Five things we learned about the Eagles during the 2021 NFL Draft

ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 31: Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Landon Dickerson (69) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Duke Blue Devils on August 31, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire)

After some much-needed rest and contemplation, here are my key takeaways from how the Eagles handled the 2021 NFL draft.

Building for the future/Swinging for the fences

The Eagles are in the midst of a multi-year rebuild and they approached the draft that way. Howie Roseman took swings on high ceiling players that could pay dividends down the road. The riskiest pick was Landon Dickerson, a versatile but often injured offensive lineman. Dickerson is a superb athlete with a dynamic skill set, he stood out on a star-studded Alabama offensive Line and dominated the SEC. The Alabama alum struggled to be on the field consistently suffering season-ending injuries all four years. I believe the overall success or failure of the 2021 draft class hinges on Dickerson. He has an All-Pro ceiling if he can stay on the field.

The reoccurring theme for the Eagles was selecting high-risk players with a lot of potential. While I believe Devonta Smith is a sure thing, his weight is a legitimate concern. if Smith succeeds, he will be a statistical anomaly, which matters when you invest a top ten pick into a player.

Moving on to the Eagles’ third-round selection, Milton Williams has absurd athletic ability that is unrivaled in this draft. I love William’s game, he will need time to develop and did not dominate at Louisiana Tech, which is a bit concerning given his athletic prowess.

The 2021 draft class has the potential to start the next Eagles super bowl run. Only time will tell if this draft class can reach their ceiling or if fans will once again be disappointed.

Eagles are building depth in the trenches

The Eagles Spent 4 of their 9 selections building along the offensive and defensive lines. The Eagles were brutalized by injuries on the offensive line last year, starting 14 different line combinations. If Dickerson stays healthy, he will start immediately (Likely in Isaac seumalo’s spot), which would give the Eagles one of the deepest O-lines in the league with Isaac Seumalo, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, and Andre Dillard all coming off the bench. I am aware Dillard’s stock is at an all-time low, but he is a talented player that still has the potential to be a starting-caliber lineman. At a minimum, the former 1st round pick would be a good backup at left tackle.

The franchise turned its focus to adding youth along a depleted and aging defensive line. While the Milton Williams pick will always be underscored by the infamous Howie Roseman-Tom Donahoe moment, I believe Willams has a chance to turn into a dominant Defensive Tackle. The 3rd rounder had a 9.98 relative athletic score which is the 4th highest score since 1987.

Maybe it’s an analytics pick, but Williams has the potential to be a game wrecker. Tarron Jackson and Marlon Tuipulotu are late-round picks that I believe will be able to make the team. Especially Tuipulotu, who is a run-stuffing specialist that could fill a Beau Allen type of role for the Eagles. Building in the trenches is not sexy but it’s important to have depth along both lines.

GM Howie Roseman stated: “I’m sure there’s some people sick and tired of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles take linemen,” he said, “but that’s how we won a championship and that’s how we’re going to win another championship.”

I tend to agree with this statement and his philosophy.

Eagles secondary needs unaddressed

The Eagles have glaring needs in secondary but are not in a position as a franchise to force picks. It’s going to take time for this team to become a true contender. In the meantime, Zech Mcphearson is a nice consolation prize. The Eagles have the most draft capital of any team in 2022 and will be able to invest premier picks in a highly touted group of corners/safeties. Rebuilds take time.

A new culture

Nick Sirianni has made it clear that he wants competitive players that are passionate about the game. He wants players with the drive/heart to maximize their skill set. On the surface, it does not seem like the Eagles picks have much in common, but there was a clear trend in most of their picks: Devonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, Milton Williams, Zech Mcphearson, Kenny Gainwell, Tarron Jackson, Jacoby Stevens, and Patrick Johnson are all team captains. These players have been praised for their work ethics and leadership. I believe this trend stems from notable issues with their first-round selections, Jalen Reagor and Andre Dillard. Both players have been questioned on their work ethic, competitive nature, and mental toughness.

Nick Sirianni is the ultimate competitor; he is looking for players who fit that mold. Culture is an important part of building a roster, which was evident in the Eagles Super Bowl run. Philadelphia is a difficult place to play, I believe the team is looking for players who have the toughness to thrive here.

Howie had a good draft

It is okay to give Howie Roseman credit for a good draft. This does not wipe away the countless mistakes he made over the past 3 years. Both things can be true at the same time. I will lay out my case on why Howie had a good draft below:

  • Kyle Pitts and J’mar Chase were gone by No.6, so Howie read the situation correctly.
  • Jaylen Waddle is not a 1st round draft pick better than Devonta Smith. It is debatable whether Waddle is even better than Smith.
  • The trade-up for Devonta Smith was necessary. Otherwise, the Eagles likely would have traded back or selected a guard/tackle.
  • Roseman extracted excellent draft value to continue building the roster in 2022.
  • Everyone forgets to mention this, but he picked up a 4th round pick in that trade back with Miami which turned into Zech Mcphearson.
  • According to the draft pick value chart, Roseman traded a 6th and 7th round pick that are worth a total of 2 points combined. The Eagles received a 5th round selection that is valued between 19-33 points. Let me be clear, the eagles received a pick that is at least 10 times more valuable than what they gave up.
  • I know an extra 5th round pick won’t make this team a Superbowl contender, but it’s great to see our GM making smart decisions again. It gives the Eagles more flexibility next year.

Final Thoughts

The Eagles are a better football team today than they were last week which is crucial. The same could not be said after the 2020 NFL draft. The Eagles drafted talented football players and now it’s time to see if this coaching staff can develop them. I think the answer may surprise you.

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire