NFL Draft 2017: Eagles get toys for Wentz on Day 3, but they might not contribute much in 2017
PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles’ flipped their focus toward providing 24-year-old quarterback Carson Wentz with young offensive playmakers on Day 3 of the NFL draft.
After picking three defensive players in the first three rounds, the Eagles took two wide receivers and a running back Saturday. The aim to add offensive oomph was easy to see. But the timetable for Wentz’s three new weapons to develop into contributors is less clear.
North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins (4th round, 118th overall), San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (4th round, 139th overall) and West Virginia wide receiver Shelton Gibson (5th round, 164th overall) bring explosiveness to Philadelphia, while staring down roadblocks to playing time.
Day 3 of the draft rarely yields sure-fire stars, so it’s wouldn’t come as a surprise if none these four wind up as helpful targets for Wentz in 2017.
Coach Doug Pederson conceded as much Saturday. Though Pederson said he was intrigued by the speed of Hollins and Gibson, who both shined as deep threats in college, he added it’ll take the wideouts time to grow into an NFL offense.
“They’ll be a little bit of a work in progress,” Pederson said. “Most receivers coming out of college don’t have an extensive route tree … so there is a learning curve there. But both of these guys are smart guys. You see it on tape and when you get a chance to visit with them. They understand offense, they understand coverage.”
The Eagles hope their rookie receivers won’t be rushed into action, considering they signed veterans Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. Still, Jeffery missed time with injury and suspension the past two seasons, while Smith’s production has dipped each of the past three years.
That means the Birds could thrust Hollins or Gibson into the lineup at some point in 2017, and it’s unclear if either is ready for that.
Hollins never averaged more than 54 receiving yards per game over the course of a season during his college career, and he missed six games last year with a broken collarbone. Gibson, meanwhile, was a bit more productive in college, but he’ll need to refine his skill set after playing in West Virginia’s air-raid offense for two years.
The duo of rookies are speedsters who averaged more than 20 yards per catch in college — they’ll just need to be more consistent and versatile to make an impact with the Eagles.
Pumphrey’s case is different. It’s hard to ignore his on-field credentials. The 5-foot-8 running back broke the Mountain West Conference record with 6,405 career rushing yards at San Diego State, hauled in 99 catches during his time as an Aztec and finished with 67 total touchdowns.
“With Pumphrey the thing that stands out the most is prolific production,” Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “He’s a little dog that thinks he’s a big dog. And he plays that way.”
Pumphrey’s roadblock? As a small and shifty back, he fits into the same role Darren Sproles plays so well for the Eagles, and there might not be enough running back snaps to go around.
Sproles has said he’ll contemplate retirement after 2017, which could line Pumphrey up for long-term success. He’s likely to spend a year learning from Sproles before assuming larger responsibilities on the offense, when he’ll have a chance to mesh with Wentz and emerge as a bona fide NFL playmaker.
But with the Eagles likely to lean on a more physical running back to shoulder a heavy load and Sproles serving as the top change-of-pace option, Pumphrey’s 2017 room for immediate contributors appears thin.
That could be the same for all three offensive players in the team’s draft class.
Round 1 (14th overall): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Round 2 (43rd overall): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Round 3 (99th overall): Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
Round 4 (118th overall): Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
Round 4: (132nd overall): Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Round 5 (166th overall): Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
Round 5 (184th overall): Nathan Gerry, LB, Nebraska
Round 6 (214th overall): Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
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