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 Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

In the fourth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 4 is Daniel to Gordon.

Chase Daniel
Cap hit: $8M

Roob: Carson Wentz’s backup had a heck of a year — completed all his passes, passer rating of 118.7, averaged 16 yards per attempt. Project that over a full season and Chase Daniel is going to Canton. OK, so he threw only one pass. But that’s two straight years Daniel has been perfect. Last year, he was 2 for 2 for the Chiefs. Most importantly, Daniel has a $7 million base salary in 2017, and that makes him the 25th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2017, and the sixth-highest paid Eagle. The numbers are ridiculous, but Daniel is clearly a good influence on Wentz, a valuable mentor. He’s a solid backup, but that contract is just way too lucrative. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I know fans don’t understand why Daniel is getting paid this much money to be a backup who doesn’t ever play, and at times I have trouble figuring it out myself.  But here’s the reason. When Wentz arrives to the facility during the season at 5:15 a.m. and starts watching film, he’s not watching with Doug Pederson or Frank Reich or John DeFilippo. He’s watching it with Daniel. So while it might not make sense to pay a backup quarterback this much money, don’t think of Daniel as a backup quarterback. Think of him as an asset to the franchise quarterback. Then it doesn’t sound quite as bad. 

Verdict: STAYS

Anthony Denham

Roob: The Eagles must like Denham because he had two stints on the practice squad this year and they re-signed him to a futures deal when the season was over. But barring an injury, there just isn’t room on the roster for another tight end.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Denham is a tight end who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2016. Maybe he’d have a shot to make the roster if the Eagles aren’t able to bring back Trey Burton, but I don’t see that happening. They’ll bring him to camp and let him compete and maybe get another year on the practice squad. 

Verdict: GOES

Jon Dorenbos
Cap hit: $1.08M

Roob: Assuming he’s healthy, Dorenbos isn’t going anywhere. Rick Lovato did a nice job filling in at the end of the season, but until Dorenbos decides he wants to pursue magic full-time, there’s a spot for him on this roster.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: During last year’s training camp, I watched Dorenbos walk along the sideline, shaking hands and kissing babies (not literally). Then I looked on the field and saw his “competition” snapping footballs repeatedly to a goal post. That’s when I realized Dorenbos wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And now he has a new contract. He’ll end up playing more games as an Eagle than anyone in the history of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: Even though he had the second-most catches in the entire NFL over the last 10 weeks of the season, a large segment of Eagles fans have decided Ertz is to blame for everything that went wrong with the Eagles this year. Never mind that he got off to a good start on opening day, then suffered a very serious rib injury, then came back after missing just two games, then after getting healthy finished the season with 67 catches for 685 yards and four TDs in the last 10 games. Not the last one or two or three games. The last 10 games. With a full offseason and preseason with Wentz, I fully expect Ertz to finish 2017 well over 1,000 yards. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I don’t understand the Zach Ertz hate. He isn’t Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. So what? He’s a really good tight end. Now, I understood why some people questioned the non-block play. I was one of them. But look at the numbers. Here’s a list of tight ends who had more receiving yards than Ertz in 2016: Kelce, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph. Not bad company. And some look at his production and say, well, it all came in December. Maybe there will be a year in which his late-season production finally helps the Eagles with a playoff push. And he just signed a new contract, so he’s here for a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Goode, an unrestricted free agent, is a capable special teamer and emergency backup linebacker, but he would earn $775,000 even on a minimum-wage deal in 2017, and considering the Eagles’ salary cap crunch, they may elect to replace him with a rookie late-round pick or undrafted guy who would earn about $300,000 less. Based on ability, he would stay. But those mid-career veterans with high minimum salaries who don’t play much on offense or defense can be tough to keep around.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: In each of the last two seasons, Goode has managed to be on the team after missing out on the original 53-man roster. Maybe that’s a possibility for this season, but first the Eagles need to re-sign him. It might be time to move on from Goode and find a younger linebacker/special teamer. 

Verdict: GOES

Dillon Gordon
Cap hit: $543M

Roob: Gordon is an intriguing prospect. Like Jason Peters, he was a college tight end who moved to offensive tackle soon after arriving in the NFL. He’s big and strong and athletic, he’s just very new at offensive tackle. The Eagles liked him enough to keep him on the active roster all last year, and I’m guessing they see him as enough of a prospect that they’ll keep him around for at least another year. Especially with so many question marks at offensive tackle.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Gordon was on the Eagles’ roster for the entire season and was inactive in all but one week. He was a college tight end who came to Philly and is learning how to play offensive tackle. (Peters once made the same transition.) Gordon is crazy athletic for his size and the Eagles thought enough of him to put him on the active roster instead of risking losing him by placing him on the practice squad. He’s a project, but one worth keeping. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles' top 5 players under 25 years old

Eagles' top 5 players under 25 years old

Recently, ProFootballFocus came out with a list of the top 25 players under 25 years of age. 

The Eagles didn't crack it. 

While the Giants had two players (Odell Beckham Jr. at 1 and Landon Collins at 5) and the Cowboys had three (Ezekiel Elliott at 12, Dak Prescott at 15 and Byron Jones at 25), the Eagles had zero. Not one. 

So that got us thinking: Who are the Eagles' best young players? Here are their top five under 25: 

1. Carson Wentz (24)
The No. 2 overall pick had a pretty good rookie season, especially because he didn't become the starter until there was a week left before the regular season. He ended up completing 379 of 607 passing attempts for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He set multiple Eagles rookie records and finished with the fourth-most passing yards in a single season in franchise history. He also completed more passes than any Eagle or any rookie in history. 

Sure, his season had its ups and downs. After having a passer rating of over 100 in three of his first four games, he didn't break the 100 mark again during the season. While there were some really shaky moments during the season, he pulled out of it and even led the Eagles on a game-winning drive. He's the future of the franchise; it's all riding on him. 

2. Jordan Hicks (24)
Through his first two seasons, the 2015 third-round pick has been a dynamic playmaker. He just always seems to be around the ball. In 2016, he led the NFL in interceptions by a linebacker with five. He's the first NFL linebacker to have 11 takeaways in his first 24 career games since Hall of Famer Jack Ham did it in 1971-72. Pretty good company. 

After the final game of the season, Malcolm Jenkins said he sees Hicks' becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. He's certainly on his way when it comes to making big plays. And he's definitely been a Cowboy killer early in his career. 

The one area Hicks really needs to improve is in the run game. The pec injury that ended his rookie season didn't allow him to strength train as much he would have liked last offseason, so that's the goal this time around: get stronger to be better against the run. 

3. Jordan Matthews (24)
In his first three seasons, Matthews has caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There are seven players in NFL history who have done that. The other six are Beckham, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss. 

And Matthews has been consistent, too. He has at least 65 catches and 800 yards in each of his first three seasons. He's one of just five players in NFL history to do that. The others are Beckham, Evans, Green and Moss. 

So, no, maybe Matthews hasn't risen to the level of a superstar; maybe he never will. He still hasn't had a 1,000-yard season, but he's been a very good player and he's the best of the bunch of receivers the Eagles have. 

4. Isaac Seumalo (23)
The third-round pick would have spent his rookie season on the bench had there been no Lane Johnson suspension or other injuries. But Seumalo ended up playing in nine games and starting four. He played six different positions this season: right tackle, right guard, left guard, left tackle, fullback and tight end. The only position he didn't play was center, which might be his most natural spot. 

There's a really good chance Seumalo is a starter in 2017 at either left guard or center if the team decides to part ways with Jason Kelce. Seumalo was the first offensive lineman the Eagles drafted since Johnson in 2013 and then two rounds later, they drafted another in Halapoulivaati Vaitai. He could have very well taken this spot on the list as well. 

5. Jalen Mills (22)
ProFootballFocus ranked Mills as the absolute worst cornerback in the entire NFL. That's a ranking many Eagles fans vehemently disagreed with. It's one defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would very likely disagree with as well. No, Mills' rookie season wasn't great. There were plenty of struggles. But he's a confident and aggressive player who had good moments, too. 

As a seventh-round pick, he probably wasn't expected to play a huge role on the defense, but he did. He rose up the depth chart in training camp and then warranted playing time and forced a rotation during the season. Maybe his lack of top-end speed will prevent him from becoming a good NFL player, but if he can overcome it, he'll stick. 

Honorable mentions: Vaitai (23), Wendell Smallwood (22), Marcus Smith (24), Dorial Green-Beckham (23), Destiny Vaeao (23), Nelson Agholor (23).