One of my favorite post-NFL Draft activities is looking at what actual NFL executives think of the players the Philadelphia Eagles selected.
This post features quotes from various football personnel people by way of ESPN In$ider’s Mike Sando, The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, Bob McGinn’s annual draft series, and NFL.com’s draft profiles written by Lance Zierlein.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what league insiders had to say about the Eagles’ five picks from the 2019 NFL Draft.
A number of NFL scouts believe Dillard wasn’t just the best tackle in this year’s class; they had him as their top overall offensive lineman. Via McGinn’s rankings:
The 14 personnel people were asked to rank in order their seven best offensive linemen regardless of position. A first-place vote was worth seven points, a second was worth six and so on. Left tackle Andre Dillard led with 76 points (four first-place votes), and Cody Ford with 63 (three), Jawaan Taylor with 51 (three), Jonah Williams with 46 (three) and Garrett Bradbury with 40 (one) rounded out the top five.
Fifth-year senior. “Like him a lot,” said one scout. “He’s quick, uses his hands well. He’s patient. He can bend. He pass blocks, and that’s what people do now. He can do that. Easily.” Started 39 of his 42 games at LT. “Best left tackle prospect in the draft,” said one scout. “Really nice feet. Always has a base under him. Will be a Day 1 starter for somebody that needs one.” Led the tackles in the broad jump (9-10) and short shuttle (4.40). “I’m not a big fan because he’s not strong and he comes from Washington State,” a third scout said. “They’re way behind in technique. They’ve never been in a three-point stance. Somebody that needs a tackle, (bleep), there aren’t any. They’re going to take him in the top 15, probably. But you put on the Senior Bowl, that big ol’ giraffe from Iowa (Anthony Nelson) beat him for a sack. He didn’t have a great Senior Bowl. He’s a year away. But really good kid. He’s not a dog. He’s got really good feet.” Everywhere coach Mike Leach has been, his teams throw the ball and then throw it some more. “He could bust because of the offense he plays in,” said a fourth scout. “He’s a pass protector in college. That’s what he does. Plays in a two-point stance. He’s always kind of on his heels playing backwards. Well, he’s not going to be able to do that in the NFL. He’s got to play forward. He’s got to put his hand on the ground. I worry about guys from those kind of teams. All they do is pass protect 55 times a game. You wonder how it translates.”
Here’s what an executive told ESPN about Dillard:
“The trade by the Eagles to get the tackle was a really good trade because I think Houston would have taken him at 23. If you go from Jason Peters at left tackle to Dillard and you don’t have to move Lane Johnson, you could have continuity at left tackle for 20 years. Who can say that?”
The note about Dillard being “a year away” isn’t a huge concern for the Eagles since Dillard can theoretically sit behind Jason Peters for a year. Dillard should greatly benefit from the tutelage of Peters and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Sanders was the second running back selected in this year’s draft. The scouts McGinn talked to collectively ranked him fourth best:
The 13 personnel men were asked to list their top five running backs. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second four and so on. After Jacobs, whose 13 first-place votes gave him 65 points, the totals were Damien Harris (36), Montgomery (26), Darrell Henderson (15), Miles Sanders (14), Devin Singletary (12), Ryquell Armstead (10 ½), Bryce Love (four), Trayveon Williams (three), Rodney Anderson (two), Karan Higdon (two), Hill (two), Alexander Mattison (one), Snell (one), Mike Weber (one) and Jordan Scarlett (one-half).
Played sparingly behind Saquon Barkley for two seasons before coming through with 1,274 yards in 2018. “Sanders played behind a great back but at least had one solid year of starting,” one scout said. “I love him. Looks the part. He’ll just get better. Super kid.” Junior from Pittsburgh. “He tries to be like Le’Veon Bell, bouncing around and stuff,” said a second scout. “Tries to bounce everything outside but he doesn’t have that good speed. He can’t run between the tackles. Guys are going to overdraft him.” Finished with 276 carries for 1,649 (6.0) and 12 TDs along with 32 receptions for 193. “People are talking about him in the first round and I’m like, ‘What?’” said a third scout. “He jumps around too much. Just not a decisive runner. Doesn’t run strong. Doesn’t have really good balance.”
Kapadia shared this quote from an executive outside the NFC East:
“I was surprised he went that high. Talented runner, finesse. I don’t think he’s a lead. I think he’s more of a change-of-pace or situational back. The trouble with penciling him in as a third-down back is he struggles with protection. … He’s a talented runner — feet, instincts, vision, all that, it’s there. I just don’t think he’s very physical. The protection would be the biggest question that I have on him. He’s shifty, I just don’t think he runs behinds his pads like a 210-, 215-pound back.”
“He sees it well, but it looks like he’s imitating Saquon (Barkley) with all the stop-start stuff he does. He doesn’t have Saquon’s go-go juice so he needs to be careful with all that stuff. Just trust your eyes and go. That’s what I would tell him.” -- Running backs coach for AFC team
A GM called second-round running back Miles Sanders undervalued even though he thought Sanders must learn to run tougher between the tackles.
I’d like to think I see both sides of the Sanders coin. On one side, it seems like there’s untapped potential for the Eagles to work with. On the other, you wonder if he’ll actually reach that ceiling.
I’m excited to see Sanders play for this team. But the concerns expressed here hold me back from feeling like this pick was some kind of home run selection.
JJAW was the sixth wide receiver selected in this year’s draft. The scouts McGinn talked to collectively ranked him 11th best:
The 14 scouts also agreed to rank their six top wide receivers. The fact that six players gained a first-place vote reflects the lack of consensus at the position. […] D.K. Metcalf had 45 points followed by Marquise Brown (42), N’Keal Harry (41), A.J. Brown (35), Parris Campbell (34), Riley Ridley (19), Deebo Samuel (18), Hakeem Butler (14), Miles Boykin (11), Mecole Hardman (11), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (nine), Kelvin Harmon (six), Terry McLaurin (three), Andy Isabella (two), Diontae Johnson (two), Jalen Hurd (one) and Preston Williams (one).
Fourth-year junior improved his receptions, yards and TDs in each of his three seasons. “The easy plusses are ball skills and the ability to high-point the red-zone stuff,” one scout said. “The easy knock will be the speed factor. For a bigger guy he can drop his weight at the top of a route and he’s got some short-area quickness to get open. Alshon Jeffery’s game is just going down the field and going up over people. I think JJ has a little bit more as a route runner than that.” Finished with 135 receptions for 2,219 (16.4) and 28 TDs. “Really strong hands,” another scout said. “Wins all the physical battles. He’s a big X receiver but I wouldn’t call him a possession (receiver).” Paced the leading WRs in the Wonderlic with 29. Didn’t formally bench press at the combine or pro day. “He bench pressed 3,” a third scout said. “How ‘bout that? He never had benched. Because he can’t bench. He’s weak as (bleep). Now he can catch it. Third round.” From Inman, S.C., but he and Deebo Samuel attended different high schools.
“He’s going to be a Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) pick and I think he’s an outside receiver. He’s going to run faster than people think and he’s smart enough to learn all the tricks to get open as a pro. I hear people underestimate him all the time. We have some in our own building.” -- National scout for NFC team
This GM thought third-round receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside had the length, body control and hands to complement the Eagles’ receiving corps.
On the note that JJAW might be faster than people think, BGN’s Michael Kist recently said: “Not only did he a run a 4.49 at his pro day, but I’ve been told at least two scouts there had him timed at 4.38 and 4.39 respectively.”
I wonder how much JJAW’s ability to separate really matters when he’s so dominant at the catch point. The Eagles clearly believe that skill can translate to the NFL. We’ll see if they’re right.
From The Athletic:
“Plays really hard, that was the one thing that stuck out to me was the effort. If you’re looking for a comp, he reminded me of (Panthers defensive end) Mario Addison a little bit. But a bigger man. That sometimes is a disadvantage because one of the things that Addison has going for him is natural leverage. Shareef doesn’t have that. He can run once pointed. He plays hard. But I think he’s a little bit straight line and not always controlled. Has to win early, works edges, active hands. But I think he’s gonna end up more producing through effort than just winning one-on-one.”
“Our scouts were really hard on him but I thought the tape showed potential. He’s a Day 3 player all day long, but there are things he can do that coaches can work with.” - NFC personnel director
I don’t think the Eagles will be counting on Miller to make a huge immediate impact. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry will all be ahead of him on the depth chart. Assuming Chris Long retires, Miller’s realistic best case scenario is that he becomes the fourth defensive end.
Four-year starter and face of the program. “Kind of similar to Daniel Jones,” said one scout. “He does everything well, nothing elite. More of that pocket quarterback. He came off an ACL so the first part of the season he was limited. His accuracy is adequate, not great. There was a lack of talent surrounding him. He’d be in that good backup category that I could see starting down the road.” Improved his completion percentage each year but still hit just 58.4% for his career. Final passer rating was 78.0 due in large part to 45 picks, including a career-high 15 as a senior. “Two years ago I thought he had some up side and was going to be a decent player,” said a second scout. “But he hasn’t developed at all. He’s very programmed. One read, average arm. Struggles to make plays and avoid. I’m sure (Pat) Fitzgerald is selling him like crazy so somebody’s going to bite on that and just go with what he says.” Wonderlic of 32. From Wheaton, Ill.
Well, the Eagles were the team that bit.
Maybe the excuses made for Thorson are legitimate. But SB Nation’s study shows that college quarterbacks with such poor stats rarely ever improve at the NFL level. The Eagles are betting on the exception with Thorson.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
Here some quotes on two of the Eagles’ free agent signings, via Zierlein:
“He’s the kind of player that nobody in our scouting department gets excited about because he’s not fast or splashy, but he knows how to play. We need depth and we need guys who know how to play and are dependable and durable.” -- Linebackers coach for NFC team
Is that you, Ken Flajole? Edwards will push for a roster spot. He seems like a practice squad candidate at the very least.
“I thought he should have come back since he was hurt this year and his tape wasn’t as good anyway. If he can keep his weight off, I think he has a chance to be a solid pro, but you need to watch 2017.” - NFC National scout
Herbig is one of three notable undrafted free agent guards the Eagles signed. The team is clearly looking to boost their interior offensive line depth. Herbig could be a practice squad candidate if he needs more time to develop.
The Eagles traded pick No. 246 to the Colts in exchange for fourth-year defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway. ESPN had a good note on that:
Acquiring Ridgeway from the Colts was a lower-profile move that one evaluator thought was a good one. ”I was going, ‘Son of a b----, they re-signed [Timmy] Jernigan right before the draft and then they got a pretty good D-tackle who is a second-wave guy’ and it was a good move,” this evaluator said.
Defensive tackle depth was a big issue for the the Eagles last year. They’re looking a lot better at that spot this year with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Jernigan, Ridgeway, and Treyvon Hester potentially making the team.