The reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles possess one of the toughest rosters to crack for incoming undrafted free agents. With depth at several position groups, the task of making this stacked team is not impossible, but calling it an uphill climb would be generous. With that in mind, I ranked the top contenders based on their chances to see the 53-man roster when it all shakes out.
1. JEREMY REAVES – SAFETY, SOUTH ALABAMA
Jeremy Reaves garnered recruiting interest from SEC teams until a back injury in his senior season set him back, causing that interest to wane as he struggled to walk for a brief period. He received recruiting interest from Arkansas State and Memphis, followed by scholarship offers from Southern Mississippi and UAB before ultimately deciding on South Alabama.
In college played 49 games, started 36, and amassed 301 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 9 forced fumbles, 30 pass break-ups and 8 interceptions. For a small school defensive back, above average ball production is a must, and Reaves checks that box.
The other highlight of his college career, and one that bodes well for his chances in Philadelphia, is his versatility. During his four years at South Alabama he played cornerback, free safety, strong safety, rover, and star (nickel). One of only two juniors named first-team all-Sun Belt Conference on the defensive side of the ball. His resume includes being a senior captain and he is known as a vocal presence in the locker room and on the field.
One of the most impressive safeties at the Senior Bowl, Reaves’ performance improved with each practice and culminated with a bountiful 14 tackles in the game.
Eagles UDFA pick-up.. South Alabama S Jeremy Reaves closes down Baker to Gesicki w/good timing and location.. pic.twitter.com/X6cWO5cfst— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) April 29, 2018
Reaves still needs to shore up the mental aspect of his game, but his versatility, leadership, ball skills, dedication to the gym and film room combined with his aggressiveness as a tackler equal the potential for early special teams snaps and eventual third safety reps. His path to the roster is very clear and his arrival could force out veteran Chris Maragos if the coaching staff is impressed early.
Bonus points for his favorite subject being history and being a Meek Mill fan, that’ll play well in Philadelphia, the Meek Mill part anyway.
2. TOBY WEATHERSBY – OFFENSIVE LINEMAN, LSU
For a team searching for long-term answers and depth at the tackle position, this signing can be a bit misleading. Weathersby, a one year starter at the right tackle position, projects best kicking inside to guard. Weathersby struggles with hitting his set points in pass protection and his hand placement is a work in progress. The former four star recruit could’ve benefitted from another year of seasoning, and he tested below average at the NFL Combine, resulting in him going undrafted.
In the run game, Weathersby can get after it, displaying the leg drive and play strength to move bodies at the point of attack. If he can showcase this ability in camp and avoid injury (history of ankle, knee, shoulder injuries), the lack of depth along the offensive line will play to Weathersby’s advantage.
“Overall a solid player who would fit better at guard than tackle due to his run blocking ability and play strength. Will win with his toughness and finishing ability inside as well as his ability to anchor vs bull rushes. Will struggle if forced to play tackle day one vs speed rushers who can utilize and inside counter and get him to open his hips, lacking the foot quickness and mirror ability to win on an island.” – Patrick Riordan, Inside the Pylon Draft Guide
3. JOE OSTMAN – EDGE, CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Receiving offers from the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, and Tennessee Titans after going undrafted, Joe Ostman bet on himself by selecting to go to the Eagles. With a roster full of capable defensive ends, it will be tough for the Eagles to find room for the uber-productive Chippewa product.
If it wasn’t for the existing depth, Ostman would likely shoot to number one on this list for several reasons. His work ethic has been described as “legendary” by a teammate and his college coach Joe Bonamego has raved about his character both on and off the field, which includes his volunteer work with the Special Olympics.
Oh hello there Joe Ostman!— John Owning (@JohnOwning) February 3, 2018
Nice speed rush with a two-hand swipe to shorten the corner at the top of the arc. pic.twitter.com/pU4GXN1Ksj
Beyond his squeaky clean, football lifer character, Ostman led the FBS in sacks (14) in 2017 and has shown a knack for forcing turnovers (9 career forced fumbles). His production comes from his polish as a pass rusher, boasting a full toolbox of moves that includes excellent hand timing to soften the edge. All of this caught the eye of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who apparently has a plan for Ostman.
“(Schwartz) told me how they want to use me, and I talked to Coach Bonamego, who has a lot of ties to Schwartz and the special teams coordinator in Philly. Coach was behind the decision. The Eagles want to use me a lot with special teams to get my foot in the door my first year and move up to play on the defensive line.” – Joe Ostman
If Ostman is going to make the roster, it’s going to have to come with special teams in mind. His work ethic and motor will jump out at coaches in camp, making him a difficult player to cut.
4. JOSH ADAMS – RUNNING BACK, NOTRE DAME
Despite an ACL tear in high school, Josh Adams received offers from Stanford and Penn State before deciding on Notre Dame. The Irish featured him early and over his three year career Adams churned out 3,198 yards (6.6avg) and 20 touchdowns. Some credit for his production must be given to the Notre Dame offensive line that won the 2017 Joe Moore Award for the best unit in college football, but Adams fared well enough in making his own yards after contact.
A patient, get North back, Adams won’t blow you away with elite burst or elusiveness, but he makes good decisions with the ball in his hands and is experienced with both zone and gap schemes.
“Overall, Adams is a running back you can win with as he’ll be able to use his vision, patience, mental processing and physical, downhill running style with the ability to help in the receiving game as a receiver and a blocker… he’ll need to rely on stiff arms and pad level to break tackles and look to add to his route tree.” – Tom Mead, Inside the Pylon Draft Guide
Adams will have support from the locals, having come from Warrington Township, Pennsylvania and attending Central Bucks South High School. He’ll need all the support he can get as he enters a crowded running back room. The return of Darren Sproles and signing of Matt Jones further muddles this picture and Adams may only make the squad if the Eagles go with five running backs like they did in 2017. However, the Eagles felt confident enough in Adams to sign him with $55k in guarantees, a rather large sum for an undrafted free agent, signifying serious interest in keeping him rostered.
5. DOMINICK SANDERS – SAFETY, GEORGIA
Dominick Sanders started at free safety from day one for the Bulldogs and boasts a career of excellent ball production (39 passes defended, 16 interceptions). Thriving not only in the air but with the ball in his hands, Sanders averaged 23.8 yards on interception returns, setting a school-record with 342 yards which ranks fifth all-time in the SEC. Sanders is yet another team captain, a trend among the top Eagles undrafted free agents, and is known for having the requisite swagger and short memory needed to play in the NFL.
A major question for Sanders is his small frame (5’11”, 193 pounds) holding up at the next level despite setting a non-kicker record at Georgia for non-kicker career starts. It also points to issues as a tackler, and his frame isn’t one that looks to be capable of adding meaningful weight. Still, Sanders has enticing production and played at a high level in the SEC for four years, so the jump to NFL won’t be too much for the confident safety. Considering his play-making ability with the ball in his hands, don’t be surprised if the Eagles try him out as a returner.
WILD CARD: BRUCE HECTOR – DT, USF
With the news of Timmy Jernigan’s busted back and the interest that the Eagles showed in the defensive interior during the pre-draft process, Bruce Hector may just be at the right place at the right time. The 6’2” 299 pound Hector led the Bulls with 7 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in 2017 and brings desirable traits to work with.
Of the 372 players I studied, USF DT Bruce Hector was not on that list... but after watching him this weekend, he deserves to be in my top 300. Guy has real 3T traits. Production and test numbers match up.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) April 16, 2018
Hector was a pivotal player in USF’s turnaround from whipping boy to a team that went 29-9 in the last three years. Despite initially being lost in the shuffle after Willie Taggert’s highly regard recruiting class, Hector earned more playing time and experienced a breakthrough as a redshirt sophomore.
“When I came to USF, I knew I was one of the underrated guys. I didn’t have all the stars and stuff, but all of that goes out the window the first day of summer. All those stars don’t get you wins.” – Bruce Hector
He will have another uphill battle waiting for him in Philadelphia, but perhaps the stars have aligned to provide him with a better chance than first thought.