NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

If you're an Eagles fan looking toward the 2012 draft, here's who you should be watching this Saturday.

Whitney Mercilus, DE Illinois, No. 85

Illinois vs. Purdue (ESPN212 p.m.)

The redshirt junior end for the Illini currently leads Division I-A in sacks with 10. Mercilus has emerged from obscurity this year after recording a mere two sacks over the past two seasons. He's got prototypical size for a pass rusher (6-4, 265) and is showing incredible quickness when rushing the passer. Mercilus had a strong game against Ohio State's left tackle Mike Adams, an NFL prospect in his own right, last week and should have a field day against a suspect Purdue offensive line. Interesting fact about Mercilus: he lost the fingertip of his left index finger in a weightlifting accident this off-season. He wears a special glove with a built in splint to compensate. His teammates call him Nubs.

Nate Potter, LT Boise State, No. 73

Air Force vs. Boise State (Versus3:30 p.m.)

It seems the Eagles already have a plethora of competent offensive tackles in Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Winston Justice and King Dunlap. But the Birds have never shied away from adding talent and depth on either line. Potter has impressive size (6-6, 298) with room to grow and excellent athletic ability (he played both lacrosse and basketball in high school). A first team All-WAC selection the last two years, Potter could stand to get stronger and more physical, but the feet and size are there to play left tackle in the pros. In a deep draft, the redshirt senior might slip into the early second round, where the Birds could be in position to grab him with the pick they received from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb deal.

Harrison Smith, S Notre Dame, No. 22

USC vs. Notre Dame (NBC7:30 p.m.)

If Kurt Coleman continues to have days half as good as this past Sunday, safety might not be high on the Eagles list of needs in 2012. Even if that's the case, Smith might be worth considering in the middle rounds as a core special teamer. Smith (6-1, 213) has played both safety and linebacker during his tenure in South Bend, and projects as an in-the-box safety in the pros. He's not a player you want covering the deep ball as he lacks the speed and quickness to stay with receivers. He plays hard and hits harder.

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

The Eagles add speed on the outside by drafting West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson in the 5th round (166 overall).

Gibson (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) could be a deep threat the Eagles desperately need. He totaled 80 catches and 1,838 yards (23.1 yards per catch average) in his last two seasons for the Mountaineers.

Before selecting Gibson, the Birds traded back twice. First, the Eagles traded the 155th pick to the Titans for the 164th pick and the 214th pick. Next, as the Eagles were on the clock for the 164th pick, they traded back two spots with Dolphins, to obtain the 166th and 184th picks while giving away picks 164 and 194.

Gibson had a less than stellar performance at the NFL Combine in early March, running a 4.5 in the 40-yard-dash despite his deep threat reputation. He redeemed himself at his Pro Day, however, by reportedly running a 4.39 in the 40.

Gibson also adds value on special teams, as he returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown during his sophomore year and racked up 633 return yards in his junior season.

(More to come)

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

The Darren Sproles comparison is natural, and it's one Donnel Pumphrey is going to hear a lot after the Eagles took the San Diego State running back in the fourth round, 132nd overall.

So what similarities and differences are there between the two running backs?

"He's definitely bigger than me," Pumphrey (see bio) said with a laugh.

Considering Sproles is 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, that is pretty funny.

"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Pumphrey said. "I feel like we're (I'm) very versatile, do stuff out of the backfield, just like he does.

"(The comparison) means the world to me. I watched guys like him when he played for the Chargers.

"I look forward to building a relationship and looking up to him and getting different pointers on how I can get better each day. I'm excited."

Pumphrey? He stands 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but he did a lot of the same things on the college level that the electrifying Sproles has done in the NFL.
 
Pumphrey piled up an NCAA-record 6,405 rushing yards in four years at San Diego State, breaking the Division I rushing record of 6,397 yards set by Overbook High graduate Ron Dayne.

Pumphrey, 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting this past year, surpassed 1,600 yards and 17 touchdown runs in each of his last three seasons, including a Division-I best 2,133 yards last year -- 10th-most in Division I history.

He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his career to go with 99 catches for 1,039 yards and finished with 67 total TDs, including five receiving.

Pumphrey also finished his career ranked fifth in Division I history with 7,515 all-purpose yards, eighth with 67 touchdowns and ninth with 62 rushing touchdowns.

He's the only player in NCAA history with 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

Sproles has said the 2017 season, his 13th, will be his final NFL season. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 525 receptions and nine return touchdowns in a brilliant career, including the last three with the Eagles.

The Eagles moved up seven spots in the fourth round to draft Pumphrey, shipping their second fourth-round pick, No. 139, and their seventh-round pick, No. 230, to move up to No. 132.

Despite his lack of size, Pumphrey has never been hurt and averaged 21 ½ touches per game for the duration of his college career.

"I just try to make guys miss, and when it's time to get down I get down," Pumphrey said.

"I don’t think about injuries or anything like that, I just play football to play it. I know injuries come with the game, but I just give my all every time I step on the field. I haven't gotten hurt, and it's been a blessing."

The Eagles are unsettled at running back, with Ryan Mathews in limbo and only 2016 fifth-round draft pick Wendell Smallwood and Sproles also in the mix.

In Pumphrey, the Eagles get a back who survived a staggering 1,158 touches in college.

During the last four years, he had more than 200 more carries than any running back in Division 1 -- 1,059. Justin Jackson of Northwestern was second with 855.

And he never missed a game.

"I've been running the ball since I was about 6 years old and it hasn't taken a toll on me," Pumphrey said.

"Offensive line does a great job getting me to the next level where I'm not able to really take on big hits. I'm just ready to be an Eagle and show everybody what I'm about."

Pumphrey is the first San Diego State player the Eagles have taken since linebacker Matt McCoy in the second round in 2005.

The fourth round is the highest the Eagles have taken a running back in seven years since they drafted all-time franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy in 2009.

The last running back they selected in the fourth round was Correll Buckhalter out of Nebraska back in 2001.

Buckhalter's former teammate, Duce Staley, is now the Eagles' running backs coach and is a big fan of Pumphrey.

"I built a relationship with Duce Staley at the combine," he said. "He said he loves the way I played. I'm just excited to learn the different aspects of the game from him.

"I can't wait to … learn from guys like Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and just learn from all the coaches and just doing what I have to do to get better each day," he said.

"I'm ready to do whatever it takes to show that I can earn a role on the team."