The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone and in my lifetime I can’t recall a more entertaining draft weekend. Over 250,000 fans attended the draft in Philadelphia, which was a record according to the NFL. We also saw a very chaotic first round, several prospects with a lot of off the field baggage being taken early and two playoff teams from last season taking a quarterback in the first 12 picks.
From the Eagles point of view, it was a pretty successful weekend in terms of who they drafted. For all the talk about how this franchise isn’t afraid to take on a character risk, they drafted eight players who are all outstanding human beings. None of them have that troubled past or incident caught on tape that fans have to defend or justify for the next several years. The Browns and Bengals both drafted a player who has(allegedly) knocked out a woman and the Cowboys drafted a player who has a trial date for July 24th for his alleged domestic assault dating back to last March.
I think the only major gripe from this draft class is the lack of a true primary back on the Eagles roster. If Ryan Mathews is healthy come August this will matter a lot less, but there is serious doubt that he will. Some have even suggested he could retire, but GM Howie Roseman said in his post-draft press conference that he has been cleared to start working out. There is also a possibility they sign or trade for a veteran running back like a Jeremy Hill, Matt Jones or LeGarrette Blount, but right now it seems they will stick with who they have already on the roster.
One thing to keep in mind with this initial draft post is that this is just a general review of who the Eagles acquired with their picks and undrafted class. I will go through each draft pick and a couple noteworthy undrafted signings and break down their tape individually with a clean slate.
It’s important to go back to the tape and see what the Eagles front office saw in each player and try to project each prospect’s possible role and ceiling, but for now this is just a quick overview at what transpired this weekend.
1st Round, 14th Overall: Derek Barnett DE/Tennessee- I believe the Eagles really wanted to get Corey Davis or Christian McCaffrey here, but both went in the top 8 so getting an offensive weapon in the first round was going to be a huge reach. I had Barnett ranked #4 on my board so I was pretty pleased with this pick, but I know fans and scouts alike are pretty split on this kid.
Some are down on Barnett because he didn’t run a fast 40 time at the combine, but his agility/quickness times were outstanding, his tape is maybe the best of any edge rusher and he was highly productive in college. He wins with quickness off the edge and playing in a wide-9 scheme with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham is perfect for his skillset.
2nd Round, 43rd Overall: Sidney Jones CB/Washington- Jones was going to be #3 on my board if it wasn’t for his Achilles tear at his pro day. If he comes back 100% healthy, even if it’s not until 2018, this is the steal of the draft. Either way this pick was worth the gamble because you get a potential top 5 prospect and you get him at a priority position.
Jones has the best feet of any corner in this draft, he can play in any type of coverage, he tackles well and he has great ball skills. He was a better prospect coming out than his two former teammates at corner, Marcus Peters and Desmond Trufant, which is really saying something.
3rd Round, 99th Overall: Rasul Douglas CB/West Virginia- Douglas is one of the best stories in the draft. When he was a kid a local PA announcer took him under his wing, introduced him into a lot of sports and it kept him out of trouble growing up in East Orange, NJ. When he was at the JUCO level he used to spend a $1 on a “fast food” sandwich, eat half for lunch and half for dinner. He worked hard, earned a scholarship from West Virginia and now has a multi-million dollar contract in the NFL. You love drafting players like that because you usually get kids that are highly motivated every single day and stay out of trouble.
As far as what he does on the field, he’s a 6’2, 210 pound corner with outstanding ball skills. He reminds me of Richard Sherman coming out who really benefited from playing in a zone heavy defense. Douglas will have to play both zone and man coverage in Philly, but this isn’t a blitz heavy defense so he won’t be left an island a ton. His biggest knock is below average speed for the position, but his length and instincts helps make up for that.
4th Round, 118th Overall: Mack Hollins WR/UNC- Hollins is an interesting player who can produce immediately in a lot of different ways. He’s 6’4, 220 with really good speed and leaping ability for his size. He’s also one of the best kick coverage prospects in the draft. He’s also coming off a collar bone injury that probably dropped him down at least one round in this draft.
If he stays healthy you get Matthew Slater in Dorial Green-Beckham’s body. At the very least you get an outstanding special teams player, which for me is always worth an early day 3 pick.
4th Round, 132nd Overall: Donnel Pumphrey RB/San Diego State- I am a big fan of this kid, but I know a lot of people will be split on this pick. He’s under 180 pound and backs that size haven’t had success at this level in the modern era. You can cite Darren Sproles, but he is two inches shorter and about 15 pounds bigger. The height isn’t the issue, it’s the 179 pound frame that will be an issue.
His production in college though was very impressive. He broke Marshall Faulk’s team record and Ron Dayne’s NCAA record for most rushing yards in a career, which speaks to his durability. You also have to consider this his role will not be as a foundation or even a primary back. He’ll takeover Sproles role as another slot receiver, returner and change of pace back.
5th Round, 166th Overall: Shelton Gibson WR/West Virginia- The Eagles have been linked to Gibson so much that I honestly thought they had no chance at him unless they took him about two rounds earlier than they did. They even traded down two spots in the 5th round and still got him.
He’s a pure deep threat that will help stretch the defense and take the top off a defense if they don’t respect his long speed. He ran a 4.51 40 at the combine, but his 4.39 time at his pro day is more indicative of his tape.
5th Round, 184th Overall: Nathan Gerry LB/Nebraska- A strong safety in college, but team has already confirmed that he will play linebacker in Philly. More than likely he will mostly play on special teams as a rookie, bulk up from about 218 pounds to the 225-30 range and take over Nigel Bradham’s role in 2018.
He’s the only Eagles draft pick that I didn’t get a chance to scout, but from what I have heard and read, he is a really good box player. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to linebacker and what his exact role will be.
6th Round, 214th Overall: Elijah Qualls DT/Washington- I’ll be honest, I took him off my board after watching his tape, but he was a tough eval. Washington used him all over their line, including standing up and lining up out wide. It was strange to see because he’s a 310 pound lineman without much length or speed. He’s pretty agile for his size, but I think playing in a one-gap defense will do wonders for him.
I’m excited to go back and watch his tape and see how did did attacking in the 3-tech.