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Fan-Demonium: The Draft's Big People

Posted Apr 12, 2014

Chip Kelly has made it clear in his year-plus as head coach of the Eagles that he likes big players. Kelly summed up his philosophy as, "Big people beat up little people." That's about as simple and direct as you can get.

While Kelly does prefer big players, that is kept in the proper context. The first order of business is to find talent. Size doesn't mean a thing if the player doesn't have the right skill-set or athletic ability. First and foremost, Kelly wants good players. Just look at the Darren Sproles acquisition for proof of that. Sproles is one of the shorter players in the entire league. His size actually helps him out. Sproles plays a lot in space so the fact that he's a smaller target makes it harder on defenders to try and tackle him.

Kelly is more focused on size when it comes to blockers, tacklers and the line of scrimmage. This is where football is all about physicality and bigger people are generally going to beat up little people. With this in mind, let's take a look at some unusually sized prospects that the Eagles could target in the upcoming NFL draft.

OLB Will Clarke 6-6, 271 --- Clarke played a hybrid DE/DT role in West Virginia's defense. He went to the East-West Shrine game and Senior Bowl and played defensive end. The Eagles worked him out as a linebacker. I thought that was wild when I first read it, but then realized that Clarke isn't all that much bigger than Dion Jordan, whom the Eagles had a lot of interest in last year. Clarke isn't nearly as athletic as Jordan, but he is an interesting linebacker prospect. He wouldn't have any cover skills, but he would be brought in for the primary role of rushing the passer. Clarke is a good edge rusher and with his size he could be very good at setting the edge on run plays. Clarke is a mid-round prospect. I don't know if the Eagles liked what they saw from him in the linebacker drills, but my guess is that he might have shown enough to stay on their radar.

OLB Kony Ealy 6-4, 265 --- Chip Kelly went to Missouri's pro day and you have to think Ealy was the primary reason he was there. Ealy played defensive end for the Tigers this year. I didn't think he showed enough athleticism on tape to make the move to linebacker. Ealy then ran poorly at the Combine. He dropped from 273 pounds down to 265 for his pro day. Ealy also worked on his technique and his 40-yard dash came down to 4.70, much lower than it had been in Indy. I'm sure Kelly liked seeing the improvement from Ealy. I still don't think Ealy is made for the 3-4. I love him as a 4-3 defensive end. He does have a big frame and that could make him a target for the Eagles.

OLB Adrian Hubbard 6-6, 257 --- The Eagles saw Hubbard up close and personal at the Senior Bowl. The former Alabama star played linebacker down there so the Eagles could see him in coverage and playing in space. I remember one play in particular that made me appreciate the value in big players. Hubbard was covering a running back or tight end down the sideline. Hubbard wasn't as athletic and trailed the player. The pass came that way and should have been a completion, but Hubbard was able to eat up some ground with his long stride and then he reached up to knock the ball away. That's what happens when you have 34.5-incch arms. If that were Brandon Graham or Trent Cole in coverage, the pass would have gotten through to the receiver. My concern with Hubbard is that he's not a top pass-rusher. He totaled nine sacks over the last two years. Hubbard could be a good backup to Connor Barwin, but I don't like him for Cole's role.

OLB Larry Webster 6-6, 252 --- If the Eagles want a late-round prospect to develop, they can take the star pass-rusher from Bloomsburg. Webster has a ton of potential, but he lacks experience. He doesn't have an extensive football background. Teams are working Webster out as a linebacker, defensive end and even tight end. While he was dominant as a pass rusher at the small-school level (26 sacks in two years), there are some questions about whether he's got the right temperament to be a defensive player in the NFL. You need to be a nasty, relentless player to be good on defense in the NFL. Not everyone is convinced Webster is that type of guy. He's got the right combination of size and athletic ability to teams are trying to figure out some way to use him. When you have a big guy that can run and jump, you want to see if you can develop him into a player. I don't know if the Eagles prefer him as a linebacker or tight end, but they have shown some interest in him. My guess is linebacker.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.


NT Daniel McCullers 6-7, 351 --- Put on a Tennessee game and you'll see a mountain of a man in the middle of the Volunteers defense. That is McCullers. I saw him in person at the Senior Bowl. He was so much bigger than everyone else at the weigh-in that it blew you away. That's the good news. The bad news is that he's highly inconsistent on tape. There are moments when McCullers looks like a dominant player. There are other times when he is a gentle giant. That's not a good thing. Big players need to use their size to physically dominate smaller players. I just don't know if McCullers has the mean streak to take advantage of his size. I'm sure Kelly and the Eagles are completely fascinated by McCullers because of his size and potential. As a mid-round pick, he might be worth the risk.

DE Brent Urban 6-7, 295 --- There isn't anything unusual about a guy who is 295 pounds, but Urban's build is unique. He's cut. It looks like someone took a wide receiver and just stretched the guy out until he was the size of a defensive lineman. Urban is a tough, physical player. He is a good run defender who has some pass-rush ability. The Eagles would take him to get some depth at end. Urban is 6-7 and has 34-inch arms. That makes it tough for quarterbacks to throw over him. He deflected nine pass last year for Virginia. That skill is becoming more and more appreciated in the NFL. Quarterbacks are tough to sack so the next best thing is to get your hands up and bat the ball down. Urban has the length to be good at that in the NFL and has shown he already has a good feel for how to do it.

DE Ra'Shede Hageman 6-6, 311 --- The best Minnesota prospect in a while is a high-risk, high-reward player. Hageman can be a dominant player at times. He's big, long, athletic and talented. Unfortunately Hageman will also disappear at times. He doesn't always play to his potential. If he were a mid-round target, you would roll the dice and feel good about the risk. Hageman is too talented. Some team will go for him earlier than that. Heck, Hageman might not make it out of the first round. He's got that kind of potential. I think he would be a very interesting 3-4 end. I don't see him being a great fit for the two-gap philosophy the Eagles use, but Hageman would offer pass rush ability that all 3-4 teams are desperate for from their ends. I don't think the Eagles will go for him, but I would love to hear Kelly, Jerry Azzinaro and Bill Davis discuss Hageman and his potential.

FS Lonnie Ballentine 6-3, 220 --- There aren't many huge safeties this year. Ballentine is a late-round target from Memphis. He is huge and has good straight-line speed. The problem is that he's a limited playmaker. Someone with his size and speed should have dominated mid-level competition. Part of the problem is that Ballentine is too upright at times. That can be fixed by coaching. I don't know if he's got the potential to ever start in the NFL, but he would be an interesting project. He could be very good on special teams.

CB Keith McGill 6-3, 211 --- If the Eagles want a big corner that runs well, Utah's Keith McGill could be of definite interest. He could be an excellent fit in the defense. There are a couple of issues. First, McGill just turned 25. That's old for a draft prospect. There is also a durability question. McGill transferred to Utah in 2011. He missed half that season with an injury and then all of 2012. He had one interception in 17 games with the Utes. If you can get him at the right spot, he could be worth taking. McGill is a big, talented corner. I would not spend a first- or second-round pick on him.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste 6-3, 218 --- Jean-Baptiste is even bigger than McGill. The former Nebraska star turned 24 on Saturday so he's also an older prospect. The bigger concern I have is his athletic ability. Jean-Baptiste lacks ideal speed (4.62-second 40-yard dash) and is a bit stiff. I'm sure the Eagles would love to have someone his size jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage, but would they trust him to cover receivers down the field? Some like Jean-Baptiste more than me, but I see him as a mid-to-late round player.

WR Mike Evans 6-5, 231--- The Eagles have shown a lot of interest in Evans, who was part of a deadly passing attack at Texas A&M. Evans is huge, but is also a gifted athlete. Put on the Ole Miss game and you'll see him hurdle a defender. Put on the Alabama game and you'll see him making big plays down the field. Evans has special potential. He can be too fiery at times, but that is something that can be worked on. Most people think Evans will be a top 10 pick.

WR Kelvin Benjamin 6-5, 240 --- Even bigger than Evans. Benjamin looks more like a linebacker than a receiver. He caught 15 touchdown passes for Florida State this year and helped them win the national title. The Eagles have checked him out. I'm not Benjamin's biggest fan, but Kelly and the Eagles might feel different. He could be a first round pick, but also might slide a bit. I'd feel a lot better about the Eagles looking at him in the second round.

There aren't as many huge guys on offense so I focused mainly on the wide receivers. There are some good-sized tight ends and offensive linemen that the team could have interest in, but those positions tend to have lots of big guys.

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