NFL Combine: Former Villanova DE Tanoh Kpassagnon shows off 'freaky gifts'

NFL Combine: Former Villanova DE Tanoh Kpassagnon shows off 'freaky gifts'

INDIANAPOLIS -- If some NFL folks didn't know who Tanoh Kpassagnon was before, they found out at the Senior Bowl weigh-in in Mobile, Alabama, in January. 

That's when the Villanova defensive end emerged on the stage to an audible gasp from the crowd. Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said it looked like Kpassagnon was cut from stone and was "as body beautiful as it gets." 

Turns out, that wasn't as body beautiful as it gets. 

In a little over a month, Kpassagnon somehow managed to pack on nine more pounds of muscle. At the combine, he came it at 6-foot-7, 289 pounds. 

"Just trying to get stronger honestly," Kpassagnon said. 

If there was any fear that the extra weight would slow him down, the physical freak put it to rest by running a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash Sunday after already putting up 23 reps in the bench press. Before the combine, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Kpassagnon has "freaky gifts."

They were on display Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

As of Saturday afternoon, Kpassagnon already had an informal meeting with the Eagles but wasn’t sure if they were on his list of formal interviews scheduled. 

During his meetings with teams, one of the questions Kpassagnon has gotten the most is about his love for football. He's been getting those questions so much because he's not a dumb jock. He graduated from Villanova with degrees in accounting and finance. 

"I've gotten that a lot. I love the game," he said. "It's probably the first thing I really did for myself. Grades and everything else was instilled by my mom and that was just something that I did to really make my mom happy.

"Football is something I've done for me. Really to make her happy too, but it's really for me."

The Wissahickon High School product had a really impressive career at Villanova, but it was his Senior Bowl performance in January that really began to turn heads. In Mobile, he was able to prove himself against talented players from higher levels of college football. 

"I think the best way to show that was playing with them, practicing with them like I did at the Senior Bowl," he said. "But I mean, combine numbers will hopefully also show that I'm a pretty good athlete."

Kpassagnon is more than a pretty good athlete. He's a freaky one. 

And it's unclear where, but he'll definitely be the first Villanova player drafted since 2011. He's not under the radar anymore. 

"Hopefully I'm going to make this into my profession," Kpassagnon said, "and I want to be the best defensive end there is." 

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

The Eagles need cornerbacks. Plural. 

It's not a secret that the team's biggest weakness heading into next week's draft is at the cornerback position. So it would stand to reason that their best bet might be to simply take the best one off the board when they're on the clock at 14.

But NFL Network's Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft conference call marathon extravaganza Friday, said he thinks they should take a different approach. 

Looking at the top corners in the draft, Mayock is convinced Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore will be off the board well before the Eagles are on the clock at 14. His next rated corner is Gareon Conley. After that, Mayock has Marlon Humphrey but pointed out his major flaw of struggling to find the football in the air. 

So if Conley makes it to 14, the Eagles should pick him, right? 

Not so fast. 

"So I look at it this way, if Conley's on the board at 14, you have to compare him to the best playmaker on offense on your board," Mayock said. "Because I'm not convinced the Eagles should go defense, to be honest with you. 

"If Conley's not there, I think you want to go get your corner in the second or third round and I think they need two corners. But my perspective is, you drafted Carson Wentz. You better support him. You signed two wideouts in free agency (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith) who are both effectively one-year contracts. Your slot receiver, (Jordan) Matthews is in the final year of his deal. (Brent) Celek, the tight end, is 32 years old. 

"So you might sit there and go, 'This year looks OK,' but get a running back. Get a (Christian) McCaffrey or a Dalvin Cook. Get a tight end, O.J. Howard. Get weapons. Get one of those wideouts you like. So I would be comparing Conley to the highest playmaker you have on the board offensively. And I might be leaning towards offense if it was me." 

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. 

When Zach Ertz looks at the recent history of great quarterback-tight end duos in the NFL, he can't help but notice one thing stands out. 

"Those guys have been together for a long time," Ertz said Thursday afternoon. 

Brady and Gronk have been together for seven seasons. Cam and Olsen have been together for six. And Brees and Graham were together for five. 

"And I think just having that, where you're on the same page regardless of the coverage," Ertz continued. "If they give you this coverage, you know exactly what you're going to do. If they give you that coverage, he knows exactly what I'm going to do. When to expect the ball vs. certain coverages, it might be a little earlier, it might be a little later. So it's just that constant camaraderie where we're able to know what the other person is thinking without thinking about it."

Ertz hopes that's the kind of relationship he can forge with Carson Wentz, who will enter his second NFL season in 2017. 

Ertz and Wentz spend a lot of time together in the facility and away from it. A group of Eagles went to Ertz's wedding earlier this offseason, and of course, Wentz was present. If it seems like Ertz is going to great lengths to build a rapport with his quarterback, he is. 

After going through Mike Vick and Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, the Eagles' starting tight end finally has a quarterback that isn't going anywhere for a while.  

"It's going to be huge," Ertz said about playing with Wentz for a second straight year. "I think when Carson was drafted, from the receivers and tight ends, that was the one thing we were really excited about. That we knew for the next five, 10, 20 years, hopefully, in Philadelphia, we knew who our quarterback was going to be."

Since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Ertz has been an extremely productive player. But that has set up huge expectations as fans wait for a "breakout year." Zach Ertz might never be Rob Gronkowski, but the numbers are hard to argue. 

In the first four years of his career, Ertz has 247 catches for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. Since 2013, here's the list of tight ends who have more catches and yards than Ertz: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Antonio Gates. 

Ertz and Jeremy Maclin are the only two players in Eagles history to put up those numbers in their first four seasons. 

The argument often heard about Ertz's numbers is that they come in garbage time. Ertz has historically been an absolute beast in December. In the last few years, that hasn't meant much to a struggling Eagles franchise, but if they're in the playoff hunt in upcoming years, they'll probably want that trend to continue. 

The one statistic that doesn't seem to match the others: touchdowns. While Ertz has been among top tight ends in the league in receptions and yards, his 13 touchdowns rank 17th among tight ends since 2013. (It's not a stat, but for what it's worth, Ertz would likely be among the league leaders in touchdowns called back for penalties in the last few years.)

"I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me," Ertz said. "For the first four years in my career, I think the most touchdowns I had in a year was four. So this year, we didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns and that falls on us as players to get it down when we get down there, make plays when the ball's in the air. That's something I do pride myself on, making those tough and contested catches, whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I've got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust of the quarterback as well as Doug (Pederson). It's going to be a process, but when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is touchdowns."