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NFL Draft 2017: Mid-to-late round defensive ends that could interest the Eagles

Will we be talking about Willis?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles should have an opening at defensive end for the 2017 season. With free agency offering few good options, the best place to look is the draft. Earlier we looked at top prospects, but if the Eagles don’t go for one very early in the draft, they might be interested in one in a later round. With Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry both 28 and Marcus Smith entering the last year of his contract and with no future on the team guaranteed, adding a pass rusher at some point in April is a need.

Today we’ll take a look at some mid to late round picks that either might interest the Eagles or might draw some attention as people try to find the next late round gem. Like any position in the draft, the further down you go, the less of a chance you have to find a good player. But with pass rusher being one of the most coveted needs in the draft, those chances get even slimmer. But there’s also always early round busts and late round steals. Maybe one of these guys can be the latter.

Tarell Basham, Ohio

The 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year was a productive player in every season of his college career. He could find a role right away in the NFL as he can rush the passer, is an active run defender and he can probably play 4-3 DE or 3-4 LB.

Kieonta Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga

There’s a few FCS edge rushers in this draft. Davis showed well against FBS teams throughout his career and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl and didn’t look out of place. As a day three pick he could solidify himself with a solid Combine.

Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M

Immediate appeal to the Eagles having played some Wide-9 in college, and he a good week at the Senior Bowl. That helps because despite playing opposite Myles Garrett, he had just 10.5 sacks the past two seasons. Beefed up in his senior year, so he’s either still developing or he’s playing above his weight, quite literally.

Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic

Showed well at the Shrine Game, which should help him solidify a back of the draft selection. He was a big playmaker in 2016, with 23 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 6 sacks the past two seasons, and four blocks on special teams. He should find an immediate role as 4th/5th DE who sees regular field goal/PAT special teams playing time.

Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova

Enormous athlete at 6’7” 280 pounds and with great speed for his size. As both a small school player and one who is still developing, you get a quintessential project player. Seems a good bet to go earlier than you might expect given his physical potential and a solid showing at the Senior Bowl, where the Eagles spent some time with him.

Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas

A JuCo transfer in 2015, Ledbetter hit the ground running in the SEC with 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks, which were 3rd and 2nd on the Razorbacks. In 2016 he led the team with 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He’s got the size to move to inside if needed, which coupled with improvement during his career could interest some teams in later rounds.

Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

McKinley will be considered by some to be a DE, but he’s probably a 3-4 LB. Keep an eye on him at the Combine, he should have a very, very good day.

Avery Moss, Youngstown State

After a productive year in 2013 for Nebraska, he transferred following a year long suspension for public indecency. He finally got a chance to start in 2016, and had a very strong year with 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss under Bo Pelini. He’s a project player that might make some impact as a rookie in a rotation, or might be a 3-4 LB in the NFL, along with his pass rushing partner in crime Derek Rivers, who is considered a lesser prospect.

Dawuane Smoot, Illinois

Smoot had a down year in 2016 and exited the Senior Bowl not helping himself by having an uneventful week. He could go in the 2nd round or on the third day.

DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

Extremely productive player his last two seasons with 25 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss, and second in the FBS in 2016 with 16. And he’s got physical tools that some people will love. He’s a guy to watch to see how different people can see different things in the same player. You’ll see people praise his motor and others question it, you’ll see him listed as a good run defender and as a weak one. Your Mileage May Will Vary.

Jordan Willis, Kansas State

Followed up a strong junior year with an even better senior year and is one of the more productive players on this list with 31.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in his last two seasons. At the Senior Bowl he was the South’s Most Outstanding Player, and is one of the players we know the Eagles met with. Keep an eye on him.

Deatrich Wise, Arkansas

Another prospect with a big junior year and disappointing senior year, but he played through a broken hand suffered in the first game of the season. Huge wingspan will interest teams, and if teams feel his hand really hampered him, he could go earlier than his senior season warranted.

Chris Wormley, Michigan

The other side of the Wolverines pass rush with Taco Charlton, Wormley was a steady producer but lacked big production. His role in the NFL is probably a rotational DE who can play on the inside on passing downs given that he’s built more like a DT than a DE at 6’5” 297 pounds.

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