Prospect Watch: Washington's Molden Offers Hybrid Skill Set
An already bare-bones Eagles defensive back room lost key components in the early stages of free agency when Jalen Mills and Rudy Ford signed elsewhere. I hardly pegged Ford as someone who'd be on any team's radar, much less a priority. Ford, a special teams maven, typically fits the mold of a someone often relegated to the third wave of the signing period. But, hey, here we are.
For all his flaws, Mills offered redeeming qualities as an intelligent, hard-nosed defender who commanded respect from his peers. The fact that he could line up essentially anywhere in the secondary and provide adequate play – at a relatively low cost – was icing on the cake. The Patriots, who value versatility in the secondary, offered Mills a deal that likely wouldn’t have been matched elsewhere.
Fortunately for Howie Roseman, there will be opportunities for the Eagles' personnel chief to strengthen the unit in the coming weeks.
So, where do the Eagles go from here?
Given the team’s reported interest in 49ers slot cornerback K’Waun Williams, it’s fair to wonder if plans are in the works to move Avonte Maddox to safety, where he played some as a rookie. Even just sniffing around the nickelback market when there's already a capable one on the roster – and two pending free agents – is revealing.
Williams would be a questionable fit from an age and cost perspective, but perhaps the team looks at the upcoming NFL Draft to identify a suitable replacement.
If the Eagles opt to upgrade its crop of defensive backs, Washington’s Elijah Molden is a prospect who not only fits the bill at 70th overall in the third round, but will provide early returns as a rookie.
Measuring at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Molden hardly fits the prototype for a lockdown defender. But while his slight frame and moderate speed could be causes for some reservations, Molden is one of the most pro-ready defensive backs in his class due to skill set and football acumen.
Ironically, Molden would provide Mills-like energy to the secondary and quickly endear himself to teammates with toughness. Whether he aligns inside or finds a home at free safety, Molden offers the ideal blend of versatility, playmaking ability, and instincts to thrive. Additionally, the scrappy defensive back boasts an advanced football IQ, while his fluidity and reactiveness in confined spaces make him an ideal answer in slowing smaller, shiftier pass-catchers.
Over the past 17 games (two seasons), Molden has compiled 105 tackles (6.5) for loss, 19 passes defended, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles. His accolades include, but aren't limited to, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2019, first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, and was also named a William V. Campbell Trophy Finalist in 2020.
My best comparison for Molden would be Kansas City Chiefs do-it-all defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who boasts similar range, tenacity, and ball skills.
With the draft just over a month away, it’s difficult to forecast what approach the Eagles will take to repair a largely flawed roster. However, Molden’s dominant traits as an inside corner could lead to All-Pro recognition in the early goings or maybe he projects as a long-term answer at free safety. If Day 2 concludes and Molden remains within striking distance, he'd be the perfect fit.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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