With the draft now in the books, the question in Philadelphia is: What new toys do we have and how do we use them? On a team as deep as the Eagles, there won’t be a ton of room for a rookie to make a major impact, but opportunities are definitely there. Opportunities will be scarce in the here and now, but the theme of this draft was all about having an eye towards the future.
The first move towards that future came at pick 32 when the Philadelphia Eagles traded out of the first round in order to secure a second-round pick in 2019. Future draft picks are very important for the Eagles right now. They are currently preparing to pay franchise QB, Carson Wentz, an astronomical amount of money, so the ability to draft young cheap talent is imperative to continued success. The expected double-digit number of picks in 2019 is the first step.
The next move came in the second round when the Eagles traded up to grab what some experts thought was the best TE prospect in the draft Dallas Goedert. Goedert is a big target with excellent hands and fluid movement skills. He presents a matchup problem for any defense. Adding Goedert to an offensive unit that already features a top 5 TE in Zach Ertz, speed on the outside and a strong running game will be a schematic nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. Goedert needs work on his route running and blocking, but the Eagles coaching staff will prioritize getting him up to speed.
The next pick came in the fourth round with the Eagles selecting CB Avonte Maddox. The first words you usually hear when talking about Maddox is feisty. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves that trait in his defensive backs. Competitiveness isn’t the only thing Maddox has going for him, he also boasts 4.3 speed along with fluid hips that allow him to mirror and match the movements of opposing wide receivers. Ideally, the Eagles will want him to play as the slot CB where his size limitations aren’t magnified. But it will be a bit of an adjustment because Maddox has played mostly on the outside in college. Either outside or inside I believe Maddox can be a good coverage CB. While he gets his bearings, Maddox can make immediate contributions on special teams where he can be a dangerous kick returner.
Next move came 5 picks later in the fourth round with the Eagles taking DE Josh Sweat. If you look at his measurables, it’s not hard to be impressed: 4.5 speed at 251 pounds, excellent athletic ability to bend around the edge and get to the QB. The major concern and the reason he fell to the fourth round is a knee injury he suffered in high school. Torn ligaments and a knee dislocated to the point where amputation was in the conversation. Miraculously he came back in less than a year and was a force. Looking at the Eagles defensive end rotation for 2018, it’s hard to see where a raw prospect like Sweat will get in. Looking beyond this upcoming season is a different story. Michael Bennett (33) Chris Long (33) could very well be gone. Brandon Graham will be a free agent. Even if they all come back, father time is undefeated. Having Derek Barnett as your only young pass rusher is not ideal. But now with Sweat and Barnett in the fold, the Eagles can continue their culture of dominant pass rush.
Next pick came in the sixth round with Matt Pryor a G/T from TCU. Pryor is a strong and talented player. He has the strength to anchor down and stop pass rushers in their tracks, as well as good footwork to keep up with defensive ends on the outside. The knock on Pryor has always been his weight. He came into the TCU program at nearly 400 pounds so he definitely had his work cut out for him. To his credit, he learned how to work and how to eat in order to stay in shape. He now around the 330 range and his talent really shows. This is another pick with a keen eye directed to the future. In the short term, Pryor provides youth and depth for offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland to work with. Long term he has the potential to be a quality backup.
The last pick came in the seventh round with the Eagles selecting Jordan Mailata. A former rugby player with ridiculous size and athleticism. There isn’t any analysis on this kid because he hasn’t played a down of organized football in his life. Basically, on rugby videos, you can see a 6’8 350 man running fast and knocking people over. The Eagles will try him at Offensive Tackle. This is basically a shot in the dark. The Eagles have no expectations for Mailata, but it will be a fun experiment to watch unfold.
Overall I don’t expect a ton of rookie production. But in the years to come, I believe guys like Goedert, Maddox, and Sweat to become a part of the new young Eagles foundation.