Paul Hudrick

Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

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Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

The Eagles on Friday reportedly hosted a formal visit with LSU running back Derrius Guice.

If the Eagles have real interest in Guice, they know he won’t be there beyond pick 32. He might not even be there at pick 32. So would the Eagles seriously consider taking a running back with their first-round pick?

The Eagles’ running back situation is murky going forward. LeGarrette Blount has found a new home. Jay Ajayi will have an enormous role in this offense, but is only signed through 2018. Corey Clement will likely take on a bigger role after he proved himself as a pass catcher and, more importantly, a pass protector. Kenjon Barner’s value is strictly as a returner, a need the Eagles may look to address elsewhere. Then there’s former mid-round picks Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey who I mention in this space simply because they have roster spots as of today. And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who’s still lingering in free agency.

The free agent market is less than inspiring. Adrian Peterson is out there but he’s not going to play for free. Do you want to bring back former Eagle DeMarco Murray or (almost former Eagle) Frank Gore? Didn’t think so. You could take a chance on an Eddie Lacy or a Matt Jones, guys who showed promise but lost their way. But, again … meh.

Last year’s running back draft class was crazy deep and talented. So much so that the Eagles were able to pick up Clement off the street after he didn’t get selected. This year’s class isn’t far behind it.

There’s an obvious RB1: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. No, Eagles fans. It’s not happening. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, focus on the guys the Eagles have an actual shot at getting. Guice, for one, would be an excellent addition as a lead back. There’s also USC’s Ronald Jones, a Jamaal Charles clone that would fit like a glove in this offense. Then there’s Georgia’s dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb is more of a bell cow while Michel is more dynamic.

The history of the Eagles drafting running backs high is not illustrious. Since they made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by selecting Michael Haddix No. 8 overall in the loaded 1983 draft, it’s been a somewhat mixed bag. They took Keith Byars No. 10 overall and Anthony Toney in the second round in 1986. Byars was OK, but Toney was a bust. They took Siran Stacy in the second (48th overall) in 1992 who never logged a single NFL carry. They did better in 1994, selecting Charlie Garner in the second round (42nd overall), and hit it out of the park in 2009, selecting their all-time leading rusher LeSean McCoy at pick 53.

The Eagles clearly have running backs on their radar in this draft. Though their history isn’t great with drafting them high, this would be the year to do it.

Carson Wentz gets another weapon in our latest mock draft

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Carson Wentz gets another weapon in our latest mock draft

Here's Paul Hudrick's first seven-round Eagles mock of 2018. The NFL draft will take place April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.

First round (32nd overall)
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (6-3/218)

The first thing to notice about Sutton is his size, but I see more potential in his game. His 4.54 40 was strong, but more impressively, he finished in the top four in the three-cone drill, and 20- and 60-yard shuttle. That shows he has more quickness and explosiveness to his game. The idea of pairing Sutton on the outside with Alshon Jeffery gives Carson Wentz two big outside targets for years to come. The Torrey Smith trade also leaves the Eagles a little light at wideout. Despite recording 195 receptions with 3,220 yards and 31 TDs during his career, there's still a rawness to his game. At 32 and coming off a championship, this is the type of player you take: a good prospect that could develop into something bigger.

Fourth round (127th overall)
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa (6-1/235)

Jewell is as athletic and instinctual as they come, recording over 120 tackles in each of the last three seasons. He's slightly undersized, but with the way linebackers are trending in the NFL, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year should be just fine. Jordan Hicks and Jewell could be an intriguing tandem at 'backer. Both players seem to always be around the ball.

Fourth round (128th overall)
Geron Christian, OT, Louisville (6-6/318)

Christian is a bit of a project, but his athleticism as a former basketball player makes him worth a flyer here. He's had a ton of experience in the ACC starting at right and left tackle (he annoyingly flip-flopped between both this past season) and has ideal size and length. The Eagles will have time to develop Christian if they keep Jason Peters along with proven backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Fifth round (147th overall)
Jordan Whitehead, S, Pitt (5-11/195)

Whitehead is a heat-seeking missile that was highly recruited out of high school. He never quite put together all the physical tools he possesses but showed potential. He could be a special teams maven to start his NFL career while learning behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. If he gets more disciplined in coverage, he could become the team's third safety.

Sixth round (192nd overall)
Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee State (5-9/178)

James is listed as a WR but he's an offensive weapon. A high school quarterback, James took snaps out of the wildcat and had 554 yards (9.1 per carry) and five touchdowns rushing during his collegiate career. He was coming off consecutive 100-catch, 1,300-yard seasons before a broken collarbone sidelined him for most of his junior year. He ran a 4.48 40, showing that his speed should translate to the next level.

Seventh round (226, 248, 250*)
Will Dissly, TE, Washington (6-4/267)

With Zach Ertz signed long-term and Billy Brown an intriguing practice squad prospect as a receiving tight end, the Eagles will need to look for a player to fill veteran Brent Celek's blocking role at some point. Dissly is a former defensive end that converted to tight end during his junior season. His receiving numbers won't blow you away, but he's shown potential as a blocker and is serviceable with room to grow as a pass catcher.

*The Seahawks own three picks in the seventh round. One of those picks will go to the Eagles via the Michael Bennett trade.

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.