Leading up to the NFL Draft each offseason, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. revisits his team grades from last year and makes adjustments where necessary.
This year is a different story. After originally giving Philadelphia’s 2018 draft class an “A-” grade, Kiper knocked the Eagles down a full letter grade to a “B-” rating. The horror!
Here’s the explanation, via ESPN In$ider:
The good in this class: Dallas Goedert, my top-ranked tight end, had a solid season, catching 33 passes with four touchdowns. He was a steal in the second round, and he’ll be an important weapon alongside Zach Ertz. Fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox was forced to play a lot because of Philly’s injury issues, spending time at cornerback and safety. He looks like another potential steal. The Eagles also added a 2019 second-round pick in trading down with Baltimore, which means they have three top-60 picks in this year’s draft.
The bad: With only five total picks, it’s tough to grade this class too highly, and we still don’t know much about the remaining three guys. Late-round offensive tackles Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata didn’t see the field -- maybe that’s a good thing for their development -- and defensive end Josh Sweat played just 64 snaps and was buried on the depth chart.
All in all, a 40 percent hit rate for Year 1 is phenomenal, and I’m hoping Sweat, who I ranked No. 71 overall on my board going into the draft, can fulfill his potential. And that extra second-round pick could be a huge help for a team with a ton of talent in 2019.
Before I share my analysis of Kiper’s take, here’s a reminder of all the Eagles’ picks from last year.
2nd - No. 49 - Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
4th - No. 125 - Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh
4th - No. 130 - Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
6th - No. 206 - Matt Pryor, OT, TCU
7th - No. 233 - Jordan Mailata, OT, South Sydney Rabbitohs
Remember that the Eagles only had five picks in 2018 because they traded away some of their picks in previous seasons. Something to keep in mind:
If you’re accounting for Philadelphia’s entire draft haul, you need to factor in: a 2018 second being used as part of the Carson Wentz deal, a 2018 third being used to acquire Ronald Darby, and a 2018 fourth being used to acquire Jay Ajayi. And then you have to account for Baltimore’s 2019 second round pick the Eagles received by trading out of No. 32 this year.
Kiper isn’t majorly factoring these trades into his grading; he’s mostly talking about the actual selections the Eagles made. So we’ll play by his rules, for now.
His take on Goedert and Maddox is spot on. Both players showed stud potential as rookies. The hope is that the Eagles find a way to get them more involved this season. It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff can get Goedert more looks with Zach Ertz still ahead of him. As for Maddox, it’s not even clear where he’s going to line up in 2019. Is he going to be an outside cornerback? A nickel cornerback? A safety? All of the above? In any case, both of these players look like future foundational pieces.
Kiper is also right that we don’t know enough about Sweat, Pryor, and Mailata at this point. There was a lot of buzz about Sweat being a “steal” for the Eagles but the coaching staff clearly didn’t trust him to play much as a rookie. He also needs to prove he can stay healthy. Pryor showed some potential in training camp practices but he struggled in the preseason. He was then was only active for one game in 2018 and didn’t play a single snap. Mailata is a total wild card. The Australian native showed some impressive potential last summer but it’s hard to know what to expect out of a guy who had never even played in a real football game prior to last August. If Mailata reaches his theoretical ceiling as Jason Peters’ eventual replacement, that pick could be an absolute home run. It’s just as possible he could flame out entirely.
I think a “B-” grade from Kiper is too harsh. If you want to harp on the lack of quantity, it’s only fair to include the aforementioned Wentz/Darby/Ajayi trades the Eagles made. Those players have certainly provided Philly with value; they ultimately helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2018. The Eagles’ trade to get the Ravens’ 2019 second-round pick is also significant. That could be a big selection for them this year. And there hasn’t even been any mention of undrafted rookie free agent signing Josh Adams, who led the team in rushing last year.
If you want to knock the Eagles down to a “B+” grade, fine. I originally had them at an “A-” after the draft in late April. I just think the Eagles ultimately got more impact than a “B-” rating would suggest. There’s also upside with the guys who haven’t produced yet; Sweat and Mailata are both just 21 years old.
Now’s your chance to change your mind, if you wish. How would you grade the Eagles’ 2018 draft today? Vote in the poll below.
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