It may be the height of draft season optimism to envision how every undrafted hopeful fills a need and contributes to the Eagles for years to come. But without undrafted free agents, the team wouldn’t have Trey Burton, Denzel Rice or, oh yeah, Jason Peters.
Every year a few players who fell out of the draft do overcome the odds and win a roster spot, and some of the newest Eagles have achance to be seen wearing Midnight Green come Autumn. For some that’s about their qualifications, for some it’s about their opportunity to fill a void on a team in transition, and for a lucky few it’s about both.
The defensive tackles
As the team moves from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 under Jim Schwartz, no position group may be more affected than the defensive line. The interior line depth is particularly questionable. Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan will be fine starters, but behind them Taylor Hart has yet to produce and Beau Allenseems best suited to the 3-4.
The 2015 draft was exceptionally deep in defensive line prospects, and it was somewhat surprising to see the Eagles ignore the position there, but it also left them with several gems to choose from once the draft had finished. They didn’t hesitate.
The Eagles signed Boston College’s Connor Wujciak, Stanford’s Aziz Shittu, and Washington State’s Destiny Vaeao, all of whom have the pedigree and opportunity to shine this summer and compete for a spot on the roster. Vaeao was projected as a fourth round pick by NFL.com. Shittu had 14 tackles for loss in his 2015 college season and was named First-Team All-Pac-12. Wujciak was First-Team All-ACC himself with four-and-a-half sacks.
All three were ranked within the top 40 defensive tackles available in this class by CBS Sports, and Wujciak and Shittu were in the top 30.
Another position where defensive position shuffling has left the depth chart shallow, linebacker wasn’t addressed in the draft until the team selected Joe Thomas of Oregon in the seventh round. That gives him a head start in the team’s evaluation, but don’t count out Rutgers’ Quentin Gause or Incarnate Word’s Myke Tavarres, who has an impressive reel of Brian Dawkins-style flying tackles.
Tavarres had 110 tackles, 22.5 of them coming for a loss, and 8.5 sacks in 2015 playing FCS football. He’s a prime candidate to star on special teams, which is always a good path to the 53-man roster. Just ask Trey Burton.
The skill positions
The Eagles signed a number of wide receivers and running backs to compete for roster spots, and if any of them shine the Kenjon Barners and Josh Huffs on the team haven’t done enough in the NFL to avoid a position battle. Byron Marshall ofOregon is the odds-on favorite to compete with his fellow alumni. Marshall ran for 1,038 yards in 2013, and caught 74 passes for 1,003 yards in 2014 before an injury limited him to four games in 2015.
- A final note: never forget the offensive line, which the Eagles have made a priority this off-season. San Diego State guard Darrell Greene may have the best chance to make the roster. He was ranked as the 13th best guard prospect by CBS Sports and projected to go on the third day by NFL.com. It is being reported that the Eagles gave Greene $105,000 in guaranteed money and Tavarres $95,000. To put that in perspective, last year Travis Raciti led the pack with $17,500.