The UDFA period is such a fun one. It’s like a treasure hunt: there’s always a few valuable pieces to be found, and predicting just who sticks is a hopeful exercise, even if it’s just a step above a guessing game.
The Eagles got some decent contributions out of their UDFA class last year, as Josh Adams, Chandon Sullivan, and Bruce Hector all saw playing time, while Joe Ostman and Asantay Brown proved practice squad heroes. Taking a gander at this year’s squad, we can circle more than a few names with a decent shot at an NFL role — no matter how small — in 2019.
Potential 53-man roster guys
Ryan Bates, OL, Penn State
T.J. Edwards, the Wisconsin linebacker, was listed by many as the biggest name the Eagles signed in free agency — but for my money, Bates is the likeliest to stick. A great athlete and natural mover in space, Bates can do everything the Eagles ask from their guards and centers in the run game.
Does he have enough of a pass-protection anchor to stick in the league? A year of NFL strength coaching may help in that regards.
I don’t think Bates is a player you’ll be able to sneak onto your practice squad, given the thirst for offensive line talent in the league, but he did go undrafted. Either way, expect the college tackle to train as a potential C backup with OG versatility as the Eagles prepare for life after Kelce.
Penn State OT Ryan Bates can move. His tape isn't it but he's clearly an athlete.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) March 1, 2019
Better on the inside as compared to the outside.
Bobby Evans— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) April 2, 2019
Dennis Daley https://t.co/PxpTA0AzTk
T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin
Edwards is a between-the-tackles thumper, which is why he went undrafted — those players are a dime a dozen, especially in a changing NFL. Do the Eagles currently have that player on the roster? I’d argue Paul Worrilow is likely the player for that role on their roster, but if he hasn’t fully recovered from his injury last offseason, Edwards could beat him outright.
Edwards is a smart player and steady tackler, and you appreciate that in your depth guys. I’m not sure his athleticism is enough that he can be anything more than a backup MIKE that necessitates a change in your LB deployment — think Dannell Ellerbe from a couple seasons ago. Special teams value would be huge here.
Iosua Opeta, iOL, Weber State
A defensive line convert with the athleticism to match his role, Opeta first gained people’s attention when he threw up 39 reps on the bench at the Combine, to go with a 5.02s 40-yard dash, 33” vertical, and 9’4 broad jump (all 90+ percentile scores). Opeta’s raw as sushi from a tape perspective, but what he brings in terms of ability in space is enough to get teams like Philadelphia excited.
Opeta’s shot at the 53-man is super narrow, but look at it much like Jordan Mailata last season: if they think he’s too promising to expose to waivers, they’ll protect him by keeping him on the team.
Practice Squad Candidates
Jamalcolm Liggins, CB, Dickinson State
Haven’t seen any film on Liggins, but the NAIA product was the subject of this SI article because of the attention he was receiving for his unlikely rise to NFL interest. Coming from such a weak level of competition and behind a thick CB room, Liggins is likely a guy you sit and develop for his physical tools.
Nate Herbig, iOL, Stanford
Speaking of physical tools, Nate “Big Island” Herbig is an absolute mammoth of a human being at 335 pounds, but his athletic testing disappointed and his tape tailed off after a promising freshman season for the Cardinal. Given his size, he may be a tackle convert and developmental piece accordingly.
Delvon Randall, S, Temple
Weird career arc for Randall, who had a ton of hype coming into the season off of a 80 tackle, 4 INT season with the Owls — and he improved his numbers in 2018, yet his hype tailed off as his athletic limitations were tested in coverage. Randall’s production is tough to argue with, however, and he’s by all reports a hard worker and high-character leader, and that’s a great guy to have on the practice team.
Likely Camp Bodies
UAB DT Anthony Rush
Penn State WR DeAndre Thompkins
Wyoming RB Nico Evans (I kinda rock with him)
Rutgers DT Kevin Wilkins
Stanford LB Joey Alfieri
USC DB Ajene Harris (I kinda rock with him)
UC Davis LB Mason Moe
Arkansas iOL Johnny Gibson
Iowa iOL Keegan Render