NFL draft

A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

The Eagles ended up not making a first-round selection in April after they traded out of the No. 32 slot. 

Eventually, after all the trade dust settled — and there was more — the Eagles ended up drafting five players, their smallest draft class since 1989. 

But now that we’ve gotten through the rookie minicamp, OTA practices and the mandatory minicamp, it’s time for a draft class progress report. 

2-49: Dallas Goedert
It’s obviously really early, but Goedert looks like a great pick. He was so impressive, he was the only draft pick from this year to make Doug Pederson’s list of six young players who impressed him this spring. 

It’s always tough to figure out how a player from FCS (South Dakota State) will adapt to the NFL game, but the skills Goedert has are hard to teach. He’s big, long, has great hands and is — at the very least — a willing blocker. 

During the spring, we saw Goedert’s hand-eye coordination and body control on full display. It’s why I think he’s going to become a monster in the red zone (see story)

We’ll learn more about Goedert when the pads go on, but I don’t anticipate him slow down. 

4-125: Avonte Maddox
A little bit of an up-and-down start for the undersized (5-9) cornerback from Pitt. The Eagles didn’t care about his size when the drafted him, mainly because of his high compete level. 

While he played outside cornerback in college, even with his lack of height, many thought he projected as a nickel cornerback in the NFL. Apparently, the Eagles agree. Because during the spring, Maddox worked in the slot, but never got time with the first unit. 

It’s going to be a learning process for Maddox. And because of that, we saw some hiccups for the 22-year-old this spring. There are probably a few factors here: learning a new position, catching up to the speed of the game and learning the playbook. The Eagles shouldn’t be too concerned yet. 

4-130: Josh Sweat
So far, Sweat is looking like the steal of this draft class. Once a highly-touted prospect coming out of college before a devastating knee injury, Sweat still had a productive career at Florida State. Right after he was drafted, Sweat said he thought he was a better fit with the Eagles than he was with the Seminoles. Turns out the DE was right. 

Sweat stood out as much as any defensive lineman can stand out in non-padded practices in May. The first thing that jumps out about Sweat is his size. He’s 6-5 and while he could stand to pack on some more muscle to his frame, he’s already an imposing player. 

Now, some of his success this spring probably came from facing extremely inexperienced offensive tackles, but either way, Sweat was impressive. He’s obviously buried on the depth chart, but he should have a chance to make an impact as a rotational player. 

6-206: Matt Pryor
I still love that Pryor was the biggest guy on the roster for less than an hour after they drafted him. At TCU, Pryor played both OT and OG, so the big question about him at the NFL level was about which position he would play. So far with the Eagles, he’s played both. 

The Eagles listed him as a tackle when they drafted him, but to me, he looked better at guard in college. Apparently, the Eagles have some of those same thoughts, because as the spring went on, it seemed like Pryor got more and more reps inside where he can use his strength. 

Now, there are certain downsides to a guy who is 6-foot-7 playing guard and it starts with leverage and throwing lanes for the quarterback. But if Pryor is more natural at guard, that’s OK. The Eagles really love versatility on the OL and Pryor has the potential to back up four of the five spots along the line. 

7-233: Jordan Mailata 
For much of the spring, Mailata was a turnstile, but no one said this was going to be easy. The big rugby dude is off to a rough start, but that’s to be expected for someone who wasn’t a football player a year ago. 

On his very first snap of his first day on the job at rookie minicamp, Mailata didn’t hear the snap during an offensive line drill and just stood there. It looked like that scene from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — Do less, but you have to do more than that. 

We actually saw real improvement from Mailata over the last few weeks. I know, I know, there was only one direction to go, but the Australian showed off the power and athleticism that attracted the Eagles in the first place. He was always going to be a project. 

More on the Eagles

Roob's 10 post-NFL draft observations

Roob's 10 post-NFL draft observations

Ten random Eagles thoughts that floated through my transom following the 83rd consecutive draft in which the Eagles didn't have the 38th pick overall.

1. I can’t sit here and honestly tell you Dallas Goedert will be a star or Avonte Maddox will be able to hold down the slot or Josh Sweat was truly a steal in the fourth round. Nobody can. And if they try, don’t listen. They’re lying. Nobody knows. What I can safely say is, the Eagles’ approach to the 2018 draft was spot-on. The Eagles built with an eye on 2019 because they believe they already have a Super Bowl roster in 2018. In 2019, with major impending cap issues, they’ll need a bunch of young kids contributing on rookie contracts because they won’t be able to afford much else without gutting the roster. As of now, thanks in part to their trade out of the first round, they have around 10 draft picks in 2019, including a 1, two 2’s, a 3 and probably two 4’s, depending on compensatory picks. That’s a haul. That’s the future. Those picks will be the lifeblood of the next generation of Eagles.

2. I think the Eagles really, really, really like Tre Sullivan, and I’d go as far as saying I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make the 53 as the third safety.

3. Will be interesting to see how Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh use newly re-signed Darren Sproles, who will be 35 before training camp starts. Sproles has never shown any signs of slowing down, but the list of running backs who’ve been productive at 35 is very short. Only four backs in NFL history have netted at least 200 rushing yards with a per-carry average of 4.1 or higher at 35 or older — only one in the last 40 years (Marcus Allen in 1995). But if anybody can still electrify fans and terrify defenses in his mid-30s, it’s Sproles. Not to mention he’s still a threat to go the distance every time he fields a punt return. Bringing him back is a tremendous move. Give him half a dozen touches a game, keep him fresh and healthy, and he can still be a difference maker.

4. Hey! It’s time for Nate Sudfeld trivia! Did you know Sudfeld's 82 percent completion percentage is the highest in NFL history by a quarterback with at least 20 career pass attempts? And his 22.0 career yards-per-carry average (1 for 22) is highest in NFL history by a player with at least 20 career pass attempts? Now you do!

5. The last player the Eagles drafted in the first round to rush for 750 yards in a season was Steve Van Buren.

And how about this: Eagles 1983 first-round pick Michael Haddix finished his nine-year career with 543 carries and a long gain of 21 yards. Sudfeld has played in one game and has one career carry and a long gain of 22 yards.

6. If I was a GM, I’m not sure I’d ever draft a running back in the first round. The combination of their short shelf life and the reality that you can find talented running backs late in the draft or after the draft just makes it a really bad gamble. Maybe you'll get Adrian Peterson. But it's 10 times more likely you'll get Beanie Wells.

7. The Eagles have never had two tight ends in the same season with 40 catches. I’d be surprised if they don’t this year.

8. Why draft a cornerback in the fourth round when you already have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby? I stopped asking questions like that in 2002, when the Eagles had Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent in their prime and drafted Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. Take the most talented players regardless of position and good things will happen over the long-term.

9. Top NFL third-down passer ratings in 2017:

123.7 … Carson Wentz
116.6 … Nick Foles
110.7 … Matt Stafford
107.6 … Jared Goff
101.0 … Josh McCown

Top two spots. Yeah.

10. And finally this, Courtesy of our We Can Make Stats Say Anything Department: The Eagles have to go 10-6 this year for Doug Pederson to have a better regular-season record after three seasons than Rich Kotite.

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 "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.”