The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone. The city of Philadelphia did an amazing job hosting and they have really set the standard for hosting future drafts. Take that national media who still like to bring up a Santa Claus incident from over fifty years ago. With that being said, the Eagles came into the past weekend with a lot of needs and boy did they address them. Let’s breakdown each pick and then I’ll give a final grade on how the Eagles did.
- Derek Barnett- Defensive End
I wrote about the Barnett selection in an earlier post, but for the sake of analyzing each pick I’ll give a quick recap. He’s a solid, well-built pass rusher who plays fantastic in coverage given he’s a defensive end and also plays phenomenally well against the run. Some people think it’s funny to relate him to Marcus Smith but there simply is no comparison. Barnett has the chance to really be a special player in this system and will compete from day one for the starting job on the right side of the line. I’m excited to see what he brings given his pedigree from college.
2. Sidney Jones- Cornerback
I screamed for joy when the Eagles took Jones in the second round. Of course, the pick comes with some concern as Jones tore his Achilles tendon back in February at the NFL Combine. Dr. Josh Andrews who performed the surgery expects Jones to make a full recovery in 4-6 months. That might be pushing it but remember this; Jones is not even 21 yet (he will be by the time the season starts) The younger, the better in terms of rehabbing a serious injury. He also doesn’t carry a lot of weight on his frame. I’m totally fine with Jones sitting out for all of 2017 if that means he’ll be 1,000% healthy in 2018. I could see him returning post week 10 bye. The thing with Jones is, he’s a true, shut down corner. Many had him as the best corner in the draft period before the injury. If and when Jones comes back healthy, the Eagles got the steal of the draft. He is THE GUY who will challenge every opposing team’s number one option and hold the fort down in doing so. A 6’0″ corner is great size, it will just be key to see how he comes back from his injury since he relies heavily on his speed and agile movement to keep up with receivers.
3. Rasul Douglas- Cornerback
I was actually surprised to see the Eagles take two corners in a row, however, with Sidney Jones likely not playing in week 1, it made sense to get a guy who could start immediately. Douglas stands at 6’2″, 209 pounds which is fantastic length that will come in handy in a division that features receivers Dez Bryant, Terrelle Pryor and the Odell Beckham Jr. Douglas also led all of the FBS last year with interceptions at 8 and broke up a ton of passes. I love his tenacity and ability to create turnovers. Even without Sidney Jones in the start of the year, Douglas, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson will be lightyears better than what the Eagles had at corner last year. A healthy Jones and Douglas together will fix all of the secondary problems the Eagles have had in the last five years.
4. Mack Hollins- Wide Reciever
Day three of the draft saw the Eagles turn their attention to getting Carson Wentz weapons. Mack Hollins is 6’4″, 221 pounds and has great speed to go with his size. Hollins is known for being a beast on special teams as a gunner, and he is still polishing up his skills as a true wide receiver. He was one of the eight receivers on the list given to Carson Wentz a few months ago to “scout”. Wentz spoke highly of him and if Hollins improves with his routes, his size will make for a great target for Wentz in the future.
5. Donnel Pumphrey- Runningback
The Eagles entered the draft needing to address the runningback position. The selection of Donnel Pumphrey answered just that. Pumphrey is a small back, however, only standing at 5’8″ and weighing 180 pounds, but he is the FBS all-time leading rusher and has home-run ability. When you look at Pumphrey, you’re basically getting the next Darren Sproles. He’s fast, has great hands, blocks well and finds open spaces like a true pro. He’s not a three down back, but he’s a versatile weapon and gives Wentz a legit check-down guy out of the backfield.
6. Shelton Gibson- Wide Receiver
I was someone who was looking at Gibson to the Eagles prior to the draft starting. I did not imagine him falling as far as he did and when the Eagles got him, I immediately fell in love with the pick. Gibson averaged 23 yards per catch during his three seasons at West Virginia and is known for his blazing speed. When you get to this point in the draft, you’re not looking for complete players necessarily, rather, someone who has skills and can improve on them. When you look at Gibson, you’re looking at DeSean Jackson 2.0, who just needs some time to develop on his route running.
7. Nate Gerry- Safety/Linebacker
This pick fills two needs as Gerry is that Deone Buchannon type of guy who can play safety, while coming down to linebacker in a hybrid role of sorts. Listed at 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, I’d expect the Eagles to want him to put on some more weight to his frame. Gerry is a versatile player who lined up as a slot defender at times and had 13 interceptions on the collegiate level. He has a nose for the ball and loves to make the gritty plays. With his versatility, I think he’ll be a solid role player for the Eagles going forward.
8. Elijah Qualls- Defensive Tackle
With their last pick, the Eagles looked to continue to bolster their defensive line. Qualls has been related to Danny Shelton of the Browns; not much of a pass rusher, more of a run stuffer with a big frame. With Beau Allen likely out until the beginning of the year with a torn pectoral muscle, Qualls has a chance to solidify himself as a legit backup, especially on third downs and goal-line situations where the Eagles would need to shutdown a run play. At 6’1″, 313 pounds, Qualls could easily add more muscle to his body which would really make him a big freak inside.
Draft Grade: A-
The Eagles filled every single need they had. Derek Barnett gives youth and tenacity to the defensive line and with offenses likely worried about Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Graham, Barnett should get his when it comes to plays. A healthy Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas give the Eagles two corners that should lock down the position with Jalen Mills for years to come. Those three could really form a strong trio in the secondary for the next decade. Hollins and Gibson give Carson Wentz more options at wide receiver, while also being able to push guys like Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor for roster spots (the more competition for them, the better) Gibson looks like he could be that downfield deep threat Wentz needed last year. Donnel Pumphrey is basically a young Darren Sproles like I mentioned, so there’s nothing wrong with that. Nate Gerry and Elijah Qualls cold easily be strong depth and rotational guys, giving the Eagles more defensive depth which was something I argued they needed. Overall, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas had a strong first draft together. They really shaped this team to make a playoff push in 2017 while being able to add even more in 2018 and beyond to make that Super Bowl run.
Here’s a list of notable undrafted free agents (UDFAs) the Eagles added:
Tyler Orlosky- Offensive tackle
Corey Clement- Runningback
Billy Brown- Tight end
Marcus Oliver- Linebacker
Tre’ Sullivan- Safety
Those are a few names that stood out to me. It appears Orlosky was one of the best UDFAs on the board which is great news seeing as he adds even more depth to the offensive line. Corey Clement was listed as a 4th round pick, so him going undrafted is odd, but could pay huge dividends since the Eagles need a bigger running back. Billy Brown, Marucs Oliver and Tre’ Sullivan allow the Eagles to play around with depth guys. Hell, I’ll take Tre’ Sullivan over another year of Jaylen Watkins playing backup to Malcolm Jenkins.
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