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.

NFL Notes: Patriots reach deal with former Jets LB David Harris

NFL Notes: Patriots reach deal with former Jets LB David Harris

BOSTON -- A person familiar with the situation says the New England Patriots have agreed to terms on a deal with former New York Jets linebacker David Harris.

The new two-year pact could be worth as much as $6.75 million, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal has not yet been announced.

Harris, a 2007 second-round pick from Michigan who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons in New York, was released earlier this month by the Jets in a series of offseason moves to cut high-priced veterans. He was the franchise's second-leading tackler.

He now moves within the division to play for Bill Belichick, who has lauded Harris' play in the past. It also gives the Patriots some veteran depth to pair with Dont'a Hightower.

Jaguars: Rhaney claimed off waivers
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have claimed offensive lineman Demetrius Rhaney off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams.

The Jaguars announced the move Wednesday and said they released rookie offensive lineman Parker Collins to make room on the roster for Rhaney.

The 6-foot-2, 301-pound Rhaney was a seventh-round draft pick out of Tennessee State by the Rams in 2014. He spent his first season on injured reserve but played in every regular-season game the past two seasons, starting once at left guard in 2015.

Packers: Guion arrested on suspicion of DUI
HONOLULU -- Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant in Hawaii.

Honolulu police booking records show Guion was arrested early Wednesday in Waikiki. He was released after posting $500 bail.

Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey says in a statement that the team is aware and will refrain from making further comment because it's a legal matter. He says he doesn't know what Guion was doing in Waikiki.

Guion was suspended without pay by the NFL for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

He started 15 games last season, making 30 tackles. The nine-year veteran agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.25 million in February 2016.

NFL: Former player Ryan Jones shot dead
RENO, Nev. -- Nevada authorities say former NFL linebacker Ryan Jones was shot dead over the weekend in a Reno apartment and two other people suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds.

Reno Police Department spokesman Officer Tim Broadway declined comment Tuesday on the circumstances that led to Sunday's shooting because detectives were still interviewing people for their investigation.

Jones, 26, signed a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014 and had a stint with the New York Giants before becoming a mixed martial arts fighter.

He was the first Montana Tech football player in the college's history to sign an NFL contract.

Jones graduated from Hug High School in Nevada before attending Sierra College and then Montana Tech in 2011.

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks is a good middle linebacker. 

After his first two seasons in the NFL, the former third-round pick has piled up some eye-popping numbers. 

In his first 24 games in the league (his rookie season was cut short with a pec injury), he has seven interceptions, 14 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and two sacks. 

He's just the fifth player in NFL history — and only linebacker — to have that many INTs, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles in the first two years of his career. 

Hicks, who turns 25 later this month, is already really good. The next step is to become great. 

Is there room for more growth? 

"I would hope so," Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole said last week. "We're all emotionally tied in with our guys. I think he's done a great job for us. Is there room for improvement? No question. But he works at it. It's important to him. I know it's important for him that he puts the team success above himself. 

"I would suspect that there's more ceiling for him at linebacker. And I expect him to work at those things." 

Hicks actually had a chance to work on some of those things this offseason. As he exited last year, it was clear Hicks possessed ball-hawk traits, but admittedly needed to get better against the run. 

After his first NFL season, Hicks was stuck recovering from his torn pectoral and subsequent surgery. The rehab didn't allow him to strength train as much as he would have liked. 

This year, it's been a different story. He's hit the weight room hard, put on some extra weight, and hasn't been hamstrung by a tedious rehab process. 

"It's been great, man," Hicks said. "Having a full offseason to get in rhythm, having a full offseason to lift and get stronger and not have to take a step back to rehab and do everything over again, it's huge. Huge. To just build and stack and stack on top of each other."

Flajole agrees with Hicks, that the extra time in the weight room will help him against the run, specifically at the point of attack.  

Flajole isn't the only person in the NovaCare Complex who thinks big things are still ahead for Hicks. After the season finale against the Cowboys last season, Malcolm Jenkins said he thought Hicks is "trending to be one of the better linebackers in this league."

While Hicks wants to improve his run defense, it's undeniable that the strength of his game — to this point — is his knack for being around the ball. He always seems to be making a big play, whether it's an interception or a fumble recovery. 

It might seem like chance, but Flajole doesn't discount it as such. 

"He's a very instinctual guy and I think he understands the game," Flajole said. "The thing that can't be discounted for Jordan is that he works at it. He watches a lot of tape and because of those things, he feeds off of tendencies that the offense would give him, either by down and distance or formation. And he uses those to his advantage." 

For the second straight year, Hicks will be in the same defense under Jim Schwartz and will have the same battery mate in Nigel Bradham, who enters the second year of his two-year deal. 

At some point before the 2017 season starts, Hicks will set some personal goals for himself, like he does every year. While he hasn't set them yet, Hicks said they are normally leadership-based or stat-based. 

"It definitely gives you something to reach for and keep you on track," Hicks said. "Just like you set team goals. If you're not setting goals, you're just working towards nothing, just shooting in the air at nothing." 

One thing the goals won't be is accolade-based. Sure, Hicks would like to be named to his first Pro Bowl, but that won't be on the checklist. 

If he gets better than he's been in Year 1 and 2, it'll only be a matter of time before the recognition catches up with his stats. 

"I'm not really worried about the accolades at this point," he said. "It's not really what I'm focused on. I believe that if you're doing what you need to do, day in and day out, you're giving it everything you got, the rest will come. I'm focused on what I can do for this team, what I can do to make this team the best it can be. And let the rest fall in place."