Eagles Draft: 5 defensive sleepers to look for on Day Three
For the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, the Eagles currently hold two picks in Round 5, three picks in Round 6, and two picks in Round 7. With the team unable to make any major moves in free agency due to their cap situation, the front office could use a “diamond in the rough” player with one of their seven selections on Day Three. Here are five prospects in this year’s draft class that I think could end up as backup/rotational caliber players in the future or, at worst, provide depth and talent on the special teams unit.
CB Paulson Adebo, 6-1 190 lbs, Stanford
Adebo was one of the more surprising opt-outs of the 2020 season after initially returning to school to improve his draft stock. The lengthy cornerback’s background as a former wide receiver is evident in how he attacks the catch point and led to some flashy ball-production numbers. He recorded eight interceptions and 24 pass breakups in 22 career games for Stanford but was an absolute wildcard in terms of consistency. In his last season put on film, Adebo jumped on way too many double moves, allowing catches of 20-plus yards in five straight games.
However, the 6-foot-1 cornerback has the size that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon covets in defensive backs and the playmaking skills to match. Adebo has much to improve on in terms of coverage and tackling technique but would be an intriguing fit in a zone-heavy scheme. I have the ball-hawking cornerback projected as a late Day Two selection who the Eagles should target with one of their two picks in Round Three.
Paulson Adebo at Stanford’s Pro Day:
40-yd Dash: 4.42
Vertical Jump: 36.5″
Broad Jump: 10’1″
Short Shuttle: 4.13
Bench Press: 12
CB Kelvin Joseph, 6-1 192 pounds, Kentucky
Another cornerback with the size and athleticism that Johnathan Gannon liked to utilize in Indianapolis, Kelvin Joseph brings confidence and enough raw talent to build upon at the next level. The Baton Rouge native played in 11 games as a true freshman for LSU before receiving a bowl game suspension for violating an undisclosed team rule. The transfer to Kentucky forced Joseph to miss the entire 2019 season, but he immediately became a key playmaker for the Wildcats’ defense in 2020. The man referred to as “Bossman Fat” finished tied with the third-most interceptions in the nation last year with four in just nine games played.
Joseph showed scouts what his ceiling could be with his performance against Alabama. In 24 coverage snaps, he forced two incompletions and came down with an interception on the three targets thrown his way. However, Joseph’s lack of discipline in coverage, particularly in the red zone, appears far too often on film. Players like Kyle Pitts, Elijah Moore, and Seth Williams scored on him with ease and exposed him near the goal line. To me, Kelvin Joseph is a Day Three “project” cornerback whose tackling ability and speed provide immediate special teams’ value.
EDGE Tarron Jackson, 6-2 260 pounds, Coastal Carolina
To me, Tarron Jackson checks all the boxes to be a potential starter/rotational player who could be available on Day Three. With a late start to his football career, Jackson drastically improved in each collegiate season, and it feels like he has yet to reach his full potential. The former basketball player shifted his focus to football as a sophomore in high school and wasn’t a highly-touted prospect by many big-time programs. The kid from South Carolina took his talents to Coastal Carolina but suffered a freak complication from a deep thigh contusion after a calcium deposit formed, causing him to rehab for several months. Jackson said it was the greatest adversity he had to face but came out of it with a humbled attitude and resilient work ethic.
The relentless pass rusher saw his sack totals increase from 3 in 2018, to 8.5 in 2019, to 10 in 2020 (a single-season school record). Jackson plays with one of the highest motors in this year’s draft class and has very active hands at the point of attack. It’s rare to find a play where he’s not giving 110% effort, which occasionally can leave him out of position as a run defender. One last thing that caught my eye about Tarron Jackson is he’s one of the most academically intelligent players in this year’s class. He graduated from Coastal with a degree in Applied Mathematics and a minor in Actuarial Science, which is just another testament to his strong work ethic.
IDL Milton Williams, 6-4 278 pounds, Lousiana Tech
The Louisiana Tech defensive lineman is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players in this year’s class. Aligning primarily as a 3-4 defensive end for Louisiana Tech, Williams’ size and violent playstyle make him a force against the run. His play strength allows him to absorb and dismiss blocks with ease while keeping his eyes in the backfield. Another former basketball player, Williams has that short-area quickness and clean footwork to beat single blocks and make tackles down the line of scrimmage.
However, the gap-eating run-stopper needs a lot of work refining his pass-rush technique heading into the NFL as he relied on his brute strength to bully offensive linemen for sacks in college. Williams needs to develop a “go-to” pass rush move to have any significant impact for an NFL team, but his raw talents and physical traits make him an intriguing developmental prospect on Day Three.
LB Grant Stuard, 6-1 225 pounds, Houston
Last season exposed a massive liability for the Eagles’ defense. Teams went after their linebackers in coverage and exploited every mismatch they could. While you’re not going to find a day one starter at linebacker on Day Three of the draft, plenty of guys bring immediate special teams value and the upside to be a potential rotational player down the line. Grant Stuard played almost every position for the Houston Cougars during his collegiate career. Primarily filling in as the team’s special teams ace, this explosive athlete took snaps as the “money backer” or nickel linebacker, slot corner, wide corner, free safety, and even running back.
Stuard eventually committed to becoming a linebacker in 2020, adding 15 pounds to his frame before his senior season. The 6-1, 225-pound prospect is still a bit undersized to be an every-down NFL linebacker and will struggle to get off blocks at the next level. Still, Stuard plays with that energy and ferocity needed to be a playmaker on special teams and provides terrific upside as an agile, coverage linebacker on Day Three of the draft.
Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman | USA TODAY Sports