Philadelphia Eagles Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State – Round 2
The Eagles entered the offseason needing help at running back, and landing Sanders in the second round was a solid value for them. Sanders should combine with veteran Jordan Howard to invigorate the Philadelphia rushing offense in 2019, and in the years to come Sanders should take over as the feature back.

For the NFL, the 5-foot-10, 211-pound Sanders has three-down starting potential. What really stands out about Sanders and makes him unique is what an excellent job he does of keeping his legs going after contact. He uses that to break tackles and accelerate downfield when it looks like he is going to be stopped. Sanders is tough to tackle at the second level as he runs through contact. His knee bend and leverage allow him to run behind his pads and power through arm tackles. On top of his excellent feet, Sanders has some elusiveness in the open field, allowing him to cut and weave his way around defenders. Sanders has a good jump cut and lateral quickness to dodge defenders.

Jordan Howard is in the last year of his contract, so the Eagles have an excellent situation to develop Sanders. As a rookie, Sanders can rotate with Howard as he develops his pass blocking and knowledge of the playbook. In a year’s time, Sanders should be up to speed and a complete back ready to take over as a three-down starter. I think Sanders will develop into a solid starter for the Eagles in the early half of his rookie contract and provide a steady rushing attack to support Carson Wentz.

2018: Avonte Maddox, CB
2017: Derek Barnett, DE
2016: Isaac Seumalo, C
2015: Nelson Agholor, WR
2014: Marcus Smith, OLB
2013: Zach Ertz, TE

Most Likely To Bust

Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State – Round 4
It was difficult to select a player most likely to bust because I thought the Eagles had an excellent draft and really made a lot of wise picks who should pan out in the NFL. Miller stands out as having some risk as a player, plus he enters a tough depth chart that will make it difficult to earn playing time for Philadelphia.

The Eagles always make it a priority to bring in defensive line talent, making sure they have quality veterans and depth behind them to help get after the quarterback. Philadelphia added to its rush by drafting Miller in the fourth round, and at that point in the draft, it was a worthy gamble. Miller (6-4, 254) has some speed and athleticism off the edge, which could be seen in his 7.5 sacks as a junior. For the NFL, Miller needs to get stronger and improve his run defense. Otherwise, he could struggle to get off blocks from pro offensive tackles.

The Eagles’ starting defensive ends are set with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. After them, they have veteran Vinny Curry back on the roster and 2018 fourth-round pick Josh Sweat battling for a roster spot and playing time. Miller is in a challenging situation to earn a roster spot and see the field. Thus, it would not surprise me if he didn’t break through, so he could have the most bust potential of any of Philadelphia’s draft picks.

2018: Josh Sweat, DE
2017: Rasul Douglas, CB
2016: Wendall Smallwood, RB
2015: Jordan Hicks, LB
2014: Josh Huff, WR
2013: Bennie Logan, DT

Potential Boom Pick

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State – Round 1
For the past few years, it has been well known that Philadelphia was going to need offensive tackle help. Veteran left tackle Jason Peters is nearing the end of his excellent career, and keeping Carson Wentz healthy is vital for the Eagles hopes to winning another Super Bowl. The Eagles were aggressive to move up for Dillard in the 2019 NFL Draft, and in the process, they could have landed one of the top pass-blocking tackles in the NFL for the bulk of Wentz’s career.

There are a lot of natural strengths to Dillard. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has very quick feet and surprising athleticism that allow him to get depth in his drop and neutralize speed rushers. He should be an asset to take on the fast edge rushers because he can get off the corner and prevent them from running the loop around the edge. With his quick feet and an ability to bend at the knee, Dillard doesn’t have to reach after rushers and is not a waist bender. He does a nice job of latching onto defenders and riding them around upfield to keep them from putting heat on the quarterback. There are occasional plays on which Dillard allows rushers to get speed upfield, but he demonstrates nice recoverability to push the rushers deep and around the pocket to protect his tackle. For the NFL, Dillard could be very valuable to protect his quarterback against speedy edge rushers.

The Eagles have a great situation for Dillard to thrive. They have a strong coaching staff that knows how to develop talent, and Dillard goes to a passing offense that plays to his strengths. With Peters and Lane Johnson returning in 2019, Dillard has the luxury of not having to play right away and can learn behind those veterans while getting stronger in the Eagles’ strength and conditioning program. I think Dillard could end up being a Pro Bowler and franchise left tackle for Philadelphia. That would be a real boom pick for the Eagles to land that kind of player outside the top-20 picks.

2018: Dallas Goedert, TE
2017: Sidney Jones, CB
2016: Carson Wentz, QB
2015: Eric Rowe, CB
2014: Jordan Matthews, WR
2013: Lane Johnson, OT

Future Depth Player

Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern – Round 5
Nick Foles is a Philadelphia legend for doing a historic job as a backup quarterback for the Eagles. His excellent play landed him a big contract to be the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, so finding another backup to Carson Wentz was a necessity. The Eagles landed a steal in the fifth round with Thorson, and in time, I think he could be a superb backup quarterback for the Eagles.

Thorson has shown that he has pro potential in terms of his skill set. The 6-foot-4, 222-pounder has a strong arm, running ability, and good size. As a passer, Thorson has a lot of natural talent and development that is impressive. What really stands out his ability to stand tall in the pocket, read the field, work through his progressions, and deliver the ball. Thorson really has advanced field vision for a rookie quarterback.

Thorson needs to improve on his accuracy, and his delivery can be mechanical at times, but he has a lot of potential to work with. He also has excellent intangibles as a worker, teammate, and locker room presence. He probably won’t ever be the starter in Philadelphia because of Wentz, but Thorson could provide the team with a very good backup quarterback and excellent depth at the game’s most important position.

2018: Matt Pryor, OT
2017: Donnel Pumphrey, RB
2016: Alex McCalister, LB
2015: JaCorey Shepherd, CB
2014: Jaylen Watkins, CB
2013: Matt Barkley, QB

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

22. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State C Grade
Andre Dillard provides great value for the Eagles because he could have gone as high as No. 11 to the Bengals. Cincinnati actually would’ve taken Dillard had Jonah Williams been off the board. So, the Eagles are getting a steal. However, this pick is unnecessary. The Eagles already had a successor for Jason Peters in Jordan Mailata, so there was no need to select a tackle; let alone move up for one. Perhaps the Eagles just absolutely loved Dillard and thought he was too much of a steal, but this is a redundant pick for Philadelphia that should’ve been used on another position.

53. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State A+ Grade
I mocked Miles Sanders to the Eagles, but I wasn’t quite sure he would last this long. Rather than Philadelphia wasting a first-round choice on a running back, the team obtained much better value with one in the second frame. Sanders seems like he’ll be a terrific complement to Jordan Howard, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sanders ended up being Philadelphia’s primary runner.

57. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford B Grade
I’m fine with this pick, but I think the Eagles had better options at multiple positions, including receiver. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is a physical wideout who will catch 50-50 balls in the end zone. He fits the range, so this is solid choice. I just wonder if the Eagles should’ve addressed their horrid linebacking corps instead. Receiver is a need with Nelson Agholor’s unreasonable contract demands, but linebacker seems to be more pressing.

138. Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State C Grade
This is a bit early for Shareef Miller. I had him pegged as a Round 5-6 prospect, mocking him at No. 196 to the Jets. Miller isn’t a very good athlete, but he has a nice frame and might be able to develop into a rotational defensive lineman. I’m not very optimistic about his chances, however, and I say this as a Penn State alumnus.

167. Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern A+ Grade
Here’s the quarterback the Chargers should’ve drafted because Clayton Thorson has good potential to become a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. Clayton Thorson is very smart and has great intangibles and solid arm strength. Thorson fell to the fifth round because he struggled at times at Northwestern, but only because he was surrounded with the worst supporting cast of any quarterback in this class. Had Thorson been complemented by capable athletes, he may have been chosen in the second round. This is a steal.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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