The Eagles made their first of two 7th round selections on Saturday by scooping up LSU safety Jalen Mills with the 233rd overall pick. The pick continued their run on defensive backs, after they had taken Blake Countess with their lone 6th round selection.
For a four-year starter out of LSU, it may be somewhat confounding for a player like Mills to fall to the 7th round. The SEC juggernaut is notorious for producing NFL caliber defensive backs, some of which did not have the experience that Mills had. As is always the case in the draft, there are reasons that players like Mills tumble the way he did.
First and foremost, it's worth noting the off-field factors that have Mills looking at a steep uphill climb to try and make an NFL roster. He was arrested for a second-degree battery charge in 2014 for an altercation with a woman. The charges were reduced and dropped, but that (clearly) doesn't always ease the concerns of an NFL team with 53 roster spots. Character concerns were a major sticking point with the last regime. It would appear that has changed going forward for the Eagles.
From an on-field standpoint, there's a lot to like about Mills. Like Countess, he has position versatility. He is capable of playing safety and slot cornerback. He has faced high-level competition his entire career and played on a defense that prides itself on shutting its opponents down.
NFL scouts praised his fundamentals in coverage, most notably his footwork and tracking ability with the ball in the air. His strength appeared to be in zone coverage, where Mills' awareness shined. Some will question whether or not he has the speed to stick with NFL receivers in man coverage.
Whether or not Mills ends up as a safety or a slot cornerback should not affect how the Eagles project him going forward. Both positions are important in the pass-happy NFL and several of their NFC East opponents boast impressive groups of skill players. Lance Zierlein of NFL Network provided the following 'big picture' outlook of Mills:
Mills was injured in the offseason and missed some time early in the season while recovering from a fractured fibula. Mills isnt as physical as teams would like in run support but will do what he has to. In man coverage, he's rock solid until he has to chase vertical jackrabbits and then it can get a little dicey. Mills will probably get action in sub packages early on, but might not be the every-down player that some expect.
Somers Price is a contributor for Eagledelphia.com and can be followed on Twitter @somersprice