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By Stone Loitfellner, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
We are back. Draft night is coming up on April 29th, 2021. From the 29th to May 1st, GMs, coaches and fans will all be reading into every minute detail as their franchises look to make the right picks to ensure future success. When it comes to Philadelphia though, things are as interesting as they are clear-cut. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Eagles have been awfully busy this offseason.
For one, the team decided after, an abysmal 2020 performance that their freshly paid quarterback Carson Wentz should play elsewhere, and that elsewhere would end up being Indianapolis. For a 2021 third and a conditional 2022 2nd, the Colts got the 28-year-old Carson Wentz while the Eagles will seemingly be going with Jalen Hurts for the foreseeable future. Hurts was actually the Eagles’ second-round pick in 2020, which quickly lead to controversy.
Once again, in case you missed it, Doug Pederson was also let go from the team with the former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni coming to Philadelphia to fill the former’s shoes. If that’s not enough action for you, Philadelphia also decided to trade back in the first round already, sending the sixth overall pick to the Dolphins in exchange for pick 12 and a 2022 first-rounder. So, with all that said and done, let’s take a look at some potential picks for the 2021 draft.
I say give Jalen Reagor more time to develop before writing him off, but some fans did just that as soon as the name was announced during the first round of last year’s draft, to no fault of his own; another name being on the board is what caused the uproar by Eagles fans. Justin Jefferson out of LSU was considered to be the best receiver prospect behind the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb and Henry Ruggs, so when the Eagles selected Jalen Reagor over him, fans were upset and confused to say the least. Now, heading into the 2021 draft, wide receiver is once again at the top of the “needs” list.
When the Eagles still held the sixth overall pick, it seemed likely they would draft Ja’marr Chase out of LSU. However, with them trading back to 12, things get a bit more tricky. Teams that could also use a receiver pick ahead of the Eagles: Cinncinati is mocked to draft Chase at five, although some feel they should go offensive line instead. Still, the Dolphins at six could look to give their young quarterback a weapon by taking Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. It doesn’t help that even the Giants at pick 11 and are being slated to take a receiver with by mocks.
On the bright side, this big three set of receivers may be just enough for the Eagles to land one (and not go wrong) at 12. The draft this year trends towards being quarterback top-heavy, with four to five quarterbacks being projected to go in the top 10 in most mock drafts. This can allow the Eagles to snag a top-ten receiver at pick 12, regardless of which receiver that may be.
The first round is not the only opportunity for a receiver, though. The Eagles still hold pick 37 overall, the fifth pick of the second round. This could allow the Eagles to land a receiver I’m very high on, Terrace Marshall Jr. Marshall was fairly easy to look over since, in 2019, he was the odd man out playing alongside Justin Jefferson and Ja’marr Chase. In 2020, those two were no longer on the field, allowing Marshall to showcase his talents, when he did putting up over 700 yards with 10 touchdowns in just seven games. There are also players like Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) and Rondale Moore (Purdue) who have both been routinely slated in the picks 40-55 range.
Elijah Moore is an athletic receiver with explosive speed who managed 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games last year. Rondale Moore is often considered the most electric player in the draft but comes with one of the highest risks due to injury history. However, when healthy, he’s considered a swiss-army knife that can be used anywhere on the field. In 2020, Moore would only play three games but put up 270 receiving yards, 32 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. In 2018, during a full season, Moore recorded 114 receptions for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 213 rushing yards and two scores on the ground, making him an intriguing prospect to say the least.
Of course, there are still more chances to land talented receivers in the draft with prospects like Dyami Brown (UNC), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma St), Amari Rodgers (Clemson) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC) being slated to go in the third round. That’s even leaving out Seth Williams (Auburn), D’wanye Eskridge (Western Michigan), TuTu Atwell (Lousiville), Nico Collins (Michigan), Tamorrion Terry (Florida St), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest) and Shi Smith (South Carolina), all of who are projected to go after the third round.
Once again, this is something the Miami-Philly trade directly affects. Now that the Eagles are sitting at 12 instead of six, they may be in a better position for a stud cornerback. While Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) seems to be almost universally considered the top corner prospect, Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) quickly caught the attention of scouts after Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech), another top cornerback prospect, needed to receive back surgery. While it is unlikely that Surtain falls all the way to 12, it is by no means a stretch to say Horn may be available, with plenty of mock drafts agreeing. However, mocks do know Horn’s value and some don’t have him escaping the top ten, unfortunately being slated to go to Dallas in some cases. Still, it’s worth taking a peek at what Horn can do. In 2020, playing in seven games, Horn recorded two picks while also deflecting six passes. Horn is arguably the best corner in the draft with scouts being most impressed by his one-on-one coverage and competitive mindset when it comes to fighting the receiver at the point of the catch. It is worth mentioning there are concerns with Horn’s tackling ability, with scouts finding his toughness during passes isn’t quite the same during tackles.
If the top two corners fall off the board by pick 12, the Eagles will more than likely go with another position or possibly trade back. If they do decide to do the latter, Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern could find himself in Philadelphia. Being mocked in the early to mid 20’s, Newsome is one of three corners I could see Philly landing in a trade back scenario, the other two being Caleb Farley, who is falling mostly due to injury, and Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida St), who is mocked to be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Newsome is known to attack the ball in the air and is seen as a starting perimeter corner in the NFL. His ability to play man coverage and get aggressive at the line of scrimmage could make him a good number two opposite of Darius Slay. Newsome would only play in four games in 2020 but managed to deflect nine passes and record an interception, proving he doesn’t need a large sample size to show his worth.
Meanwhile, Asante Samuel Jr. made the most of his eight games in 2020, snatching three passes out the air and deflecting six. Although considered undersized at 5’10”, Samuel shines in man coverage using loose hips and quick feet to match the receiver’s route. Of course, there are concerns in his zone coverage, but teams hope that’s something that simply needs some coaching. Regardless, Asante Samuel Jr., like his father before him, would make a solid addition to the Eagles’ secondary.
Still, the Eagles wouldn’t be out of options if they decide to wait out the corner position. As previously stated, Samuel Jr. could be available at pick 37. Even if he isn’t, there’s still the likes of, Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky), Tyson Campbell (Georgia), Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse) and Aaron Robinson (UCF), all of whom are mocked to go in the second round. This still leaves talented names such as Elijah Molden (Washington), Paulson Adebo (Stanford), Eric Stokes (Georgia), Marco Wilson (Florida), Tre Brown (Oklahoma) and Shaun Wade (Ohio State) on the board.
Another first-round possibility, linebacker is definitely something worth looking into as an Eagles fan. Although the Eagles signed Eric Wilson, it would be smart to get a young talented linebacker on the roster after seeing firsthand last season the results of what the lack of a true line backing corps brings. For many people in terms of the 2021 draft, when they hear “linebacker”, they think Micah Parsons out of Penn State, who has been mocked to the Eagles at pick 12. However, as good as a player Parsons is, the character rumors are something worth taking note of and could scare some teams away. Still, Parsons is ranked as the top linebacker in the draft and the hype, combined with his 109 total tackles and four forced fumbles in 2020, can be hard to argue against if he is available at 12.
There is another linebacker that seemingly has no red flags other than debatable size: 6’2″ 216lbs. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) out of Norte Dame is considered by many to be the best coverage linebacker in the draft, with the ability to cover running backs and tight ends, even being able to play some safety in certain defensive packages. Still, JOK in a way had a quiet 2020 with 61 total tackles and 1.5 sacks, but did have three forced fumbles and an interception. Just for comparison, in 2019, he managed 79 total tackles, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. JOK is an interesting player to project, seeing him go from pick 19 to pick 31 in mocks. The question Philly may have is whether or not it’s a reach to take the talented linebacker at 12 or see if there’s the right deal to make a slight trade back.
If the Eagles don’t land either of these two, they likely start their linebacker search in the second round with Jamin Davis out of Kentucky, who CBS’ Ryan Wilson actually has the Eagles taking with their 37th pick. Davis, for some, just misses the top five linebacker rankings, being viewed around the sixth spot. Of course, that’s no ranking to scoff at. Davis is still a talented player with plenty of ceiling. In 2020, Davis managed to record 102 total tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions and a touchdown.
These players are all earlier options in the draft, but the Eagles could land a talented player in the later rounds with players like Chazz Surratt (North Carolina), Jabril Cox (LSU), Nick Bolton (Missouri), Dylan Moses (Alabama), Cameron McGrone (Michigan) and Tony Fields II (West Virginia) slated to be available in rounds two to five.
Another position that should be addressed at some point in the draft is defensive end. Yes, Brandon Graham has been solid while Josh Sweat holds a lot of promise, but after that, Derek Barnett has been disappointing and the Eagles would certainly benefit from getting a blooming young talent to rush off the edge. Although it may not be a name fans are high on, there is a likelihood of Kwity Paye being the name called out for Philly’s pick, whether that be at 12 or slightly later if they decide to trade back. However, Paye has been mocked as high as pick 14, so if the Eagles do value Paye or a defensive end that much, it could be at pick 12.
Personally, I find this to be the wrong move. Paye, albeit in just four games, only had two sacks in 2020. Now, I won’t leave out that he did have 6.5 in 2019. Still, the Eagles have more dire needs than a defensive end and should start looking for that position in the third round or later. This is where some talented names pop up in mocks for a cheaper price. There’s Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh), who managed 9 sacks in 11 games last season for starters. Jones also put up 8.5 in 2019.
Then there’s Quincy Roche out of Miami, who had a disappointing 2020 putting up 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 10 games. Although a look at his 2019 numbers may intrigue fans a bit more: 13 sacks in 11 games. Roche also had six sacks in 2018 and seven in 2017. I know there’s more to an edge rusher than sacks, but the Eagles need an end that can get to the quarterback. Patrick Jones II has been mocked to the Eagles by Ryan Wilson at pick 84. He also has Roche mocked at pick 91, making them both possible options for the Eagles in the third round.
There’s also Rashad Weaver out of Pittsburgh, who is mocked around the same place as Jones and Roche. Weaver provided solid production for the Panthers in 2018 and 2020, putting up 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the former year with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during the latter. However, Weaver missed all of 2019 with a knee injury, possibly causing him to be projected a bit lower than his value.
Although the third round seems like the ideal round for the Eagles (especially with them having two picks) to get an edge rusher, they could look in the further rounds of the draft. With plenty of names available like Ade Ogundeji (Notre Dame), Chauncey Golston (Iowa), Janarius Robinson (Florida St), Jordan Smith (UAB), Shaka Toney (Penn State), Malik Herring (Georgia) and Patrick Johnson (Tulane).
While on the topic of defensive line, the Eagles could use a young tackle to develop behind Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. This doesn’t mean Philly should start looking for a defensive tackle in the first or even the second round. In fact, I think they should only start looking around their 84th overall pick. A couple of names expected to go in this area are Jay Tufele (USC), Osa Odighizuwa (UCLA) and Milton Williams (Louisiana Tech).
While Tufele managed 42 total tackles and 4.5 sacks in 13 games last season, Odighizuwa and Williams intrigue me more, even though they’re routinely mocked to go after Tufele in the draft. In seven games last season, Odighizuwa recorded 30 total tackles with four sacks. In 10 games, Milton Williams put up 45 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. In 2019 though, Williams would post the best numbers of all three tackles’ careers with 59 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. Williams has been mocked as low as pick 105, the last pick of the third round.
The Eagles could still choose to look for a defensive tackle in the fifth to seventh round where they could call names such as Marvin Wilson (Florida St), Tyler Shelvin (LSU), Jaylen Twyman (Pittsburgh), Khyiris Tonga (BYU), Darius Stills (West Virginia) or Ta’Quon Graham (Texas).
While we’re focused on the defense we might as well finish it off by looking at the possible safeties the Eagles could draft. Believe it or not, the first possibility may be at pick 37. Trevon Moehrig and Jevon Holland, the top two safeties in the draft, are slated to go in the 33-46 pick range, putting them both in realistic play for the Eagles if they want to go safety that early in the draft. Now, the Eagles do still have Rodney McLeod and drafted K’von Wallace just last year. With McLeod getting older and uncertainty in the future of the position, it could pay off landing one of the two top-rated safeties in this year’s draft.
Trevon Moehrig had an impressive 2020 with two picks and nine pass deflections, but to get the whole picture it’s worth noting Moehrig had seven total interceptions in his three seasons at TCU, proving his ability to track the ball in the air and make a play on it. While it’s noted that Moehrig isn’t afraid to come up and make the tackle in run support, he does need improvement on a lack of discipline at times.
Moehrig does have a good chance of being drafted before the Eagles’ 37th pick, with many seeing him going to Jacksonville at pick 33. This does leave Jevon Holland on the table. The Oregon Duck is known as a ball hawk, recording four interceptions in 2019 and five in 2018. Some scouts would even argue recency bias is the main reason why Moehrig is ranked over Holland.
If the Eagles choose to pass on a safety in the second round, they could land Andre Cisco out of Syracuse or Divine Deablo from Virginia Tech in the third. There are also options in the fourth and fifth rounds like Jamien Sherwood (Auburn), Trill Williams (Syracuse) and Shawn Davis (Florida). There’s even the possibility of landing James Wiggins (Cincinnati), Mark Webb (Georgia), Darrick Forrest (Cincinnati), Caden Sterns (Texas), Damar Hamlin (Pittsburgh) or Richard LeCounte (Georgia) in the sixth or seventh rounds.
Circling back to the offense, let us take a look at the line. While Brandon Brooks is coming back from injury, Lane Johnson is manning the right side and Jordan Mailata seems to be the future on the left. It could still benefit the Eagles to draft some young solid linemen to strengthen the depth up front, especially since their centerpiece of the line (Jason Kelce) is only getting closer to retiring. That’s where a name like Creed Humphrey shows up. The left-handed center out of Oklahoma is projected to be a starting center in the NFL, but is mocked around the 60th pick. The Eagles having pick 70 could hope Humphrey slides down to them but they could elect to use that pick and trade-up instead: it shouldn’t cost too much being it’s not a drastic jump.
In the third round, the Eagles could land Kendrick Green with the 70th overall pick. Green made 33 consecutive starts at Illinois at either guard or center, making him a versatile prospect that could be perfect to sit for a year behind Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks, two well-versed mentors. There’s also Landon Dickerson, an interesting prospect that played for Florida State and Alabama, playing all five positions up front in that time. Scouts see the most promise for Dickerson on the inside at either guard or center and again he could be the perfect prospect to get a year of mentorship from the Eagles offensive line.
If the Eagles are looking for a tackle they could possibly land Jackson Carman in the third round. The blindside protector for Trevor Lawrence over the last two seasons, Carman has certainly showcased his worth and, with a projected third-round price tag, he wouldn’t be a bad option for the Eagles at pick 84. At the same time, there’s another center that could be a possibility with that pick: Ohio State’s Josh Myers who’s biggest knocks seem to be speed and athleticism, something which could be worked on more with NFL trainers.
When it comes to linemen there’s always a hope of landing a diamond in the rough: a starting offensive lineman for years to come that only cost a fourth or fifth-round pick. The Eagles could possibly get this player at pick 123 if Trey Smith from Tennesse makes it there. Smith is considered to be able to grow into a starting guard at the next level after scouts could see his power and comfortability working in tight places on display during his NCAA career.
Of course, with five spots filling up the front line, there are a plethora of options though like David Moore (G, Grambling St), Robert Hainsey (T, Notre Dame), Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia), Dan Moore Jr. (T, Texas A&M), Royce Newman (G, Ole Miss), Alaric Jackson (G, Iowa), Spencer Brown (T, Northern Iowa) and Stone Forsythe (T, Florida).
Although the Eagles have Miles Sanders and recently brought back veteran Jordan Howard, the team could look to bring in another late-round back to add to the rotation.
Although there’s been some chatter about the Eagles drafting Najee Harris with the 37th pick, I simply don’t see it. Again, with the Eagles having Miles Sanders, the only running back they should be drafting is strictly for depth, meaning the search shouldn’t start until the fourth round at the earliest. The first name that comes to my mind is Trey Sermon from Ohio State. Even after putting up 870 yards off 116 carries and scoring four times in 2020, scouts seem to see Sermon as a fourth-round pick floating around the 120-130 area. Pairing Sermon with Sanders could make the Eagles run game better and, in turn, improve the offense as a whole.
There’s also Chuba Hubbard, who’s been mocked in the early fifth round even though he put up over 2,000 yards and scored 21 times in 2019. In 2020, his stats would take a hit as he put up just 625 yards on 4.7 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Still, Hubbard is a talented back and if the Eagles can add him to the roster using a fifth-round pick, that just seems like good value.
Then there’s Jaret Patterson, who is mocked to be a sixth-round pick despite giving the University of Buffalo three straight seasons with over 1,000 yards and at least 14 touchdowns. Patterson’s best season is actually up for debate. In 2019m off of 312 carries, Patterson managed to record 1,799 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns. In 2020, on 141 rushes, Patterson put up 1,072 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns.
Other options in the last two rounds of the draft could be Kylin Hill (Mississippi St), Pooka Williams (Kansas) and Trey Ragas (Louisiana).
When the Eagles held the sixth overall pick, fans and analysts were screaming about Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts. Now that the Eagles traded back to pick 12, Pitts seems far more unlikely. However, if he does fall to 12, it seems like an open and shut, slam dunk, clear-cut choice. That is a rather large “if”, meaning if the Eagles do draft a tight end, it will likely happen much later on in the draft. The soonest I can see Philadelphia taking a tight end is in the third round, whether it be pick 70 or 84 since Tommy Tremble seems to float around that area in mocks. With only 19 receptions for 218 yards, Tremble has shown he’s more of a tight end two that can block and set up plays with the hope of him carving out a bigger role as he develops in the league. It’s not a glamorous pick and it would be wise to look for other positions in the third round, but Tremble could provide the utility work that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but can still go a long way.
Another option is Brevin Jordan out of Miami, who admittedly has a prettier stat sheet. Jordan averaged 15.2 yards per catch in 2020 as well as 576 yards and seven touchdowns. Even as a third-round projection, scouts have high hopes for Jordan, believing he can earn a role in the offense that involves not only blocking but getting the ball in multiple areas of the field.
Certainly with the Eagles having Dallas Goedert and as of now Zach Ertz still on the roster, they don’t have to stress the position and could take a late-round prospect such as Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss), Tre’ McKitty (Georgia), Kylen Granson (SMU) or Zach Davidson (Central Missouri).
I’ll admit last season I didn’t think quarterback was worth covering. If anything, I thought they would draft one late in the fifth or sixth round. Instead, they decided to draft Jalen Hurts in the second round, to everyone’s surprise, and now that second-round pick is heading into this year’s draft with a question mark over his head. At pick 12, it doesn’t seem likely that the Eagles are looking to take a quarterback, but keep in mind there were rumors that the Eagles’ tried to trade up before trading back in order to get a quarterback like Zach Wilson. Even though they’ve already traded back to 12, there are some smaller rumors about the Eagles trading up to get back into the top ten. Although I don’t really see it happening, if it does happen, it would likely be to snag Kyle Pitts or another non-quarterback they feel won’t fall all the way to 12.
With that said let’s take a look at some late-round quarterback options that could be the third arm in the locker room this season. The Eagles should start their search no sooner than the fifth round where they could draft Jamie Newman out of Wake Forest. The mobile quarterback passed for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns as well as 574 yards and six scores on the ground. When it comes to the third-string quarterback competition, Newman’s most recent college numbers aren’t too shabby. If Newman isn’t the direction the Eagles go they could end up with Feleipe Franks (Arkansas), Ian Book (Notre Dame) or Sam Ehlinger (Texas) in the sixth or seventh round.