Eagles 2021 Draft Class is looking like a home-run early on

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 19: Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta Smith (6) runs a route in the first half during the game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles on August 19, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Howie Roseman has come under a relentless volley of criticism over the past couple of years and understandably so. His drafting has been less than stellar with way too many risks being taken and confusing selections being made. However, while Tom Donahoe may have disagreed at the time, the Eagles GM has hit a home run in 2021.

It’s very early days, but when you check in on the progress of this years’ class, it’s beyond encouraging to see that every single player with the exception of one is contributing.

DeVonta Smith

WR1. What more needs to be said? With 603 yards to his name, Smith is looking better and better each week. Had it not been for a couple of slow outings, and a lot of QB misfires we’d be talking about a potential top-10 receiver in the NFL. Now that Hurts is beginning to build confidence in the pocket, we’re really seeing just how dangerous Smith can be.

It’s been a long time since the Eagles have had a devout WR1 and Smith is already well on course to become the first Eagles WR since Jeremy Maclin in 2014 to break the 1,000 yard mark. The ceiling is so scarily high and it’s only getting higher. It’s hard not to be besotted with DeVonta Smith this year.

Landon Dickerson

The best compliment you can possibly give an offensive lineman is one of silence and you could hear a pin drop in House Dickerson over the past month or so.

It’s so easy to forget that this man missed all of training camp and preseason due to the fact he was rehabbing an ACL injury. When he first took to the field at right guard, he did struggle. Those teething problems are absolutely forgivable given the grander context.

But then he shifted over to LG to fill in for the injured Isaac Seumalo. He’s allowed five pressures in as many games and only two QB hits. Dickerson was mauling defensive linemen in Denver and flashed some of that freaky athleticism out in space on a pulling move towards the end of the game.

It’s hard to gauge where Dickerson’s long-term future lies right now. Is he going to potentially replace Jason Kelce? What if the team move on from Brooks? Do they just keep him on the left?

It’s a great problem to have. The team admittedly took a wild swing on a player draped in injury concerns but they are reaping the rewards so far.

Milton Williams

I was extremely excited when the team drafted the Louisiana Tech pass-rusher and he hasn’t disappointed so far. He’s played in 39% of defensive snaps, which as a third-round pick, is pretty impressive.

Williams has a sack, 2 TFL, and 2 QB hits to his name so far, but the juice here isn’t in the numbers. I honestly thought he would be used As a hybrid rusher, positioned on the outside more often than not due to his lean frame. Instead, he’s been lining up on the interior for the most part and was even seen taking on double teams against Denver.

His athleticism and versatility give Jonathan Gannon the confidence to line him up pretty much anywhere and although he hasn’t exploded off of the screen statistically, he continues to make flashy plays and show glimmers of what could one day be a truly dominant pass-rusher.

Zech McPhearson

McPhearson was strangely dropped into the deep end during preseason, being launched to the boundary despite being a nickel corner by trade. That trend has unfortunately continued into his rookie season, with McPhearson seeing action in relief of Darius Slay at times and struggling to gain traction, although he has looked surprisingly good against the run, making a pair of big tackles.

It’s way too early to grow concerned with McPhearson. But with Avonte Maddox having a tremendous season inside, he’s just not going to get the developmental snaps needed in that spot as of right now. That may change next season, but for now, it looks like it’s going to be a pedestrian end to his rookie campaign.

Kenny Gainwell

It’s been an interesting campaign for Gainwell. He burst into the scene very early on with a touchdown in his debut against Atlanta. It looked as though the Memphis product was quickly displacing Miles Sanders as the favored back due to his ability through the air. That ultimately didn’t turn out to be the case, as when Sanders went down, both Jordan Howard and Boston Scott took the reins with Gainwell acting as the change of pace back. However, he’s looked the part every time he’s been called upon.

You may be surprised to hear that Gainwell has actually been targeted 32 times this season, that’s only 3 less than Jalen Reagor, yet he has more yards to his name. He’s second on the team in rushing touchdowns and is tied second on the team in TD’s overall with DeVonta Smith.

To say that the Eagles are getting some surpreme value out of Kenny G would be an understatement. As of right now, he figures to be the only long-term piece in the Eagles backfield and he could well become a foundation for the unit for years to come.

Marlon Tuipolotu

It’s been a predictably quiet start for the USC product who has only appeared in 29 snaps to this point, registering 3 tackles. It was always going to be an uphill battle in a top-heavy position group, but he’s on the team and that should still count for something.

Jacoby Stevens

Currently sat on the teams’ practice squad, Stevens transitioned to LB from S after graduating from LSU. This move was always going to be tricky and take time.

It would be unfair to expect much out of Stevens this year, but it will be very interesting to keep an eye on his development in year two.

Tarron Jackson

Tarron Jackson was a monster coming out of Coastal Carolina and it hasn’t taken him long to start popping at the NFL level. He has 7 tackles, 1 FF, and a QB hit to his name so far along with 3 QB hurries. This comes in just 16% of the teams’ defensive snaps. One of those hurries came late in the game against Denver, forcing Bridgewater out of the pocket on a 4th down inside the red zone, blowing up the play.

Jackson is freakishly athletic and is already showing off spin moves, rips, clubs, and a stunning amount of agility. We may not get to see too much of him this year, but when the EDGE position goes in for maintenance this offseason, expect him to climb up the pecking order.

Patrick Johnson

The Tulane linebacker has only played in 8% of defensive snaps, but he was a picked 234th overall. Many players picked in this range struggle to even make the team.

Johnson almost picked off Teddy Bridgewater last week, continuing his development and fighting to earn some playing time in a volatile linebacker group. It’s early days, but Johnson is sort of like a baby Davion Taylor. The difference is that he obviously has a wealth of football experience under his belt, unlike his teammate. We’re beginning to really see just how fun Davion can be on the field, and if Johnson can progress at a similar rate, the LB position won’t be in trouble for much longer.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire