The 2019 NFL Draft is over and now it’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: NFL Draft Grades! You may believe that draft grades are completely meaningless and arbitrary at this point, but you’re wrong. This is about grading the process, not just the results.
As a reminder, here’s this year’s Eagles draft class:
1st - No. 22 - Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
2nd - No. 53 - Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
2nd - No. 57 - JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
4th - No. 138 - Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State
5th - No. 167 - Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
I believe in accounting for transactions made with draft picks when judging a class. So, I also factor these deals into the equation:
- The Eagles traded their 2019 third-round (No. 88) for Golden Tate. Tate walked in free agency, which will potentially allow Philly to recoup a fourth-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
- The Eagles traded their 2019 sixth-round compensatory pick (No. 208) for DeSean Jackson and the Buccaneers’ 2020 seventh-round pick.
- The Eagles traded the 2019 seventh-round pick (No. 222) they acquired from the Broncos in the Allen Barbre trade to the Bears in September 2018 to acquire Deiondre’ Hall.
- The Eagles traded their 2019 seventh-round pick (No. 239) to the Patriots to move up 27 spots in the 2018 NFL Draft and draft Jordan Mailata.
- The Eagles traded the 2019 seventh-round pick (No. 246) they acquired from the Patriots to the Colts for defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway.
But enough about trades, let’s get back to this year’s actual selections.
This is the pick that will ultimately make or break Philadelphia’s 2019 draft class.
The Eagles called Dillard a top 10 player on their board and they clearly wanted him as they traded up from No. 25 to No. 22 to select him. It’s not hard to see why the Eagles valued Dillard so much. He boasts elite athleticism and realistically has potential to be a very good starting left tackle for the next decade once Jason Peters retires. It’ll be pretty awesome if the Eagles can just plug Dillard in once Peters is gone and not have to worry about that spot again for a long time.
Dillard’s development will be aided by the fact he doesn’t necessarily have to play right away. While he bides his time as a backup, he should greatly benefit from learning from both Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and Peters himself.
Dillard also provides short-term value. He can be the team’s swing tackle if they’re able to find a suitable Halapoulivaati Vaitai trade. If Big V isn’t traded, he’s a really good fourth tackle to have behind Peters, Lane Johnson, and Dillard. It doesn’t hurt to be so deep at such a critical position, especially with Peters prone to injury and Johnson being one failed PEDs test away from a 32-game suspension.
Protecting Carson Wentz is one of the most important things the Eagles need to do. Drafting Dillard allows the team to better keep No. 11 safe in the long-term.
Eagles fans have been calling for the team to draft a worthwhile running back for years now and they finally obliged with the Sanders selection.
It’s not hard to see how Sanders fits into the offense. He’ll immediately have a role in the team’s running back rotation. Due to his 4.49 speed and ability to make defenders miss, Sanders has the potential to be the lightning to Jordan Howard’s thunder in 2019.
Some have suggested that Sanders might immediately overtake Howard’s role as the 1A in Philly’s rotation. While that’d be nice to see since Howard is a free agent after this year and might not be long for Philly, I don’t agree. Sanders was a liability at times in pass protection in college:
Miles Sanders projects as a better receiver for me than his production in college shows, but if he's going to see the field in passing situations, his pass pro getting cleaned up has to be priority 1, 2 and 3. pic.twitter.com/AufhV2Omx1— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) April 27, 2019
Duce Staley will do his best to work with the 21-year-old Sanders and develop his game. Still, I see Sanders as a rotational player as a rookie before potentially taking over as “the guy” in the rotation in 2020.
Sanders’ potential is intriguing; I’m looking forward to watching him this season. But the Eagles really need him to hit his ceiling for the value of this pick to be worth it. You don’t spend a second-round pick on a running back for him to be merely “solid.”
The value of this pick seems right; it doesn’t feel like the Eagles reached for JJAW here. The question is: was it the best value to be had at this spot? Would the Eagles have been better served to trade down from No. 57 after making their pick at No. 53? There were still a lot of preferable options on the board, including some talented safety prospects.
But alas, JJAW was the selection. Watching him more, it’s hard not to like what you see on film. He’s downright dominant at the catch point. Throw the ball up to him and he’s going to get it (of course, we need to see Wentz more willing to make those trust throws). JJAW doesn’t exactly have the reptuation of a burner but he did reportedly run in the 4.4’s and he’s able to create separation with his route-running.
So, I don’t doubt the talent here. I kind of just question the fit. How much does JJAW contribute this year when Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor are all ahead of him on the depth chart? And how much are the Eagles using a fourth receiver when they’re saying they want to run more 12 personnel with both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field?
Of course, the JJAW pick isn’t just about this year. He could be a potential Jeffery replacement considering Alshon could be released to save over $10M next year. That’s not to suggest the Eagles should or need to cut Jeffery. I’m just saying the option is there if JJAW proves to be good.
One thing that bothers me about the JJAW pick is that he’s another player who doesn’t really makes things happen with the ball in his hands. His agility testing was bad; he’s not a YAC guy. It was frustrating to watch Eagles skill players fail to make defenders miss in 2018. It’d be nice if they had some guys who were a little more dynamic in that regard.
One of the most intriguing things about the JJAW pick is how the Eagles now have some really big and physical pass catchers. JJAW is 6-2, 225 and plays ever bigger than his size. Then there are these guys:
Alshon Jeffery — 6-3, 218
Zach Ertz — 6-5, 250
Dallas Goedet — 6-4, 260
Mack Hollins — 6-4, 221
The Eagles should be absolutely feasting in the red zone.
It’s cool to see the Eagles draft a guy from Philly. But can he actually play?
Not yet. The Eagles didn’t draft Miller to be an immediate difference maker. He’s definitely going to behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry on the depth chart. Miller would also be behind Chris Long if he returns, though it currently seems like Long won’t be back.
Miller will be competing for playing time with guys like Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall, and Joe Ostman. The Penn State alumnus might be more of a developmental player for Philly early in his career before becoming a regular member of the pass rush rotation.
It’s always a good thing to invest in pass rushers. Miller’s probably going to take some time before being a meaningful contributor, though.
I won’t beat around the bush: I’m not a huge fan of this pick.
I get the “need” for another quarterback with Nate Sudfeld set to be a free agent after this season. But, uh, did they Eagles have to use a fifth-round pick to replace Sudfeld next year? I mean, they got Sudfeld himself off the scrap heap back in 2017.
When I watch Thorson, I do see some Nick Foles in him. He even has the “he just wins!” argument built in given his 36-17 record as a starter, with three bowl game victories.
It’s highly questionable how much those wins really matter, though. And how much of the winning was really attributable to Thorson when he was posting some pretty bad stats? Thorson had the worst adjusted net yards per passing attempt out of 22 quarterback prospects in this year’s class. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly compares Thorson to Daniel Jones ... except without the good games mixed in.
NFL.com’s scouting report for Thorson indicates he has a “chance” to become an average level backup. That’s just not very exciting. Neither is the fact he has an injury history due to a torn ACL in 2018.
Maybe Thorson defies expectation and ends up being better than I’m giving him credit for. The Eagles clearly see something they like in him. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be seeing that makes me feel so great about this pick.
(I might consider changing my stance if his name was Thorson Clayton instead.)
This is the second year in a row where the Eagles only ended up making five picks. Per BGN alumnus Jimmy Kempski, that’s tied for the fewest selections in the past two years. That’s both 1) not ideal and 2) weird for a team that has an owner who just said the Eagles believing in drafting in volume because there’s so much luck involved with the draft.
My genuine feeling is that I’m not thrilled by this draft class. I don’t feel like the Eagles hit a home run by any means. At the same time, I don’t feel like the Eagles royally scewed everything up. The Dillard pick was so important that the importance of the rest of the class kind of pales in comparsion.
I’m totally fine with the Eagles investing in the offense as much as they did. That’s the more important side of the ball in today’s NFL. Look no further than the top four offenses all playing in this year’s Conference Championship games.
If the Eagles are going to get back to the Super Bowl, it’s going to be because Carson Wentz leads them there. Philadelphia drafted one player who will be able to protect him from getting hit and two other players who can serve as weapons for him. They even drafted a potential backup for Wentz should he get hurt again.
So, the Eagles’ philosophy seems sound to me. I do have some questions about their execution, though, as I touched on with my individual thoughts of each pick. I’ll give the Eagles a B grade.
Here’s how Eagles fans here at Bleeding Green Nation graded the Eagles’ 2019 draft class. Looks like we’re on the same page:
See below for more grades from around the web.
Philly did the right thing in trading up with the Ravens to take Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard with the 22nd pick—Dillard is an NFL-ready pass-protector, and he’ll learn the run game quickly. And with their two second-round picks, the Eagles took players ready to contribute right away in Penn State running back Miles Sanders and Stanford receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who will be especially helpful as a contested-catch receiver. But with just five picks, general manager Howie Roseman and his staff did nothing to address obvious needs in the secondary, and that’s a problem in a very deep class that had first- and second-round talent dropping to the third day.
Michael Kist gave his explanation for this grade on the latest episode of Bleeding Green Nation’s podcast. [You can click here to listen.]
The Eagles will go as far as Carson Wentz can take them. To keep him healthy, the Eagles moved up in the first round to secure left tackle Andre Dillard. It’s a shrewd move, but he’ll sit for at least a season behind Jason Peters. It was clear that Philadelphia had to come out with a running back. After skipping on Josh Jacobs in the first round, the Eagles used the No. 53 pick on Miles Sanders of Penn State. He’s a quick back who will make people miss. He’s not much for contact, but he’ll get a nice share of carries for Philadelphia. Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside gives Wentz a nice jump-ball target. It’s curious that they didn’t address cornerback.
Jeffrey Lurie said at the 2019 owners meetings that the Eagles want to be a “volume” drafting team. Making 10 picks in two years is the exact opposite of that. The Eagles have a need to find as much young, cheap talent as they can get in preparation of a Carson Wentz contract extension, which is going to be huge rock in the salary cap jar. Those young players are found in the draft, and they’re cheap on their rookie contracts for four years. While the Eagles have acquired a number of veterans with their draft picks, and some of them (not Golden Tate) panning out in the short-term, this trend of making a low number picks has to stop in 2020.
Philadelphia had to fill its needs in this draft with just seven total picks. That’s tough. It actually ended up trading out and finished with just five picks. GM Howie Roseman has had a nice offseason by efficiently filling holes with deals for Malik Jackson, Vinny Curry, DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard. In other words, the Eagles haven’t overspent. That’s important as they get ready to give Carson Wentz a massive contract.
I thought safety might be a target in Round 1 with Malcolm Jenkins entering his age-32 season. The secondary was depleted by injuries in an up-and-down 2018 season. But I also thought offensive tackle made a ton of sense based on where the Eagles were picking (No. 25) and how the board might fall. Stalwart left tackle Jason Peters is 37, and they needed to decide whether Lane Johnson is being an elite right tackle or a good left tackle.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see the Eagles make sure to get their guy by trading up three spots and grabbing Andre Dillard at No. 22. He’s a true left tackle and the best pass protector in the class. He’s the heir apparent to Peters. But the trade was also costly for a team with limited capital, as Philly also had to give up fourth- and sixth-round picks. It needed to have a solid Day 2, which included an extra second-round pick from the Ravens as part of the trade to get Lamar Jackson last year.
That’s what the Eagles did. I’m a big fan of both of these second-round picks. Running back Miles Sanders (No. 53) and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (No. 57) both made the list of my favorite prospects by position. Sanders, Saquon Barkley’s backup for two years, has limited tread on his tires and can help in the passing game. Arcega-Whiteside could put Nelson Agholor’s future in question -- he’s a red zone threat with solid separation skills. Defensive end Shareef Miller (No. 138), who had 15 tackles for loss last season, fits coordinator Jim Schwartz’s attacking style. And Clayton Thorson (No. 167) can be a decent No. 2 or 3 quarterback behind Wentz.
So, yes, I like what Roseman & Co. did this weekend, but it’s tough to say it’s stellar with just five picks. I do expect Philly to be a playoff team again in 2019.
Kapadia: In some ways, this draft unfolded for the Eagles in surprising fashion. They ended up making just five picks and adding only one defensive player. This comes weeks after Jeffrey Lurie went on record saying that the organization believed in volume drafting — specifically when thinking about how to build around a potentially expensive Carson Wentz. But offensive tackle Andre Dillard slipping to the 20s changed the Eagles’ plan. They saw a high-upside player at a premium position and decided to be aggressive. Overall, the Eagles may get immediate contributions from just one rookie — running back Miles Sanders. JJ Arcega-Whiteside could eventually replace Alshon Jeffery, but if the wide receivers ahead of him are healthy, the rookie figures to be a role player in 2019. The additions on offense in the draft, combined with the moves to get DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard earlier this offseason, leave Doug Pederson and Wentz with plenty to work with — there’s no excuse for this to not be a top five offense in 2019. This was not the most exciting draft, and I would have liked to see the Eagles end up with more picks, but I specifically like what they did in the first three rounds.
Wulf: If you’ll allow me to take a Rhys Hoskins home run trot, just think about how much better this draft class could look if the Eagles had never surrendered a third-round pick for a certain slot receiver without having a plan for utilizing said slot receiver. Process-wise, the decision to move up to select a player the Eagles considered the draft’s best left tackle was absolutely the right thing to do. Staying patient on Day 2 also made sense, considering their situation, and I’m fond of the Sanders pick. Though the Eagles lack pick volume, they did have three picks in the first two rounds, which is where the vast majority of impact players are selected. The offense is the more important side of the ball and the Eagles have done their work to help that unit both in the short and long term. The defense, especially the defensive line, leaves a little to be desired, but the Eagles still have time to make more patchwork moves there and at linebacker. If you had told Howie Roseman before the draft that the Eagles would only make five picks and that none of their first three picks would have been a defensive lineman, I’m sure he would have been surprised. But securing a potential franchise left tackle probably makes up for it. Given how they entered draft weekend, I’d grade the process as a B+, but I have to ding them once more for Golden Tate.
Second-round RB Miles Sanders could be a rookie of the year dark horse for a team that struggled to fill the position in 2018. First-round LT Andre Dillard and the other second rounder, WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, look like shrewd investments who may not have to start for another year.
Howie Roseman kicked off the Eagles’ draft with a bang, sending Baltimore fourth- and sixth-rounders to leapfrog the tackle-needy Texans for Dillard, easily the top pass protector in the draft. He is 37-year-old Jason Peters’ heir apparent at one of football’s most-valuable positions. Neck and neck with Josh Jacobs for this year’s top running back prospect, Sanders brings true feature back potential to Philly with a far more versatile game than two-down thumper Jordan Howard. I was not as impressed with Arcega-Whiteside’s tape as other observers, but he remains an intriguing size-speed-ball skills specimen after leading the nation in contested-catch conversion rate last year. Thorson threw way too many picks at Northwestern as a game-manager quarterback. Miller adds depth to a front-four rotation where the Eagles emphasize depth in waves. This class isn’t blowing anyone away with only five draftees, but its grade improves when you include pick-swap acquisitions WR DeSean Jackson and DT Hassan Ridgeway.
Easily one of PFF’s favorite pass protectors in this year’s class, former Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard had the highest pass-blocking grade of any starting tackle in the country at 91.9 this past season. He earned 90.0-plus pass-blocking grades in each of his past three seasons with the Cougars, as well. Philly hit a home run with this pick at No. 22.
“If he went top-10, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. And this is foresight that you love to see from your GM.” – Pro Football Focus’ Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner
A former five-star recruit, Penn State’s Miles Sanders sat behind the only running back in the country that could have forced him to sit as long as he did in Saquon Barkley. Sanders is a premier talent with great balance, elusiveness and improving pass-catching ability. Positional value (justly) forced Sanders down to No. 82 on PFF’s board, but as far as running backs go, he’s still one of the best in the class.
Former Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a PFF favorite and first-round talent on the final board, is a steal for Philly at pick No. 57. He’s fantastic in contested-catch situations and in the red zone. He will also surprise many at the next level with his ability to separate on intermediate and deep routes.
Penn State edge defender Shareef Miller brings admirable size (6-foot-4, 254 pounds) and athleticism to the table, but the Penn State alumnus still has a long way to go before he’s a finished product in the NFL. He earned just a 72.8 overall grade and a 71.4 pass-rush grade in 2018.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made it sound like the Eagles were going stock the cupboard with draft picks this weekend, but for the second straight year, the draft ends, and the Eagles have only five picks. But three of those players — Dillard, Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside — could project as future starters, while Miller could be a solid rotational piece. The Thorson pick can still raise some eyebrows, but it appears to be foresight. The Eagles also flipped a seventh-round pick to the Colts for a young defensive tackle in Hassan Ridgeway.
Getting Andre Dillard at 1.22 was highway robbery. I was stunned he fell -- I think he was the offensive linemen in this class, and a top-6 overall talent. They continued to build up on offense with second-round RB Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Arcega-Whiteside provides a sturdy red-zone target for Caron Wentz even if he never develops much beyond that, while Sanders has starter upside. Philly rounded out their shining class with an upside edge rusher in Shareef Miller and a ho-hum career-backup-to-be Clayton Thorson.
Every pick made sense for the Eagles, especially when you look a few years down the road. Andre Dillard is a project for Jeff Stoutland, one of football’s highest-regarded offensive line coaches. The hope is the Washington State product can step in at left tackle next year when 37-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Jason Peters likely retires. Dillard was not asked to execute NFL-style run-blocks much at WSU, and his progress there is crucial because Philadelphia’s offense is predicated on having a schematically diverse ground game. Injuries in the backfield prevented that last year, which is why, even after trading a conditional sixth-round pick for Bears zone-running ace Jordan Howard, the Eagles spent a second-rounder on Miles Sanders, a smooth three-down back who, unlike Howard, has the lateral agility to create his own space. Sanders will contribute right away and probably earn the top role in 2020. At wideout, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside offers the detailed mechanics and steady possession traits to consistently capitalize on opportunities created by Doug Pederson’s two-and three-receiver route combinations. His presence makes it easier to trade Nelson Agholor this year or let him walk next year. Also helping for next year is Shareef Miller, who adds options at defensive end, where veterans Chris Long and/or Vinny Curry might depart. (It’s possible Long could even be gone before this season.)
Jason Peters has had a great NFL career, but he’s 37 years old and his contract is due to expire after next season. Dillard and Lane Johnson will form a great tandem whenever Peters moves on, and giving up a late fourth- and sixth-rounder to trade up for Dillard was more than acceptable to get an elite pass protector. The Eagles decided not to pick Alabama RB Josh Jacobs in the first round, but they got the second-best back in the draft in the second round. Sanders will be an impact back who could see his role grow quickly with Jordan Howard due to become a free agent after the 2019 season. Arcega-Whiteside will be a red-zone stud and general safety valve for Carson Wentz. Miller will offer a strong pass rush for the Eagles despite falling to the end of the fourth round. The Thorson pick made plenty of sense with Wentz coming off injury and Nick Foles gone.
A = 1
A- = 2
B+ = 1
B = 5
B- = 2
C+ = 1
C = 1
Overall average grade: B