Let’s go ahead and call it early. Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata was a steal in 2019’s NFL Draft.
In sports media, many people hate to jump the gun or be daring. This is one of those times when it becomes important to do exactly that. In 2018’s NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles took a guy who had never played a down of American football in hopes that he’d end up being a serviceable offensive lineman, a rugby star by the name of Jordan Mailata.
One day, we’ll look back and talk about how wise of a decision that was.
Normally, when you’re looking for guys to draft that late in the NFL’s annual selection meeting, you aren’t thinking you’ll find starters. You’re honestly looking for some depth. It isn’t often that you find a Jalen Mills (guys who are seen as being second-round talents but slide that much due to questions about them).
When Philly took a chance on a rugby star, some of the concern was they had already tried that experiment with a guy they wanted to play tight end, Adam Zaruba, and that experiment didn’t seem to be working.
When Philly took Mailata, they weren’t risking much. He was a seventh-round selection. That meant he got a four-year deal that was only going to cost them $2.5 million. His only guarantee was an $89,392 signing bonus. This was going to work, or it was going to fail. If it worked, the move could be seen as a genius. If it failed, there was no real issue. Seventh-round selections usually fail anyway.
Things seemed bleak when Mailata finished the 2018-19 season on the team’s IR (injured reserve), but the fact that he’s still around a year later put the franchise in a unique position. For a while, we’ve all been talking about how they’re in a spot where they feel they can move on from former a fifth-round selection in Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
Here’s some high praise from former Eagles lineman and current NFL Network, Fox Sports, Compass Media Networks football analyst Brian Baldinger.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson discussed how impressed he was with Mailata’s play during a Saturday press conference.
"He did some good things. We were pleased with his performance. It wasn’t perfect. There were one or two (mental errors). Overall, I felt like he came out with an eagarness, with an agressiveness and really showed the type of player that he’s capable (of being). It came out in that game."
Lane Johnson didn’t play in Philly’s first preseason game to avoid injury. Ironically, he ended up on Philly’s injury report anyway. Mailata started in his absence in game one. Now, he may do so again out of necessity.
Here’s the thing. You didn’t hear his name in that first preseason game. That’s always a good sign for a lineman. As he reps increase, so will his confidence and skill set.
Coach Pederson said they were willing to be patient with a guy who hadn’t played the game before. That patience appears to be paying off. Maybe this was an idea that will eventually make Mailata look as much like a steal as a move of this magnitude can. Every Eagles fan is pulling for him.