The Eagles walked away from the NFL Draft with nine shiny new prospects to develop. On the surface, it was a pretty solid haul for Howie Roseman and company. When you dig a little deeper, it becomes very easy to see the method behind the madness.
For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles have prioritized the drafting of freakishly athletic prospects. In 2020, the drafting of players like Davion Taylor and a trio of rapid wide receivers seemed fine in the moment, but the problem with drafting low-floor, high-ceiling players is that they need time to develop and a coaching staff to get the most out of them. They were afforded neither of those last year.
After a coaching staff rebuild, the Eagles doubled down on their new-look staff by giving them plenty of highly-athletic players to grow. Here are the classes RAS scores (Huge shout to Kent Lee Platte for doing such a phenomenal job every year tracking these).
DeVonta Smith: N/A
Landon Dickerson: N/A
Milton Williams: 9.96 #10 in the entire class
Zech McPhearson: 9.56
Kenneth Gainwell: 5.70
Jacoby Stevens: 7.85
Marlon Tuipulotu: 6.78
Tarron Jackson: 5.67
Patrick Johnson: 7.25
Relative Athletic Scores basically take everything that builds the athletic profile of a player and curates an average score. From 40-yard dash times and shuttle drills, to the players’ physical build, it’s all accounted for and graded on a scale of 1-10. As you can see, the Eagles targeted a very specific type of player.
Kenny Gainwell may not seem that athletic, but we are talking about a running back who will be able to stretch the field horizontally and is an absolute menace in the passing game. His 40-yard dash time and 20 split boast elite scores which is exactly why he was selected.
We can all agree that DeVonta Smith is scarily athletic and Landon Dickerson literally does cartwheels. Point proven.
It’s safe to say that the Eagles have really lacked the right kind of characters for quite some time now. It’s almost as if that with the departure of Malcolm Jenkins came a real dip in leadership and maturity as well as players struggling to handle the pressures of playing in Philadelphia. Younger Eagles in particular have really been tested and there hasn’t been a strong infrastructure around them to push them through the noise. This year, things are different.
Eight of the team’s nine draft picks were team captains in college, which is absolutely astounding. Beyond that, several of the players either have ties to the Eagles or were fans themselves growing up.
Fifth-round pick and Eagles fan Kenny Gainwell will be playing with his cousin, Fletcher Cox, in 2021, while JaCoby Stevens graduates from LSU. Former Eagles Safety and strong vocal leader Jalen Mills often frequents his old stomping ground and gave advice to the Tigers rising through the ranks.
‘ I remember Jalen came back, and I want to say this was my sophomore year and we were good, but Jalen basically pointed out things that we didn’t even think about how we carried ourselves and how all that stuff has something to do with on the field.’ Stevens explained. ‘He talked about us parking in handicap and parking where we’re not supposed to be and how really and truly all those little things carry on to the field. You know, things like that are what stuck out to me when Jalen came back.’
DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson both have strong bonds with current Eagles QB Jalen Hurts having played with him at Alabama.
The Eagles have specifically sought out prospects who will mesh well with the culture that Nick Sirianni is trying to build as well as providing high athletic upside and the fact that the direction is this glaring can only be commended.
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