The 2016 NFL Draft is in the books and the Philadelphia Eagles came away with a class full of less than familiar names, but received a ton of talent that fit right into their schemes. The only reasons I would look at a draft pick at this point at, and view as a poor selection is if the player is a questionable scheme fit or lacks the physical ability necessary to make it in this league.
For the Eagles I saw them make 7 total picks I felt both fit their scheme and had the physical ability to make their roster this season. There is one pick I have some concerns about, but I’ll get to that in a second.
Overall this looks like a good draft class on paper. You never really know until you get them on the football field, but the Eagles added depth on their offensive line, secondary, added a dynamic pass rusher and hopefully found their franchise quarterback.
We also now have a better idea of how this current power structure will draft down the road. Offensive line and secondary appears to be a huge priority while running back may not be a position they view as an early round pick.
Here is my complete breakdown of the Philadelphia Eagles 2016 NFL Draft Class:
First Round, 2nd Overall: Carson Wentz QB/North Dakota State- Trading up and losing future draft picks is a risky move and it becomes an even bigger risk when it’s a quarterback. Typically head coaches and GMs don’t survive these moves if it doesn’t pan out.
This is where personality and scheme fit are so important. Quarterbacks have up and down like any other position, but their ups and downs are obvious to everyone and will be brought to their attention by the media every single week. Ryan Leaf couldn’t handle that. Carson Wentz on the other hand seems like the guy who is criticizing himself to death before the media gets their shot. I don’t see the pressures of playing for a bigger market tearing him down.
Outside of just personality, I like the fit with Wentz in a west coast offense that will be similar to what he ran in college where he was in charge of all the pre-snap adjustments. He has the arm strength to attack vertically like offensive coordinator Frank Reich wants to and he has the consistent ball placement to throw a high completion percentage on screens and intermediate routes.
He also has outstanding mechanics and footwork for a quarterback at this point in his career. He isn’t the two year project scouts think he is. He should start a handful of games this season with or without Sam Bradford on the roster.
Third Round, 79th Overall: Isaac Seumalo OG/Oregon State- The Eagles brought in free agent Brandon Brooks to add some much needed power in their running game at right guard. Seumalo was brought in to be that athletic, pulling left guard. This is what Pederson had Jeff Allen do in Kansas City and Seumalo will be developed very similar to Allen.
Seumalo, like Allen, is 6’4, over 300 pounds and played a lot of tackle in college. Where they differ is how much more athletic Seumalo is. He ran a 7.40 3-cone and a 4.52 short shuttle run at the combine which are both sensational times for a guard.
As a run blocker he is ready to go right now. Pass protection is the area where he needs to work on. He played in an offense that was designed to get the ball out quickly so you don’t see him pass protecting for very long very often. When you did, he really struggled with leverage on the interior. It’s all a technique issue for him so if he can fix those issues I think he starts at left guard from day one.
5th Round, 153rd Overall: Wendell Smallwood RB/West Virginia- Two things that came to mine with this pick. First, the Eagles want speed and versatility at running back. Second, they don’t see value in taking a running back early. In the third round they had Kenneth Dixon, Paul Perkins, C.J. Prosise and Devontae Booker all available and all of those players but Prosise were available in the 4th round. The Eagles passed on a running back in the third and elected not to trade up in the 4th. That tells us they would rather take a more specific scheme fit later on in the draft then take someone earlier.
With Smallwood, the Eagles get a back with a ton of speed and quickness and who can line up out wide or in the slot as a receiver. He fits in so well because of his versatility as a receiver, but also because of how Pederson utilized both his power and athletic pulling guards in Kansas City. The offense runs best with a back who can hit the hole in a hurry and make defenders miss in the second level. This is why the Eagles spent a 5th round pick on Smallwood as opposed to spending a third round pick on Kenneth Dixon, a better overall pick, but maybe not the scheme fit they were looking for. Plus the value here is clearly better.
5th Round, 164th Overall: Halapoulivaati Vaitai OT/TCU- This is the one pick I didn’t like from this draft class. He’s a 5th round selection, so I don’t expect this pick to always turn into something long-term, but I have a lot of issues with Vaitai. First off, he isn’t a great athlete at all. He’s got really good size at 6’6, 320 pounds with 34 1/4 inch arms, but he struggled with speed rushers at the collegiate level.
In terms of power he certainly has it, but his pad level has to improve. He plays way too high and really struggles with the bull rush at this point. He has to fix his entire technique before he can be that power blocker at right guard or tackle. I trust offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland a lot more than I trust my evaluations on raw offensive linemen, but this isn’t a pick I have high hopes for.
6th Round, 196th Overall: Blake Countess CB/Auburn- I didn’t have to do a ton of tape study being a lifelong Michigan fan who is very familiar with Countess. First off, he will compete for snaps as a slot corner. He doesn’t have the size to be an outside corner, but I love him in the slot. He ran a 4.53 40 at this pro day, but where he really impressed was with his 6.82 3-cone time.
In the slot it’s all about quickness and ball skills and Countess grades well in both areas. He will be competing with JaCorey Shepherd, Nolan Carroll(if he doesn’t win outside CB spot), Randall Evans, Jaylen Watkins, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills for that nickel slot corner role. I like his chances the best, but that’s a ton of depth at corner to contend with.
7th Round, 233rd Overall: Jalen Mills DB/LSU- This is a huge risk/lower reward draft pick. If Mills wasn’t the character risk that he is, he probably would have been a first or second round pick. He has good speed, outstanding quickness, is a good athlete and can play any defensive back position.
It’s not that he can play different spots in the back end, he does them all really well. He tackles well in the open field, can cover any position and as a press corner his technique is better than anyone in this class outside of maybe Vernon Hargraeves.
7th Round, 240th Overall: Alex McCalister DE/Florida- My favorite pick of the draft. McCalister is a player I was banging the table for since late February. I stumped upon on watching Johnathan Bullard. McCalister kept flying around the edge which forced the quarterback to step up into the pocket, which created a lot of opportunities for Bullard.
McCalister is raw, but his athletic skill set is rare. He’s 6’6 with 36 inch arms. He is an elite athletic with a natural bend few pass rushers have. In the wide-9 sets he will force the quarterback to step up into the pocket, making life much easier for defensive tackles like Fletcher Cox.
Right now he is a sub-package defensive end who will be a valuable piece on third down and could eventually develop into a every down player in a couple years if he gets his weight closer to the 260 range(239 right now).
7th Round, 251st Overall: Joe Walker LB/Oregon- Walker is an ideal linebacker in space. He change directions seamlessly and has outstanding speed from someone over 230 pounds. He’s raw and not a great shedding linebacker at this stage, but neither was Jordan Hicks when he came out. The Eagles took Walker in the draft because he rare athleticism for the position and has the potential to be a very good WILL or MIKE linebacker in Schwartz’s scheme.
The Eagles don’t have great linebacker depth behind their three starters, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. The backups right now are Najee Goode and most likely Walker. All but Bradham and Walker had significant injury history. This is a great situation for Walker to fall into. If he’s in shape and stays healthy he will make this roster.