2017 NFL draft: Fiesta Bowl prospects for the Eagles

2017 NFL draft: Fiesta Bowl prospects for the Eagles

We already took a peak at a few prospects that could help the Eagles during the early game of the College Football Playoff (see story).

But there is plenty of talent during the night game as well between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State.

Here are a few players to watch closely during the second game of the CFP.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl - No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson, 7 p.m., ESPN

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, redshirt junior, (6-3/225)
Williams is a monster. If he's on the board when the Eagles are drafting, it's a no-brainer. He's big, he's strong, he's fast, he has tremendous ball skills. He's the whole package. He's put up 84 catches for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He'd likely already be in the NFL if not for a neck injury he suffered at the beginning of the 2015 season. One aspect of his game I love is the chemistry he's developed with Deshaun Watson on back shoulder throws. We've seen Carson Wentz throw one of those this season and it was one of the prettiest balls he's thrown all season (a 20-yard completion to Jordan Matthews against the Packers). Wentz needs weapons, and Williams fits the bill.

Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson, senior, (6-1/200)
Tankersley could've jumped ship to the NFL after his junior season, but decided to come back for his senior year. He has good size, excels well in man coverage and has decent ball skills. He's also considered a leader on the Clemson defense. What he may not have that guys like Alabama's Marlon Humphrey and Washington's Sidney Jones have, is the makeup speed which separates good corners from great ones. Tankersley is likely a Day 2 pick, but he has the potential to be a productive corner at the next level.

Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State, junior, (5-11/197)
The Eagles' offense has been void of explosiveness all season. Samuel is an offensive weapon whether it be as a back or a receiver. For the season, Samuel has 65 catches for 822 yards and 91 carries for 704 yards. He's scored 15 total touchdowns (eight rushing, seven receiving). Ohio State lines him up out of the backfield and split out as a receiver. His route running is a little rough, but he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could be Darren Sproles' heir apparent.

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, junior, (6-1/195)
Conley is a great athlete with good size and speed. He also has decent ball skills. The thing that scares me about him is a lack of physicality. He's not strong in the run game and he's just OK when asked to press. He's likely a Day 2 pick, but he has above average coverage skills. It'll be interesting to see how he does against Williams, who's extremely physical.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson, junior, (6-0/210)
Gallman is going to fall victim to an excellent running back draft class. Every year, there are players I can't help but to like more than some of the pundits. Gallman is one of those guys for me this year. After posting over 1,500 yards in 2015, Gallman has carried less of the load for Clemson but is still over 1,000 yards. He also has a nose for the end zone with 28 rushing touchdowns combined the last two seasons. One of the knocks on Gallman is that he runs high. It's a fair criticism, but it's a habit you might be able to teach out of him. What you can't teach is his feet. I love his patience and how quickly he can bounce around the line. If there is even the slightest crease, he'll find it. He's also a solid receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 61 catches in his college career.

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

USA Today Images

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.