Doug Pederson wasn't drafted by an NFL team. He still managed to play in the league for more than a decade. Corey Clement wasn't one of the 253 players selected last year. He closed out the season with an amazing performance in the Super Bowl that had him looking more like a first-round prospect than an undrafted player.
The NFL is all about performance. If you play well, the coaches aren't going to care where you went to school or whether you were selected in the draft. They will put you on the field. Coaches want the best players on the field.
The Eagles are having a Rookie Camp this weekend, which includes some young veterans, the team's five draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents, and a slew of tryout players. Dallas Goedert was the first player chosen by the Eagles a couple of weeks back, but I think most people will be fixated on Jordan Mailata, the giant rugby star who is getting a crash course in the game of football.
Mailata is 6-8 and 346 pounds, roughly about the size of Delaware. He makes Jason Kelce look like a running back. Mailata is fascinating because he's a gifted athlete with huge potential. Just watch him in some basic drills and you'll see a player who moves smoothly and naturally. Guys his size aren't supposed to do that. I think everyone is curious to see him so they can try and figure out what Mailata can be this year and in the future. He is a project but looks to have the upside to be a starting left tackle.
There will be no contact at rookie camp, but you can still see how the players move. That has value. If someone looks stiff and slow with no pads and no contact, that doesn't bode well for their future. We don't know if Mailata will pan out as a player, but he is the real deal as an athlete.
With Pederson's background, you know undrafted players will always get a fair chance in Philly. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the more interesting players the Eagles signed after the draft. I watched a couple of them up close at the Senior Bowl back in January. Jeremy Reaves showed good cover skills in the practice sessions. My only concern was his speed. He ran in the 4.65 range in the 40 at his Pro Day, which is acceptable for a safety.
Reaves played well in the Senior Bowl game, picking off a pass and breaking up another one. Put on his game tape and you see an aggressive, downhill player. He is a big hitter and good tackler. He actually reminds me of Rodney McLeod. I think Reaves is a player to keep an eye on this summer.
The other guy from the Senior Bowl to watch is corner Chandon Sullivan. I thought he showed good man coverage skills. As with Reaves, I wasn't sure about his speed. He ran 4.60 at the Combine, not ideal for a 194-pound corner. I still think Sullivan has a chance to play in the NFL. He played in the slot at times in the Senior Bowl game and looked good. He's got the size and skill set to be a good nickel back. I'm looking forward to watching him in practice.
With the news of Tim Jernigan's injury situation, the door is wide open for Bruce Hector to come in and get everyone's attention. There is nothing special about Hector in terms of size, speed, or athleticism, but this is a guy who knows how to get into the backfield and be disruptive. He had 18 career sacks. Now more than ever, teams are desperate to find players who can get pressure up the middle. Hector did just that in college. His challenge is to show he can do that in the NFL. Hector is quick off the ball and is at his best when shooting gaps. He is an excellent fit for the Eagles' scheme.
Take a look at what it was like when the Eagles rookies arrived for the start of Rookie Minicamp at the NovaCamp Complex.
One player I seem to be higher on than others is Aaron Evans. He started at left tackle for Central Florida for the past three years. He has NFL size at 6-4 and 325 pounds. He is a good pass protector. Evans doesn't have great feet, but is instinctive and does an excellent job of mirroring rushers. He is a good blocker at the second level, which is critical for Eagles linemen. They must be athletic and able to block linebackers and defensive backs in space. Evans has the potential to play guard or tackle. I think he could surprise some people this summer.
Notre Dame star Josh Adams is one of the headline free agents. He played for a football power and had a great 2017 season so it makes sense that he's getting a lot of attention. Adams is an interesting player. He is a tall, upright runner. He only weighed 213 pounds at the Combine, but reportedly played at closer to 225 pounds during the year. I think he should add weight.
Adams' best chance to succeed in the NFL is as a power runner. He doesn't need to be huge, but he is at his best as a downhill runner. Someone who is 210 pounds should be making lateral cuts and trying to make guys miss. Adams is better at reading blocks and attacking up the field. He does show good potential as a receiver.
Speaking of players who are coming off great seasons, Joe Ostman led the nation in sacks. The Central Michigan star made play after play throughout his career. He had 28 career sacks. Ostman is relentless in pursuit of the ball. He had a better pro day workout than I expected. He also helped himself quite a bit at the Shrine Game. The Eagles are deep up front but do love pass rushers and that gives Ostman a chance. He knows how to get to the quarterback.
Ryan Neal is the kind of athletic, versatile defensive back the Eagles have loved in recent years. Neal played corner, safety, and nickel for Southern Illinois. I would project him to safety in the NFL. The Eagles need depth there so Neal has a real shot to push for a roster spot.
I'm fascinated by Purdue receiver Anthony Mahoungou. He got red hot at the end of the year and delivered big play after big play. He caught the game-winning pass in his bowl game. Mahoungou has good size and does a great job of making contested catches. He can have defenders draped on him and still haul the throw in. That skill could serve him well in the NFL. He is a project, but has some upside.
Dominick Sanders is a ballhawk. He's undersized at just 5-11 and 193 pounds, but he picked off 16 passes in his career at Georgia. Sanders has great ball skills. He is at his best sitting in the deep middle, reading the quarterback, and then breaking on the ball. Sanders is also dangerous after the interception. He averaged 24 yards per return for his career. Jim Schwartz loves defenders who can make plays when they get their hands on the ball.
This weekend will mostly be about learning. Everyone will be trying to impress their new coaches, but with no pads and no contact, this isn't anything like real football. It does give the coaches a chance to introduce their new players to life in the NFL.
For many, this will be a short experience, but you never know when you'll find the next Doug Pederson or Corey Clement.