The reason the Eagles went from a 7-9 team to a franchise-tying-best 13-3 record was due in large part to their front office evaluating and adding the right personnel over the last two seasons. After Chip Kelly’s last year, blowing it up seemed like the most miserable thing that could happen, yet it was a blessing in disguise that led to a franchise quarterback who players around the league what to work with (i.e. Alshon Jeffery). With one regular season down, let’s take a look at all the moves Joe Douglas and company made in his first year as President of Player Personnel.
1st round (pick 14) Derek Barnett: A
Barnett developed quickly and made quite a few impactful plays in a deep defensive rotation. His abilities resemble that of a top-15 draft pick and the future is bright for Barnett. His biggest question moving forward is how much a role he will obtain with Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and possibly returning Chris Long at defensive end.
2nd round (pick 43) Sidney Jones: C-
Seeing Sidney Jones make his NFL debut this season was quite a surprise. The young man has worked his butt off rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon to play in 2017. This grade can change very quickly when Jones is on the field, but given the fact that the second-round pick did not attribute to the success of the team this year, what kind of grade can you really give him other than average and really an incomplete until further notice.
3rd round (pick 99) Rasul Douglas: B+
Douglas filled in nicely when Ronald Darby went down in the first quarter of the season opener. Thrust into a starting position where rookie cornerbacks typically take half a season to figure out the NFL, Rasul held his own against some tough talent. Although he has found his way back to a backup role, Douglas contributed exactly how a 3rd round pick should. It is possible he becomes Malcolm Jenkins‘ understudy at safety as the corner positions are crowded.
4th round (pick 118) Mack Hollins: B-
Hollins began his season with an incredible streak of 11 receptions on 11 targets for 187 yards and a TD. The only problem with Hollins is his inconsistency this season in part to a lack of snaps. As a fourth-round pick, Hollins looks like a nice mid-round find for the Eagles moving forward.
4th round (pick 132) Donnell Pumphrey: F
For a player who holds the NCAA rushing title, Pumphrey was a complete failure in 2017. The Eagles traded up to select Pumphrey in the 4th round hoping he would become best friends with long-time swiss army knife Darren Sproles. Pumphrey struggled to pick up the offense in training camp and eventually landed on the IR list with a mysterious injury. With no snaps recorded in 2017, this looks like the worst move of the year for the front office.
5th round (pick 166) Shelton Gibson: D-
Gibson started off well in training camp make a little bit a noise with the second and third string teams before quickly falling off. Gibson is more of a project who could possibly make the roster as a depth player if he can stand out on special teams. Gibson did make his debut in week 17 with a few catches making this pick something other than another complete failure.
5th round (pick 184) Nate Gerry: D+
Gerry is also a project. The Eagles decided to immediately switch Gerry to linebacker from the safety position he played at Nebraska. this 5th round pick suited up for 10 games this season, contributing mostly on special teams. Even though he finished with only 5 combined tackles, Gerry could replace someone like Joe Walker next season.
6th round (pick 214) Elijah Qualls: D-
Qualls pretty much met expectations this season. Not much playing time was awarded to him on a deep offensive line and he didn’t do much with his opportunities.
Undrafted Corey Clement: B+
What a find for the Eagles in 2017. Clement quickly established his dominance over Wendell Smallwood and became apart of a solid 3-headed monster once Darren Sproles went down and Jay Ajayi was acquired. Clement finished the season with 74 attempts, 321 yards (4.3per carry) and an impressive 6 combined touchdowns in 16 games. Props to the front office for jumping on this highly regarded prospect quickly after the draft concluded.
Let’s not forget about the work done before the draft too. Douglas assisted in bringing players like Timmy Jernigan, Jay Ajayi, and other veterans in before and during the season. Lets quickly take a look at a few:
Alshon Jeffery: B+, Torrey Smith: C-
Jeffrey provided some stability to an Eagles wide receiving core that badly needed a big target for Carson Wentz. This acquisition opened up the field for Agholor and Ertz who put up career numbers. Still, Jeffrey didn’t have the volume of catches some expected and wasn’t exactly the “throw it up and get it” receiver in the red zone. All in all, great start to his Eagles tenure.
While Smith provided a few deep ball plays and really did stretch the field with his speed for others underneath, countless frustrating drops showed why the Eagles only guaranteed him one year. just two touchdowns on the season, but still averaging 12 yards per reception, Smith was pretty much what he was expected to be…a stop gap.
LeGarrette Blount: B, Jay Ajayi: A-
Signing LeGarrette Blount made sense in the beginning of the year when the depth chart was very questionable. Blount led the way once Sproles got injured and Smallwood proved he can not be relied on. Blount was the veteran leadership the backfield needed this season.
Adding Jay Ajayi was a fantastic move on the Eagles part. He provides stability for the rest of this season and next as he is still under his rookie contract. Next season he will take over as the lead back and looked better and better each week in the new system. A few fumbles aside, Ajayi averaged 6.4 yards per carry over his 7 games with the Eagles.
Timmy Jernigan: A+
giving up a 3rd round pick for Timmy Jernigan was the perfect move. Once Bennie Logan left town via free agency, Jernigan arrived with a big gold smile on his face. Grabbing young talent is always a bonus, and this one gave the Eagles the opportunity to create one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league for years to come instead of relying on Beau Allen as an every-down player.
Chris Long: A
Chris Long represents everything that is Philadelphia. Tough. Hard working. Just a down-right good person. It is very rare to see a bunch of key role-playing athletes be added to a team and success come out of it. Props to Douglas and company for bringing in the right talents that blended into the locker room, led, and followed when needed. Chris Long was an exceptional addition and should be rewarded with a one-year extension.
Ronald Darby: B-
Given that Darby missed half of the season due to injury, it is tough to recognize what exactly the Eagles acquired. All in all, Darby provided an upgrade on the outside with his speed – a trait every other healthy cornerback on the depth chart lacks. Still, with one year left, the move made sense to acquire him and he has played fairly well.
With moves like this, leadership, and a roster that believes in each other the Eagles were able to mold into the number one seed of the NFC. With Wentz healthy, they may have been Super Bowl favorites. It’s a turnaround like this that will have teams (like the Texans) clamoring for Joe Douglas to become their General Manager. An interview request the Eagles denied Houston. After a year in review, our final grade on Joe Douglas is an A- not knowing how much influence he had in some of these deals/picks.
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