Good morning, Eagles fans. The scouting combine is behind us and the start of free agency is less than two weeks away. Next Tuesday is the deadline for teams to place the franchise or transition tags on players, but the Eagles don’t have any candidates for either this offseason. The most interesting players to watch from an Eagles perspective will be Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. The Cowboys have a handful of tough free agency decisions to make in the next month, but Prescott’s contract situation is at the forefront.
By now, most of the NFL draft prospects have cleared out of Indianapolis and returned to wherever they’re spending their time before next month. Some players’ performances at Lucas Oil Stadium have helped them vault up the mock draft boards, while others have slid. More on that later.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With the combine finished, teams are starting to get a better idea about how long some first-round prospects will last on April 23. Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs didn’t break John Ross’ 4.22 second 40-yard dash record in Indianapolis, but his 4.27 time is quite the consolation. But Ruggs’ eye-catching combine performance, which included a 42-inch vertical, could boost his draft stock and elevate him above the Eagles’ 21st pick.
Another wideout who helped himself last week was former LSU standout Justin Jefferson. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound receiver is considered a solid prospect after having a productive season primarily in the slot. He told reporters he was planning to “shock the world” with his 40 time, and he did not disappoint, running a 4.43. Jefferson likely solidified himself as a first-round prospect after entering the combine as a fringe top-32 player.
With all the movement coming from the combine, here’s a look at some of the recent mock drafts:
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU
“The Eagles need to give QB Carson Wentz more weapons.”
Jeremiah originally had Ruggs headed to Philadelphia, but has since moved the speedy wideout into the middle of the first round, saying Ruggs has a chance to edge out his teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb as the first receiver taken in the draft.
Todd McShay, ESPN: Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU
“Only the Ravens had fewer receiving yards from their wide receiver corps than the Eagles, and Greg Ward Jr. was the No. 1 option at the end of the 2019 season after injuries downed Philadelphia’s top three outside weapons. Alshon Jeffery isn’t getting any younger, and Nelson Agholor is a pending free agent. The Eagles’ 27-year-old quarterback Carson Wentz is in his prime and has no one to throw to outside the numbers. Jefferson posted 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, looked great at the combine and has a high-end ability to find pockets in coverage and generate separation.”
Michael Renner, Pro Football Focus: Jalen Reagor, wide receiver, TCU
“Reagor’s 4.47 40 may have been a bit slower than expected, but his 42-inch vertical and 11-foot-6 broad jump show you just how much gas he has in the tank. I don’t need to tell you how badly the Eagles receiving corps needs someone to take the top off the defense.”
Renner has Jefferson going to the Buffalo Bills one pick after the Eagles took Reagor. Renner is the only one to have Reagor in the first round. Before the combine, Reagor wasn’t even in Jeremiah’s Top 50 prospect big-board. Reagor saw regression in several stat categories from his sophomore year to his junior year, but some chalk it up to a change at quarterback.
Kevin Hanson, SI.com: Henry Ruggs, wide receiver, Alabama (via trade)
(Projected trade: The Eagles send the 21 and the 53 pick to the Falcons for the 16 overall pick): “Last year, Carson Wentz became the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards without a 500-yard wide receiver, as the Eagles’ receiving corps was decimated by injuries. The trio of Alshon Jeffery (10), DeSean Jackson (three) and Nelson Agholor (11) played only 24 games in 2019. Few players can match the 4.27 speed of Ruggs, who scored on one of every four career touches at Alabama, and he would provide that field-stretching element they expected when they brought back D-Jax.”
The lone mock draft from the recent crop to have Ruggs end up an Eagle came through a predicted draft-day trade. In a loaded wide receiver class, a first- and second-round pick to get Ruggs might be a little steep.
Gut feel if they work it out with Malcolm? Timing of restructure? Change of draft/FA strategy if no? — JB19 (@JTBoz19) via Twitter.
Great question, JB. The Malcolm Jenkins situation is really interesting, and I’d suggest reading Jeff McLane’s column on the rumors at the combine for what he’s hearing. My gut feeling is the two sides figure something out to keep Jenkins here and happy, but it’s certainly worthy of skepticism given the circumstances. The front office was happily extending players during the season, striking deals with Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jake Elliott, and Rick Lovato. Jenkins wasn’t among those extended, even after he skipped workouts last offseason in an attempt to get a new deal.
I think Jenkins has reason to be frustrated, too. He’s a foundational part of the team’s defense and has been since he signed. He covers up for a lot of mistakes, and the Eagles’ defense asks him to wear many different hats, whether it be a slot cornerback, a box safety, a blitz specialist in sub packages, etc. He’s one of the most valuable players on the team and I don’t think the Eagles are in a position to replace him, especially with Rodney McLeod also set to become a free agent. If they spend big money at linebacker (unlikely) and cornerback, maybe they can justify going with Avonte Maddox and McLeod on the back end, but the defense would look vastly different.
Jenkins, 32, is probably looking at his last big contract opportunity. If the Eagles are scared off by his age and slight regression last year, they could trade him or release him. Moving on without Jenkins would shift the team’s offseason priorities, but I don’t see them going with a safety in the first round of the draft. Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons are two options if the team wants to spend significant money on a safety in free agency.