The Eagles are no longer picking inside the top 10 of this year’s NFL Draft and speculation has soared through the roof when it comes to the direction of the team as the crucial month of April begins. With the team now firmly standing behind Jalen Hurts, here is what I believe to be the best way to kick off the Nick Sirianni era from the team’s current position.
Round 1 pick 12: CB, Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Just because Patrick Surtain might be realistically out of reach, it doesn’t mean that the pressing need for an outside CB goes away. Horn is still a great selection here and brings plenty of feistiness to the table. There is a concern that he hasn’t really played in a lot of zone coverage and I’d brand him as a ‘Breakfast’ CB, someone who makes his living through physicality and disrupting route timings. But Horn has been so prolific at the line of scrimmage that I don’t think Jonathan Gannon would have a hard time in trying to get him up to speed and diversify his skill set. Horn has all the tools needed to become a strong starting corner in the NFL
Round 2 Pick 37: LB, Nick Bolton, Missouri
The Eagles need a real MIKE to hang their hat on and while he’s a little undersized at 6’0 and 232 lbs, Bolton plays the game the old-fashioned way. A real thumper in every sense of the word, Bolton plays beyond his frame and has some sneaky athleticism up his sleeve which is very handy when it comes to bursting through the trenches and into the backfield. Bolton, Singleton, and someone like Davion Taylor or Shaun Bradley would make for a surprisingly menacing LB group next year.
Round 3 pick 70: WR, Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
I know, I know. Another USC receiver. But St. Brown may be the perfect WR pick for the Eagles after the trade back. Alshon Jeffery has gone, JJAW is yet to show anything close to consistency and Travis Fulham is a wildcard. ASB stands at 6’1, 195 lbs, and plays a physical game. He’s an aggressive blocker which Sirianni will love, and can play both the X and Y spots. He’s not the quickest WR in the world, far from it. But he’s physical through his route stems and able to catch contested balls with confidence. Given the Eagles went all-in on speed last year, it’s time to diversify a bit and make sure that the 2020 class isn’t given up on after just one season.
Round 3 Pick 84: TE, Hunter Long, Boston College
If you want a tight end to replace Zach Ertz, this could well be the way to go. Long is a dominant receiving threat having led the position in targets and receptions last year, resulting in 685 yards and 5 touchdowns. He isn’t a George Kittle type prospect when it comes to athleticism and he won’t boast the same YAC potential as Dallas Goedert, but Long is as reliable as they come and has proven he can block as well as he can wreak havoc over the middle. This could be the perfect developmental pick behind Dallas Goedert.
Round 4 pick 123: DE, Patrick Jones II, Pitt
The Eagles once drafted Shareef Miller in the fourth round. There’s no way Patrick Jones II offers the same bust potential here. The team need some reinforcements and Jones is a penetrative pass-rusher who already has an electric array of moves at his disposal. He doesn’t have the ideal size at 6’4, 260 lbs and he will occasionally get washed out of run plays, but he makes up for it with a nose for the ball and the intelligence to make up for athletic deficits. He exhibits some saucy counters and awareness to get past bigger tackles and if he can add some bulk when he enters the league then he could well be a steal.
Round 5 pick 150: CB, Ambry Thomas, Michigan
Double-dipping at corners? In a mock draft? It could never be me. After sitting out the 2020 season, Thomas watched his draft stock fall, which is a real shame because his upside is scintillating. Likely best suited to a nickel role, Thomas would offer insurance behind Avonte Maddox, but brings a real nasty edge to the slot. He loves getting his hands on receivers and throwing them off course and tackling must fill up some kind of energy meter because he hits hard. He’s shown good click-and-close in zone coverage and I think he could be a great prospect to offer that ‘Pierre Desir’level upside for those Colts aficionados among us.
Round 6 pick 189: WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
There’s always one late-round sleeper I fall in love with (Ahem, John Hightower) and this year it’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette. If you didn’t read my previous mock draft, here’s all you need to know:
The zippy wideout is a menace when he gets going and has some swagger to his release, showcasing a filthy stutter step, stunning hip control, and could be the perfect gadget player to fit snugly into a new-look Eagles offense.
In 2020, he caught 25 passes for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 games in Iowa’s run-first offense. His season ended in injury which didn’t help his stock, but an impressive 2019 where he tallied 722 receiving yards should be used as a reminder of how fun he can be.
Round 6 pick 224: OT, Josh Ball, Marshall
6’7, 308 lbs. Hello. It’s not a center prospect, but realistically the offensive tackle room could be seeing a shakeup soon anyway. Lane Johnson’s durability and Andre Dillard’s lack of experience play into the hands of Jordan Mailata and at the very least, another backup. Ball has some impressive ‘puppy paws’ and while he can seem a little like Mailata did as a rookie in preseason where he has his pads over his feet which can cause balance issues, he presents plenty of athleticism in the run game and a really enticing frame that is bound to make Jeff Stoutland salivate. We know what he was able to do with Mailata, imagine what he can do here.
Round 6 pick 225: RB, Rakeem Boyd Arkansas
A ‘Last Chance U’ star,’ Boyd opted against declaring for the NFL Draft last year. Who could blame him? His bumpy road to Arkansas was finally evening out and he averaged over 6.0 yards per carry against SEC competition in both seasons there. 2020 was a slower season but it showed us everything scouts needed to see.
Boyd runs with purpose. He has great contact balance and lowers his pad level very smoothly when approaching contact. He’s an average pass-catcher, pass blocks strongly, and while lacking some vision and an ability to bounce in what would be a zonal running scheme, this is the power-back complement that Miles Sanders needs.
Round 7 pick 234: DT, Naquan Jones, Michigan State
Joining former teammate Raequan Williams on the Eagles, Jones has the perfect size (6’4, 323 lbs) to be a developmental DT in this defense. He doesn’t boast a lot of sack production at all (3 in 4 years) but if you’re looking for someone to swallow double teams and open things up for the EDGE guys to do their job, then Jones has the fundamental strength to really sustain oncoming blocks and move offensive linemen at will. A lot of his question marks come with a lack of experience due to being buried in a strong pass-rush machine for quite some time. A look at the tape is all you need to see for a future rotational player who has all the ingredients and just needs the help of a Chef.
Round 7 pick 240: QB, Felipe Franks, Arkansas
Linking up with his former running back in Rakeem Boyd, Franks enters a similarly functioning offense with plenty of RPO’s built in to maximize his profile. He’s got good size at 6’6, 219 lbs, and redeemed what was a tumbling college career with a stunning 2020 campaign away from the Florida lights. He completed 68.5% of his passes for 2,017 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 4 picks in just 9 games. Franks would be a perfect candidate for the QB factory. Someone who can develop under Joe Flacco (because he loves helping young QB’s!!) and elevate past the deficiencies that held him back during his time in Florida.
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