NFL combine

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. 

Thoughts and Eagles questions from NFL Combine

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Thoughts and Eagles questions from NFL Combine

The 2018 NFL Combine has now come and gone. After spending last week in Indianapolis, here are some of my takeaways, Eagles-related and beyond.

Foles' future
MMQB's Peter King reports the Eagles have a “respectable” offer for Nick Foles on the table. How does King define respectable? Only he knows. The Eagles got a first- and fourth-rounder for Sam Bradford two years ago. But that was one week before the season and the Vikings were desperate after Teddy Bridgewater’s injury. A first-round pick and more is where the Birds will likely start with a Foles asking price. But the question is whether the Birds' brass would be willing to move Foles for, say, second and third-rounders since it doesn't have either in this year’s draft?

No more Nigel?
When asked about free agent Nigel Bradham, who played so well last season, Howie Roseman did not go out of his way to praise the linebacker. He can’t tip his hand publicly, but Roseman was willing to show others some verbal love. You can pay only so many people. But with Jordan Hicks' injury history, one would think Bradham would be a priority for Roseman and the Eagles. Maybe not.

It will be interesting to see if Mychal Kendricks can play at the same high level as last season if he is not moved this offseason.   

Beast of Burton
Trey Burton is going to get paid. And the odds are it won’t be here in Philly. Burton is highly regarded around the league and there are enough teams in need of tight end help that he will get an offer too rich for the Eagles' blood.

What to do at No. 32?
The Birds have an obvious need at linebacker and could use depth at offensive line. But when you don’t pick until last in the first round, the best course of action is to leave your options open to the best available player. So don’t be shocked if a very good player falls and the Eagles take him at a position that may not scream immediate need.         

Hear him roar
Not Eagles-related, but in no upset whatsoever, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley stole the show at the combine. He dominated the drills and at the podium. The kid is a flat-out beast. If this was 20 years ago, he would likely be a lock to go first overall to the Browns. And that scenario could be a boost to the Eagles. Running backs are viewed as disposable these days compared to quarterbacks but he will still go in the top five. Easily.

Shaq’s statement
Lastly, UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin lost his hand when he was 4 due to a congenital disease. All he did was run the fastest 40-yard dash of any of the linebackers at the combine, posting a 4.38. He then put up 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press while using a prosthetic hand. He personifies over-achievement and his attitude and perseverance are what make sports great. He will make any team that gets him better.

Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

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Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine started this week and I am really in amazement of the production it now presents. There are so many differences in the way the Combine was run, in comparison to how I remember it.

Let's start with the athlete swag and gear used to work out. Under Armour sponsors the athletes' workout uniforms; I remember I had regular Russell kelly-grey sweat suits, red t-shirts with the NFL logo and the blue shorty-shorts that came to only mid-thigh. The high-tech material and fit of the new workout gear weighs next to nothing and dri-fit spandex moves with the player's body like it is a part of their skin. 

I was a 300-pound O-lineman, so air drag and track shoes didn't matter to my 40-yard dash, but it does for a player like Donte "Action" Jackson out of LSU, who is trying to break the sub-4.2 in the 40. 

These new athletes run their 40 in track shoes like Olympic sprinters. I remember I ran the 40 in some New Balance running sneakers. I'm sure with the high-tech gear and preparation, I could have really put up some good numbers at the Combine, but my numbers were average.

Athletes are prepped today for the physical and mental gymnastics. The only real test I remember being stressed was the Wonderlic. I wasn't sent to a workout facility to concentrate on Combine-specific workouts. I stayed at Kansas State and worked out with my team strength and conditioning staff at the school. I maintained my diet at the KSU training table and splurged on fast food with my newfound money from agents trying to recruit me to represent me in contract negotiations. 

Now, athletes are taken through strenuous interviewing sessions implemented by their agents. Agents send the athletes to training facilities that force-feed them football 24/7. Their diets are maintained, body fat measured. They go through sleep studies and interviewing classes, which help for when teams question everything under the sun to see whether they'll get a good return on the athlete. Yes, a good return, because these athletes are investments. These companies, i.e. teams, invest millions of dollars into these athletes.

Back in a time that now seems like the Stone Age, there wasn't 24-hour coverage of sports, let alone the NFL Combine. The results for these athletes is now instantaneous. Back in 1995, we didn't know what our results were until later in the week. The O-linemen worked out on Friday and I walked around bragging back at KSU that I ran a 5.10 in the 40-yard dash, put up 26 reps on bench press (225 pounds) and a 32-inch vertical. All those results ... WRONG! I ran an electronic time of 5.24 in the 40 with 20 reps on the bench and a 30-inch vertical.

So folks, long story short, the amount of information and visibility these new athletes have to navigate is tremendous. Mentally, physically and emotionally, players have to be tougher to deal with this theatre that is now the modern day NFL Combine.