By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
Eagles GM Howie Roseman is typically extremely active during the NFL draft and likes to move around in the draft.
Fans saw him do just that on Thursday night as he moved up in the first-round to grab offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Dillard would most certainly have gone to the Texans one pick later had the Birds not moved up.
Friday night was just the opposite. The Eagles had two picks and they took both of them without moving up or down. In fact, the Eagles really didn’t need to move with the first half of the second-round featuring offensive lineman, corners and a quarterback, the three positions that were of the least interest to the Birds.
Another oddity for the team was that, despite having three picks in the first two rounds of a draft loaded with safeties and defensive linemen, the Eagles stayed on the offensive side of the ball for all three picks.
At the 53rd overall pick, the Eagles took Penn State running back Miles Sanders.
Sanders has a lot of upside in the league, a major one of which is his lack of wear and tear. Sanders saw limited reps in his first two seasons with the Nittany Lions as Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley was ahead of him.
Barkely playing ahead of him means that he has more miles left to go than most other backs that enter the league, but he did see the field at times in 2016 and 2017 before being the feature back in 2018 (1274 yards rush, 5.8 yards per carry, 139 receiving yards and nine touchdowns).
Sanders is much like Saquon Barkley, but has had more issues with fumbles and lacks the massive acceleration that Barkley has. He has some skill as a power back, but can also avoid contact and pick holes, something he will likely be able to more of behind the Eagles’ offensive line.
The weaknesses that Sanders faces are the aforementioned fumble and acceleration issues and the occasional freeze as Sanders can take too long to decide on which way to cut at times.
Sanders should be put in an excellent situation to succeed with Jordan Howard splitting most reps with him and Clement taking over the change-of-pace back position before Sanders has to become the feature back in 2020. That is assuming the Eagles let Jordan Howard walk at the end of the season.
With the 57th pick, the Eagles added JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a wideout from Stanford.
The pick was certainly one that was not discussed among most Eagles draft boards.
Arcega-Whiteside came to prominence as a basketball player prior to joining Stanford.
In his first season playing with the team, he made a contested catch in the endzone to beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. These clutch situations were where he thrived as he was the top receiver in the draft this year in regards to jump balls, especially in key situations.
Over the course of his three seasons at Stanford, JJAW racked up 2219 yards, 1059 of which came in his senior year. He also registered 28 touchdowns, 14 of which came in 2018. He has built off of his previous campaign in each of his three seasons in the NCAA, now he will need to make the leap to the NFL.
At six foot, two inches and 225 pounds, he has the build to be dangerous and break through would-be tacklers, but he lacks speed and acceleration and is not particularly skilled at avoiding tackles. The Eagles will hope that he can overcome those things and become an effective receiver as the team is set to lose Nelson Agholor to free agency following the 2019 season.
It is clear now that the Eagles used the 2019 NFL Draft’s heavy defensive positions to grab the offensive weapons they wanted between the other teams fighting for the specific defenders they wanted. Instead, the Birds chose to avoid that competition and get the offense younger around Carson Wentz.
With no trade down, the Eagles are left with only two more draft picks. Undrafted free agents will need to be a huge part of their strategy once again.