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NFL Mock Draft Roundup: There’s a clear favorite for the Eagles’ pick at No. 21

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Who will the Birds take?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2019 season is over and the 2020 NFL Draft will be here before you know it. Mock draft season has already begun and there’s no shortage of opinion as to whom the Philadelphia Eagles could select with the No. 21 overall pick. Let’s take a look at which players the experts have the Eagles taking in this week’s roundup.

Bleeding Green Nation (Ben Natan) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Okay, so obviously this is the dream scenario. Henry Ruggs is a stupid fast wide receiver who can turn any catch into a score. The Eagles desperately need explosiveness on their offense and Ruggs’ sub 4.3 speed could make Carson Wentz a very happy man.

ESPN+ (Todd McShay) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Zero Eagles receivers found their way to 500 yards in 2019, Nelson Agholor is a free agent, Alshon Jeffery will be 30 in two weeks and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a limited 10-catch impact in his rookie campaign. Carson Wentz likes to air it out, but he didn’t have the right personnel to do so. Coach Doug Pederson thought he had an answer in the vertical game with DeSean Jackson, but an abdominal injury limited the veteran speedster to 62 snaps. Ruggs, though, is a human torch — he could run in the 4.2s at the combine — and immediately gives Wentz a weapon in the pass game outside of Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders.

Music City Miracles (Justin Melo) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

I’m pretty sure I was one injury away from playing receiver for the Eagles last season. Woof. Even if they get healthy at receiver next season, the Eagles need to add a young play-maker to the offense in 2020 and beyond. Ruggs may be the fastest receiver in this entire draft class. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and watching him run away from defenders was a pleasure to watch throughout 2019. This would be an excellent fit for all involved.

Pro Football Focus (Mike Renner) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Without DeSean Jackson, the Eagles’ receiving corps was probably the slowest in the NFL. Now they add the fastest receiver in the draft. Ruggs averaged a ridiculous 9.0 yards after the catch for his career.

CBS Sports (R.J. White) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Ruggs certainly could go much higher than this, but if he’s available, he’ll bring the dynamic presence the Eagles sorely lacked last year when DeSean Jackson, who is 33, missed most of last season with an injury.

Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

A player who can stretch the field is a must-add for the Eagles in this offseason. There is no better speed player in the 2020 draft class than Henry Ruggs III. In many ways a mixture of Marquise Brown and Tyreek Hill, Ruggs has raw speed for days. Many evaluators and scouts believe Ruggs could even challenge the NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash record (4.22 seconds) set by John Ross. He’s legitimately that fast. Ruggs does need to work on adding power in his routes, but he comes into the NFL as a more developed route-runner than many former speedsters. He’s game-ready and can contribute from the outside, the slot and on special teams as a returner.

USA Today (Nate Davis) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

His speed would be made to order for an offense that relies so much on its tight ends underneath and has WR Alshon Jeffery (when healthy) available to body defenders. No Philly wideout eclipsed 500 yards in 2019, and aging deep threat DeSean Jackson just can’t stay healthy.

Pro Football Network (Neal Driscoll) - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

TRADE: The Philadelphia Eagles trade the 21st and 53rd overall picks in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Trading up to select Henry Ruggs III here is a bold move from the Philadelphia Eagles, but one that could pay huge dividends. Ruggs has game-changing speed, possessing the threat to score any time he touches the ball. He is far from just a speed receiver, as he has the tools to be as good as any receiver in this draft class. Watching Carson Wentz throwing the rock to Ruggs is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Blogging The Boys (David Howman) - Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

The Eagles have three big needs right now: cornerbacks who can hold up in coverage, receivers who can catch the ball, and linebackers who can play consistently. Much like their division rival Cowboys, they’ve got options at 21. But Fulton is too intriguing a prospect to pass up, especially with the possibility of pairing him with Ronald Darby.

Sports Illustrated (Kevin Hanson) - Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

In many of the previous iterations of my mock I slotted a receiver here, but cornerback is as big of a team need. Aside from Avonte Maddox, all of the other Eagles cornerbacks will be free agents either this or next offseason, based on contract data from Spotrac. Fulton would immediately become the team’s most talented corner.

The Draft Network (Jonah Tuls) - Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

The Philadelphia Eagles desperately need an upgrade to their cornerback depth chart as big plays given up by the secondary was their Achilles heel in 2019. The Eagles expect to contend with this roster, so a cornerback like Kristian Fulton makes too much sense with his NFL-ready skill set and man coverage production.

SB Nation (Dan Kadar) - CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Although the Eagles need to address wide receiver, cornerback is arguably just as big of a hole. Henderson is a man coverage ace who rarely allows first downs and can lock down his side of the field.

Rotoworld (Thor Nystrom) - CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Eagles could use a receiving boost, but Henderson fills a real need in his own right. The value with the Gators standout is just too much to pass up, here.

CBS Sports (Ryan Wilson) - CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Eagles were hobbled by injuries in the secondary and they’ll aim to fix that in the offseason. Henderson is long, fast and athletic and while he hasn’t been quite as productive this season, he has all the traits NFL teams look for in lockdown CBs.

NFL.com (Chad Reuter) - Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Carson Wentz is in need of more reliable targets. Aiyuk’s speed and quickness will make him a playmaker in the NFL.

The Athletic (Dane Brugler) - Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

***TRADE***

Philadelphia Eagles receive: 2020 first-round pick (No. 18 overall)

Miami Dolphins receive: 2020 first-round pick (No. 21 overall), 2020 fourth-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick

It is no secret that the Eagles will be looking to add speed on both sides of the ball this offseason. And in this scenario, they jump ahead of the Raiders and Jaguars to secure one of the most explosive pass-catchers in the draft. Aiyuk has speed, length and playmaking skills that would immediately pay dividends in Philadelphia. The structure of this trade would be very similar to last year’s when the Eagles jumped up a few spots to nab Andre Dillard.

NFL.com (Bucky Brooks) - Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

Big-bodied offensive weapon with a diverse set of skills as a pass-catcher/playmaker.

CBS Sports (Chris Trapasso) - Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

The Eagles need receiving reinforcement. The 2019 season made that clear. Shenault was made to accumulate yards after the catch in a West Coast offense.

CBS Sports (Josh Edwards) - Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Few would have imagined Higgins lasting this long in the first round but a strong offensive tackle class and a rising group of quarterbacks pushed him down. The Clemson product has dealt with some injuries this season and that has to concern Philadelphia, who was hit hard by the injury bug over the last couple of years.

DraftWire (Luke Easterling) - Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Injuries ravaged Philly’s receiving corps this season, and exposed a sever lack of depth. That should be easily remedied this offseason, thanks in large part to an extremely deep class of pass-catchers. Higgins has a rare combination of size, length, ball skills and body control, and would give Carson Wentz a true No. 1 target.

PhillyVoice (Jimmy Kempski) - Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

In my opinion, the top three wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft class are, in whatever order you prefer: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma ... Jerry Jeudy, Alabama ... Henry Ruggs, Alabama. Those three receivers are unlikely to fall to pick number 21, in my opinion. Jefferson is a receiver in sort of that next tier, but still worthy of the 21st pick, who racked up over 2400 yards in his two years as a starter at LSU. His 111 catches were good for first in the nation, his 1540 receiving yards were good for third, and his 18 TD catches were good for second. Jefferson is a savvy route runner with experience both on the outside and the inside, who had no problem getting separation at the college level, which should quickly translate to the pros. While not a burner in the same realm of Ruggs, for example, he still does have speed, and can make plays with the ball in his hands after the catch. Make no mistake, the Eagles are going to aggressively address the wide receiver position in free agency this offseason. In games that DeSean Jackson is available to play in 2020, Jackson and (fill in free agent WR) can play on the outside, with Jefferson in the slot. In games in which Jackson is unable to go, Jefferson can play on the outside. Because of his savvy and his inside-outside versatility, Jefferson is a player who is both a short-term and long-term answer.

The Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs) - Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

The Eagles need an upgrade to their wide receiver room, but there aren’t a lot of great options available at their disposal here at 21 with Lamb, Ruggs III, Jeudy and Shenault all off the board. Instead, the Eagles opt to snag a cornerback — and if there was ever a “Philadelphia Eagles” corner, it’s Jeff Gladney. Gladney will be a riser with his athletic testing (TCU always puts out crazy good athletes) and his foot quickness and mirror skills pair well with Philadelphia’s defensive philosophy, which is to often play their corners in space and cover a lot of ground.

DraftTek (Broz) - Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

This will be an interesting off-season for the Eagles’ secondary. Not only do they have a new secondary coach in Marquand Manuel, but each individual player has some degree of uncertainty about him. Malcolm Jenkins has publicly stated he won’t be back unless he gets a new deal...tricky territory for a safety that’ll turn 33 in December. CBs Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, as well as S Rodney McLeod, are all set to become UFAs. So who can the Eagles really count on going forward? The thinking here is that they’ll re-sign Mills, hope that Avonte Maddox continues to improve, and then bite the bullet and fork over some guaranteed money to Jenkins. Jenkins has been playing under a pretty team-friendly deal the past few years, but now it’s time for him to “get his”. It’s rumored that the Eagles will go hard after a premier CB in Free Agency; however, they’ll also need to add a player or two from the draft. This week’s CMD is the first one where I didn’t have the option of selecting either CeeDee Lamb, Javon Kinlaw, or K’Lavon Chaisson...all guys I think are steals for this spot. Well the party’s over, and reality has set in: if the Eagles want a Top-15 player, they’ll have to trade up for him. That’s not allowed here, but I strongly feel that if the real draft fell this way, the Eagles would try and trade up, or bail out of RD1 completely. Knowing that I addressed the WR position with a guy I love in RD2, I’m going to explore the Xavier McKinney option here. I know; the Eagles don’t draft safeties in the first round! While that is true, it is ALSO true that the Eagles love versatility. McKinney could be a true chess piece: he could play slot corner, hybrid LB on passing downs, he’s a great blitzer (6 sacks last two years), and he can fill any safety role. I’ll admit that I had to talk myself into this McKinney pick, but considering Jenkins’ age and his importance to this defense, drafting someone that can fill his role isn’t a crazy idea.


SUMMARY

WR Henry Ruggs III - 8
CB Kristian Fulton - 3
CB CJ Henderson - 3
WR Brandon Aiyuk - 2
WR Laviska Shenault - 2
WR Tee Higgins - 2
WR Justin Jefferson - 1
CB Jeff Gladney - 1
S Xavier McKinney - 1

WR - 15
CB - 7
S - 1

Offense - 15
Defense - 8

THOUGHTS

  • For all the “Ruggs definitely isn’t going to make it to the Eagles” talk, well, eight scenarios have Philly landing their dream pick. And only one of those mocks has the Eagles trading up for Ruggs. Is such a deal worth it? Depending on the price, I’d say so. Having speed isn’t a luxury for this team; it’s a necessity. We’ve all seen how much having a legitimate deep threat can help Carson Wentz and this offense. Getting a burner need to be a priority. The Eagles can’t just rely on a 33-year-old DeSean Jackson staying healthy.
  • Fulton made PFF’s list of their favorite players in this year’s draft.

Fulton has one of the most impressive grading profiles we’ve ever seen from an SEC cornerback. The biggest thing with Fulton has been the consistency. The redshirt junior has back-to-back seasons of elite grades and elite grades in conference play as well. He outgraded Greedy Williams in 2018 with an 89.7 coverage grade and followed that up with an 88.9 coverage grade this year. For his career in SEC play, Fulton’s earned a 92.8 coverage grade and allowed a completion percentage of only 41.3 against. Those are some damn good numbers to put up when looking ahead to the NFL.

And so did McKinney:

On 1,848 snaps in three seasons at Alabama, McKinney has proven that there’s not much on the football field he can’t do. He’s earned grades of 84.7 in run defense, 90.9 as a pass-rusher, and 91.2 in coverage for his career. The true junior is as well-rounded a safety as exists in this draft class and has only been getting better. He’s not only graded out exceptionally well in both seasons as a starter, but McKinney has actually improved his grade in every facet from 2018 to 2019.

If the Eagles can’t find the right receiver for them at No. 21, they’ll have some quality defensive back options to consider.

  • Henderson doesn’t profile as the type of cornerback that Jim Schwartz prefers to have on his defense.
  • Interesting to see a mock situation that has the Eagles trading up for Aiyuk. One would think he’d be there for them at No. 21.
  • Who do you want the Eagles to select?