Eagles UDFA History Has Been Good, So Who's Next?
They are the ones with the steepest hill to climb. If they don’t find traction early, the ascent could end as quickly as it began.
They are the undrafted rookie free agents, and the Eagles have done an exemplary job these past few years of finding some who are sturdy enough to make it to the top and land on the roster.
There are 13 UDFAs on the Eagles’ roster this season, plus one exemption awarded them through the league’s international program, and if the deck wasn’t stacked against them already, they now have the added disadvantage of trying to catch a coach’s eye via virtual workouts because the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t yet allowed them to take the field.
Is there anyone who can be this year’s Corey Clement, who, in 2017, helped get the Eagles to the Super Bowl scoring six regular-season touchdowns then, in the Super Bowl, recorded 100 passing yards and one touchdown?
Is there a Josh Adams in the mix, another running back who, in 2018, led the Eagles in rushing after injuries decimated the backfield?
Maybe another linebacker like T.J. Edwards, who looked good enough in limited snaps last year to have earned a heaping helping of expectations on him for this season.
Perhaps there’s a Trey Burton from 2014 in there somewhere or a Destiny Vaeao from 2016.
Here are my top five who have a legitimate chance to make the roster:
Grayland Arnold, CB, Baylor. A second-team All-American who had six interceptions last year, Arnold slipped through the draft cracks. CBS Sports said of Arnold, “(He) is one of my favorite undrafted free agents. He may play cornerback, he may play safety. It does not matter. He has an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time and shows good athleticism. His career may begin on special teams, but Arnold has lasting power.”
At 5-10, 185, Arnold may begin as a slot corner, which could threaten the roster spot of a veteran such as Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Donte Olsen, LB, Montana. Olsen already probably has an ally on the staff in safeties coach Tim Hauck, who, like Olsen, starred at Montana, and was an undrafted rookie in 1990 and carved out 13 years and 183 career games in the NFL.
Olsen, who is 6-3, 240, shattered Montana’s all-time tackling record in just two years with 397 and broke the league record with 179 tackles as a senior, which included 14 tackles against Oregon.
NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein described Olson as a “tall, angular inside linebacker who is slightly below average by athletic measurements but way above average when it comes to “see ball, get ball.” Olson is an instinctive, skilled hunter who feels play development and takes winning angles to the football. He’s a heavy striker and a fundamentally sound tackler in the open field.”
Linebacker is a mostly unsettled position for the Eagles, outside of third-round rookie Davion Taylor, Nathan Gerry, and Edwards. Jatavis Brown, Duke Riley, and Alex Singleton may have to fend for their jobs.
Raequan Williams, DT, Michigan State. The 6-4, 305-pounder had a draft grade on him, but it was not meant to be. The Eagles appear set at his position with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Javon Hargrave, but Hassan Ridgeway’s job is not etched in stone and, while Anthony Rush played well in limited minutes, he’s not a lock, either, should Williams rise up and open some eyes. He had 11.5 sacks in four years with the Spartans.
Michael Warren, RB, Cincinnati. The Eagles have had good luck with players from this school, with Brent Celek and Jason Kelce being drafted while Connor Barwin was a vital piece to the defense for four years after coming over in free agency in 2013.
The running back position is Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and the oft-injured Corey Clement. There is a job to be won here and Warren, at 5-11, 225, fits the mold of a big, bruising, albeit plodding, type of runner the Eagles may find to their liking. He ran for nearly 2,600 yards and 33 touchdowns combined in his final two seasons at Cincinnati.
Luke Juriga, IOL, Western Michigan. After a redshirt first season at Western Michigan Juriga ended up starting all 52 games of his career, 38 of those starts at right guard and 14 as a center. The Eagles drafted two offensive linemen, including one in Jack Driscoll that could move inside to challenge Matt Pryor as a backup guard, but the Eagles still don’t yet have a true backup for center Jason Kelce.
Nate Herbig is still learning that role, but the 6-3, 302-pound Juriga could take control of that spot with a decent camp. If not, he would probably be ticketed for the practice squad.