After having three picks in the first two rounds of the draft this past weekend, the Eagles were left with just two picks remaining in the fourth and fifth rounds for Day 3. In those rounds, the team decided to look for depth instead of need by drafting DE Shareef Miller and QB Clayton Thorson. This came as a shock to many – including myself – who were surprised that the team did not opt to look for help in the secondary despite options still left on the board at the time. The birds are notably thin on defense outside the line.
Jordan Hicks left to free agency, which means that Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J Fort and Nigel Bradham will be at linebacker. This is less of a factor as NFL teams continue to run secondary heavy packages at the expense of linebackers, but it is notable nonetheless.
At safety, Rodney McLeod will be returning from an injury that ended his season early last season. Behind him there is not much in the way of depth. A young corner like Rasul Douglas might get a look and Avonte Maddox spent some time there last year, but the team lacks true back-up options at safety.
All that said, the two late day picks were not at all terrible. I thought they reached for Miller a bit in the fourth round but taking Thorson in the fifth will add some needed depth behind Carson Wentz. Could Howie have addressed what seem to be more pressing holes? Sure, but there are far from many sure things under the age of 26 on this Eagles team.
Overall, this team did very well despite having such few picks. So with that said, let’s take a look at what Thorson and Miller bring to the table.
Shareef Miller, DE: Penn State
Miller is local product, hailing from North Philadelphia and George Washington High School. It’s always a great story when a player is drafted by their hometown team, especially when it’s a double whammy from a hometown favorite college team (Penn State in this case). On a personal level it is a tremendous blessing for Miller that he wont ever forget.
On the skills front, Miller certainly has some speed off the edge, running a 4.69 40-yard dash at the combine with a 29.5 vertical. His 16 bench reps are something that likely held him back to the 4th round. Compare that to Montez Sweat -who was one of the Redskins two first round picks and also linked to the Eagles – you can see the difference between an edge rusher drafted in the first round and one drafted in the fourth. Sweat ran a 4.4 40-yard dash with a 36-inch vertical and 21 total bench reps. His overall prospect grade was a 6.34 while Miller was at a 5.53.
As a two-year starter at Penn State, Miller totaled 13 sacks, 26.5 tackles for loss, 88 total tackles, and 2 fumble recoveries. He was certainly an impact player on third down and could be someone the Eagles look to replace Chris Long with. Long, 34, is still considering retirement, so we will have to see if he wants to give it another shot.
If Long decides call it quits, the Eagles will be left with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry at DE with Miller as a likely depth player. Theoretically, Miller could take a year or so to develop and build more strength and quickness. Plus, the team doesn’t have much in the way of talent coming down the pike at end. Barnett is entering his third year and will be under increased pressure following his injury. Aside from him, Curry and Graham are in their thirties.
So overall, it’s a good pick. The Eagles are only going to be able to have Curry back for a year or two until they’ll probably have to give Derek Barnett an extension. This would open the door for Miller to become a common 3rd down pass rusher.
While I like the pick, I think there were better defensive players on the board including Alabama LB Mack Wilson and Washington LB Ben Burr-Kirven.
Draft Grade: B
Clayton Thorson, QB: Northwestern
After doing some research, the Thorson pick is looking more and more like a solid pick. The Eagles were robbed of taking Carson Wentz’s prodigy Easton Stick in the 5th Round when the Chargers selected him directly before the birds were up. When I saw they had taken Thorson, I initially felt that it was a reach. It seemed as though they simply drafted him because they were going to take Stick but now had to take Thorson because he was the next best quarterback available.
All told, Thorson was a solid four-year starter for Northwestern, totaling 10,731 passing yards, 61 touchdowns, a 58.4% completion percentage and a 118.1 passer rating. His last three seasons especially he’s had a passer rating over 120 and in 2016 had 22 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions. Thorson also lead his team to overall success in the Big Ten: West, including a Conference Championship Game appearance last season.
The selection can tell you that the Eagles are not confident with the amount of depth behind Carson Wentz. It’s becoming obvious that he can be injury-prone and it is necessary to have strong depth behind him. The selection can also potentially tell us that the team’s confidence in Nate Sudfeld is less than what we expected, even after placing a second-round tender on him. The team is not confident in Sudfeld if Wentz was to have another season-ending injury. The Thorson pick gives the Eagles a guy who can sit and learn the offense but has a lot more experience than Sudfeld and has surely had a lot more success at the college level.
My guess would be that Sudfeld will still be the next guy up for this season but down the road Thorson could be the Eagles insurance at quarterback. Overall, it’s a strong pick but again I think it would have been better to focus on defense here. I think it will be a solid pick in the future if Wentz goes down and we have Thorson available to fill in. Let’s just hope he doesn’t turn into another failed Northwestern backup QB like Eagles 2010 4th Round Pick Mike Kafka.
Draft grade: A-