Justin Peelle is in his NovaCare Complex office, clicker in his right hand, watching the video screen as Dallas Goedert lines up for South Dakota State's football team in the 2017 season. Minutes earlier, literally minutes, Peelle received a text from head coach Doug Pederson from the team's draft room, a final ask of Peelle's opinion of Goedert.
"Yeah, I love the guy," said Peelle, the team's tight end coach, as the Eagles moved up from No. 52 overall to No. 49 overall and prepared to send in Goedert's name as their first pick in the 2018 draft. Peelle scooted from his office to the draft room as the call was made to Goedert, and now Peelle was back in his office, watching the newest member of his tight end room.
We're watching Goedert line up on the right side of South Dakota's formation, split wide, matched up against a cornerback. Really, it's no match at all.
"What you see is that he moves all over the formation, and here he's got a mismatch in size," Peelle said, clicking the play forward, and then back, and then forward again. "He's in a three tight-end package and he's split out at number one. They have him matched up against a corner, which is a size mismatch. He does a really nice job here of not giving away his intentions. He comes off the ball and the corner doesn't know if he's going to run a slant or if he's going to run a fade. Dallas does a nice job of closing the cushion and then he keeps the defender on his body and shows great athleticism as he goes up and high-points the ball and makes the catch.
"There are a lot of these types of catches with this kid, all over this film, where he's making the tough catch, the one-handed catch. He has great body control and really, really, really good ball skills, probably the best ball skills of anybody in this draft. That's one thing that really stood out with him."
Peelle raves about Goedert's "natural pass-catching skills" and recalls the workout at Goedert's Pro Day, where Peelle was one of many coaches from around the league putting Goedert through the paces. As much as Peelle liked what he saw from the 6-5, 260-pound Goedert, he liked just as much what he heard.
The sound of the football hitting Goedert's hands resonates with Peelle.
"It made a different sound. It was nice and clean. Obviously, I throw a bad-ball drill, I move it around, and the kid catches it really nice," Peelle said.
Moving on. Another play to analyze. Goedert is on the left side of the formation now, and this is a play that Peelle grilled Goedert on when the two met during the Top 30 visit to the NovaCare Complex. It's a simple "stick" route where Goedert bursts off the line of scrimmage and gets his depth, right at about 8 yards, stops and turns to the quarterback for what is an easy completion. Peelle wanted to know what Goedert saw and why he reacted as he did and all of the mental machinations of the play.
Goedert passed with flying colors on the mental test.
"He's a smart ballplayer and he knows the coverage right away, so he's right on board with the route adjustment," Goedert said. "He's got to find the hole in coverage here and he does it. He doesn't get stressed out. He's nice and patient. He goes and gets the ball and does his job. He's got a real calm demeanor about him and he's just very comfortable running his routes, and he does that well. He catches the football well and he's prepared for the hit.
"Dallas has a nice understanding of what's going on around him. He makes a lot of these catches look easy, and they're not. He gets his releases. He doesn't break off his routes. He's got subtle moves to create space, and you don't see that in a lot of tight ends coming into the league. Real heady. Instinctive. And he's got speed to get past defenders."
On another play, Goedert shows a shoulder dip to run past a defender, where many times a young pass catcher would run through the coverage man, and instead gives the quarterback a huge passing target. It's a display of a young tight end showing a veteran's understanding of how to get open with a dip here, a shrug there, a head fake if necessary.
Goedert has all the moves, is extremely athletic, runs well, and catches the ball consistently and comfortably.
But what about the run blocking? The Eagles are going to need Goedert to help there, too. The verdict: Goedert is going to battle, he's going to mix it up and while he has some "things to clean up, like all tight ends coming into the league do," Peelle says, there is a lot of good to work with here.
"Here's a play where Dallas is on a linebacker and he dumps him. Drives him down the field and dumps him," Peelle said. "He's got that in him. Meeting with him, talking with him, you can see that he's a competitive kid. This play, he's working it. He's finishing. He needs to do it on every play here, and he'll do that."
This is the final play we watch, a running play near the goal line. It's not particularly artistic, as Goedert is matched on a linebacker, who tries to rag-doll Goedert to the ground. But Goedert stays on his feet, keeps fighting, and eventually wins the battle.
"What I love is that he's trying to be physical. He needs to improve his feet here, but he continues to go after the guy. He keeps fighting him. I love that," Peelle said. "He's a good, humble kid who likes to work hard and you want that kind of player. We'll get him in here, get him in the tight end room, and into the offense. It's going to be exciting."