The Eagles need some help on offense, mainly the line. Are there some local prospects who could be draft targets?
Last time out I covered some local defensive prospects that the Eagles might like. Now we switch to the offensive side of the ball. The biggest name is not from Penn State or an FBS school. We actually start with Villanova left tackle Ben Ijalana.
Ijalana might not play at a elite football school, but NFL scouts have known about him for a while. He is a four-year starter. He's got more than 50 starts under his belt. That is great experience. He has okay size at 6-4, 317 . Ijalana has long arms and big hands. Both traits add to his value. NFL teams want players with long reach so that they can get their hands on the opponent quicker than he can get to them. Hand size gives the player a better chance to lock on and control his target.
Set the numbers and measurables aside and Ijalana remains an outstanding prospect. He is a flat out good football player. He can run and pass block. Ijalana has good feet and can play tackle in the NFL. I'm not sure that all 32 teams would want him at left tackle, but he can play on the edge. He moves well enough to pass protect. He looks natural with his kick slide or when he rides defenders wide of the quarterback. Ijalana isn't a finesse, athletic blocker. He likes run plays where he can fire off the ball and get after defenders. He doesn't just engage and release. Ijalana works hard to sustain his blocks, whether he's on a defensive end or linebacker. He wants to keep his guy blocked. That toughness and attitude is one of the reasons I think he could also slide inside to guard and play well there.
One thing hurting Ijalana is that he's dealing with a sports hernia injury. The postseason is when a lot of small school players build some momentum. They get a chance to shine along side big name prospects at the Senior Bowl and/or Combine. Ijalana isn't healthy and couldn't participate in either event. That isn't a negative against him, but it meant that he couldn't raise his value with strong performances. At this point he looks like a second round player. If there is a run on tackles in the late first round he could be one of the very first picks in the second.
The Eagles can't go for him with pick 23. That's too early. They could move back and go for him or they could move up in the second round. There is also the possibility that a pick could come in the Kolb trade that would put the Eagles in position to take Ijalana. He would project to right guard or tackle initially. He could be a possible replacement for Jason Peters on the left side in a few years. I'm sure the Eagles have interest in Ijalana. Good prospect.
Next up is a Penn State player, guard Stefen Wisniewski. He is one of the top interior linemen in the draft. Wisniewski has pretty good size at 6-3, 313. He is a three-year starter. He spent two years at guard and one at center. That versatility should help him. Wisniewski isn't flashy. He's not some great athlete. He isn't huge. He's not physically dominant. Wisniewski is just a guy that gets the job done. Watch him and you see a classic interior lineman. He comes off the ball well. He gets into his targets and he is going to battle until the whistle blows. He's strong, nasty, and tough when he's in a tight space. You've heard Mike Mayock refer to "phone booth players". That's Wisniewski. Put him in a confined area and he'll out-tough his opponent.
Wisniewski can play guard or center in the NFL. He uses his hands well. He keeps his feet under him, which can be critical when trying to anchor against big defensive linemen. Some guys get out over their feet and defenders can push them around with ease. Blockers must have good balance to play strong. Wisniewski can get out to the second level and block linebackers. If the target is right in front of him, he's fine. If the linebacker is off to the right or left, Wisniewski is less effective. He's not as good when adjusting on the move out in space. Wisniewski is a good pass blocker. His footwork and balance really serves him well. He moves well laterally and is effective on reach blocks.
Wisniewski is a second round prospect. The Eagles under Juan Castillo would have had no interest in him. They believed in taking big offensive tackles and sliding them into guard. Howard Mudd is going to change that. A pure interior blocker like Wisniewski is now on the Eagles radar. If he is on the board at pick 54, the Eagles could go for him. He would offer depth at center and right guard. Wisniewski isn't a project. He's experienced and has faced plenty of big competition. Just this year he held his own in the Big Ten and played well against Florida and Alabama. Wisniewski might be able to help as a rookie. I don't know that he will last to the Eagles pick and I don't see him as being special enough that you move up to get him.
The next player to talk about is another offensive lineman. Lehigh's Will Rackley is a player that was very under the radar during the season. He used the postseason to greatly help his cause. Rackley was a four-year starter and won his share of accolades. That helped get him an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. It was there that Rackley showed he was a legitimate NFL prospect. Rackley played left tackle for Lehigh, but doesn't project there in the pros. At the Shrine Game he played guard and right tackle. Rackley had a terrific week of practice and was solid in the game.
People went back and started studying his college tape. Suddenly you have a mid-round pick from out of nowhere. Rackley isn't athletic enough to play tackle in the NFL. He struggled in pass protection when I watched his game against Drake. They rush the passer well and he was fighting like mad to keep his guy off the quarterback. Against Lafayette, Rackley was terrific in pass pro. The problem is that that was against a team with no pro prospects on the defensive line. Rackley is a very good run blocker. He fires off the ball and really gets after it. He is very good at down blocks on the defensive tackle, but also good at getting to the second level and taking on linebackers. Rackley uses his hands very well. He gets them on a defender and then works to sustain the block.
Rackley's size (6-3, 309), lack of pure athleticism, and skill set will push him to the inside, but I think he can be a good guard or center in the NFL. I think the Eagles will have some interest. He's got the build that Mudd seems to like in his guards. Mudd had success with guys coming from smaller schools while with the Colts. Those prospects tend to be overachiever types who are more coachable and have a chip on their shoulder. Rackley is probably a third round pick and could be an Eagles target, depending on what happened in the first couple of rounds.
Finally we get to a skill player, quarterback Pat Devlin from Delaware. He initially committed to Miami, but then changed his mind (based on circumstances) and went to Penn State. Devlin didn't get the starting gig after a couple of years so he decided the best thing to do was to transfer to Delaware and get on the field. Smart move. Devlin was a terrific player for the Blue Hens. He had personal success and the team had success. They came very close to winning a national title in 2010. They actually led the game late, but couldn't hold on.
Devlin in scouting terms is "just a guy". He has okay size. Okay athlete. Okay arm. Okay skills. And so on. You don't watch him play and think "that guy stinks" or anything close to it. The problem is that he fails to jump out at you. He does have good intangibles, and that is crucial at quarterback. I don't see him ever as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he could develop into a good backup. I don't think the Eagles will target him. This is a very weak group of quarterbacks. Devlin might go higher than he should based on that. If he does slide down to the late rounds, it is possible the Eagles could take him. You never know what quarterbacks Andy Reid will like. Devlin isn't as good a prospect as Mike Kafka was, so he'd be coming to Philly as the fourth quarterback or possibly a practice squad candidate. That alone should tell you that he's not likely to be an Eagle.
The Eagles need help at running back. Could they have interest in Evan Royster from Penn State? Maybe, but not likely. Royster is a very good pass catcher and that will intrigue Reid. Royster lacks the athletic ability that Reid normally prefers in his runners. That hurts him. If Royster goes undrafted, which is possible, the Eagles could look into signing him as a UDFA. I think the struggles of Tony Hunt and some seemingly similar personality traits in Royster really hurt his NFL chances.
Another Penn State player who could fascinate Reid is Brett Brackett. At his Pro Day, Brackett measured in at 6-6, 248. He played wide receiver at PSU. That is a tight end build. Or a huge receiver. Brackett did post good numbers in his workout. In the past Reid took chances on some big receivers who never panned out. I doubt the Eagles go for Brackett late in the draft, but Reid has taken some oddball projects, most notably Nate Ilaoa. Remember him? He was a fullback from Hawaii who thought he was Barry Sanders. Great Youtube video clips, but just not an NFL prospect.