The Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama has become a staple in really marking the beginning of the road to the NFL draft in recent years. Last year during Covid it gave scouts a great chance to see some players up close, get measurements and medicals, and gave a lot of players opportunities that might not have existed.
Well, it's that time of year again! The Senior Bowl kicks off this coming Tuesday and the Philadelphia Eagles with 3 1sts and 10 total picks in this draft will have their eyes glued to the Senior Bowl.
I took the time to dive into 5 prospects I'll be watching closely at the Senior Bowl and that the Eagles should take notice of.
RB Dameon Pierce, Florida
There is a highlight from earlier in the season where a running back gets his helmet popped off and keeps going? Lunging helmet-less toward the end zone for a touchdown while defensive players, fully geared, take aim at him. Yeah, you weren't the only one whose jaw hit the floor on that play.
That man was Dameon Pierce.
The Eagles became the best running team in football after discovering their true scheme and calling around week 7. With Hurts likely the starter in 2022, the run heavy offense is here to stay and has some holes with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott due to be free agents.
Dameon Pierce would be an incredible addition to this Eagles running back room that currently has the lightning in Miles Sanders and the pass catcher in Kenneth Gainwell heading into 2022. Pierce would bring the thunder to the room that the Eagles will likely lose with Howard's departure.
Pierce has 3rd and 4th round grades presently on him. He stands 5 feet 10 inches and weighs north of 215 pounds. He combines nice athletic ability with great size and power running. He ended up on Bruce Feldman's freaks list thanks to his monster 705 pound squat, 390-pound bench press and 4.5 40 speed.
He is the perfect downhill runner who will eat up contact and keep going to help wear down defenses. He's thick. He's powerful. And he provides decent blocking ability. A potential late day 2, early day 3 option to help round out the running back room.
TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
Tyree Jackson needs more development, but will be missing crucial offseason time this year again. Jack Stoll is a satisfactory at best TE2. And Richard Rodgers has a permanent locker at Novacare, but is no long-term or short-term answer at tight end in Philadelphia. The 2nd tight end behind Goedert is a need and it's not a high-end tight end class, but there are lots to go around with differing skill sets.
There are a couple tight ends in Mobile I will have my eyes on, but my favorite, with a good all-around game for a team's TE2 is Jake Ferguson. The senior out of Wisconsin has 4 seasons of 30 or more catches and 3 out of 4 with over 400 yards. He was a constant in the Wisconsin offense from day one as a freshman.
Ferguson brings a wealth of experience and respectable size at the position. He plays with great strength and comes with a pair of reliable hands. He has nice overall athleticism including a really nice initial burst off the line.
Goedert is the main guy in Philly. He has been heavily invested in and can do it all from blocking to receiving. He absolutely needs to clean up his drops. Otherwise some of the Eagles best work in the passing game happens with 2 TE sets. Ferguson can be a reliable, do-it-all 2nd tight end.
EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
In Mel Kiper's latest mock draft he had the Eagles taking an edge, but not the usual culprits like: David Ojabo or George Karlaftis. It was a local. Former 3 year Temple transfer to Penn State, Arnold Ebiketie.
The immediate positive is that he moved from the Group of 5 to Power 5 conference and played extremely well. In one season and 12 games with Penn State, he outperformed almost all his numbers in 16 games at Temple. Last season, he ranked top 10 in the country with 52 total pressures including: 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
He started out as a late day 2, early day 3 on mock drafts and now, per NFL Mock Draft Database, he has landing himself exclusively in the first round since mocks dating back to December.
As a former high school wide receiver, Ebiketie is an absolute specimen of an athlete at 6-3, 256 pounds and 4.6 speed. The length is good for an NFL edge rusher. He's got a good initial explosion, bend and a competitive drive. Whether it is speed or power, he can use both to challenge tackles with a mixed bag of pass rushing tricks and quick hands.
Don't let the early initial grades or not knowing his name worry you. Just watch what he does at Mobile. He took the step up in competition and exploded onto the Big Ten scene.
Derek Barnett is gone. Brandon Graham isn't getting younger, but should have a rotational role. What better situation for Ebiketie to come into then rotating with Graham and cementing himself across from Josh Sweat as the future edges for the Eagles.
LB Chad Muma, Wyoming
It would be one of the biggest disappointments of the decade if Howie doesn't go linebacker in the first round of this year's draft. A name like Devin Lloyd is in almost every fan and Eagles analysts mock draft. Not only will the Senior Bowl feature Lloyd, but it will also feature Wyoming product Chad Muma who is gaining steam as a day 2 pick at linebacker.
Say what you want about the level of competition in Group of 5, but Muma has handidly dominated. Two seasons ago, in a 6 game Covid shortened season he had 71 tackles, 8 for loss. This past season he picked up right where he left off finishing with 142 tackles, 8 for loss and 3 interceptions, 2 returned for a touchdown. The Senior Bowl will give him a chance to display what he can do against the next level of competition for the doubters.
He is more of a technician than an athlete. So his testing is likely not going to wow you. He is a hard hitting, tackling machine. He graded out as one of the best run defending linebackers in the Nation. His instincts are really good and he's got great football IQ.
He played defensive back in high school, which has helped him to be a fairly good linebacker in coverage. Grading out as the 15th best linebacker in coverage per Pro Football Focus. His athleticism could limit him in the pros against faster, more athletic tight ends or running backs. But still an upgrade over the majority of linebackers the Eagles are working with.
He has the makings of a three down linebacker at the pro level and can likely fit at all three linebacker positions. He can work in coverage. He can work in the run game. He can work downhill or laterally. What worries me is he's not uber athletic and as we have seen in the past Howie has a type when it comes to drafting linebackers. Nonetheless, if the Eagles opt not to go linebacker with one of their three firsts, keep an eye out for Muma on day two.
S Yusuf Corker, Kentucky
I think the Eagles have no bigger need than safety this offseason, especially if Gannon and his 4-3 Cover 2 defense remains. Marcus Epps and K'Von Wallace are the only two safeties under contract and neither are safe starters. I do expect one of the free agent splashes to be at safety, but drafting at least one safety is almost a guarentee.
Corker is potentially that guy. The immediate thing that jumps off the page to me is his positional versatility. Face it, we all miss what Malcolm Jenkins brought with his ability to play all over the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense. No, Corker isn't Jenkins, but a 4 year collegiate career and seeing 649 snaps in the box, 1005 at free safety and 348 in the slot. He's the type of versatile, role-player Gannon needs in his defense.
Corker has fairly good size, but is better left to play the open field, which as we saw with Gannons safeties last season, he will see plenty of open field and dropping back into zone coverage. He's tough and plays physical, but has a history of missed tackles due to wanting to deliver the big hit versus wrapping up and securing the tackle. He's got a nice burst and is an instinctive player who does better to read, anticipate and then attack.
Corker graded out nicely in coverage only allowing a 53.2% reception rate on 79 total targets. He certainly can work on technique in coverage, but as a safety, this is expected. It'll be nice to see him work in coverage and see him used across the field in Mobile to show off that versatility.
The players start arriving Monday in Mobile with practices taking place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The week culminates with the Senior Bowl on Saturday afternoon with Team National and Team America facing off.
These are 5 of my favorite names for the Eagles, but there are usually new names that emerge among scouts and analysts as the week rolls on.