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What do we do for an encore?
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in February, with an improbable victory over the defending champion New England Patriots. The team had to weather not only the Patriots, but injuries to star quarterback Carson Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and third-down back Darren Sproles, among others. And they weren’t just a 9-7 team that got hot at the right time; they went 13-3 with an offense and defense that both ranked in the top five in scoring, winning the one seed in a competitive NFC. This was no fluke, and Philadelphia should expect to make more playoff runs in the future.
So the Eagles didn’t enter the draft with much in the way of needs—fortunate, as they entered the draft with only one pick, #32, in the first three rounds, having traded away picks for Wentz and cornerback Ronald Darby. They wound up making five selections, but added some rotational depth and a couple intriguing late-round projects.
It’s not easy to crack the starting lineup on a defending Super Bowl champ, and none of the Eagles draft picks figure to as rookies.
Immediate Role Player
Round 2, Pick 49: Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
Goedert was ITP’s #1 overall tight end and despite coming from an FCS school, would figure to start early on a number of teams. The Eagles aren’t one of them, with Pro Bowler Zach Ertz, fresh off the Super-Bowl-winning catch, firmly entrenched at tight end. That doesn’t mean Goedert won’t see the field. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson loves to mix-and-match personnel groups, so while Ertz led the TE group with 776 snaps, stout-blocking veteran Brent Celek (465) and smaller H-back (and occasional Super-Bowl-TD-passer) Trey Burton (300) combined for nearly as many. With Celek and Burton gone, that leaves plenty of snaps for Goedert to get action.
Goedert has the physical tools teams want at the position. ITP Draft Guide lead scout Ryan Dukarm noted his “speed to work vertically down the seam and stress defenses down the field” and “elite and soft hands.” He can refine his route running at the top of his stems, but it’s his blocking that presents a bigger obstacle to an immediate role. He’s big enough, but needs time in the weight room to build strength, and he “looks lost a lot of the time as a run blocker, especially in space.” The Eagles are in a position to rotate Goedert in on passing situations and avoid relying on him heavily in the run game.
Round 4, Pick 125: Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh
The Eagles had an outstanding defense in 2017, but teams that could hold up against their fast-and-furious pass rush found a defensive backfield with weaknesses. They also lost standout Patrick Robinson, who emerged as a quality slot defender, in the offseason. But the Eagles are positioned to see quite a bit of improvement from within. Darby missed half the season with a dislocated ankle, thus he should see the field more in 2018. Jalen Mills enters his third season, while Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones enter their second seasons. Jones is particularly intriguing. He was considered one of the best cornerback prospects in the draft before tearing his Achilles in the pre-draft phase. He should be ready to contribute this season.
Still, Maddox has the opportunity to earn some playing time. He played largely outside CB for Pittsburgh, but at 5’9”, 184 pounds, he may get consideration for Robinson’s slot role. Lead scout James O’Rourke noted Maddox’s “excellent mental processing, able to read the QB’s eyes, come off receivers in his zone, and make a play on the ball.” That makes him a great fit in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s zone-heavy D. Maddox’s ball skills help him transcend his size, and he adds speed and athleticism to the secondary. He struggles with block-shedding and tackling, so he may need time in an NFL weight room before playing extensively, but Maddox has the coverage ability to earn playing time early.
Round 4, Pick 130: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Like Goedert, Sweat would likely play a bigger role on a different team, but the Eagles defensive line is stacked. Vinny Curry is gone, but Philadelphia brought in three-time Pro Bowler Michael Bennett to bolster a group that already includes Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham, 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, and veteran Chris Long. That might not leave much playing time for Sweat, but that doesn’t mean the 21-year-old is untalented. Sweat’s athletic profile led to lead scout Nick Falato calling him “The Alien”—an assessment born out by Sweat’s 9.69 rating on the 0-10 Relative Athletic Score. He’s got the athletic profile teams look for on the edge.
So how did he slide to the fourth round? Sweat can improve his snap get-off, his pass rush plan, and his upper body strength, but the biggest issue is likely Sweat’s injury history. He suffered a brutal ACL tear and knee dislocation as a senior in high school, and that balky left knee required meniscus surgery in 2016. The Eagles’ commitment to rotating on the edge puts them in an ideal position to manage his snaps, and in the fourth round he’s a terrific gamble even if his health won’t hold up over a 12-year career.
Round 6, Pick 206: Matt Pryor, OL, TCU
If the Eagles do have a need, it might be at offensive tackle, where Peters enters his 15th season at the age of 36. Peters, right tackle Lane Johnson, and swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai can certainly hold down the fort while a project like Pryor develops as a fourth tackle or on the practice squad. At nearly 6’7” and 328 pounds and with 35 ½” arms, Pryor has prototypical tackle size, though he also played guard for the Horned Frogs. Lead scout Marcus Johnson noted his quick feet at the snap, but also a lack of speed and consistent effort as the play develops.
Round 7, Pick 233: Jordan Mailata, OT(?), South Sydney Rabbitohs
Mailata is one of the most fascinating projects in the draft. At nearly 6’8” and 346 pounds, he’s even more massive than Pryor, and his 5.12 40 time shows tremendous athleticism for a player that size. Mailata has never played football at any level, so he has a ton to learn. Lead scout James McClintock noted the “lower body power and balance” evident on Mailata’s rugby tape, but how that will translate to the pace of play in American football is a mystery. Peters himself came from an unusual background, playing tight end for Arkansas before going undrafted, and Philadelphia is taking a seventh-round flyer on lightning striking twice.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents
With a smaller draft class, the Eagles added several free agents post-draft. The following players made our top 185:
Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame – Adams isn’t super-shifty, but he shows the vision and burst to run up the middle and dangerous long speed in the open field.
Toby Weathersby, G/T, LSU – Another OL option, Weathersby wins with his play strength when run blocking but his pass protection deficiencies likely prevent him from playing tackle.
Aaron Evans, G/T, Central Florida – Like Weathersby, Evans’ pass blocking issues make him a better fit at guard, but he’s less of a mauler in the run game and more of an athletic puller or zone blocker.
Joe Ostman, Edge, Central Michigan – A high school wrestler, Ostman used his hands, toughness, and pass rush plan to lead FBS in sacks in 2017 despite a lack of conventional length, strength, or explosiveness for the edge.