The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Avonte Maddox with the No. 125 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about the new Eagles cornerback, I reached out to SB Nation’s Pitt blog: Cardiac Hill. Panthers writer Anson Whaley was kind enough to answer my questions about Maddox.
1) Can you sum up what his college career was like?
Maddox’s career was a little up and down but I’d say that it was mostly positive. I remember seeing him at a practice in fall camp early in his career and coming away really impressed thinking he could one day play in the NFL if everything broke right and he continued to improve. He wasn’t the most highly-touted guy out of high school but had a reputation for being an incredible athlete and was a great two-way player. He was an ideal Paul Chryst recruit in that he was from the midwest and didn’t necessarily have a major offer sheet but was sort of a hidden gem. He was virtually a four-year starter, only serving as a backup for half of his freshman year. There was a lot of excitement about him early on, a little less later, and by the time he left, most fans realized he was a pretty valuable player.
His career was a little murky from the vantage point of a lot of fans. I know I’ve criticized him in the past at times. Maddox was often a punching bag as Pitt had one of the worst pass defenses the past couple of seasons. Pinning all of that on him, though, wasn’t really fair as Pitt had plenty of culprits in the secondary. And as coaches were often in a hurry to point out, he was their best cover guy. Even as a true freshman, he was touted as possibly the team’s best cover guy by the secondary coach. Maddox didn’t start right away but contributed and was starting later in the season.
2) What are his strengths?
Maddox has great speed and that was on display at the Combine where he had a 4.39 40-yard-dash time and had the top 60-yard shuttle time. I also like his toughness. He was tested quite a bit and instead of falling apart, he’d often come back and make a crucial play. He had his ups and downs but, given how many balls were thrown his way, there’s a lot to be said for how he fought back to make plays. It’s telling that, for as much fan criticism was out there about him, coaches didn’t turn to other options as they believed he was always generally one of the two top guys they had. Finally, he’s a versatile guy as well. I could see him being used as a player on offense on gadget plays (Pitt used him a few times there) and he also can be a return man on special teams. He fulfilled that role earlier in his career before giving it up later. He broke a kickoff for a touchdown as a sophomore and probably came close a couple of other times.
3) What are his weaknesses?
The thing that concerns me the most is just his size. At 5’9”, he was routinely tested by teams with taller wideouts and that’s out of his control obviously. One misconception that I think is out there as a weakness of his was that he played too far off of receivers. I saw that on NFL.com’s report of him. I don’t know if that was his choosing as much as it was the coaches instructing him to do that. Pitt’s corners have routinely done that and I don’t know that I’d really pin that on him. His technique was also praised at the Combine if I recall but I know he has work to do there as others have cited as much.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
I was a little surprised as I figured he’d be taken lower. I did ultimately think he could get selected, I just felt it would be a later pick. There wasn’t as much talk around him as there was safety Jordan Whitehead, who left a year early. Seeing him go in Round 4 was definitely higher than where I expected. I guess I’m not completely floored by it because, as I said, the coaches were really high on him. But I suppose hearing so much from fans about his lowlights got me thinking he’d be lower than that. But his stock seemed to have risen after the Senior Bowl and that, along with the Combine testing, helped his cause. Minus those performances, I’m not sure he would have been taken that high.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
I’m terrible at projecting this sort of stuff. It’s just too hard to say. I’ve seen plenty of Pitt guys that were standouts in college and had very brief NFL careers. And I’ve seen others make it to the NFL that you never would have given much of a shot. Aaron Berry, another maligned Pitt defensive back several years ago, is a good example of that. He was criticized a lot more than Maddox, went undrafted, and really didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. But while he didn’t have a great career, he played a few years in the league, even starting some games, which was far more than most would have predicted. Any kind of projection at this point is just too hard to make. I could legitimately see him sticking around or falling out of the league pretty quickly as his size could really hurt him.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the anti-Cowboys tweet by now so that is probably something Eagles fans will love. But the best thing, I suppose, is that I don’t recall him getting into any sort of trouble. By all indications, he has a great personality and was one of the team’s two Pitt representatives at ACC Media Days last year, solidifying his role as a team leader. He was also a communications major and did a faux interview with the other player attending, offensive lineman Brian O’Neill. Seems like he wants to do something like that along those lines once his career is over.