Four years ago, while scanning the Eagles incoming undrafted free agent class, we singled out tight end Trey Burton. We mentioned he’d thrown for 1500 yards at Florida, and that Chip loved former quarterbacks. We mentioned he was a great special teamer. We did not predict he’d throw the most famous touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII.
But while this season became the swan song (in Philadelphia) of one of the Eagles most successful UDFA finds, it also saw the next gem appear: running back Corey Clement, who had 444 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season and torched New England for 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl. His 55-yard catch-and-run setup Burton’s touchdown throw.
So with all these contributions from UDFAs fresh in your mind, there’s a new class to dream of big things from. Here are three of those players most likely to crack the Eagles roster this season.
Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
NFL.com had a 6th-7th round grade on Adams, who ran for 3201 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons with Notre Dame. He exploded for 1430 yards at 6.9 yards per carry during his junior season. Watch some highlight tape of Adams’ 6-foot-2 frame bouncing through the secondary, and it’s hard not to be reminded of LeGarrette Blount’s work a season ago in Philadelphia. Adam’s isn’t the same wrecking ball Blount was, though he’s probably a bit faster – he had a 98 yard run in college – it just takes him awhile to get going. Once he does, it’s hard to catch him from behind, and even harder to bring him down.
The Eagles are well-stocked at running back already with Clement, Jay Ajayi, and newly-resigned Darren Sproles. They also have Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood on the roster. Adams would have to beat out at least the latter two to have a shot at the roster, but based on last season, that’s not out of the question. The Eagles already turned to an undrafted free agent once over their recent fourth and fifth round selections, and showed a willingness to carry five backs into the season to begin 2017.
Jeremy Reaves, S, South Alabama
Reaves was as productive as defenders come in college. As a senior, he was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year after recording 104 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. That’s just a sample of a ballhawking college career that ended with eight total interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. He played corner and safety at South Alabama, giving him the versatility at the position the Eagles love.
With Jaylen Watkins gone and Corey Graham unsigned, it was expected the Eagles would pursue a backup safety in the draft. They didn’t, but they went all in in undrafted free agency, and Reaves looks like the best of the bunch they’ve signed. They’re understandably high on 2017 undrafted rookie Tre Sullivan, last seen terrorizing the NFL Preseason, and Reaves is a hitter in the same mold.
Bruce Hector, DT, South Florida
They’re not many interior pass rushers with the numbers Hector put up in his college career: 18 sacks over his final three seasons at USF. As a senior, he paired 13 tackles for loss with seven sacks. Hector is considered undersized for the position – at 6-foot-2, 296 pounds – and the Eagles’ rotation-heavy 4-3 front seems like one of the best possible fits for him to land in.
Breaking through onto the roster in that front might not be as hard as you’d think, either. If Timmy Jernigan’s surgery removes him from the equation when the season begins, once you get past Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, and the odd interior cameo from Michael Bennett, there’s not a lot of proven competition for Hector. Elijah Qualls, last year’s sixth round pick, and Destiny Vaeao, another former UDFA, round out the current roster.