It was completely evident in the Eagles last draft what they were targeting! In a league that has shown time and time again that you have to have a niche, that you have to be extremely exploitative of what that niche allows, and you better be able to make that correlate into points on the board! This was perfectly evident with the two Superbowl contenders last year, though they were fundamentally built worlds apart, they both exploited what their niche offered to the fullest (KC being able to sling the rock and score at a break neck pace, and SF was ground and pound and keep the other team from scoring).
I just recently read an extremely informative book on business investing. While you may ask what that has to do with building a football team i promise you it does. In this book it lends a view into where someone should invest their money and how much they should pony up for each investment. It goes into many details that I will not bore you with, but one stuck out to me almost right away. Copycat businesses almost always do better than the pioneer due to their ability to sidestep issues that can ruin a business (it is almost always a better investment to put your money with a business that has other companies to fallow and get ideas from than one who is coming up with all their ideas by themselves).
This seems to be what the Eagles were looking to do in this draft. They want to do what the KC Chiefs did, but bigger and better. They drafted speed across the board on both sides of the ball. First round pick J. Reagor is a sub 4.3 WR who can jump out of the proverbial gym. Second round pick J. Hurts is a QB that up until last year was seen specifically as a running QB. Third round pick D. Taylor is one of the biggest athletic freaks of them all! Not to mention Fifth and Sixth round picks J. Hightower and Q. Watkins both run blistering sub 4.4 40s.
Funny enough though I was just as excited about one of the UDFA’s as I was about any of these other picks. It started towards the beginning of NCAA football season that I start looking for players I’d like to see my team take a bet on. I was scrolling through YouTube highlight reels when I happened across a video titled “Fastest player in College Football”. With a title like that how could I not click on it. My first thought was, “Are you really going to hand the ball off to what looks like a receiver in the back field?!?”. From that moment on i became a fan of one Adrian Killins. The first play I watched was a run where the ball was handed off a yard in UCFs own end zone. In three seconds not only had Killins broken through the line, he hadn’t just run past the linebackers, he was already running past the safety some 35 yards down the field! With no chance to catch him Memphis’s players gave it their all, but with a subtle Sprinters head dip crossing the goal line Killins put UCF up 16-7. Now you may say “OK UCF is not that large of a program, thus he may just look fast vs lesser competition”. I beg to differ on that sentiment, Killins runs a 4.3 40 time and makes it translate to the field. When a hole in the defense appears it is nearly impossible to close it before Killins is through it and off to the races.
This became abundantly apparent the further I watched. Twice vs SMU Killins turned what looked like small gain plays into 40+ yard house calls. I showed this video to my dad who is as much an avid Eagles fan as I am if not more, I told him “whoever drafts this kid is getting a steal” never in a million years did I think he would go undrafted! If there are two things I know from watching years of football they are you can’t teach speed, and you can’t teach vision! Both my Dad and I were both blown away by the tape. Simple screens that seemed to be blown up going for 20 to 40 yard scores. Punt and Kick returns that the opposition just plain didn’t have time to get into position due to his speed, and runs that should have gone nowhere that went 40 to 100 yards in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
On draft night I was astonished that no team was going to spend at least a late round draft pick to secure even the chance that Killins speed and vision would transfer to the next level. I was actually a bit peeved that after all the speed we went after in the draft, that we didn’t take a shot on him. But after the dust from the war rooms settled, something even better happened, instead of the Eagles choosing Killins, Killins chose the Eagles. I took a double take when it came across the ticker. Then after confirming, I elbowed my dad and said “guess who we just signed” he was just as pumped as I was!
Now with every player there is a downside either on or off the field. Killins issue seems to be size, he was slept on as a player entering the league due to his slender frame. At 5’8 162lbs his measurable do not scream next level! The good news is, height doesn’t matter (any Eagles fan that says it does after Sproles being on his way to Canton repping the birds, needs to have their IQ tested). Weight can be an issue but where better to bulk up than in an NFL weight program? An argument that I have heard is he is the same build as a recent Eagles bust D. Pumphrey. I raise this question with what did Pumphrey actually bring to the table? Great college stats, a subpar 40 time for a player of his stature, decent field and breakaway speed, but when you watched his tape nothing really popped off the screen at you.
The Eagles this year seemed to go far more after intangibles that can’t be taught than college production. They figure we have coaches to teach you what you dont know, but we don’t have a magic wand that will give you what can’t be learned. I believe in a system that gets the most out of what it has which has been shown year after year with Doug Pederson and the amazing staff he has put together, that players with innate abilities to create space will flourish. Furthermore that players with out of this world abilities can turn into stars.
In my honest opinion the only direction for this young player is up and in a big way! There are so many roles that he can fit into from returning Kicks and Punts, to being a receiving RB, to being a burner receiver on the outside, to playing out of the slot. One thing Pederson has always praised is versatility and this guy has it!
When the dust settles after camp and players have their positions, I just hope Killins gets his due shot. And when we start seeing 40+ yard TDs and subtle sprinters head dips across the goal line, thats when I will say “I told you so”!