There’s no excuse to overlook the Eagles’ undrafted rookies. Not after Corey Clement’s contributions in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles officially announced the signing of 15 rookie free agents on Friday. Some will find their way on the practice squad. Most will never truly make it in the NFL. But every year, a select few wind up on the 53-man roster, and you never really know if one of them will wind up a hero.
Clement did it. His 22-yard touchdown catch was one of the biggest moments in the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship. Trey Burton, LeGarrette Blount, and Rodney McLeod all went undrafted earlier in their careers as well, and all played big roles in the win.
Maybe one of these young athletes will one day follow in their footsteps.
RB Josh Adams
There’s already plenty of buzz over the 6-foot-2, 213-pound running back out of Notre Dame, and with good reason. After rushing for 3,198 yards with a 6.6 average and 20 touchdowns in three seasons for the Fighting Irish, most experts thought Adams’ name would be called at some point during the draft.
There were rumblings Adams has a foot injury that could eventually require surgery, which also may have contributed to a dismal close to his college career. He was a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy through eight games last year with 1,169 yards and nine touchdowns, but managed just 261 yards and failed to find the end zone in his final five contests.
Injury or not, Adams ran well at Notre Dame’s pro day, timing 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That would be a strong time for any back, let alone somebody his size. The 21-year-old has a good head on his shoulders, too.
Between Matt Jones, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood, there’s no shortage of competition for a potential fourth running back spot on the Eagles’ 53-man roster. With his combination of size, speed and intangibles, Adams may have more upside than all of them.
DT Bruce Hector
How serious was the Eagles’ interest in Hector after the draft? Based on reports, his $60,000 in guarantees were the highest of any of the 15 free agents who signed with the club.
Hector was very productive at South Florida, racking up 28.0 tackles for loss and 18.0 sacks over three seasons – impressive numbers for an interior lineman. The 6-2, 296-pound defensive tackle reached peak levels of disruptiveness under head coach Charlie Strong, finishing with 13.0 TFLs and 7.0 sacks as a senior.
His ability aside, Hector’s chances of making the squad improved immensely once word got out about Tim Jernigan’s injury. Suddenly the Eagles look a little thinner up the middle. Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls are still in the mix for backup tackle spots, but the duo only carved out about 15 percent of the defensive snaps between them last season, so they’re vulnerable.
DE Joe Ostman
The Eagles are rather deep at defensive end, so it might be difficult to envision an undrafted rookie earning the roster at this spot. Yet, if Ostman can make himself indispensable on special teams, he may have a shot.
That’s exactly what Ostman did at Central Michigan, where he was the only player in the program to see the field as a true freshman in 2013. By the end of his Chippewas career, he had become one of the most disruptive pass rushers in college football, his 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks both good for top-five in the nation in 2017.
One thing is for certain, Ostman will not get outworked. Measuring 6-3, 255 pounds, the kid is a beast, timing 4.75 seconds in the 40 and lifting 31 times in the bench press at his pro day. He isn’t likely to crack the rotation at end, but it’s not unfathomable he could carve out some kind of niche.
CB Chandon Sullivan
Again, an undrafted rookie is staring at an uphill battle to make the roster at a position loaded with talent. But while the deck may appear stacked against Sullivan, it turns out he knows people. Trent Miles, previously Sullivan’s head coach at Georgia State, is currently an offensive assistant for the Eagles.
That won’t help Sullivan climb the depth chart, but the Eagles surely had plenty of insight on a young man who was a finalist for the academic Heisman, formally the William V. Campbell Trophy. The club liked what it heard enough to offer a whopping $51,000 in guarantees, already with a glut of talent at cornerback.
Sullivan was a four-year starter in college, finishing his career with seven interceptions and 25 pass breakups. He possesses decent size at 5-11, 194 pounds, though only average speed, timing 4.6 seconds in the 40, but clearly the 21-year-old is sharp.
Obviously, Sullivan’s chances would improve greatly in the event of a trade or injury. Regardless, he’s clearly a prospect the Eagles valued.
S Jeremy Reaves
The Eagles signed a grand total of four rookie safeties after the draft, so there’s no question the club is taking a hard look at that situation. Of the four, Reaves was the name that stood out, especially upon learning he pulled $30,000 in guarantees to sign.
Reaves was the focal point of the defense at South Alabama, earning Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017 with 104 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions. He did it all, even playing cornerback and nickel cornerback during his college career, demonstrating tremendous versatility.
At 5-11, 190 pounds, Reaves is slightly undersized for an NFL safety, with only average speed as well, timing 4.66 seconds in the 40 at his pro day. Then again, none of that seems to have mattered so far, given his reputation for being a big hitter.
There’s definitely room for another safety on the Eagles’ roster. The only players who return from last season are special teams ace Chris Maragos and Tre Sullivan, who was on the practice squad.