What will Howie do at 12?

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By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles have been fairly quiet in the early stages of the NFL league year beyond restructures and releases to get the Eagles cap complaint. Howie has since added a backup quarterback in Joe Flacco, a new starting safety in Anthony Harris and safety depth and special teamer Andrew Adams.

On the Friday morning of BYU quarterback Zack Wilson's pro day, the Eagles were considering moving up to the third pick in a deal with the Dolphins, but would only do so if Zach Wilson was there. Obviously, no guarantee can be made on this with the Jets at the second pick, figuring out what to do with Sam Darnold and their quarterback situation. The San Francisco 49ers, also dealing with uncertainty at the quarterback position and what to do with Jimmy Garoppolo, ended up dealing for the third pick in the 2021 NFL draft with the Dolphins in exchange for the 12th pick, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick and a third-round pick.

Sitting pat at six clearly wasn’t the optimal spot for Howie now that Zach Wilson was likely out of reach and among the other quarterbacks, like Lawerance, Fields and Lance, in question to make it out of the top five. Seemingly not intrigued by adding weapons for the offense like Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase, Howie dealt the 6th pick in the 2021 draft with pick 156 to the Miami Dolphins for picks 12, 123 and the Miami Dolphins' 2022 first-round pick.

Eagles fans are in complete disarray wondering whether to be happy with the move or not. Now add in the recent report by Rob Maadi about there being no consensus within the Eagles organization about Jalen Hurts and here we stand with another self-induced mess courtesy of Howie Roseman. Another big question arises: what do we do with the 12th pick in the draft?

WR Devonta Smith

Pitts, Chase and the main quarterbacks likely will be off the board at 12, but Alabama standout wide receiver Devonta Smith drops to 12 in a lot of recent mock drafts. With the releases of wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson as cap casualties, the Eagles wide receivers are now headlined by Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham. Not exactly a WR corps that strikes fear into any secondary or screams support and weapons to build around Hurts.

Devonta Smith can be an offense altering move; Smith is coming off a 117-reception, 1,856-yard and 23-touchdown showing in 2020. Although people are concerned about his 170-180 pound frame, Smith is an absolute baller! He produced the most yards after the catch (953) in college this season, over 300 yards more than the next best mark. He was fifth in quarterback rating when targeted and, along with 23 touchdowns, he produced a college leading 84 first downs! Let's also not ignore the reunion with Jalen Hurts, who Smith worked with and caught balls from for two years at ‘Bama.

LB Micah Parsons

Jim Schwartz’s heavy focus on the front four has led year over year to a massive hole in the middle of the defense at linebacker. It has been abused year over year by offenses due to the near inability to do anything in coverage. Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards, who were standouts in the middle of the defense last season, will return however, they were not particularly great in coverage. With new defensive coordinator Jon Gannon, perhaps his defense will call for a renewed focus at the linebacker position.

What better spot to look then from within our own state of Pennsylvania with standout LB Micah Parsons, who absolutely lit up his Penn State pro-day. His 6'3 and 246 lb frame ranked in the 80th+ percentile for a LB plus his 4.39 (99th percentile) 40-yard and 100th percentile hand size at 11 inches are an intriguing combination. Sadly, we did not get to watch Parsons play in 2020 and some would argue the investment in linebacker this early is not in the Eagles best interest with other more pressing needs. With a pretty good linebacker class for the Eagles to pick from, they could wait until later, but Parsons has the athleticism, football IQ, solid coverage and has a record of being strong in executing in pass rush.

CB Jaycee Horn

Another position of strength in this year’s draft class is the cornerback position. Jaycee Horn has been in the top three discussion, but after an incredible pro day he has, for many, cemented himself as the CB2 ahead of Farley and some even have him as the CB1. The Eagles went out and got Darius Slay last season to solidify the CB1 position in Philadelphia, but he isn’t getting any younger and the Eagles have yet to find a true CB2 to support the other side. 

Some would blame the Schwartz-ian system for this as the Eagles drafted CB after CB and watched them struggle, including Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, who found new homes and some degree of success last season. New defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, if following in Indianapolis Colts DC Matt Eberflus' steps, could look to add lengthy, man-press corners with a preference at getting physical off the line of scrimmage. This would definitely be something we haven’t seen from an Eagles defense, who played well off the line of scrimmage and relied on front four pressure, in quite some time.

Horn was 85th percentile or better across the board at his pro day, except his 75th percentile height. He ran a sub 4.4 40 at 205 pounds to pair with 33-inch arms and a 42-inch vertical. In 2020, he allowed a reception every 27 coverage snaps, good for 2nd in college, and he was only targeted 24 times on 239 coverage snaps. He has progressively improved since his first year in South Carolina and his game matches the lengthy, physical corner the Eagles are desperately in need of across from Slay. Whether it be Horn or Surtain, the top two corners in the class, the Eagles can land a stud at a major position of need and, in a pass-heavy NFL, having a solid secondary with multiple shutdown options at cornerback is becoming a priority.

Trade Back… Again

An anonymous NFL executive recently spoke in regards to the Eagles making a deal for Russell Wilson and stated that the Eagles are stockpiling picks in 2022 to either provide Jalen Hurts with more weapons, move into the top couple picks for a quarterback or trade for Wilson if the Seahawks are willing to move him. This tells you all you need to know; a trade back could realistically be in the cards for the Eagles if a significant offer presents itself. The most intriguing situation likely coming from the New England Patriots moving from 15 for a chance to get their pick of the remaining quarterbacks.

What could a return look like based on the history of deals around pick 12? They could get a 2022 first in return, but the return in the 2021 draft may not be significant. In 2006, the Browns traded pick 12 to the Ravens to move back to pick 13 and also received pick 81. The Broncos dealt pick 11 in 2010 to the 49ers for pick 13 in 2010 and a 4th rounder in 2013. That 13th pick would turn into Brandon Graham for the Eagles when they in-turn moved their 24th pick, 70th pick and 87th pick for the 13th. A third example came in 2007, the Jaguars dealt pick 17 for pick 21, 86 and 198.

As you can see, history paints an interesting picture of what a return in a deal could look like. If the right player is there for a team, Howie would likely look to have a 2022 or 2023 first in return and potentially lesser value in the 2021 draft to keep building future value. The idea of moving back down from twelve and getting multiple firsts like the move back from six is unlikely. However, getting a 1st plus a two and five or three and five sounds achievable for Howie should he find more value in moving further back instead of drafting at 12.

If you thought Howie with the sixth overall pick was interesting and had you biting your nails, get ready for Howie with pick twelve. The propensity to trade down, the rumored report of what this NFL executive said and just Howie Roseman himself makes the 2021 NFL draft all that more intriguing, albeit stressful, for Eagles fans. There were options at six. There are certainly going to be some real ballers at twelve, but we could also be getting our first look at Howie Roseman heavily considering a rebuild. Buckle up!