Now that sports have been canceled and we all have more time on our hands, the 2020 NFL draft is the one thing on the schedule sports fans have to look forward to. For fans new and old, this new age draft filled with N95 respirators, social distancing and Zoom conferences offers a unique opportunity to devote added attention to the new wave of NFL hopefuls. Still, it’s easier said than done.
At PSN, we know that draft season can be overwhelming, especially if you can’t afford to spend hours researching prospects. Joe Football from this college might be getting more attention than Jimmy Pigskin from that college, but who is the better pick? Well, Eagles fans, we’ve got you covered. Here are, with as much objectivity as possible, the Eagles’ best options at every offensive position in the 2020 NFL draft. Keep an eye out for the defensive version coming soon.
Cole McDonald | Hawaii
According to Cole himself, the Eagles are one of three teams that have shown the most interest in drafting him. The others being the Jets and the Titans — the Jets obviously being headed by former Eagle VP of Player Personnel Joe Douglas. I believe McDonald brings a lot of the same positive attributes that endeared the Eagles to Clayton Thorson just a year ago.
Physically, he’s everything you could want out of a developmental QB; standing at 6’4″ with length to boot and weighing 220 pounds. He’s got a strong arm and can really put some velocity behind the football. When pushed outside of the pocket, he has surprising athleticism and can absolutely get you a first down with his legs.
However, as a passer he’s all about timing — for better and for worse. If the timing is right, he’s a controlled pocket presence that isn’t afraid to take a shot or two downfield. If his ticker is off, it can be mayhem; errant throws, poor decisions and panic. The mental aspects of the game will be the biggest hump for McDonald at the next level.
Still, as a developmental third quarterback, he fits well with Philadelphia. Thrown into the thick of it, I think you could count on McDonald to manage the game and make the right reads given a simplified playbook and some practice time with the first team. Long term, he could be an excellent backup if he can mount the daunting mental hurdle of transitioning to the NFL.
Right now, he’s a day three talent, but who knows how desperate teams will get after watching at least three QBs come off the board in round one. It’s unrealistic to think the Eagles would spend one of their three fourth rounders on a QB. Nevertheless, if McDonald is still kicking around in the fifth or sixth, a relatively plausible scenario, the Eagles may just pick up the phone.
A.J. Dillon | Boston College
The Eagles spent big on running back last year, taking Miles Sanders in the second round, so the prospect of dedicating another draft pick to the position seems unnecessary. The truth is that the coaching staff has been and will continue to be dedicated to a runningback-by-committee approach and will be in the market to add thunder to their proverbial lightning.
Enter A.J. Dillon, a downhill, physical runner with a boatload of college success. He’s a short-yardage specialist with limitations as a read-and-react runner and a pass-catcher, which may cause other teams to shy away when their number is called. That’s good news for the Birds, who could use a grinder to edge out first downs. He’s also a very solid pass blocker, which despite Sanders’ development in that area, the Eagles could use.
Frankly, it’s really difficult to determine what Dillon’s value is, with a strange class made up of a melange of very successful college runners. The fourth round is when the whispers will start, but we’ve also seen really solid college runners slip out of the draft entirely. Luckily, the Eagles have been the absolute kings of finding overlooked RB talent (Josh Adams, Corey Clement, Boston Scott, etc.). Dillon could very well be another name to add to that list, especially if he doesn’t hear his name called.
With possibly the best tight end duo in all of football, it’s reasonable to question why the Eagles would bother looking at adding more players to the position. More detail-oriented Philly fans will tell you that this team functions at its best when it has the flexibility of rotating three tight ends. As many promising players the Eagles have had occupying the position, they have failed to secure what they really need out of their first man off the bench: a well-rounded in-line blocker. That’s why early on in the draft process, we highlighted some options for the Birds. For the full breakdown of tight end combine participants, check out the link below:
Josiah Deguara | Cincinnati
At 6’3″, 245 lbs Deguara may not seem like the big, physical blocker the Eagles have in mind, but they have always been known to give the little guy a fighting chance. That’s exactly the kind of energy the Cincinnati prospect brings to his game. Endless effort and a high motor are Deguara’s calling card, which makes it easy to overlook his small stature.
The nice thing about Josiah is that he’s not a one-trick pony. He gives you a bit of everything: blocking scheme versatility, experience in-line and flexed, and some talent as a pass-catcher. He’s sure-handed and does well to find soft spots in underneath coverage. Looking at the tape, I actually really like his upside as a route runner. He’ll be held back by a limited route tree, but has some wiggle and does well to leverage his physicality into separation. He won’t necessarily make you miss, but he’ll move the chains. Cincinnati asked him to take a lot of quick passes in the flats, which he consistently took for positive yardage.
Still, he really shines when used as an in-line blocker. It’s all effort. He won’t really knock any players off the line but has a great drive with his feet that anchors well in his hips. He plays within his body and doesn’t over-commit or whiff. Overall, there aren’t many positions you could put Deguara in where you don’t feel relatively comfortable. He may need to add a bit of size to compete with NFL linemen, but it seems as if his frame could support it without sacrificing mobility.
Who doesn’t love a tight end with this kind of determination?
As it stands, Deguara is a day three guy. When he comes off the board on day three is a dart throw. This class of tight ends is a bit perplexing and there could reasonably be a run on them at any point. Prospective rankings for this year’s class is all over the place. Deguara sits firmly in the middle of the class, but there is not much separating the prospects outside of personal preference.
There are two options here, one early round and one late. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Eagles double-dip at the position and it’s nearly set in stone that they will target a pass catcher early on. The way I see it, there are two major holes — a deep threat to succeed DeSean Jackson and a slot specialist. As much as I do love what Greg Ward was able to accomplish last season, I’m not sure if he did enough to cement himself as an NFL starter. I’m positive the Eagles would like to have a player to at least challenge him for the starting role.
Henry Ruggs III | Alabama
The ticker has gone somewhat cold on Ruggs to the Eagles after most people realized it’s unlikely he’s still available by pick 21. That doesn’t change the fact that the man is exactly what they’re looking for in a receiver. There are plenty of speedy options in this draft class, but Ruggs may be the fastest.
Not only that, but he’s got fairly uncommon size for speed merchants. That allows him to do things that other deep threats can’t. He can break press coverage against bigger defensive backs, he can play physical at the top of his routes, and most importantly (and I cannot stress this enough) he can block. The Eagles ask a lot of their receivers in the run game and Ruggs is no slouch. He’s excellent at converting speed to power and can really move a man once he gets his feet going.
Will he stick around until pick 21? Most likely not. However, I’m of the opinion that if Ruggs is the guy, you have to go get him. There is a real, tangible gap between the third and fourth-best receiver in the class, whoever that may be. It cost the Steelers a first, a second and a future third to make a similar move up the boards last year. If you ask me a second and future third-rounder is good value to secure a true number one receiver — on a rookie contract, no less.
Van Jefferson | Florida
To satisfy the slot position, the Eagles should re-examine what worked last year. Greg Ward is a heady route runner with average athleticism that made it work by using his lateral quickness, football IQ and sure hands to find open space in underneath coverage.
Jefferson’s skill set is very similar, with some added size and more technically sound route running. Rest assured, the Florida alum’s route running is fantastic. He’s got solid hands and at 6’2″, he can play the bigger slot role and has upside as a red zone receiver. He also has the ability to play outside, with silky smooth routes and a good ability to track the football in the air. Although, he can struggle to break press and may not have the athleticism to out-run or out-maneuver top corners in the league. Still, the Birds will love the prospect of that versatility.
The question is where does he fit in this class? Third to fourth round sounds about right, but the grapevine has shared hints of him climbing up boards, which could cement him as a third-round option. The Eagles have other positions to address in the draft and could easily wait for a lesser option later in the draft. However, if they do decide to double dip early in the draft, Jefferson will get a long look.
Saahdiq Charles | Louisiana State
Charles is a long, athletic tackle that’s comfortable in space and has the lateral mobility and foot speed to run all the complicated run schemes the Eagles love to deploy. He played in a pro-style offense at LSU and already has a lot of the technique rookie tackles struggle with early on in their careers. However, he’s light and does not have an NFL ready anchor.
That doesn’t mean he’s not a people mover, but he was mostly able to capitalize in college due to superior athleticism and football IQ; both of which are a given in the NFL. Still, a lot of teams will view him as a future left tackle and he does have a lot of tools in his bag already. Nevertheless, he will not able to anchor down against bigger NFL pass rushers and doesn’t trust his technique enough to take advantage of his superior athleticism. He does have some footwork and hand placement to clean up as well. As it stands, he is not ready to start.
That bodes well for the Eagles chances of stealing away some great value in the way of a developmental swing tackle with an NFL ready mind. They can allow him to sit and learn from one of the best offensive line coaches in all of football. Again, many teams will view him as a left tackle, but I think his versatility in the run game translates well to either tackle position and in this day and age, you need plus pass blockers on both sides of the line.
The Eagles must think the same, as they have reportedly already spoken to the young man on multiple occasions. It makes sense that his length, quick feet and mobility would entice them. He would be a very solid get in the third or fourth round, unless a team desperate for a left tackle jumps on him early.
Robert Hunt | Louisiana
To be quite honest, Hunt wasn’t really on my radar until the murmurings of him being in contact with the Eagles began surfacing. After some research and tape, it’s not hard to see why the Birds are interested. Hunt is a nasty, physical run blocker that leaves strewn bodies and big running lanes wherever he goes.
At 6’5″, 336 lbs, he’s very similar to Brandon Brooks in size and has the plus athleticism to match. As you dig deeper, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Both have pretty exceptional movement and foot speed for their size and love to climb to the second level in search of additional blocks. They both showcase a monstrous pop with their initial hand contact and despite their size can maintain balance without losing leverage.
However, Brooks is obviously a lot more polished and Hunt will have some work to do at the professional level. In spite of his shocking initial blow, he can tend to throw his momentum too far forward or get too high while maintaining the block. He moves well, but it still pretty rigid and upright in his approach. Extended blocks and lateral adjustments throughout blocks can be a bit of an issue. He also can get absolutely lost in space. However, as he played a lot of tackle in college, these deficiencies are somewhat remedied by a move inside.
Herein lies the major selling point. The move from tackle to guard will be relatively seamless as Hunt has spent time at every single offensive line position outside of center. For a team like the Eagles, in search of versatile depth, you can’t ask for much more. Sure, he has some work to do, but he won’t be thrown into the fire, barring injury.
Hunt was originally thought of as an early day three prospect, but as with many small market players, he has risen up draft boards as the event nears. The Eagles could use their third-rounder to pick him up, but also have three fourth-round selections. I imagine Hunt is penciled in somewhere around there.
Nick Harris | Washington
With Jason Kelce’s seemingly constant mulling over retirement, the Eagles preemptively drafting his future successor has been a real possibility for a good while now. With other young offensive linemen on the roster coming into their own, 2020 might be the Birds’ best opportunity to start the smooth transition into the next generation. There aren’t many young centers that embody what Kelce brings to the table more than Harris, and this draft class is no exception. However, Harris is the closest I have seen in some time.
Harris is an undersized, short-armed guard/center combo with a tenacious demeanor, nasty edge and fantastic functional athleticism. He’s got great feet, good balance with a low center of gravity and a fast initial burst out of his stance. When allowed to attack the second level of the defense, he’s a mean, mean man. What I really like about him is between the ears. He just really seems to get it. He converts the battles he has with bigger linemen from strength to wits; understanding his leverage points and exploiting them. He makes adjustments, understands fronts and protections and isn’t likely to miss blocks or take bad angles.
However, the chip on his shoulder that makes his film so enticing can also be his undoing. His aggressiveness can cause him to over-commit, take unnecessary risks and play a bit out of control at times. Being undersized also comes with it’s obvious limitations. Still, he anchors relatively well; there is definitely reason to believe he can improve — both with technique and strength.
Now, predicting where Harris will be targeted is another conundrum entirely. I think he’s a day two talent, no question. However, centers aren’t always given the love they deserve and with Harris’ skill set being relatively scheme-specific, he could fall to day three. If so, look for the Eagles to pounce on Jason Kelce Jr. in the fourth round.
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports