MOBILE, Ala. – The Eagles have been touting Joe Douglas' role in the 2017 NFL draft, but they haven't said as much about Douglas influencing free agency.
That's because Douglas has worked his whole career in college scouting, the team's 40-year-old, first-year player personnel vice president acknowledged Wednesday. When it comes to veteran players and how they might fit into the Eagles' plans and salary cap, the lead role definitely belongs to de facto general manager Howie Roseman.
"I've really tried to focus this year on diving into the pro side, getting to know the league as well as I could, getting to know our team as best I could," Douglas said Wednesday, in an afternoon session with reporters at the Senior Bowl.
"It's definitely been an adjustment – for so long, just strictly worrying about college, and going on (campus) visits. It's definitely been a challenge . . . I'm learning a lot from Howie as far as the agent side of the business, the salary cap, the trade side," Douglas said. "I've been in on a ton of those meetings. I'm just learning a lot."
Douglas stressed that the draft board, though his responsibility, will be informed by everyone on the scouting and coaching side who puts in work evaluating players.
Roseman said earlier this month that Douglas has "got a way of looking (at) and evaluating players, that is different than what we've done in the past, and quite frankly, we needed that."
Asked about his criteria, Douglas seemed to want to smooth over any implied differences in approach.
"Everybody's looking for mentally tough, smart, physically tough guys," he said. Later, he spoke of seeking "smart, tough guys who love football."
Roseman and Douglas both talked Wednesday about how much of the important work of scouting concerns off-the-field matters.
"I think there's baseline levels of talent, height, weight, speed for every position. I think the most important job our scouts have is to go deeper than than – get to know the player, the person, as best you can, the way he competes on a consistent basis. How he fits into the team, if he's a leader. All the things that you don't see on tape," Douglas said.
"This business, like any other business, is a people business. The most important thing is when you go into a school, building your sources. Getting good relationships, getting great relationships at the different schools that each scout's assigned to. Whether it's a coach, whether it's a trainer, whether it's a custodian – anybody that'll give you great information, consistent and reliable information."
Douglas was the Bears' director of college scouting last year when they drafted running back Jordan Howard in the fifth round, from Indiana. Howard set a franchise rookie rushing record, running for 1,313 yards on 252 carries.
The Eagles are expected to target running back in this draft.
"You get a great running back, it changes games. I think you saw that with Dallas (and Ezekiel Elliott) this year," Douglas said.
Another area of need is cornerback. The 2017 draft crop is said to be strong.
"Corner is a position – it's probably, next to quarterback, the toughest position in all sports to play," Douglas said. "It takes an elite-level athlete. They're the best athletes in the world. And it takes a high level of confidence. Those guys have to be able to shrug off negative plays and be able to bounce back and pretend it didn't happen."
Asked about Tre'Davious White, the corner many observers think is the best of the Senior Bowl crop (see Wednesday's Daily News), Douglas noted that White was chosen to wear the No. 18 jersey at LSU, given to the player whose teammates judge him to best exemplify their program. Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan (now a pending free agent) wore No. 18 as an LSU senior.
"It's always good when you wear No. 18 at LSU. We've had a lot of success here with a guy that wore the same number, in Bennie Logan . . . (White) is a leader. He's been ultra-productive," Douglas said. "He's tough as nails. He plays nickel, he plays outside. He has ball skills. You can stack his production up with any corner coming out in this draft."
Joe Douglas was enthusiastic about Villanova defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon: "The first thing that jumps out is, 6-7, and he's 280 pounds and he's cut out of rock," Douglas said. "He's as body beautiful as it gets." Douglas said Kpassagnon, from Ambler, has talent to match his physique . . . Carson Wentz will work on mechanics this offseason with renowned biomechanics expert Adam Dedeaux, the Inquirer and NFL Network reported . . . Howie Roseman said the switch of Taylor Hart from defensive to offensive tackle came about after Hart had to play OT for the scout team and defensive starters complained about how hard he was to get around. Douglas talked to Hart and learned he was an offensive tackle in high school, who would be glad to embrace the challenge of switching back in the NFL. Hart, 6-6, 305, was a fifth-round pick from Oregon in 2014. "It's hard to find big men like that, with that length, who can move," Roseman said.