Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pick-By-Pick Draft Review
There is one — and only one — grade you should really give the Eagles for their 2016 draft picks. That letter?
‘I’, for incomplete.
Often times, grades are based on value for picks, but we forget that a lot of the “value” is created by the media. If a team selected someone in the second round whom most “draft experts” had pegged as a third-round pick, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was a “reach.” And if a team takes a prospect in the sixth round whom many in the media had as a fifth-round pick, that doesn’t necessarily mean they got “good value.”
Some media members consult teams about their round projections on certain players, but there’s no universal big board across the league. The only real way to determine if someone was a reach or not is to wait five years.
Howie Roseman summed this up perfectly on Saturday.
“It may take us a few years for us to figure out exactly what we did this weekend,” he said.
Still, there’s a lot to dig into between the Eagles’ eight picks, and if you’re into grades, we’ll satisfy your hunger for that around 10 a.m. But for now, let’s take a look at each selection.
|1||Carson Wentz||QB||North Dakota State|
|3||Isaac Seumalo||OL||Oregon State|
|5||Wendell Smallwood||RB||West Virginia|
Round 1 (No. 2): QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
As a reporter said on Saturday that the Eagles’ 2016 draft will always be known as The Carson Wentz Draft, Roseman slowly nodded his head and repeated “for sure.”
“For all of us, that’s going to be the reality of the situation,” he said. “We made an aggressive move to go get Carson.”
I previously wrote about how, while I don’t think the Eagles should’ve traded up, I expect Wentz will be better than Jared Goff. I like his arm strength and his measurables, and the more I hear about him, the more I think he has a Jordan Matthews-type work ethic.
Fran Duffy conducted an insightful interview on Thursday with Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who said Wentz’s “arm talent” separated him on the team’s big board. He also noted Wentz can throw the ball from many different launch points, while referencing Wentz’s experience under center in a pro-style offense.
DeFilippo broke down a few plays for Duffy, including one in which Wentz threw a 38-yard touchdown pass against North Dakota.
“The first thing you’re going to see is two things we like to see: No. 1, he gets back straight behind the center. He is in perfect position to throw the football,” DeFilippo said. “His shoulders — we like to talk about balancing two coke cans on your shoulders in the pocket — he is ready to throw it at any moment in the pocket.
“Now, there’s a couple of other things I really like about this play. He sees the rush coming down right in his face. He plants his feet with a defender right in his face … and throws a strike on the deep ball. That is hard to do.”
As for Wentz’s weaknesses, Doug Pederson talked to Dave Spadaro about what the quarterback can improve on.
“There are some things with him in the pocket. He does have great feet, but at this level, the ability to not only process information fast, but to get his feet set to make those throws and those anticipatory throws in the National Football League,” Pederson said. “Work on his accuracy a little bit. And then his willingness to slide and get down and protect his body. You see some of those runs that he did in college, and he’s not going to be able to get away with those at this level.”
Round 3 (No. 79): OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
After a rough year of offensive line play, the Eagles seem to have every starter set in stone except one: left guard. That’s why, even though some think Seumalo’s best position is center, he’ll begin his NFL career competing at left guard.
He’ll battle against Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski and Malcolm Bunche, but people seem to forget about Andrew Gardner. It’s unclear whether Gardner can play left guard as well as he can play right guard, but if he can, I’d pencil him in as the starter right now.
As for Seumalo, he allowed just four pressures in pass protection in all of 2015, per Pro Football Focus
Round 5 (No. 153): RB Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
Many people expected the Eagles to target a running back in the middle rounds, and when some fell even further than expected, it appeared they could nab a “steal.” But UCLA’s Paul Perkins and Indiana’s Jordan Howard were selected just a few picks before Philadelphia was on the clock, and they decided to take Smallwood, a guy with a couple of red flags in his background.
Scouts praise Smallwood’s skill as a pass-blocker and receiver out of the backfield, so he may be able to find a niche for himself in some third-down situations. In an All-22 breakdown on the Eagles’ website, Greg Cosell said he could see Pederson using Smallwood similarly to how the Chiefs have used De’Anthony Thomas.
Round 5 (No. 164): OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
Vaitai seems to be more of a project than a guy you can plug and play, which makes me curious about who would play tackle opposite of Lane Johnson if Jason Peters misses some snaps. I’m not sure how much depth the Eagles have at right tackle, assuming Johnson shifts if Peters gets hurt, which could be an issue.
Johnson talked last season about how there isn’t as much of a difference now in terms of the value of left and right tackles because pass rushers don’t just try to attack the quarterback’s blindspot anymore. I checked with Pro Football Focus, and according to them, three of the NFL’s top pass rushers — Khalil Mack, Von Miller and J.J. Watt — predominantly line up on the offense’s right side.
Round 6 (No. 196): DB Blake Countess, Auburn
Countess mostly played safety at Auburn as a graduate transfer last season, after spending time at corner at Michigan. Roseman said Countess can also play nickel corner, and that he has Rodney McLeod-like traits at safety.
Roseman added that they valued Countess because of his versatility on defense, in addition to his specials teams ability. In 2013, Countess was tied for a conference-high six interceptions in the Big Ten.
Round 7 (No. 233): DB Jalen Mills, LSU
Mills is a talented defensive back, but he likely fell — at least in part — because of his 2014 arrest. According to the Times-Picayune, Mills was arrested for allegedly punching a woman in the mouth and briefly knocking her unconscious. However, the battery charge was dropped last year after he completed a pretrial diversion program and paid the victim’s medical bills. After Mills fell on Saturday, the Times-Picayune reported that it was “likely” his arrest “took him off the draft boards of several teams.”
On the field, many scouts seem to peg him as a nickel corner. An AFC West scout told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein that Mills will be a “long-time player in the league,” but he isn’t a safety “at all.” CBS Sports, meanwhile, had Mills slotted as a third-round pick who will do his “best work as a slot corner.”
Round 7 (No. 240): DE Alex McCalister, Florida
McCalister is another guy with potential off-the-field concerns. He was kicked off the team at Florida after violating unspecified team rules, which Roseman classified as an issue that “wasn’t legal.” If he’s able to stay out of trouble, McCalister seems like a guy who could make the team off his pass-rushing ability.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about how he’s “able to drop, dip and accelerate around the edge,” which was apparent on several of his sacks. Here’s one against Vanderbilt:
Round 7 (No. 251): LB Joe Walker, Oregon
There isn’t much information about Walker available, but here’s what Zierlein had to say:
Walker’s pro day numbers forced some scouts to go back to the film on him. What scouts likely saw was a player with nickel linebacker ability who can play in space and who has the instincts and ability to make it into camp and fight for a spot at the back end of the roster or on the practice squad.
WHAT YOU MISSED
How did the rest of the NFC East fare in the draft? Asher’s division roundup.
Doug Pederson says Sam Bradford and Fletcher Cox are “losing valuable time.”
Our list of a dozen undrafted free agents the Eagles signed.
“I never did any of that.” Wendell Smallwood on his 2014 arrest.
Tim on how the Eagles aren’t shying away from players with question marks in their past.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles have another messy quarterback situation, writes the Inquirer’s Bob Ford.
As much as Howie Roseman, the architect of the plan, says that the team expected, and still expects, Sam Bradford to suck it up and be a professional, the team was very worried about his reaction to the change in course. When the trade was made to move from the eighth pick in the draft to the second pick, owner Jeffrey Lurie, coach Doug Pederson, and Roseman met with Bradford immediately. Obviously, it wasn’t a successful meeting.
“Whenever you’re drafting guys in the first round, there are players that are affected,” Roseman said Thursday after the team selected Wentz. “This happens all around the National Football League, no matter what position we would have taken, some veteran player would have been affected.”
So, nothing to see here, folks. Just another draft pick hoping to come in and win someone else’s job. Only difference is this time the veteran doesn’t want to stick around for the fight.
That’s the narrative the Eagles have chosen, and they are welcome to it. Roseman says the Eagles have no intention of honoring Bradford’s trade request, although that would be the thing to say either way. If he said a trade would be sought, the team’s bargaining position would be weakened.
Tommy Lawlor takes a look at the Eagles’ undrafted free agents over on Iggles Blitz.
CB C.J. Smith – 5-11, 188 – NDSU – 3-year starter for the Bison. Broke up 56 passes in that time. Picked off 8 others. You love that kind of production, but also worry why so many passes came his way. Sloppy tackler. Must get stronger and more physical to have any chance in the NFL.
TE Dillon Gordon – 6-4, 295 – LSU – Crazy story. Started 25 games, but got hurt and missed most of his Senior season with Achilles injury. Victim of a stabbing at a bar so I’m sure that incident prompted plenty of questions from teams. Lists at 295, but doesn’t look that big to me. Good blocker, but I don’t think he’s likely to convert to OL. At his best blocking vs LBs and DBs. Had 7 career catches. Get him healthy and see what he can do in 2017.
C Bruce Johnson – 6-3, 302 – Maine – Good athlete who started for 3 years. Won the 2015 Rimington Award for the FCS level, meaning he was the top Center at the FCS level. Dominant at his level. Watch him play against Boston College and he more than holds his own. My favorite UDFA and it isn’t even close. Hell, might be my favorite Eagle. This kid is rattlesnake mean. Blocks until the whistle blows and then keeps going for half a second. Doesn’t want to just block his opponent. Wants to put the guy on the ground and drive him through the earth until the dude is in China. I’ll be writing a lot more about him this spring.
We’ll take a deeper look at the draft.