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Eagles boast the most athletic rookie class from the 2020 NFL Draft

Will this emphasis pay off?

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t just add a lot of speed to their roster through the 2020 NFL Draft. They acquired some of the best all around athletes from this year’s class.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Eagles actually boast THE most athletic rookie crop.

This sentiment is further illustrated by Kent Lee Platte’s relative athletic score system:

So, what does it all mean?

On the positive side, the Eagles are drafting players with raw tools that they can hope to mold. They’re not eschewing athleticism and overvaluing production too much like they did in 2017 when they literally had the league’s least athletic draft class by RAS.

The Eagles kicked off their draft with Derek Barnett, one of the two sub 5.00 players who was drafted in the first round. Sidney Jones rated below average for RAS even prior to suffering an achilles injury that will likely redshirt him for 2017. It wasn’t until the 6th round that the Eagles truly took an impressive athlete, though 3rd rounder Rasul Douglas measured better than expected for his size.

Clearly not the best draft class in Eagles history.

2017 was notably Joe Douglas’s first draft in charge of setting Philly’s draft board. But Douglas also held the same responsibility in 2018 and 2019 when the Eagles ended up course-correcting on the athleticism front. The Eagles’ rookie class finished 11th in RAS last year:

Having had the most athletic offensive line in the NFL for the better part of a decade, is it really surprising the Eagles took a top athlete at tackle early? Aside from the 2017 class, where the Eagles took risks with almost every selection, ranking near the bottom for RAS, the Eagles are generally right around this range or higher.

You also may have noticed at the top that Douglas’s New York Jets finished third in average athleticism score this year. But I digress.

I’m of the mind that betting on elite athletic profiles is generally a good thing to do. But that’s not to say it’s the only quality that matters. There are plenty of players who test well but aren’t actually, you know, good at football.

Brian Baldinger recently raised the concern that the Eagles put too much emphasis on acquiring athletes through this year’s draft. Via the Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch:

“There’s such a thing as functional speed. Everybody wants to get faster. But if you’re not able to get on the field, if you’re not productive, what’s the point in being fast? Anybody can collect fast guys. They’re everywhere. But that doesn’t mean they’re good football players or can make plays.”

Baldy specifically ripped the Davion Taylor pick as an example of valuing athleticism over skill.

“I don’t understand this pick at all. This is just a pure analytics pick. If you watched Colorado play last year, you can’t find the guy. First of all, they played that silly, soft defense with the three-man fronts that everybody in the Pac-12 plays. So he wasn’t in the box. He’s not an in-the-box linebacker. He’s out there on the perimeter against slot receivers and he’s just running to the ball.” [...] “He’s hardly played. Didn’t play in high school. Played just two years of Division I ball. He has no instincts for the game. That’s why I say it was completely driven by analytics. So he’s fast. So what? The mistake they’re making is it’s not going to make you faster if you’re not on the field.”

I think BGN’s Jonny Page said it well when he wrote about how the Eagles’ coaching staff has their work cut out for them with this year’s draft class. Howie Roseman is really hoping that the Eagles’ coaches can maximize the athletes they’ve been given.

We’ll just have to see if the Eagles’ emphasis pays off.

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