The dust is beginning to settle after a very busy NFL Draft which leaves us to reflect on the eight picks made by the Philadelphia Eagles. The overall direction of the draft seemed pretty clear but as individual picks, how does this year’s draft class stack up?
Round 1: Carson Wentz, QB
The drafting of Wentz has changed the entire landscape of the Eagles future and the signs are even present in the team’s remaining picks which for the most part began to fortify the pick. However the risk is that the Eagles haven’t taken huge strides forward when it comes to competing in the present.
At 6’5, Wentz has the prototypical frame of a modern day NFL Quarterback and dominated during his time at North Dakota, completing 62.5% of his passes for 1,651 yards, 17TD’s and 4INT’s in 2015. However he does come with plenty of flaws and concerns. In terms of fundamentals, Wentz has them all..but it becomes a case of can he transfer them to the NFL?
Wentz isn’t projected to start for at least one season, meaning that whilst he may well be the future franchise QB this city needs..the NDSU star clearly needs time to marinate and develop. With an unsettled Sam Bradford and the stakes relatively high, that may not be an option for long. The Eagles have put a lot on the line by trading up for Wentz and the consequences of falling short here could be far more damaging than just losing next year’s first rounder. It’s Wentz or bust for the long term in Philly, but he may be the best rookie Quarterback to have in this situation.
Round 3: Isaac Seumalo, OL
Versatile 300 pound lineman Isaac Seumalo was drafted by the Eagles in the third round and was met with mixed reactions. Some were happy that the Eagles had finally addressed the Offensive Line whilst others were annoyed that they had done so at the expense of missing out on impact players in other positions.
Previous injury concerns will definitely linger in the minds of fans and analysts as one of the most athletic Offensive Linemen in his class competes for a starting role, but his versatility to play at any position on the line is invaluable to a team who lack depth at just about each one.
He may not be the perfect pick, but the Eagles’ decision to prioritize the line over every other need was a confident one that was followed up by a pick that not only fills numerous needs for the Eagles, but is proven against some of the more dominant defenders in the 2016 draft class .
Round 5: Wendell Smallwood, RB
One of the more controversial picks of this year, running back Wendell Smallwood was The Big-12’s rushing leader in 2015 after breaking out in his senior year. In 13 games he racked up 1,519 yards and nine touchdowns. In seven of his nine games against Big-12 opponents, he scored more than 100 rushing yards including a career-high 165 against Texas.
Why the controversy? It turns out that a few years ago in completely unrelated instances, Smallwood posted a series of tweets that expressed a distaste for Philadelphia. Smallwood has since deleted his account entirely.
Despite this and a previous arrest, Smallwood is the perfect back for Pederson’s Offense. (You can find out why in detail here). To put things very simply, he is more of a complimentary back and his style is almost a perfect hybrid of Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews. At 5’10 and 208 pounds, he also ticks the boxes for a back that would seemingly succeed under Doug Pederson if we’re to follow the formula of the article referenced above.
There are some “red flag” character concerns but it appears as though the Eagles are willing to overlook them..perhaps a sign that we should too.
Round 5: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, LT
Vaitai continues a trend for the Eagles, having started on the right hand side in 2014 and the left in 2015. Versatility continues to be the theme on the line and the 6’6 320 pounder certainly brings it, even if he lacks the quickness and athleticism of some of the more notable tackle prospects.
A big, powerful blocker who’s able to open holes for the backfield but is often slow and has very choppy techniques. Vaitai is a tackle who will learn under one of the best in the business in Jason Peters and not only fills a hole, but could develop into a bonafide starter with the right tutelage.
Round 6: Blake Countess, CB
One of the tougher corners in the class, Countess ticks the boxes for what the Eagles are looking for in a future slot-corner starter or potentially a safety. The Eagles added a lot of talent to their secondary through free agency but in terms of building for the future under Schwartz, a physically dominant player who is very malleable can only be seen as a positive.
New Eagles CB Blake Countess allowed just 1 TD on 71 targets for Auburn in 2015: https://t.co/BHSrr4lXnL
— PFF (@PFF) April 30, 2016
Blake Countess had the fourth-fewest yards/coverage snap allowed (0.88) among SEC CBs in the NFL Draft
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 30, 2016
Countess is beyond efficient in man-coverage and having played both corner and safety, will likely take to the field in some form or another in 2016. Whether it’s the special teams proving grounds or filling in for an injured defensive back or safety, Countess will join JaCorey Shepherd in the “CB’s to watch in training camp” category.
Round 7: Jalen Mills, S
Mills is a Safety who transitioned from corner this past season and ended his Tigers career with 6 picks, 216 tackles, 4 sacks and 11 passes defensed. Noticing a theme here? Mills is a player with tremendous upside and who can benefit the Eagles in more ways than one..but also comes with his own off the field issues.
After being arrested in 2014 for second-degree battery of a woman before having his charges reduced, Mills suffered huge injury blows. He may not be as physical when it comes to run support, but his blitzing ability, record against notable college teams and sheer ceiling make this perhaps the one of the most interesting late round picks of the entire draft.
A leader of the LSU Defense, Mills embodies EVERYTHING Schwartz wants in both a corner and a safety. Fast, physical, vocal and stands strong in the face of adversity. Off the field issues aside, Mills was once projected to go in the second round. There is absolutely no reason why a player so dominant can’t find his calling in the city of brotherly love and develop into a star.
Round 7: Alex McCalister, DE
At 6’6, 239 pounds, the former Florida Defensive End brings plenty of promise to the table. After picking up 48 tackles in two seasons to go with 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss, McCalister went on to perform exceedingly well at the combine. He possesses the raw intangibles to succeed in the NFL..but there’s one thing in particular that prevented him from going much higher..or in another draft altogether.
McCalister was dismissed from his team at the end of last year which spurred his decision to declare for the Draft a year earlier than he debatably should have. The question is will this either make his professional career or limit it before it’s even started?
A project player all the way, McCalister will be an intriguing player to watch during Training Camp as the Eagles tick another depth need off of their list. The birds needed to add more pass rushers and McCalister will be surrounded by good company in a city that should straighten out his character flaws. But will McCalister be a steal in the seventh or a player who should have been something more?
Round 7: Joe Walker, LB
Walker ended his 2015 campaign leading the Oregon Ducks in tackles with 87 and recorded 6 for a loss as well as 2 sacks. He may not have the best size for the position but have the Eagles found some extreme value with their final pick?
A 40-yard dash time of 4.56 and a 6’2, 236 pound frame make him incredibly elusive. In a very gritty and aggressive system implemented by Jim Schwartz, if Walker adds some extra bulk to his frame and is able to learn behind the likes of Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, Walker could absolutely become a great role player in years to come.
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