I already handed out my incredibly important report card for the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 NFL Draft class on Sunday. Was I too harsh? Too lenient?
Let’s see how my “C” grade compares to the consensus out there:
2020 NFL Draft | Team Grades— René Bugner (@RNBWCV) April 26, 2020
I combined the grades of these guys for GPA:
Mel Kiper Jr
Thanks for your work - much appreciated pic.twitter.com/2CJDaYYtBJ
Hm, the Eagles finished fifth to last. Not ideally where you’d want to see them. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say the franchise’s outlook is doomed.
Just kidding. This low ranking could easily look silly in the future. Then again, maybe it’ll look justified. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, let’s look at what some of the so-called “experts” are saying about the Eagles’ draft. Always interesting to gauge some outside opinion. Ordered from lowest to highest:
USA Today (F)
GM Howie Roseman built a champion, so difficult to question his (often sage) moves. But the visceral reaction to this draft ... not very good. WR Jalen Reagor in Round 1 when Justin Jefferson was sitting there (and when sixth-rounder Quez Watkins can provide the speed aspect Reagor does)? Second-round QB Jalen Hurts is tantalizing, but can he execute game plans built for Carson Wentz? And when you could’ve taken, say, Fromm later and used that second-rounder on a better defensive player? Finally, assuming the remainder of Goodwin’s contract seems like another dubious decision.
Philly took TCU receiver Jalen Reagor with their first-round pick, and Reagor fits perfectly in Doug Pederson’s West Coast passing offense. All good there. Then, the Eagles went YOLO with the second-round selection of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. The reasoning for this was that Carson Wentz’s injury history is always a factor, and general manager Howie Roseman has said that he’d like his team to be a quarterback factory, but that’s like saying you’re going to open a square peg factory in a round hole world. Yes, Hurts is a quarterback with potential, but as was true of the Packers taking Jordan Love, there were more pertinent positional decisions to be made to help the quarterback in charge. Perhaps Hurts can be another Nick Foles over time, but it’s hard to expect another “Philly Philly” in a Super Bowl with a relatively unspectacular draft outside of the Reagor pick.
SB Nation (C-)
Arguably the biggest draft need in the entire NFL was the Eagles and a wide receiver. That was satisfied with the selection of TCU’s Jalen Reagor at No. 21. That was a little high for Reagor, but the Eagles had to get a receiver early.
Philadelphia then shocked everyone by drafting quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. Head coach Doug Pederson will be able to fit Hurts in somehow, and maybe he’ll be their Taysom Hill. But is that a player you take with the 53rd pick in the draft?
Linebacker Davion Taylor is still raw, as he only played two games of high school football, but he’s a solid hybrid linebacker/safety with great athleticism. Getting receiver John Hightower was a good pickup on Day 3 of the draft.
It’s a big head scratcher why Philadelphia didn’t target a cornerback at any point, though.
Bleeding Green Nation (C)
I’ll give this class a straight C. I think there’s a lot of potential here but I’m not so sure how much of it is likely to pan out. The Hurts pick is a major negative.
Sporting News (C)
Howie Roseman was able to recover from the back-to-back weird reaches on the Jalens, but the haul was very disappointing for a contender, despite the volume. Hurts made no sense for them as costly insurance behind Carson Wentz. Taylor, Bradley and Toohill doesn’t inspire in helping their one big defensive weakness. The three best picks were Driscoll, Hightower and Wanogho, who all should have gone earlier. There wasn’t much diversity in the positions, filled with flyers more than real short-term contributors beyond Reagor.
Sports Illustated (C)
In critical pass situations last season, the Eagles often went to 12 personnel—two receivers and two tight ends. Yes, they have a pair of quality tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, but this personnel decision said more about what they had—or didn’t have—at wide receiver.
Jalen Reagor fills a gargantuan void. He was an explosive outside weapon at TCU who showed he can also move into the slot. While maybe not quite a pure burner through and through, he can still get vertical—a notable trait given that Carson Wentz is innately aggressive when it comes to pushing the ball downfield. Reagor also impressed scouts with some of his route running nuance—another notable trait given that Doug Pederson’s offense, when it’s functioning comfortably, is built on detailed route combinations.
Knowing that a lack of receiving speed was their downfall in 2019, the Eagles compensated very thoroughly by also drafting burner John Hightower in Round 5. With the two rookies aboard and veteran DeSean Jackson (hopefully) back healthy this year, Philly’s offense has simply gone from slow to fast.
It might also go from static to multiple if second-round quarterback Jalen Hurts was brought in to be a dynamic gadget weapon. And almost certainly, that’s the case. Carson Wentz has obviously been injury prone, but it’s highly unlikely that Philadelphia would spend a second-round pick on an insurance policy here, and it is inconceivable that they’d even contemplate replacing a 27-year-old QB who has superstar traits.
But even if Hurts’s gadgetry role is clearly defined, don’t make any Taysom Hill comparisons; Hurts is a dual-threat QB but not a blocker or receiver on top of that.
Defensively, Davion Taylor is perceived to be a raw but potentially explosive prospect. Such a project is probably not what linebacker-hungry Eagles fans want for 2020, but as we highlighted in Philadelphia’s “team needs” before the draft, the defensive staff has good reason to be comfortable with young incumbents T.J. Edwards and Nathan Gerry as their starting nickel options. And if they take the long view, the fans have plenty to look forward to given the upside that comes with having 4.39 speed. Worth noting: Taylor is the first linebacker GM Howie Roseman has drafted in the first three rounds since Mychal Kendricks in 2012. (Jordan Hicks in 2015 was a Chip Kelly pick.)
The Athletic (25th out of 32 classes)
Favorite pick: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU. While he was drafted ahead of several receivers I had ranked higher, like Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk, Reagor has the explosive athleticism to be a playmaker. The drops and lack of size could be an issue, but he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Day three pick who could surprise: Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss. The Eagles lacked receiver speed last season and they almost overcompensated with the number of speed receivers they added over draft weekend. Watkins has play strength concerns, but his easy acceleration allows him to stack corners vertically or destroy pursuit angles on crossers or slants.
So what do you want to talk about with this Eagles class? The Day 3 guys? OK, fine, let’s talk through the Jalen Hurts (53) pick some more. I wrote about it on Friday night, including it among my head-scratching picks, and I want to give a couple of more stats to back that up, with some help from my friends at ESPN Stats & Information. The first:
The Eagles have made the playoffs three consecutive seasons. Carson Wentz has thrown a total of four passes in the playoffs.
Health is a big issue for Wentz. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and the Eagles are covering their bases in taking a quarterback in Round 2. Hurts could legitimately get a start or two in 2020. At the same time, though ...
According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, the Saints ran 206 plays last season with at least two quarterbacks on the field. The rest of the NFL ran 10 combined.
That’s why it’s not realistic to think that Hurts is going be used as some sort of Taysom Hill-type weapon on offense, at least on a consistent basis. Hurts isn’t the same kind of athlete. He’s a quarterback with running skills, but he’s not going to play receiver. He’s not going to cover kicks.
Ultimately that’s why I can like the range in which Hurts was selected but not like the fit in Philadelphia, which just gave Wentz a huge contract extension. This isn’t even close to the same as what the Packers did in drafting Jordan Love to learn from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is 36 and declining; Wentz is 27 and should be ascending. And yes, the Eagles are a contender in the NFC East, but they’re not without roster holes. There were defensive backs on the board who could have helped right away. I would love to see Doug Pederson get Hurts involved on run-pass options a few snaps per game, and he’s creative enough to do it, but Wentz is still the guy.
In non-Hurts Eagles picks, they did get some help for Wentz in Round 1 with Jalen Reagor (21), an explosive receiver whom some teams coveted in the first round and others saw as more of a mid-second-rounder. I had him at No. 41 overall on my Big Board. Wide receiver was a clear need, so they must expect him to contribute early and often. They also traded with the 49ers to take a flier on veteran wideout Marquise Goodwin on the cheap.
Linebacker Davion Taylor (103) is extremely raw and built like a safety, but he has some potential. John Hightower (168) isn’t consistent on film, but he has some fans inside the league. Offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (210) and defensive end Casey Toohill (233) are solid Day 3 dart throws.
This Philadelphia class is going to be remembered for Hurts, but if Reagor develops into a star and Wentz gets healthy, we might never see the former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback at his full potential in Pederson’s offense.
While the first two days of the draft led to polarizing results for Roseman, his work on Day 3 was worthy of admiration. He made four trades within the span of an hour and collected two extra picks and a veteran wide receiver in those deals.
Although the overabundance of speed at the wide receiver position seems a bit redundant, Roseman has set up the group with enough ammo to avoid potential downfalls. Roseman also upgraded the depth chart in several spots, including linebacker and safety. The offensive line received some much-needed upside as well.
While Day 3 picks aren’t weighted as heavily as the first three rounds, Roseman was able to address most of his roster needs through his wheeling and dealing during the final selection session.
Reagor at No. 21 was a slight reach — I think he best profiles as a lower-volume WR2 in the NFL — but he fills a very specific need for Carson Wentz, so I’m fine with it. When Wentz was dealing in 2017, he had an average depth of target (aDOT) of 9.9 yards, but that plummeted to 8.1 yards last season because Philly didn’t have a receiver capable of winning downfield. If there’s one thing I know Reagor is capable of doing, it’s winning downfield. He’s in the rookie WR1 conversation for fantasy, and I say that as someone who thought Reagor was a second-round talent… I gave Hurts a 1st-2nd round grade. He’s a great runner and has very underrated accuracy as a passer. Is he perfect? No, but he has the statistical profile and mental makeup to develop into a starter, especially in this organization. In the meantime, Hurts can sub in on short-yardage situations and be valuable insurance to Wentz. Plus, Hurts’ contract is much cheaper than other backup options… Taylor is an 82nd percentile Adjusted SPARQ athlete with a ton of slot coverage experience for a linebacker. His read and react ability is a work in progress, but he has the profile of a sleeper linebacker who can be an asset in coverage. Not bad for a 103rd overall pick… Wallace is another quality mid-round selection with a ton of slot corner experience. He was highly productive at Clemson (81 tackles) and has 76th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism. Wallace should be involved in subpackages as a rookie. This was one of my favorite picks… Driscoll has experience all across the offensive line but profiles as backup.
Establish The Run (B)
Unsuccessful in their alleged attempts to trade up for receiver help, the Eagles resorted to multiple spins of the wideout wheel. Reagor (4.47), Hightower (4.43), Watkins (4.35), and Marquise Goodwin (4.27) – acquired from San Francisco in a harmless swap of sixth-round picks – all have speed-merchant backgrounds, and there’s probably a better-than-even chance GM Howie Roseman hits on at least one. The Eagles were ripped for spending their second-round pick on a backup quarterback, but no NFL team has had better experiences with No. 2 signal callers, and neither Carson Wentz’s injury history nor Hurts’ dual-threat upside should be taken lightly. Philly entered the draft needing an infusion of speed in the middle of its defense. They got it in Taylor – this year’s No. 4 athlete among off-ball linebackers – and Wallace, this year’s fourth-most athletic safety. Another high-end athlete for his position, Driscoll is a right tackle/guard prospect whose 33-inch arms likely cost him at least a round. Developmental left tackle prospect Wanogho played on the same Auburn line and likely would have gone multiple rounds earlier if not for medical concerns. I really liked the high-volume nature of this draft, the approach of throwing multiple darts at receiver rather than the Eagles putting all of their chips in one basket, and the middle-round selections of elite athletes to energize DC Jim Schwartz’s defense.
I still don’t get the Eagles passing on Jefferson for TCU’s Jalen Reagor, but that has more to do with how much I like Jefferson (and how high I expected him to go) than not liking what Reagor brings to the table. He’s an explosive playmaker, and Carson Wentz will put him to good use.
Or will it be Jalen Hurts doing that? The Oklahoma quarterback was one of the most puzzling picks of the draft. He’s a stellar prospect who made huge strides as a passer this past season, but I didn’t expect this landing spot for him. The Eagles had bigger needs, but they know the value of a backup quarterback better than anyone.
There was plenty to like about the rest of Philly’s haul, but two Day 3 picks stand out as fantastic values. Boise State wide receiver John Hightower was a top-100 player who should have gone on Day 2, but the Eagles stole him in the fifth round. They did the same in the sixth round with Auburn offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho.
Really strong stuff. Reagor is a fun pick, Hurts was a fine value where he was taken, K’Von is a bonanza of a sleeper, and some very real value may have been unearthed late on Day 3 with John Hightower, Prince Tega Wanogho, Casey Toohill and crew, depending on Prince’s knee and the translation of the other two athlete’s games.
Draft analysis: The Eagles had to find a quarterback they trusted in case Carson Wentz was injured again, they did in Hurts. The team added explosiveness to their receiving corps on Day 1 (Reagor) and speed at linebacker on Day 2 (Taylor). GM Howie Roseman got a steal with his fourth-round pick in Wallace — a guy who I thought could’ve gone as high as the second round. Great value at an area of need. Driscoll could line up at guard or tackle and maybe even serve as the team’s backup center. Hightower was another great value pick by Roseman, as the receiver’s ability to run past corners and run-after-catch made him a potential third- or fourth-rounder in my eyes. The Eagles added even more speed out wide on Day 3 when they traded for veteran Marquise Goodwin and selected Watkins. I don’t know why Bradley and Toohill were still available so late, but kudos to Roseman for grabbing those two guys at a bargain. If Wanogho is healthy, he will be a valuable swing tackle. Look for the Eagles to sign a couple of top available running backs after the draft.
Pro Football Focus (A-)
Day 1: Wide receiver was priority number one for Philadelphia entering the draft, and it was a mission accomplished by picking up Jalen Reagor in Round 1. Reagor is an explosive athlete by nature, and that becomes clear when he has the ball in his hands. Over the past two years, Reagor generated an explosive play of 15-plus yards on 51.6% of his catches — the second-highest rate in college football and nearly 20 percentage points above the FBS average. With that athleticism, Reagor constantly gets behind defenses. Look beyond Reagor’s collegiate production for a reason to worry about his future in the NFL – his situation at TCU could not have been much worse, as he saw a catchable target just 61.4% of the time, which ranked 118th among 120 wideouts. We love this pick for the Eagles.
Day 2: Philly threw everyone for a loop by taking Jalen Hurts 53rd overall, but we actually like the pick despite Carson Wentz manning the helm. It’s no secret that Wentz has had his fair share of injuries in the NFL, and the Eagles need a reliable backup as a result of that. Hurts improved drastically over the course of his collegiate career and has the rushing ability, athleticism, accuracy, decision-making and collegiate production that gives us reason to believe he can succeed at the next level. If he can just make quicker decisions (3.08 second average time to throw in 2019 was slowest in FBS), this pick could be an absolute steal down the long run.
“I like this pick. … Jalen Hurts gives you a high-floor backup in terms of you just run a few option plays, you have a few passing concepts off that. It’s going to be vastly different — teams are going to have to prepare for something entirely different.” – PFF Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner
Davion Taylor didn’t crack the top 100 on the PFF Big Board due to being relatively undersized and having little experience playing between the tackles, but our data scientists love Taylor as a prospect. In PFF’s analytics mock by George Chahrouri and Eric Eager, they had Taylor among the top-32 prospects, as he projects very well to the NFL. He’s an incredible athlete who you invest in — as Philly did at pick No. 103.
Day 3: K’Von Wallace, who was 60th on the PFF Big Board, is a physical, quick and instinctive player. He’s really just the ideal slot cornerback in the NFL. Manning the slot for the Clemson Tigers over the past three years, Wallace posted a great 87.1 coverage grade.
“In today’s NFL, you need slot cornerbacks who can stick with some of the top receivers in the NFL, come up and make plays on screens, not be afraid to fill gaps in the run game and get home on the occasional blitz. Wallace is one of my favorites in the class, and he is someone I think can take on those responsibilities well.” – PFF Analyst Ben Linsey
The Eagles had one of the best drafts, you guys are crazy— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) April 26, 2020