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Pro talk: 2017 NFL Draft energizes Philadelphia

Dakota Schlater, Practicum Writer

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Three days, seven rounds, 253 players selected. One fantastic National Football League Draft.

It’s the first time the city has hosted the draft since the original nearly eighty years ago. Philadelphia, you should be proud of yourselves. You represented it in the best way possible. Showing how energetic and passionate the city is about their Philadelphia Eagles. The bar is now set very high for each and every city with hopes of hosting the next draft.

And with the fourteenth selection in the 2017 NFL Draft… the Philadelphia Eagles select Derek Barnett, defensive end out of Tennessee. Thanks Minnesota! I’ve been getting mixed feelings from fans on Barnett. The more I read and watch on Barnett, the more I like; this is a great pick.

For one, it’s a safe pick; about as safe as a draft pick can be. Of course it was not the Eagles’ biggest need on paper, but Barnett is very healthy and can come in and contribute day one. I agree, cornerback is the biggest need, but in a zone scheme like Schwartz’s, pass rush is more important, and the Eagles struggled with it last year. Also, the free agent addition of Chris Long should help make for a talented edge rush trio.

Barnett was a prolific college football player. He broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee. When asked what Philadelphia is getting by selecting him, he said:

“You’re getting a player who knows how to stop the run and is very relentless, doesn’t give up on plays. And they’re getting a player who can get after the quarterback.”

In the press conference Saturday night after the draft, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas continued the sentiment that their vision is to build through the lines with players who have high motors, bigger than life characters and hard workers. Barnett was just the start of drafting players to contribute to the culture they’re building in Philadelphia.

In the second round, with the number forty-three pick, the Eagles select cornerback Sidney Jones out of Washington. I think I can still hear the cheers and applause when the selection was announced. There’s tremendous value in this pick. Jones wouldn’t have made it to 14 in the first round if it wasn’t for rupturing his Achilles in his pro day. When, and if, Jones gets healthy, the Eagles could have a star. At least someone who can step in day one and be a starter. Patience is needed, there’s no chance we’ll see Jones on the field before October, and there is talk about shutting him down for the entire year. Simply put, Eagles fans are going to have to trust the process.

In the third round, it was good to see the Eagles double down on cornerback, their biggest need going into draft weekend. They selected Rasul Douglas out of West Virginia. At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 210 pounds, the Eagles are getting a defensive back that has length and great ball skills. He tied for most interceptions in all of the NCAA with eight in 2016. This marks the first time the Eagles have selected two cornerbacks in the first three rounds since 2002, when they selected Lito Shepard and Sheldon Brown.

Eagles chose to go after the wide receiver position, Mack Hollins. At 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, Wentz now has another big target, after adding Alshon Jeffery in the offseason, to throw to. Mel Kiper also had Hollins as his best special teams contributor of the draft class. This could mean the end of Dorial Green-Beckham’s time in Philadelphia after a very underproductive season.

At the end of the fourth round, Eagles went offensive again, adding prolific college running back Donnel Pumphrey out of San Diego state. Pumphrey broke the record in FBS history, accumulating 6,405 yards over four years. At 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, he is definitely undersized. Douglas expressed his support of him, “He’s a little dog that thinks he’s a big dog, and plays like it.”

There is plenty of opportunity for Pumphrey to make an impact in the Eagles’ backfield. Ryan Mathews is expected to be released before the start of the season, Darren Sproles is entering his last NFL season, and he’ll join Wendell Smallwood who is entering his second season. The Eagles hope he can come in and learn from Sproles right away and make a contribution on offense.

The Eagles go back to the West Virgin- ia Mountaineers to select wide receiver, Shelton Gibson. This guy knows how to take the top off a defense. He averaged 23 yards per catch in three seasons and need a player who can stretch the field. Douglas stated after he and Gibson were drafted that:

“So, in practices we go in and we fight. Now if he catch a ball, I’m fighting him. If I get an interception, he wanted to fight me. That’s how practice went for us, very competitive.”

These two should be fun to watch come spring ball and preseason.

Also in the fifth round, the Eagles selected linebacker Nathan Gerry out of Nebraska, where he played mostly safety. It will be interesting to see how Schwartz plans to use Gerry, either in the slot lined up against tight ends or in the box to stop the run. He should get a role on special teams, but being comfortable playing multiple positions on defense could make for interesting camp battles.

The last selection the Eagles made in the draft brought defensive tackle Elijah Qualls from Washington to join his former teammate, Jones. At 6 feet 1 inches tall and 315 pounds, Qualls is a powerful, athletic interior lineman who could be the replacement for Beau Allen in due time. In a defensive scheme that relies heavily on rotation of linemen, the added depth was a must on the defensive front.

The Eagles also added a few players as undrafted free agents. Corey Clement (runing back out of Wisconsin), Tyler Orlosky (center out of West Virginia), and Cameron Johnston (punter out of Ohio State) are the highest profile guys of the players they added so far. Mel Kiper had Clement as a third or fourth round talent.

“He moves the chains, he’s got good body lean,” the analyst noted.

The 2017 NFL Draft is certainly one fans will remember for years to come. The league announced that over 250,000 people attended this year’s draft along the Ben Franklin Parkway, an all-time NFL record. This is also the first time the host city held the draft outside. Due to the enormous support from fans, both at the event and from afar, it’s safe to say Philadelphia has set the bar very high for years to come.

Dakota Schlater is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University
Pro talk: 2017 NFL Draft energizes Philadelphia