Ray Didinger's 2017 Eagles draft evaluation

Ray Didinger's 2017 Eagles draft evaluation

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.

Didinger's NFL mock draft 2.0: Best-case scenario for Eagles at 14

Didinger's NFL mock draft 2.0: Best-case scenario for Eagles at 14

Live draft coverage begins Thursday at 5 p.m. with Philly Sports Talk and continues until midnight on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App.

A lot has changed since my first mock draft with reports of diluted urine samples (Reuben Foster and Jabrill Peppers) and concerns about lingering injuries (Jonathan Allen and John Ross) impacting the stock of likely first-round picks. A player many linked with the Eagles — Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley — now is accused of rape, which will have investigators scrambling for more information.

Add to it the likelihood that so many teams are looking for quarterbacks that they will overdraft players at that position — some analysts are predicting two and possibly three quarterbacks will be taken in the top 15 — and it makes this Round 1 almost impossible to project. But we'll try anyway. So here is my second attempt to make sense out of the draft, which kicks off Thursday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

1. Cleveland — Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M
He has been at the top of every draft board for the past two months and while there are occasional rumbles about the Browns taking local boy Mitchell Trubisky, I don't believe it. I think the Browns do the smart thing for once and take Garrett, the best prospect in the draft.

2. San Francisco — Jamal Adams, safety, LSU
There are a lot of questions surrounding other blue-chip players in this draft but none with Adams. He is a rock-solid pick and new GM John Lynch, once an elite safety himself, will begin the massive rebuild right here.

3. Chicago — Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State
There is a lot of talk of teams backing away from Lattimore, a one-year starter for the Buckeyes with a history of hamstring problems, but if you watch the tape you see elite ability.

4. Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU
Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone want to bring toughness to this woeful franchise and what better way than with a 240-pound sledgehammer running back who will take some heat off QB Blake Bortles.

5. Tennessee — Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford
The Titans ranked 30th against the pass last season so improving the pass rush is a high priority. Thomas, an explosive edge rusher, will help right away.

6. NY Jets — O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama
The first big surprise of the night. The Jets have major quarterback issues but getting a 6-5, 250-pound target with 4.5 speed will make even this mediocre bunch look good.

7. Chargers — Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State
Outstanding ball skills and exceptional range make Hooker an ideal fit for a defense that couldn't cover the deep half of the field last season.

8. Carolina — Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford
This will break the hearts of Eagles fans hoping the fleet playmaker will be there at 14, but the Panthers need to put better weapons around QB Cam Newton.

9. Cincinnati — Jonathan Allen, defensive tackle, Alabama
There are concerns about his shoulder, but the chance to get a player this good with the ninth overall pick will be too tempting for coach Marvin Lewis to pass up.

10. Buffalo — Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama
The Bills lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots so they fill the void with Humphrey, who combines 4.42 speed with toughness.

11. New Orleans — Tre'Davious White, cornerback, LSU
The Saints ranked last in the league in pass defense last season so they start the rebuild with a cornerback from right down the road.

12. Cleveland — Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina
This would be the Browns' dream scenario -- that is, they can get both Garrett and Trubisky -- so for the sake of the long-suffering fans in Cleveland, let's give them what they want just this once.

13. Arizona — Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech
This kid isn't anywhere close to being ready to play in the NFL but coach Bruce Arians feels he has time to develop him while Carson Palmer finishes out his career. It is a major reach in my opinion but the pre-draft buzz is that the Cardinals want Mahomes.

14. EAGLES — Derek Barnett, defensive end, Tennessee
This was my best-case scenario for the Eagles and with a few things breaking their way it now appears Barnett may be available at 14. It didn't seem likely even two weeks ago, but now it could happen, and to me, this would be an easy call for the Eagles. Jim Schwartz builds his defense around a strong pass rush from his front four and Barnett will improve that immediately.

15. Indianapolis — Charles Harris, defensive end, Missouri
Rising fast on most draft boards. Will improve what has been a pitiful defense in Indy.

16. Baltimore — Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson
I have Williams as the No. 1 receiver on my board so he may not fall this far, but if he does he won't fall any farther. GM Ozzie Newsome will grab him.

17. Washington — Haason Reddick, linebacker, Temple
The first Owl to go in Round 1 since Muhammad Wilkerson. Ran the fastest 40 among all linebackers at the combine (4.51).

18. Tennessee — Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan
Granted, it was a lower level of competition, but still, 97 receptions and 19 touchdowns last season gets your attention. A welcome target for Marcus Mariota.

19. Tampa Bay — Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State
A complete NFL skill set -- vision, quickness, great hands, but a lot of red flags off the field. If he can stay out of trouble, a reunion with QB Jameis Winston will make the Bucs a fun team to watch this season.

20. Denver — Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin 
Proof that this is a down year for offensive linemen: Ramczyk is the first one off the board. A one-year starter for the Badgers after transferring from Division III.

21. Detroit — Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama
A tackling machine. Fast, instinctive and relentless. You love him on tape but off-the-field issues have dropped his stock. At this point in the draft someone will take a shot. Let's say Detroit.

22. Miami — Gareon Conley, cornerback, Ohio State
Similar to Foster, Conley looked like a sure top-15 pick until the rape allegations surfaced this week. No doubt some teams will back off but Conley will still go in the first round and the Dolphins need help on defense.

23. NY Giants — Garett Bolles, offensive tackle, Utah
Adding Brandon Marshall gives the Giants a fine set of targets but now they need better bodyguards for QB Eli Manning. Bolles is the best pass blocker in this class.

24. Oakland — Cam Robinson, offensive tackle, Alabama
At 6-6 and 320 pounds, Robinson fits the mold of Raider linemen. Think Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Bob Brown, etc. OK, they are all in the Hall of Fame and Robinson has a long way to go, but he looks the part.

25. Houston — Forrest Lamp, offensive guard, Western Kentucky
The Texans' offensive line was a mess last season. Lamp, the best guard in the draft, will be a Day 1 starter.

26. Seattle — Kevin King, cornerback, Washington
Given Richard Sherman's uncertain future, the Seahawks pick up another corner in the 6-3 King, who can play that brand of intimidating defense.

27. Kansas City — Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson
The buzz around Watson to the Chiefs has grown stronger in the past week. Perhaps Andy Reid sees in Watson the same qualities he saw in Donovan McNabb. I had him as my No. 1 QB ahead of both Trubisky and Mahomes. This seems like a good landing spot for a kid who knows how to win.

28. Dallas — Takkarist McKinley, defensive end, UCLA
The Cowboys need to improve their pass rush and McKinley is very quick coming off the edge.

29. Green Bay — Adoree Jackson, cornerback, USC
The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense last year and it proved to be their undoing in the postseason. Jackson will be an immediate starter and also provide pop on special teams. He had four punt return touchdowns for the Trojans.

30. Pittsburgh — T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin
Comparisons to his brother are inevitable but unfair. He's not as physically dominant as J.J. but the difference isn't Casey Matthews to Clay Matthews either. T.J. is a relentless pass rusher who will fit perfectly in the Steelers' 3-4.

31. Atlanta — Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan
The Falcons need to add another pass rusher to take some of the pressure off Vic Beasley. Charlton, who really came on last season (10 sacks), can be that guy.

32. New Orleans — John Ross, wide receiver, Washington
He was the talk of the combine when he ran the fastest 40 on record (4.22 seconds) but there are real concerns about his history of shoulder and knee injuries. Can he hold up physically in the NFL? If so, he will be a very nice deep threat for Drew Brees. 

Ray Didinger's 5 2017 NFL draft sleepers

Ray Didinger's 5 2017 NFL draft sleepers

Twenty years ago, just for fun, I started picking four to five "sleepers" in the NFL draft. I'd look for players who were considered either too small or too slow, or maybe they came from a tiny school, but they were players I felt had a chance to make it in pro football.

Every time I watched an All-Star game, I'd look for that guy from, say, Mt. Union or Liberty and jot down his name. That's how Cecil Shorts (Mt. Union, 2011) and Rashad Jennings (Liberty, 2008) wound up on my list of sleepers. One of my first sleepers was Akron's Jason Taylor who was considered too skinny (6-6, 235) to make it as a defensive lineman in the NFL. He was just voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Other sleepers who made it in the NFL include: Dexter Coakley, linebacker from Appalachian State; Pat Tillman, safety from Arizona State; Tim Dwight, kick returner from Iowa; Patrick Crayton, receiver from Northwestern Oklahoma and Brandon Williams, defensive tackle from Missouri Southern. Two others play for the Eagles: running back Darren Sproles who fell to the fourth round of the 2005 draft because of his size and tackle Jason Peters, who went undrafted after playing tight end at Arkansas.

It is a mixed bag: a lot of small college guys but also players from bigger schools who aren't as well known. I look for hidden gems but the pro scouts find them, too. For example, I thought Lofa Tatupu, the linebacker from Southern Cal, was a sleeper in 2005, but Seattle drafted him in the second round and he became a Pro Bowler. Same thing with Jordy Nelson, a wide receiver from Kansas State. I thought he would be a late third- or-fourth-round pick. Instead, Green Bay selected him in the second round and he is Aaron Rodgers' favorite target.

Of course, for every Darren Sproles or Brandon Williams, there is a Jacob Ford (defensive end, Central Arkansas) or a Terdell Sands (defensive tackle, Tennessee-Chattanooga) who vanish without a trace, so this is very much a hit or miss exercise. Still, it is fun to throw these darts every year and see if any of them stick. Here (in alphabetical order) are my five sleepers for the 2017 draft:

Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio, 6-3/269
Small-college edge rusher with speed. He has experience playing in a two-point stance and also with his hand on the ground. Very quick off the ball. He dominated in the MAC, but the question is how will he handle the jump to the NFL? In the last two seasons, he had 17 sacks and 26 tackles for losses. Stays low, gets off blocks. He would probably be a better fit in a 3-4 defense.

Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama, 6-3/239
Climbing draft boards in what most scouts agree is a strong tight end draft. Shows quick feet going in and out of his breaks. Uses his body well getting position on defenders in tight quarters. Ran faster than expected (4.6 in the 40) at the combine. Always gets yards after the catch. Impressed in the 2016 opener against Mississippi State when he caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic, 6-4/266
Viewed by some as a tweener, but I think he can play either end in a 4-3 or linebacker in a 3-4. Very impressive at the East-West Shrine game, where he was voted outstanding defensive player. Plays the run pretty well, but he will be drafted as a pass rusher. Uses his hands well to defeat blockers. Excellent speed for his size (4.6 in the 40). Had 23 sacks the last two seasons.

Lorenzo Jerome, S, St. Francis (Pa.), 5-10/204
Comes from a tiny school in Western Pennsylvania, but he will hear his name called on draft weekend. It probably will be on Day 3, which means he won't get a hug from Roger Goodell, but he will be drafted by a team looking for help in the secondary. You can scoff at his 18 career interceptions -- it's St. Francis, I get it -- but Jerome had two picks and a forced fumble in the Senior Bowl playing against the Division I studs. The kid can play.

Joe Williams, RB, Utah, 5-11/210
A fascinating case because he quit football two weeks into the 2016 season, disappeared for a month then came back to play in the final seven games where he rushed for 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns. Runs with speed (4.41) and power. At the combine, he told the NFL execs he walked away from football because he was dealing with the death of his younger sister. How the teams factor that into their evaluation of Williams is hard to say but what he put on tape in those last seven games is very impressive.