Taking a look at the two-deep
The Eagles made two key free agent signings this past week—that’s right, I said it. Key.
Okay, so not really. LB Paul Worrilow (from Lions) and TE Richard Rodgers (from Packers) both will have a great impact on special teams—on any team they’re on, not just Philly—than they will on the starting line-ups.
But these signings are important because they both round out some remaining holes on the depth chart for Philadelphia—and Philadelphia didn’t have that many holes to begin with.
If we take a look at the two-deep for the Eagles, even before the Draft, we see a team that’s well-suited to have a productive, competitive training camp and a well-rounded 53-man roster following the Super Bowl talent bleed:
Quarterback — Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
One of the best rooms in the game, with a Super Bowl winning QB, Carson Wentz, and Nate Sudfeld. No worries here.
Running Back — Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood
Philly’s appropriately light and late on the running back position. It isn’t difficult to pick up impact players late in free agency (signed in mid-May 2017). It isn’t difficult to find impact players on Day 3 or later (See: Corey Clement). Projecting Donnel Pumphrey is the big question mark here, and bringing in a big body to replace Blount is Day 3 possibility/luxury.
Wide Receiver — Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Mike Wallace, Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, Rashard Davis, Dom Williams, Marquess Wilson
Jeffery is a Top-10 X-receiver in the NFL; Agholor, a Top-12 slot guy. Does Mack Hollins + Mike Wallace = enough production at the Z? I think so, but it’d be nice to see Hollins earn the majority of those snaps by the end of the season. Depth is a decent need here, but again—not one that need be addressed any earlier than Day 3. Low-key, Jeffery played in every game for Philadelphia, but that shoulder worries me, and targeting a jump-ball specialist late would make me feel a bit better.
Tight End — Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers, Billy Brown, Adam Zaruba, Joshua Perkins
Cross off Richard Rodgers and things look a lot uglier. Brown, Perkins, and Zaruba combined have 4 years of experience, and while Philadelphia certainly hopes that Brown/Zaruba have developed enough in their young careers to warrant a roster slot, bringing in Richard Rodgers as a safety net for the TE depth chart was key. Philly will likely be drafting another TE on Day 2/3, and among that rookie, Brown, and Zaruba, they’d like to round out TE2 and 3. If things don’t go to plan, Rodgers keeps the ship afloat.
Offensive Tackle — Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Taylor Hart
This is the biggest hole left. By this time next year, Jason Peters’ name is almost undoubtedly gone, and accordingly, both the starter (Big V) and the depth (how is Taylor Hart still here?) aren’t great. Philadelphia should and likely will look to add an eventual starter at OT in the upcoming Draft.
Interior Offensive Line — Jason Kelce, Stefen Wisniewski, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Chance Warmack, Jon Toth, Darrell Greene
Starters are studly. Depth is promising (I liked Jon Toth coming out). Bringing on an eventual replacement for a player as unique and impactful as Jason Kelce makes sense, but that’s not an immediate need.
Interior Defensive Line — Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Haloti Ngata, Elijah Qualls, Destiny Vaeao, Winston Craig, Aziz Shittu
Sheesh. Filthy good. Keep an eye on Elijah Qualls working his way onto the 46-man active roster—he’s got some promise.
Defensive End — Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, Steven Means
Sheesh. Goodness. I can’t even—listen. Steven Means is good. He’s buried on the depth chart, he may not even be active on game day, and he’d be EDGE3 for some teams. Worth noting that, as of right now, the only player Philly is locked in on is Derek Barnett. But we’ll talk about that more later.
Linebacker — Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, Corey Nelson, Nate Gerry
Depth is solid. Like the DEs, the Eagles are only long-term invested in Bradham. Would be great if one of those bottom five can solidify themselves as, at least, solid depth; would be even better if Jordan Hicks could put together a full season.
Cornerback — Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Daryl Worley, D.J. Killings, Randall Goforth, Elie Bouka, De’Vante Bausby
It’ll be interesting to see what Philly does with Darby, but Philly should be able to get at least two solid starters out of Jones, Mills, and Douglas. A move to safety could be in the cards for Mills, Douglas, or even Worley as Philadelphia riddles out their young, versatile secondary.
I’m gonna shoot it straight: I know absolutely nothing about anyone listed after Worley
Safety — Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Tre Sullivan
Not great! Philadelphia liked to rock three-safety sets in their dime packages, which makes sense: Jenkins is so good near the line. And even though Sullivan had a solid preseason last year, we can’t comfortably say there’s any developmental talent here. Philly needs to address this position in the Draft—maybe early.
The case for taking an EDGE early
The Eagles will compete for the NFC crown and Super Bowl for the foreseeable future.
Let that sink in—if it hasn’t yet.
This is great news, but it’s still important to look forward at the potential speed bumps that could derail this train. Of course, injury is always a worry—but it’s tough to prepare for that without simply acquiring depth across the board. Brain drain among the coaching staff deserves a moment’s mention as well.
But when we consider contract extensions/expirations, and the constant shuffling of talent in the NFL, there are two notable concerns before the impending Carson Wentz extension: that’s the retiring/cutting of OT Jason Peters, and the contract year of Brandon Graham.
Peters is almost 100% out of the building after the 2018 season—if he doesn’t retire, his contract is super heavy with a minimal hit should he be released. Given the age and the injuries, it’s time to move on from Peters.
Graham is a more interesting conversation. It’s been made very clear by Graham that he expects elite EDGE money (>$15M/year) when he hits the open market, but he just turned 30 and has never broken double-digit sacks in his career. I acknowledge how frequently he pressures, and what that does to a passer; I recognize how well he plays the run; I want Brandon Graham to retire an Eagle and never go anywhere else.
But I do not want to pay him $15M per year. I can’t afford to.
As such, I’m not at all adverse to the idea of going EDGE early in this draft—not necessarily in the first round, but snagging a developmental starter should be a priority move. All of a sudden, at a premiere position that demands some of the richest contracts in the, the Eagles have two rookie starters (Derek Barnett) until 2022, and the Carson Wentz extension seems a little less onerous.
If Philadelphia wants to find the developmental guy on Day 3 and really take a gamble, I like Ade Aruna from Tulane or Tyquan Lewis from Ohio State—maybe even Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay, who I scouted last week, if he falls that far.
If Philadelphia wants a Day 2 player with instant contribution ability and some starter upside, go for UTSA’s Marcus Davenport, Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter, or Florida State’s Josh Sweat.
If Philadelphia wants to take the swing at 32? There are two names I’d circle. Sam Hubbard from Ohio State, and Duke Ejiofor from Wake Forest.
Hey look! It’s Duke. You can scroll down to read his full scouting report below.
After handling one speed bump, I took on the other. Will Richardson is a great late Day 2/early Day 3 target for teams in need of an offensive tackle down the road. Richardson’s tape is chock-ful-o’ flashes: great flexibility and body control, fleet footwork, a powerful strike. Questions about maximizing his physical tools (technique) and recognizing how rushers are attacking him (mental) cause his stock to tumble. Had he gone back to school and grown as a player (not a 100% bet, of course), I think we’d talk about him as a top tackle in 2019.
Rashaan Gaulden is a really fun pick for a Philadelphia team looking to shore up the nickel position and potentially find a SAF3/Malcolm Jenkins replacement (turns 31 this season). He should enter camp as the favorite to win the nickel job, but also has the size and strength to play a more box-safety role, and take on some tight ends.
If defenses hated trying to tackle LeGarrette Blount in the fourth quarter—they did—Bo Scarbrough ain’t gonna make things much easier. His injury concerns will be helped by limited touches for Philadelphia, but he should become the primary power back to Ajayi’s predominately zone running. He should also break some people, too.
The West Virginia-Philadelphia pipeline has ran strong for a couple of years now, and after snagging a Mountaineer WR in Round 6 last year in Shelton Gibson, they go back to the well with Ka’Raun White. White is underdeveloped, but with Marcus Johnson off the roster there’s room for that player on the roster. Ka’Raun gives you special teams ability with an excellent catch radius and great tracking skills.
Brought things home with Kenny Young, who is a great athlete at the LB position with exciting range and coverage potential, but very poor recognition abilities at this juncture.
Duke Ejiofor Scouting Report
Duke Ejiofor is the most polished rusher in this Draft class, and may be the most pro-ready (NC State’s Bradley Chubb still a stud). Unfortunately, we didn’t get testing numbers from Ejiofor, as labrum surgery prevented him from participating in the Combine or Pro Day circuit. I imagine he’d be getting far more chatter had he tested.
Not that Ejiofor’s a great athlete. He’s got decent bend, but it’s not great; good agility, but it’s not excellent. But when you don’t test, people don’t talk about you, no matter how much they should.
Because Ejiofor’s tape is studly. He has excellent get-off when lined up as a 7-tech, and usually tilted to get a better angle on the ball and anticipate the snap. He excels at generating a two-way go with his initial footwork and body positioning, and can both read the OT to pick the best track, or set him up to open up his desired rush lane.
Duke Ejiofor. Nasty spin move. pic.twitter.com/CazuWlC5v1— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) March 13, 2018
That bang the drum, step hard one way, spin back the other way? That’s the go-to for Ejiofor. It’s very rare to find a college player who can successfully hit both an inside and an outside spin—a ton of ‘em will throw an outside spin, but they can’t land it. Not Ejiofor. He has such a keen understanding of angles, and great economy of motion, to pull it off.
This following clip is from a thread of Ejiofor’s top plays that has been put together by Ejiofor himself. What a guy.
March 27, 2018
Now, Ejiofor plays at around 6’3, 270 lbs. Michael Bennett: 6’4, 275. At that size, they both provide an excellent inside rush presence, and have incredible stoutness against the run. Ejiofor has awesome length as well, which allows him to stack and shuck when reading the backfield. That hand usage shows up in his pass rushes as well, as he excels at softening edges and clearing his opponent’s chest.
We’ve got a rusher here who knows how to create his own rush angles, has a plethora of moves and counters, and can play against the run from the inside and outside. He’s a Day 1 starter on any team.
Of course, Philadelphia can go the developmental route—they have the time and depth. But if Ejiofor drops to 32, he’ll be an excellent value pick for any team, and Philadelphia could potentially still snag him with a trade-back to boot.
Are there any players you would consider trading up for if they unexpectedly dropped?— Tim Wescott (@timwescott) April 3, 2018
BC EDGE Harold Landry’s got an ankle issue; Michigan DT Maurice Hurst has a heart murmur that may turn some teams off. Both are Top-12 players on my board, both deserve to go Top-12, and if either starts to slide into the 20s, I’m interested. Don’t even care if Hurst is redundant. He’s incredible.
But the big fish is Connor Williams, OT out of Texas. He’s got franchise-LT potential, had a knee injury this season, and will turn off teams who (over)value length in their offensive tackles. He comes in and immediately provides depth at all five spots, but projects as the starting LT of 2019 after Jason Peters retires. He’s a dream target.
I haven't heard you talk about Alex Cappa and I thought he was getting a ton of buzz during the Senior Bowl. What do you think about him?— THANOS (@JosuCantu) April 3, 2018
I’m a big Alex Cappa dude, and have been since before the Senior Bowl. He’s a top Day-2 target for Philadelphia, should they forgo OT early or trade back into the second.
Cappa has the key points I look for in offensive tackles. He’s got quick feet to reach his set points; flexibility through the waist and knees to work from disadvantageous ankles and control his weight when mirroring; hands that arrive with force and grip well. There’s work to be done in regards to technique: getting the width of his foot down to anchor; punching on time.
But if you can iron out the technical issues—and there’s reason to believe you can, as he’s shown improvements in his limited time with NFL-caliber coaching in this pre-Draft process—you’ve got yourself a starter. Good deal on Day 2 for a key position in Philly’s future.
Can Trayvon Henderson play single high? How well?— Korbin Springer (@KJSpringer23) April 3, 2018
Yes. Decently. I don’t think he’ll better than McLeod is now.
Based on their recent history, who do you think are some prospects the Eagles might like that you think wouldn't be good scheme fits #DraftBag— Lonis (@sxric) April 3, 2018
Fun question! I think we can start in West Virginia, because Philadelphia has consistently acquired talent from that school. I could see them going RB Justin Crawford on Day 3, hoping that he pans out in the way Wendell Smallwood never would. I don’t know how safe of a bet that is.
Given the elite athletes they’ve enjoyed on the offensive line—and at the tackle position specifically—I could see them becoming enamored with UCLA’s Kolton Miller and Pitt’s Brian O’Neill. Miller has developmental upside and I think there’s something there, but he’s a mid-late Day 2 investment—a reach at 32. O’Neill? More so Round 4/5.
Blocking tight ends are becoming less valuable by the day, and I don’t want Philly to draft a Brent Celek-replacement for the nostalgia of it. That’s a bad scheme fit for anyone.
And finally, because of the attacking style Philadelphia plays on the defensive line, their linebackers need to recognize quickly and—this is key, too—be willing to play downhill and take on blockers with physicality. Early in the draft, Alabama’s Rashaan Evans is that guy; Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch isn’t. Later, Texas’ Malik Jefferson and South Carolina’s Skai Moore are fun run-and-chase guys but may lack the requisite physical nature, while Indiana’s Tegray Scales and Memphis’ Genard Avery have more the play style I’m thinkin’.