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February 21, 2017

NFL Combine preview: Quarterback prospects who could interest the Eagles

Eagles NFL

The NFL Combine will kick off in Indianapolis next week, so we'll begin taking a look at some participants (or in this case a notable omission) at each positional group every day, beginning with quarterback.

Is quarterback a need?

The Eagles don't have any need for a starting quarterback after trading up for Carson Wentz last offseason, however, they could certainly opt to draft a player to develop behind Wentz and backup Chase Daniel. 

"We would always, each year, or every other year, try to draft a quarterback," said Jeffrey Lurie at the NFL Owners Meetings last year. "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."

In 2018, Daniel will count for $8 million against the salary cap, $7 million of which the Eagles will save if they trade or cut him. At that time, it will likely make a lot of sense to move on from Daniel, as he will have served his purpose as Wentz's "second set of eyes," but only if they have someone waiting in the wings. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Eagles could look to draft and develop a far cheaper quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft.

We'll profile more players at other positions, especially at wide receiver and corner, but at quarterback, in a weak class there are only two prospects who I like as potential later-round targets. 

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss (6'2, 224)

Kelly has plenty of appealing tools. He has a strong arm, competitiveness, toughness, and a gunslinger mentality that Doug Pederson seems to like.

He also has a litany of drawbacks. To begin, he has torn the ACL in his right knee twice, most recently in November of 2016. And then there's a whole host of off-the-field incidents. He was kicked off the team at Clemson in 2014, he was arrested in a bar fight later that year, and in 2016 he ran onto the field of his brother's high school game after his brother took a late hit.

Kelly was initially invited to the Combine, and then had his invite curiously rescinded.

Kelly's numbers the last two seasons at Ole Miss:

Chad Kelly Comp-Att (Comp%) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
 2015 298-458 (65.1%)4042 (8.8) 31-13 
 2016 205-328 (62.5%)2758 (8.4) 19-8 

It's worth noting that Kelly is the nephew and godson of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who is very close with Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, so there's a loose connection there. If the Eagles like Kelly's positive traits and are comfortable enough with his baggage, he could be good value as a later-round pick.

Josh Dobbs, Tennessee (6'3, 216)

2015 was Dobbs' first season as the opening-day starter, although he became Tennessee's starter midway through the 2014 season. His career numbers at Tennessee:

Joshua Dobbs Comp-Att (Comp%) Yards (YPA) TD-INT 
 201372-121 (59.5%) 695 (5.7) 2-6 
 2014 112-177 (63.3%)1206 (6.8) 9-6 
 2015 205-344 (59.6%)2291 (6.7) 15-5 
 2016 225-357 (63.0%)2946 (8.3) 27-12 

Dobbs also has 2160 rushing yards and 32 rushing TDs over his career. His running ability is obvious, as Tennessee often called designed quarterback runs with him.

As a passer, Dobbs has a good arm and can be accurate when he's able to step into his throws, but he tends to lose that accuracy and can make bad decisions when he's forced to move. Also, he can be over-reliant on his running ability, as he'll often bail from the pocket at the first sign of pressure. There is also a thinking that Dobbs' mechanics need refinement.

Still, his physical traits and quality character could make for an intriguing project in the later rounds for an Eagles coaching staff that is absolutely loaded up with quarterback gurus.

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