After Falling in Draft, Mills and McCalister Aim to Move Forward

Jalen Mills watched the entire 2016 NFL draft.

That meant that the former LSU defensive back watched 232 names pop up on his television screen before his own. The Eagles finally drafted Mills with the 12th pick in the seventh round. Mills expected to be taken in the second or third.

"It was very frustrating," Mills said at Eagles rookie camp on Friday. "I'm sure it was for a lot of other guys who thought they should have been picked high. But that just comes with the draft. Like I said, it's very crazy."

Seven picks after Mills was picked, the Eagles drafted Florida defensive end Alex McCalister.

Both Mills and McAlister hoped to be selected earlier in the draft. Both seemingly have similar reasons for their falls. The Eagles drafting both, as well as fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood, seemed to signal a philosophical shift in the organization, a willingness to draft players with character concerns (see story)

Mills was arrested in 2014 for second-degree battery of a woman. Those charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and were eventually dropped after he entered a pretrial diversion program. Mills said he was tempted to let the case go to trial to prove his innocence but claims he entered the program and pleaded no contest to prevent the entire situation from lingering.

"It's very hard," Mills said. "Throughout that whole situation, I grew up with my mom in a single parent home with my grandmother and my two aunts. So just me being raised around women, they taught me how to cater to a woman and how to love a woman and not to do those things I was accused of. So for one, the hurt it really wasn't for me because I knew I wasn't guilty. But it was the hurt for how my mom and my grandmother knew I wasn't raised like that and I wouldn't do something like that."

Mills, who has been working at cornerback since arriving to Philadelphia, said while teams wanted to check him out, he isn't worried about his behavior being an issue in the future.

"I don't have to watch how I behave," he said. "That's not a problem in my life. I don't do those types of things. That's the first time I ever got in trouble in my whole life."

Unlike Mills and Smallwood, who was once charged for tampering with a witness in a murder investigation (charges were dropped), McCalister's character concerns weren't criminal in nature.

McCalister was suspended for last year's season opener for a violation of team rules. Then, he was reportedly dismissed from the team late in the season, though he adamantly denied that report.

"I wasn't kicked off the team at all," McCalister said. "[Florida coaches] will all tell you no and almost laugh at you."

The defensive end isn't sure why or how it was reported that he was kicked off the team, but did have to answer many questions about it throughout the pre-draft process.

A big theme during those meetings was about his maturity.

"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "At the combine, I had my formal interviews. Teams just wanted to know who I really was. Stepping in the room, getting to talk eye-to-eye. OK, this kid is not a bad kid. You Google my name, you think ‘this cat's crazy.' But being in front of them, showing them who I am definitely helped."

While McCalister claims he wasn't kicked off the team at the end of the season, he wasn't able to play in Florida's bowl game because of an ankle injury.

That's another thing McCalister and Mills have in common: both suffered pretty serious injuries last season, which could have been another reason neither were picked until the seventh round.

Mills suffered a broken leg during LSU's preseason camp, which severely shortened his senior year. He said he didn't really feel 100 percent until the Senior Bowl in February.

Character concerns and injuries seem to be reasons both Mills and McCalister fell into the seventh round. The Eagles hope that they found some value with both.

"I have no idea (why I fell in the draft)," Mills said. "The draft is crazy. I'm just blessed to be in the position I am, being picked up by this team."

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