Kicking the Can Down the Road: Recapping the 2018 Eagles Draft

Photo Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Were you excited by the Eagles draft? Probably not, but you weren’t supposed to be.

They traded out of the first round, picked up a second round 2019 draft pick, and positioned themselves for more meaningful roster additions at the end of next season, when nearly a dozen players will become free agents. If the 2019 draft took place RIGHT THIS VERY DAY, the Birds would have 11 projected selections.

They’re thinking ahead, which is a luxury you can afford when you’re the defending Super Bowl champion with a stable coaching staff and a tremendous front office.

What they did this year is find possible replacements for Trey Burton and Patrick Robinson, at least on paper. They went for athletes and took some risks, drafting a highly-rated pass rusher with injury history and a 6’8″ foreigner who has never played a snap of football.

That seems to be the theme here, the idea that the Birds didn’t necessarily need anything right now, which gave them some wiggle room with their selections, instead of needing to plug multiple gaping roster holes with the Flex Seal family of products.

Here’s the list of draft picks:

Dallas Goedert, tight end, South Dakota State

Round 2, #49 overall

I mentioned this guy twice in draft previews. He’s just a phenomenal pass catcher, easily the best hands in this tight end class. He compares himself to Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, which is a pretty lofty observation, but if he plays anything like either of those guys, the Birds are in good hands.

Get it? Good hands?

……

Right, anyway, Goedert isn’t an amazing blocker, but how much blocking did the Eagles ask Trey Burton to do last year? They like throwing an extra lineman out there when they use jumbo packages and they find creative ways to get effective run blockers on the field.

For those concerned about his collegiate competition at the FCS level, I’d first point out that Carson Wentz played for a small Dakota school and he turned out fine. When you go through his game logs, it looks like Goedert did pretty well against the FBS and top-end FCS opponents he face:

  • 12/2/17 vs. Northern Iowa: 6 receptions, 83 yards, 1 touchdown (FCS playoffs)
  • 12/9/17 vs. New Hampshire: 1 reception, 19 yards (FCS playoffs)
  • 12/16/17 at James Madison: 5 receptions, 43 yards, 1 touchdown (FCS semifinal)
  • 9/3/16 at TCU: 5 receptions, 96 yards, 1 touchdown
  • 12/3/16 vs. Villanova: 8 receptions, 92 yards, 1 touchdown (FCS playoffs)
  • 12/10/16 at North Dakota State: 6 receptions, 55 yards (FCS playoffs)
  • 9/5/15 at Kansas: 2 receptions, 49 yards

There’s a lot of good in there. Kansas is horrendous, but NDSU and Nova and James Madison are all teams that can compete with lower-level FBS schools. TCU is TCU, a top-25 Big 12 team that has great defense one season, then atrocious defense the next season. Here’s what Goedert said about playing in Forth Worth two years ago:

“When we played them, I think they were like 15th overall in the rankings. So, going up there I wanted to show what I could do, and I thought we had a good chance to beat them, and we were in the game until a few late things happened. But I went in there and I had just about 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. And I was blocking their D-ends with no problem, [and] one I think got drafted that year. So, I just think I kind of proved to everybody I could play at that level and there were really no questions.”

I think he’s talking about Josh Carraway, the outside linebacker who was a 7th round draft pick in 2017.

Here’s the video from that matchup:

Goedert was a borderline first round talent in most mock drafts. The Eagles could have snagged him at 32 overall, but traded back, saw him there at 49, and jumped ahead of the Cowboys to get their guy and deny them a Jason Witten replacement at the same time.

Shrewd moves.

Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh

Round 4, #125 overall

Ugh, Pitt? Really?

At least this guy didn’t play on their 8-24 basketball team.

For real, though, this guy is a tough slot corner and has a chance to slide into the Eagles’ nickel package as a Robinson replacement. He’s not huge, but he’s gritty and athletic and actually blitzes well from the inside, putting up 7 sacks to go along with 8 interceptions over the past three seasons.

Here, he does a nice job to shed his block and make a play on Saquon Barkley in space:

https://twitter.com/NFL_drafthub/status/987536528598556674

Howie Roseman described Maddox as an “extremely competitive, twitchy player,” explaining that he has experience inside and outside while providing special teams and returner value.

More from Doug Pederson on where they see Maddox fitting in:

“Well, first of all, he’s primarily played outside. So we’re going to get him in here, we’re going to get him working with our guys, we’ll get him with [Eagles defensive backs coach] Cory Undlin, we’ll get him with [Eagles defensive coordinator] coach [Jim] Schwartz, we’ll see where he’s at. Will we give him reps inside? Yeah, we’ll give him reps inside, just like we’ve done with several of our players. So right now we don’t know where it’s exactly going to fall, but he’ll have an opportunity to work in there.”

I’d be shocked if they don’t try to groom him as a slot corner. You already have Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby as outside guys. Rasul Douglas plays outside and Sidney Jones in the slot doesn’t feel like the best fit to me. Do they move Mills inside and start Jones opposite of Darby? Maybe.

The main knock on Maddox is his height, 5’9″, so we’ll see how much of a detriment that ends up being in the NFL. Robinson, for comparison, is 5’11”.

Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

Round 4, #130 overall

He’s a freak athlete who dealt with injury issues in college.

Actually, it wasn’t really college, because he only missed one game at Florida State. What happened was that he almost lost his leg after a bad high school dislocation, with doctors thinking that blood flow was damaged to the point where they’d have to do a partial amputation. Sweat tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL on an extra point block, an accident his father said wouldn’t happen “again in a thousand years.”

Consensus was that the injury limited him in college, even though he was still incredibly productive on a good FSU team, with 16 sacks over the last two years. He was seen as a 1st round talent if 100% healthy, with some Jadeveon Clowney comparisons floating around.

I can see that:

The Eagles love their defensive ends, and now they’ve got a boat load of ’em.

Howie:

“Yeah, that’s what we call ‘rich man problems.’ We’re excited about that. That’s how we’re going to build this. We’re always going to put priority on the lines. You can never have too many, and I think Coach [Eagles head coach Doug Pederson] and his staff showed that throughout the season. Depth is important in this league, and also grooming players. When you look at the draft, the draft isn’t about filling needs, it’s about the long-term interests of your football team.”

As for Sweat’s injury history, Roseman said he “wouldn’t take a player that we wouldn’t feel comfortable about.”

Matt Pryor, Offensive Tackle, TCU

Round 6, #206 overall

At 6’6″, 335 pounds, he logged 23 college starts at right guard, 8 at right tackle, and one at left guard.

Pryor says he feels comfortable playing both positions and believes he has his weight under control after fluctuations over the last few years:

“I’m about 335 [pounds] right now. My heaviest, I came in my freshman year at maybe 380. Year by year, I’ve started cutting weight slowly. My sophomore year I was down to about 360. Recently, after my senior year when I was training for my pro day was when I got down to 328…. I’ve heard 330 would be a good weight but if I have to cut more, I’ll cut more because I know in the NFL it’s really about speed than being heavy and strong. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do.”

Roseman and Douglas were asked about Pryor in their post draft press conference, and this is the entire exchange, transcribed by Eagles PR:

Q. Your two fourth-round picks are all impressive athletic specimens. It seems like sixth-round pick TCU G/T Matt Pryor didn’t test quite that well. What did you see with him? What makes you excited about him? 

JOE DOUGLAS: Pryor’s a giant of a human being. Excellent length and mass. If you go back, he gives us guard-tackle flexibility. If you go back to the Oklahoma game, I would say watch that game. What he does at guard is he puts people on the ground with ease. So that’s another player that [Eagles offensive line coach/run game coordinator] [Jeff] Stout[land] and [Eagles assistant offensive line/tight ends/run game coach] Eugene [Chung] were pretty fired up about.

HOWIE ROSEMAN: As were you.

JOE DOUGLAS: Yes.

Should be interesting to see what they do with him. Jason Peters is 35, Brandon Brooks is 29, and Stefen Wisniewski is also 29, so they’re going to have to groom some backups here in the next year or so. They’ve got the time to find those guys, which segues into this:

Jordan Mailata, Offensive Tackle*, Australia

Round 7, #233 overall

This guy is a rugby player. He’s never played American football.

But, like me, he’s a fantastic physical specimen, 6’8″ and 346 pounds. Roseman described him as “interesting guy” that the staff is really excited to work with.

They’re going to bring him along as an offensive lineman, which makes sense considering his measurables. Not like they need another defensive lineman anyway.

Check this dude out:

https://twitter.com/LacesOutShow/status/990365791727095808

The Birds traded up to #233 to select this guy. Should be a fascinating developmental project. I wouldn’t want to be in front of him if he’s moving downhill.

Undrafted free agents:

These aren’t confirmed by the team, but these three guys were projected to be drafted:

  • RB Josh Adams (Notre Dame)
  • OT Toby Weathersby (LSU)
  • CB Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma)

Adams is the biggest name here, the ND running back who put up 1,430 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns last year but went undrafted. He’s a Central Bucks South grad and even got some Heisman talk in 2017. He’s 6’2, 225 pounds and excellent at gaining yardage after contact:

I could see Adams really pushing Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey in camp.

Weathersby was a 6th-round projection, a guy who can play both RT and LT but didn’t have a great combine. Same situation for Thomas, who tested well in some areas and poorly in others to go along with a pair of suspensions at OU. I watched him play in college and he seemed to drop off over the last two seasons for whatever reason. He was much better in 2015.

And, for what it’s worth, NFL.com is reporting that these are the players who have signed or agreed to terms with the Eagles:

Adams, Thomas, WR Ray Bolden, QB Jeremiah Briscoe, OL Aaron Evans, LB Danny Ezechukwu, DB Jeremy Reaves

Briscoe is an interesting QB, an FCS-level guy from Sam Houston State. Maybe the Eagles see him taking some reps behind Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld while Carson Wentz continues to recover. Evans feels like another guy they can throw into the OL mix to see what surfaces, while Reaves is the former Sun Belt player of the year, a corner who moved to safety and hits like a truck.

We’ll get more on the UDFAs this week.

Time’s yours.

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4 Responses

  1. I always like these projects, probably because of Jason Peters’ backstory. So I’ll be watching the rugby player and I haven’t given up hope on Taylor Hart yet.

  2. If the Birds see a stud around the 15th pick they can go right up and grab him. It could be anybody, linebacker, running back, offensive line. It puts them in absolutely great situation. The value of having an additional second rounder is huge. Just pencil in right now the Eagles have the 15th or 16th pick in the first round even if win another Super Bowl.

  3. Adams will beat out Smallwood & Pumphrey (Sproles’ return sealed his fate) for the 4th RB roster spot. Book it.

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