The 2012 NFL draft has come and gone. Picks and trades have been dissected and grades have been handed out from every corner of the sports writing world.
While the draft is probably the most exciting offseason event the part that immediately follows can’t be overlooked. That would be the signing of undrafted free agents.
Every team has multiple stories of uncovering hidden gems in this aspect of personnel selection.
The Eagles are one of the teams that seem to find at least one every year and it’s likely at least one will be on the roster this season and make at least some type of impact.
Since the offseason roster has been expanded to 90 players the lowest odds will be 90-1. The Eagles managed to sign 13 players after the draft ended and here are my predictions on the least and most likely to make the team.
This is so far from an exact science and as little as we all know about the players actually being drafted, we know a lot less about these guys. I strongly encourage all readers to leave their predictions as well because this is truly a guessing game.
Here is my best shot at who is most likely to make the roster for the 2012 season.
Aaron Plufgrad, WR, Arizona State: 90-1
Aaron Plufgrad was a secondary receiver for Brock Osweiler at Arizona State. After two seasons in obscurity at Oregon, Plufgrad saw a spike in production in his two seasons as a Sun Devil.
He caught 73 passes for 994 yards and seven touchdowns in Tempe. While not a burner and with no return skills to his name Plufgrad would be solely a slot receiver in the NFL.
He has 4.55 speed in the 40 but he stands at 5’10” and 182 pounds. While he may have the skill to succeed as an inside receiver the Eagles just don’t have room for this type of player.
He may latch on somewhere but the Eagles will not be his NFL home for long.
McKay Jacobson, WR, Brigham Young: 90-1
Similar to Plufgrad, McKay Jacobson’s NFL future is solely as a slot receiver. He is 5’10” and 188 pounds with legitimate 4.5 speed.
In his BYU career he caught 113 passes for 1,836 yards and nine touchdowns. He also returned 10 punts for a 13.7-yard average and returned one for a touchdown.
He has a little more speed, quickness and strength than Plufgrad and he hails from Andy Reid’s alma mater. While he may be a slightly better prospect than Plufgrad the Eagles probably won’t have much use for another small receiver.
It is highly doubtful that Jacobson has any real chance of making the roster.
Elvis Akpla, WR, Montana State: 75-1
If nothing else, Elvis Akpla has the most interesting name of the UDFA bunch. He has an interesting game to go along with it though.
Akpla isn’t the fastest receiver out there but against lower levels of competition he consistently got a ton of separation. He won’t be able to do that in the NFL but he showed some other skills that he can put to good use when he is more closely defended.
He shows tremendous hands and hand-eye coordination along with great body control and instincts. With the ball in his hands he won’t outrun anyone but he has some lateral quickness and can make some things happen after the catch.
Going up against NFL draftee Trumaine Johnson as a junior he was held to two catches for 16 yards. Last season, though, he caught six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in the matchup.
As a senior Akpla registered 63 receptions for 1,145 yards and 11 touchdowns on 18.2 yards per catch. The Eagles don’t have a lot of room for receivers and I feel like if any rookies make the team in 2012 it will be on the strength of return ability.
That being said, it’s hard to count out a guy named Elvis. I’m rooting for him and I’m starting to feel like maybe I rated him too low already.
Darnell Williams, WR, Louisiana College: 70-1
Darnell Williams played in even more obscurity than Akpla in Division III. He is still an exceptional athlete though with some versatility.
Williams doesn’t appear to have the same type of polish or receiving instincts that Akpla does, but I’m giving him a slight edge due to his ability to play special teams along with his size and speed.
He stands at 6’2″ and weighs in at 197 pounds with 4.49 speed. He can go up for the football, make tough catches in traffic and outrun defenders.
In two seasons at Louisiana he made 119 catches for 2,271 yards. He averaged 19.1 yards per reception and caught 25 touchdown passes.
He also returned 25 kickoffs for a 34.2 yard average and three touchdowns. Akpla may be the better pure receiver but Williams may have more upside and just offer a little more with his special teams ability.
Damaris Johnson, WR, Tulsa: 60-1
If you’re paying attention you may have noticed a theme here. There are a lot of wide receivers on the bottom part of this list. That’s because the Eagles have DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and new draftee Marvin McNutt.
Now the last three aren’t world beaters by any means but it would take a lot for one of these free agents to take a spot from them. Chad Hall’s position may be up for grabs but these guys will also be in heated competition with each other.
It’s anyone’s guess which one of these wide receivers will impress most in camps and preseason but my guess is it will come down to who brings the most on special teams. My heavy favorite there is Damaris Johnson.
They showed interest in him before the draft working him out earlier last month.
Johnson was an explosive college player, breaking the NCAA record for both all-purpose yardage with 7,796 and kickoff return yardage with 3,417. Oh, and he did it in just three seasons.
He is a multi-dimensional threat that could have a real shot at making the team, especially if Brandon Boykin wins the nickel corner job. They may need him as a return specialist instead of risking Boykin’s health.
Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: 60-1
Cliff Harris is another interesting prospect. He went from All-American as a junior to off the team last season.
Harris is a small corner at 5’11” and just 170 pounds. He isn’t the fastest corner in the world as far as timed speed is concerned with just a 4.64 time in the 40.
What Harris can bring, though, is big play ability. He has a chance to be a similar type boom-or-bust corner in the mold of Asante Samuel. He has incredible quickness and gets great breaks on the ball. He also has a tendency to get beat.
He had eight career interceptions at Oregon along with 30 pass breakups in three seasons. He also returned four punts for touchdowns in 2010.
Harris has a lot of upside but he may not be polished enough to earn a reserve role in the Eagles’ secondary just yet. Keep an eye on him though because he can make some things happen.
As long as he can manage to drive the speed limit.
Matt Camilli, Long Snapper, UTEP: 50-1
Matt Camilli is one player I had never, ever heard of. I also had a difficult time finding any information on him.
Here are the facts: He is a long snapper. He was the special teams captain at UTEP. He is 6’4″ and 240 pounds. The UTEP kicking game relied heavily on his abilities.
It may seem weird to have a long snapper over what appears to be some really promising skill players but there is only one other long snapper on the Eagles roster in Jon Dorenbos.
Dorenbos is probably unlikely to lose his spot to the rookie but all it would take is one injury to clear a roster spot for Camilli.
He isn’t likely to make the roster but he has a better chance just based on the position he plays.
Jeremy Stewart, RB, Stanford: 50-1
Jeremy Stewart was not ranked on many draft boards. He didn’t do a lot of running or catching playing alongside Andrew Luck.
What he did do as a senior was find the end zone. He found it a lot for such a little used player.
On just 62 touches in 2011 Stewart hit pay dirt 10 times. He ran the football 55 times for 257 yards and nine touchdowns. He added seven receptions for 79 yards an another touchdown.
Stewart is a bigger back at 6’0″ and 218 pounds. He is no game breaker but he could have some chance to see the field as a short yardage or goal line option.
Running back is one of few positions where the Eagles lack depth which is why his odds are as high as they are.
Emil Igwenagu, FB, UMass: 45-1
Emil Igwenagu was a smallish tight end at a small college. That sounds like a player that once ruled Philadelphia as an All-Pro fullback named Leonard Weaver.
Now before I get ahead of myself, Igwenagu doesn’t have the same type of pure speed Weaver had. He is a terrific athlete though.
He is 6’1″ and 249 pounds who isn’t afraid to throw is weight around. Igwenagu only carried the ball 12 times in college but he shines as a receiver.
For his career he caught 75 passes for 821 yards and four touchdowns. He has the requisite receiving ability for an Andy Reid offense and there is no proven fullback option on the roster currently.
Stanley Havili is popular among fans but Igwenagu could be an interesting option for Reid to use as a physical lead blocker and pass catcher.
Chase Ford, TE, Miami: 40-1
Chase Ford is far from what you would call a polished receiving tight end. He is purely developmental and would solely make the roster to provide depth.
At 6’7″ and 255 pounds with 4.78 speed Ford could be a prospect worth developing. He only caught 16 passes in 21 games at Miami but he showed some receiving ability at the East-West Shrine game.
He has the size to cause problems in the red zone and as a blocker in the running game. He also has monstrous hands which he can use to snatch the ball way from his body.
With the Eagles using two tight end sets so often last year they could use another body at the position. Ford is far from a lock to earn a roster spot but his chances look a lot brighter than some of the other players on this list.
Phillip Thomas, FS, Syracuse: 25-1
Phillip Thomas is a good safety prospect for the reason that he can play the game of football. He slipped out of the draft entirely due to a bad combination of a lack of size and speed.
Thomas is undersized at 5″11″ and 198 pounds and slow for a defensive back with a 4.74 in the 40, teams weren’t willing to spend a pick on him.
The Eagles were more than happy to scoop him up and take a chance.
Thomas was a three-year starter at Syracuse and he totaled 203 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, nine interceptions and 15 pass breakups.
He has great football smarts and instincts and knows how to play. He is also a very good special teams player. His chances may depend on how healthy Colt Anderson is in the preseason.
Thomas has a chance to develop into a legitimate NFL safety and with the Eagles’ perceived weakness at the position fans will be anxious to see how he looks on the field.
Ryan Tydlacka, P, Kentucky: 25-1
To be clear, I’m not trying to say that Ryan Tydlacka is likely to make the roster as the team’s punter. That is evidenced by the 25-1 odds.
The only reason he is second on the list is the fact that he is battling a single player who had a disappointing season in 2011.
Chas Henry ranked just 25th in the NFL in punting average and 26th in net punting as a rookie. He also ranked 25th in punts inside the 20 and was tied for second in the league in touchbacks.
Tydlacka is not favored to win the job from Henry, but after an underwhelming start he should be at the very least legitimate competition.
Chris Polk, RB, Washington: Even Money
Chris Polk is the reason why every other UDFA’s odds are so low. Undrafted guys don’t usually make the roster and Polk, if healthy, seems like almost a sure thing.
He is the perfect blend of a quality player at a position of need.
After LeSean McCoy the Eagles don’t have much at the running back position. Dion Lewis has some hopes attached to him but he is a small player who didn’t really show much spark in 2011.
He also doesn’t figure to be a guy that can carry the load in the event of a McCoy injury. Polk could be that guy.
Rated by most scouts as a top 10 running back and a likely second or third round pick, Polk somehow slid out of the draft altogether.
In three seasons as a starter Polk amassed 4,013 yards and 26 touchdowns on 779 carries. He also caught 78 passes for 631 yards and four more scores.
Polk topped 1,400 yards in each of his last two seasons and scored an impressive 16 touchdowns last season. He may prove to be damaged goods but at the moment he looks like a great signing.
If I had to pick a favorite player from this group it would probably be Elvis Akpla, but the favorite to win a coveted roster spot goes to Chris Polk.