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November 02, 2019

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

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

Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (6'5, 311): Miami at Florida State, 3:30 p.m.

Big Marv is listed at 311 pounds, but he looks bigger than that to me, and in some ways reminds me of Dexter Lawrence, a player commonly mocked to the Eagles during the pre-draft process a year ago. Both Lawrence and Wilson were the No. 2 overall high school recruits in the country, a year apart. 

Wilson is a huge run-stuffing specialist who would immediately help the Eagles in that regard, which remains important in a division with Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley. In my view, that is his base expectation. However, like Lawrence, Wilson isn't just a run stuffer. He has 5 sacks this season, winning with his sheer power. Even if he doesn't rack up sacks at the next level, he is a player who can push the pocket, allowing for more opportunities for his defensive line teammates. A look:

The Eagles could use some youth in the trenches after a trio of their veterans went down in 2019.

MORE: Week 9 NFL picks: Rounding up the experts' predictions for Eagles vs. Bears

Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson (6'4, 230): Wofford at (4) Clemson, 4:00 p.m.

The Eagles haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979. They haven't drafted a safety in the first round, ever. (They did draft Roynell Young in 1980 as a corner, and eventually moved him to safety, but whatever.)

With that disclaimer out of the way, if there's a guy I could see the Eagles breaking that trend for, it's Simmons, a tall linebacker/safety hybrid athletic freak of nature. From Bruce Feldman's offseason freaks piece in The Athletic

The Tigers D-line was loaded with Freaks last year — and it still is — but the biggest freak in the program is their 6-4, 230-pound linebacker. Simmons is a sky-walker. He vertical jumps 40 inches and broad jumps 11-0. He routinely jumps onto a 52-inch box for single-response jump work. He also has run a sub-4.4 40 this off-season.

“He had everything in place to be an NCAA champion jumper if that was his primary event,” Tigers track coach Mark Elliott told colleague Grace Raynor. “From a coaching side … if you have an athlete like that on your track team and he’s a jumper, you can only think about how good the person could be. Just the speed that he has and for the size (he is), personally, was impressive.

“He has all the intangibles in everything and the athletic ability that could be successful in our event, too. That’s why we took the time to work him in with our group.”

On the football field, Simmons also makes a ton of plays. In 2018, he had a team-best 97 tackles (9.5 for loss), seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. 

In 2019, Simmons' numbers are even better. In 8 games, he has 64 tackles (11.5 for loss), 6 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. Here's Dabo Swinney on Simmons: 

The are some concerns with Simmons' recognition skills in coverage, as well as his tackling, but those are areas where there's room to grow, especially for a player as insanely gifted as him. The Eagles will have to decide if he's a taller version of Mychal Kendricks, or if he has the mentality to maximize his gifts.

Again, the Eagles' history points strongly toward passing on this position, but I think with Simmons it's at least worth the conversation.

MORE: Eagles-Bears injury report, with analysis

Patrick Nelson, S/LB, SMU (6'0, 216): (15) SMU at (24) Memphis, 7:30 p.m.

As long as we're on the linebacker/safety hybrid theme, Nelson is another one, though less in the mold of guys like Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry, who are more cover-oriented, and more in the mold of present-day Andrew Sendejo, in that he runs around and hits people.

This season, Nelson has racked up an absurd 10 (!) sacks from his safety/linebacker (more linebacker than safety) spot. Obviously, he is an accomplished blitzer.

I think he'd make some sense in the Eagles' defense in something of a big nickel role.

James Proche, WR, SMU (5'11, 185): (15) SMU at (24) Memphis, 7:30 p.m.

SMU had a pair of receivers selected in the 2018 NFL Draft in Courtland Sutton (2nd round, 40th overall) and Trey Quinn (7th round, 256th overall). They can also boast Emmanuel Sanders (3rd round, 82nd overall, 2010) and Cole Beasley (undrafted, 2012).

In the 2020 NFL Draft, James Proche will be next, and by the time this season is over, he'll likely own most of SMU's receiving records:

Receptions Yards TDs 
 Emmanuel Sanders (285)Emmanuel Sanders (3791) Emmanuel Sanders (34) 
 Cole Beasley (255) James Proche (3416) James Proche (33)
 James Proche (251) Aldrick Robinson (3314) Cole Beasley (31)
 Jason Wolf (235) Courtland Sutton (3220) Aldrick Robinson (30)
 Darius Johnson (232) Cole Beasley (2959) Emanuel Tolbert (25)

Proche's career numbers:

James Proche Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201657 709 12.4 
 201740 816 20.4 
 201893 1199 12.9 12 
 2019 (8 games)61 692 11.3 

Proche will likely be a slot receiver in the NFL. He's a good athlete who gets yards after the catch, and as you'll see below, is capable of making spectacular catches.   

With Nelson Agholor likely to move on in free agency next offseason, the Eagles should be in the market for a slot receiver.

MORE: Eagles vs. Bears: Predictions, odds and more for Week 9

Joe Reed, WR/RB/KR, Virginia (6'1, 215): Virginia at North Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Aaaaand we'll finish out the week with another receiver in Joe Reed, who also has appeal as a returner. On 18 kick returns this season, Reed has a 39.4 yard average, and 2 TDs. Over his career, he has 5 kick return TDs.

In Virginia's regular offense, Reed does a little of everything. He lines up inside, outside, and in the backfield.

He reminds me a little of the Cowboys' Tony Pollard when he came out.

Previously profiled players

• August 24

  1. Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
  2. Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida
  3. C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
  4. Jonathan Garvin, DE, Miami
  5. Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami

• August 31

  1. Scottie Phillips, RB, Ole Miss
  2. Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
  3. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
  4. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
  5. Jeremiah Dinson, S, Auburn

• September 7

  1. Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
  2. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
  3. J.D. Spielman, WR, Nebraska
  4. Jason Huntley, RB, New Mexico State
  5. Ashtyn Davis, S, California

• September 14

  1. Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
  2. Cohl Cabral, C, Arizona State
  3. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
  4. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
  5. Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma

• September 21

  1. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
  2. Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama
  3. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
  4. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
  5. Solomon Kindley, OG, Georgia

• September 28

  1. Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
  2. Alex Leatherwood, OG/OT, Alabama
  3. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
  4. Jaquarius Landrews, S, Mississippi State
  5. Zack Moss, RB, Utah

• October 5

  1. Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
  2. Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
  3. Oluwole Betiku Jr., DE, Illinois
  4. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
  5. Jake Hanson, C, Oregon

• October 12

  1. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
  2. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
  3. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
  4. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
  5. Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

• October 19

  1. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
  2. Larrell Murchison, DT, NC State
  3. Brandon Jones, S, Texas
  4. Steven Gonzalez, OG, Penn State
  5. Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan

October 26

  1. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
  2. Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
  3. Lloyd Cushenberry III, C, LSU
  4. K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford
  5. McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas

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