The NFL Draft is three months away and the search for playmakers has begun. It’s no secret that the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles struggled to generate explosive plays and turnovers on both sides of the ball in 2018. With that in mind, here are five prospects from both sides of the ball that could add splash play potential.
JOSH JACOBS - Running Back, Alabama
I’m not sure anybody knows why Nick Saban kept Jacobs under wraps for so long, but the secret eventually got out. A three-star recruit in the land of five-star running backs, Jacobs accrued less than 300 touches during his time with Alabama. I’d argue having less tread on the tire is a good thing, especially when his touches have been so conclusively dynamic.
After an eye-opening performance against Oklahoma in the college football playoffs, many started to buzz about his status as the top running back in the class. They wouldn’t be wrong. No back in this crop features his blend of contact balance, burst, agility and receiving chops.
Phew, Josh Jacobs running tough to close this game out - pic.twitter.com/BxfOunlClZ— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 30, 2018
The question becomes, how much do you want him? Do you want him enough to spend a first round selection on him? What about early Day 2? Chances are you don’t even get the chance. My guess is the Eagles will pass and focus more in the trenches, which ultimately is the right call. Still, it’s fun to imagine the playmaking element Jacobs would bring to the Eagles’ backfield.
MARQUISE “HOLLYWOOD” BROWN - Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
With nicknames like “Hollywood” and “Jet” how can you go wrong? In two years at Oklahoma, Brown has amassed 132 catches, 2,413 yards, and 17 touchdowns. In that same span he’s put together 10 100-yard plus receiving efforts, eclipsing 200 yards twice. He’s a legit deep threat that is going to burn rubber at the NFL Combine.
Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown - I'm only posting this for an article, you already know he's faaaaaast. pic.twitter.com/sD26e6uoxn— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 29, 2019
I’ve highlighted Brown’s game, but he’s worth mentioning again. The Eagles are very interested in adding more speed to the offense and Brown has plenty of it. The question is, do you ignore the flaws in his game and draft him in the first round? I love the person, like the player, hate the value.
EMANUEL HALL - Wide Receiver, Missouri
If the Eagles are looking to take another crack at the Mike Wallace/Shelton Gibson role, you could do a lot worse than Emanuel Hall. He’s a legit deep threat with some serious boogie to his vertical routes.
Over the last two years, Hall has averaged 23.5 yards per catch while hauling in 16 touchdowns. Full disclosure: Missouri doesn’t ask it’s receivers to run a full route tree. The primary routes you’ll see on Hall’s film are go, curl, and slant. Thus projecting him is a tough ask, but if you look close enough you’ll see he has the traits to translate.
Listed at 6’2”, 195 pounds, Hall has serious quickness. That’s what makes him even more enticing as a prospect. He’s a deep threat, yes, but unlike Shelton Gibson there’s more to it.
Missouri WR Emanuel Hall - Digging his ability to consistently win with his releases - pic.twitter.com/PrkfSXu9dn— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 29, 2019
The manner in which he works releases and explodes out of them is an underrated aspect of his game. He’s got a full toolbox of releases that he utilizes against a variety of coverages, making his projection easier. If the Eagles pass on targeting a deep threat early, Hall is a solid swing at the plate later on.
JUAN THORNHILL - Safety, Virginia
Nabbing 13 interceptions in the last three years and 6 in 2018 should land you on any “playmaker” list. Opinions will be mixed on Thornhill as he isn’t a particularly splashy player with high-end traits, but it’s hard to argue with that type of ball production. You also can’t knock him for versatility; Thornhill played in a variety of alignments throughout his career at Virginia. Outside corner, nickel corner, linebacker, free safety and so on, he has experience wearing different hats.
Hell of a recovery for the INT by Juan Thornhill. pic.twitter.com/ZBOWcWfPhX— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) November 9, 2017
Thornhill had a quiet week at the Senior Bowl, as did just about every safety there. Overall, he’s still a solid prospect with the potential to see his name called on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON - Safety, Florida
His production comes in a variety of ways and from a variety of positions. Played more deep safety in 2017 than in 2018, where he was more of a box/nickel defender. This led to an uptick in tackles for loss (6.0 > 9.0) and sacks (1.0 > 3.0). It didn’t hurt him in the box score with interceptions (2 > 4) though, mostly due to a dynamic Peach Bowl performance. In that game he picked off Michigan twice and returned one to the house.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson! pic.twitter.com/ux7bJKb1AT— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) December 29, 2018
Gardner-Johnson is going to test well and get some buzz around his name as a versatile playmaker. There will be some variance to his play, but leaking yards feels different when you churn out drive stalling tackles for loss, sacks, and interceptions. CGJ’s been a favorite of mine since scouting Gator’s former safety Marcus Maye for the 2018 NFL Draft and would look darn good in green.