The NFL draft is always hard to predict, and 2022’s class is shaping up to be even more erratic than years past. With uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position, a historically athletic receiver class, and an impressively deep class of defenders, anticipating where players will be drafted is an almost impossible task…just ask Eagles GM Howie Roseman.
Nevertheless, sketching out a laundry list of optimal draft scenarios is not. The Eagles need a retooling at a number of positions and, despite making the playoffs this past season, are more than a couple of pieces away from returning to the Super Bowl. Assuming the Birds don’t make a move for a top free-agent quarterback, and head into the draft with three first-round selections, what should Howie Roseman’s key objectives be for the 2022 NFL Draft?
Draft Defense Early and Often
Although Jalen Hurts’ growing pains would suggest that adding offensive firepower should be at the top of the draft wish list, improving the defense should be first on the list of priorities for the Eagles. Aside from receiver, and offensive line depth (a free agent running back should be fairly easy to find) the offense should continue to grow and produce next season. Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, and Quez Watkins will only get better with time and the offensive line, if they can stay healthy, is as solid as any in the NFC.
If the Eagles decide to address their WR2 position in the draft, as opposed to free agency, there will be plenty of viable options in the second to fifth rounds. There are at least 4-5 receivers that would be on the first–round radar in less stacked draft classes, and there are at least 15 prospects that look like they can be contributors in an NFL offense. Offensive line is a notably tougher assessment, but the Eagles have had consistent success drafting and developing rookie offensive linemen regardless of their draft position.
The defense, on the other hand, is rife with holes, question marks, and aging veterans. Edge rusher, linebacker, safety, and cornerback are all areas of need — not necessarily in that order. If Philadelphia uses all three of their first-round selections, it would be wise to use at least two of those on defensive players. If they decide to trade out of one of those positions, I still think they should use two picks on the defensive side of the ball.
In fact, the front office should take it a step further. It’s been commonplace in the past for Howie to double down on areas of need: DL in 2021, LB in 2020, CB in 2017. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Eagles do the same in 2022, with the prime targets being defensive end and safety. With skepticism surrounding both safety positions, there are a few intriguing, versatile options that should be available from rounds two to five that could tempt the Birds. Regarding defensive end, the likelihood of the position being addressed early in the draft still leaves a ton of mid-to-late round picks to be used on another pass rusher.
Accumulate Future Draft Picks
Despite pledge-laden comments regarding Hurts as the quarterback of the future in Philadelphia, there is no question the front office is still unsure of his ceiling as an NFL quarterback. The 2022 draft is clouded by a shadow of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback prospects. This is not the case for 2023. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young headline a class of impressive quarterbacks, most of which seem more pro-ready than any of the potential first-round options in this year’s draft.
Although having three first-round picks ignites a whirlwind of potential possibilities, it’s probably in the Birds best interest to sell one of those selections for a first in 2023 and maybe even pick up another in the mid to late rounds this year. The Eagles are in a prime position to entice a trade for a draft faller, or one of the quarterback prospects. Best case scenario — Jalen Hurts proves himself as a viable option and the Eagles can use their picks to address other areas of concern.
Expect this decision to be made during the draft, just in case there is an immense amount of talent at areas of need for the Eagles left on the board.
Although they might only be secondary concerns for the time being, there are multiple positions in need of dependable depth players. While most or all of these positions could be addressed in free agency, it’s never a good idea to continue to apply bandaids when, as the Eagles learned this season, veteran free agents are never a guaranteed upgrade. Offensive line, tight end, defensive tackle, and running back are all positions that could be on the radar for Philadelphia later on in the draft.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum has been mentioned time and time again as a potential successor to the great Jason Kelce, when he eventually retires. Still, in a pinch, I think the offensive line could manage with the players they have in house. Landon Dickerson could bump to center and Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo could man the guard positions. Whether or not the Eagles take him in the first round, offensive line will likely be an area they address in the later rounds. Philadelphia and OL Coach Jeff Stoutland have had success drafting and developing offensive linemen for years, whether they remain on the team or are used for trade value.
The Eagles have always been a better team with two tight ends. Even though their values have shifted under Nick Sirianni, I doubt Howie Roseman has completely forgotten about the TE2 position. Jack Stoll faired admirably in the role this past season, and Tyree Jackson was lauded as a potential playmaker in the pass game before being hit with injuries. Still, it is possible that neither option develops into a dependable complimentary piece to Dallas Goedert. Tight end is an intriguing area of need that has been entirely overlooked during the pre-draft process. If for no other reason, if Goedert misses any time with injury, the Eagles offense would be severely handicapped without a feasible replacement.
The same can be said for the running back position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Philly brings in a free agent like they’ve done in the past with Jordan Howard. However, they may decide that 2022 is the year to invest in a young short-yardage back with solid pass protection skills. Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell form a solid one-two punch in the backfield, but neither are specialists in either of those two areas. A tertiary option at RB is another overlooked position of need.
Finally, the Birds cupboards at the defensive tackle position seem sufficiently stocked for now. With Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Milton Williams headlining the interior defensive line and solid depth options like Hassan Ridgeway, newly acquired Renell Wren and last year’s sixth-round pick Marlon Tuipulotu in support, the Eagles should be fine for 2022. However, Cox is aging and with free agency looming, his future in Philly is anything but certain. If he leaves, Hargrave and Williams will need a complimentary rotation player. Philadelphia may be able to snag one early in the 2023 draft, but I imagine they might want to have an option in-house with at least one year in the system just in case.
First Round: Trade away 16th or 19th pick, draft a combination of Edge, LB, or CB
Second & Third Round: Draft S, WR or Edge (if not already addressed)
Fourth to Sixth Round: Draft another S or Edge, draft depth at IDL, IOL, or TE/RB
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