The NFL combine kicks off this Tuesday, and while the defensive backs Eagles fans covet won’t arrive until Friday, the week to that point should still show plenty of talent.
Here are some players who fit the Eagles’ areas of need and could help – or hurt – their draft stock this week at the combine.
Bryan Bennett, QB, Southeastern Louisiana, 6-foot-3, 215 lbs
Fans by now have become familiar with the “other” dual-threat Chip Kelly quarterback. Bennett lost the competition to be Oregon’s starting quarterback to Marcus Mariota before transferring. He started to receive more hype when he was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, but an erratic performance there didn’t do him any favors.
The combine will give him another chance to prove he deserves a late round selection. When he’s not completing his own drills, Bennett’s arm will also be on display throwing for the wide receiver drills.
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA, 6-foot-0, 230 lbs
Another familiar name — this time the brother of current Eagle Mychal Kendricks. This Kendricks is likely to be taken in the first or second round of the draft. The 2014 Butkus award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, Kendricks is an extremely productive linebacker who will have no problem remaining on the field during passing downs.
The important test for Kendricks will be his strength: how well can he shed blockers at the next level, particularly behind a three man defensive line like the Eagles’?
Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington, 6-foot-1, 228 lbs
Linebacker definitely isn’t the Eagles’ greatest position of need, but Brandon Graham’s impending free agency, Demeco Ryans’ injury rehab, and Marcus Smith’s general ineffectiveness open the unit up to questions.
While he has some of the same concerns as Kendricks (size, strength,) Thompson has displayed amazing versatility at Washington. He played some snaps at safety and even carried the ball for 456 yards at 7.5 yards per carry.
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU, 6-foot-2, 198 lbs
Finally, the position we’ve all been waiting for. Mock drafts have been connecting the Eagles with a ton of cornerbacks lately, and some with character questions that, given Chip Kelly’s past actions and statements about culture, seem more than unlikely.
Collins, however, looks like he could be a fit. The measurables he will bring to the combine could move him up a lot of draft boards, including the Birds’.
Derron Smith, S, Fresno State, 5-foot-11, 197 lbs
Smith is a master of many tasks at safety. He had 13 interceptions over his sophomore and junior seasons and can cover the slot. The question mark is his size: not the smallest safety, but not the prototype Kelly has made a point of coveting.
Smith would give coaches more confidence in his ability to fight bigger receivers and tight ends for the ball by notching a good vertical at the combine.