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Some News And Notes In Draft's Home Stretch

Posted Mar 30, 2018

In the very real sense, this is the stretch run for NFL teams as they prepare for the draft. There are still player visits to conduct and Pro Days to consider and evaluations to sharpen. But make no mistake, the settings for draft decisions are in place. Draft boards are up and the action is live. Let’s discuss where the Eagles stand on the heels of the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando and after an active free-agency period …

In the very real sense, this is the stretch run for NFL teams as they prepare for the draft. There are still player visits to conduct and Pro Days to consider and evaluations to sharpen. But make no mistake, the settings for draft decisions are in place. Draft boards are up and the action is live. Let’s discuss where the Eagles stand on the heels of the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando and after an active free-agency period …

    • The Eagles appear to have accomplished a significant feat by filling any apparent needs in free agency. Mike Wallace joins the team and is expected to compete for a starting wide receiver position. A handful of young candidates already on the roster will compete for the nickel cornerback job. The Eagles have depth at running back even with LeGarrette Blount signed in Detroit. If there is a starting position to keep an eye on, it’s probably punter. Donnie Jones has retired. Cameron Johnston is the lone punter on the roster and head coach Doug Pederson said adding another punter to the roster, potentially a veteran, was a “possibility” this week. Johnston is a strong candidate, though. He was an outstanding punter at Ohio State and punted with the Eagles last summer, averaging 44.9 yards on 15 kicks, including three punts inside the 20-yard line.

    • Pederson said the draft holds some good prospects at tight end, so it wouldn’t be surprising at some point to see the Eagles add one in the seven rounds. The goal is to have three tight ends on the roster and with Trey Burton signed in Chicago and Brent Celek currently an unrestricted free agent, the Eagles need some experience. They want to see the young players on the roster – Billy Brown, Joshua Perkins and Adam Zaruba in the spring and summer, but they’re going to add to this position.

    • Could the Eagles still get something done between now and the NFL draft weekend? Absolutely. Howie Roseman and his staff are always working the roster, and with four weeks to go before the draft, there is still some quality talent on the streets and potential moves to be made. “I think you’re always looking to improve the roster and we’re in that position now,” Roseman said. “We are keeping our eyes open all the time.” What does that mean? After a few days of talking with other personnel executives around the league, Roseman could very well have laid some groundwork for moves – player trades, draft weekend trades, etc. The Eagles have six draft picks at the moment. They want more. How they might get them is the fun part to watch.

    • Pederson was asked to name some players he thinks may “step up” in 2018 and he mentioned cornerback Sidney Jones and wide receiver Mack Hollins, but the truth is the list is a pretty long one. Every second-year player is a candidate --- including 2017 first-round draft pick defensive end Derek Barnett. Running back Donnel Pumphrey had a tough rookie season, but he’s put on weight and strength and he’s got rested legs after touching the football more than 1,000 times in his San Diego State career. The players report to the NovaCare Complex for the start of the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program in the third week of April. We’ll get a sense of which young players made the most of the truncated offseason.

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  • A lot of chatter about No. 3 quarterback Nate Sudfeld, and he stands to benefit as much as anyone from increased reps in the spring. A year ago, of course, Sudfeld was a member of the Washington Redskins in 2016 and was on the active roster for all 16 games that season after he was a sixth-round draft pick. Then the Redskins released him and the Eagles added him to the practice squad in September. Sudfeld was promoted to the active roster in November and played in the regular-season finale against Dallas. A full offseason here will help Sudfeld immensely. We’ll see how he develops. If the Eagles can help Sudfeld become a starting-caliber quarterback, and they’ve said in this offseason that he may have that kind of upside, it will be a huge boost. Sudfeld will take a lot of reps in the spring behind Nick Foles as Carson Wentz continues his rehabilitation from the knee injury. You aren’t likely to see Wentz on the field in Organized Team Activities in the spring.

  • Areas to continue to address? Here’s a stab at what the Eagles might do between now and the end of the draft, in no particular order: Running back, tight end, wide receiver, linebacker, safety, punter. Just a guess.

  • Isn’t it a fantastic feeling looking at these Mock Drafts and knowing that all of the names associated with the Eagles are just that … names. Best players on the board. Wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers … nobody has a feel, and that includes the Eagles. It’s going to be a long first 25 draft picks or so in the first round until the team has a sense of who will be on the board when they go on the clock. And at that point it’s 50/50 whether the Eagles make a trade. A lot of teams move out of the first round to pick up more draft currency. Only six draft picks, remember. Almost nothing would be shocking for the first round of the draft, other than the Eagles making a move up to a higher draft position in the first round.

  • I caught up with former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent, a member of the team’s Halll of Fame, at the NFL Meetings. Vincent is presenting Brian Dawkins at the Hall of Fame Ceremony in August. “It’s a tremendous honor. Dawk is a good man and he was an excellent teammate, played the game the way we all want to play the game. He was a true inspiration not only for his teammates, but he embodied the City of Philadelphia. He embodied what you wanted in your professional athlete every day, 110 miles an hour, get it done, no excuses. I’m excited and honored to be a part of his weekend. For Eagles fans, the weekend where arguably the greatest player in team history is named to the Hall of Fame and then the Eagles win their first Super Bowl, it was incredible for all of us. The celebration continues.”

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