The Philadelphia Eagles took longer than some would’ve liked to see the team address their cornerback position in the 2021 NFL Draft. But they finally selected one in the fourth round by nabbing Zech McPhearson.
In order to learn more about the Eagles’ new defensive back, I reached out to SB Nation’s Texas Tech blog: Viva The Matadors. Red Raiders writer Reed Meason, who actually worked in the team’s equipment department and has previously spoken with McPhearson, was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you recap his college career?
In terms of his time at Penn State, I don’t know a whole lot about him. I think he played some but I believe he was a little buried on the depth chart and was part of the reason he ended up at Tech. But once he ended up in Lubbock, he was a starter basically from day one. If you don’t know, Tech has been well known for not having a good secondary, especially recently. Zech was one of the lone bright spots within that unit. He made a huge jump from year 1 to year 2. From flashes of good plays the first time around, he jumped to an all-conference level this past season.
2) What are his strengths?
His strengths can visibly be seen in his pro day results. He’s got good speed (4.53 in the 40), he’s incredibly athletic (41-inch veritical & 130-inch broad jump) and he’s agile/quick on his feet (4.00 shuttle run). Towards the end of the season, you could tell he made smart plays. His worst game of the season came against Houston Baptist in the first game of the year. He was burned by probably 3-4 times quite badly. From then on, he was nearly exceptional with both man and zone coverages, coming away with a lot of big plays for our defense.
3) What are his weaknesses?
I believe his weaknesses are mainly physical attributes. He lacks a little bit of height at 5’11 and possibly some weight at 190lbs. If he were to add 5-12lbs I think it would help him compete more in the long run for the NFL. Though he can play zone and man, there are times he looked more comfortable in zone where he wasn’t on an island with a receiver. When we played the Tylan Wallace’s and CeeDee Lamb’s of the Big 12, he typically wasn’t the guy lined up with them due to size.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
I think he was chosen at about the right time. Had he been 6’1+ and put those pro day numbers up I’m sure he would have gone earlier, but in reality, it was a pretty true time for him to go.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
I’m not really sure honestly. I don’t know the Eagles secondary depth that well so it’s hard for me to tell. I’m sure he’ll find his way to special teams at some point just purely off speed and athleticism. I could see him getting consistent playing time eventually, but I don’t see that being any time soon. Probably at least 3 seasons before he has a true shot at a spot if he gains size and impresses the coaching staff.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
I don’t know him personally that well, just some casual convos at practice and games. But he was always a very well-mannered and cool dude. He was friends with everybody and never did anything stupid to have him in trouble with the staff. He wasn’t a guy that made a big scene out of anything. Just put his nose down, worked hard, and didn’t complain about it.
BLG’s take: The Eagles still might sign or trade for a cornerback with starting experience. If they don’t, McPhearson doesn’t lack a path to finding playing time as a rookie. Banking on a fourth-round pick to be a quality starter at CB2 doesn’t feel like the greatest bet but maybe Z McP will impress this summer. He’ll be an interesting player to watch during training camp and the preseason. At the very least, he figures to provide depth and contribute on special teams.