Eagles rookie projections: Which draft picks will make an impact in 2021?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game Semifinal Game – Notre Dame v Alabama
ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 01: Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) warms up prior to the College Football Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl Game between Notre Dame and Alabama on January 1, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

The NFL draft is behind us and all eyes now turn to Training Camp and beyond. What will 2021 have in store for this year’s Eagles rookies? Here are some all-too-early predictions.

DeVonta Smith

There’s no doubting that the Heisman-winning receiver is going to factor into Nick Sirianni’s immediate plans and a more suitable projection would be the numbers he will put up as a rookie. Vegas has Smith’s season totals at 749.5 yards and 5.5 touchdowns, which is a pretty fair ballpark to work in.

If we look at rookie receivers from last year and exclude Justin Jefferson for being an absolute alien and Jalen Reagor for um..not being that, Henry Ruggs put up 452 yards while Jerry Jeudy had 856.

Given that Reagor will be on the field, the Eagles also have two pass-catching tight ends, and have drafted a pass-catching running back, I think expecting a 850+ yard season might be a little too optimistic, but 700+ does seem very reasonable for a receiver who shattered the records of JaMarr Chase last year.

Prediction: 755 yards, 6 touchdowns

Landon Dickerson

This is a tricky one. Dickerson is of course coming off of a torn ACL And has a lengthy injury history. On top of that, the Eagles do already have a starting offensive line group that should be ready to go come week one.

If Brandon Brooks is unable to retain his cyborg status, then maybe a cartwheeling Dickerson will be given a temporary starting role. Alternatively, he could well challenge Isaac Seumalo for a starting position on the left during the Summer.

What’s most likely is that the Eagles utilise him as Jason Kelce’s backup and have him as a plug-and-play backup who can fill in if absolutely needed.

Prediction: 2 starts, 18% of offensive snaps

Milton Williams

There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding Milton Williams, who joins the Eagles as a very light defensive tackle with a scarily athletic skillset. I think it’s likely that we see Williams used both inside and outside as a rotational pass-rusher who can penetrate in a variety of ways.

Prediction: 30% of snaps, 20 tackles, 5TFL, 3 sacks, 4 QB hits

Zech McPhearson

Realistically, Williams is going to be thrust straight into a battle for the starting nickel role. His competition is likely going to be Avonte Maddox, who is in a contract year, unless the team really insist on keeping him outside. McPhearson could snag this starting role, but even if he doesn’t, Maddox has struggled to stay healthy, meaning we’ll probably see a healthy dose anyway.

McPhearson is a scrappy corner who plays beyond his frame and saw a real surge in ball production last season. That may take a slight dip as a rookie at the NFL level, but his physicality and confidence won’t. Eagles fans should see a lot to get excited about this upcoming season.

Prediction: 64% of snaps, 50 tackles, 4 PD, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 TFL

Kenneth Gainwell

Gainwell brings a level of pass-catching prowess to the backfield that the team haven’t had since Darren Sproles. A stocky back who offers a lot in pass-protection, Gainwell should be the perfect complement to Miles Sanders, but the Eagles will likely still want to use a thumper too.

If we look at Boston Scott’s snap share of 34% last year, we can assume that Gainwell will see a similar number in 2021. This is also right in line with what Nyheim Hines has posted over the last two years and if the Eagles backfield is to mirror what we saw in Indy, then this is a good guideline to follow.

Prediction: 37% of snaps, 92 carries, 320 rushing yards, 65 receptions, 450 yards, 4 total touchdowns.

Marlon Tuipulotu

Tuipulotu is probably going to assume a DT4 role behind Hassan Ridgeway for the time being. It’s hard to project a snap count for this given how inconsistent the depth has been here since the Super Bowl win. However, we can assume that Cox and Hargrave will play in around 60% each, leaving the rest of the depth chart to share the rest and rotate in when one needs a breather.

Tuipulotu is more of a space-eater than a penetrative pass-rusher, but this works really well for paring him with Cox if Hargrave needs to catch his breath. He may see an uptick in snaps as a result.

Prediction: 24% of snaps, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 9 tackles

Tarron Jackson

He may be a sixth-round pick, but I fully expect Jackson to start pressing the players listed higher up the depth chart early. In 2020, Jackson led his team to the top of the conference and tallied 54 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks (tied for 8th in the FBS), 18 QB hits, and 3 forced fumbles. He’s a production machine and if he’s partnered with Josh Sweat then that reputation is only going to grow at the NFL level.

Prediction: 32% of snaps, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 24 tackles, 1 FF

JaCoby Stevens

The upside Stevens brings is fun to think about, but will he break onto the field defensively in 2021? Behind a stacked short-term safety group, it might not be as likely as we think. K’Von Wallace stands above him on the depth chart as a fourth-round pick who will play a very similar role. If Rodney McLeod is unable to go right away then we could see him take a deeper role at times, but Anthony Harris should fill that void for the time being.

2021 will likely be a year of special teams grind with the occasional defensive flurry for Stevens.

Prediction: 8% of defensive snaps, 74% of special teams snaps, 4 tackles

Patrick Johnson

The last pick in this year’s class will probably play a prominent special teams role due to his athleticism and potentially sneak onto the field defensively in what is currently a rotation filled with young players and question marks. The Eagles might want to throw him to the fire and see what they have on several occasions, offering some big opportunities.

Prediction: 7% of defensive snaps, 30% of special teams snaps, 3 tackles, 1 TFL

Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire