Biggest questions about each of Eagles' 8 draft picks

Biggest questions about each of Eagles' 8 draft picks

The Eagles' three-day minicamp, which kicks off Friday, will offer everyone the first chance at seeing first-round pick Derek Barnett and the rest of the rookie class. 

While there will be dozens of players on the field this weekend, just eight of them were draft picks a couple weeks ago. 

Here is the biggest question about each of those draft picks. 

DE Derek Barnett (1st round): Will his production translate to the NFL? 
Barnett was a great college player. No question about it. This is likely the thousandth time you've heard about it, but his 33 collegiate sacks toppled a long-standing sack record at Tennessee held by Reggie White. And Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas compared Barnett to Terrell Suggs. Reggie White and Terrell Suggs ... not bad company. 

There's no questioning Barnett's production in college, but will that translate into the NFL? The big knock against Barnett is that he's not the most athletic prospect. That's a thought that was challenged by his college position coach (see story). The things Barnett has going for him are his motor, effort and technique. Those qualities make it seem likely he'll be able to transition into the NFL, but only time will tell. 

CB Sidney Jones (2nd round): When will he be healthy? 
Before the Eagles took Jones with the 43rd pick, the young corner declared he'd be back from his Achilles injury this season. 

But when he talked after the Eagles drafted him, his tone had changed considerably. He kept in line with what the Eagles said, that they weren't going to rush to get him back on the field, that they wanted him to fully heal. 

So the big question revolves around when he'll actually be ready to play. It won't be at the start of the season, but will he be able to play at all as a rookie? 

CB Rasul Douglas (3rd round): Is he ready to start this year? 
The Eagles took Douglas, from West Virginia, with the 99th overall pick. And the rookie walks into a secondary room desperately needing cornerbacks. With just Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks and Patrick Robinson really blocking his way, Douglas has a chance to not just play as a rookie but play a major role. 

Is he ready for that? It's a fair question. He had a great 2016, with eight interceptions, but his speed has been questioned. The Eagles say his length helps make up for that lack of speed, but we won't know that until he steps on the field. It's very possible Douglas is the most important draft pick for the 2016 season because the position he plays is one of need for the Birds. 

WR Mack Hollins (4th round): Will he develop into a real receiver? 
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Hollins will, at the very least, be a very good special teams player. In fact, at North Carolina, he played on all four teams units. And that's something the Eagles have lacked, a receiver with the ability to play special teams. They haven't had that since Seyi Ajirotutu was on the team. Hopefully, Hollins will become that, plus a weapon as a receiver. 

At UNC, Hollins was known for his ball-tracking and big-play ability. He set the UNC career record for yards per reception (20.6) and led the nation as a junior (24.8). But in college, he never caught more than 35 passes in a season, being used as a specialty player. He has the tools to be more, but it's all just untapped potential now. 

RB Donnel Pumphrey (4th round): What will his role be? 
The long-term question about Pumphrey will probably revolve around his size and whether or not his small body will hold up in the NFL. But for now, it's more intriguing to wonder how the Eagles will use him in their offense. In the college game, Pumphrey would run between the tackles, but it doesn't seem likely that will be his primary role with the Eagles. 

With the Eagles, his big role might actually be as a receiver both out of the backfield and in the slot. The Eagles might even get him out wide on occasion. Having Pumphrey and Darren Sproles on the same team might give us a sense of Doug Pederson's creativity. 

WR Shelton Gibson (5th round): How fast is he? 
At the combine, Gibson ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash. That didn't check out with his game tape, which says Gibson is an absolute burner. His pro day 40-time was much better, with him being clocked at a 4.39. That would have been the eighth-fastest time overall at the combine this year. 

It's probably safer to say that Gibson's speed is somewhere between that 4.39 and 4.50. It shouldn't take long to see that speed in person. 

LB Nathan Gerry (5th round): Can he play linebacker? 
This question was a pretty easy one. Gerry is making the switch from safety at Nebraska to linebacker with the Eagles. During his meeting with the Birds, he talked to defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and linebackers coach Ken Flajole. 

Gerry said the biggest part of the transition will be processing information quicker from the linebacker spot, which is obviously closer to the line of scrimmage. He thinks the transition will go smoothly, but there might be some bumps along the way. He'll be a special teams player, but will he also be an adequate backup 'backer? 

DT Elijah Qualls (6th round): Was he a steal? 
The pick of Qualls (out of Washington) was met with a lot of praise and plenty of folks calling him a steal. Qualls (6-2, 293) wasn't known as a pass-rushing interior lineman, but he might have that ability. 

And the Eagles need the depth at DT. After Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the Eagles have an injured Beau Allen (pec) and last year's undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao. Qualls should be able to push for a backup role and maybe even playing time. 

What the 2017 NFL draft means for 10 Eagles already on roster

What the 2017 NFL draft means for 10 Eagles already on roster

The Eagles walked away with eight new players from the 2017 draft. 

It's unclear how many of the eight will have an impact in their rookie seasons, but it seems likely most of the picks will make the 53-man roster before the regular season. 

Last year, five of their eight picks made the roster, two players landed on IR and just one was cut. 

Obviously, new players coming into the organization could be bad news for some guys already here. 

So here are five players who were winners during the draft and five who were losers. 

Losers 

Dorial Green-Beckham
When the Eagles drafted 5-foot-8 running back Donnel Pumphrey, VP of player personnel Joe Douglas said he was "a little dog that thinks he's a big dog." 

Well, DGB is a big dog that plays like a little dog. 

At 6-5, 237, Green-Beckham ought to be able to use his body and become a true big-time target for Carson Wentz, but that didn't happen in 2016. DGB caught 36 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns. He was going to have to fight to make the roster before the draft. Now? Things are even tougher. 

The Eagles used a fourth-round and a fifth-round pick on receivers. And that fourth-rounder, Mack Hollins, seems to be a DGB replacement. Hollins is 6-4, 221 pounds and is a deep threat. He averaged 20.6 yards per catch in college. No, he doesn't have the same straight line speed as Beckham, who amazingly ran a 4.49 a couple years ago, but he's going to have a good chance to supplant him, especially because he plays on special teams. DGB does not. 

Nelson Agholor
In addition to Hollins, the Eagles also added Shelton Gibson from West Virginia. 

So, assuming Jordan Matthews is still on the team, the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Matthews, Hollins, Gibson, DGB and Agholor all fighting for roster spots. Last year, the Eagles kept five receivers, but keeping six isn't out of the question. 

The tricky part with Agholor is his contract. It would actually cost the Eagles $2.83 million more in cap space to cut him this season and they're up against it right now. But if they make some moves, enough to free up space, maybe they think about eating the cap hit and moving on. 

Vinny Curry 
It's hard to believe Curry is going to be 29 when the season starts. He was handed that big contract before the 2016 season, but was a major disappointment. 

And, now, the Eagles might have drafted his replacement. 

Derek Barnett is just 20 years old and, as the 14th pick, is going to be given every opportunity to fight for playing time as a rookie. Now, Curry is going to be on the team in 2017; it would just be way too expensive to cut him. But after this season, cutting Curry isn't out of the question. 

Beau Allen 
Allen is already trying to recover from a torn pec and he might have watched his eventual replacement get drafted on Day 3 of the draft. Sure, Elijah Qualls was just a sixth-round pick, but most believe he should have gone higher and has some real upside. A few years ago, Allen was actually a seventh-rounder who grew into a backup role. 

The Eagles had been working with Allen on a contract extension before the injury, but now, maybe there's a chance they take a longer look at the rookie. Allen is a really solid backup, but maybe the Eagles can find someone to fill the role for cheaper. 

The big question at defensive tackle still surrounds Tim Jernigan. Will the Eagles be able to re-sign him? 

Marcus Smith 
While Curry's long-term future might be in question because of Barnett, Smith's short-term future is up in the air as well. Barnett is just 20 years old, but seems ready to play a role on defense, which means taking snaps away from others.  

Smith played just 21 percent of snaps last year as the fourth option. Now, he's fifth, behind Brandon Graham, Curry, Chris Long and Barnett. Last year, Steven Means, the fifth option, played just 36 total snaps (four percent). 

It wasn't surprising the Eagles won't pick up Smith's option for the 2018 season. The bigger question is if he sticks around for 2017. Even if he does, he'll probably be watching a lot. 

Winners

Wendell Smallwood
Sure, the Eagles drafted Pumphrey in the fourth round, but they didn't take a bell cow back to handle the bulk of the workload. That means Smallwood will still have a great chance to have a huge role. 

"I think Wendell has a role on this football team," Doug Pederson said. "It's something that we saw glimpses of last season when he had a chance to play, and we just expect him to come in, compete, work and put himself in a position to help us again this year."

Ryan Mathews is still on the roster, but it seems pretty obvious he won't be with the team next year. That leaves Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Pumphrey, Byron Marshall and Terrell Watson on the roster. Of that group, Smallwood seems to be the current favorite to carry the bulk of the load. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai 
Pretty much everyone said this was a weak draft class in terms of offensive linemen and the Eagles clearly felt that way. They left without drafting a single offensive linemen a year after talking about how important it was to draft O-linemen. 

That means Vaitai is still the team's top backup tackle. If anything were to happen to Jason Peters or Lane Johnson, he'd be the next guy in. And he can try to start proving he's capable of being the next right tackle once Johnson moves to the left. 

Patrick Robinson 
Jalen Mills is going to play a big role for the Eagles in 2017. The team likes him and thinks he has the potential to be a good starter in the league. Robinson is a bit of a wild card. The Eagles signed the former first-round pick to a prove-it deal this offseason and it looks like he'll get the chance. 

While the Eagles drafted two corners in the top three rounds, Sidney Jones obviously won't be a factor early because of that Achilles injury. So even if Rasul Douglas is able to earn a starting job, which isn't a given, Robinson can earn plenty of playing time. 

Trey Burton 
Burton is back with the Eagles on a one-year deal after being a restricted free agent. The team previously tried to sign him to a long-term deal last year, but couldn't get anything worked out. The Eagles love Burton, but this was an extremely talented and deep tight end class. 

And they didn't take one. 

So as long as Burton continues to progress, he and the Eagles will try to work on coming to an agreement on a long-term contract. 

Nigel Bradham 
The Eagles drafted just one linebacker this year, taking Nate Gerry in the fifth round. But Gerry certainly isn't ready to jump in and play right away as he makes the transition from safety to LB. 

Bradham is entering a contract year and played really well next to Jordan Hicks in 2016. The team could have drafted his replacement in Reuben Foster or others and it didn't. 

Drew Pearson got Roger Goodell's blessing before rant at draft

Drew Pearson got Roger Goodell's blessing before rant at draft

Drew Pearson took to the stage at the 2017 NFL draft and delivered one of the moments of the event with his pro-Cowboys, anti-Philadelphia rant that saw him showered with boos. As it turns out, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell actually gave Pearson his blessing before it happened.

On Pro Football Talk Live today, Pearson said he ran into Goodell backstage and ran the idea by him before he went to make the selection.

“I’m thinking he might say, 'Oh, no, don’t say anything like that, that might get them too fired up, might cause a riot out there in that crowd,'" Pearson told PFT Live. "But to my surprise, he encouraged me to say that and to get the crowd even more riled up." 

As a bonus, Pearson said the NFL also provided him with added security just in case.

By every account, the city of Philadelphia did itself proud this past weekend as the host of the NFL draft. The reactions to both Goodell and Pearson from those in attendance added to the atmosphere and made the experience what it was. Should the draft return next year, we’re looking forward to seeing what will happen with a year under our belts.