Eagles mailbag: Finding athletic freaks for the Eagles in the draft

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Eagles mailbag: Finding athletic freaks for the Eagles in the draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s draft week!

But before we get there, let’s answer the rest of your mailbag questions.

We answered many of them in Part 1 and Part 2 over the weekend. But now let’s get to a few more:

This is a fun question. The two guys near the top of the draft who are getting so much attention for their athleticism are both from Georgia: Travon Walker and Jordan Davis. But there will be plenty of Day 2 players who can be considered athletic freaks. Here are a few who come to mind:

CB Tariq Woolen: The UTSA corner is pretty raw but someone is going to get a pretty wild athlete. The 6-4, 205-pound cornerback absolutely destroyed the pre-draft process. At the combine he ran a 4.26 and had a 42-inch vertical jump. Then at his pro day he had a 10-11 broad jump and a 7.10 on the 3-cone. At the Senior Bowl, he was clocked at 22.45 mph, the fastest recorded time ever in Mobile. He needs refinement but the physical tools are overwhelming:

LB Channing Tindall: He wasn’t even a starter at Georgia, but Tindall is a really intriguing prospect. Stuck behind Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker, Tindall was a rotational player for the Bulldogs but will still be a Day 2 pick with a ton of upside. No, he doesn’t have the instincts of Dean, but he has the athleticism to potentially make up for it in the long run. Tindall (6-1, 230) is undersized but ran a 4.47 at the combine and had jumps of 42 inches and 10-9.

TE Jelani Woods: The former Oklahoma State tight end transferred to Virginia for the 2021 season after initially entering college as a QB. Now, the 6-7, 253-pound Woods has turned himself into a potential Day 2 pick. He ran a 4.61 at the combine and then had a really impressive performance at his pro day, jumping 37 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and 10-9 in the broad. He also ran a ridiculous 6.96 in the 3-cone. All those pro day results would have been tops for tight ends at the combine.

WR Christian Watson: Initially thought to be a mid-round pick, the NDSU receiver had a great showing at the Senior Bowl and then followed it up with an incredible performance at the combine. He has a shot at being a late first-round pick but will definitely be a Day 2 pick. Watson (6-4, 208) ran a 4.36 with a vert of 38 1/2, a broad of 11-4 in Indy and then had a sub-7-second 3-cone time at his pro day. He really crushed it.

It’s a fair question. Leal was thought to be a first-rounder — a high first-round pick — not that long ago. Now, he’s expected to be a Day 2 guy. Leal (6-3, 283) didn’t really live up to the hype but still put up great numbers in 2021 with 8 1/2 sacks and 12 1/2 TFLs for the Aggies. And he’s still going to be a second- or third-round guy. For the Eagles, he’d be a 3-technique with the ability to bounce outside at times, much like how they used Milton Williams last season. If he somehow lasts into the third round, he could be a great value pick.

The guy I’ve heard about is Marcel Dabo from Germany. He’s a 6-1, 200-pound cornerback who was the defensive rookie of the year and an All-Star in the European League of Football last season. Back in October, Dabo had a really impressive performance at the international combine. He ran a 4.52 at the combine, which was slower than his recorded time in the 4.4s earlier last year. But he also had a 39-inch vertical, a broad of 11-feet and put up 19 reps on the bench. His vertical would have been tied for third at the real combine among corners, his broad would have been tied for first and his performance on the bench would have put him in first by himself.

I haven’t seen much (or any) of the European league Dabo comes from, but athleticism like that is worth developing if he has some natural instincts in his body. If he end sup being a solid special teamer, he might be worth a very late-round pick or a call as a priority free agent.

If you don’t remember this, in the third round last year, veteran front office member Tom Donahoe was unhappy when the Eagles drafted Milton Williams in the third round last year. Not because he didn’t like Milton Williams but because he preferred Alim McNeill from NC State. The Eagles had the No. 70 pick and traded down three spots. Their thinking, as Howie Roseman explained later, was that they like McNeill and Williams and were happy to get either, so they picked up a sixth-round pick (No. 191, which turned into Tarron Jackson) to make the move. The Eagles got Williams and Donahoe was not pleased.

While both are technically defensive tackles, Williams and McNeill are very different players. Williams is a get-up-the-field 3-technique, while McNeil is a bigger nose tackle. So keep that in mind while looking at their rookie stats:

Milton Williams: 17 games, 2 starts, 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 TFLs, 6 QB hits

Alim McNeill: 17 games, 6 starts, 39 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs, 3 QB hits

Honestly, both of them had pretty solid rookie seasons playing very different roles for their respective defenses. But when looking at Williams, you also have to remember that Jackson played in 17 games with 18 tackles, 1 sack and a couple TFLs too. Still, it’s too early to say whether or not the Eagles made the correct decision.

It feels like a long shot but it would be a great story if he does. I can’t wait to see him at training camp; I’ll tell you that much. Allen is a world-class hurdler but he hasn’t played competitive football since 2016. That’s an eternity. The Eagles will likely keep just five or six receivers. We know DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal are on the team. That leaves Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, John Hightower and Deon Cain as the other receivers. But it also seems pretty likely they’ll draft at least one receiver. So the numbers are stacked against Allen, who is already 27. But I honestly don’t know. It’s impossible for me to know. No one has seen this guy play football in six years. Can’t wait to find out.