This is far from a normal calendar year in the NFL. The lack of pre-draft workouts and in-person interviews has dramatically changed the landscape.
The “fully virtual draft” is one big component but there is much more to it. Potential draft picks cannot enter team facilities to meet people. Free agents cannot receive proper medical examinations. And current players cannot work out with their teammates due to strict social distancing policies.
The latter may disrupt the chemistry in the worst way, especially since Carson Wentz always holds an annual team-bonding trip with his receivers. That fun rendezvous — last year it was in Houston — has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Wentz was able to sit down with the front office and coaching staff after the season to discuss a collaborative vision for the future, per Eagles GM Howie Roseman.
“In the past, he has had the opportunity to work out with some guys, but obviously with social distancing and everything going on, it’s not the same way,” Roseman told reporters. “Any time we can get valuable information from any of our players about guys they know, guys they’re a part of, it’s important for us to listen to that because a lot of it, it’s dating before you marry, so you don’t really know anyone until they’re really in your building unless you’ve already had that experience with them.”
Wentz is expecting a baby “any day now” so maybe the spring bonding trip wouldn’t have happened. Plus, Roseman stressed that he values everyone’s opinion on the roster.
“For us, we want to communicate with all our players,” Roseman said. “Obviously, Carson is a huge part of it, and being able to sit down with him after the season and talk about our vision and just kind of keep in touch and make sure that he’s okay and his family’s okay is the priority.”
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The Eagles have long emphasized culture, in the locker room and as an organization. They do their homework to make sure they are bringing in high-character people, not just uber-elite athletes.
But the novel coronavirus has upended a lot of that vetting process. They have been forced to rely on video chats and conference calls to get to know the prospects. It’s been a challenging way to map out a draft board.
“I’m sure that there are a lot of players in this draft who are sick and tired of seeing 215 numbers come up on their phone and to have these conversations,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. “Guys are taking it as their responsibility, whether it’s scouts, whether it’s coaches, to make sure that they know everything about these guys, to make sure that they are getting their work done to know as much as they know if they had them in person.”
It’s a problem not exclusive to the Eagles. The entire NFL has been dealing with a new world.
“Everybody is in the same boat,” said Andy Weidl, Eagles vice-president of player personnel, “and to credit, our staff has been aggressive and creative, the video chats and spending as much time with our players as we can and doing the best job possible.”
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Denzel Mims is one of those guys who has had lots of conversations with the Eagles. The 6-foot-3, 207-pounder said he talked to them about “four or five times” last week.
“I’ve talked to the Eagles a lot,” Mims told John Marks and Ike Reese on Thursday, via Bleacher Report. “I talked to them like four times last week. Four or five times last week.”
Mims recorded 186 receptions for 2,925 yards and 28 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor. He ran a blistering 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, with a 38.5-inch vertical jump, at the NFL Scouting Combine. Mims could be a dangerous “Z” receiver in a vertical offense, per one scouting report. He could be available for the Eagles in the second round.
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