And just like that, we’re back to normality. The chaos of the NFL Draft is in the rear-view mirror and the Philadelphia Eagles come away with nine new players to develop and kickstart the Jalen Hurts & Nick Sirianni era. How do those selections grade out now that the dust has settled?
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I don’t think many people expected the board to fall the way it did and this left Howie Roseman with his back to the wall. He was to either stand still at 12 and tackle whichever Offensive/defensive lineman likely fell into his lap, or trade up and snag the top-remaining player on his board. He did the latter and as a result, Jalen Hurts now has a Heisman-winning wide receiver who he also threw to during his time at Alabama.
The move will not only take some of the pressure off Jalen Reagor, but give Hurts a devout #1 target who can play much bigger than his frame suggests. While it may not be the dream pick, Smith will open up a lot of possibilities with Nick Sirianni and it was easily the best outcome after a few surprise selections inside the top-10.
Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama
This is where things get interesting. If he didn’t have any injury concerns, Dickerson would easily have been a top-20 pick. The fact he had two torn ACL’s that contributed to three season-ending injuries in four years certainly cast some doubt. However, the reasoning for the pick was beyond justified.
Dickerson allowed only one sack in 825 pass-blocking snaps from 2018 to 2020. He has the versatility to play both center and guard, which immediately opens up the idea of a potential replacement for ageless wonder Jason Kelce.
Last year, the Eagles’ offensive line was ripped to shreds and it got to a stage where Jamon Brown was a starter. It should never hit that point.
If Dickerson does ‘redshirt’ as a rookie, that’s not exactly a bad thing. And if anyone goes down, the Eagles have a pro-ready plug-and play prospect at their disposal.
Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech
At 6’3, 284 lbs, Williams might be a little light to be a true defensive tackle. Will that matter if his freak-of-nature athleticism translates? Probably not. Grading closer to a corner than a defensive tackle, Williams is a monster who can wreak havoc in the backfield due to some scary agility traits.
According to PFF, he had 30 QB pressures through 10 games in 2020. This partners well with his 10 TFL and 4.5 sacks. In 2019, he had 5.5 sacks and 9 TFL.
The Eagles lacked DT depth coming into this Draft and have some big contract decisions to make soon. Williams should offer some short-term depth with long-term starting upside, but whether that’s at DT or DE remains to be seen. Williams could struggle due to his size and if it was depth behind Cox and Hargrave the team were looking for, it might not come as a guarantee here. It’s hard to fault, but it’s also hard to bank on.
Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech
The Eagles were reportedly all elated with this pick and it’s not difficult to see why. They needed CB depth badly and decided to wait until the fourth round to take a plunge. McPhearson is a nickel corner, so doesn’t fill the glaring void at CB2, but he should at the very least put Avonte Maddox on notice. Last season, he garnered an 85.7 coverage grade and ranked fourth among all corners.
McPhearson is a great fit for this defense and could well be one of the draft’s biggest steals.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
A prolific receiving back who can actually survive in one-cut situations and isn’t Donnel Pumphrey? I’m all in.
Gainwell was a nightmare for opposing defenses at Memphis and the Eagles lacked real depth behind Miles Sanders coming into the Draft. A mid-round selection on a compact back who can pass-protect well, burst down the sideline as a receiving option, and slash his way through holes on inside-zone looks? This could be a steal.
Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC
This contextualized the pick of Milton Williams. Williams could serve numerous roles on this defense, while the USC product will be a perennial space-eater. A three-down DT, he ended 2020 with 23 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. If he’s partnered with Williams, the duo could create some scary situations and allow an increasingly quick set of EDGE rushers to thrive.
Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina
Standing at 6’2, 280 lbs, he carries a similar frame to Milton Williams, which is why it’s easy to project an EDGE/hybrid role for Williams. Jackson brings buckets of production to the table. He ended 2019 with 12.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks before posting 14 TFL and 8.5 sacks in 2020.
The Eagles needed a depth EDGE rusher to fill Vinny Curry’s role and they once again target an athletic monster who has way more chance of catching on than Shareef Miller.
Jacoby Stevens, S/LB, LSU
Announced as a linebacker, it’s very fair to draw a comparison to Nate Gerry as a former safety making the transition into the box full-time. Stevens is a thunderous hitter and joins a Safety room without much in the way of long-term security. He should provide some logical depth behind K’Von Wallace and is a strong schematic fit with a new-look defense.
Patrick Johnson, LB/EDGE, Tulane
The Eagles ended the Draft with another player who could fill multiple roles. He was announced as a linebacker, which would make sense, but his pro comparison on NFL.com is Derek Barnett. The Eagles are adding a lot of developmental EDGE depth who can sting defenses in numerous ways and Johnson is another player who brings a lot of production to Philadelphia. He had 10 sacks last season, ranking 2nd in FBS while racking up 14.5 tackles for loss.
An overall draft grade for this year’s Eagles Draft class
It’s a tale of two halves. In the first, the Eagles drafted another slew of hyper-athletic players and will give their coaching staff time to develop these young prospects, showing a level of trust that was needed in order to kickstart this rebuild. On the other, they didn’t really fill any of the major needs outside of WR/EDGE/OL.
They stacked up big-time on defensive line prospects, but a couple of tweeners may push them out to the edge. It’s easy to fall in love with the upside and production they bring and they clearly prioritized this over filling positions of need. For now, the draft has to be given a conservative grade with acknowledgement that these players weren’t drafted with ‘making the team better instantly’ being the reason. We’re going to have to wait 2-3 years to properly grade the Draft, but the outlook is one of excitement.
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