Scouting Notes: Prospects the Eagles have talked to, Part 2

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The Eagles have met with and interviewed a number of different draft prospects over the last few months, and below is an unofficial list in case you missed it last week (and be sure to check out last week’s notes on some previously mentioned prospects).

WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State (Combine)
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (Combine)
QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Senior Bowl)
LB Jonathan Brown, Illinois (Senior Bowl)
WR Philly Brown, Ohio State (Combine)
S Deone Bucannon, Washington State (Senior Bowl)
DL Will Clarke, West Virginia (Senior Bowl)
G Dakota Dozier, Furman (East-West)
OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (Combine)
DB Dontae Johnson, NC State (Combine & Senior Bowl)
OL Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt (Senior Bowl)
LB Devon Kennard, USC (East-West)
DB Keith McGill, Utah (Combine)
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Combine)
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia (Senior Bowl)
LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU (Senior Bowl)

We will continue to post scouting notes from different draft experts on each prospect the Eagles have met with to give you a better feel for what each one brings to the table.

S Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Tale of the tape: 6’1”, 215 pounds

Playing in the Pac-12, Deone Bucannon is certainly no stranger to Chip Kelly. The athletic and rangy safety racked up nine tackles and three interceptions for Washington State in two games against the former Oregon coach. We’ve seen Chip take an interest in players he coached against, and Bucannon probably fits that mold perfectly.

Bucannon has great size for his position, and can definitely bring the wood on the football field. Most experts consider him a top-5 safety, and he is projected as a 2nd or 3rd rounder in the draft.

Here’s a quick rundown of his skills from CBSSports.com draft expert Rob Rang:

“…best attribute may be his explosive hitting…at times appears as though he is shot out of a cannon, unloading on runners and receivers crossing the middle and forcing fumbles.”

The Eagles could use an enforcer in the secondary to become a feared defense, and Bucannon could certainly be that guy.

Bucannon also excels at diagnosing offensive plays (run vs. pass), and finished as one of the top tacklers in the NCAA (159 total). He also ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, an impressive number considering his frame.

One of the reasons he is not considered an elite prospect is because of his stiff hips, “limiting his ability to change directions fluidly”, according to Rang. Many of his weaknesses seem to be coachable (route recognition, eye discipline, technique), and he could prove to be a valuable pick at No. 54 for the Eagles. With so many teams starving for quality safety play, the top prospects could go off the board fairly quickly.

OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU

Tale of the tape: 6’3” 243 lbs

By analyzing the defensive prospects the Eagles have targeted, one consistent trait continues to stand out — the ability to force turnovers. It is a mantra that Kelly has preached from day one (avoiding turnovers on offense, and creating them on defense), and it’s clear this is an attribute he covets. Bucannon fits this description, and the same can be said of Kyle Van Noy. The BYU product forced 11 fumbles and collected seven interceptions our the course of four seasons. Although his production was down in 2013 (4 sacks, 0 FF vs. 13 sacks, 6 FF in 2012), Van Noy was still one of the best linebackers in the country.

Van Noy is a very intriguing prospect because of his potential to be not only a pass-rusher (his specialty), but a coverage guy as well. According to Darren Page of BleacherReport.com, Van Noy is an intelligent defender who diagnoses plays quickly, and is consistently aware of the football. He “can work a variety of moves as a pass-rusher”, including a “devastatingly effective spin move back to inside gaps”. Van Noy is also a steady tackler, and “pursues the ball with a fine motor and makes plays at the perimeter with regularity”.

The one knock on Van Noy is that he may not be an ideal schematic fit at the next level. According to Page, he lacks recovery speed in coverage if he takes a bad step, and doesn’t necessarily overpower tight ends at the point of attack. He could be a bit of a projection, but certainly the potential is there. Page went on to say that “a multiple defense that’s willing to use Van Noy in numerous ways would be his best fit”.

There’s a word we’ve heard from Eagles’ defensive coordinator Billy Davis before — multiple. Many of the better NFL defenses consistently show a multitude of fronts, and regularly mix up assignments and coverages. As opposed to a true 3-4 defense, it appears the Eagles would prefer to be “multiple”, and Van Noy would be an excellent moving chess piece in that regard.

QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Tale of the tape: 6’1”, 222 lbs

With Michael Vick’s impending departure via free agency, Philadelphia will almost certainly be in search of another backup to Nick Foles. Matt Barkley would be the current No. 2, although it would make sense for the Eagles to sign a veteran quarterback with experience. Nevertheless, it would come as no surprise to see them target the most important position in football in the draft as well. It would seem inevitable that the Eagles would try and target an “ideal” Chip Kelly quarterback, at least from an athletic standpoint.

Enter Tajh Boyd. With Vick gone, the Clemson product would become the only dual-threat quarterback on the Eagles’ roster.

Here’s a quick-hitter again from Rang, this time on Boyd:

“…possesses a compact build that makes him potentially better suited to handling big hits than taller, lankier passers…very good velocity overall and good ball placement.”

What makes Boyd special (at least for Chip) would be his ability to run the read-option and keep defenses honest with the threat of his legs. We saw how Kelly adjusted the Eagles offense when Foles became the permanent starter — a player like Boyd would expand the playbook. This is not a knock on Foles at all, it’s simply a fact.

Rang praises him further in this regard:

“…talented runner, and more elusive than his frame would indicate, showing lateral agility and surprising burst…powerful runner who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder for needed yardage.”

He also has all the intangibles to be an NFL QB — most notably his toughness and leadership.

Boyd does have a few shortcomings. According to Rang, most of his throws are relatively easy (screens, in-cutting routes across the middle) that rely on his playmaking wide receivers to turn short passes into long gains (sound familiar?). Rang also notes that he often looks to run too quickly and that he must improve his accuracy on the move.

Boyd is certainly not an elite prospect, but could become a solid backup or potential starter at some point. He may not even be drafted, but I’d be willing to bet the Eagles would take a chance on him in the sixth or seventh round.

Boyd could be characterized as a bit of a poor man’s Russell Wilson. He obviously falls into the “short” quarterback stereotype, but today’s NFL continues to move away from the prototypical measurables at that position. It would be silly to justify height as one of the primary reasons not to draft Boyd. Just ask the 31 other teams that passed on Wilson.

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