Free Agency may be just around the corner, but all eyes will be on the 2019 NFL Draft class over the next couple of weeks as hundreds of prospects descend upon Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine beginning February 26. Leading up to the event, I will do a position-by-position preview of the top names you need to know. Who will shine? Who won't? Which players have special rooting interests for Eagles fans in general? Let's cover it all, starting with the quarterbacks.
This is the player who I feel is at the top of the class coming into the event.
Daniel Jones, Duke
This quarterback class won't set the world on fire, but I think there's still plenty of talent for needy teams to cultivate. I like Jones the most of the bunch based off the work I've done so far. The junior isn't a legendary arm talent, and he's not a phenomenal athlete who will consistently make plays outside of structure by breaking the pocket, but he's got complete control of that offense, is very accurate, poised, and smart with the football. He brings a lot to the table from a leadership standpoint as well, something that will sit well with NFL teams. I like this kid a lot, and even though he's not flashy, I think he'll be a first-round pick in April.
This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
At the moment of this writing, I don't have the faintest idea of what Murray will do in Indianapolis. Tony Pauline recently went on the Journey to the Draft podcast and reported that some insiders think he won't even make himself available for official weigh-ins, which would be unheard of. Regardless, Murray is a phenomenal athlete and one of the biggest freak shows at the entire event, no matter the position. He has instant speed and, based off what he looks like on film, could break 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- again, if he decides to run. If he does go through the full gamut of athletic testing, Murray should post a legendary workout at the quarterback position.
Trust The Tape
This is the player who I don't expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don't drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Haskins was used often in the zone read run game with the Buckeyes, but I'm not sure that will be a strength of his game in the NFL. Haskins has below-average size but is not overly explosive or twitchy. I expect him to have a solid workout, but I don't think he'll look special in any one area on the stopwatch. Don't let that affect your thoughts on the sophomore signal-caller, however. He thrives in the quick passing game and is a timing and rhythm passer who showed great flashes in his first year as a starter. Haskins has a lot of work to do, and he's a projection because of a small sample size of starts, but there's starting-level NFL talent there.
This is the player who I expect to see test better than most in the media believe they will perform based off of current projections.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock arguably has the strongest arm in this class and can make every throw in the book. He was a productive starter for the Tigers in the SEC and helped that Missouri squad wade through some serious adversity in his time on campus. What people may forget about Lock, however, is that he was an all-state hoops player in high school. The senior had offers from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wichita State coming out of high school to play basketball, and his athleticism will surprise you considering his size (6-4, 225 pounds). Lock could shock some people at this event with how well he tests.
Will Kill The Drills
This is the player who may or may not be a great athlete, but he will look the best in the position-specific drills after the athletic portion of the workout.
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
Jackson isn't a perfect prospect, far from it, but this is a really big kid (a legit 6-7) with a huge arm, and he will impress people when he throws in front of them for the first time. The ball comes out easy, though you don't always know exactly where it will end up. The way he moves at his size will catch a lot of people's eyes. A three-year starter who declared for the draft, Jackson participated at the Senior Bowl in order to improve his stock, but on film he is a developmental starter with potential down the road. Every team will grade that differently, but it wouldn't shock me if he went on the second day of the draft considering his tools.
Most To Prove
This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it's during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
When he arrived on campus as a transfer from Baylor and former five-star recruit, Stidham was seen as a potential lightning rod who could push the Tigers over the hump for another run at a national title. That, unfortunately for the Auburn faithful, did not come to pass, as he struggled to put up the kind of numbers and operate the offense as consistently as his predecessors did before him for numerous reasons. There's no denying his talent. He can throw it with the best of them. He's coming from an offense that is about as dissimilar as what he'll see in the NFL, so how will he do at the board in meetings with teams at night? Will he show an understanding of defenses schematically? If he can prove that he's not a project from the mental side of things, then a coaching staff could think that he has what it takes to make the jump into the NFL as a starter sooner rather than later. Stidham is young and talented, but there's a lot of projection there. Just how much is what teams will find out in Indianapolis.
Most Productive College Player
This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or throughout his entire career.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier finished his career as the active leader in passing yards per game (305.6), averaging an exorbitant 9.1 yards per pass attempt (only nine quarterbacks drafted in the last decade have bested that mark and five of them were first-round picks). The senior threw 37 touchdowns in his final year on campus, leading Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers offense as one of the top attacks in college football. What will Grier's transition be like to the NFL? Well, he'll have to become acclimated to a more pro-style system and learn to work from under center, but with his touch and above-average arm strength, he'll get the chance to stick around and be developed early in his career.
Best Pro Comparison
Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at their NFL future through my eyes.
Brett Rypien, Boise State
I enjoyed studying Rypien late in the fall in preparation for the East-West Shrine Game. An undersized passer who excels from the pocket thanks to his poise, timing, and touch, the senior doesn't have a huge arm, but I like the way he plays the position. There are physical limitations here, but I think he will stick in the league for a while as a backup quarterback who will eventually earn a shot at a starting job. Going through my notes on him, I found that I wrote a lot of the same positives (and negatives) about Cody Kessler when he came out of USC in 2016, and the two are built very similarly as well.
Let's face it, all of these players have great stories to tell, but which guy has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in their career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Gardner Minshew, Washington State
A year ago, no one outside of the biggest college football fans knew who Minshew was. He had started seven games in two seasons for an ECU team that had struggled for most of his time on campus. After nearly walking on to be a backup at Alabama, Minshew decided at the last minute to take an offer from Mike Leach at Washington State to compete to become the starter, and the rest is history. The senior, known famously for his legendary facial hair, went on to be the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top passer. Minshew is very unassuming in person, but he's a smart, efficient quarterback who will be a coach when his playing days are done.
This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a very bright future in the NFL.
Easton Stick, North Dakota State
Carson Wentz's backup with the Bison, Easton Stick stepped in and continued NDSU's storied run once the Eagles took his predecessor No. 2 overall back in 2016. Now the all-time winningest quarterback in FCS history (49-3) as a four-year starter, Stick may not have the tools that Wentz did coming out of that program, but he sure has the pedigree to match. Watching Stick, he has full control of a pro-style offense, which will serve him well in nightly meetings with teams in Indy, and his poise and toughness in the pocket really shined. I think he's one of the most underrated players in the entire class. I'd throw Brett Rypien from Boise State into this group as well, along with Jackson from Buffalo, as they are the only non-Power 5 passers at the event.
This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or to the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on in Indianapolis.
Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Shurmur graduated from La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, just outside of Philadelphia. A four-year starter for the Commodores, he has a bit of an elongated throwing motion, which may be a result of his decorated high school swimming career, but this is a smart, accurate passer who makes good decisions, displays solid poise in the pocket, and comes from a football family. If you haven't pieced it together, Shurmur's father Pat is currently the head coach of the New York Giants and spent two tenures as an assistant coach with the Eagles.
We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks ... but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" 40-yard dash time for any given position? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
|Hand Size||9 3/4 inches|
|Arm Length||32 1/8 inches|
|Wingspan||77 3/8 inches|
|Unofficial 40 Time||4.81 seconds|
|Official 40 Time||4.84 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.67 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||7.06 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.33 seconds|
|Broad Jump||112 inches|
|Vertical Jump||31 inches|
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.