The Eagles had several needs coming into day 3 of the NFL Draft and nickel cornerback wasn’t necessarily one of their biggest. That didn’t stop Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas pulling the trigger on Avonte Maddox, a corner out of Pittsburgh. While the pick itself was surprising to many, the type of player wasn’t.
The Eagles have a specific mold of defensive back inside their locker room. A feisty, hard-hitting, competitive player who isn’t afraid to support in the run. Take size out it for a second and what you have is a group of corners who all have chips on their shoulders. Whether it’s Jalen Mills being a 7th round pick, or the injury problems surrounding both Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones, the Eagles have built an ‘iron sharpens iron’ environment where Maddox will thrive.
Maddox is everything you could want in a nickel cornerback. Speedy, willing and as reactive as a nuclear weapon. His small frame is misleading, with the Panther packing quite a rapid punch after posting a 4.39 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine.
For Roseman and Douglas, this selection was less about intangibles and more about the man behind the mask.
“Yeah, so, Avonte, first time I was able to see him was down at the East-West [Shrine Game], and liked how he touched on.” Roseman explained on day 3 of the draft. “Highly competitive. You could see that on every one-on-one rep.
As far as the change of direction, redirect, you really saw that at the top of routes with receivers. [He’s] really good staying in phase with those guys, staying in their hip pocket, and not letting guys create separation. Always competitive at the catch point.”
The 5’9 DB is a very well-rounded corner who is fluid in his movement and aggressive when it comes to tackling. Someone who wants to be in the heart of the action, Maddox was still able to end his career with 51 passes defensed despite being undersized, which says a lot about his desire and drive to outwork whoever stands in front of him. That quality also stood out to one of the finest front office tandems in the league.
“We talked about fit last week and Howie touched on it earlier, this is a guy that fits in with our DB room.” Joe Douglas explained. “It’s a group of highly competitive guys, and he’s going to blend in perfectly, and even stand out to a degree. Even though he’s not the biggest guy, he will attack and support. He is a productive tackler for Pittsburgh.”
So why did he fall into the fifth round? Missing five games in two years due to injury certainly didn’t help his case and his frame may have detoured some. However, the potential versatility is what really stands out and it’s no given that Maddox will be a devout inside threat to replace Patrick Robinson.
Oddly, Maddox doesn’t initiate a lot of contact when in press coverage. He is smooth in his back-pedal, but he keeps his arms compact and his frame ready to pounce as opposed to trying to stake his claim and make his presence felt. This could even (dare I say it) lead to some reps at safety…another area of need for the Eagles. As someone who loves to get down and dirty in the run and really go out and compete, the Eagles have a dominant defensive back who makes his presence felt around the ball and if perhaps lining him up away from the line of scrimmage works better during Training Camp, why wouldn’t the Eagles flex him to the back line for some extra work?
Of course, it’s still very early days. Drafted only a matter of hours ago, it seems crazy to be predicting where he will or won’t play. But with Undlin and Schwartz as his coaches, two guys who covet versatility, you can almost bet on the pair wanting to rinse every last drop of energy and explosiveness from this powerful Panther who has the work-ethic to not just fit in, but stand out.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports