The 2017 NFL Draft is finally over after three exciting days that culminated another whirlwind of an offseason. The Eagles made eight picks this year in a deep class and improved the team tremendously. Here are some quick thoughts on the draft class.
- The Sidney Jones pick shows a want to win long term from this front office. Some folks may be frustrated with the concept of waiting on Jones to play it safe with his Achilles injury. It could be a whole year before Jones is comfortable playing again. However, this staff correctly identified the fact that this team is not competing for a Super Bowl in 2017 and wanted to build beyond that. There is nothing to suggest that the Eagles need Jones right now because it is not like the team is on the cusp of something. Jones is a pick for the future and it was a high upside pick by the staff. Teams do not win Super Bowls by playing it safe. They do it by taking chances and if Jones pays off, he will change this defense for the much better.
- I like the makeover the defense is getting. Derek Barnett is physical, intelligent defensive lineman who wins with savvy and grit. Rasul Douglas is a ball hawking corner with awesome size, Sidney Jones is a tremendous technician at the cornerback position. Nate Gerry is a smart, physical and hard hitting defender who should make a comfortable transition to linebacker. Elijah Qualls is a massive, physical run defender. The Eagles emphasized not only defense, but physical and smart defenders who can change the tone of the unit.
- The team got three starters with their first three picks. While the team will have to wait on Jones, the Eagles should get Rasul Douglas and Derek Barnett on the field as soon as possible. Douglas can play outside cornerback in nickel situations to start the season and let Patrick Robinson kick inside and slowly move into a full time role. Derek Barnett will immediately be featured heavily in the team’s defensive line rotation. Eagles did well, drafting three players in my top 80, including two first round graded players. The team will feel the affect of accruing such talent sooner than later.
- Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson reveal the plan for the passing game. Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Matthews are only under contract for the next season while Torrey Smith is not a sure thing either so the Eagles needed to invest in depth/security for the passing game. Hollins and Gibson are both athletic players with career YPCs over 20. After a year almost completely bereft of big plays in the passing game, there is an effort to invest in these home run hitters. Carson Wentz is a strong-armed quarterback who goes down the field without fear. The Eagles want to maximize his skill set with athletic deep threats who can slowly grow into bigger and bigger roles.
- It is frustrating that the team came out of the draft without properly addressing the running back problem. The Eagles did a good job supplementing the passing game woes from last year, but failed to get this team a workhorse running back. The Eagles cannot depend on Ryan Mathews health and Byron Marshall, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood are all complementary guys. The addition of Donnel Pumphrey is exciting in itself because Pumphrey can be a solid role player on this team, but it fails to address the need for a lead back. Pumphrey is not even 180 pounds, so the chances of him seeing more than 15 touches in a game are slim. At the end of the draft, the team still only has a handful of change up backs and no dependable lead back that can consistently keep a defense honest and take pressure off the passing game.
- I trust Joe Douglas in building this team. While I did not agree with how the team handled the third day of the draft, I understand their reasoning for doing what they did, for the most part. Most importantly, the Eagles seemingly nailed the first two days of the draft and this defense, and more importantly team, got better. Douglas’ fingerprints are obvious because you see a different brand of football player coming in. Not to be cliché, but the emphasis on “football guys” looks like it will pay off.