Eagles

“Teams find talent where talent resides.”

No, that’s not a famous quote from a successful Coach, Scout or General Manager. It only comes from my own mouth, as I march on a seemingly never-ending, unwinnable walk in hopes of straying you away from thinking that the SEC is the only conference that produces productive NFL players.

If I asked you where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting left guard went to college, could you tell me? How about the starting strong safety for the New England Patriots? That’s okay if you can’t, because unless you’re a tremendous college football and NFL Draft nerd like me, the schools Hobart College and Lenoir-Rhyne probably don’t mean much to you.

I use those examples, not to discredit your knowledge or to tout my own, but as cautionary tales against the “only draft SEC players” section of the fan base. Don’t get me wrong: the best college players in the country often play Saturdays in the SEC, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option.

With that, here are five players from “Group of Five” Conferences that could make a difference for the Eagles in this April’s Draft. (Disclosure: I’m not including players that could be first round picks, such as Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner or Liberty’s Malik Willis)

  • 1. Chad Muma, LB Wyoming

    Muma hits. And hits. And hits. The Cowboy linebacker very rarely misses tackles. He has the desirable combination of tackling prowess, form and positioning. He very rarely is in the wrong spot, and he wraps up tackles far more often than not. Muma finished with collegiate career with 175 tackles, including 15.5 for loss, in his final two seasons. Despite not being challenged in the pass game as he will be in the NFL, there’s no reason to believe Muma couldn’t play all three downs as a starting caliber linebacker by the end of his rookie season in the NFL. He might even immediately thrive in a nickle defensive scheme, which, if Jonathan Gannon remains as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, fits him in nicely opposite TJ Edwards.

  • 2. Isaiah Likely, TE Coastal Carolina

    I’m not inherently against pairing Dallas Goedert with a recovering Tyree Jackson and Jack Stoll in 2022, but an upgrade certainly would be beneficial to the Eagles. Insert Isaiah Likely. The Chanticleers tight end has some of the surest hands I’ve seen from a tight end not named Kyle Pitts in a while. Likely caught a collegiate career high 59 passes in 2021 from soon-to-be NFL quarterback Grayson McCall, good for over 900 yards and 12 scores. He has the ability to line up opposite Goedert in a two tight end set, or allow one of the two pass catchers to situate themselves in the slot against a smaller nickle cornerback.

    The Eagles would “likely”, no pun intended, need to use their second round selection on the pass catcher, which may sway you, and the team, away from selecting Likely. Much like the selection of Goedert with the 49th overall pick in 2018, however, choosing Likely with a second round selection, especially if the Eagles decide to move back with one of their three first picks, would be a long-term benefit to the offense.

  • 3. Sincere McCormick, RB UTSA

    Every year there is a G5 program that sports a deadly rushing attack that no one talks about. Last year, for example, two players, and schools stood out: Elijah Mitchell and the University of Louisiana, and Jaret Patterson and the University of Buffalo. Both, now, are on NFL rosters. This year, it was the UTSA Roadrunners, and their record-setting running back, Sincere McCormick.

    The first All-American in UTSA history, McCormick shouldered a bulk of the offensive workload for the Roadrunners. He carried the ball nearly 300 times, rushing for just shy of 1500 yards. McCormick scored 1t times on the ground in 2021, and 34 times in his collegiate career.

    Of course, the high-usage rate is of concern for such a young running back, McCormick carried the football 724 times in three years. Those are Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gorden, Montee Ball type numbers.

    Notice a trend there? Wisconsin needs to help its running backs and steady it’s quarterback play. But, that’s a different conversation for a different time.

    I’ve long stated I don’t expect Miles Sanders to be an Eagle by the end of the 2022 season, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the team moves him in two months, as Sanders is on the last year of his rookie deal. McCormick might not be the long term solution at the running back position for the Eagles, but he, alongside Kenny Gainwell, could be a nice tandem, each on rookie contracts.

     

  • 4. Skyy Moore, WR Western Michigan

    Skyy Moore is the best wide receiver in this April’s Draft that you’ve likely never heard of. Unlike his predecessor, Corey Davis, Moore is not getting first round grades, likely because of his size and the fact that he primarily played in the slot. Like Davis, Moore propelled the Broncos passing attack in his final season in Kalamazoo.

    Moore stands at just five-feet, ten-inches, but quietly put together one of the most productive seasons in college football this season. The third-year receiver surpassed his totals the first two years of his career in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in his final year in the MAC. Moore caught ten touchdowns on 95 receptions. He tallied nearly 1300 yards receiving in 2021.

    If PFF grades are something that interest you, Moore scored a 91.6 (out of 100) this past season, the best by a MAC wide receiver since 2014.

    Moore and his quarterback, Kaleb Eleby, developed that ever-important chemistry in their final seasons for the Broncos, seemingly propping each other up in the eyes of scouts. Each are foregoing a final season to enter the NFL Draft.

    Moore will become the second Broncos wide receiver in as many years to be selected in the NFL Draft, following his former teammate, and now-Seattle Seahawk, Dwayne Eskridge, to the NFL. Eskridge was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2021. Will Moore follow along a similar trajectory? I think he may fall a bit further than Eskridge did, but not much further than the third round.

  • 5. Shaun Jolly, CB Appalachian State

    “Tyler, can we get back to defense, please?” Certainly.

    You and I both know that the Eagles are in need of defensive upgrades. And, while I would not be shocked to hear a name like Gardner, Kaiir Elam, Trent McDuffie, or Roger McCreary called with one of the Eagles’ three first round selections on Thursday, April 28, I also would not be totally surprised with the addition of a second cornerback on day three.

    Shaun Jolly could be that selection. Jolly was a 2021 First Team All Sun Belt defender for the Mountaineers, Jolly allowed just 47 yards after the catch, limiting his opposition to 16 catches. Jolly intercepted five passes his sophomore year, but then recorded just one in his final two seasons. That’s not because his productivity dipped. It’s because opposing quarterbacks stopped throwing in his direction.

    Jolly did miss games due to injury in 2021, playing in just eight games. The injury, however, should not be a concern heading into the Draft.

    The Appalachian State product is not the biggest player at his position. He is just 5’7″, and weighs less than 180 pounds.Despite being undersized, Jolly can make plays happen with his physicality.

    He will almost assuredly be moved to the slot in the NFL due to his lack of size. Avonte Maddox was sensational in the slot in 2021, and nothing will change his status as the starting nickel cornerback in 2022, but secondary depth is something the Eagles, and every team in the NFL, could use.

  • Bonus: Matt Ariaza, Punter San Diego State

    I am not even remotely kidding when I say I would use a sixth round selection on Ariaza. The leg of Ariaza is a football weapon, as the junior averaged nearly 52 yards per punt this season, an NCAA record. He totaled 39 punts of 50 yards or more and 18 punts of 60 yards or more. Pair these numbers with the fact that Arryn Siposs was inconsistent in the latter portion of the 2021 season, and Ariaza is the first punter that I’d consider selecting since Braden Mann, of Texas A&M, in 2020.