Draft Daily Wake-Up Call: Vernon Hargreaves
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. If you have a player you want covered, shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
THE BACK STORY
When asked to identify the Eagles’ needs at the owners meetings, Doug Pederson quickly named two position groups: offensive line and secondary.
“Secondary is always a key position around the National Football League,” Pederson said. “The passing game has become the staple, a lot of yards, a lot of attempts. You need guys that can cover.”
At cornerback, the Eagles re-signed Nolan Carroll to a one-year deal, have reason to believe Eric Rowe will develop into a reliable starter and brought in a couple of Jim Schwartz’s former guys from Buffalo — Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. However, it’s safe to say they don’t have a top-of-the-line starter who can shut down half of the field, and it’s a position Philadelphia hasn’t been particularly strong at for the past several years.
It’s been five seasons since the Eagles last sent a corner to the Pro Bowl — Asante Samuel — and the team has signed high-priced free agents to try to solve the problem on multiple occasions, to no avail. But in this year’s draft, they may be able to find a long-term solution in Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
The 5-10, 204-pound defensive back earned All-American honors in 2014 and 2015, while being named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award last season. The 20-year-old started games as a true freshman, when he ranked among SEC leaders with 14 passes defensed.
At the NFL Combine, Hargreaves was a top performer in the broad jump, vertical jump, and 20-yard shuttle, ranking third, fourth and fourth among cornerbacks.
However, he’s also short and he doesn’t have great speed. Hargreaves addressed this at the NFL Combine.
“At the end of the day it’s all about competing. Height? Size? That really doesn’t matter. If you can play ball, you can play ball,” Hargreaves said. “Going up against Kelvin Benjamin, there’s not much technique you can use. You just got to compete. You know you have to get the ball off him and tackle him and stay in his face all game and you can’t back down.”
As I watched Hargreaves’ film, I couldn’t help but thinking one thing: Jim Schwartz would probably love to get his hands on this guy. Although Hargreaves doesn’t have great size, he’s physical, aggressive and he displays that attacking mentality that Schwartz covets.
At first, I was surprised to see a guy as small as Hargreaves try to bully bigger opponents, but he’s persistent. To give you a sense of the mindset he plays with, below is one of his more notable hits.
That aggressiveness also shows up against the run, like on this tackle he made against Kentucky.
In the games I watched, he was often able to shed blockers, and he typically cut a guy’s legs out from under him to bring the ball-carrier down. Although, Hargreaves isn’t spectacular in run support, he’s a willing tackler who won’t shy away from contact.
He was asked about corners and run support at the combine.
“You have to go do it. That’s part of being a complete corner, coming up and tackling the Leonard Fournette’s of the world,” Hargreaves said. “You have to do it. You have to stick your face in the fan and take whatever comes with it.”
The Florida native also makes up for his size with his leaping ability. He has good timing when attacking the ball at the catch point, and between his jumping and habit of being in position, he’s typically a disruption, as he was on this pass breakup against Tennessee.
He seems to have good hands, too, as he accumulated 10 interceptions during his three-year career in Gainesville, including one against New Mexico State that was essentially a jump ball.
Hargreaves looks like he has the other important tools to succeed at cornerback — fluid hips, sound footwork and good anticipation. It was rare to see receivers get much separation from him, and he quickly got in and out of breaks, like when he intercepted this pass against Vanderbilt.
However, because of his aggressiveness, Hargreaves is also more susceptible to double moves. Particularly at the end of the season last year, he was burned on big plays, like this one against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It appears likely that Hargreaves will available at No. 8 when the Eagles are on the clock, and it’s possible he’ll be both the best player on Philadelphia’s board, plus a guy that addresses a need. Jacksonville is a team that needs a corner with a first-round pick ahead of Philadelphia, but fifth seems too high for Hargreaves to go.
Hargreaves seems like a good fit for the Eagles, and, even though he can play any type of coverage, he likes press the best. He explained why in Indianapolis.
“I definitely like to say I like to press rather than play off,” Hargreaves said. “It’s all about timing. You press a guy and it messes up the timing between him and the quarterback and things have to happen quicker. That’s why I like press coverage.”
Although I’d rather have Carson Wentz or Jared Goff if they’re available, and it depends on if anyone else falls, it’d be tough to question Philadelphia if they drafted Hargreaves. He could immediately step in and give the Eagles an upgrade at corner.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Draft Daily: North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz has the highest upside of any quarterback.
The Eagles are on the hunt for a franchise quarterback, Tim explains.
Our updated Eagles pre-draft visit tracker.
“He’s got a good future.” Evaluating Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenburg.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
No, the Eagles are not going to trade up and draft a quarterback, says David Murphy of the Daily News.
Hell no. It makes no sense. Unless Howie Roseman and Pederson are the two least rational people on the planet, everything that they have done thus far this offseason tells us that there is a ZERO percent chance that they are planning to make a play for Wentz or Goff. And everything we know about Roseman tells us he is the opposite of irrational. You do not survive as long as he has without being an extremely cold, calculating, meticulous decision-maker.
So . . . no. Hell no.
If the Eagles thought there was even a chance that they might make an aggressive play for Wentz or Goff, there’s no way they would have signed Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel to contracts. They would have signed one, and they would have used the remaining money to add to other areas of the roster that might ease a young QB’s transition into the NFL. That alone eliminates virtually any rational scenario in which the Eagles are secretly plotting for either Wentz or Goff.
CSN Philly’s Dave Zangaro dips into his mailbag to answer several questions, including why Jeffrey Lurie is so attached to Howie Roseman.
It does seem like Roseman is untouchable, but he isn’t. Remember, Lurie eventually ousted his childhood friend Joe Banner, so any relationship can run its course. Last week, Lurie said Roseman will be held accountable for every move made this offseason. How long is that leash? Well, we’re not sure.
But it’s not hard to see why Lurie likes Roseman so much. Roseman works incredibly hard and joined the Eagles at a low level before working his way up to being one of the most powerful people in the building.
I think the same way Roseman likes to draft well and bring his own players through the system, Lurie likes the idea of growing a great football mind and handing him control of the organization.
We’ll take a look around the country to see what the media are saying about the Eagles’ offseason and draft options.