The Philadelphia Eagles acquired a total of eight new players from the 2017 NFL Draft. The team also signed 10 undrafted rookie free agents. Now let's take a look at what the team's 2017 projected depth chart looks like with respect to these draft additions. We examined the offense and the defense so far. Today we'll honor Dave Fipp and finish up by looking at the special teams unit. (Before we get started, look at how the roster looks compared to last year at this time.)
1 - Caleb Sturgis
Sturgis is running unopposed in training camp this year after easily beating out Cody Parkey last offseason. Sturgis had a good 2016 season. The 27-year-old made a career-high 85.4% of his field goal attempts (35/41) and only missed one extra point attempt. Two of Sturgis’ missed field goals came from 50+ yards out.
Sturgis is currently set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2017 season. He’ll need another good year to stick around.
1 - Donnie Jones
2 - Cameron Johnston
Donald Scott Jones Jr. averaged 45.8 yards per punt in 2016. That’s good for the sixth best season of his 13-year career. The Eagles rewarded Jones, who turns 37 in July, with an in-season contract extension last season. Cutting him would only save $500K compared to $875K in dead money. Johnston probably won’t be much more than a guy who gives Jones’ leg a break at times this summer.
1 - Jon Dorenbos
2 - Rick Lovato
In case you forgot, the Eagles had to sign a new long snapper after Dorenbos got hurt late last year. The 24-year-old Lovato is still on the roster despite the fact Dorenbos is healthy now. The Eagles will give him a longer look but Dorenbos, who turns 37 in July, will likely win out. Like Jones, Dorebos received an in-season contract extension last year.
1 - Wendell Smallwood
2 - Nelson Agholor
3 - Shelton Gibson
4 - Byron Marshall
This unit quietly took a big hit compared to last year’s version. Josh Huff returned seven kicks for 252 yards and one touchdown last season. His 36.0 average return yardage led the NFL. Kenjon Barner did a nice job replacing Huff. He finished with nine returns for 277 yards, a 30.8 average. The Eagles now have neither player.
Smallwood also did a decent job on returns. His longest play was an 86-yard return for a touchdown against Washington. He finished with 261 yards on nine attempts, a 29.0 average. He could be the favorite to take over this role in 2017 especially considering he might not be a major factor on offense. Agholor (five returns for 92 yards) and Marshall (two returns for 36 yards) didn’t show much ability despite getting a few opportunities.
Will the Eagles look to use Donnel Pumphrey as a returner? He only had five returns for 69 yards at San Diego State, and four of those returns happened when he was a freshman in 2013.
The Eagles could give rookie speedster Shelton Gibson some looks. He returned 53 kicks in college for 1,244 yards (23.5 average) and one touchdown.
1 - Darren Sproles
2 - Donnel Pumphrey
Sproles is still a really good punt returner. His 13.2 average was good for third best in the NFL last season. His numbers should be even better than they appear because he had a punt return for a touchdown called back due to an inconsequential penalty. Pumphrey didn’t handle a single punt return in college but I imagine that was due in part to his large offensive role. Pumphrey was returning punts during Eagles rookie minicamp; I imagine the team will give him a look there.
Key names include Trey Burton, Chris Maragos, Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Mack Hollins. This is an area where late round picks, UDFAs, and veteran backups will need to shine in order to earn a roster spot.
1 - Donnie Jones
2 - Rick Lovato
Jones has never had any holding issues.