There are only 12 games on the college football schedule today, but 6 of them are ranked teams playing each other for conference championships. It's a huge day for college football, and as long as you're watching the games, here are some players to keep an eye on that could be of interest to the Eagles:
Ealy is big (6'5, 274) and he's very athletic. Last season, he played LDE in Missouri's 4-3 defense, and in 2013 he moved over to RDE. While his sack numbers (8.5 the last 2 seasons) aren't great and his repertoire of pass rush moves isn't particularly impressive, there is one stat that jumps off the page at you – batted passes. Ealy had 5 batted passes in 2013, and he had 7 in 2012. Those are extremely high numbers.
To compare those batted pass numbers in college with the NFL, Connor Barwin is tied for 2nd in the NFL with J.J. Watt with 6 batted passes.
You don't even have to get past the first minute of the following video against Florida to see how well he disrupts passing lanes. In the first few plays of this game, he caused two incompletions by affecting one throw, and batting down another:
In 7-on-7's during OTAs and minicamp, the Eagles added staffers to the defense, who were lined up as faux defensive linemen. They were all wearing these weird black things on their backs that stuck up in the air as if they were around 8 feet tall, and their job was to do little more than just stand in place, simulating defensive linemen trying to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. They looked like this:
If there is concern about batted passes from perspective of avoiding them on offense, it's a fairly safe assumption that they are a point of emphasis on defense.
As far as Ealy's sack/pressure numbers go, you can teach pass rush moves to a guy with the size and athleticism of Ealy. In the Eagles' 3-4 scheme, I think his best fit would be at DE. As noted above, Missouri started him at DE in their 4-3, but they move him inside to DT on obvious passing downs. They would even have him drop into coverage quite a bit from that DT spot, which tells you what they think of him athletically. But beyond his versatility against the pass, he holds up well at the point of attack against the run, and could be a player that adjusts well to 2-gapping.
Missouri will face Auburn this week, who ran for 296 yards against Alabama, and is 4th in the nation with 318.3 rushing yards per game. Auburn will be a great test for Ealy in the run game.
The Eagles have a young, talented defensive line, so it's not a big need area, but Ealy could be a player that intrigues them from a size, versatility and athleticism standpoint, with a high ceiling. You can never have too many good players in the trenches.
At 6'0, 235, Hyde is a big back, but he has some speed. There is nothing flashy to his game. It's "see hole, hit hole," and more often than not, the first defender to get a hand on him will not bring him down. In that regard, Hyde is sort of a throwback runner. His numbers are tremendous, as he has run for over 100 yards in each of the last 7 games:
His worst yards per carry average during that span was 6.2! Part of that is because opposing defenses have to also account for QB Braxton Miller as a running threat, which gives Ohio State a numbers advantage in the run game, but it's very impressive nevertheless.
Hyde is also a decent (and willing) run blocker. Ohio State likes to run a lot of plays in which Hyde will actually wind up being the lead blocker for Miller, or for a WR on a jet sweep. That shows that he can be a contributor on the kick return team early in his career, at a minimum.
I have written about more than 70 players since the season began, and Hyde is the first RB I've profiled. The reason for that is simple -- the Eagles don't really need a RB.
Hyde would be a nice complementary back to LeSean McCoy if the Eagles become frustrated with Bryce Brown's penchant for running east and west instead of north and south. He would also likely be a very good short yardage and GL back at the next level.
Running back has become a devalued position in the NFL. In the last 5 drafts, only 10 running backs have been taken in the first round, and it's unlikely that one will be taken in the first round of the 2014 draft. If a talented runner falls farther than he should simply because teams around the league are shying away from drafting running backs, it might not be the worst idea for the Eagles to grab one at a value if he's a great short yardage weapon with some upside. Hyde could make some sense if he slides to the mid-late rounds.
Davante Adams' numbers are a little out of whack because of Fresno State's pass-heavy offense. Bulldogs QB Derek Carr has attempted 552 passes, the 3rd most in the country. Still, Adams is only a redshirt sophomore, and his numbers are ridiculous. In just 23 collegiate games, Adams has 36 TD catches:
The NCAA single season receiving records are as follows:
• Receptions: 155, Freddy Barnes, Bowling Green
• Yards: 2,060, Trevor Insley, Nevada
• TDs: 27, Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech
Fresno State has two games to go. They'll finish up their season against Utah State, and then they'll have their bowl game. The receptions and yards records are probably out of reach, but Adams has a legitimate shot at the TD record, again, as a sophomore.
At 6'2, 212, Adams has good size, and with 22 TDs on the season, he's obviously a red zone threat. Carr trusts Adams to make plays on highly thrown passes in the end zone, letting him use his impressive vertical leap to go up and get them. He's also known for having big, strong hands. Adams reminds me a little of a slower Dez Bryant.
Smith plays LB for the Seminoles, but because of his size (6'3, 218), NFL teams may opt to move him to safety. Smith, as you might imagine for a player who might be moved to safety, has tremendous cover skills for a LB.
One of my favorite prospects in the upcoming draft is Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, who we profiled back in October. Joyner is a versatile player who has excelled both at safety and as a slot corner. Smith is a similarly special player, who does not have an exact position heading into the pros. That used to be looked at negatively. Now it's looked at as a positive, as NFL teams want to be "multiple," as in being able to show multiple looks without having to change their personnel on the field.
Smith can be a player who covers TEs and RBs, who can also be good enough in run support, whatever position you want to call him.
Big people beat up little people, and Oakman is 6'8, 285. Oakman was at Penn State, but was kicked off the team for multiple incidents that don't sound all that bad the way he tells them. He lost a year after transferring to Baylor, but is now playing DE for the Bears in their 4-man fronts.
Oakman leads Baylor with 12 tackles for loss, but only has 2 sacks. He'd probably be best served to stay in school and be a true dominant player, instead of just an intriguing one with a ton of upside. But as long as you're watching Baylor today, if they happen to be on your TV screen, keep an eye on the gigantic defensive lineman wearing #2.