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The Eagles finally drafted a cornerback, taking Texas Tech’s Zech McPhearson Saturday with their fourth-round pick, No. 123 overall.
McPhearson, who stands 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, began his career at Penn State and played sparingly in 2017 and 2018 before transferring to Texas Tech, where he blossomed into a starter in 2019.
He was a 1st-team all-Big 12 Conference this past season after recording four interceptions - second-most in the conference - along with 53 tackles and six pass knockdowns in 10 games.
The Eagles went into the draft with cornerback as their biggest need, and McPhearson joins a cornerback room with Darius Slay and a whole bunch of question marks.
“I don’t really constrain myself to just one thing,” he said. “I take pride in being versatile and being able to do multiple things on the field, whether it’s inside, outside or even back at safety. … I’d definitely say I’m a savvy, athletic defensive back who’s willing to tackle and make plays on the ball.”
Considering the current state of the Eagles' cornerback position, McPhearson will have the opportunity to earn reps right from the start. That's fine with him.
“I’m ready for it," he said. "You’ve got to earn your stripes on special teams as well. I’m ready for whatever the challenge is. I’m ready to be an asset for this team."
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah had McPhearson rated as his 85th-best prospect in this year’s draft, and he was the last cornerback on Jeremiah’s top-100 players. He was the 18th cornerback taken.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about McPhearson:
“McPhearson plays the position with good physicality in coverage, at the catch point and when it's time to do his part in run support. His ball skills are on point and he does a good job of maintaining positioning once he's there, but he has some issues anticipating route breaks and maintaining feel for the pattern from trail position in man coverage. He has decent play speed, but appears to lack the ups for jump-ball battles. He has the feet and competitiveness to potentially back up outside or inside and should compete for special teams reps early on.”
McPhearson should get an opportunity to get on the field right away, although it might be a lot to ask a rookie fourth-round pick to contribute meaningful reps at outside corner, where the Eagles have a pressing need.
With Slay at one outside corner spot, there is no clear favorite at CB2. Avonte Maddox, a fourth-round pick three years ago, was the opening-day starter last year, but he’s dealt with injuries and inconsistent play and isn’t signed beyond 2021.
Other than Slay, Maddox and McPhearson, the Eagles’ cornerback room right now is made up of people like Jameson Houston, Michael Jacquet and Kevon Seymour.
McPhearson comes from an incredibly athletic family.
His father, Gerrick Sr., played football at Boston College with Doug Flutie and was in camp with the Patriots. Older brother Gerrick Jr., played at Maryland and was on the Giants’ practice squad in 2006. Two other brothers, Derrick and Matthew, played pro baseball, Derrick in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization and Matthew in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. Their mom, Kim, played in the National Women’s Football League.
“It was fun,” he said. “Me being the youngest boy, it wasn’t so fun all the time. I was trying to hang with the big guys and it didn’t work out too well, but growing up with all these older siblings and being in a house full of athletes it can get real competitive. Competitive with everything. I really enjoyed it.”
And who's the best athlete in the family out of the seven brothers and mom and dad?
“I’m going to have to say me," he said.
The fourth round has long been a vast wasteland for the Eagles.
None of their last 19 fourth-round picks has started as many as 30 games in an Eagles uniform, and their last consistent contributor that they selected in the fourth round was wide receiver Jason Avant in 2006. Their last fourth-round Pro Bowler was linebacker William Thomas, drafted 30 years ago.
Their last 15 fourth-round picks going back to 2010 have started a total of 64 games in an Eagles uniform, and only Maddox (23) and Casey Matthews (15) have started more than six.
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