Eagles Draft Rewind: Analyzing the 2023 Class and their potential roles for 2024

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles crushed the 2023 draft according to most NFL experts. To hear them talk, Howie Roseman should have been investigated for cheating. That’s how epic his maneuvering was regarded at this time last year.

But, as the savvy general manager reminded everyone in comments last week — “it doesn’t matter any feedback that you get for the offseason, the season is what matters,” Roseman told SportsRadio 94WIP — no one cares what happens in a crowded war room in April. The proof is in the pudding, or at least until the evidence shows up between the hash marks.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the 2023 draft and see which players need to step up in 2024 to avoid the dreaded bust label. Because, let’s be honest, it wasn’t a cake-walk for any of last year’s rookies once the pads came on.

Jalen Carter

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) scrambles as Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter (98) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

There is no disputing the fact the Eagles got a steal after they traded up for Carter at No. 9 overall. He was the odds-on favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year when training camp opened (Carter finished No. 2), then showed why by obliterating people in the preseason. He recorded 3.5 sacks in his first five games before falling into a mid-season malaise. Carter’s rookie year was excellent — 6 sacks, 49 pressures, 38 hurries on 407 pass-rush snaps — but he’ll need to step it up against the run to stay on the field. His tendency for taking plays off won’t be tolerated by old-school defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Nolan Smith

Newly drafted Philadelphia Eagles’ Nolan Smith speaks during a news conference at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, April 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The twitched-up edge rusher out of Georgia drew comparisons to Haason Reddick but never lived up to the hype, mainly due to a lack of usage, exacerbated by a nagging shoulder injury first suffered in the preseason. Smith wound up sitting on the bench for 84% of the defensive snaps in 2023. Not nearly enough. “Giving him a little bit more time during the year and experience, we talked about that,” Howie Roseman told reporters at the NFL Combine, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. With Reddick jettisoned, the snaps should be there assuming he can stay healthy and earn them at camp. You could argue he’ll be the one player the most under the microscope especially — dare I bring it up? — when you consider the Eagles passed on Joey Porter Jr. to draft Smith.

Tyler Steen

The former Alabama standout was supposed to have a red-shirt year in Philly, sitting and learning behind Lane Johnson as the heir apparent at right tackle. However, injuries struck the offensive line and Steen was forced into four games including one start at right guard. The reviews were a mixed bag — 53.2 overall grade (via Pro Football Focus) on 71 total snaps — with the 6-foot-6, 321-pounder looking much more comfortable run blocking (64.1) versus pass blocking (21.9). He’ll need a crash course at Stoutland University to up those grades. Steen is going to be counted on to start at right guard in 2024, with Cam Jurgens sliding over to center.

Sydney Brown

Philadelphia Eagles safety Sydney Brown (21) reacts after tackling San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The third-round pick was arguably the most pleasant surprise from the 2023 draft class, showing great ball-hawking skills — highlighted by a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown — and an eager willingness to take on bigger guys when they were running full steam at him. Brown flashed starter-level playmaking, yet he tore his ACL in January and getting back for Week 1 seems like a long shot. Good thing the Eagles have CJ Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship to man the safety spots.

Kelee Ringo

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

The Eagles had hoped to gradually bring Ringo into the fold, maybe as the future nickel corner with Avonte Maddox’s days waning, but injuries in the secondary put him on the field for 199 snaps including four starts. While he displayed the speed, size, and physicality that had scouts drooling, there are still concerns over his penchant to bite on double moves. The Eagles’ decision to invest two early picks on cornerbacks — Quinyon Mitchell (No. 22), Cooper DeJean (No. 40) — may tell you everything you need to know. Ringo will be on the roster bubble.

Tanner McKee

The pride of Stanford, and darling quarterback of our esteemed editor from across the pond, did everything right in his first year wearing midnight green. He rifled balls to receivers in stride at camp. He put up gaudy preseason numbers. He even pushed Marcus Mariota for the backup job. Then, the Eagles traded for Kenny Pickett in the offseason. Go figure.

Moro Ojomo

He’s a hard worker. He’s fun to watch. He’s relentless against the run. Those may be enough reasons for the former seventh-round pick to stick around. Ojomo, a guy who made veteran Kentavius Street expendable in 2023, could be a valuable pass rusher on third downs and short distances. I’ve heard the organization really likes what he brings to the table. The issue? Limited seats in the defensive line room.

Which Eagles’ sophomore do you believe will make the biggest leap?

AP Photo/Matt Slocum