Last week we turned the spotlight onto some of the players already in the nation’s brightest spotlight: players that the Eagles have a chance of obtaining with the eighth pick. This week we’re looking at some prospects who reside in different levels of that national spotlight, but have all left a big mark on Pennsylvania through their college careers.
Kyle Friend, C, Temple
Friend is one player who would probably have benefited from an invitation to the combine. Friend benched 225 pounds 41 times at Temple’s pro day. The best combine performance was by Arizona State’s Christian Westerman, with 34 reps. Friend also recorded a 5.09 forty-yard dash, which would have been good for eighth among offensive lineman at the combine.
At Temple, Friend rolled up 41 consecutive starts before a knee injury forced him to miss a contest as a senior. He was a starter for all four years and a team captain for three of them.
NFL.com compares him to another Pennsylvania center: Penn State’s A.Q. Shipley. Shipley was drafted in the seventh round by the Steelers in 2009 after winning the Dave Rimington Trophy (given to the best center in college football) as a senior. He has started 22 games in the league.
Likely to be a late round selection, Friend has played center and guard. That versatility might make him a valuable back-up for a team lacking quality depth on the offensive line. If you can think of one.
Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
Nassib’s story was repeated a lot during the 2015 season: A former walk-on who then-Nittany Lion head coach Bill O’Brien had to have a gut-check moment with in terms of his dedication to football. Nassib worked himself onto scholarship and into opponent’s backfields a Penn State-record 15.5 times during his senior year. All that won him the Lombardi award and a chance to prove his former coach wrong in the pros (O’Brien has been nothing but congratulatory).
Nassib is a tantalizing prospect at 6-foot-7, and if Jim Schwartz wants to bring the wide-nine back to Philadelphia, his skill set is a good match. He has already added strength and bulk to his frame – one reason for his late bloom - but will have to keep doing it in the pros. His older brother is Ryan Nassib, who played quarterback at Syracuse and was drafted by the Giants in 2013.
There are questions remaining about Nassib. Is he a one-year wonder? How much attention was paid to him on a very talented defensive line? Does he have the strength his size would imply? These likely will leave him with a day-two grade rather than the top prospect status you might expect for a record-setting pass-rusher in a power conference. But if he keeps improving at the rate he has, some team is in for a treat.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
CBS compares him to Nelson Agholor, for whatever positives and negatives that’s worth. A lot of people were excited about Agholor entering 2015. His production is outstanding, and more reminiscent of the mark Jordan Matthews left on Vanderbilt. Boyd leaves Pittsburgh as a career record holder with 3,361 yards on 254 catches over just three years of work. Each of those three years he was catching passes from a new quarterback.
In 2015 he was the Panthers best weapon and opponents knew it. Pittsburgh lined him up at running back (520 career rushing yards,) asked him to throw a couple passes, and used him to return kicks and punts. With all the roles and attention, Boyd still reeled in 91 receptions. He was the first receiver in ACC history to have 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons, and spent a lot of his time at Pitt breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s records. Eagles fans will be intimately familiar with Fitzgerald.
Without elite speed for the position, Boyd is probably a day two pick. He does have good height, standing 6-foot-1.
Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple
The most-decorated player in school history, Matakevich leaves Temple a Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski award winner, a First-Team All-American and three-time First-Team All-Conference selection, and owner of an eye-popping 493 tackles. In 2015 alone, he led Temple in tackles in every game.
As a senior in 2015, he brought four-and-a-half sacks (three in the season opener against Penn State) and five interceptions to the team to go along with 138 total tackles. It was his fourth straight season above the 100-tackle mark. Matakevich and Friend were the first players to be team captains for three years at Temple.
Matakevich was not a workout wonder at the combine. That and his size (6-foot-0, 238 lbs) has teams questioning his projection to the NFL. It also means he should be available day two or even day three. Conveniently, the Eagles own the second pick on day three. But all it takes is one team to fall in love, and with a player like Matakevich, it’s very likely someone will.
Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State
The first recruit to sign on for the Bill O’Brien era at Penn State, Lucas started 33 games there before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the end of his senior season. The injury kept him from the Senior Bowl and running any drills at the combine.
He was able to take the field for Penn State’s pro day, and did-as you might expect-well, posting a 4.45 forty-yard dash and 38-inch vertical leap. Home field advantage aside, it was important for Lucas to be able to get out there and show scouts something before the draft.
He spent two years starting at cornerback before moving to safety in 2015. This versatility could give him an extra look from teams in need at either position, and he has nice size (6-foot-0) if moved back to corner in the pros. A lot was made of various cornerbacks shying away from contact in the 2015 pre-season, and Lucas doesn’t have that problem.
After his injury forced him out of the draft spotlight this off-season, Lucas will be fighting to get onto draft boards and into the seven rounds, but he’ll be on someone’s summer roster.