Final thoughts and other odds and ends from a memorable draft weekend in Philadelphia …
The Eagles addressed their need at receiver in free agency with the signing of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They began the rebuild at cornerback with the drafting of Sidney Jones (torn Achilles and all) and Rasul Douglas.
But what about the running back position? Right now, it looks worrisome.
They added Donnel Pumphrey and he is a nice fourth-round pick up (more on him later), but they still don't have a legitimate lead back. They have Darren Sproles, a 33-year-old role player, and Wendell Smallwood, an unproven second-year man. Add to that, Pumphrey is a 5-foot-8 scatback who's essentially a younger version of Sproles.
There is an old saying in pro football: If you can't run it on 3rd-and-1, you don't have a running game. By that standard, I'm not sure the Eagles have a running game at the moment.
They still have Ryan Mathews on the roster, and while general manager Howie Roseman talked about him as an option going forward, it seems unlikely. Mathews will be 30 in October with a long history of injuries. He had neck surgery in January, so who really thinks the Eagles are counting on him? I don't.
There is so much talk about surrounding Carson Wentz with better weapons, well, that shouldn't stop at the receiver position. Running backs are important too. I do believe the Eagles had an interest in drafting Florida State's Dalvin Cook in the second round, but Minnesota traded up to get him two spots ahead of the Eagles.
Drafting Pumphrey and signing Wisconsin's Corey Clement as an undrafted free agent adds two rookies to the mix, but I think the Eagles have to sign a veteran back between now and training camp. Jamaal Charles is still unsigned, and it wouldn't shock me if the Eagles brought him in for a look. He had several great years in Kansas City playing under Doug Pederson, and even if he's not what he once was, he may still be a nice fit in a backfield by committee setup.
I give the Eagles' draft a B grade. I really liked the selection of defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round. He will be a starter from Day 1 and immediately upgrade the pass rush. I wasn't as enthused as some people with the decision to select Jones in Round 2 (see video). I had him rated as the No. 1 cornerback prior to his injury, but an Achilles tear is serious. I could not invest a second-round pick on a player with an Achilles injury.
I know the thinking that if Jones is fully healed by next season, it will be like adding another first-round pick. Well, what if he doesn't come back all the way? What if he loses a step or even half a step? Then, he isn't the same player you once had rated so highly. In the draft, especially the early rounds, I try to minimize risk and, to me, this was a risk.
I liked Douglas, the third-round pick, and NFL Network's Mike Mayock touted me on Mack Hollins, the receiver the Eagles selected in the fourth round. His tape is impressive. He has excellent size (6-4), and for a guy who is clocked at 4.53 in the 40, he catches a lot of long passes. He averaged more than 20 yards per reception at North Carolina.
While Pumphrey doesn't project as a lead back in the NFL, he should definitely contribute. He really is a lot like Sproles — very elusive with the ability to cut at full speed. He rushed for more yards (6,405) than any player in college football, which is remarkable. But he shouldn't be asked to carry the same kind of load (1,100 touches) in the pros. He will be a role player but a good one.
I think the Eagles also got a sleeper with their final pick: Elijah Qualls, a 6-foot, 313-pound defensive tackle from Washington. I had a fourth-round grade on him, so to get him in the sixth round was good value. He is a classic run-stuffer, who could wind up beating out Beau Allen for the third tackle spot behind Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan.
Among the other teams, I gave A grades to Houston, Pittsburgh, and Arizona. The Cardinals hit on the first three picks with Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, Washington safety Budda Baker and Grambling receiver Chad Williams. T.J. Watt will start right away at outside linebacker for the Steelers, and Josh Dobbs of Tennessee comes in at the right time to learn his craft and wait for Ben Roethlisberger to hand over the reins.
The worst draft was Chicago. I have no idea what they were thinking with the trade up to No. 2 to acquire North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears have been trying to find a franchise QB since Sid Luckman in the 1940s (really, it has been that long), but this isn't the way to go about it.
Final thought: Congratulations to everyone involved in staging the draft weekend. It was a huge success. I can only imagine what Bert Bell, the Philly native and NFL commissioner who ran the first draft in his hotel suite at the Ritz-Carlton, would have thought if he saw that crowd of people lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The NFL has surely come a long way since that first draft in 1936. It was a great weekend. I hope we get to do it again.