Today is National Signing Day in college football, when high school recruits send Letters of Intent to colleges, accepting their scholarship offers and committing to a program. In the crazy world of college football, it’s a huge deal, with ESPN covering it live, and schools having gone so far as to show a live feed of their fax machine.
For the NFL, Signing Day is just another day of the week, but high school recruiting isn’t, especially for the Eagles. Howie Roseman keeps tabs on the top prospects, and has brought in a few who were once highly promising high school stars that, for various reasons, never got much of a chance to display their talent at the college level.
Bryce Brown was one of the top recruits of 2009. He played sparingly for Tennessee in his freshman year during Lane Kiffin’s one season in Knoxville, then transferred to Kansas State with his brother, which forced him to sit out his sophomore year. He then left the team after three games for personal reasons. Roseman drafted him in the 7th round of the 2012 draft (with the pick received for Asante Samuel), where he spent two seasons as a backup before being flipped for a 4th round pick to the Bills (which was traded to Detroit for a 3rd, which was traded to Cleveland in the Carson Wentz deal).
In 2013, Roseman turned to another top 2009 recruit with limited playing time, signing Russell Shepard as an undrafted free agent. Shepard had committed to LSU with the intention of playing QB, but never played the postion beyond a few snaps as a Wildcat QB in his freshman year, transitioning to running back and then wide reciever. He ended his LSU career with more rushing attempts than receptions and just fourteen starts in four years. As a receiver in the NFL, he made an impression in the preseason but was among final cuts and claimed by Tampa Bay and has been on their roster since.
And last season, he traded for Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the top recruits in 2012. As a true freshman, Green-Beckham had an underwhelming season on the field and missed time with a suspension after being arrested for marijuana possession. He had a breakout season in 2013, but after another arrest for marijuana in the 2014 offseason and after shoving a woman down a flight of stairs, he was kicked off the team. He transferred to Oklahoma, forcing him to sit out the 2015 season, and then declared for the draft, never playing for Oklahoma.
There are a few players in the draft that fit the general mold of Brown, Shepard and Green-Beckham of former top recruits who had limited playing time for non-injury reasons.
Derrick Griffin, WR/TE, Texas Southern
Originally a commit to Miami as one of the top WRs in 2013, Griffin transferred after being ruled academically ineligible for the Hurricanes. At Texas Southern he was a two sport star, being the South Western Athletic Conference’s 2016 Player of the Year in basketball. In football, he led the SWAC in touchdown receptions in 2015. In September of 2016, he was kicked off the team being suspended for tardiness, which was his second suspension.
Max Redfield, S, Notre Dame
The 23rd best prospect of 2013 on the ESPN 300, Redfield certainly has the off the field issues down. He entered the season with a chance to emerge as a mid-round safety prospect in the draft, but never got the chance. He was kicked off Notre Dame in October after being arrested for possession of marijuana and a handgun in August. His plea deal on the charges was then scrapped when he failed a drug test in December. Undrafted free agents are the lowest risk transactions, and the Eagles aren’t afraid to add player with character concerns, but given that his issues closely mirror Josh Huff’s, he would seem to be an unlikely option.
Robbie Rhodes, WR Bowling Green
Rhodes appeared in seven games as a true freshman for Baylor after being the 18th ranked recruit on Scout.com and, 21st by 24/7 Sports, both considering him the #2 WR behind Robert Foster of Alabama. After an arrest on marijuana possession and tampering with evidence, which he was never charged for, he transferred to Bowling Green, forcing him to sit out the 2014 season. He played in just four games, mostly as a kick returner, and then in the summer of 2016 was kicked off the team for unspecified violation of team rules.
It’s not an impressive list, but that’s the nature of it. These are once promising players who didn’t get much stability in college. They’re low risk moves that Howie Roseman has made before, and could make again.