The are a number of really good college football games on the schedule today, but the big one is the Iron Bowl, between (1) Alabama and (4) Auburn. As long as you're watching that game, and others, here are some players to keep an eye on who could be of interest to the Eagles in the 2014 draft.
Baylor has been loaded with talent at WR the last few years. If you include the supplemental draft, they had 3 WRs taken in the first 3 rounds the last 2 years. All 3 are already producing in the NFL. Kendall Wright is quietly on pace for 1100+ yards, Josh Gordon might be leading the NFL in receiving if he hadn't been suspended the first 2 games this season, and Terrance Williams is starting as a rookie in Dallas. Here is what they've done through 11 NFL games this season:
Antwan Goodley has been the "next man up" at Baylor this year. As a junior, this is the first year Goodley has produced, which is understandable, seeing as he was buried behind the above players on Baylor's depth chart:
Goodley has odd dimensions at 5'10, 220 pounds, and he is extremely strong. He can squat 660 pounds. According to the Baylor Lariat, that was the 2nd highest total on the team, which is crazy for a WR. He is built more like a bruising RB than a WR, and that added bulk shows on tape. One of my favorite Goodley plays is this catch and run against Kansas State. Watch the explosion, and the Heisman-esque stiff arm at the 45 yard line:
Earlier this week, I charted all the Eagles' plays of 20+ yards this season. You might be surprised to learn that Jason Avant has 7 catches of over 20 yards, which is a very respectable total. However, Avant is almost never going to make the huge play. Avant's 20+ yard receptions, by yardage: 20, 21, 22, 22, 23, 25, 31. You can't help but wonder if some of those 20-25 yarders could be 40+ yarders with a more explosive athlete.
Goodley is only a junior, and since his 2011 and 2012 seasons were spent buried on the depth chart, he could opt to continue to build his college resume and improve his draft stock. But if he comes out as a junior, he could be an interesting player that the Eagles could have interest in to work the middle of the field and get yards after the catch.
Ford (6'2, 240) doesn't have the height that we suspect Chip Kelly will like from an outside pass rusher, but he could be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on today if you're going to be watching the Iron Bowl. Ford has 8 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles, despite missing the first 2 games of the season. More impressively, he's done it against good competition.
Go to the 6:50 and 7:27 marks of the below video. Texas A&M is driving for the win, and Ford gets two sacks to end the game. They both came against Texas A&M RT Cedric Ogbuehi, a player some people think is a first round prospect. Those are bigtime plays against a good player in clutch situations. (Via DraftBreakdown.com)
Ford played 4-3 DE at Auburn, so his ability in coverage is a bit of an unknown, at least in the games of his that I have watched, so he might take some time to convert to 3-4 OLB.
Also, Ford can play the piano. So he has that going for him.
Benjamin is an athletic freak with incredible size at 6'5, 234, and FSU QB Jameis Winston has proven he's not afraid to throw it up and let Benjamin use his size to make a play. Personally, I think it would be a mistake for Benjamin to come out, since he's only a redshirt sophomore and could do great things paired for Winston for at least another year.
We're drawn to receivers with the kind of size that Benjamin has. In past Eagles training camps, fans often got fired up by the size of DeAndre Brown and Ifeanyi Momah. Those guys couldn't play at the NFL level. While Benjamin is better than either of those guys, it is important to be careful not to overvalue size. Production is arguably just as important. Benjamin has 36 catches for 626 yards and 9 TDs. Those are good numbers, but a far cry from the NCAA receiving leaders. Of course, Benjamin's numbers are hurt by the fact they have blown out most of their opponents this season. He has also had to share targets with the Seminoles' other talented receivers.
Today, the Seminoles will face Florida, who has a trio of very good CBs in Louchiez Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, and Jaylen Watkins. Whether he comes out or not, keep an eye on the tall guy high-pointing passes from Winston.
There has been debate of late as to the quality of QBs in the 2014 draft. Do guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, etc compare to guys like Andrew Luck and RG3 of a few years ago? Most people would say no. However, what can't be debated, in my opinion, is the depth of this QB draft class.
There are a boatload of QBs who could come out this year who have a realistic chance of being taken in the first 3 rounds. Some of those QBs could include Bridgewater, Mariota, Manziel, Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, Brett Hundley, Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray, Stephen Morris, David Fales, and of course... McCarron.
That's 11 QBs that I listed. Some of the above players are underclassmen and may not come out, while others may be overrated by the draftnik community. Still, there are a lot of QBs this year with impressive resumes.
Michael Vick will likely not be back in 2014. That leaves the Eagles with 2 QBs in Nick Foles and Matt Barkley. The big question then becomes what the Eagles think of Barkley. Is he ready to be a #2 in 2014? If so, maybe they draft a project in the later rounds. If they're not sure (and even if they are), it's possible they will have a high grade on one of the 11 QBs noted above, and they'll be faced with the decision of whether to take him with, say, their 4th round pick.
Here is how many QBs have been taken in the first three rounds of the draft in the last 10 years:
• 2013: 3
• 2012: 7
• 2011: 7
• 2010: 4
• 2009: 4
• 2008: 5
• 2007: 6
• 2006: 7
• 2005: 6
• 2004: 5
If you'll note, the highest total is 7, which happened 3 times. In the 2013 draft, the Eagles had a "Top 50" grade on Matt Barkley. He slid to the 4th round and the Eagles pounced. That draft class was nowhere near as deep and talented as the 2014 class. With such a deep QB draft, there may be real value in a player of interest in the 3rd or 4th round. It's not crazy to think the Eagles could draft one in the middle rounds even if they like both Foles and Barkley.
McCarron could be a player that's available to the Eagles in the middle rounds. McCarron's record as a starter at Alabama:
• 2011: 12-1
• 2012: 13-1
• 2013: 11-0
• Total: 36-2
Obviously, McCarron has had half-decent supporting cast around him at Alabama, but McCarron also does two things Chip Kelly values highly. He doesn't turn the ball over (13 INTs in 919 pass attempts in 3 years as a starter) and he doesn't take sacks (only 9 this season).
The Eagles have been very fortunate not to have any injuries along the interior OL this season, because it is a position where they don't have much depth. Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, and Jason Kelce have missed a combined 10 snaps this season.
Mathis is 32, while Herremans is 31. Drafting a guard makes sense both in the short term (depth) and the long term (an eventual replacement for Mathis or Herremans).
Steen was coached by Eagles OL coach Jeff Stoutland. He is thought of as a quick lineman, who could also potentially be moved to center in the pros. The Eagles could use a depth upgrade along the interior OL who can play both positions, and Steen could potentially be had in the middle rounds.