Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi, early-round RBs

Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi, early-round RBs

I’ll be in Phoenix next week for the owners meetings, where we’ll hear from the Eagles’ brass for the first time after all of their moves this offseason. 

But until then, you guys had plenty of questions. 

As always, we got too many for one mailbag, so we split them up. Here’s the first batch: 

I don’t think so. I understand the the cornerback room is crowded, especially after the Eagles brought back Ronald Darby. They have Darby, Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc. But Jones is the one I definitely wouldn’t trade. I know his first real season in the NFL didn’t go as planned, but he was pretty much a rookie last year and he got hurt. I’m nowhere near ready to give up on Jones. There’s a reason he was a first-round talent, and there’s a reason the Eagles still drafted him in the second round in 2017 despite the Achilles tear. 

And you have to remember this: Jones is entering his third NFL season, but he’s still just 22 and he has a modest cap hit of $1.67 million in 2019. Even next year, he still counts less than $2 million toward the cap. The Eagles owe it to themselves and Jones to find out if he can live up to his potential.  

Good question, but one that’s hard to answer until we actually have a better sense of who will be on the roster. The Eagles are in better shape when it comes to kick returners. They can have Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement do it. Even Nelson Agholor can be an emergency kick returner. 

Punt returner? That’s a little trickier. The only guy on the team who returned last year with any regularity was Clement and he wasn’t very good at it. In big moments, DeSean Jackson can be the punt returner, but he hasn’t been an every-time returner in a few years. Maybe Nelly can do it; maybe Braxton Miller if he’s on the roster. There’s also a chance the Eagles’ 2019 punt returner isn’t on the roster yet. 

He’s rehabbing from that ACL injury. He reportedly had a visit set up with the Colts and head coach Frank Reich. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Eagles bring him back on a cheap deal. I don’t think teams are going to line up to break the bank for him. There were already serious concerns about Ajayi’s knees before the ACL injury. He is a good fit in the locker room and the Eagles should have inside knowledge of his recovery. If the Eagles want to bring him back and then draft a running back to complement him, that’s not a terrible option. Which brings us to this … 

I do. I really do. The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first or second round since LeSean McCoy since 2009, so their recent history says they won’t. But I think this is the year to buck that trend. I’m not sold on the idea of them taking one at 25, but with two second-round picks (53 and 57), things are lining up nicely for them to take one of the running backs who will be second-round picks. I have my eye on Miles Sanders from Penn State or David Montgomery from Iowa State. I think either one would be exactly what the Eagles need. 

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 7.0: Still plenty of options for Eagles as draft nears

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 7.0: Still plenty of options for Eagles as draft nears

The NFL is planning to go ahead with the NFL Draft as planned on April 23-25 but it’ll all be done remotely because of COVID-19. 

That means it’ll be a strange draft but it’s still going to happen in some form. 

Now that we’re less than three weeks away, let’s take another spin around the interwebs and see what some folks have the Eagles doing: 

NBC Sports Philadelphia, Adam Hermann

Trade up: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama 

What they said: Howie Roseman stood pat at WR in free agency for a reason. Here's the deal: 

Eagles trade: No. 21, No. 53, and their own 2021 fourth-round pick

Jaguars trade: No. 9

The Eagles go big and make Jeudy, who produced in a big way for three years with the Tide, their next franchise wideout. No pressure, kid.

My take: This is a fun idea and I really like Jeudy, but it is probably a little steep for my liking. Especially to give up so much in this draft, which is a pretty important draft because the Eagles haven’t had many picks the last two years. This trade would allow the Eagles to get their receiver but since they already traded No. 85 in the Darius Slay deal, they wouldn’t choose again until pick 103. And they wouldn’t choose again after that until 145. Maybe in this type of deal in which they could give away a future selection, which would at least give Roseman some time to recoup picks. 

I think I’d be in for a more moderate trade, perhaps to 14 to jump in front of the Broncos or 16 to jump in front of the Cowboys. But jumping up into the top 10 takes too much. 

TheDraftNetwork, Joe Marino

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor 

What they said: It’s no secret the Philadelphia Eagles need to revamp their receiving corps and Denzel Mims is an exciting addition. His blend of size, athletic ability, elusiveness and ball skills makes him a dynamic weapon that Carson Wentz can take advantage of at all levels of the field. In addition, he’s the best blocking receiver in the class and will help the Eagles create offense in more ways than just catching the football.

My take: Mims has become a much more popular pick for the Eagles in recent weeks and I understand why. He’s a size/speed guy (he ran 4.38 at 207 pounds) and can play outside, while there are concerns about whether or not Justin Jefferson can. Mims is a good player and an explosive athlete but needs more polishing than some others in the first-round range. But there’s definitely a lot of upside. 

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor 

What they said: For as much confidence as executive vice president Howie Roseman has expressed in the receiving corps, hard to believe Philadelphia truly prepared to stand pat and pass up a dynamic deep target in Mims.

My take: In both mock drafts that have the Eagles’ taking Mims, he goes just before Jefferson from LSU. It’s an intriguing situation. Jefferson is more polished and probably more of a sure thing, but Mims has the ability to play outside but probably has a lower floor overall. 

ESPN, Todd McShay

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU 

What they said: The void at wide receiver hasn't gone away, and the Eagles will have to think long and hard about whether they are ready to enter the 2020 season with the oft-injured Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, along with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside off a disappointing rookie campaign, as their wideouts again. Justin Jefferson out of LSU is for sure in play at No. 21. But Philadelphia also could really use a spark in the middle of the defense. Queen is a rangy, off-ball linebacker with burst and great tackling ability.

My take: I think Queen would be great in the Eagles’ defense. I think he’s worth a first-round pick and will be a good NFL player. I just don’t think the Eagles are going to draft a linebacker in the first round. Roseman hasn’t hid his feelings on the position; they like to bargain shop at linebacker. Maybe Queen is good enough to make the Eagles change their stance, but I’d be pretty surprised. 

Charles Davis, NFL.com 

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson 

What they said: No sense overthinking this selection. The WR corps needs to be upgraded, and Higgins provides a big target on the perimeter for Carson Wentz.

My take: Hey, remember Tee Higgins?!? Not that long ago Higgins was the most popular player for the Eagles in mock drafts but that has changed. While Higgins was popular in mock drafts, he wasn’t popular among Eagles fans because he’s not as explosive as some other receivers in this class. The 6-4, 216-pound receiver is a lankier, long runner who makes contested catches; he’s not a pure burner. In many mock drafts, he has fallen out of the first round. 

Peter Schrager, NFL.com

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU 

What they said: If the Eagles don't trade up for one of the "Big Three" receivers (Ruggs III, Lamb, Jeudy), they could end up feeling pretty good about sitting tight and scooping up Jefferson. Crazy statistics in last year's championship season (111 catches, 1,540 yards, 18 TDs) matched by great interviews and surprising speed at the combine (4.43 40) make this a perfect fit.

My take: Jefferson has been the most popular choice for the Eagles for a while. Despite some legitimate concerns about his ability to be more than a slot receiver in the NFL, Jefferson had a monster 2019 season, had a great showing at the combine and has a relatively high floor in the NFL. 

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2020 NFL Draft profile: Justin Jefferson a fit for Eagles at 21?

2020 NFL Draft profile: Justin Jefferson a fit for Eagles at 21?

For the next few weeks before the NFL Draft on April 23-25, we’ll be looking at some viable options for the Eagles and the No. 21 pick. 

One of the most popular mock draft options for the Eagles, Justin Jefferson isn’t widely considered to be one of the top three receivers in this class. That group includes CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. But Jefferson might be the best of the rest. 

In 2019, Jefferson (6-1, 202) had a monster season, catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he did most of is work operating out of the slot. And he played in an offense with the likely No. 1 quarterback, a likely top-10 receiver in next year’s draft and an offensive coach who jumped to the NFL this offseason.  

So how good is Jefferson and how much was he a product of being in a great college offense? 

It’s a fair question. But down the stretch, Jefferson played his best ball in LSU’s most meaningful games. In the last three games of the season (SEC Championship, CFP semifinal and CFP National Championship), Jefferson caught 30 passes for 448 yards and 5 touchdowns. 

And then at the combine, he ran a 4.43 and had jumps of 37.5/126.0, showing he has the athleticism to play at the next level. 

Current roster at WR: The Eagles don’t have a whole lot they can count on. Alshon Jeffery is an aging receiver coming off a Lisfranc injury and who might be a locker room problem. DeSean Jackson is a 33-year-old speed receiver coming off a sports hernia surgery. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is entering Year 2 after a disappointing rookie season. And Greg Ward deserves a chance but he’s played in just seven NFL games. Those are their top four right now.  

How he would fit: Based on what the Eagles currently have, Jefferson would need to come in and play immediately. We all know the questions about whether or not he can play outside (they’re legitimate questions and concerns), but the Eagles need all types of receivers right now and that includes slot guys. So in his rookie season, you could expect to see most of Jefferson’s work to come inside but the Eagles would then add more and more to his plate. 

What Ward was able to do last season was very impressive, but the Eagles can’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Jefferson because they have Ward in the slot. Sorry. If the Eagles view Jefferson as a first-round pick, they have to take him and they have to get him on the field this season. 

Eagles’ history at OT in draft: In their history, the Eagles have used a first-round pick on a receiver just five times: Nelson Agholor (2015), Jeremy Maclin (2009), Freddie Mitchell (2001), Kenny Jackson (1984) and Mike Quick (1982). Some hits and some misses in there. 

But recently, their history drafting receivers in any round hasn’t been great. Since Howie Roseman became GM in 2010 (minus 2015 when he wasn’t in charge), the Eagles have drafted seven receivers: Riley Cooper (5th), Marvin McNutt (6th), Josh Huff (3rd), Jordan Matthews (2nd), Shelton Gibson (5th), Mack Hollins (4th), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2nd). The only player to get a second contract after their rookie deal was Riley Cooper. 

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