Ranking Philadelphia Eagles' Top 6 Sleepers to Watch in Camp
Every summer across the NFL, a handful of players emerge from seemingly out of nowhere and make unexpected bids for roster spots.
Who among the Philadelphia Eagles will rise from the depths of the unknown to prominence at training camp this year?
In this year's camp, I'll have my eyes on six players who—while I do not think any one of them is likely to make the 53-man roster—I believe might show the coaching staff something that could make the needle move. In other words, don't sleep on these kids' chances of making a push to make the team.
The players on the list are ranked in order of who has the best chances of actually earning a coveted roster spot.
Ultimately, this lot of undrafted rookies has long odds to make the team, even if the put together outrageously excellent training camps and preseasons. They'll be in camp giving their all, though, and for one reason or another, that might wind up winning someone a job.
If not in Philadelphia, then perhaps someplace else.
6. WR Quron Pratt
Quron Pratt wasn’t much of a wide receiver at Rutgers. Maybe it was because Rutgers didn’t have much of an offense or a program most of the time he was in school. Or maybe there are simply better receiving prospects in the college football world.
Pratt finished his career with 87 receptions for 1,087 yards and one receiving touchdown through four seasons—numbers Eagles second-round pick Jordan Matthews would regard as a one-year total. However, that’s not to suggest that Pratt didn’t make his mark.
In fact, as Pratt’s bio at PhiladelphiaEagles.com points out, he was actually named the program’s most valuable player in 2013. And while he was indeed one of the top receivers in that (dreadful) offense, where Pratt really stood out was on special teams.
Pratt made two of the biggest plays of the Scarlet Knights season on special teams. One was a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. Another was a blocked punt.
Pratt likely isn’t going to make Philadelphia’s roster as a wide receiver, regardless of what his bio says. If his name begins to gain recognition this summer, it will almost certainly be through inspired special teams play.
It’s not impossible. Under head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles have made several notable moves with the goal of improving the special teams, including signing free-agent linebacker Bryan Braman and safety Chris Maragos during the offseason.
It’s entirely feasible Kelly would keep six wideouts if one of those six has the potential to make the kind of impact plays on special teams Pratt did in college.
5. S Daytawion Lowe
Entering the offseason, the Eagles had a dearth of talent at safety. Since then, the team added former New Orleans Saint Malcolm Jenkins through free agency, re-signed Nate Allen and used a fifth-round draft pick on Ed Reynolds out of Stanford. Throw in second-year player Earl Wolff, and it’s a fairly deep group, if lacking in high-end talent.
One would probably think that might make it difficult for an undrafted free agent such as Daytawion Lowe to get noticed. Then again, Lowe is a player who always showed a nose for the football at the collegiate level.
This kid was about as active as a safety gets in college, finishing as high as second in the Big 12 in tackles while playing for Oklahoma State. Lowe had a knack for the big play too, with a line that included 3.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 19 passes defensed and five forced fumbles for his career.
Despite earning second-team all-conference honors his senior year, Lowe was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and clearly there was not tremendous interest in him from around the league.
Lowe might be just a tad undersized at 5’11”, 196 pounds, and his NFL.com scouting report suggests he is a prospect who is rough around the edges.
Lowe’s chances of making the final roster are slim. Just don’t be surprised if Eagles fans fall in love with a safety who might play with reckless abandon from time to time—something the franchise’s secondary has been missing since, well…you know who.
4. WR Kadron Boone
For the better part of four years, Kadron Boone went overlooked in LSU’s offense. I guess it had to be somebody in a class that heard three wide receivers’ names called in the draft, including two in the first two rounds though.
Despite spending his collegiate career as a reserve, though, Boone managed to gain some fans in league offices. One of those, of course, was the Eagles', which quickly signed the wideout after the draft ended. At least one other anonymous NFL executive thought highly of Boone, based on comments he made to Geoff Mosher for CSNPhilly.com.
He can run. He has good hands. Very competitive guy...You’ll see. He’s definitely gonna show up. It wouldn’t surprise me if he makes the team and actually contributes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outplays [Eagles third-round pick Josh] Huff. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Boone’s best season was his junior year, when he wound up making seven starts as an injury replacement. The 6’0”, 202-pound receiver reeled in 26 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, accounting for roughly half of his career production.
Again, though, it wasn’t exactly easy to get ahead in a crowded receiving corps that featured Odell Beckham Jr., the 12th overall pick now with the New York Giants, and Jarvis Landry, a second-rounder of the Miami Dolphins. Nor will it be easy to win a roster spot in Philadelphia, where Huff, second-round pick Jordan Matthews, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are all but assured their jobs.
Even the fifth and perhaps final receiver spot is heavily contested for by Brad Smith, Arrelious Benn and Ifeanyi Momah, among others. That being said, if Boone has a strong preseason, particularly one where he makes his presence felt as a special teams contributor, one anonymous executive’s optimism may just turn out to be right.
3. TE Trey Burton
Chip Kelly loves versatility, and Trey Burton was the embodiment of the word at Florida. There, Burton lined up at running back, wide receiver, tight end, on special teams—even at quarterback.
Now that he’s headed to the NFL, Burton is officially listed as a tight end. If somehow he were to make an NFL roster, though, Burton would probably be the smallest tight end the league has seen in some time.
At 6’2”, 224 pounds, it seems unlikely that he has the mass to play a position that is typically reserved for athletes who usually weigh north of 250 pounds. After all, these guys are often asked to line up alongside offensive linemen and help with the dirty work inside the trenches.
Of course, the nature of the position is changing, and tight ends more and more frequently are becoming glorified wide receivers. Burton could also be deployed as an H-back out of the backfield, further taking advantage of his dynamic skill set.
Granted, Burton’s college numbers and measureables don’t light the world on fire. 1,696 yards from scrimmage is all he mustered in four years of college ball, and while the 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 7.41 seconds in the three-cone drill he recorded at the combine, according to NFL.com, might be nice for a tight end, they’re pretty mediocre for a receiver or running back.
Still, Burton seems like the kind of malleable piece Kelly can move around his offense and get results. We’ll find out at training camp, where I suspect Burton’s name will come up quite a bit.
2. RB David Fluellen
While Missouri’s Henry Josey has been by far the more hyped of the team's undrafted rookie free agents, he’s not the only UDFA running back Philadelphia signed after the draft.
The Eagles are also kicking the tires on David Fluellen out of Toledo.
Fluellen is an entirely different type of back from Josey. At 5’8, 194 pounds, Josey relies on a combination of explosive speed and agility to elude defenders. The 5'11, 224-pound Fluellen will just as soon run over his opponent than around him.
A 1,000-yard rusher in back-to-back seasons, Fluellen racked up 2,612 yards with a 6.2 average per carry and 23 touchdowns total over his junior and senior campaigns. The kid can flat pound the rock, while the downhill, power-running style described in his NFL.com scouting report is likely to make him an instant fan favorite once preseason games get underway.
In fact, it’s that hit-the-hole mentality that could lead to some preseason recognition for Fluellen. Seeing as he’ll be running behind third-string offensive linemen all summer, the easiest way for a back to succeed is keeping things simple.
Between LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk, earning a roster spot at running back was always going to be difficult, and right now, Josey seems to be getting most of the attention as a dark horse. Still, Fluellen’s no-nonsense ball-carrying is liable to get him noticed by those folks who watch all four quarters of preseason games.
1. OG Karim Barton
It’s easy to write off Karim Barton, an undrafted free agent out of Division-II Morgan State, who’s making the difficult conversion from college tackle to NFL guard.
That doesn’t mean it would be wise.
Barton, a native of Jamaica who didn't begin playing football until his junior year in high school, is undoubtedly a long shot to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster. However, at 313 pounds, there aren’t many players coming to camp bigger than this 22-year-old.
That size, plus the fact that he knows how to use it, is what offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland saw in the young man while watching tape prior to the draft, as Barton said in his wide-ranging interview with Dan Klausner for PhiladelphiaEagles.com: “Physicality,” Barton said. “(Stoutland) likes my physical play, but now I have to work on my footwork and hand placement because it’s different for a guard."
Clearly, Barton will have to hone his skills, but the lack of established depth at guard means more opportunity to shine. Behind starters Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the only roster spot that seems to be guaranteed is Allen Barbre’s who doubles as a reserve at guard.
Fellow undrafted guard prospects Oregon State’s Josh Andrews and Donald Hawkins of Texas may have the experience of playing at major programs. But Barton could be a natural road-grader, regardless of the level of competition he faced in college.
He may simply need a chance to prove it.