Breaking Down the Most Important Pro Days for the Philadelphia Eagles
With most of the big names having made up their minds in free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles should be in full-on draft-preparation mode from here on out.
Sure enough, head coach Chip Kelly and a number of Birds scouts have already been sighted at pro days at various universities around the country.
Of course, not all pro days are created equal. Obviously, the Eagles' attendance holds a lot more weight when Kelly himself is at the event. Some schools may have only one or two legitimate prospects to check out, or their best and brightest don’t play positions of need.
Simply put, some pro days are more important than others. We’re here to tell you which ones are important to the Eagles.
NFL coaches, scouts and GMs are traveling all over the country in March and April to get one more chance to see draft prospects up close at their college “pro days.”
Of course, the pro day is just one small part of the evaluation process. At their core, selections on draft day are based on production on the football field. Sanctioned events like the combine or the pro day offer front offices one more chance to meet the players and evaluate them in person, to further gauge what value these prospects could bring to their teams.
We’re already well into the pro day workouts, and as it turns out, Kelly and the Eagles have made a majority of their biggest stops.
Ahead in this presentation, we look at several places the Eagles have been, a couple of more places they are going and what it all could mean on draft day.
Well, they are the reigning national champions after all.
Chip Kelly was among the head coaches who reportedly attended Florida State’s pro day, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, and just whom he might’ve been watching could be all over the map.
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is among the names that have been frequently tied to the Eagles this offseason. Standing 6’5”, 240 pounds, Benjamin is an impressive physical specimen is going to be a nightmare for cornerbacks to match up against at the next level.
Expect there to be quite a bit of interest on the opposite side of the ball, too. A defensive lineman may not be the Birds’ biggest need in the first round, but Timmy Jernigan could fall into that “best player available” category at No. 22.
Of course, in my most recent mock draft, I have Philadelphia landing linebacker Christian Jones in Round 4. Jones lined up all over the place in the Seminoles defense. He could be the future at interior linebacker for the Eagles.
Defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks could make it on the Eagles’ draft board as well, although they are both on the small side. The larger point is there was plenty to take in at Florida State’s pro day this year.
The Eagles wouldn’t want to forget to make the three-hour trip to State College, PA for Penn State’s pro day on April 8. Not only is Happy Valley right in their back yard, but the Nittany Lions have three prospects the scouts will definitely want to see.
The PSU player who’s garnered the most attention is undoubtedly Allen Robinson, the highly-productive junior wide receiver. Robinson hauled in a sensational 174 receptions for 2,450 yards and 17 touchdowns in the last two seasons alone.
The numbers are impressive, but watching Robinson go up and get the ball is a sight to behold. At 6’2”, 220 pounds, the first-team All-American can outmuscle and go above smaller cornerbacks to catch passes at their highest point.
Philadelphia may want to take note of offensive guard John Urschel as well. Well on his way to a second master’s degree in mathematics, Urschel could learn a lot behind veteran guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, who are 32 and 31 respectively.
Finally, the Eagles could also have interest in massive defensive lineman DaQuan Jones. Standing 6’2”, 322 pounds, Jones certainly looks the part. He started only one season for Penn State, so the lack of experience and production will be a concern. 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in ’13 should’ve been enough to leave an impression, though.
Dan Parr for NFL.com reports Chip Kelly was on hand for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s pro day, although I doubt that’s all the Eagles head coach was there to see. Louisville safety Calvin Pryor is a very real possibility for the Birds with the No. 22 pick—that is assuming he lasts that long.
Pryor has been climbing in mock drafts ever since he declared for the draft and will be tempting for Philadelphia if he were last to Eagles' selection. The team brought in Malcolm Jenkins and re-signed Nate Allen during free agency to help solidify the secondary, but a job could be made available this year or next for a talented newcomer.
Known for being a big hitter, Pryor recorded nine career forced fumbles to go along with seven interceptions in three seasons with the Cardinals.
Another player Kelly undoubtedly had his eye on was Marcus Smith, a disruptive defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid. Smith demonstrated a knack for getting into the backfield as a senior, racking up 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss en route to AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Smith could be a Day 2 target for the Eagles, giving him the opportunity to learn behind Trent Cole for a year before potentially taking over for the two-time Pro Bowler.
Seventeen players have been drafted out of the University of Alabama in the past two years alone, including six in the first round, so teams need not come up with special reasons to attend this pro day. Chase Goodbread for NFL.com confirms Chip Kelly was among the coaches on the scene.
The Eagles would be ecstatic in the somewhat unlikely event that either inside linebacker C.J. Mosley or safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were available at No. 22. Mosley was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, which is all the explanation most fans need. Clinton-Dix, a consensus All-American, could come in and compete from day one for a job in the secondary.
Other intriguing Tide prospects included linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive linemen Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson. Harvesting defenders from a program that recently won back-to-back national championships in 2012 and ‘13 probably isn’t a bad strategy.
Kelly also could’ve checked up on offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and guard Anthony Steen, two prospects who played under Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland at ‘Bama. If either one received Stoutland’s blessing, pro day may have have been a final interview of sorts for Kouandjio or Steen.
Speaking of programs with a steady pipeline into the NFL, Louisiana State is right up there with Alabama at producing numerous pro players on a yearly basis, especially on defense. Eagles nose tackle Bennie Logan was among the nine former Tigers chosen in 2013.
Logan can probably vouch for Lamin Barrow, who was tasked with cleaning up after LSU’s front four. Barrow would make for a fine developmental project behind interior linebacker DeMeco Ryans who turns 30 in July.
Defensive linemen Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson or safety Craig Loston could be on the club’s radar as well.
Somewhat surprisingly though, it’s the university’s offensive weapons that might attract Philadelphia the most. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be an option in the first round if the front office decides to unload DeSean Jackson, as is being increasingly speculated around town.
While a tad undersized at 5’11”, 198 pounds, Beckham possesses terrific 4.4 speed and doubles as a return specialist, taking two punts back for touchdowns in his collegiate career. The early entrant recorded 57 receptions for 1,117 touchdowns and eight scores as a junior.
Fellow wideout Jarvis Landry and offensive guard Trai Turner also may be of interest to Philadelphia. As usual, it appears there will be plenty to see this year at LSU's pro day on April 9.
These SEC schools are veritable football factories, aren’t they?
Florida isn’t as stacked as their rivals or as the program itself has been in past years, but it just so happens the university has in its possession the very thing the Eagles need in bulk—defensive backs.
Gators cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins could all be draft-day targets for the Birds. For Purifoy, pro day was an opportunity to make up for his stinker of a performance at the combine. Conversely, for Watkins, it was a chance to back up his strong showing in Indianapolis. The tallest of the three at 6’0”, Roberson is not just along for the ride.
The Eagles very quietly had a presence at Florida’s pro day, but it wasn’t the corners they appeared to be interested in. SBNation’s blog Alligator Army noted that Eagles scouts spent a good amount of time with defensive lineman Dominique Easley. Easley wasn’t able to participate in drills, however, as he’s rehabbing from a torn ACL.
According to NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline, Billy Davis could hardly contain his excitement at Virginia Tech’s pro day. Pauline described the Eagles defensive coordinator as being “all over” Kyle Fuller, adding Davis went out of his way to introduce the Hokies cornerback to Chip Kelly.
Measuring just a hair under 6’0”, Fuller registered six interceptions and 32 pass breakups in four years at Tech. Generally reliable in coverage, the potential first-round pick also demonstrated an ability to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, racking up 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in a hybrid role in his sophomore season. Kelly loves versatility.
Fuller is not the only intriguing prospect in Virginia Tech’s defensive backfield. 5’11” Antone Exum played all over the Hokies secondary, including safety. He posted five interceptions and 21 pass breakups as a junior, but spent most of 2013 working his way back from a torn ACL.
The Eagles still need help at both cornerback and safety, so either Fuller and Exum could easily be early targets.
While they were there, I’m sure Kelly and his staff got a look at quarterback Logan Thomas. A freak of nature, Thomas ran a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash while measuring an impressive 6’6”, 248 pounds at the scouting combine. Obviously the Eagles aren’t searching for a signal-caller, but an incredibly gifted kid like that might be able to catch on in a different role.