Offseason Review: Upside for Late-Round LB, DE
(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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 defense.)
Which 2020 Eagles draft pick on defense is most undervalued?
Geoff’s pick: Shaun Bradley
Although the Eagles picked four players on defense, and none higher than the third round, finding an “undervalued” selection wasn’t easy or obvious.
Davion Taylor, a third-round pick, needs major development to become a starter or impact player at linebacker. I can see fourth-round pick K’Von Wallace blossoming by his second year, but the Eagles have really struggled to hit at this position throughout the years, so they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
(Temple product Shaun Bradley has Eagles linebacker written all over him — undersized, determined, relentless, but also a Day 3 pick).
Shaun Bradley faces an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster this year, and for an Eagles linebacker, that’s saying something. Casey Toohill — more on him from Andrew — might have some potential, but the Eagles already have a stable of young pass rushers they’re looking to groom who are ahead of Toohill on the depth chart.
I’m going to peer into the crystal ball and go with Bradley, mainly because linebacker offers the most open pathway to a starting job. Nate Gerry is entering his the final year of his rookie deal and isn’t certain to return. Jatavis Brown signed a 1-year deal. T.J. Edwards is a promising second-year player but wasn’t even drafted and will have to prove himself year after year. Taylor is somewhat new to the position and needs seasoning. Duke Riley, Alex Singleton — these are fringe players who aren’t even promised to make the 53 this year.
Bradley isn’t the most physically gifted athlete but plays with tremendous passion and desire, which makes him an archetype Eagles linebacker. Gut feeling tells me the kid sticks around for a few years.
Andrew’s pick: Casey Toohill
Davion Taylor and K’Von Wallace were the Eagles’ top defensive choices on draft weekend, acquired in the third and fourth round, respectively. Both players were selected with the presumed plan of becoming prominent fixtures on defense, so I’d hardly deem either to be undervalued.
There was a pass rusher taken late in the seventh round, however, that piqued my interest: Casey Toohill.
(The Eagles are hoping that seventh-round pick Casey Toohill, a pass rusher, can mature into a rotational edge rusher.)
After compiling merely six sacks over his first four seasons, the fifth-year senior enjoyed a breakout final campaign for the Stanford Cardinal, notching a career-high 57 tackles (11.5 for loss), eight sacks, and a forced fumble, earning second-team All-Pac 12 honors and an East-West Shrine Bowl invite for his efforts.
On the first day of Shrine practices, I couldn’t help but notice this undersized, 6-foot-4, 250-pound edge rusher giving these massive offensive tackles fits on the far side of the field. When I walked over for a better look, I saw a violent, tenacious defender who used his hands extremely well, and demonstrated patience in working his respectable array of pass rush moves.
Whenever he would get stone-walled in a drill, and most assumed he had exhausted his energy, Toohill returned with a vengeance on his next rep.
While Toohill showed up against some of the top offensive lineman in the country, he faces an uphill climb to make the Eagles. Toohill, who turns 24 before the season, will likely be battling against Shareef Miller and Joe Ostman for the final defensive end spot.
Miller, a 2019 fourth-round pick, and Ostman, a favorite of the coaching staff, have a decided advantage over Toohill. It will be interesting to see which young edge rusher seizes the opportunity and earns the job, but I suspect Toohill’s energy, relentless motor, and special teams prowess should keep him in the mix throughout the summer.
Though the rookie seems destined to spend the 2020 season on the Eagles’ practice squad, where he can continue to develop his skill set and add some much-needed size to his lengthy frame, Toohill has the physical tools to evolve into a impactful rotational player with proper seasoning.
– 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 writesfor Pro Football Network.
Listen to the latest Inside the Birds podcast here: