6 NFL Combine studs Eagles should keep eye on

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6 NFL Combine studs Eagles should keep eye on

With the combine over, we look at six prospects that impressed and should be on the Eagles’ radar.

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (6-4/291)
Bryan’s combine matched the tape. He’s an athletic freak, testing in the 97th percentile. That’s part of the reason I projected him to the Eagles in my first-round mock 1.0. He would provide them a strong rotational piece with pass rush ability. Remember, if Beau Allen walks, the Eagles' top backup is Destiny Vaeao. Bryan is raw, but his upside is huge in a one-gap, attacking defense.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State (6-5/247)
Speaking of freaks, Gesicki ran a 4.54 40 and recorded a 41½-inch vertical at 247 pounds. He’s a dynamic receiver and serious red zone threat but his blocking is subpar. Has Zach Ertz’s blocking come far enough to allow for a playmaker like Gesicki to play on the other side? It would make the Eagles scary in 12-personnel and could make up for the likely loss of Trey Burton in free agency.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State (6-4/256)
While his 40 and bench numbers were just OK, Vander Esch finished in the top-five among 'backers in the vertical, broad jump, three-cone drill, and 20- and 60-yard shuttle. Word is the Eagles are high on him. He’s only a one-year starter but that one year was spectacular. One of the concerns is that he looks to avoid blocks as opposed to shedding them, but he may have tested himself out of pick 32. That would be too bad for the Eagles, who could lose veteran Nigel Bradham.

Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State (5-8/197)
Hines was the fastest back at the combine, running a 4.38 40. He’s undersized but he was as dynamic as anyone in college football. He ran for 1,112 yards, averaging 5.6 yards a carry and scoring 12 TDs. He was also a lethal returner, recording two kick return TDs and a punt return score during his time at NC State. Hines is what the Eagles were looking for in Donnel Pumphrey last season. 

Connor Williams, OT/G, Texas (6-5/320)
The aforementioned players had strong combines and that’s why they've made this list. Williams didn't have a bad combine by any stretch but his measurements may cause him to fall. His arms measured 33 inches. Teams typically want their tackles to have at least 34-inch arms. Silly, I know, but that, plus an injury-riddled junior season could cause Williams to fall. He was considered by many to be the best tackle in the draft before the season. Looking at his 2016 tape, that may be accurate. And now, he might fall into the Eagles' lap at 32.

Justin Reid, S, Stanford (6-1/204)
Reid is a prototypical safety in today's NFL. He has corner speed (4.40 40) and is strong in coverage. Safety isn't a need for the Eagles, but like defensive tackle, it’s a position lacking depth. Plus, with how much time teams spend in nickel and dime, and how Jim Schwartz likes to deploy Malcolm Jenkins — who also can't play forever — all over the field, Reid gives them a ton of options in sub packages. 

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

The Eagles have found their replacement for Torrey Smith. 

Heck, they found an upgrade. 

On Thursday, the Birds agreed to terms with veteran speedy receiver Mike Wallace on a one-year deal. The deal is worth $2.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. 

This signing makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, especially if they weren’t ready to hand Mack Hollins the starting spot Smith left. Hollins can now split time with Wallace. Even if the Eagles didn’t trade Smith, they weren’t going to keep him at his price tag, so adding Wallace gives the Eagles a veteran with speed at a cheaper cost. 

Wallace, 31, is coming off a season in which he caught 52 passes for 748 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. For comparison, in 2017, Smith caught 36 passes for 430 yards (11.9) and two touchdowns. And Smith dropped seven passes, while Wallace dropped just three, according to ProFootballFocus. In fact, Wallace's numbers weren't far off from Alshon Jeffery's stats last year (57 receptions, 789 yards, 9 touchdowns). 

While Wallace isn’t coming off his best season in 2017, he went over 1,000 yards in 2016 and has averaged 15.0 yards per reception during his nine-year NFL career. The Eagles hope he'll be the deep threat they thought they were getting in Smith. 

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Wallace is second in the league in 40-yard receptions and in 50-yard receptions. He has 43 receptions of 40-plus yards (behind DeSean Jackson's 56) and 26 receptions of 50-plus yards (behind Jackson's 36). 

If that's not recent enough for you, the Eagles had seven pass plays of 50-plus yards in 2017; Wallace had three on his own. He can still stretch the field. 

The Eagles can now start Alshon Jeffery and Wallace on the outside, which will allow them to keep Nelson Agholor in the slot, where he was great last season. Then they’ll still have Hollins and Shelton Gibson (both draft picks from 2017) off the bench. Not bad. 

Wallace will turn 32 before the season starts, so the Eagles have added another veteran player, something they’ve done plenty this season. They already added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. It’s pretty clear the Eagles see the need to maximize their window of opportunity and getting players to join them is probably easier coming off a Super Bowl win. 

Signing veterans on one-year deals certainly worked well for the Eagles last season and if this one works out too, they will have found a good fit for the 2018 season.  

Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

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Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

The Eagles pulled off trades and signed a few free agents after the new league year began on March 14 ... and it's shortened their Super Bowl odds. 

The Eagles' odds to win Super Bowl LIII improved from 9/1 to 17/2 between Feb. 5 and March 22, according to Bovada. Despite beating them in Super Bowl LII less than two months ago, the Eagles still trail the Patriots, who stood pat at 5/1. 

Here's the full top 10: 

1. Patriots: 5/1
2. Eagles: 17/2
3. Vikings: 9/1
4. Steelers: 12/1
5. Packers: 14/1
5. Rams: 14/1
7. Saints: 18/1
8. Falcons: 20/1
9. Texans: 22/1
9. Jaguars: 22/1
9. Raiders: 22/1

As for the rest of the teams in the NFC East, the next closest to the Eagles are the Cowboys, but their inactivity this offseason gave them longer odds, going from 18/1 to 28/1. The Giants' odds stayed at 50/1, while the Redskins' odds went from 50/1 to 66/1. 

And here's a fun prop bet: The over/under for Michael Bennett sacks in 2018 is set at 8. Last season, he had 8½ with the Seahawks. Now, he's playing on a dynamic defensive line but also figures to play less because of the Eagles' rotation.