When the Eagles selected Josh Sweat and Jordan Mailata on the final day of the 2018 NFL Draft, they were selecting two raw, talented prospects. Blank canvases that the Eagles could mold into whatever they wanted.
Mailata was a rugby player that had jaw-dropping athleticism for a 6’8 346 pounder. A trait you rarely see outside of the Jason Peters and Lane Johnsons of the world.
The Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata, a 6-foot-8, 346-pound rugby stud from Australia. pic.twitter.com/G1PXGpxJJq
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 28, 2018
Sweat, the former Florida State edge rusher also had buzz around him when selected by the Eagles in the 4th round. Some even considered Sweat the steal of the draft.
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) April 28, 2018
Josh Sweat is a "massive steal" for the Eagles https://t.co/Iu8kjYny1m
— BleedingGreenNation (@BleedingGreen) April 28, 2018
The Eagles found a potential steal in Florida State pass-rusher Josh Sweat. pic.twitter.com/JEroEwK8JJ
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 1, 2018
Sweat and Mailata had the ups and downs in their rookie seasons that most mid to late round rookies have.
While Mailata showed more promise in extended playing time throughout the preseason, both had eye-popping moments that showed off their potential. They also had their fair share of inconsistent play and injuries.
In a draft class that is deep with both offensive and defensive line talent, if or when the Eagles address the two positions could say a lot about the confidence level the organization has in the development of both players.
Mailata was only on the field for the preseason (placed on IR for the regular season), but the former rugby star made significant strides over the summer.
Receiving the praise of respected football minds like Brian Baldinger and Mike Mayock created a lot of excitement around Mailata’s potential. Baldinger even went as far as saying “Jordan Mailata has improved more than any football player I have ever watched in 4 months.”
For somebody who never played football before getting drafted, he played like he could be the next Jason Peters-type diamond in the rough.
.@Eagles #JordanMailata has improved more than ANY football player I have ever watched in 4 months . He has everything it takes to be a dominant player, except experience. Amazing transformation. #BaldyBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/gurmylW6jB
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 24, 2018
This week by week improvement in August earned Mailata a spot on the 53-man roster. A feat that most probably didn’t see coming.
Sweat also looked the part of someone that could become a star. He looks like he could have been built in a lab to play defensive end. 6’5, 251 pounds, crazy length, and receiver level speed.
We have a new leader in the DL 40-yard dash!
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2018
Sweat’s 40 time was among some of the most athletic pass rushers in the NFL.
Like Mailata, Sweat made the 53-man roster, but the former Seminole actually saw playing time. The rookie edge rusher often struggled with counter moves after an offensive lineman won the initial battle on the line of scrimmage.
All the athleticism was there. And you could see it. The technical side of his game, however, was clearly lacking. For a 4th round pick, a raw prospect like Sweat, that was to be expected. That will need to be a key area of improvement if he wants to be part of the future up front.
There were also some flashes of the potential Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas saw in Sweat when they selected him. A play here against the Minnesota Vikings shows the raw arm power as Sweat simply manhandles Vikings LT Riley Reiff.
Shot 4 – This was another Sidney Jones tackle, but watch Josh Sweat on this play. Only played a handful of snaps, this was the one that he popped off the film the most #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/32TwWeYOLi
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 9, 2018
That was a 6’6 313-pound man that Sweat tosses to the side as if he weighed 10 pounds.
Both Sweat and Mailata could be huge steals for the Eagles in the 4th and 7th round. They have as much potential as anyone on the roster.
If the Eagles take an offensive lineman or edge rusher early, Sweat and Mailata will still have an opportunity to have roles on the team next year and into the future. The Eagles love to rotate defensive ends. With Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham both over the age of 30, Sweat can still be part of the future rotation even if the front office goes with a DE early in the draft.
The Eagles could hope both prospects pan out while selecting an OT and/or DE early to double down on positions they value over any outside QB.
Or they could potentially wait, take a flier on mid/late round lineman, rely on veterans (Jason Peters, Brandon Graham, and Michael Bennett), and hope these two take significant steps in Year 2.
The two 2018 selections will both have an opportunity in 2019 but when Philadelphia decides to address these two positions could be telling about their belief in the projects of Jordan Mailata and Josh Sweat.
Who could the Eagles target from 49ers?
It appears the Eagles could be cooking up another trade. This time with the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers have talked to the Eagles about a trade. All I got on that.
— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) March 16, 2019
What could Howie Roseman be looking for from San Francisco? The Eagles have already taken care of their DT, WR, and LB needs in free agency by trading for DeSean Jackson, signing Malik Jackson, and L.J. Fort.
They locked up their offensive line core keeping Jason Peters and extending both Jason Kelce and Issac Seumalo.
They even added to the log jam that is the CB position by bringing back Ronald Darby on a one-year deal.
Here are some players the 49ers could be willing to deal to the Eagles that makes sense for Philadelphia.
RB Matt Breida
With the signing of RB Tevin Coleman, the 49ers could be looking to shop one of their running backs.
Breida makes the most sense of anyone on the 49ers for the Eagles to have interest in. At just 24, Breida is young, and on an inexpensive contract which are two things Roseman loves to deal for.
After Jerick McKinnon went down last season, Breida carried the 49ers backfield finishing with 814 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
He averaged 5.3 YPC and early on in the season, he was averaging over 7.0 YPC.
That fast start included a Week 2 showing against Detroit that resulted in 138 rushing yards on just 12 carries.
Breida is explosive in short areas, and has the receiving skills Doug Pederson’s offense loves to have in the backfield.
His receiving DVOA (@fboutsiders ) was 2nd in the league behind Kareem Hunt. 44.8% is outrageous.
— Gino Cammilleri (@Gino_LOE) March 16, 2019
The third year running back surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage and would be an all-around weapon the Eagles desperately need at RB.
RB Jerick McKinnon
If the 49ers decide to keep Breida as Coleman’s counter-part in the backfield, that could spell the end of Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco before it even got started.
The former Viking signed with the 49ers last offseason and was expected to be Kyle Shanahan’s new version of Coleman but he tore his ACL before the season started.
McKinnon still has three years left on his contract with a $5.7 million cap hit in 2019.
He is only 26 and like Breida, McKinnon can make defenses pay on the ground and through the air.
In 2017 after Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending injury, McKinnon became an important piece to Minnesota’s offense finishing with 570 rushing yards and 421 receiving yards.
Between 2016 and 2017, McKinnon had 94 receptions. Much like in Shanahan’s offense, Pederson’s offense is better with that kind of RB.
DE Solomon Thomas
The former third overall pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t met that potential in his first two years with the 49ers.
Thomas has just four sacks in two seasons but he could be another young (24 years old), buy-low trade target Howie Roseman takes a chance on.
The 49ers would likely be more willing to deal Thomas after trading and extending DE Dee Ford. San Francisco also holds the second overall pick in a draft class that even Roseman labeled “historic” when it comes to pass rushers.
With Chris Long’s future up in the air, Thomas could be someone the Eagles bring in to compete with Josh Sweat and a rookie if Long doesn’t think more playing time is coming his way for the 2019 season.
If the Eagles do make a trade with the 49ers, San Francisco’s loaded backfield is likely where Philadelphia would like to grab a play-maker from. Expect a deal to involve a draft pick but don’t be surprised if someone like Jalen Mills is also involved.
The CB group is now six-deep after re-signing Darby. With four other young, promising corners to develop and Mills hitting free agency in 2020, it seems likely Philadelphia could look to get some value for him now.
The 49ers already have Richard Sherman and signed former Chargers CB Jason Verrett this offseason but Mills has the versatility to play outside, in the slot, or even at safety.
Mills or a late pick for McKinnon/Breida could make sense for both sides.
T.J. Yeldon fits in Philadelphia
It doesn’t appear the Eagles were in on big names at running back in free agency. Le’Veon Bell signed with the Jets. Tevin Coleman signed with the 49ers. Mark Ingram signed with the Ravens.
Seeing Ingram and Coleman’s deal both in the $5 million a year range has many scratching their heads about why the Eagles potentially didn’t pursue those two on inexpensive contracts.
While Philadelphia could have been in the hunt for both, a lack of interest would certainly concern fans that want to see the organization invest legitimate resources into the position. It is certainly something to keep a closer eye on.
Howie Roseman can be lackadaisical when it comes to RB including last year, failing to replace Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. However, there is no need to panic just yet. The NFL Draft has talent across all seven rounds.
There are also some intriguing options still out there through trades and free agency that fit what the Eagles want to spend, and how they want to use their backs. Former Jacksonville Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon is perhaps the most interesting option. And he would be a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offense.
An even cheaper option than Coleman and Ingram
It was a bit surprising seeing Coleman and Ingram get less than expected. If the Eagles weren’t players for either, it could be as a result of their serious interest in the draft class, or their plans to spend even less at the position.
Yeldon could be a cheaper option.
If Coleman and Ingram both got $5 million, it seems evident that Yeldon, a less proven player than the other two, would get less.
The Eagles have not spent significant dollars for a running back since Chip Kelly signed DeMarco Murray in 2015. They have targeted younger, cheaper players.
At 25 years old, Yeldon fits that mold.
The perfect complementary RB
If Yeldon and Corey Clement were the compliments to a rookie the front office invests in, it would be hard to do much better.
The former Alabama prospect has the receiving skills this Eagles offense has valued since the days of Brian Westbrook.
Yeldon has 135 catches in the last three seasons, with a career-high 55 receptions for 487 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018.
He can make some impressive plays with his hands.
The production is there but he isn’t built like other receiving-backs. At 6’2 218 pounds, Yeldon is a few inches taller, and only two pounds lighter than Jay Ajayi. The majority would agree that Ajayi’s label is that of a power runner.
That allows him to be an option in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
Chunk plays are abundant
Yeldon has the ability to turn a four-yard hole, or a three-yard check down into a 15-30 yard play. He is extremely explosive for his size and he isn’t easy to bring down when he is caught. At Alabama, Yeldon forced 54 tackles in his final collegiate season.
Having that kind of weapon with the five dangerous pass-catchers the Eagles already have could be deadly. Wendell Smallwood isn’t that weapon.
In 2018, Yeldon finished with eight receptions of 15+ yards. Four of which were above 20 yards. Tevin Coleman only had five receptions of 15+ yards.
Compared to Alvin Kamara, an elite pass-catching running back, Yeldon only had seven fewer receptions that went past 15 yards.
Moves the chains on third down
In short and long situations on third down, Yeldon was a focal point for the Jaguars.
Whether it was a passing play or a running play, he was effective in moving the chains.
Being capable of converting through the air and ground with just one running back helps make an offense less predictable.
The Eagles still have quality options if they want to add an RB before the draft. The Browns and Bears are actively shopping Duke Johnson and Jordan Howard. If the front office wants to keep their draft capital however, T.J. Yeldon could be their guy.
On today’s Locked on Eagles:
Analyzing the Eagles signing LB L.J. Fort
DeSean Jackson’s press conference was encouraging
The Giants continue their blueprint of not having a blueprint signing Golden Tate