The Eagles’ first draft with the complete team of Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, and Doug Pederson is in the books. Afterward, we may have a better idea of what the team will emphasize while building their draft board and what they will not. The Eagles had eight picks and drafted eight players, but not all selections came at their original spot. The team made three trades during the draft, all on the third day.
In case you missed it, here are their selections:
Round 1, Pick 14: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Round 2, Pick 43: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Round 3, Pick 99: Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
Round 4, Pick 118: Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
Round 4, Pick 132: Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Round 5, Pick 166: Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
Round 5, Pick 184: Nathan Gerry, LB, Nebraska
Round 6, Pick 214: Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
The Eagles double dipped in two ways: selecting two wide receivers and cornerbacks, positions hailed as their greatest needs at the start of the off-season, and by selecting two players from both West Virginia and Washington. Let’s check out the corners.
While we said the final verdict on the 2015 draft would always come down to the success of Carson Wentz, the same could be applied to 2016 and Sidney Jones’ ability to recover from the Achilles injury he suffered at his pro day. Before that injury, he could easily have been the Eagles’ pick at No. 14 and may have fought Marshon Lattimore for the chance to be the first cornerback off the board.
Now, the team will have to wait until probably October to see Jones get on the field. Even then, without an off-season practicing, it may be foolish to expect much from Jones in 2016. But this is easily the Eagles most accomplished draft pick at cornerback since Lito Sheppard was taken in the first round in 2002.
Rasul Douglas, their next pick, should be ready to start competing with the team’s current cornerback corps from day one. Douglas is the 17th corner to come off the board in the first 99 picks of the draft. Four corners went in the nine selections before the Eagles took Douglas, so they probably felt some added pressure to grab a corner who could contribute immediately.
Part of the 99th pick should be evaluated with the addition of Timmy Jernigan in mind. The Eagles dropped back from 74th to get Jernigan from the Ravens. At that spot fan-favorite targets Fabian Moreau, Chris Godwin, and Kareem Hunt would still have been in play.
A theme throughout the draft was the Eagles emphasizing production and tape over combine warriors when given the choice. Derek Barnett, their first round selection, broke Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee but had an unremarkable combine. Douglas has impressive physical measurables: standing at 6-foot-2 but didn’t impress with his forty or vertical. He did have eight interceptions in 2016 alone, however.
Donnel Pumphrey, the only running back the Eagles left the draft with, is the new FBS career rushing yardage leader after gaining 6,405 rushing and 1,039 receiving yards at San Diego State. He also weighs in at 176 pounds and stands 5 feet 8 inches tall. His size is leading to a lot of Darren Sproles comparisons, but that’s perhaps not the most effective one. Pumphrey didn’t handle very much return work at all in college (and his plate was rather full, with 1,059 career carries) so anything he might do there is a projection. Sproles also has a more compact build: at his combine, he weighed in at 187 pounds despite being two inches shorter than Pumphrey. He also completed 23 bench press reps compared to Pumphrey’s five.
Their two new receivers, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, turn that perception on its head a bit. Both have deep speed, though Gibson was the victim of an apparent equipment malfunction adding to his combine 40 time. At his pro day, he ran a 4.39. Both averaged over 20 yards per reception for their careers, though neither saw a huge volume of receptions. Hollins is 6-foot-4.
The Eagles spent their final two picks reflecting their first three: showing their commitment to defense. Nathan Gerry, a safety moving to linebacker, and Elijah Qualls add depth to the defense at two spots where it was needed. Every pick may not have been your favorite, and an early run on wide receivers prevented them from picking a playmaker early (though how so many teams passed on O.J. Howard this writer will never know) but the Eagles came out of this draft with an elite pass rusher, a corner with first round talent, and the all-time division one leading rusher. It might take a little while to pay dividends, but it could be a lot less exciting.
Preemptive Grade: B