Everybody loves sleepers. Whether it’s Corey Clement, Trey Burton or Paul Turner, undrafted free agents have a habit of winning hearts in the preseason. Sometimes, just sometimes, that love then transcends onto the final 53-man roster and onto Super Bowl dreams. The Eagles have placed an incredible amount of value in they UDFA’s over the last few years and 2018 is no exception. Here is everything you need to know about this year’s undrafted underdogs who will be competing for a spot on the roster of Super Bowl champions.
RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame
A Pennsylvania native, Adams was a day 3 back on the draft boards of many. A long injury history is what drove him off of those boards and into the pool of undrafted free agents.
At 6’2, 213 lbs, he is easily the biggest running back on the team and packs quite a punch as a result. With 3,201 total rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (41 receptions, 336 yards) during his time with Notre Dame, Adams tore through the trenches with his thick base and unique sense of power.
Adams is a one-cut back who is fairly one dimensional. A willing pass protector, Adams runs with power but his danger relies on building momentum, which will be a lot harder to do at the NFL level. Without much elusiveness in his game, Adams will rely on his bullying style to drive him onto the roster and potentially replace LeGarrette Blount, but it will be a long road.
CB Chandon Sullivan, Georgia State
A breakfast cornerback in every sense of the word, this 5’11, 194 lbs corner delivers a furious punch at the line of scrimmage. He’s also the school’s record-holder in interceptions and pass break ups. As a Sun Belt sleeper, Sullivan posted 46 tackles. 4.5 for a loss, 2 picks and 8 PBU’s in 13 games in his final season at Georgia State.
He has the size and willingness needed to succeed at the NFL, showing great click-and-close instincts as well as a knack for finding the ball. He doesn’t have speed on his side however and without an overall physical presence to his game, he will struggle on deeper routes against rapid wideouts. However, he has all the fundamentals to at least throw his hat into the mix for a spot on the practice squad this year.
DB Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama –
The Eagles bought Reaves in on a pre-draft visit and it’s not difficult to see why. One of the most physical defensive backs in this year’s class, Reaves is another gem out of the Sun Belt conference. In fact, he was named the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2017, amassing 104 tackles, 3 picks and forcing 4 fumbles.
At 5’11, 190 lbs, Reaves uses his frame as a remote-controlled missile. Moving from corner to safety, Reaves is intriguing for the Eagles because he could fit either the nickel or depth safety spot perfectly. There are willing run defenders and then there are human rockets who fly into tackles and enjoy doing it. Reaves is the latter.
We all know by now that the Eagles love the Senior Bowl and Reaves flashed there too, racking up more tackles than anyone else and even picking off Tanner Lee.
Reaves will be one of the bigger names to watch during Training Camp because if there’s anybody who’s going to fly in and cause everybody to turn around, it’s this hard-hitting thunderbolt who despite some covering fundamentals and a lack of great length, has 20.5 tackles for a loss and a ruthless mentality.
DE Joe Ostman, Central Michigan
The Eagles already added Josh Sweat, but they’ve been known to become besotted with undrafted pass rushers. At 6’3, 255 lbs, Ostman is among the best from this year’s pool. With 21 sacks in his last two years and 69 tackles in his senior season to go with 20.5 for a loss in just 11 games, Ostman did more than just attract attention. In fact, he ranked in the top 5 in the nation in tackles for a loss and sacks per game.
The problem is he has a small base and stout legs, meaning that all of his momentum comes from his upper body. While he sets the edge consistently and has a great get-off, the competition will be bigger and badder in the NFL and could overwhelm his size. When asked to counter a move or come up with something else after his initial play doesn’t work, he can often seem disorientated.
Entering a strong locker room of talent and leaders, Ostman would be wise to learn from those such as Brandon Graham and Chris Long and clearly has some great fundamentals for the position, he just needs a lot of polish.
LB Danny Ezechukwu, Purdue
At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, this Purdue linebacker has enjoyed some success rushing the passer. With 50 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and five sacks to his name in 2017, Ezechukwu posted his best season yet playing the hybrid defensive end position. The Eagles crave versatility and having not taken a linebacker in the draft, being able to move this big-bodied linebacker around the defense is certainly going to be something tho watch during Training camp. A natural linebacker, it will be interesting to watch if Schwartz does bring him down onto he defensive line for a few snaps.
OG Ian Park, Slippery Rock
Injuries have plagued the career of this 6’4, 315 lbs, offensive guard, who spent one season at Slippery Rock after graduating from Northwestern. He may have only played in six games but was still named first-team all-PSAC last year and started 18 games for his former school. An athletic zone-blocking prospect (perfect for the Eagles), Park lacks the strength desired by coaches at the next level but will be hoping his quick feet and specialty in pulling blocks will translate to a much higher level of competition.
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OT Toby Weathersby, LSU
A dominant run blocker that helped pave the way for Derrius Guide and Leonard Fournette to rip defenses to shreds, Weathersby was one of the most coveted undrafted free agents yesterday due to his domineering 6’4, 317 lbs frame and surprisingly athletic quickness when in pass protection.
A patient and durable blocker who maintains a strong and steady base throughout the set, Weathersby forces edge rushers the long way round consistently and having played against SEC competition already, it’s easy to see why the Eagles were quick to take a flyer on him.
There are still plenty of areas for improvement and the biggest knock on Weathersby seems to be his inconsistency when it comes to finishing plays, with slippery rushers often escaping. But these are very coachable traits that Jeff Stoutland can iron out.
CB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
(The following is taken from our FREE NFL Draft guide featuring 40 scouting reports on cornerbacks)
Thomas has an eye for the ball and great skills around it, but with poor tackling form and multiple arrests on his resume, it’s going to be interesting to see how much value teams place in his tape as the draft approaches.
Thomas leaps like a Salmon. With a great cornerbacking frame, he will jump his way into routes and times his leaps precisely. Exceptional hand-eye coordination mirrors that of a receiver and he’s one of the few in this class who has the balance of short-area rapidity and a refined confidence that he’s going to come down with a big play when the ball is in the air.
But then come the arrests, the injury history and the unfortunate decline in play. He gave up a lot of deep passes due largely to overzealous tackling angles and poor discipline. He tends to almost wander offwhen in zone-coverage and struggled when challenged vertically. He’s perfectly competent inside the numbers, but when forced to battle deep down the field, he can’t stay pressed for long without losing momentum.
There’s a lot of work to be done for Thomas if he wants to soar at the NFL level and he’ll need a team who can condition him with tough love.
QB Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State
For anyone who missed the ‘Dane Train’ last offseason, Briscoe is a gunslinger who is just as confident. A winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Award as the FCS’ most outstanding offensive player (beating Cooper Kupp), Briscoe was a finalist once again in his final season, completing 57.9% of his passes for 5,003 yards and a 45-16 touchdown to interception ratio.
While he isn’t afraid to let it rip, Briscoe isn’t the most accurate arm out there and his 6’3, 225 lbs, frame doesn’t offer much in the way of athleticism. His touch on the deep ball is impressive, but it’s getting the ball into the right spot that seems to be a present concern in most of his games available to rewatch online.
26 interceptions over two years is a number that doesn’t bode well for the tougher level of DB’s playing in the NFL and if he does throw the ball prematurely, it can sting at the next level.
Likely competing for a QB3 spot with Sudfeld, this will be a name worth keeping in mind throughout rookie minicamp and OTA’s…especially if Pederson wants a QB to help stretch the field and test out his new WR talent.
S Stephen Roberts, Auburn
A four-year starter at Auburn alongside Tray Matthews, Roberts is coming off of a career year despite playing through a shoulder injury. Amassing 40 tackles and 6 for a loss, Robers was used heavily against the run and has a career 2 picks and 12 PBU’s to his name.
What’s interesting is that the 5’11, 186 lbs, safety is actually viewed by some teams as a nickel corner…a big position of need for the Eagles coming into the Draft. Playing for 3 defensive coordinators during his time at Auburn, Roberts brings a lot of physicality and versatility to the table, as well as ending his career as the Tigers’ leading punt returner in each of his last two seasons.
A budding special teamer with the ability to be molded into a unique DB piece for the Eagles, Roberts has a legitimate shot of making some noise.
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DT Bruce Hector, South Florida
As aforementioned, the Eagles love finding value in undrafted pass rushers. Last year saw the roster battle involving two UDFA’s in Destiny Vaeao and Winston Craig at defensive tackle and this year could see a competition even more intense. Hector’s 6’2, 296 lbs, frame may not be the most prototypical for his position, but he led or tied his team in sacks in each of his last three seasons, showing that size doesn’t mean everything. 7 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in his senior year capped off an impressive career.
In terms of technique, Hector has all the moves and mental prowess to succeed at the position, maintaining an even base and sustaining leverage on his rushes, Hector is able to re-direct blockers with ease. The main knock on him is unfortunately his size and that will be something that will be emphasized even further at the next level.
QB Brandon Silvers, Troy
Another contender to become this year’s ‘Dane Train’, Silvers stands at 6’2, 218 lbs and enters this picture as a four-year starter at Troy. Completing 63.9% of his passes in 2017 for 3,290 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 picks, Silvers simply got the job done. He won’t wow you with athleticism, but his ability to get the ball downfield accurately stands out.
Troy ran a lot of RPO’s last season, which coincidentally is almost the fundamental building block of Pederson’s offense. This could be why Silvers was given a look, due to his highlighted ability to scan through his reads and deliver a dart when needed. He’s an outside shot at landing onto the practice squad but if Foles does leave next season and Sudfeld becomes QB2, then Silvers is the type of quarterback who could one day become the team’s QB3.
S Ryan Neal, Southern Illinois
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Neal has the perfect size to play Safety at the next level, but his stunning 4.44 40-yard dash time recorded at Northwestern’s pro-day is what really drew attention to his game. Teams reportedly see Neal as a hybrid player who could play both corner and safety and it will be interesting to see how the Eagles use him over the Summer.
With 226 tackles (ranking 27th all-time in school history), 6.5 for a loss, 5 picks and 19 pass breakups in his career, his rangy frame made for some impressive plays at Southern Illinois. He also led the school with 84 tackles in 2017 and tied with his running-mate Jeremy Chinn when it came to interceptions.
The level of competition will be a dramatic step ups or Neal, the younger brother of former Packer, Mike Neal. From an intangible basis however, he appears to have all the boxes ticked.
WR Jordon Gandy, Murray State
This 6’4, 210 lbs, wideout is very much a red zone threat who brings that small-school, undrafted chip on his shoulder. Gandy recorded 2,065 yards in his final season, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and scoring 23 touchdowns in the process.
Gandy appears comfortable making all the catches in the book, snagging balls out of the air and aggressively contesting each 50/50 attempt. Intermediate routes seem to be his specialty, which favors the Eagles, but Gandy doesn’t have much in the way of speed. His specialty is boxing out corners and using his frame to create separation at the line…which is something the Eagles could potentially look to harness or extract out of him in preseason. Gandy will be an interesting prospect to watch as he seeks to fill a niche void in the receiving corps.
OT Aaron Evans, UCF
Evans has a prototypical frame of an interior guard (6’4, 325 lbs) despite being listed as a tackle. He plays with a good, strong base and has experience on both ends of the book shelf. What you see from Evans one week, is typically what you will get every week. The downside is that his play speed is often slow which means speedy edge-rushers wreck their way through. He has the experience and overall base needed to develop into a reliable piece, but it will take a lot of nurturing in order to take a strong base and fine tune that with the relevant body quickness needed at the NFL level.
DB Asantay Brown, Western Michigan
Two perfect words used to describe Brown would be ‘versatile’ and ‘athlete’. Having played both linebacker and safety spots during his career at WMU, Brown now signs a three-year deal with the Eagles. This 6’0, 215 lbs DB didn’t receive a combine invitation, but he did wow at his pro day.
With a 38″ vertical, 10’6 broad jump, 4.15 20-yard shuttle and 6.86 3-cone drill, Brown did more than just raise a few eyebrows. Brown played as a linebacker in both of his final two seasons, having played as a Safety prior to that. For his career, Brown has 307 tackles, 14 passes defensed, 6.5 sacks and 4 interceptions.
A strong tackler who certainly flashed that against one Kareem Hunt in 2016, Brown plays physically and with paste. His ability to burst onto the ball or quickly dissect a play is impressive, weaving through traffic to find the ball and always be around the pigskin.
This isn’t the first time that the Eagles have attempted to sign a hybrid defensive player. Nate Gerry was drafted for those same reasons one year ago and it’s clearly something the Eagles are still searching the ends of the earth to find a correct formula for. Could Brown be a dark horse to fill that niche? Who knows?
Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports