The 2017 NFL Draft is four weeks away. But before we get to that, let’s take a look back to last year’s rookie class. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper regraded his original grades for the 2016 NFL Draft now that we’ve had one season to see how the picks have played out so far.
“Philly fans weren't happy with the grade at the time, and probably won't be in love with the new one, but I'll explain. As I wrote then, "It's hard to give the Eagles an above-average grade just based on the draft value they gave away to get up to No. 2, where they are drafting a player I really like in Carson Wentz." Again, I liked Wentz and still had to factor in the picks they traded away. It was a steep price. If I could factor the Sam Bradford trade into this, then they'd get a bump because they recouped a first-rounder. Good on them. Now, if you think I'm still crazy because you're convinced Wentz is a franchise quarterback, I'd just say I really think he could be, but we don't know just yet. He really struggled down the stretch, finishing at 26th in QBR, and needs to take a step forward this season if the Eagles are going to contend in the NFC East. Can he? Sure. Especially with some added help at wide receiver.
Elsewhere, there isn't much to speak of just yet. Wendell Smallwood saw some action, as did Jalen Mills, and Isaac Seumalo picked up four starts. Ultimately, it's all about Wentz. If he becomes the franchise QB, it's a great draft.”
Before we get to my analysis, here’s a reminder of all the Eagles’ picks from last year.
1st (2) - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State - [READ MORE]
3rd (79) - Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State - [READ MORE]
5th (153) - Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia - [READ MORE]
5th (164) - Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OL, TCU - [READ MORE]
6th (196) - Blake Countess, DB, Auburn - [READ MORE]
7th (233) - Jalen Mills, S, LSU - [READ MORE]
7th (240) - Alex McCalister, DE, Florida - [READ MORE]
7th (251) - Joe Walker, LB, Oregon - [READ MORE]
Overall, I think Kiper’s assessment is pretty fair. Last year’s draft will really be defined by Wentz. He showed promise as a rookie, yes, but he has a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully we start to see him take another step forward in Year 2 now that he has some actual NFL wide receivers to work with.
As for the non-Wentz picks, Seumalo showed starting potential. He could be the answer at left guard or center this year, depending on how the offensive line situation shakes out. Smallwood had some nice moments but doesn’t appear to be much more than a rotational back at this time. Vaitai settled in after a rough start. He might project as a nice swing tackle to have off the bench. Countess didn’t make the roster; he’s with the Rams now. Mills played a lot as a rookie. The coaching staff (read: Jim Schwartz) likes him and he figures to have a significant role again this year. McCalister and Walker spent their entire rookie seasons on injured reserve. Walker was looking like a good backup MIKE linebacker and special teamer before he tore his ACL. McCalister needs to gain weight and show a lot more than he did last summer.
In addition to the draft picks, I also like to note undrafted rookie free agents. Destiny Vaeao made the original 53-man roster. Paul Turner had a nice summer last year and ended up on the practice squad before getting called up to the main roster. Dillon Gordon and Darrell Greene are development offensive linemen worth keeping an eye on. Byron Marshall showed some shiftiness at running back. Bryce Treggs and Kamu Grugier-Hill were UDFAs picked up after final cuts. And so on.
My original feeling for the Eagles’ 2016 draft was a “B-” grade. I feel comfortable with keeping that for now. 55% of Bleeding Green Nation voters also gave the Eagles a “B” grade. Now’s your chance to change your mind if you want to. How would you grade the Eagles’ 2016 draft today? Vote in the poll below.
How would you re-grade the Eagles 2016 draft class?
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