The Eagles added a pair of weapons for quarterback Carson Wentz with their two second-round draft picks on Friday night, choosing Penn State running back Miles Sanders with the 53 overall pick and Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at No. 57.
With three rounds of the draft complete – the Eagles did not have a third-round pick – the Eagles have ignored the defensive side of the ball.
There were plenty of defensive options available when their time on the clock arrived, especially at safety, where Delaware’s Nasir Adderley and Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson were still available. There were options on the defensive line, too, where Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones, Central Florida’s Trysten Hill, and Boston College’s Zach Allen were on the board.
Vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas called Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside “two of the highest character guys in this draft, so that separated them from a few guys.”
The Cowboys took Hill right after the Eagles selected Arcega-Whiteside.
Adderley went to the Chargers three picks after Arcega-Whiteside.
“Very excited,” said executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. “We were patient. Let the board come to us. Got Miles Sanders then we came back and got a receiver that we had targeted throughout this process, someone who really fits what we do, really good player, good person in J.J. Just really excited about those two guys.
“Obviously offense heavy the past couple days. It’s just how the board went. Understand that we can’t do everything at all the need positions. That’s not what we went into the draft doing. That’s what we did through free agency. We had the flexibility here to just follow our board and take the best guys, and that’s what we’ve done so far here.”
The Eagles have two picks left and they will come on Saturday, one in the fourth round (138) and the fifth round (163).
By drafting Sanders, the Eagles chose to remain in-state.
Sanders attended Penn State and Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh. The 5-10, 211-pound runner was lightly used in college, spending his first two years spelling last year’s No. 2 pick, Saquon Barkley.
“Miles was a staff favorite, a coaching staff favorite, a personnel favorite, all of us, a front office favorite,” said Roseman. “He reminded us of some other players we’ve had around here. He’s got great lateral quickness. He was behind obviously a great back in Saquon and really took the opportunity to take it over when he it. We think he’s a special talent and a perfect fit for our offense.”
In his final season in State College, with Barkley off to the NFL and the New York Giants, Sanders ran 220 times for 1,274 yards, a 5.8 yards per carry average, with nine touchdowns. He caught 24 passes for 139 yards, a 5.8 yards per catch average.
Prior to his junior season, he had just 56 carries for 375 yards and three scores in his first two years with the Nittany Lions. His average yards per carry were high both seasons at 7.4 as a freshman and 6.2 as a sophomore.
Sanders is the first player the Eagles drafted from Penn State since running back Tony Hunt was picked in the third round of the 2007 draft. He joins backfield that added Jordan Howard in an offseason trade with the Chicago Bears. The 2018 roster holdovers are Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, and Boston Scott.
Arcega-Whiteside is 6-2, 225 pounds with a basketball background. Contact by defensive backs doesn’t seem to faze Arcega-Whiteside. In fact, he seems very comfortable bodying up against defenders and doesn’t seem to need much room to make a catch.
His 28 career touchdowns are tied for second most in Stanford history and he finished third in school history with nine career 100-yard receiving games.
Arcega-Whiteside, however, was unable to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a right knee injury.
He has an interesting background. Born in Spain, and having lived in Italy and Portugal, Arcega-Whiteside moved to South Carolina when he was six. He learned English as his third language. His uncles Fernando and Jose Arcega played for Spain in the 1984 Olympics. Both his parents played professional basketball overseas.
“We heard from a bunch of people after we picked J.J. they were very surprised J.J. fell,” said Roseman. “Sometimes these west coast guys who play late, they get a little underrated because people aren’t watching those late games. This guy’s a baller. He’s got a very good skillset and I think when our fans get to know him they’re going to be really proud. He symbolizes Eagles mentality, Eagles football.”