The Eagles continued their run on defensive players with the 240th overall pick in the draft Saturday by taking former Florida Gator Alex McCalister. McCalister projects as a true 4-3 defensive end, catering towards Jim Schwartz's attacking defensive line scheme. There's no doubt that Mccalister is raw and needs to build up considerably from a physical standpoint. That being said, if the Eagles are able to keep him in line off the field, he could be an interesting project to bring along.
The former four-star recruit did not see the field very much in Gainesville, for both injury and extracurricular reasons. When he was able to string together some playing time, many could see why he was a sought-after prospect. He managed 12.5 sacks with limited time on the field, and pass-rushing is as valuable an attribute as there is in the NFL. He probably saved himself from being undrafted by performing well at the combine.
From what can be gathered courtesy of the NFL's scouting report on Mccalister, the skill element of playing the position isn't what will have to be worked on with him. He has natural abilities in both rushing the passer and playing in space. He might not have the football instincts that some of the greats do, but there is something to mold from in terms of athleticism.
Much like Mills, it is the off-field issues that have to concern one with Mccalister's NFL projection. Seeing the field as little as he did, even if it was in the SEC, is a major concern. For nearly an entire season of that absence to be as a result of off-field issues is a major red flag going forward. One would want to give the young man the benefit of the doubt of being a college kid making poor decisions, but for every reclamation project it seems as if there are troubled kids who only turn into troubled adults.
The Eagles seemed to use their first two picks in the 7th round to try and hit a relative 'home run' on a player they feel that can turn his life around. With McCalister, it will take a full commitment to keeping his nose clean and putting in the requisite gym work to build up to a NFL-sized player. It would take a few years for this to happen and there's a chance that he could find himself on the practice squad in 2016. One would have to think if the Eagles can hit on McCalister or Mills, they'd consider the 7th round a success.
Here's NFL Network's Lance Zierlein's take on McCalister:
Despite playing in less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps for the Gators over the past two seasons, managed to notch 12.5 sacks. His character must be questioned and he doesn't possess an NFL-ready frame or instincts. McCalister is a project in need of muscle and coaching, but his traits as a rusher are exciting if he can build upon them.