By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — How do we evaluate the 2018 draft of the Super Bowl champions – yeah, that’s right, I said it – Philadelphia Eagles? There are multiple lenses through which to view it.
Given the Carson Wentz trade, and those used for others of the title puzzle, this year’s crop is small.
Do we factor in last year, when Sidney Jones was taken in the second round with a mind toward red-shirting while rehabbing his shredded Achilles as part of this year’s class? Do we include corner Ronald Darby (acquired for a third from Buffalo) and running back Jay Ajayi (fourth from Miami) as classmates of Jones?
That’s certainly what de fact general manager Howie Roseman would like for us to do.
Do we wait another year, to see who is selected in picks bartered for – including a second next year for moving out of the first round this year – before we take a full snapshot?
Roseman wouldn’t mind that either, and this might be the right offseason to sell it.
While the big picture is generally the best picture when evaluating drafts, there is really no way to look at the 2018 Class but within a vacuum – at least until further notice.
So, let’s get to it:
SECOND ROUND (49th Overall)
DALLAS GOEDERT, TE, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
Why They Did It: Twin reasons. With Trey Burton moving on to the Chicago Bears, any and all plays and formations involving him in the existing playbook were in jeopardy of gathering dust – even though Burton was somewhat underutilized (60 grabs over the span of the last two seasons) and undersized (6-foot-3, 235 pounds). Goedert (6-5, 256), who draws comparisons to starting Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and Kansas City Pro Bowler Travis Kelce, perhaps with a touch of Carolina’s Greg Olsen thrown in, has the potential to line up in various spots – similar to Ertz – and create match-up nightmares for opposing defenses. Just like a year ago, when the Eagles were correctly fixated on defensive end Derek Barnett, they played their hand perfectly in landing Goedert. Roseman traded out of the first round, picking up an extra second-rounder next year, and then moved in front of the Dallas Cowboys to select him.
What Would I Have Done? Same thing.
On Notice: Hard to say what the Eagles do, roster-wise, at tight end now. They could carry only two on the active roster. That would be good news for the likes of Billy Brown and Adam Zaruba, who could be warehoused on the practice squad, but bad news for veteran Richard Rodgers. Rodgers is playing at the veteran’s minimum on a one-year deal, so it would be neither a major cost to keep him for insurance nor to cut him loose and deploy a reserve offensive lineman in blocking situations.
FOURTH ROUND (125th Overall)
AVONTE MADDOX, CB, PITTSBURGH
Why They Did It: Even though the Eagles are awash in young corners (Darby, Jones, Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas), none are proven in the slot. Last year’s slot corner, Patrick Robinson, was stoic in the role (until seemingly getting amnesia on how to play the position in the Super Bowl), but has moved back to his original team, the Saints, after one year here. The Eagles acquired Daryl Worley in exchange for Torrey Smith, but he was released after a bizarre brush with the law. Meanwhile, another possible stopgap inside, Jaylen Watkins, signed with the Chargers. Maddox was far from a desperation pick, though. He was generally rated right around where he was picked, with his size (5-9, 184) being the main reason for the slide out of Day 2 (second and third rounds). Although he was dinged up at times in college, Maddox never shied away from contact and gained a reputation as a sure tackler in the open field. He brings unteachable traits – 4.34 speed in the 40, natural ball skills and high character marks. While Mills or safety Malcolm Jenkins may work in the slot early in the season, Maddox could find his place by either season’s end – or 2019 – while contributing on special teams (even as a kick returner). Because he is quick-twitch type of player, Maddox might have been circled by the Eagles because they have six guaranteed games against three division rivals with smallish-pain-in-the-butt slot receivers – Sterling Shepard (Giants), Jamison Crowder (Redskins) and Cole Beasley/Ryan Switzer (Cowboys).
What Would I Have Done? Since they went the tight end route in the second round, I would have been all over Southern Mississippi running back Ito Smith, who ended up going one pick later to the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, they re-signed Darren Sproles to reprise his scatback role, but one must consider the future.
On Notice: Any of the corners – DJ. Killings, De’Vante Busby and undersized converted safety Randall Goforth – hanging on the back end of the expanded roster hoping to secure a spot were dealt a blow in their hopes of staying employed after the summer.
FOURTH ROUND (130th Overall)
JOSH SWEAT, DE, FLORIDA STATE
Why They Did It: Sweat is a talented player that could have easily gone on Day 2. He doesn’t fit every system, but is ideal for Jim Schwartz’s Wide-9 look and would be a difficult blocking assignment for most tight ends. Despite this exciting possibility, Sweat had a serious knee injury in high school and was never 100 percent throughout his college career before foregoing his final season. There are also lingering questions about his motor that scared some teams away.
What Would I Have Done? I guess this championship has made me too giddy to be too critical – at least for a year – so this choice of a player with Sweat’s long-term upside seems logical enough to make Mr. Spock blush.
On Notice: The social media trolls immediately starting punching bus tickets out of town for Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett. But Graham, pretty much the only defensive hero of the Super Bowl, isn’t going anywhere just yet. Bennett, though facing some legal issues of his own – not to mention possible consequences from the league – was brought in more to kick inside on passing downs, which is not what Sweat does at 251 pounds. The more likely candidate to be pushed off the roster – unless Sweat is stashed on IR to get bigger and a bit healthier – is underused Steven Means, who is a better player than most realize. With Chris Long earmarked to retire after this season, Sweat could be pegged to eventually assume his role as a stand-up rusher on passing downs before eventually replacing Graham 16 football lifetimes from now.
SIXTH ROUND (206thth Overall)
MATT PRYOR, OT, TCU
Why They Did It: Because you can’t get enough offensive lineman into the stable for a master trainer like offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland to work with. Stoutland has enough sway to pick and choose who he wants and why, and few questions are asked beyond that. He saw something he liked in Pryor, who once weighed nearly 400 pounds and has a rap for getting lazy at times, and that was good enough for the trigger to be pulled. At the end of the day, the got guard-tackle versatility in a big body (6-7, 332) who is surprisingly athletic.
What Would I Have Done? With Notre Dame running back Josh Adams on the board, I would have bolted to the podium so fast that, well, I probably would have fallen on my face (that still has a smile etched on it from Super Bowl Sunday). Turns out, Roseman still corralled Adams after the draft anyway.
On Notice: Well, it seems like Halapoulivaati Vatai is not on permanent notice as the heir apparent to Jason Peters for reasons I can’t explain. However, Roseman spoke glowing of Pryor’s inside-out versatility – mostly on the right side of the line. To my ears, that sounds like Isaac Seumalo better step up his game to the height of his hairdo in his third year. Seumalo started last year at left guard and struggled. So far, his best work has been as an emergency fill-in at tackle and as a blocking tight end. Still not sure how and why guard Chance Warmack is on the team to begin with, so Pryor could conceivably take his paycheck as well. Also, with Will Beatty (talk about stealing a paycheck, along with a Super Bowl ring) no longer in the mix, there is one less veteran body in the way. And then there is converted defensive lineman Taylor Hart. LOL! Never mind.
SEVENTH ROUND (233rd Overall)
JORDAN MAILATA, OT, AUSTRALIA
Why They Did It: Why not? Hate to answer a question – especially my own – with a question, but low-risk/high-reward is part of the afterglow of being Super Bowl champions.
What Would I Have Done? I would have drafted Adams, but it’s all good.
On Notice: The Eagles will certainly do whatever it takes to keep this multi-year project off the 53-man roster but out of the grasp of other teams by leaving him on the practice squad. That means we’ll need to break out the medical dictionary for hard-to-prove ailments – like back strains – until the time, if it ever arrives, that his man-child (6-8, 346) is ready to suit up. Therefore, while Mailata (pictured below with Stoutland during rookie mini-camp) is likely already better than Hart, it would be a shock if a roster spot were burned on him this year. More of a shock, though, would be if they cut him this year.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
Although they have an apparent blind spot for the only Division I football team in the city, the Eagles are always aggressive after the draft ends and are willing to spend – and spend wisely – to get who they want from those left undrafted.
The above paragraph is from last year’s draft review. With no Temple players signed (the last might actually be quarterback Adam DiMichele in 2009), the Eagles still busted some interesting post-draft moves – highlighted by the aforementioned Adams (pictured below), a native of Warrington – that could make training camp interesting.
Those who will have chips on their shoulder pads after not being drafted, despite being generally given grades that would have and could have had their names called on Day 3 include a trio of safeties – Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama), Dominick Sanders (Georgia) and Stephen Roberts (Auburn) – and two corners Chandon Sullivan (Georgia State) and Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma), whose fall from grace was so precipitous that he went from being considered a potential first-round pick two years to an oft-burnt undrafted type when his career ended.
An intriguing signee is Central Michigan defensive end Joe Ostman (6-3, 255), whose productive mid-major career belies his perceived lack of NFL athleticism to continue the production that saw the high-motored former scholastic wrestling standout rank in the top five in the nation last year in sacks (14) and tackles for loss (20.5).
On the offensive side of the ball, perhaps LSU tackle Toby Weatersby (6-4, 317) can make enough noise to be put into Stoutland’s long-term trainee program with Pryor and Mailata.
This column/analysis originally appeared at PhillyPhanatics.com