Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Weight: 295 pounds
2016: 34 TKL, 7.0 TFL, 1.5 SK
2015: 41 TKL, 13.0 TFL, 4.5 SK, 1 INT, 1 PD, 2 FF
2014: 13 TKL, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 SK
40-yard dash: 4.85 seconds
Bench press: 23 reps
Vertical jump: 28.5 inches
Broad jump: 112 inches
3-done drill: 7.69 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds
Since we made the case for a defensive lineman in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles went ahead and completed a fairly significant trade for defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from the Ravens. In many eyes, that seemingly put an end to any discussion of Malik McDowell, the top interior lineman in this year’s class.
There’s no doubt the Jernigan deal allows the Eagles to shift their focus to other areas if they so choose, and was perhaps motivated in part to do so. McDowell might be a slight reach at No. 14 anyway, and beyond the two-time second-team All-Big-10 selection, the pool of available high-end talent at the position looks a little sparse.
Still, the Eagles aren’t necessarily in a position to remove McDowell their board. While Jernigan joins two-time Pro Bowl selection Fletcher Cox and competent-reserve-with-upside Beau Allen along the interior, the club’s gain might be short-term. Both Jernigan and Allen have only one year remaining on their respective contracts, so it’s not as if the need to improve no longer exists.
Whether McDowell will have enough of an impact to justify No. 14 is really what’s at the heart of the conversation, and there are some concerns.
While he only turns 21 in June and possesses size and athleticism that intrigue, the body of work suggests McDowell wasn’t taking over many games at Michigan State. His 2016 season was particularly disappointing, though an ankle injury may have contributed to his modest numbers. Regardless, McDowell’s effort was called into question.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was able to squeeze Pro Bowl production out of interior pass-rushers in the past, including guys with questionable motors. Albert Haynesworth became a star with the Titans under Schwartz, but has a good 50 pounds on McDowell. Ndamukong Suh was a beast for Schwartz with the Lions, yet was also the No. 2 pick in 2010.
McDowell doesn’t appear to have the upside of either of those players, much less Cox, who posted a “quiet” 6.5 sacks in ’16. Schwartz might be the guy who could get the most out of such a player, but the Eagles will certainly must ask themselves now whether it’s worth going to that trouble.
Even if he winds up being a rental, Jernigan is more than capable of holding down the fort alongside Cox, and has the opportunity to flourish too in Schwartz’s scheme. Between Jernigan and Allen, there’s no longer as much urgency at those interior spots, as the club will likely move to re-sign one or the other in the next year.
McDowell has the ability to become a solid starter at defensive tackle in the NFL, and like Cox, the versatility to line up at end from time to time as well. However, he doesn’t seem to have quite the same upside, while the Eagles likely have bigger fish to fry in the draft this year.
Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
Alabama LB Reuben Foster
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington CB Kevin King
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
Washington WR John Ross
LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Clemson WR Mike Williams