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Analysis: The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 NFL draft picks

G. Talan, flickr.com

G. Talan, flickr.com

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The 2017 NFL Draft officially ended recently after three exciting days in Philadelphia and the Eagles came out with eight players who could end up making a difference within the team. In what was considered one of the deepest drafts in years, the Eagles front office made the decision to attack defense early and support young quarterback Carson Wentz in the latter stages.

Heading into the draft, there were many questions surrounding the franchise, especially after coming off a disappointing 7-9 season. Who would be the Eagles starting running back? Would the Eagles add a linebacker or defensive end? Was the cornerback situation going to be handled? Some got answered; others won’t be until Week 1 of the season.

At the NFL Draft Combine, the Eagles won the 14th overall pick over the Indianapolis Colts. It was clear that there were a few holes in the roster and that Jim Schwartz needed help on the defensive side of things. Before the draft, many mock drafts had the Eagles taking Ohio State cornerback, Gareon Conley, or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

On draft night, there was a ton of character and injury concerns with many of the players, so when most of the top-tier players slid down draft boards, it wasn’t a huge surprise. When the Eagles were on the clock with the 14th pick, players such as Alabama’s Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster, Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, and Missouri’s Charles Harris were still on the board. Instead of going with any of those players, the Eagles selected Tennessee defensive-end Derek Barnett.

The 6’3, 250-pounder joins a group of defensive-ends who already includes newly signed Chris Long, Vinny Curry, and Marcus Smith. Barnett should be able to step in and contribute right away. At Tennessee, he broke Reggie White’s sack record, and what’s even more impressive is that he broke the record in a loaded SEC conference. Although it did not address the team’s biggest need, it wasn’t a bad pick by any means, and there is low bust potential.

“Barnett was a great pick in my opinion,” junior Georg Montag stated. “Before the draft, I was expecting Barnett to go like top-5, but he slipped all the way to us. Most of the defensive-ends on the roster are free agents next year, so they definitely needed someone else just in case.”

At pick 43 in the second round, the Eagles selected Washington cornerback Sidney Jones IV. Many NFL analysts believed the Eagles would choose a running-back as Joe Mixon and Alvin Kamara were still available, but nonetheless, this could turn out to be the biggest steal. At the end of the college season heading into the draft process, most mock drafts had the Eagles selecting Jones in the first round with their 14th pick. Unfortunately, Jones suffered a torn achilles during his pro-day in March completing the last drill. It is a risky pick, but if Jones can turn out to be anything close to what he was before his injury, it will be considered a great pick in a few years. Even if he’s ready to compete by midseason, it might be best if they redshirt him and make sure he’s fully recovered. The Eagles are in need of a Number 1 corner, and Jones could be that guy.

Late in the night on day 2 of the draft, the Eagles went with another cornerback at pick 99. Knowing Sidney Jones IV most likely won’t be ready until the 2018 season, they decided to double-up on the position. Rasul Douglas out of West Virginia was a solid choice. He led the nation last season with eight interceptions. Douglas has great size and should be able to step into the team and make a difference early. Coming out of high school, Douglas played at a community college, but he worked his way up and eventually landed a roster spot at a division one program.

On Day 3 of the draft, the Eagles had five selections to make. With their first pick of the day at number 118, the Birds chose North Carolina wide receiver, Mack Hollins. Measuring in at 6’4 and weighing 221 pounds, Hollins gives Wentz another big receiver who can make plays down the field.  Although he played less than 50 percent of his snaps at UNC, he was very productive when he was out on the field. Out of his 81 receptions, 20 of them were touchdowns. Hollins was also a four-year special teams captain and gives the Eagles another weapon on kick and punt returns.

At this point in the draft, the Eagles had to attack a running-back. Instead of waiting, the Eagles decided to trade with the Minnesota Vikings to move up to pick 132. With that pick, the Eagles went with an intriguing player, selecting Donnel Pumphrey out of San Diego State. The college star went on to break the FBS rushing record in his last college bowl game, and with his speed and agility, Pumphrey could be the piece the Eagles were missing in the backfield. The only issue with this player, and probably the reason he wasn’t selected earlier, is because of his size and weight. Pumphrey is listed at only 5’9 and 176 pounds. This is extremely light for NFL running-backs and he could be susceptible to injury if he gets tackled hard. The positive to the pick on the other hand, is that Pumphrey has the ability to learn under veteran Darren Sproles, who Pumphrey has been compared to.

“This guy is super-underrated,” junior Kevin Montoya stated. “If it wasn’t for his size and the draft went strictly off production, this guy would be a high draft pick. I watched a video on him and he was juking everybody.”

After the draft was over, it was said that the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia’s division rival, would have selected Pumphrey if the Eagles didn’t get him.

Rounding out the picks for the Eagles were Shelton Gibson from West Virginia, Nathan Gerry from Nebraska, and Elijah Qualls out of Washington.

After the draft was officially over, the undrafted free agent process began. The Eagles made a number of notable pickups. The Birds signed Wisconsin running-back Corey Clement, Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans, Oklahoma defensive-tackle Charles Walker, and another West Virginia player in center, Tyler Orlosky.

Overall, the Eagles had a very good draft. According to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, the Eagles had the best draft among every team and earned a draft grade of an A.

“I’m so hyped for the season,” junior Christian Shoemaker stated. “I was happy with every single pick the Eagles made and I really do believe that each player could step into the roster year one and make a difference. Teams better not sleep on the Eagles.”

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