With the 2023 NFL Draft over, it’s time for some film rooms on the Philadelphia Eagles’ rookie class. I will try and get to all the players and some UDFAs over the next few weeks. There are loads of scouting reports that will obviously say very similar things, so I have tried to include film clips to back up everything and I will talk about the player’s fit with the Eagles at the end of the piece.
Right, it’s everyone’s favorite article, the UDFA class! I will keep this nice and short on each player and whether or not they have a shot at making the roster.
Eli Ricks, Cornerback, Alabama
+ Very well rated early in his career. Called “pick-six Ricks” and showed excellent ball skills. His length shows up at the catch point.
ELI RICKS intercepts Kyle Trask for the pick-6— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 13, 2020
Speaking of the catch point, you'll find few prospects as competitive there as Eli Ricks. pic.twitter.com/M0t1N8EQhG— Nicholas McGee (@nicholasmcgee24) April 25, 2023
+ Excellent length at 6’2, which allows him to press receivers on the outside. Plays well against physical outside-the-numbers receivers.
New Eagles UDFA Eli Ricks allowed zero touchdowns in coverage last season (233 coverage snaps).— Word On The Birds (@WordOnTheBirds) April 29, 2023
- Athletic testing is a serious concern. Size is fine, but the 3-cone and 40-yard dash looks like trouble.
Eli Ricks is a CB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 5.05 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 1096 out of 2212 CB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/gn9kJXx636 pic.twitter.com/YK6FIzFsU3— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 14, 2023
- Off-the-field concerns and injuries caused him to fall. Information on off-the-field issues here.
- Long speed and change of direction are significant worries. He doesn’t move well in transition.
Watching Eli Ricks get bodied by LSU receivers all night was great to see. pic.twitter.com/5mgvcfiFGK— G. Joslyn (@GJoslyn91) November 6, 2022
John Metchie vs Eli Ricks (2020)— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) June 21, 2022
I’m excited for Metchie in Houston. pic.twitter.com/2N0FWivYe7
- Minimal special teams experience and poor tackling. He doesn’t look like the type of player who will excel on special teams with his profile. Needs to improve his tackling quickly if he has a chance.
I find Eli Ricks an interesting pickup because he’s another long, press-man corner. I am intrigued by his profile (more than any other UDFA), and I think he has potential as a press-man cornerback in a specific scheme that provides him help over the top where his long speed is less of a concern. Considering the off-the-field concerns and the physicality concerns around his tackling, I can’t see him being a great special teams fit, and that really limits his chance of making the roster. Before he does anything as a cornerback, he needs to prove he’s matured and works hard to prove he can play special teams or he won’t get a chance to develop. I’m surprised he wasn’t drafted, but I think he has a chance in a press-heavy scheme.
Mekhi Garner, Cornerback, LSU
+ Has a very good overall physical profile, especially for a UDFA. Speed is not great but his explosiveness looks good and he has excellent size.
Mekhi Garner is a CB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.94 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 233 out of 2183 CB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/Lu6OC64hOO #RAS pic.twitter.com/vAuhpi0AjS— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 8, 2023
+ He’s a physical corner who is not afraid to hit.
+ Arm length really shows when the ball is in the air. Good at knocking the ball away or playing through a receiver's hand to cause an incompletion.
Mekhi Garner with the pass breakup. Very long CB pic.twitter.com/bi6UJhKLny— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 5, 2022
Nice banjo by Mekhi Garner. He has plenty of length and nearly came down with an acrobatic INT pic.twitter.com/pbBabzroCd— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 5, 2022
- Just average speed and his short area quickness is a problem. Will be much better against more physical receivers than shifter receivers. He looks awkward when he’s in space.
I’m a big fan of LSU corner Mekhi Garner but AT Perry has him in all sorts of trouble with his release here and creates easy separation to the point where he’s all alone by the time the ball arrives— Oliver Hodgkinson (@ojhodgkinson) January 30, 2023
Seems like a solid #ShrineBowl week for the Wake Forest WR so far pic.twitter.com/tuQVyYNhCG
Jonathan Mingo vs Mekhi Garner— EJHolt_NFLDraft (@EJunkie215) October 27, 2022
Mingo gives a jab to the outside and takes the inside release
Garner just needs to move his feet. Lunging and grabbing locks the hips. Just turn and run. (1) pic.twitter.com/5og5SHY84A
- Struggles with his movement in off coverage at times. When he doesn’t get his hands on receivers it can be a problem.
- Tackling is a problem, which he needs to improve if he wants to get a shot.
Have you noticed a theme between the cornerbacks the Eagles have targeted of late?
Greedy Williams, Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks and Mekhi Garner... the Eagles seem to be targetting long press man cornerbacks this off-season don't they?— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) May 14, 2023
You can’t ignore the trend... the Eagles are looking at long physical press-man corners. It’s really interesting. We know that in a Fangio-style defense, the corners need to tackle. But the Eagles also re-signed Darius Slay and James Bradberry who I wouldn’t say are excellent tacklers. So I think it’s more than this. I think the Eagles want to build a defense that can press on the outside and has long physical corners. With that in mind, I think I would give Mekhi Garner a better shot at making the roster than Eli Ricks. That may surprise some of you, but I am just not sure Ricks has the athleticism and speed to compete at this level, even if he was the better player in the college.
Ben VanSumeren, linebacker, Michigan State
+ He’s a bit of a freak athlete. The numbers sort of shocked me to be honest, look at this!
Ben VanSumeren is a LB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.62 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 95 out of 2484 LB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/cui2JyVIxP #RAS pic.twitter.com/ZjdD9RAclP— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 22, 2023
Are you ready...
Michigan State LB Ben VanSumeren just recorded a 42.5-inch vertical at MSU’s pro day. Broke the scale pic.twitter.com/G0Ft9JPVs2— Nolan Bianchi (@nolanbianchi) March 15, 2023
+ He has some juice chasing down players in space. He can play sideline-to-sideline. And he is FAST.
+ His speed shows up as a blitzer too. He has the speed to get to quarterbacks in a hurry.
On this play VanSumeren gets a untouched path to the quarterback and forced the incompletion. I’m not sure why he wasn’t used as a blitzer more often. VanSumeren finished last season with 7 pressures and 1 sack. pic.twitter.com/2C1FjCJauk— Mase Riney (@caliking49er17) March 17, 2023
- How does such a good athlete not get drafted? It’s because he’s... not very good. The instincts are all over the place. He is caught in the wrong position a lot and does not read the game well (only played 2 years at linebacker).
- He also misses too many tackles and he’s so fast that he can get caught overpursuing.
This is the perfect UDFA pick. Just go and get elite athletes. The Eagles LOVE their undersized linebackers at the moment, don’t they? This is my favorite UDFA pick. How can you not want an athlete like this on your team? Even if he is a bad player and doesn’t develop, he should surely provide special teams value which actually gives him a legitimate chance to make the roster one day. He also fits the bill as a classic modern-day linebacker who can’t take on blocks but can play behind a 5-man front and just run all over the place chasing the ball carrier. He’s a fun guy to watch out for.
Ty Zentner, P, Kansas State
I appreciate all the love on here... but I’m not going to pretend to break down a punter. Take it away puntanalytics...
In 2022 Zentner finished with an overall pEPA of 0.15, good for 22nd in the FBS and 5th among draft-eligible punters (behind MSU’s Bryce Baringer, Rutgers’ Adam Korsak, Miami’s Lou Hedley, and Oklahoma’s Michael Turk). Zenter posted an open-field score of 0.18 (5th), and a pin-deep score of 0.09 (3rd, ahead of Turk and Baringer). In addition to punting, he also handled kick-off duties, and was a successful placekicker for Kansas State. But you didn’t come here for the kickalytics.
Our benchmark for draftable punters is at least one season with a pEPA above .25 + at most 25 years old. Though Zentner did not earn a draftable grade from us, he made sense as a priority UDFA. Since 2016, Lions’ punter Jack Fox (max pEPA 0.16), Jaguars’ punter Logan Cooke (max pEPA 0.18), and Raiders’ punter A.J Cole III (max pEPA 0.20) are notable examples of punters who did not meet our college thresholds but have gone on to have successful NFL careers.
The bottom line: Zentner’s highs are outrageously high, but his lows are worrisome. He will need to improve his consistency, and add a few yards to his baseline punt without sacrificing hangtime or placement. He will also need to improve his sideline control, as NFL returners will be less forgiving of down the middle punts. He definitely has a shot, and to us he was the best UDFA bet in the 2023 class. After all, he has already gotten further in the NFL than our 2022 darling, Race Porter.
This feels like a decent UDFA punter... I think?
At least we get the offseason competition we all need... Ty Zentner vs. Arryn Siposs!
#Eagles STC Michael Clay on the team signing UDRFA Ty Zentner and having a competition at punter with incumbent Arryn Siposs, unlike last year:— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) May 11, 2023
We wanted to create that environment and think that Arryn will respond. pic.twitter.com/Iz2mykkXXh
If you made it this far, then well done! Next up will be the rest of the UDFA’s.