It will forever be known as Carson's Draft, but the 2016 draft class is set to create its own identity. When the players report to the NovaCare Complex to start the team's offseason conditioning program on Monday, all eyes will be on the second-year players.
Wentz is the headliner after starting 16 games at quarterback in his rookie season, but the Eagles are counting on the rest of his classmates to step up and help in 2017.
A truly great draft class, former head coach Ray Rhodes once insisted, produces three starting players. So what do the Eagles have from 2016? Wentz is a starter, of course. Offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, who showed his versatility as a rookie, is going to make a push to start at guard this year and, perhaps, center at some point in his career. Halapoulivaati Vaitai made such dramatic progress at right tackle in 2016 that it's easy to envision him starting there at some point in the not-too-distant future (depending on Jason Peters and his play at left tackle, of course).
Running back Wendell Smallwood looks like he has a chance to be an effective producer in this offense and maybe a spot starter, but is he a long-term answer in the backfield? That's a question Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, and the offensive coaching staff has to answer with a running back-heavy draft ahead.
How about cornerback Jalen Mills, the seventh-round pick who had 661 snaps of action, 65 percent of the defensive plays, in his rookie campaign? You can bet the Eagles are going to address the cornerback position moving forward, but Mills is in line to challenge, at the very least, for a starting job in 2017.
If three starters is the standard to qualify for a "good" draft, then the Eagles are on track. How those players manifest themselves isn't yet exactly clear, other than Wentz. And the true value of the 2016 draft class isn't likely to be clear until the end of the 2017 season, at the earliest. But the Eagles have some players who, based on their rookie performances, have a chance to make that significant step up in season No. 2.
Who are the other starters from last year's draft class, joining Wentz? As much as Wentz's development impacts this team's future, seeing how the rest of the draft class develops has significant meaning, too.
REMEMBERING TOM MODRAK
A very good football man left us on Tuesday when Tom Modrak passed away. Modrak started with the Eagles in 1998 and lasted until 2001, when the Eagles moved on and weren't pleased that Modrak demanded an "out" clause in his contract and he didn't seem "committed" to the Eagles for the long term. The Eagles wanted stability after years of uncertainty in the front office - Bob Ackles, Dick Daniels, and Mike Lombardi preceded Modrak - as the team built around quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Modrak was with the Eagles for the critical drafts of 1999 (quarterback Donovan McNabb, linebacker Barry Gardner, offensive guard Doug Brzezinski, tackle John Welbourn) and 2000 (defensive tackle Corey Simon, wide receiver Todd Pinkston, guard Bobbie Williams). Modrak was let go in May of 2001 after working on a draft that produced wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, defensive end Derrick Burgess, running back Correll Buckhalter, and quarterback A.J. Feeley.
EAGLES UPCOMING SCHEDULE
Monday marks the start of Phase 1 of the Eagles offseason, which means, exactly, what? Here are the rules for the Eagles, and the rest of the NFL, over these first two weeks.
- Limited to strength and conditioning activities ("Dead Ball"); only strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field
- 90 minutes max on the field
- Clubs can only specify two hours for players to be at facility
- Players choose the other two hours for weights, etc.
Just so you know ...
FREE AGENCY, TRADE GAME FINISHED?
That the Eagles have accomplished the personnel moves they have made with such limited room within the salary cap has been impressive. It's certainly possible the team could do something in the next two weeks, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Eagles are done. If they are, here is a look at how they have altered the roster:
- Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver: He's a projected starter and a go-to target in the passing game.
- Torrey Smith, wide receiver: He is a projected starter who should be a deep threat for Wentz in the passing game.