Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grocery shopping: 5 college players to watch today who could be Eagles draft targets

The comment section of this weekly feature took a strange turn when a number of people didn't like that the focus had shifted to the draft after just one Eagles game had been played. Perhaps I didn't position the idea of this series properly. The NFL Draft has become enormously popular, and the bulk of NFL fans will at least occasionally tune in to the college games on Saturday. The idea here is to point out a few players to keep an eye on, in case you happen to be chilling on the sofa with a beer on Saturday. That's all this is - just a heads up on some good college players who might make sense for the Eagles in the draft next May, and why.

Grocery shopping: 5 college players to watch today who could be Eagles draft targets

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron (85) is tackled after a reception by South Carolina´s Kadetrix Marcus (25) and Brison Williams (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron (85) is tackled after a reception by South Carolina's Kadetrix Marcus (25) and Brison Williams (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

The comment section of this weekly feature took a strange turn when a number of people didn't like that the focus had shifted to the draft after just one Eagles game had been played. Perhaps I didn't position the idea of this series properly. The NFL Draft has become enormously popular, and the bulk of NFL fans will at least occasionally tune in to the college games on Saturday. The idea here is to point out a few players to keep an eye on, in case you happen to be chilling on the sofa with a beer on Saturday. That's all this is - just a heads up on some good college players who might make sense for the Eagles in the draft next May, and why.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the college football schedule is brutal this week, with just one matchup between two ranked teams. Here are the players to watch:

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: North Carolina at Georgia Tech, 12:00pm

Ebron is a player the Tarheels moved all over the field to try to exploit matchups. He lines up as an in-line TE, split wide, in the slot, etc. He can catch, run, and I really liked what I saw of him as a blocker. The Eagles have yet to deploy their multiple TE sets, but it’s coming, and they may look to add to and/or upgrade their stable of tight ends in the offseason. 40 for 625 and 4 TDs for Ebron in 2012.

Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee: Tennessee at (19) Florida, 3:30pm

McCullers is more often than not going to be the biggest player on the field, at 6’6, 351. I watched Tennessee’s game against Alabama last year, and was impressed with his ability to anchor against double teams. He also showed the ability to push the pocket on passing downs when facing one-on-one blocking. However, we’re not talking about a playmaker here. McCullers showed very little in the way of pass rush moves, although he does do a good job getting his hands up and in the way of passing lanes.

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As a run defender, he is little more than a space eater along the DL, as he’s not going to track anybody down on the edges, like Louis Nix of Notre Dame can. You would only want him in the game on run downs, but there’s some value in that in the middle rounds. He could be a target as a replacement for Isaac Sopoaga.

Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers: Arkansas at Rutgers, 3:30pm

At 6'5, 220, Coleman is a huge target, and watch the big guy run at the 0:40 mark.

There's some uncertainty at the WR position, with Jeremy Maclin potentially walking in free agency next year. Even if Maclin stays, he may not be fully recovered from his ACL tear.

Craig Loston, S, LSU: Auburn at (6) LSU, 7:45pm

I didn't love what I saw out of Loston against TCU earlier this year:

However, the 2014 crop of safeties doesn't appear to be as flush with talent as the 2013 crop. Loston missed the last two games with a thigh bruise, but should be back on Saturday. While it has not been a great start to his season, he is absolutely a player to watch with the Eagles' obvious need for help at safety.

Yawin Smallwood, ILB, UConn: (15) Michigan at UConn, 8:00pm

If you watch Smallwood vs Louisville last season, a game in which UConn held Teddy Bridgewater and company to 10 points in regulation, you'll see a guy who was all over the field, always around the football. He's a very instinctive player, who some people think may have been the Huskies' best defender last season. That may not sound like high praise for a kid from UConn, but UConn actually had 4 players from their defense drafted last offseason:

Smallwood is a sure tackler with cover skills who could be a nice compliment to Mychal Kendricks, as we've mentioned before that the Eagles are on the hook for $6.9 million with DeMeco Ryans next year.

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