As we wait for Eagles training camp to begin later this month, let’s look ahead to the 2018 season and discuss what kind of impact Philadelphia’s rookies will have this year. This is an unusual situation in that the Birds only made five picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.
TE DALLAS GOEDERT
It’s easy to get excited about Philly Goedert. He’s a 6-4, 256 pound athletic freak who can make some pretty incredible catches. The Eagles’ second round pick flashed during spring practices. It looks like he has the potential to contribute as a rookie.
It’s just a question of to what extent. History shows us that tight ends can be slow developers in the NFL. And even if there isn’t a big adjustment period for Goedert, who played at the NCAA Division I FCS level in college, he still has Zach Ertz ahead of him. Five-year NFL veteran Richard Rodgers also received several first team looks in the spring so he’s in the mix for some playing time as well.
Last year, Ertz played about 69% of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps despite missing 2.75 games. Brent Celek and Trey Burton, who are both no longer on the roster, played 41% and 26.5%, respectively.
There’s certainly a role for Goedert in this Eagles offense. I just don’t think he’s bound to get a ton of playing time as a rookie.
Goedert will end up being the Eagles’ second tight end in 2018. While he won’t get a bulk of the snaps (barring injury), he’ll be an important contributor in high leverage situations such as third down and the red zone.
Goedert was nearly impossible to guard in the end zone during spring practices. We’ll have to see how he does when the pads go on but he’s off to a promising start so far.
Two months ago, BGN’s Michael Kist came up with own Goedert stat prediction alongside one from ESPN’s Mike Clay.
Clay: Goedert Projection: 28 targets, 18 receptions, 198 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Kist: Goedert Projection: 42 targets, 30 receptions, 350 yards, 5 touchdowns.
I’m going to split the difference a little here and say 36 targets for 26 receptions, 290 yards, 4 touchdowns.
CB AVONTE MADDOX
The Eagles were showing a lot of interest in slot corner types leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. They got the guy that fit that profile with their first selection in the fourth round.
Is Maddox ready to be the Eagles’ slot corner, though? Here’s what I wrote about him based on my observations from spring practices:
Avonte Maddox - Has flashed potential but doesn’t seem mentally ready to play the slot in a full-time capacity.
It’s important to remember that, while Maddox projects to be a nickel corner in the NFL, he doesn’t have a ton of recent experience at the position. PFF points out that he only played 40 defensive snaps as a slot defender in his last two years at Pitt. From what I’ve heard players and coaches say, learning the nickel position isn’t always an easy adjustment.
With that in mind, expectations for Maddox should be kept in check. There’s an opportunity for him to surprise us all by having a great summer but I’m not going to count on it.
Maddox figures to be a role-player in 2018. The Eagles could look to utilize him in specific matchups against smaller, shiftier slot wide receivers. He could also make some contributions on special teams as a gunner on punt coverage.
I’ll say Maddox plays about 15% to 20% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps as a rookie. It could be hard for him to get on the field with Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, and potentially even De’Vante Bausby ahead of him on the depth chart. Plus you have to figure in safeties such as Malcolm Jenkins playing at nickel. Rasul Douglas could also be ahead of Maddox if we’re talking about outside corner, but not the slot. Perhaps Maddox will be more ready to play by the end of the year as he continues to learn the nickel role.
DE JOSH SWEAT
Sweat flashed nice pass rush ability in spring practices. He was also mostly going up against a left tackle who doesn’t know how to play football, so you have to keep that in mind.
In any case, it’s easy to be excited about Sweat’s potential. The FSU alumnus boasts plus athleticism and a solid track record of production. If Sweat can stay healthy, the Eagles may have gotten a steal in the fourth-round.
It may be some time before Sweat makes any kind of meaningful impact at the NFL level. He’s currently behind Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, and Steven Means on the depth chart. The Eagles really only used those top four guys in 2017 with Means getting some occasional playing time.
Brandon Graham - 64.6% defensive snaps
Vinny Curry - 56.1%
Chris Long - 48.1%
Derek Barnett - 41.1%
Steven Means - 5.1%
Curry is gone but Bennett is here to replace those snaps. There’s no real place for Sweat to fit in, unless Means gets traded. And even then, we’re talking about, like, 50ish snaps for Sweat as a rookie.
Earlier this offseason, Eagles insider Dave Spadaro suggested Sweat could be stashed away on injured reserve in 2018. Whether it’s that or being stashed at the bottom of the 53-man roster, Sweat isn’t bound to play much, if at all, this season. As Howie Roseman put it: Rich man’s problems.
OT MATT PRYOR
The Eagles were working Pryor at both second-team right guard and third-team right tackle during spring practices. So they either really like his versatiliy and/or they’re still figuring out where to put him.
It’d obviously be great if Pryor develops into a future starter. But the team’s expectation might not even be that high. If Pryor can turn into an Allen Barbre-type who can be solid at every position on the offensive line (except for center), that’d be great for a sixth-round pick.
For now, Pryor won’t get on the field barring some kind of disaster.
Makes the 53-man roster but doesn’t play a single meaningful snap.
OT JORDAN MAILATA
To no surprise, Jordan Mailata looks very much like a player who is new to football. He got beat over and over during OTAs and minicamp. There’s no denying his size and athleticism is intriguing. But it’s clear he has a long way to go before suiting up.
Speaking of, I do wonder how much playing time he’ll even get with the Eagles in the preseason. I don’t know if you can really trust him enough to put him out there for an extended period of time. The Eagles probably don’t care so much if Joe Callahan is the one getting crushed but they might not want to expose Nate Sudfeld in that situation.
Mailata is bound for the practice squad. The Eagles would risk losing him if they cut him but I just can’t see another team using a 53-man roster spot on a guy who is clearly not ready to play in 2018.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
I don’t have a single UDFA making the team in my latest 53-man roster projection. The undrafted guys on the bubble include: Josh Adams, Bruce Hector, Jeremy Reaves, and Joe Ostman. Even if they make the team, though, they’re not bound to play much.