A few weeks ago I did a piece on 10 college players that the Eagles should keep an eye on. They were FB Trey Millard(Oklahoma), WR Marcus Davis(Va Tech), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz(Iowa), LT Taylor Lewan(Michigan), DTs Johnathon Hankins(Ohio State), Kawann Short(Purdue) Jesse Williams(Alabama), CB Xavier Rhodes(FSU), T.J. McDonald(USC), and Punter Brad Wing. I have gotten a chance to watch all 10 of these players and I wanted to share my thoughts on each player. Are they a good fit? Are they living up to expectations? How are they being utilized? And finally, should we still draft them?
Trey Millard- I know he is a full back and nobody wants to draft a full back, but hear me out. This kid can't do it all, he does it all. He is already a great lead blocker. He takes out linebackers and linemen with ease. He undercuts defensive ends and mets linebackers head on. Remember he is listed around 245 to 250 pounds. He is already just as big as Patrick Willis, if not bigger. Besides lead blocking, he is also a good receiver. He can make plays out of the backfield and can also line up as a tight end. That makes him a valuable addition to any roster as he can serve as a third tight end and the full back. He can also act as the third running back and the power back.
Bottom line, think Leonard Weaver but with way more potential. That is scary good for a full back. He was projected as a thrid or fourth round draft pick. It will be hard for him to improve on that draft stock. Running backs are already seeing their values decrease. Just think where the full back could be in five years. I would love it if the Eagles spend a third or fourth round pick next April on Trey Millard. Nothing against Stanley Havili, this is about the potential of Millard.
Marcus Davis- Don't take this as disrespect of a lack of faith for either Maclin or Jackson. This is a loaded draft class at wide receiver. Actually that doesn't do it justice. It's like a car dealership has a surplus on sports cars and is unloading them at a record low price. You may not need one, but the value is too good to pass up on. CBS Sports has him ranked as the 11th best WR in this year's class. That says everything right there.
Davis would be a great fit for wha the Eagles need at WR. He can be a jump ball WR, great at quick routes as well, slants and screen. He lines up in the slot and or on the outside. He is big at 6'4, 230 but he is also very quick. Some have claimed he takes plays off. NFL paychecks can cure that. Randy Moss did okay early in his career. Bryce Brown isn't exactly been a head case for the Eagles so far.
WIth all the competition at WR in this year's class, effort concerns for Davis and the inconsistency of his QB Logan Thomas you can bet Davis will last at least until the latter portion of the second round. Could help Eagles right away in a variety of roles. Remember, Eagles will have to sign Maclin long-term after 2013 season or let him go. Also, Jason Avant's contract will be around $3 mil, which is a lot of a slot receiver(even for a player who does as much as Avant does).
C.J. Fiedorowicz- I live in this state so I already know this, but Iowa has the most conservative offense in the country. It's hard to get a good read on what CJF can do. He isn't as great as an athlete as I thought he would be. He is a good blocker and a big body at 6'7, 250-260.
Iowa likes to keep him in for pass protection or they have him run routes about five yards down the field. The right coaching staff in the NFL could turn him into a nice addition to a already good offense. His size is his best asset. I don't see Rob Gronkowski. I see a good red zone option which is something the Eagles are always in need of. I will be curious to see what numbers he puts up at the NFL Combine. He will be drafted based on his potential. There might not be a player with as much to gain at the combine. Could be the difference from CJF being selected in the 5th/6th round to him sneaking into the 2nd day.
Taylor Lewan- My favorite left tackle prospect. He is physical, he is athletic and he has a great football IQ for a linemen. He has done a good job against 3-4 OLBs and defensive ends. That bodes well for a team that needs its LT to handle all the great pass-rushers in the NFC East.
Lewan would be a great fit in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme. He has the length, athleticism and the tenacity. The Eagles could go the rookie route at LT next season. King Dunlap probably isn't the long-term answer(too early to tell), Demetress Bell should have already been cut and Jason Peters is a huge question mark coming off his Achilles injury. The Eagles would save around $20 mil by releasing both Bell and Peters. I am not saying it is the right more or the likely one, but it is a possibility. Lewan will be as NFL ready as anybody. He is definitely a possibility for the Eagles with their first pick.
Brad Wing- Top punter in college football. He did miss the first game of the season with a hamstring injury. I don't like punters who can be injury prone. Do you want to keep two punters? Didn't think so. None of this matters if Chas Henry keeps bombing every punt over 50 yards with ease. I guess he was holding back in preseason. Keep it up Chas, and you won't have any competition. The Eagles would just sign a punter for camp to carry Henry's pads around.
Johnathon Hankins- I am the only one who isn't in love with this kid. I watched him against Miami(of Ohio). He was helpless against all double teams. The Eagles will be looking for a defensive tackle(if they are at all) that can draw and penetrate against double teams. He is all power.
He has played better since the season opener against the Red Hawks, but I don't see him as a good fit in the wide-9. I also don't see him as a good pick in the top 10 , which is where he is being projected everywhere. If he gets drafted there he will be a bust. Write it down. I see a powerful, but ordinary player. I don't suspect he will be very high on the Eagles radar.
Kawann Short- Most underrated defensive prospect in this class, and it isn't even close. He has great size at 6'4, 310 pounds. He has been taking on double teams since he was a freshman and he has consistently gotten penetration against him. He got his 6th and 7th career blocked kicks against Eastern Kentucky, then he followed it up by helping Purdue hold Notre Dame to just 52 rushing yards while he also racked up two sacks.
Short is just a monster. Do whatever you think you can to try and stop him, he just gets the job done. Can you imagine him on the Eagles line next to Fletcher Cox, Trent Cole and Jason Babin? Keep in mind the Eagles could still rotate in Cullen Jenkins and Cedric Thornton at tackle as well. Short is currently a late 1st or early 2nd round projection. I would love it if the Eagles spent another 1st round pick on a DT if it's Short.
One more nugget, he stayed for his senior season because he promised his mom he would finish college. Gotta love that. Means he is less likely to take plays off and hold out for more money.
Jesse Williams- Most powerful DT in this class. I don't know if he can penetrate and make enough plays to thrive in the wide-9. Might be better served in a more traditional DL scheme. I actually mean I don't know. I have no idea. He is so raw I don't know what he will be able to do in 3-5 years. He will also jump up on everyone's board with a big week at the combine.
He could help the Eagles run defense a lot right away. He commands a double team on every single play. He will open the lanes up for MLB DeMeco Ryans on every play. He could be worth the gamble in the 2nd round. He is raw but he is powerful. Should be more productive than Dontari Poe this season than Poe was last year.
Xavier Rhodes- My favorite press corner in this class. Great ball skills. I didn't get a chance to watch him until this week. Not a lot of TV interest when you play Montana A&T and Laramie Technical Institute. He broke up a pass on a deeper route in man coverage. He skied up and knocked the ball away at its highest point. Textbook coverage. He is built like Nnamdi. 6'2, 210+. Good speed, great athleticism. Not an elite CB prospect, but a more polished version of Curtis Marsh. Could be an ideal player to trade up for in the 2nd round. Really depend on what the Eagles do with DRC and Nnamdi, who has a big cap hit coming up. If the Eagles keep both and like what they see out of Marsh, Rhodes won't be an option. No CB will. Too early to rule out CB as a possibility in the 1st or 2nd day of the draft.
T.J. McDonald- Great safety prospect. USC moves him all over the field. Sometimes he is like an OLB, sometimes he is the deep safety, sometimes he is the slot corner. Wherever they decide to play him, that isn't the spot he immediately lines up at. They move him around a lot before the snap. I loves this and I love his versatility He tackles well, he covers well and he reads the play very quickly.
He has gotten some comparisons to Taylor Mays. That is a huge slap in the face to TJ. He is much smoother in coverage. Mays just had straight line speed and was a big hitter. That was about it. TJ is the complete package. He isn't an athletic freak, but his speed and quickness won't be an issue.
Mentally and in terms of football IQ, McDonald is the best safety I have seen in the college ranks in a while. Not as fast as Eric Berry, but the potential to be more influential on defense.
Nate Allen's job isn't safe. I am about 5 minutes away from saying Kurt Coleman's is. I am about 6 minutes from becoming his biggest fan. Allen probably keeps his job and continues to get better, but it isn't a lock. McDonald could be a tough player to pass on if Allen has another so-so year. Last year he got a pass because of his knee. This season he needs to live up to his second round pick from 2010.