October 20, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles are six games into the 2017 season, and their rookie draft class has now gotten some opportunities to get on the field in games that matter to show what they can do.
Let's take a quick look back at what we said about each player immediately after the draft, and evaluate their progress so far.
Way back in January, Barnett was the first round pick in my "Eagles only mock draft 1.0," so obviously I saw good player who I thought fit the Eagles' scheme. Barnett was an extremely productive player for the Volunteers, posting at least 10 sacks in every season going back to his freshman year:
It is extremely rare for an 18-year old to put up 10 sacks and over 20 tackles for loss in a season in any conference, much less the SEC. And there's room to grow, as Barnett is still only 20-years old.
Barnett is also a very good run defender, giving the Eagles two of them when paired with Brandon Graham. Barnett's game isn't flashy. He wins with hand-fighting as opposed to elite burst, but he is battle tested in the best conference in college football, where he faced (and beat) his share of quality offensive tackles.
After a very impressive preseason, Barnett has played 162 defensive snaps (42.2 percent) so far during the regular season as a rotational defensive end. His stats aren't eye-popping so far, as he has 7 tackles, a sack (actually just 0.5 sacks since he had to share his sack with Justin Hamilton), a fumble recovery, and two tackles for loss.
Still, the flashes of ability are there, and in my view, the sack numbers will eventually come, perhaps in clusters.
Jones ruptured his Achilles at his pro day, killing his draft stock. Had that not occurred, he would have been a strong option for the Eagles at pick No. 14 overall. Some players come back from a ruptured Achilles and play at a high level. Some lose their effectiveness to some degree. Clearly, it's a risk. When he's healthy, Jones has outstanding ball skills and confidence. Howie Roseman stated clearly after making the pick that they will take their time in allowing Jones to recover fully from his injury, so this will very likely be a pick for 2018 and beyond.
I personally feel that the 43rd-overall pick was too early for Jones. Roseman stated that the Eagles believe Jones can return to 100 percent health after rehabilitation and that they didn't think he would make it to pick 99 in the third round. I'd have just taken one of the many other highly talented healthy corners that were available at pick 43.
As you can see, I didn't love this pick when the Eagles made it. Jones has not yet practiced, and remains on the NFI list. It's to be determined if he'll play at all this year, or if his explosion prior to the injury returns to 100 percent. If the latter occurs, this will have been a good pick. We'll see.
At 6'1, 208, Douglas has ideal size at the corner spot in the NFL, and he led the country in interceptions in 2016, with eight. Those two things alone made Douglas an attractive prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. Douglas isn't always the most willing tackler in the run game, and he can tend to be a gambler in coverage.
The latter will be viewed by some coaches as a negative but is likely to appeal to Jim Schwartz.
Douglas' skill set has been as expected. He seems to always be aware of where the ball is, and has gambled (and lost, so far) on a few attempts at pick sixes, though his reads on those plays have been dead on. It may only be a matter of time before he times one up perfectly and brings one back to the house.
He does have two interceptions on the season, which is tied for the team lead with Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson. One was a gift on a deflection, while the other was an excellent play on a deep throw down the field to Brandon Marshall.
Douglas appears to be a legitimate NFL corner early on, and good value where the Eagles got him at 99th overall.
Hollins has great size at 6'4, 221, and averaged 20.6 yards per catch, scoring on one out of roughly every four receptions in his career at UNC. Unfortunately, he only had 81 career catches, so his overall production left something to be desired.
However, Hollins is an outstanding special teams player, known for his kick and punt coverage skills. In recent years, the Eagles have placed a high priority on their special teams units, a strategy that has served them well. I respect their continued efforts to bolster those units, which are the best in the NFL.
In Hollins, the Eagles find an immediate contributor on special teams and an intriguing developmental prospect at wide receiver.
Hollins has indeed contributed immediately as a core special teams player, and he has made the most of his limited opportunities when he has gotten into the game as a wide receiver.
Hollins has only played 62 offensive snaps so far (14.6 percent of the snaps), and he already has five catches (four resulting in first downs) on five targets for 70 yards. He has also shown good ability as a blocker down the field.
Again, like Douglas above, Hollins appears to be very good value where the Eagles got him in the fourth round.
The easy comparison to make with Pumphrey is Darren Sproles, because Pumphrey is only 5'8, 176 pounds. However, Pumphrey is not the same player as Sproles. To begin, he returned a grand total of five kicks/punts in college, so he does not possess that experience heading into the NFL. He also managed just five reps on the bench press at the Combine. Sproles did 23. Sproles is short, but has some meat on him, while Pumphrey is just really small.
Pumphrey also ran the ball 1059 times in four years at SDSU, an extraordinarily high number. He has some mileage on him and is entering a league that puts a pounding on runners.
On the bright side, Pumphrey led the nation in rushing in 2016 and possesses receiving ability. In four years, he racked up a ridiculous 7444 yards from scrimmage. Pumphrey will be viewed as Sproles eventual replacement, but in the short term, the Eagles have three backs in Wendell Smallwood, Sproles, and Pumphrey, who are all undersized backs. I like the player, but who's going to pick up the hard first downs on 3rd and 1?
With the benefit of seeing what the Eagles hoped Pumphrey would be in this league, this was a terrible pick. The Eagles envisioned a player who could play in the slot and return kicks, which were two things Pumphrey didn't do in college. If they wanted a slot receiver/ punt returner, why not just draft Ryan Switzer, who is an actual punt returner and slot receiver? (To note, Switzer hasn't been great either, but at least he's active on game day.)
I won't kill the Eagles for missing on running backs early in this draft, which has been a common criticism. Many have bemoaned the fact that the Eagles didn't draft Dalvin Cook or Kareem Hunt. I believe that criticism is unfair, seeing as neither player was available where it would have made sense for the Eagles to take them (Cook in the second round, Hunt in the third).
However, there were a number of running backs taken after Pumphrey who have shown some ability so far. A quick list:
|Aaron Jones, Packers||45||215||4.8||2|
|Chris Carson, Seahawks||49||208||4.2||0|
|Elijah McGuire, Jets||44||198||4.5||1|
|Marlon Mack, Colts||27||130||4.8||2|
|Wayne Gallman, Giants||31||126||4.1||0|
This pick appears to be a whiff.
Gibson is a big-time deep threat. Here are his numbers over the last two seasons:
Gibson's specialty is taking the top off the defense and using his excellent tracking ability to haul in bombs. He is something of a one-trick pony, but that's a pretty neat trick. Carson Wentz has himself a field-stretching wide receiver. This is great value in the fifth round.
As you can see, I liked this pick quite a bit when the Eagles made it. After seeing Gibson in OTAs, minicamp, and training camp, however, good God did he struggle catching the football.
I'm not optimistic that Gibson will suddenly develop good hands. If he ever does, it's going to take years. The fifth round isn't a bad spot to take a flyer on a guy with Gibson's deep ball ability, but so far it has not panned out.
At Nebraska, Gerry was a big safety, at 6'2, 218. In the pros, he'll be an undersized linebacker with some coverage ability. Over the last three seasons, Gerry had 13 interceptions. The Eagles lack depth at linebacker, especially considering they are still very likely to move on from Mychal Kendricks this offseason. Gerry gives them added depth, and a potential special teams contributor.
I liked a number of things I saw from Gerry during training camp, but he didn't do enough evidently to make the final 53-man roster. On Thursday he was called up to the active roster after Chris Maragos was lost for the season with a knee injury. He'll likely be inactive for the foreseeable future, barring injuries.
Qualls projects as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, which makes sense for an Eagles' defensive front that has penetrating interior line starters in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan. With Beau Allen having torn his pectoral muscle, the Eagles can use some added depth in the trenches.
With Fletcher Cox and Destiny Vaeao banged up, Qualls has gotten some run this season at DT. He has played 50 snaps (13 percent) on defense and has one tackle. I'd be a liar if I were to say I've studied him closely on those snaps, though I can't recall him actively hurting the team in any way.
The Eagles have used Clement as part of their running back committee. On the season, Clement has 25 carries for 71 yards (2.8 YPC), and 1 TD. In the Eagles' win over the Panthers, Doug Pederson opted to give newly acquired Kenjon Barner more opportunities than Clement.
He's been pretty good, right?
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