense for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2020 NFL Draft.

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida (6'1, 191): Miami vs. (8) Florida, 7:00 p.m.

During the 2018 season, Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said of Henderson "He’s the best corner I’ve ever coached." I'm not sure if Grantham only meant the best college corner he's ever coached, but he has coached at six big college programs (Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Georgia, Louisville, Mississippi State, and Florida), as well as four NFL teams.

In 2018, Henderson had 38 tackles (5 for loss), 2 INTs, 3 sacks, 5 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. As a freshman in 2017, he had 4 picks. This offseason, Henderson made Bruce Feldman's 2019 college football freaks list (via The Athletic):

The 6-1, 193-pounder has just 4.3 percent body fat but is one powerful dude. He benches 380 and did 16 reps of 225 this offseason to go with a 545-pound squat, a 40.5-inch vertical and 10-4 in the broad jump.

In other words, Henderson has great size at 6'1, 191, and explosion to go along with it. He is also thought of as a smart, and extremely active corner with good character. This offseason, Henderson was awarded Florida's coveted No. 1 jersey. "You’ve got to be a baller to be No. 1," Florida head coach Dan Mullen said in 2018.

A highlight reel: 

Three of the Eagles' top six corners -- Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Cre'Von LeBlanc -- will be free agents after the 2019 season. If the Eagles have the type of season most of us think they will, Henderson likely won't be available whenever they're picking, but it's perhaps worth learning Henderson's name now anyway.

Lamical Perine, RB, Florida (5'11, 227): Miami vs. (8) Florida, 7:00 p.m.

Perine comes from a family of running backs, which includes NFL players such as Washington RB Samaje Perine, and Jaguars LB Myles Jack, who doubled as a running back in college.

Perine doesn't have great speed, but he runs with patience and vision, using mini jump cuts to pick his way through traffic, and finishing with power. A highlight reel:

Perine has split time in the backfield at Florida with other runners, so his odometer is reasonably low. In three seasons, he has 361 carries for 1809 yards (5.0 YPC), and 16 TDs. As a receiver, he has 32 catches for 412 yards (12.9 YPC) and 3 TDs.

In 2019, he will have a chance to show what he can do in a bigger role.

Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida (6'4, 257): Miami vs. (8) Florida, 7:00 p.m.

Like Henderson above, Zuniga made Feldman's freaks list:

Maybe the most freakish thing about the 6-4, 265-pound redshirt senior is that he’s only got 7.5 percent body fat. He’s also super strong benching 460 and does 225 pounds for 30 reps. His 7.03 time in the 3-cone drill would have tied for second-fastest among all D-linemen at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. On the field, Zuniga is coming off his best season at UF. He finished second on the team with 11.0 TFLs, 6.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries.

While his workout numbers are indeed impressive, Zuniga needs better production as a fifth-year senior in 2019. In the 2020 NFL Draft, defensive end will once again be a position the Eagles will be interested in bolstering, with Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry both now 31 years of age.

Jonathan Garvin, DE, Miami (6'4, 250): Miami vs. Florida, 7:00 p.m.

As a sophomore in 2018, Garvin didn't light up the sack column, but his overall numbers were good. He had 60 tackles (17 for loss), 5.5 sacks, and 5 batted passes.

Nicknamed the "spider," Garvin has long arms and legs, to go along with good balance. With a good follow-up season as a junior, he could be a Day 1 or Day 2 pick if he comes out for the 2020 NFL Draft. A highlight reel: 

Much like Derek Barnett when he came out, Garvin will still only be 20 years old at the time he's drafted if he leaves after his junior year. He's an athletic pass rusher who lives in the backfield, and the Eagles should have interest.

Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami (5'10, 175): Miami vs. (8) Florida, 7:00 p.m.

With two games (one regular season game, one bowl game) still remaining during the 2018 season, Thomas was dismissed from the team by then head coach Mark Richt. He intended to transfer to Illinois, but he changed his mind in the wake of Richt unexpectedly announcing his retirement. Getting quasi-booted from Miami is hard to do, and off the field Thomas seems like a handful.

On the field, however, he's a speed demon from the slot, and a good kick/punt returner as well. In two seasons at Miami, Thomas has 52 catches for 937 yards and 5 TD. An average of 18.0 yards per catch from the slot is abnormal. A highlight reel:

Obviously the Eagles would do plenty of investigation into his character, but Thomas would be a great fit for an Eagles' offense that could be losing Nelson Agholor in free agency next offseason.

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