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August 21, 2017

Projecting roles in 2017 for each of the Eagles rookie draft picks

Eagles NFL

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles had eight draft picks. Over the last month, we've watched them in practice, and in a couple games. By this time in training camp and the preseason, you have a pretty good idea of whether or not a player is going to contribute in his rookie season. Let's take a look at the Eagles 2017 draft picks and project their roles this season.

First round: DE Derek Barnett

Barnett simply produces. In his first two preseason games, he has three sacks and several other hits on the quarterback. At RDE, his competition is Vinny Curry, who at 29 years of age does not look like an obviously improved version of himself a year ago. It's only a matter of time before Barnett starts at RDE. At a minimum, he's going to be on the field in obvious pass rush situations.

Second round: CB Sidney Jones

Back in May, we tried to determine (A) will Jones be able to play this season, and (B) when he does recover, will he be the same player he was before the injury? To gain insights on the recovery likelihood from a ruptured Achilles, we talked to Dr. Larry Miller, who is the chairman and chief of orthopedic surgery at Cooper University Hospital, and the head of the division of sports medicine.

Dr. Miller explained that the minimum recovery time from Jones' surgery would be at least six months. For timeline purposes, Jones had his surgery on March 21. Dr. Miller also said that Jones could return to the player he was pre-injury, though he was somewhat less confident on the likelihood of that than Howie Roseman seemed to be in his post-draft press conference on Jones. 

The Eagles have an interesting situation on their hands with Jones. If they don't believe that Jones is 100 percent, it might makes sense for them to hold him out for the entire season. By doing so, Jones would not earn an accrued season, meaning that at the end of his four-year contract, he would be a restricted free agent, rather than unrestricted. In other words, they would control his rights at a cheap cost through 2021 instead of 2020. Of course, if Jones feels like he's ready to play and the Eagles hold him out to gain contractual advantages, they could alienate a player key to their long-term success on defense.

The Eagles have been quiet on Jones, only volunteering that they are going to be patient with him. For now, we won't venture a guess on when Jones will play, because a guess is all it would be.

Third round: CB Rasul Douglas

Though I haven't specifically locked in on Douglas and watched his first two preseason games yet, the feedback I have received is that he played well. In training camp, Douglas has been up and down, which you would expect from a third round rookie corner. 

Douglas' role, whenever he does get on the field, will be on the outside. The Eagles' starters on the outside are set, with Ronald Darby on one side and Jalen Mills on the other. Beyond them, Douglas is among a mix of players like Patrick Robinson and C.J. Smith serving as depth. Douglas has ideal length and instincts for the position, but he will have to overcome a lack of long speed in the NFL.

Douglas will ideally match up well against bigger receivers when he's more ready to be a contributor on defense, but that likely won't be happening in 2017, barring injury.

Fourth round: WR Mack Hollins

After Derek Barnett, Hollins will likely be the biggest Eagles rookie contributor this season. Currently, he is very clearly the No. 4 receiver behind Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor after the trade of Jordan Matthews. Hollins is also projected to be a core special teamer as a rookie.

Hollins is going to dress on game day, and could see quick action on the field in the regular offense if any of the three receivers ahead of him get nicked up.

Fourth round: RB Donnel Pumphrey

Early in training camp, the Eagles were mixing Pumphrey in with the first team offense, and it was looking like they were projecting him to have a legitimate role on the offense. However, after some ball security issues in the preseason games as well as practice, the Eagles may be hesitant to trust Pumphrey early in his career on the field.

Additionally, Pumphrey has not stood out. For a player listed at 176 pounds to be an effective piece in the NFL, he better be ultra-explosive, or have some kind of elite skill set that sets him apart as a usable role player. I personally have not seen extreme explosiveness or any obvious elite traits.

The Eagles are highly unlikely to release Pumphrey at 53-man cutdowns, but if they could find a way to put him on IR for the season, Pumphrey could develop some of his skills and perhaps put on additional muscle. But as we stand at the end of August, Pumphrey does not appear to be a player the Eagles are looking to get involved in the offense the way they were in July.

Fifth round: Shelton Gibson

Gibson had a brutal spring, and he followed that up with a bad training camp, as he has struggled mightily to catch the football. If he makes the roster, which is highly unlikely, it will only be because he was a fifth-round pick. 

Ideally, the Eagles can stash Gibson on the practice squad, where he can work on catching the football, but there's no way he's seeing the field in a game that matter anytime remotely soon.

Fifth round: Nate Gerry

Gerry is going to make the team as a reserve linebacker and special teams player. He has shown good coverage ability, which is not a surprise for a converted safety, and Jim Schwartz has been impressed with his physical play in the run game. At some point this season, Gerry is likely to see some snaps in the regular defense.

Sixth round: Elijah Qualls

Qualls had an ugly start to camp, but the coaching staff has expressed that he has come on more recently. Qualls is not a lock to make the roster. At DT, he is still behind Destiny Vaeao and Justin Hamilton. Vaeao is a lock, while Hamilton has had a good camp. With Beau Allen also potentially returning at some point this season, Qualls may find himself on the outside looking in unless the Eagles decide to go heavy at DT.


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