Eagles

8 NFL draft prospects to watch in bowl games Friday

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8 NFL draft prospects to watch in bowl games Friday

With three days of college football bowl games in the books this week, we turn our attention to Thursday's contests and NFL draft prospects.

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.

Wake Forest-Texas A&M
Belk Bowl (1 p.m./ESPN)

No. 53 - Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest, senior (6-4/275)
Ejiofor has been one of the most disruptive players in the ACC over the past two seasons. He's put up 17 ½ sacks and 32 tackles for a loss over the last two campaigns combined. He wins with excellent and violent hand usage. He has a lethal swim move on his inside rush and a pretty decent spin move. He's ultra aggressive — perhaps too much at times — so he would fit what the Eagles do defensively.

No. 3 - Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M, junior (5-11/200)
Kirk has seen a drop off in receiving yards in each of his three seasons at Texas A&M. But don't be fooled by the numbers. Kirk is one of the most electrifying receivers coming out this season. With his size, he's done most of his damage in the slot but has at times played on the outside. He's also returned six punts and one kickoff for TDs in his career. Nelson Agholor has had an outstanding year in the slot, but will be on the last year of his deal next season. Kirk could be an ideal replacement or perhaps get reps on the outside if Agholor is signed long term.

No 24. NC State-Arizona State
Hyundai Sun Bowl ( 3 p.m./CBS)

No. 1 - Jaylen Samuels, TE/WR/RB, NC State, senior (5-11/223)
You've heard of positionless basketball, but Samuels has introduced the college football world to the concept. Because of his size, Samuels lacked a true position when he got to Louisville. He's lined up as a halfback, H-back, tight end and wide receiver during his four-year career. He's also put his name in the record books, with a chance to pass Jerricho Cotchery's all-time receptions record for the Wolfpack. The Eagles will likely lose Trey Burton. Doug Pederson could probably think of some creative ways to deploy Samuels.

No. 7 - Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State, senior (6-3/230)
Ballage has been in a timeshare for all four of his years at Arizona State with Demario Richard (No. 4). Ballage is the back with more NFL potential. His numbers aren't overly impressive because of the shared backfield and the Sun Devils' struggles as a football team. Ballage does possess incredibly quick feet and good patience and burst in finding holes. For a bigger back, you'd like to see him finish runs and punish tacklers. On a similar note, he doesn't stand his ground in pass protection. He's an intriguing late-round option if running backs coach Duce Staley thinks he can get the most out of him.

Kentucky-No. 21 Northwestern
Music City Bowl (4:30 p.m./ESPN)

No. 7 - Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky, junior (6-0/200)
Edwards might be better served coming back for his senior season, but there's a lot to like about the junior safety. He's recorded 189 tackles and seven interceptions the last two seasons combined. He's versatile with the ability to cover and play up in the box. It's also worth keeping an eye on LB Josh Allen (No. 41). He's an undersized edge rusher at 235 pounds, but he's registered 14 ½ sacks in the last two seasons combined. 

No. 16 - Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern, senior (6-0/212)
Igwebuike is a perfect example of a player increasing his value by staying in school for an extra year. The hard-hitting safety flies around the field like a heat-seeking missile. Off the field, he paints and is the vocalist in a band. He's been very outspoken about his desire to be more than a football player even after he reaches the NFL. That might scare some scouts off, but the Eagles' locker room can certainly handle that personality. As far as on the field, Igwebuike can add physicality to the team's back end and become a special teams maven.

No. 8 USC-No. 5 Ohio State
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (8:30 p.m./ESPN)

No. 25 - Ronald Jones, RB, USC, junior (6-0/200)
In another deep running back class, a guy like Jones could get lost in the shuffle. He shouldn't. He followed up a 1,082-yard, 12 touchdown sophomore campaign with 1,486 yards and 18 TDs in 2017. Jones is shifty and explosive, averaging 6.2 yards per carry for his college career. It's tough to know whether Jones will be an elite back at the next level because of his size. He sort of resembles Jamaal Charles, who's had a spectacular but oft-injured career. If he slips, the Eagles should certainly take a long look.

No. 13 - Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State, junior (6-1/225)
Baker came into this season with a ton of hype, but his stock has seemed to slip. Advantage, Eagles. Baker has the eyes and coverage ability of a safety with the willingness to mix it up in the box. He's racked up 154 tackles (16 for a loss), 6 ½ sacks and two interceptions during his college career. He's a difference-making 'backer that would look excellent playing alongside (a healthy) Jordan Hicks. With Nigel Bradham's status uncertain next season, it's certainly a position of need. 

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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