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Eagles 2017 UDFA rookies group rated as one of best in the league

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Encouraging.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been quite some time since the Eagles have discovered a gem in undrafted free agency. Take a look at Philadelphia’s current roster and you won’t see any key former UDFA players who were originally signed by the Eagles. Jason Peters — a future Hall of Famer — went undrafted in 2004 but he was with the Bills before the Eagles traded a first round pick for him.

With Joe Douglas on board, the hope is the Eagles’ personnel department can improve their talent assessment capabilities. And maybe some improvement is already on display. According to one writer, Philadelphia has one of the best undrafted free agency groups in the league this year. Via Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report:

The Philadelphia Eagles went the quality-over-quantity route with their undrafted free agents in 2017.

As a matter of fact, their grade here is based on just a couple of players.

When the draft wound down, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports banged out a list of the top undrafted players. West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky led the group.

"Orlosky competes with physical hands and the tenacious mentality to tie up defenders at the line of scrimmage," Brugler said. "If he can improve his sink and mirror skills in space, Orlosky has the brute power and protection awareness to win a starting role and make all the line calls in the NFL."

Orlosky told Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com that a handful of teams reached out to him, but he eventually settled on Philly as a new home.

"They went out of their way to reach out to me and show interest in me," he said. "They showed interest that I could possibly make this team, and that is my main goal, is making the team."

That Orlosky went undrafted was one of the biggest surprises of this year's draft. Given the swirling uncertainty at center for the Eagles, he may well have more than just a chance to make the big club.

Just as with Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston (an Aussie assassin at flipping the field), he may actually have a chance to start.

As noted by our friends enemies over at Blogging The Boys, the Eagles are one of only four teams to earn an “A-” grade for their UDFA class. Only two teams earned a higher grade with an “A” rating.

The Eagles officially signed 11 undrafted rookie free agents following the 2017 NFL Draft this year. Here’s the complete list. The first number if their overall prospect ranking and the second number is their positional ranking as determined by CBS Sports.

C Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, 95th, 3rd
RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin, 196th, 18th
DT Charles Walker, Oklahoma, 225th, 22nd
QB Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech, 232nd, 12th
TE Billy Brown, Shepherd, 292nd, 18th
DL Winston Craig, Richmond, 324th, 29th
P Cameron Johnston, Ohio State, 376th, 4th
CB Randall Goforth, UCLA, 402nd, 20th
QB/WR Greg Ward, Houston, 633rd, 72nd
CB Jomal Wiltz, Iowa State, unranked
S Tre’ Sullivan, Shepherd, unranked

(Unfortunately, Walker and Evans suffered injuries and got waived/injured. But there’s a chance they could return to the Eagles later this summer, so I’ll still include them as part of the class for now.)

As noted by B/R, Orlosky is the highlight of the Eagles’ class. CBS Sports projected him to be a third round pick. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper had Orlosky rated as his third best center in this year’s class. Several other national outlets also had him third as well.

It’s curious that Orlosky chose to sign with the Eagles given their crowded offensive line situation. The Eagles have three players who could reasonably start at center: the incumbent Jason Kelce, 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo, and the re-signed Stefen Wisniewski. If the Eagles traded Kelce, which isn’t out of the question, Orlosky could reasonably catch on as a backup. But if not, is there really even room for him on Philadelphia’s roster?

Orlosky wasn’t the only notable Eagles signing. There was an expectation Clement would be drafted later on Day 3. CBS Sports had him going in the 5th or 6th round while NFL.com had him going in the 6th or 7th. It looked like Clement had a decent chance to make Philadelphia’s roster prior to the Eagles’ signing of LeGarrette Blount. Now he’s probably practice squad material.

If Walker comes back, as he suggested was possible on his Twitter account, the Eagles will have a player who Kiper once said had first round talent. Walker also has number of red flags, which is why he went undrafted, but he’ll be someone worth keeping an eye on.

As for Evans, many thought he needed another year at Virginia Tech. Maybe the Eagles can find a way to stash him as a developmental quarterback who can be a backup in the future.

Brown rounds out the Eagles’ fifth signing in the top 300 prospects. Last year, the Eagles only had two players in the top 300: Darrell Greene and Connor Wujciak. Greene, the team’s top signing, ranked No. 211 overall.

Despite the high rankings, I’m not sure if any of these players will actually make Philadelphia’s final roster. Orlosky might have the best chance depending on what happens with Kelce. It’s possible Johnston could beat out Donnie Jones but I doubt it. There’s opportunity for one of Goforth or Wiltz to step up and earn a spot since the Eagles are thin at corner, but they’re long-shots for now.

But just because these UDFA players might not stick on the roster this year doesn’t mean they’re worthless in the long-term. Some of these guys will be developmental players who spend the 2017 season on the practice squad. Then they’ll be able to come back next offseason and push for a spot in 2018.