NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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NFL Draft: Saturday's prospect watch

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

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Ohio vs Utah State (5:30 p.m., ESPN)

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State, No. 9

Wagner is a well built linebacker who looks bigger than his 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame. He played all over the field for the Aggies this season, lining up inside, outside and as a stand up pass rusher. Wagner shows really good instincts against the run and is a solid tackler. As a pass rusher he looked a bit out of his element, showing little burst off the line and few, if any, pass rushing moves. While Wagner is a rock-steady against the run, his lack of athleticism will cause him to fall to the late rounds of the draft.

Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State, No. 6

Turbin is in his fifth year of college after missing two seasons (2007 and 2010) to injuries, the last being an ACL injury during 2010's preseason conditioning program. In 2009 Turbin piled up 1,714 yards from scrimmage and 18 scores. This season, Turbin showed he was completely recovered from his knee injury, posting 1,580 yards from scrimmage and 23 TDs on his way to becoming the 2011 WAC Player of the Year. Turbin (5-10, 216) is a bowling ball of a back. Thickly muscled and powerful, Turbin also has the speed to break the long run. The redshirt junior still has another year of eligibility if he wants to come back, but all signs point to Turbin throwing his hat in the NFL ring. Turbin should be off the board somewhere before the fourth round.
LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio, No. 7

The senior Bobcat is having a very nice season after his 2010 campaign was cut short by knee and hand injuries. Brazill isn't a burner or a physical specimen (5-11, 191), but he just seems to know how to find the gaps in coverage and makes plays. He is Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton's (Mickey of baseball fame's son) favorite target (64 catches for 1,042 yards) and has a nose for the end zone (10 TDs). Could be a late round draft pick and excel as a slot receiver.
Others to Watch
Joe Flading, OT, Ohio, No. 78

All-MAC First Team selection as voted by the MAC News Media Association. Flading (6-3, 292) has started 37 consecutive games.
Noah Keller, LB, Ohio, No. 47

Keller is a tackling machine for the Bobcats. Lacks elite athletic ability but could be a core special teamer in the NFL.

LSU vs Alabama (8 p.m., CBS)

Robert Lester, S, Alabama, No. 37

Lester gets overshadowed by his fellow safety Mark Barron, but he is by no means a lesser prospect. Lester has the size (6-2, 210) to match Barron but with better coverage skills. He always seems to be around the ball. Lester looks very aggressive against the run, but doesn't seem to take the best angles all the time. He'll be going somewhere before the end of the second round.

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”   

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

When Darren Sproles caught the nifty touch pass from Carson Wentz around midfield, there was little doubt about what would happen next.

"Touchdown," running back Kenjon Barner said after the Eagles' stunning 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers (see Instant Replay)
 
Really? With that many yards to go?

"Touchdown," he said. "As soon as he caught the ball. There was nobody there. That guy in the open field — you're not going to bring him down by yourself. With that much space — touchdown."

Barner wasn't the only one.

"Man, it's Sproles! Did you think he was going to get tackled?" receiver Nelson Agholor said incredulously. 

Uhh …

"Man, listen, it's Darren Sproles, and if you second-guessed him, then I don't know what you're thinking," he said. "I'm surprised if he gets tackled."

So is center Jason Kelce. 

"I was actually celebrating before he scored the touchdown, because I watched the whole thing unfold," Kelce said. "It was just a great play. [Wentz] scrambles out and then has the common sense to when the defender comes to him to dump it over top to Sproles, and that dude, once he gets the ball in space, it's incredibly special."

It sure was. 

First, Wentz stepped away from charging defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had gotten away from Allen Barbre. 

“I came out and saw Sproles and he just turned up the field,” Wentz said. “Anytime that you can put it in [his hands], something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it.” 

Wentz did a little more than that (see story). After escaping the sack, he rushed to his right and made a right turn. Then he parallelled the line of scrimmage, drawing linebacker Ryan Shazier toward him — and allowing Sproles to get wide open.

Whoops.

"I thought he crossed the line of scrimmage, so I ran up," Shazier said. "It was my fault."

Sproles caught the pass, snaked his way the remaining 50 yards, spinning Steelers rookie safety Sean Davis around a couple times and watching rookie corner Artie Burns flail at him helplessly right before crossing the goal line.

"When they do that, it kind of gets everyone off their job when he extends the play like that," Davis said. "Me being a deep player, I just tried to buy us some time once I saw that we got broken down and let the defense rally up, and it's just a good play [by] him."

An amazing play. It was a 73-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the third quarter, a 3rd-and-8, and put the Eagles up 20-3 (see 10 observations). It was the second-longest catch of Sproles' 12-year career and longest since 2009 while with the Chargers (an 81-yarder vs. Baltimore). It was easily the longest TD of Wentz’s career and a main reason he was able to become only the second rookie in team history to reach 300 passing yards in a game (Nick Foles is the other).

It's also the eighth longest reception by a running back in team history and longest since Herschel Walker had a 93-yarder in 1994. The 33-year-old Sproles, who was unavailable to the media after the game, also surpassed Walker and moved into 10th place in league history in all-purpose yards with 18,208.

“It was so much fun,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Those are the kinds of plays you can’t design. It’s players making plays. … Sproles did his thing and wiggled down there, and it was fun to watch.”

That’s what Agholor should have done. Just watch.

"I was trying to chase him down and almost pulled my hamstring," Agholor said. 

"You see those moves he put on them? Pffft. And DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) ran downfield — that downfield block. Think about that. We were having a lot of fun tonight man, and I'm very happy about that."

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