Eagles Mock Draft: Howie completes his vision & finds impact players

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ARLINGTON, TX – DECEMBER 31: Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Tyler Scott (21) gets tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) after a catch during the CFP Goodyear Cotton Bowl between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Cincinnati Bearcats on December 31, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

The 2023 NFL draft is rapidly approaching like a PPA worker creeping up on an expired meter. It’ll be here in roughly five weeks as the Philadelphia Eagles put the finishing touches on their scouting reports and final evaluations ahead of April 27. Free agency has caused quite a bit of shuffling on their big board, with safety replacing cornerback as the team’s biggest need. Linebacker, defensive tackle, and offensive line remain high priorities as well as a possible luxury pick at running back. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

General manager Howie Roseman never puts the cart before the horse. And, like he told  Gio the Podcaster at the NFL Scouting Combine, the process for getting back to the Super Bowl doesn’t change. They are building the team day by day, piece by piece, decision by decision … and training camp will provide the first true test.

“I think for right now, all we can do right now is take this process, which is meeting these players,” Roseman said. “We have two first-round picks. Make sure that we just make good decisions after good decisions, we stack those together, and we’ll end up having a really good team, and we’ll get to camp and try to bring them all together.”

Mock Draft 3.0: Eagles Address Offensive Line First

The Eagles own 6 total picks in the 2023 NFL draft: 1st round (No. 10, No. 30), 2nd round (No. 62), 3rd round (No. 94), 7th round (No. 219, No. 248). Let’s take a crack at predicting the players they take at those spots:

Pick No. 10: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

Analysis: As much as we want them to take Bijan Robinson (Texas) or Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) here, let’s remember to look at the track record. The Eagles rarely value running backs or cornerbacks this early. Lito Sheppard was the last defensive back to go in the first round, in 2002; and Keith Byars was the last running back, in 1986. They aren’t doing it. Instead, Howie Roseman plays it safe and takes the best offensive lineman on the board. His name is Paris Johnson Jr. He stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs 313 pounds, with the ability to slide in at right guard and/or replace Lane Johnson at right tackle in the future.

(Editor’s note: Johnson is pegged for Chicago at No. 9 but they shock the world and take Robinson at No. 9. The combination of Robinson and Justin Fields proves way too appealing).

Pick No. 30: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Analysis: Safety is a major position of need after C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps left in free agency. Branch (6-foot, 190 pounds) is a “plug-and-play defensive back with every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter,” according to NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein. He is far and away the best safety in the draft. Easy pick.

Pick No. 62: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Analysis: The Eagles have undervalued this position in previous seasons, but Simpson — a position-less defender who thrives in zone-blitz looks — would be a perfect fit in new defensive coordinator Sean Desai’s system. A dominant two-player in high school at running back and linebacker, the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder is a raw, physical specimen. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, with a 1.55 10-yard split. It is time to give up on Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor.

Howie Roseman
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

Pick No. 94: DE Derick Hall, Auburn

Analysis: Hall racked up 84 pressures, 27 quarterback hits, and 22 sacks over four years at Auburn while serving as a team captain. He checks a lot of the boxes the Eagles value in an edge rusher, particularly his 4.55 speed. He’s considered a work in progress who adds extra value as a run-stopper. His ceiling is, wait for it, Haason Reddick.

Pick No. 219: QB Jarren Hall, BYU

Analysis: Philadelphia has to pick up a third-stringer to push Ian Book at training camp. They went the undrafted rookie free-agent route last season at quarterback and learned the hard way. His injury history could be a concern — ribs, ankle, two concussions — and his short stature (6-foot, 207 pounds) does him no favors. Still, Hall is a dual-threat quarterback with all the tools, including an elastic arm and an efficient turnover ratio at 4:1.

Pick No. 248: CB Jay Ward, LSU

Analysis: The definition of a hybrid defensive back who did everything at LSU: safety, outside cornerback, nickel cornerback. He finished his college career with 164 tackles (3.5 for loss), along with six interceptions in 46 games (23 starts). He even blocked a field goal. Ward is a fearless player, one not afraid to lay the big hit when it’s warranted.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 04: Philadelphia Eagles Mascot Swoop on the field after winning Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire