INDIANAPOLIS — Good morning, Eagles fans. Greetings from Indianapolis. The busiest day of interviews is now behind us, but there’s plenty of fun still ahead. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson won’t be talking again until the owner’s meetings, so be sure to read up on what they said during their time with the media yesterday. Today, running backs, offensive linemen, and kickers will be available for media members. Defensive linemen and linebackers will be tomorrow, and defensive backs will be on the last day.
The Eagles have made serious progress researching this wide receiver class, meeting with a handful of highly regarded prospects. Below, we’ll talk about why KJ Hamler is such a good fit.
— EJ Smith (email@example.com)
It doesn’t take much work to connect the dots between KJ Hamler and the Eagles.
The speedy 5-foot-9 wide receiver from Penn State is coming off a junior season in which he caught 56 passes for 904 yards and eight touchdowns. Throughout that season, he said would have FaceTime calls with Eagles rookie Miles Sanders, his former roommate at Happy Valley, almost every week.
If all that wasn’t enough, wait until you hear who he models his game after.
“Most definitely DeSean Jackson," Hamler said during his combine news conference. "He’s been one of the players I’ve been watching since I was younger. I watched him and I watch Steve Smith, who played for the Carolina Panthers back in the day. Those two people are the main guys I really watch.”
Hamler is one of nearly two dozen wide receivers good enough to get selected in the first three rounds of this April’s NFL draft, and he fills one of the Eagles’ biggest needs: speed.
Hamler won’t run the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine because he tweaked his hamstring during training, but the Pontiac, Mich., native has been clocked running a 4.27 before. He had five touchdowns on catches of 20 yards or longer and 11 receptions of 20-plus yards.
But Hamler’s decision to wait until his pro day to run might be in the Eagles’ favor. Hamler mainly played in the slot during his college career, which has raised questions about his versatility. He also had 12 drops last season, something he vows to be working on.
In a loaded class of wideouts, Hamler’s got enough question marks around him to make it possible he’ll be available for the Eagles in the second round, but enough upside to justify the pick. The team has the No. 53 selection in the second round and, with 10 total picks, the resources to move up if his stock rises.
If they don’t get Alabama’s deep threat Henry Ruggs in the first round, going back to the well for a Penn State star could make sense.
Hamler and Sanders certainly think so.
“Miles is really my best friend,” Hamler said. “We always talk about [playing together in the NFL]. That’d be a fun adventure. We talk about things like that every day, but the team that wants me and the team that loves me is going to get me.”
Hamler later added: “I hope he puts in a good word for me.”
Based on his Twitter reaction, Sanders was surprised Hamler had any doubt.
Best way to address each position group: WR, DB, LB- Draft or FA? — Wil (@Wil1717) via Twitter.
Good question, Wil. Right now, I think the best course of action would be to spend free agency focused primarily on defensive back and possibly linebacker. I think spending significant money on a solid cornerback like Byron Jones or James Bradberry could really shore up the team’s cornerback situation. I think some stability at one of the corner spots, with a proven guy like Jones, could make things much easier on the secondary. If the team brought in Jones, re-signed Jalen Mills, and had Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc as options at slot cornerback, I’d think they’d be in decent shape. The Eagles would still need to figure out Malcolm Jenkins’ contract situation and draft a safety for down the road, but it wouldn’t be a glaring need heading into the draft.
At linebacker, I could see them trying to find a long-term solution in free agency, similar to the way they found Brandon Brooks and Rodney McLeod in 2016. Roseman said the team would be willing to make those types of deals in free agency during his news conference. If they continue to view linebacker as a position unworthy of significant investment, keep an eye out for an eventual starter to come from the middle rounds of the draft.