The biggest news so far in this offseason for the Eagles came when Howie decided to trade for Darius Slay and get his team a true shutdown cornerback. There have been many questions asked about Philadelphia’s secondary for quite some time and even with the addition of Slay, there’s still a question of if the Eagles have the partners for him to actually make it worthwhile having someone like Slay on the team.
It’s been the general consensus that the Eagles need to add at cornerback during the draft, even with the addition of Slay. There’s a huge melee for the slot position at the moment but no real player stands out. That puts Philly in a position where they may need to draft a corner that can develop in the first year under Slay and then take the field once the cornerback room is sorted out
Here are my 5 late-round prospect suggestions for the Eagles.
Madre Harper, Southern Illinois
Harper is one of the more intriguing options I’ll offer in this whole series and I’ll explain why. His frame is exactly what you want from a corner in the NFL, 6-foot-1, 196 pounds. The Southern Illinois prospect really uses his weight when tackling and just overall has a brilliant athletic profile to go alongside the perfect frame. Harper’s ball production in college was superb, constantly breaking up passes (averaged 1.3 a game) alongside two interceptions in 2019 alone. Playing alongside Jeremy Chinn, Harper looks so natural in zone coverage, using his length and burst to close down on the ball.
The main issue with Harper, football skills-wise, is he struggles in the run game. Block shedding is a problem and that is a concern given the scheme the Eagles play. There’s also the issue of him being dismissed from Oklahoma State back in 2017 for breaking team rules, so his character has a big question mark over it.
Harper reminds me a lot of Rasul Douglas in that they have a Pretty similar build and skill set. If you line Harper up like 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and let him read the play, he’ll constantly produce for you. The question is, would he be able to do what Douglas couldn’t and find a place in this scheme?
Lamar Jackson, Nebraska
The Nebraska prospect is another tall and well-built cornerback who could partner Slay quite nicely in a couple of years. Jackson is a brilliant press coverage corner who tries to leverage the receiver’s movements against them to win his matchups. He’s extremely physical when receivers go up for the ball and he plays strong when tackling and defending the run. His ball production skyrocketed in 2019, which is a great sign for when he takes his first steps in the NFL.
However, his long strides hurt him in the long speed game and lateral movements. Jackson also has a tendency to not leave his receiver to attack the ball, he’d rather be physical and hope the receiver drops the ball as opposed to being physical and then attacking the ball at the right time. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound corner also needs to improve his football IQ a fair amount. He doesn’t have the greatest understanding when it comes to the run game and seems to almost half try on a lot of running play snaps.
Jackson had a standout year for Nebraska in 2019 as he recorded 40 total tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, and 12 passes defended. If he can produce that sort of production in the NFL, he’s set to be a great corner and a great compliment to a franchise’s CB1.
DeMarkus Acy, Missouri
Acy is probably the best, all-rounded prospect on this list. Playing for Missouri, Acy was introduced into multiple different roles, giving him the versatility that NFL teams will love from a guy this far down the draft. The Missouri prospect stands at 6-foot-2, giving him a lot of height on the guys he covers and he can handle covering bigger guys too. His ball production was good enough but we never really got to see it shine through in 2019 as opponent QB’s seemed to target the other side of the field. Acy was also a team captain, giving him the leadership skills and experience teams love.
Acy could really do with adding more physicality to his game, especially considering his physical profile of 6-foot-2, 196 pounds. He also needs to gain confidence in his own play and football IQ. It always seems to me that he goes to do something and then stops himself to properly think it over, almost as if he doesn’t trust his instinct enough.
If Acy managed to add some more physicality to his game and had a little more self-confidence, he has the makings of a great cornerback in the NFL, he could genuinely be one of the steals in this draft, especially when he’s predicted to go in the 7th round.
Nevelle Clarke, UCF
Clarke became a draft crush of mine after I was actually watching tape on one of his teammates and he caught my eye a little bit. The UCF prospect is another big framed corner, who will mainly excel playing outside rather than in the slot. Standing at 6-foot-1, Clarke possesses a great foundation for press coverage as he aggressively attacks the receiver at the catch point and is constantly swatting passes with his length. His ball production is pretty decent and can definitely develop further in the NFL.
The main issue Clarke has is he struggles with fluidity around the hips and struggles to recover if a receiver beats him during press. He doesn’t have the best speed to deal with longer routes and speedy receiver will leave him in the dirt the longer a route goes on. Clarke’s tackling ability seems inconsistent but when you factor in the fact, he had 11 pass defenses in 2019 and 13 back in 201, he seems to make up for the lack of consistency when tackling by not allowing the receiver to get the ball.
Essang Bassey, Wake Forest
Bassey has been a draft crush of mine since around January, he was probably my first alongside someone else who will appear later on in the series. The Wake Forest prospect is a production machine and boasts an incredible record of stats over his college career. Standing at 5-foot-9, he’s the picture-perfect image for a Schwartz slot cornerback who could develop into a star. Despite his lack of length, Bassey’s determination and aggression towards every play is outstanding and a trait any fan will fall in love with. He has fantastic fluid movement with his hips and footwork, which allow him to attack any ball in the air.
Unfortunately for Bassey, his height does limit his tackling ability, he lacks real hit power. Bassey has this trait of trying to trip the defender at the ankles rather than wrapping them up at the legs, but when he does wrap them up, he always brings them down so it’s just a matter of breaking that annoying habit. Essang also needs to trust his ability at the line of scrimmage more, he has the skillset to be with the receiver from the start of the play.
I know the Eagles may not need a slot corner, especially with the melee at that position within the Eagles’ roster but most of the players are on one year prove it deals, and others need to shine this year or find themselves leaving Philadelphia once the season is over. Essang would be the ideal late round candidate to bring in and develop whilst you have that cover at slot corner right now, in my opinion, it’s a no brainer picking him.
One last thing is I’ll demonstrate how much of a stat monster Essang is. In 2017 he had 75 total tackles, 3 interceptions and 16 passes defended. In 2018, he had 74 total tackles, 1 interception and 15 passes defended and in 2019 he had 60 total tackles, 1 interception and 11 passes defended.
Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports