Even though he only played for 4 seasons in Philly, Connor Barwin was a beloved figure in the sports’ community. He signed to the nest in 2013, survived the Chip era, and was, unfortunately, let go this offseason. Vinny Curry signed a five-year deal worth $47.25M (4th highest paid player in 2017). His numbers have been somewhat lackluster for that type of contract. But for the past two years, Curry has been rotating with Barwin and even rotating to multiple other positions on defense. He will be the primary pass rusher opposite Brandon Graham and is poised for a big season, solely focused on crushing quarterbacks. Also, his “We all we got!” chant before games and overall locker room presence bring an edge to the squad.
The Eagles 1st round pick in 2014, Marcus Smith, actually had a decent season. Most consider him a bust as a first rounder, but the young defensive end showed promise in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme. Furthermore, the Eagles made the late free agent signing of DE Chris Long to add experience and depth to the line. However, Curry is still a question mark as a premier pass rusher in the NFL, so the Eagles could target one in this year’s draft. Here’s a look at some of the prospects.
1. Derek Barnett, University of Tennessee
Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 259 lbs | Projected Round: 1st
Barnett will be entering the draft after his junior year but started all three years in Tennessee’s 4-3 defensive scheme. While he isn’t as explosive as some of the other edge prospects in this class, his awareness and hands are exceptional. His technique allows him to be at the right place at the right time, and he does a tremendous job of bending the edge to get to quarterbacks. While his arms are somewhat short, he does a good job of stacking and shedding linemen in the run game. Against one of the top tackles in this year’s draft, Cam Robinson, Barnett was able to rack up a sack and two tackles for loss. He could be a working project as his explosiveness is a concern to set the edge in the pros. But Derek Barnett would bring an immediate, dynamic playmaker to the Eagles’ d-line.
2. Tarell Basham, Ohio University
Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 269 lbs | Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
Tarell Basham is Ohio University’s All-Time leader in sacks with 29 after starting all four years. Playing in the MAC Conference, Basham tossed lighter offensive linemen around like rag dolls. Unlike Derek Barnett, Basham has an extremely high motor and quickness off the ball. His speed and agility to get the QB are his strengths, while his awareness and run-stopping ability are lacking. He has all the makings to be a starting defensive end in the NFL and may be slept on a bit because of the conference he played in. With Curry’s long contract, Basham would be a terrific spell for him and Brandon Graham on the defensive line.
3. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova University
Height: 6’7″ | Weight: 289 lbs | Projected Round: 3rd-5th
The last time the Eagles picked a Villanova prospect was when they took Brian Westbrook in the 3rd round, and that turned out tremendously. Kpassagnon is the definition of a freak athlete. His combination of size, speed, and length have many NFL scouts drooling over this edge rusher. Scouts say he has “track star acceleration” and Kpassagnon put on almost 70 pounds at his time at Villanova. The obvious weakness or red flag is that he simply used his incredible athletic talent against inferior competition at the collegiate level. Tanoh Kpassagnon would certainly be a “project pick”, but most scouts probably said that about Brian Westbrook as well.
4. Avery Moss, Youngstown State University
Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 264 lbs | Projected Round: 6th-7th
Avery Moss is a prospect with off-the-field issues affecting his draft stock. He originally signed to Nebraska with high hopes of creating a big splash there. He was let go after an incident in 2014, spending only two seasons with the team. Moss certainly has Division 1 talent and was given another chance with former Nebraska coach, Bo Pelini, at Youngstown State. Like our previous prospect, Moss is another freakish athlete. His arms are 34.5 inches and he uses his speed plus length to stave off blockers and get to the QB. He would be another “project pick” with potential, as his edge-setting and hand usage need some work. As long as the Eagles do their homework on his “character issues”, Moss could be a valuable late-round selection.