Offseason Review: Best Late-Round Offensive Value
(Editor’s Note: This is the third story in an InsideTheBirds.com series recapping the 2020 Eagles offseason. The series will focus on the team’s transactions since the end of the 2019 season, including free agency, the NFL Draft and trades. In Part 3, Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco give their choices for most undervalued draft pick on offense.)
Which 2020 Eagles draft pick on offense is most undervalued?
Andrew’s pick: John Hightower
Jalen Reagor and Jalen Hurts justifiably dominated the headlines on draft weekend, but it was the team’s savvy on the final day of the three-day marathon that earned them more praise.
Though many of the late-round selections are hardly considered locks to make the final roster, each prospect struck me as intriguing developmental pieces for various reasons. As much value as I see in the two Auburn offensive linemen, the most underrated Eagles’ draft pick was fifth-rounder John Hightower.
(Eagles fifth-round pick John Hightower, from Boise St., struggled with drops in practice for the East-West Shrine game but improved during the week and showed separation acumen).
After spending his first two seasons at Hinds (Miss.) Community College, Hightower burst onto the scene for the Boise State Broncos, reeling in 82 receptions for 1,447 yards and 14 touchdowns over 24 games. Following a prolific senior campaign in which he averaged 18.5 yards per catch, Hightower earned 2019 second-team All-Mountain West honors at both wide receiver and kick returner.
In the weeks that followed, Hightower accepted his invitation to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl, and performed well despite a slow start to the week that included multiple dropped passes. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver impressed me with crafty route-running and an ability to stack defensive backs, but perhaps more encouraging was that he showcased an ability to adequately track the football – an area of his game that proved to be problematic at times during his Boise State tenure.
Watching Hightower up close throughout the week it was evident that he needed to add weight and improve his play-strength in order to compete at the next level, but he represented himself well against some of the top talent in the country.
Though considered old by rookie standards — he turns 24 at the end of May — Hightower is still very much a raw prospect who possesses tantalizing athleticism and upside. His route-running will need refinement and he will need to work on his releases against NFL cornerbacks, but the former Bronco not only boasts the top-end speed that the Eagles so desperately need, he also offers the ability to double as a kick returner.
Given his relative inexperience, Hightower would have benefited immensely from a full offseason and will likely find himself behind the curve when training camp opens. Due to his versatile skill set, however, I suspect he will flash enough potential in his limited opportunities to not only survive cut down day, but eventually carve out a role on offense.
Geoff’s pick: Jack Driscoll
Of the 10 players drafted this year, it seems as if fourth-round offensive lineman Jack Driscoll, from Auburn, isn’t getting as much attention as several players drafted behind him, including Hightower (Andrew’s choice) and Quez Watkins. Even the other offensive tackle from Auburn picked by the Eagles in the sixth round, Prince Tega Wanogho, seemingly arrived with a more interesting story and more intrigue than Driscoll.
But the reality is Driscoll has an opportunity to make an impact earlier in his career, especially as an interior linemen, and his skill-set blends perfectly with the team’s offensive schemes. Driscoll played right tackle at Auburn but has the athleticism, footwork and refined technique to handle the interior. He played guard and tackle at UMass before transferring to Auburn.
(Eagles fourth-round pick Jack Driscoll played all three offensive line positions in college at UMass and Auburn and has the athleticism that matches with Doug Pederson’s zone schemes).
Driscoll’s best attributes are his mobility — his 5.01 in the 40 at the Combine was fourth-best among all offensive linemen — and he played two seasons in Auburn’s RPO-heavy and zone-run offense, which should ease his transition into Doug Pederson’s offense, which also features RPOs and stretch runs, along with a variety of traps, screens and other schemes that have linemen on the move and jumping into the second level.
Opportunity could knock quickly for Driscoll given the age and injury history of the interior offensive line. An injury or retirement by Jason Kelce would likely move Isaac Seumalo into the center spot, leaving an opening at left guard. As Adam Caplan and I noted recently on an Inside the Birds podcast, right guard Brandon Brooks’ cap number practically doubles after 2020, when he’ll be 32.
With some coaching from Jeff Stoutland and by adding some bulk, Driscoll could be ready to compete for a starting job by his second season. A starter mined in the fourth round is always tremendous value.
– Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherNFL) is a longtime Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter and co-host of Inside the Birds. Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.
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