One of the Eagles’ calling cards since Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz have arrived has been their strong run defense and ferocious pass rush. In each of the last two seasons the Eagles have been to the playoffs, strong defensive line play has been crucial in their success in the regular and post-season.
Despite recent success, Eagles are at a crossroads this offseason with how they’re going to build their defensive line going forward. Fletcher Cox is in the prime of his career: coming off his first double-digit sack season, got named to his first All-Pro first team and headed to his fourth straight Pro Bowl honor.
Besides Cox, however, the Eagles have more questions than answers. Brandon Graham is set to be a free agent, Chris Long is mulling retirement, Derek Barnett is recovering from a serious shoulder injury, Timmy Jernigan missed more than half the season with a serious hernia and Michael Bennett is in the twilight of his career despite a great session with the team.
In short, the Eagles could use some youth at the defensive tackle position and on the edges of the defense. Lucky enough for them; the 2019 class is loaded with players who can impact all over the defensive line. The Eagles’ draft position will keep them out of range for blue chip players like Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen and Quinnen Williams; but there are plenty more names to keep an eye on as potential first round options for the Eagles.
Christian Wilkins, Clemson: One half of Clemson’s dynamic interior duo, Christian Wilkins is a dynamic run defender who can push the pocket. He would be a tremendous rotational piece who could be the long term replacement for Timmy Jernigan.
Dexter Lawrence, Clemson: The read on Dexter Lawrence is all over the place; but everyone can agree the junior prospect has tremendous upside. Lawrence is an impressive athlete at 340 pounds and when he puts it together he could be a special, every down defender.
Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State: Jeffery Simmons is an elite run defender with good athleticism and a lot of physicality. Teams will love how the 300 pounder fights through the whistle on every down, but lack of sack production might hurt his stock in a pass heavy league.
Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame: At 6’6 and 305 pounds, it’s hard not to notice Jerry Tillery on the football field. Tillery is inconsistent due to technique issues, but his upside is evident when he’s playing his best. A wrecking ball who could play all over a defensive line.
Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State: Jones’ case will be interesting due to the fact he’s listed under 280 pounds as a defensive tackle. His speed at the position was to his advantage this year; as he was distributive every week. However teams may be concerned he’s a bit of a tweener.
Jachai Polite, Florida: I had Jachai Polite to the Eagles in my most recent mock draft and I stand by that he would be a great fit with the team. His speed off the edge is substantial and his six forced fumbles in 2018 are indicative of his tremendous playmaking ability. If Derek Barnett can return at full strength, they’d make for a dangerous duo going forward.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State: Another fantastic Bulldog prospect; Montez Sweat’s 6’6” frame will have NFL teams intrigued in him. He’s an athletic pass rusher who produced a ton in college, but teams might be concerned with his light playing weight.
Rashan Gary, Michigan: Gary is all upside. The Wolverines played the athletic defender all over their line but he never produced like a top prospect. Expect him to test very well and teams to love his potential, as long as he stays at one position.
Brian Burns, Florida State: Brian Burns is a fast riser after a phenomenal year in Tallahassee. With 10 sacks this year, Burns showed off he’s an every down playmaker who has great speed and physicality.
Jaylon Ferguson, LA Tech: “My guy” during this draft cycle will be one of college football’s most productive players. Ferguson had 45 sacks in for years, including 17.5 last season. Factor in 67.5 career TFLs (26 last year) and Ferguson is a hell of a playmaker. He is a bit undersized at the position, but he’s lightning quick and ready to hurt offenses on any down.