The Philadelphia Eagles signed undrafted rookie free agent defensive back Elijah Riley following the 2020 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about him, I reached out to SB Nation’s service academies blog: Against All Enemies. Army Black Knights writer Kaylah Jackson was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you recap his college career?
Elijah Riley is a solid DB, arguably one of the best in the past 10 years at Army. He was a career starter and was making stops even as a freshman against Notre Dame and during the famed Army Navy matchups. He totaled 201 tackles (the most by any academy CB), seven interceptions, and 28 pass breakups over the past four years. He was also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award [which is awarded to the best defensive back in college football].
2) What are his strengths?
Riley is an extremely physical player. Whether it’s defensive back or he’s playing corner he’s gonna nail those open tackles and you’ve seen that in both the pass and the run. Some of his most memorable plays were during Army’s biggest games including OT against Oklahoma in 2018 (he netted 9 tackles) and a massive fumble recovery last year against Michigan.
3) What are his weaknesses?
If anything, I think the adjustment if he gets in the rotation will be a challenge. Wherever the Eagles plan to use him whether its at the corner, even safety, he’s obviously had experience moving through positions at the academy but I wonder how that will look at this next level.
4) Are you surprised he went undrafted?
Not really. In general and with the scheme service academies run, particularly in this era of football, we don’t often see players going in the draft en masse or going in the first few rounds. I think if anything, Riley has the opportunity to shock some of the coaching staff once they get an opportunity to get him in with the practice squad.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
Obviously, I want to see him early in the rotation. I think he has the opportunity to add to the Eagles defense even if that roster is already top heavy and while they signed three other DBs in UDFA. I think Riley’s versatility is something their secondary could take advantage of.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
Ironically, he made his first collegiate tackle at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s no secret He’s had more than a few visits to Philly thanks to Lincoln being the home of the Army-Navy game, it’s almost a “home away from home.”
BLG Note: Riley is officially listed at “DB” on the Eagles’ roster. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how the team lines him up. Maybe they see him as yet another “positionless” player in the secondary. Riley could stick on the practice squad. He reportedly received the seventh highest guarantee of any UDFA signing.