Evaluating football flesh is an imperfect science. Evaluating football flesh in the sixth and seventh rounds of the draft is, at best, a crapshoot.
Since 2014, the Eagles have selected 11 players in Rounds 6-7. Just four of them played in more than six games with the Eagles.
Their lone two late-round success stories in the last six drafts have been defensive back Jalen Mills and defensive tackle Beau Allen. Mills, who was taken in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, has started 34 games for the Eagles.
Allen, a 2014 seventh-rounder, was a valuable run-stuffer who spent four years with the Eagles and played in 63 games before signing with Tampa Bay two years ago.
The Eagles ended up with three sixth-round picks this year. That doesn’t include veteran wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whom they picked up from the 49ers in an exchange of sixth-round picks. We’ll deal with Goodwin another day.
Their three sixth-round picks were linebacker Shaun Bradley of Temple, wide receiver Quez Watkins of Southern Mississippi and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn.
When you get to the back end of the draft, you’re basically looking for one trait in a guy that you really like. The Eagles looked at Bradley and saw a potential core special-teamer for Dave Fipp.
Watkins’ appealing trait is speed. He’s built like the ‘70s model Twiggy, but ran a 4.35 forty at the combine in Indianapolis in February. Wanogho brings unusual athleticism to the plate for a 6-5, 308-pounder.
Bradley was a three-year starter for the Owls. He led the team in tackles last year and was a first-team All-AAC selection. He has good pursuit speed, but short arms. Again, if he can be a core special-teamer for the next 3-4 years, this selection will be a win.
I’m not a big fan of the Watkins selection. Yeah, he can run like the wind. He also is so damn thin that it appears a stiff breeze might knock him over, let alone a 6-1, 200-pound NFL cornerback playing press-man coverage.
He averaged 18.4 yards per catch last year. Then again, Mack Hollins averaged 20.6 for his career at North Carolina. And at least Hollins could block. Watkins is as interested in blocking as I am in nuclear physics.
Wanogho grew up playing basketball and soccer in Nigeria. He didn’t take up football until 2014 and didn’t start playing on the offensive line until 2016.
But he’s very athletic and was a three-year starter at left tackle at Auburn. Like fourth-rounder Jack Driscoll, Wanogho is headed for the Jeff Stoutland Learning Academy. We’ll check back with him in a year or two.
While I would give the Eagles’ third day of the draft an overall positive assessment, the sixth round in a vacuum has too may question marks for my tastes. Of course, we’re talking about the second-to-last round here, where nearly every player has risks and you have to be willing to gamble on upside.
Linebacker Shaun Bradley may seemingly have the least amount of potential to become an impact player in the NFL, but he also has a lot of traits that suggest he could sneak onto the 53-man roster and contribute as a rookie. He was a workhorse at Temple, a three-year starter who captained the Owls as a senior. As Domo noted, he has special-teams contributor written all over him, and if that was his cap, that’d be OK. But Bradley does have some appealing athleticism that could translate to the weak side in Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme.
Quez Watkins is another of the speed receivers the Eagles added last weekend. He had a productive junior season at Southern Miss, catching 65 passes for 1,179 yards and six touches. But the Eagles drafted the 6-foot, 185-pound wideout because of his potential to burn secondaries. He’s going to need to get with the strength and conditioning crew as soon as he can. Todd Pinkston could knock Watkins over. DeSean Jackson has managed to thrive in the NFL despite being a featherweight, but he has superior speed, route-running ability and hands.
Prince Tega Wanogho is one of the few injury risks the Eagles drafted. He’s got questionable knees and wasn’t on the board for many teams. Wanogho came late to football. But he’s athletic and should have the necessary skills to thrive in Jeff Stoutland’s zone-blocking schemes. He probably projects as a tackle. I would have been overly cautious about his chronic knees, especially considering the Eagles’ recent dubious record with injuries.
I give the sixth round thumbs up mostly because I think Shaun Bradley, the Temple linebacker, can contribute right away, at least on special teams. That might not sound like much, but we’re talking about the sixth round here. Once a decade or so you get Jason Kelce in the sixth. Much more often you get the other guy the Eagles took in the sixth round in 2011 — Brian Rolle.
Of course, if one of these three 2020 sixth-rounders ends up being a player of Kelce’s stature, this will be a great round, regardless. I don’t know if I like Bradley that much, and I haven’t found a lot of draftnik love for wide receiver Quez Watkins, the guy one personnel evaluator was quoted as comparing to Todd Pinkston. (Pinky would not have been a bad sixth-round choice, BTW, it’s just that he was drafted early in the second round, 36th overall, in 2000.) In fairness, the evaluator might have been thinking about the fact that both are tall and thin and that both played for Southern Mississippi.
Watkins runs a 4.35 40 but he is a vertical threat only if he gets off the line unencumbered, he has not shown an ability to push through contact, though his listed stature of 6-foot-2, 190 would seem to indicate that he should.
The third sixth-round pick, tackle Prince Tega Wanogho from Auburn, is intriguing. First, unlike Carson Wentz, who only looks like Prince Harry, this guy actually is a Prince, by virtue of his grandfather’s stature in the village in Delta State, Nigeria, where Prince Tega was born. He came to the U.S. to play basketball, came to football late, and found out he had a knee problem at the Senior Bowl medical exam. That led to arthroscopic surgery, which might have scared off some teams. He gained a lot of weight pretty quickly to transition to football, and has had other knee issues.
But this is a 6-5, 308-pound man who is very athletic. He was projected to go a bit earlier in the draft than where he ended up. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland likes projects, and this is one with a high ceiling.
Ask me this question again in two years, but I think the Eagles have reason to feel good about the three players added in the sixth round. Any player making it this far in the draft has clear and obvious obstacles to overcome in his pursuit of sticking around in the NFL.
Shaun Bradley is a homegrown, speedy linebacker out of Temple who could be a special-teams contributor while he develops at his primary position. The path Kamu Grugier-Hill took on the Eagles could be an encouraging example for Bradley, who ran a 97th percentile 40-yard dash but lacks the strength to hang in the NFL right now. In college, he was a sure tackler and he has the speed to cover, which makes him an intriguing prospect considering his draft position.
It’s hard to fault the Eagles for taking a flyer on Quez Watkins, a wideout from Southern Miss., considering his 4.35 40 time. The front office put a massive emphasis on taking chances on guys who showed elite athleticism and Watkins has that, although his production, ability to beat press coverage and drop rate make him a question mark. Against Alabama last season, he struggled to handle press coverage and managed just three catches for 24 yards.
Watkins has work to do before he’ll be able to really use the speed he showed at the combine, but it’s hard to teach speed.
Just in case the first eight selections of the Eagles draft didn’t make the theme of this class obvious enough, they went with another raw player with solid athleticism with Auburn tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. My fine colleagues have already laid out his backstory and how he got to this point, which underscores why there’s reason to believe Wanogho could make massive leaps forward under Jeff Stoutland’s tutelage. He’s got great strength and length and he held up against SEC pass rushers with minimal experience playing the offensive line, which is remarkable.