The NFL scouting combine officially gets under way today in Indianapolis. Here are three things we’ll be watching, with an Eagles slant.
1. De’Anthony Thomas
Oregon's multi-purpose offensive weapon is sure to turn heads when it comes time to run the 40. ESPN.com's Todd McShay handicapped the race to become the draft's fastest player and included Thomas on his list:
I don't know if I've ever seen a prospect look faster in a live game situation with the ball in his hands than Thomas. He's also a track guy, and was a Division I All-American in 2013 as the anchor leg of Oregon's 4x100-meter relay team.
Thomas thrived in Chip Kelly's offense, averaging 7.6 YPC in 2012. He scored 28 total touchdowns in his final two college seasons, including three as a returner on special teams.
The connection between Thomas and the Eagles will likely be made by many in the coming days and weeks.
2. The risers
Every year we see certain guys make a leap in Indy. Lane Johnson had perhaps the best combine ever for an offensive lineman last year and vaulted all the way up to the No. 4 pick.
A couple guys to watch this year. Gil Brandt of NFL.com thinks UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo will light it up. Su'a-Filo is projected as a second-day pick, but Brandt thinks he's a Day One starter.
Another name to keep an eye on is Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is currently Mike Mayock's No. 2-rated CB, but Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com thinks he has a chance to run the fastest 40 in the class:
I asked several area scouts and personnel executives to give me the names of a few players that they thought would run blazing times, and Gilbert's name was easily the most mentioned during those discussions. He's a very big cornerback, checking in at 6-foot, 200 pounds -- and still, it's easy to notice his breakaway speed in the return game and his make-up speed in coverage. To use a scouting term, Gilbert has "easy speed." He doesn't labor when he runs and he picks up ground in a hurry. He's expected to run in the mid-to-low 4.3s.
Gilbert has shown up at No. 22 to the Eagles in some mocks already. There's a chance he goes much earlier.
3. Free agency buzz
On Thursday and Friday, NFL coaches and GMs take the podium and answer questions from reporters across the country. Howie Roseman is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon. Kelly is one of nine coaches not expected to chat.
Will Roseman stick with the message he's been preaching for months? The one where he cautions Eagles fans from expecting a big splash and emphasizes more of a batting average approach?
But the thing about the combine is all the agents descend upon Indianapolis. Some will try to create a buzz for their clients. Others will offer legitimate information off-the-record to reporters.
One way or another, we'll have something to talk about in the coming days, and Birds 24/7 will be there to make sense of it all.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Mayock thinks this is the best draft in 10 years and pegs Auburn's Dee Ford as a potential fit for the Eagles.
T-Mac with some notes on Dion Jordan and the OLB market.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com thinks the Eagles will be looking at QBs in Indy:
Roseman said the Eagles evaluate every potential draft pick.
“We look at everybody,” Roseman said in a recent interview. “You have to. You don’t go into it only evaluating guys based on what you need right now. In this day and age, so much changes, it’s almost impossible to determine what you’re going to need in a year or two.”
Brian Solomon of McNabbOrKolb.com takes a deep dive into where Alex Henery ranked among kickers last season:
On the other end of the spectrum, Henery ranked third-worst in the NFL last year. He lost the Eagles approximately 10.8 points, split about equally between kickoffs and field goals. Henery was near the bottom of the pack in kickoff distance and average drive start, losing 1.6 yards per kickoff. Meanwhile, his 80% field goal accuracy should have been better, given he took mostly shorter kicks. The league average accuracy for his attempts would have been 85.8%.
We'll catch up with Roseman and have complete combine coverage. Offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists are scheduled to weigh in. Testing does not begin until Friday.