8 NFL draft prospects to watch in bowl games Thursday

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8 NFL draft prospects to watch in bowl games Thursday

College football bowl season continues Thursday with four games on the docket

The Eagles will have a late first-round pick and no second- or third-rounders. But Howie Roseman isn't one to sit on his hands come draft day.

Here are eight prospects in action today that could help the Eagles next season.

Military Bowl (1:30 p.m./ESPN)

No. 3 - Quin Blanding, S, Virginia, senior (6-2/210)
Blanding has been a four-year starter for the Cavaliers and a very productive one at that. He's recorded at least 115 tackles in each one of his four seasons at Virginia. He's also hauled in 10 interceptions, including a career-high four picks this season. He's strong in the run game, which will be on display today against Navy. He's fairly instinctive, knows his assignments and rarely gets caught out of position. But his foot speed to recover can be a problem if a receiver or back gets by him. He'll likely be a mid-round pick because of his lack of athleticism.

No. 53 - Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia, senior (6-2/240)
Kiser has been a full-time starter the last three years at Virginia and he's been extremely disruptive. He's amassed at least 117 tackles in the last three seasons while piling up 33 1/2 tackles and 19 sacks in that span. He's also got a nose for the football, forcing eight fumbles in his career. His character is also off the charts. Kiser was the recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, otherwise known as the "academic Heisman." He's also suiting up today against Navy after having surgery on his right thumb earlier this month. If he slips to the middle rounds, the Eagles should be all over him. 

No. 22 Virginia Tech- No. 19 Oklahoma State
Camping World Bowl (5:15 p.m./ESPN)

No. 49 - Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech, junior (6-5/236)
Simply put, Edmunds is a beast. He's collected 206 tackles (33 for a loss) and 10 sacks the last two seasons combined. He has tremendous size, strength and instincts. He stuffs the run and looks smooth in coverage. He hasn't declared for the draft, but if he does, there's a strong possibility he'll be the first 'backer off the board. He's the most talented player that will take the field for any team Thursday. 

No. 28 - James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, senior (6-1/205)
Washington was a player that would've been viewed highly if he had come out last season. He chose instead to come back and play one more season with senior quarterback Mason Rudolph. The duo was explosive yet again for the Cowboys. Washington was this year's recipient of the Biletnikoff Trophy as the nation's best receiver. He's also just 66 yards away from being Oklahoma State's all-time leading receiver. He's gone for at least 1,300 yards and 10 TDs in each of the last two seasons. He lacks the desired height for a No. 1 receiver, but he has strong hands and has quick feet.

No. 13 Stanford-No. 15 TCU
Valero Alamo Bowl (9 p.m./ESPN)

No. 20 - Bryce Love, RB, Stanford, junior (5-10/196)
What else is there to say about Love? He was the best running back in college football this season, a Heisman Trophy finalist and the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Love rushed for 1,973 yards with a ridiculous 8.3 yards per carry and 17 TDs. He's obviously undersized but he's too explosive not to have a spot in the NFL. The one odd thing about Love is, he hasn't done much in the passing game at Stanford (six catches this season). That'll be something to monitor during the pre-draft process.

No. 32 - Travin Howard, LB, TCU, senior (6-1/213)
Howard has been a leader on a very good Hornfrogs' defense. While playing mostly safety as a sophomore, Howard recorded 107 tackles, then amassed 130 last year while transitioning to linebacker. He's been banged up at times this season but should be a go for today's game. Howard is undersized at 213 pounds, but he's an intriguing fit in today's NFL. Players like the Rams' Mark Barron and the Cardinals Deone Bucannon have had success as hybrid players at the next level. He'd be an interesting piece in the Eagles' defense.

No. 18 Washington State-No. 16 Michigan State
Holiday Bowl (9 p.m./FS1)

No. 50 - Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State, junior (6-2/252)
Aside from having easily the coolest name in college football, Mata’afa has also been a productive player for the Cougars. He's racked up 9 1/2 sacks and 21 1/2 tackles for a loss this season. Despite his size, he lined up mostly as a tackle this season thanks to his son of Zeus-like strength. He'd fit Jim Schwartz's scheme as a player that attacks the line of scrimmage with the versatility to take pass rush snaps inside.

No. 3 - LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State, junior (6-1/229)
Scott is as frustrating a back as there is in college football. Every so often he'll blow you away with a performance like his 25 for 194 game against Minnesota or his 29 for 147 outing against Maryland. But mixed in will be much more uninspired performances. So which Scott will we see tonight? Who knows? Watching the tape, you can see a big, bruising back with surprisingly nimble feet and great balance and vision. If that guy shows up tonight, expect a nice boost in Scott's stock.

Roob's 10 late-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 late-March Eagles observations

Some random late-March thoughts on Michael Bennett, Cris Carter, Mike Wallace, Billy Brown and (of course) Nick Foles in this weekend’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. I have no idea what Michael Bennett did or didn’t do on Super Bowl Sunday at NRG Stadium last February, but I do know this is a precarious situation for the Eagles. Team chemistry was the Eagles’ biggest strength last year, and that’s not easy to duplicate when the roster changes. What Bennett is accused of is truly terrible. But it’s a weird story. How is there no video of an incident that occurred at a Super Bowl? Aren’t there cameras everywhere? And why didn’t the cop who allegedly witnessed the incident arrest Bennett once he was assured the alleged victim was OK? Bennett didn’t go anywhere. The 14-month gap between incident and charges is odd. And how could the Eagles not know about the investigation? The bigger question is exactly what kind of person are the Eagles getting in Bennett, and is he someone they want in the locker room for the next year. Maybe the answer is yes. Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas seem to have a pretty good feel for this stuff. But this is definitely a major distraction and just about the last thing the Eagles need to deal with right now.

2. If the Eagles don’t sign a veteran tight end, keep an eye on Billy Brown, who had an impressive training camp last summer and spent the season on the practice squad. He’s 6-foot-4, 260 pounds with great hands. Yeah, he was an undrafted rookie. But remember, that’s how Trey Burton started out.

3. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Mike Wallace isn’t a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith. Wallace last year had 16 more catches (52 to 36), 318 more yards (748 to 430), twice as many TDs (4 to 2) and a much higher yards-per-catch average (14.4 to 11.9). Over the last two years, the difference is more dramatic (124 for 1,765 to 56 for 697) with inferior QBs. And Wallace is cheaper. With Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Wallace, the Eagles are loaded at wideout.

4. I heard Cris Carter ripping Nick Foles the other day, saying he’s not an NFL-caliber starter and only had a handful of good games last year. He also only played a handful of games. And one of them was the Super Bowl, if I remember correctly? Foles may never get credit outside Philly for what he accomplished last year, but at this point, it doesn't matter. The Lombardi Trophy lives at the NovaCare Complex now.

5. Speaking of Foles, in the 2017 postseason on third down, he was 26 for 32 for 398 yards and four TDs and a 158.1 passer rating.

6. Read that again. Foles threw six incomplete passes on third down during the entire 2017 postseason.

7. The Eagles converted 71 and 62 percent of their third downs in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, respectively. They had only converted 62 percent of their third downs in consecutive games twice previously since 1991.

8. The conversations about whether the Eagles are better or worse than last year are silly, considering we're six months from opening day. The Eagles last year added Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, Tim Jernigan, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Graham and Ronald Darby later in the offseason than it is now. And Jay Ajayi during the season. The roster is a long way from being a finished product.

9. I’ve got Derek Barnett with 12 sacks next year. Interesting that from Week 6 on, Barnett had only one fewer sack than Brandon Graham (6 1/2 to 5 1/2). You could just see him getting better and better each week. Can’t wait to see the 2018 version of Derek Barnett.

10. And finally, we need to keep throwing out Carson Wentz stats so nobody forgets just how freaking talented he is: Wentz had 10 games last year with two or more touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions. Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have ever had more through 13 games: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. Pretty good company. Except for Romo.

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

During the 2016 season, Mike Wallace thought his Baltimore Ravens were going to steamroll the Eagles, who had a first-year head coach and first-year quarterback. 

He was wrong. 

Sure, the Ravens were able to sneak away with a 27-26 win back on Dec. 18, 2016, but Wallace watched up close as the gutsy Carson Wentz had the Eagles one two-point conversion at the end of the game away from walking out of Baltimore with a win. 

A year and a half later, when Wallace was testing free agency, the veteran receiver thought back to that game and thought to himself, “I want to play with that guy.” 

So how responsible is Wentz for Wallace’s landing in Philly? 

“Ninety-nine percent. Ninety-nine,” Wallace said at his introductory press conference Friday afternoon after signing a one-year contract. “The other percent was the rest of the team. I’m impressed by the way he plays football, the way he moves in the pocket, the way he throws the football and his competitiveness. You can see it.”

Wallace, 31, continued to watch Wentz during the 2017 season, when the second-year quarterback was seemingly on his way to an MVP award before a serious knee injury landed him on injured reserve.  

Having been through changing teams before, Wallace said the most difficult part for him is learning the new quarterback. He hopes this process won’t take exceedingly long, but he and Wentz might be at a disadvantage. Wentz is still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL and might not be ready until the season opener, if that. 

“You can just work on that watching film and things like that, but until he gets out there, there’s no real way to simulate it,” Wallace said. “I think he’s a great young quarterback who’s fired up. Whatever extra reps we need to try to get up to speed, I’m all for it.”

Wentz is, of course, a part of the big reason Wallace decided to join the Eagles. Wallace has played nine seasons in the NFL with four different teams. He’s made money, but he hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That’s what he wants. 

On Friday, Wallace said he turned down more money to join the Eagles. 

“I had options but I just wanted the best chance,” Wallace said. “I feel like this is my best opportunity to make a run. This is my 10th year. Can’t play this game forever. You don’t want to come out feeling empty. I want to get a ring.”

Wallace had been a free agent twice before this offseason and he admitted, that when he was younger, free agency was about money. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2013 to join the Dolphins. 

But now, Wallace said, his family is secure. He’s made a lot of money in the NFL to make sure those close to him are well off. Now, he’s allowing himself to make a decision that benefits him. 

“I didn’t try to come into this game to leave empty-handed,” he said. “I had to secure the bag and I did that. Now it’s time to secure a ring.”