2018 NFL draft

Jarryd Hayne offers his best advice to Eagles' Jordan Mailata

Jarryd Hayne offers his best advice to Eagles' Jordan Mailata

Not long after the Eagles moved up 17 spots to draft Jordan Mailata from the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the giant rugby player was on a conference call from Dallas with reporters in Philly. 

He was asked how much he knew about American football just a few months ago. 

“Mate, as little as peanuts,” he said (see story)

Mailata is already in the middle of a crash course at IMG Academy in Florida and soon enough he’ll be inside the NovaCare Complex, learning from his new position coach Jeff Stoutland. Even as an incredibly athletic, 6-foot-8, 347-pound specimen, Mailata has an uphill battle. A steep uphill battle. 

But the 21-year-old isn’t the first rugby player to try his hand at American football. 

Just a few years ago, in 2015, rugby superstar Jarryd Hayne signed with the San Francisco 49ers, made the 53-man roster and even played in the regular season. 

"I think he needs to understand you have to expect the unexpected, that's the biggest thing," Hayne told NRL.com. "You can go into the NFL and understand a little bit of what you're going to learn, but until you sit down in a room and see the playbook, the defensive schemes, it just blows your mind.

''I went in there with some idea, like, 'Oh yeah, I kind of get it,' but not only do you have to learn all the schemes, but you also change them every week. And it's not one of those things where you get time to learn and change them; it's like, 'BOOM, we're doing this now,' and you're expected to know it.” 

Hayne’s stint in the NFL was short-lived. After he made the 49ers’ roster, he played minimally and bounced from their active roster to their practice squad. He retired from the NFL about two years ago and the 30-year-old has been back playing rugby since then. 

Another part of American football Hayne said Mailata will need to get used to is the equipment, specifically the helmet. He also said Mailata will need to master non-verbal communication for calls on the line. 

If there’s anyone who knows what Mailata is about to go through, it’s Hayne. 

“Unfortunately, I do not know Jarryd Hayne personally,” Mailata said to NFL Network on Saturday. “We haven’t really connected. I’m sure now we might.” 

Eagles continue to thrive in secondary RB market

Eagles continue to thrive in secondary RB market

As the 32nd pick drew closer, the tweets grew more and more frequent. 

“The Eagles have to take Nick Chubb!”

“I can’t believe Derrius Guice is still on the board. The Eagles gotta take him!”

“Lots of quality running backs still on the board!”

It was never going to happen.

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round in 33 years, and they might not draft one in the first round for another 33 years.

They won a Super Bowl last year relying heavily on their running attack without a running back taken in the first four rounds. And they haven’t taken a running back in the first three rounds in nine years, the longest they’ve gone without selecting one with a premium pick since the 1970s. The Eagles are also the only team in the league that hasn't taken a running back in the first round in the last 30 years and they're one of just five that hasn't taken one in the first three rounds since 2010. 

So it sure seems like there’s an organizational philosophy in place to focus on certain positions early in the draft — historically, offensive and defensive line — and cobble together a running back corps.

It sure worked last year. They signed LeGarrette Blount (a one-time undrafted free agent) after the draft, they signed rookie Corey Clement after the draft and they traded for Jay Ajayi (a one-time fifth-round pick) after the draft.

Then they went out and averaged 132 rushing yards per game, third-most in the NFL, and 4.5 yards per carry, fourth-best in the NFL. 

“If you look historically, you can get good running backs anywhere through the draft,” Eagles Vice President of player personnel Joe Douglas said after the draft. 

“You can get great running backs in the first. Like the draft has proven the last few years, you can get great running backs in the third. Like we proved last year, you can get a really good running back after the draft. 

“So it just works out. Seems to work out that way every year with the depth of the draft at that position.”

Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said the Eagles aren’t opposed to using a high pick on a running back. It just hasn’t worked out that way since they took LeSean McCoy in the second round in 2009.

“Honestly, I think it’s a coincidence more than anything, it’s just worked out that way,” Roseman said. “We’ve had first-round grades, second-round grades, third-round grades on running backs every year.”

But the reality is the Eagles haven’t drafted a productive running back in the first round since Steve Van Buren in 1944 (although 1988 pick Keith Byars did become a very good receiver).

While they didn’t draft a back this year, they did sign heralded undrafted rookie Josh Adams, a Bucks County native who was very productive the last three years at Notre Dame.

So the current running back group includes two fourth-round picks (Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey), two fifth-round picks (Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood) and two undrafted players (Corey Clement, Adams).

And building a running game around unheralded players or cheaper free agents means more money for other positions. 

Also, the running back-by-committee approach that head coach Doug Pederson prefers isn’t really conducive to first-round picks, who are going to expect 300 carries a season.

According to Spotrac, the Eagles rank 27th in the NFL in running back spending in 2018 based on current rosters.

It’s not that the don’t value running backs. They do. The Eagles have the fourth-most rushes in the NFL in the two years since Doug Pederson became head coach (behind only the Bills, Cowboys and Titans).

They’ve just figured out that with the right evaluations it’s possible to build a dangerous and productive running back room through the secondary market.

Breaking down Eagles' 2018 NFL draft class

Breaking down Eagles' 2018 NFL draft class

With the 2018 NFL draft in the books, we analyze the prospects the Eagles were able to bring in.

Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
(Round 2, 49th overall)

Goedert is a complete tight end with the ability to block and make dynamic plays in the passing game. He’s already a solid route runner and understands coverages well. I expected him to go in the first round and be the first tight end off the board. Luckily for the Eagles, Goedert dropped and will be a tremendous complement to Zach Ertz.

Avonte Maddox, CB, Pitt
(Round 4, 125th overall)

At 5-foot-9, Maddox appears destined for the slot at the next level. He’s fast and quick and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty — a perfect combination for a nickel corner. Thinking Maddox will fit right into the departed Patrick Robinson’s role in 2018 may be ambitious. Maddox still has work to do technique-wise.

Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
(Round 4, 130th overall)

If not for a horrific knee injury suffered in high school, Sweat would’ve been a much higher pick. He’s a disruptive player with desired measurables for an NFL EDGE. Joe Douglas wasn’t kidding when he talked about Sweat’s quickness off the ball, but he does have to learn counter pass rush moves. He won’t have to contribute immediately, but outside of Derek Barnett, the Eagles don’t have any young pass rushers. This has a chance to be the biggest steal of the entire 2018 draft.

Matt Pryor, OT, TCU
(Round 6, 206th overall)

Pryor possesses great size (6-foot-7, 332 pounds), but has struggled with his weight in the past. He’s long and strong and is already a powerful run blocker. Consistency and his play against a speed rush are concerning. He offers versatility, spending time at tackle and guard at TCU. He has the ideal measurables for a tackle, but played better inside. For the Eagles, he’ll have time to work on his physique and develop his technique behind three capable tackles.

Jordan Mailata, OT, Australia
(Round 7, 233rd overall)

He’s enormous, athletic and ran over dudes while playing professional rugby in Australia. He also admittedly knows very little about football. He’ll likely land on the practice squad while he learns the nuances of playing the sport and the position of tackle.

Jeremy Reaves, DB, South Alabama

Reaves is smart, instinctual, physical and versatile. He played as a slot corner and also played in the box and as a deep safety. He went undrafted because he’s undersized, his testing numbers weren’t great, and his low level of competition at South Alabama. Given the Eagles’ safety situation, Reaves has a solid chance to make this roster.

Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame

The Bucks County native is looking to follow in Corey Clement’s footsteps, making the roster as an undrafted back. He’s huge (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and reportedly ran an impressive 4.48 40 at his pro day despite a foot injury that may require surgery. Adams’ footwork was a problem at the line of scrimmage, making him appear hesitant. He’s also an upright runner. But his ability to get yards after contact and run away from DBs could land him a spot on the roster.