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NFL Draft Review: Eagles Day 3 picks have a lot of upside

The Eagles swung for the fences in the final rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Eagles had six more players to add to their rookie class, with their last four picks being defensive players after their first four addressed the offense. Philadelphia went with a lot of under the radar names on the third day of the draft, so how do they fit onto the team moving forward?

  • Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia: Coming from a normally prolific passing offense in Morgantown, Wendell Smallwood turned in an incredibly productive final season with the Mountaineers. At first glance, there is a lot to like from the 22 year old running back: Smallwood has excellent size at 5-10 and 208 pounds and his natural burst is impressive. Pair that with being a dynamic player in the passing game and it is easy to see what the team liked about Smallwood. However, there are concerns with his ability to create as a runner, as his vision is mediocre. Also, he does not play with a lot of power, lacking natural lower body strength and often stopping his feet on contact. Once he is out in space, he can take it to the house, but I worry that he has limitations that could hold him back from ever being a featured piece on an offense.

  • Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, TCU: This is a hell of a name to keep typing, but considering Vaitai's abilities, I better get used to typing it because he is going to be in the NFL for a while. Vaitai has immense size, with long arms, heavy hands and a lot of lower body strength. He plays with attitude and can absolutely maul defenders. While his physical tools are excellent, he has a long ways to go in terms of technical ability. His hand placement is inconsistent, as is his pad level and his awareness in space. Asking him to function as a primarily gap blocker will improve him, and I think his attitude will help him translate to the NFL better, but he has a long ways to go in terms of coaching.

  • Blake Countess, CB, Auburn: Now that we're away from the Chip Kelly days, the presence of 5-10, 185 pound corners on the team should not surprise anyone. Countess may be diminutive, but he doesn't play like it. He has a certain feistiness to his game both in coverage and the run game. He also has very nice burst to be able to close on the play. Overall, he isn't anything more than an average athlete, however. Also, his size and natural playing strength can be taken advantage of by bigger receivers and running backs. Countess' instincts need a little work and too often he relies on short area quickness to compensate for slow processing. However, I love Countess' attitude and it makes sense why Jim Schwartz and Corey Undlin would want him on the team.

  • Jalen Mills, DB, LSU: Mills moved around a bit during his time at LSU and the team was likely enamored with his versatility. He is a very fluid player in space, has great technique and awareness but I am worried how he physically fits into the NFL. He is incredibly small to play safety, yet lacks the ideal arm length and speed to play cornerback. Of course, he has polished technical ability to compensate for lack of natural gifts and I'm sure the staff loved that. Also, Mills was arrested and suspended a few years ago on account of a battery charge involving a woman in his building. While the charges were ultimately dropped, as they often are in these situations, the victim's initial accounts raise massive red flags about Mills' character. I have been very vocal in my condemnation of the NFL's enabling of domestic abusers and I am shocked and upset that the Eagles would allow for a player like that on the team after three years of championing the character of the roster. Yes, Mills is a gifted player, but that does not change the fact that he should likely be serving time right now instead of playing on a football team.

  • Alex McCallister, EDGE, Florida: Alex McCallister is one of the strangest prospects in this entire class. One side of it, he tested extraordinarily well at the combine and he possesses great bend around the edge as a pass rusher. He has very, very long arms to go along with his big frame. However, his testing numbers are skewed by the fact of how skinny he is. He does not have great burst or power and I feel like if he was to bulk up to NFL defensive end size (another 25 pounds, AT LEAST), he would lose the movement skills that made him productive at Florida. He is a one dimensional player who really only rush the passer and only does so with a limited assortment of pass rush moves. Being a late round pick, I like the team taking a gamble on his frame and movement skills and if anyone can make it work for McCallister, it's Jim Schwartz, but there is a lot to be done.

  • Joe Walker, LB, Oregon: Joe Walker was one of the few standouts on an abysmal Oregon defense. He is a smaller linebacker, but he has good athletic ability and plays like his hair is on fire. While his aggressiveness can take him out of plays and hurt the defense from time to time, he was one of the few Ducks who actually made plays on defense, be it in the running game, passing game or as a blitzer. I think he has a chance to eventually make in impact in the defensive lineup, but his mentality as a football player should be an asset on special teams for years to come.
The third day of the draft was a one of gambles for the Eagles, as was their entire class for the most part. Of course, the draft is a gamble in general, but Philadelphia is *really* banking on their coaching staff for a lot of these picks. However, I think every one of these picks makes the team, which is definitely a plus for the class (or a minus for the roster) and guys like Vaitai, Smallwood and Mills all have a better shot than most day three picks at becoming starters down the line. While I don't love how day three went for the Eagles, especially with the Mills selection, I see the upside in a lot of their picks. Let's just hope they can harness all the potential the team is betting on.

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