2017 NFL draft: National Championship Game prospects for the Eagles

2017 NFL draft: National Championship Game prospects for the Eagles

Hard to believe the college football season ends Monday night.

No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 2 Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game at 8 p.m. (ESPN). It's a rematch of last year's championship, which was an all-time great game. 

And just like last season, the game will be littered with NFL talent.

Here are some prospects for Eagles fans to keep an eye on Monday night:

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, redshirt junior, 6-3/225
I've seen negative reports on Williams recently, citing that he's not the "focal point" of Clemson's offense. That somehow means he's not an elite prospect? That makes little sense to me. He's been plenty productive (90 catches, 1,267 yards, 10 TDs) and is Deshaun Watson's go-to receiver. Corey Davis may be an incredibly close second, but Williams is still the best receiver prospect in this draft. His physicality and ball skills are unmatched. Remember, Williams didn't play against Alabama last year. Could he be the X-factor?

Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, redshirt sophomore, 6-1/196
The matchup of Humphrey vs. Williams should be a lot of fun to watch. Humphrey has the size and physical style to compete with Williams. He also has world-class speed so Williams isn't running by him. Humphrey is one of, if not the top corner in the draft. Could he be available at No. 14 or 15? Not likely but not impossible.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson, junior, 6-0/210
I'm out on a limb with my assessment on Gallman but I just love his game. The footwork and quickness jumping in and out of holes are so impressive. His toughness is off the charts. He carries the load for Clemson (497 carries in the last two seasons) and is also a lead blocker for Watson on many running plays. Throw in his 62 catches during his college career and you've got a complete back. If he slips out of the second round, he's a steal. He's going to help an NFL offense.

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama, junior, 6-6/310
You can look at the Eagles' offensive line and consider it a relative strength when compared to some other positions. But all you have to do is look at what the Cowboys have done in building their offensive line to see that the strategy works. Robinson might be the only true "elite" offensive line prospect in this draft. If you keep Jason Peters, you can slide Robinson in at left guard and have him learn from a future HOFer. It may not be the sexiest pick, but it could go a long way in developing Carson Wentz and the offense as a whole.

Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson, senior, 6-1/200
Tankersley isn't the greatest athlete, but he's physical and solid in both man and zone coverage. He also has decent ball skills (nine INTs the last two seasons). He's more likely part of the second tier in the draft, but he should be a decent NFL corner. He's also proven to be a strong leader for Clemson's defense. The matchup between Tankersley and Alabama sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley should be intriguing.

 

Also worth watching

Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson, senior, 6-3/305

With Bennie Logan's contract status uncertain, the Eagles may need to draft his replacement. You could argue that Watkins would be an upgrade with his ability to rush the passer (10½ sacks this season).

Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama, redshirt senior, 6-3/305
See above about Logan. Tomlinson is part of the NFL prospect assembly line along the Crimson Tide's D-line.

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, senior, 6-1/236
Can't imagine a scenario where Foster falls all the way down to the Eagles but crazier things have happened. Foster has been compared to Luke Kuechly. And those comparisons are more than fair.

Tyrone Crawford, G, Clemson, redshirt junior, 6-2/340
Crawford is massive and a bully in the run game. Another player that could help bolster the Eagles' line immediately. 

Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson, junior, 5-10/190
It would behoove the Eagles to draft more than one receiver. Scott is more of a slot receiver with versatility. He's a great athlete that Clemson just looks to get the ball to in any way possible.

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.