What would the 2015 NFL Draft look like if it was held again knowing what we now know three years later? That’s the question Pro Football Focus set to answer as they’ve done a 2015 first round re-draft for ESPN In$ider.
As it turns out, three Philadelphia Eagles players made it into the top 32 picks. Let’s start with the Birds’ pick at No. 20.
Actual pick: WR Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
New Pick: Agholor
After a slow start, Agholor started to live up to his potential last season, finding a home in the slot. He graded at 80.4, and he led the league with eight touchdowns when lined up in the slot, while ranking third with 752 yards last season.
“Slow start” is a generous description of how awful Agholor was during his first two seasons in the league. He was arguably THE worst wide receiver in the NFL. Sites like PFF and Football Outsiders graded him out that way. Agholor was targeted 113 times and only produced 59 receptions for 648 yards (11.0 average), three touchdowns, and two fumbles.
Things changed in a big way last year. Agholor went from being one of the worst receivers in the league to one of the best weapons in the slot. His unprecedented turnaround was nothing short of remarkable.
Nelly, who turned 25 in May, projects to be a nice weapon for Carson Wentz for years to come. Assuming he re-signs with Philly, that is.
Agholor wasn’t the highest Eagles pick in the 2015 re-draft. That distinction belongs to third-round selection Jordan Hicks, who went off the board to the then-San Diego Chargers at No. 15.
Actual pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
New Pick: Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Now that Gordon is off the board, the Chargers add one of the most underrated players from the class of 2015 in Hicks. The linebacker has battled injuries, but when on the field, he has been outstanding in coverage, breaking up four passes, picking off seven and allowing a passer rating of only 71.3 into his coverage in his career (most linebackers allow 95.0-plus).
I think some forget how truly good Hicks has been when healthy. I guess I can’t fully blame them since he gets injured too often.
Here’s hoping Simba plays all 16 regular season (plus three playoff games) this year. The combination of his athleticism and instinctive nature makes him a great piece for the Eagles’ defense. Hicks is a ball magnet; he makes big plays that Philadelphia could really use in 2018.
The third Eagle to make the re-draft wasn’t originally selected by Philadelphia. Off the board to the Houston Texans one spot behind Hicks at No. 15 is ... Ronald Darby.
Actual pick: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
New Pick: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Houston filled a need with the addition of Johnson, but hindsight shows that Darby would have been a cleaner pick. Darby has improved his ability to make plays on the ball (24 pass breakups on 262 career targets) since entering the league, and his speed and athleticism allow him to stay with the shiftiest of route runners.
Darby went to the Bills in the second round (pick No. 50) in the real 2015 NFL Draft. After playing two seasons in Buffalo, he was acquired by the Eagles last offseason in a trade that sent Philadelphia’s 2018 third round selection (pick No. 96) and one year of Jordan Matthews to the Bills.
There are mixed opinions on Darby’s ability but the feeling here is he’ll be a good starting corner for the Eagles in 2018. We’ll see what happens beyond this year when he’s set to be a free agent.
Overall, Chip Kelly’s sole draft class when he was in charge of player personnel resulted in the Eagles getting two top 20 players. Howie Roseman’s sly maneuvering then landed the Eagles a third in that range. Not bad.