It's that time of the year folks. With the Eagles eliminated from playoff contention and one more meaningless game to play, we now look toward the future. It was announced this week that Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz intends to let his contract expire and will contemplate retirement. This means that a new DC is on the horizon. Chances are the Eagles front office will look for someone with a similar mindset to Schwartz as to already build on franchise defensive players, but hopefully this new person will also have slightly differing views on positional values. With that said, let's get into it:
Round 1, Pick 6: Patrick Surtain II (CB) (Alabama)
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 203 lbs
Patrick Surtain II is by-and-large considered to be the best defensive back prospect in the 2021 NFL draft. Blessed with quality size, speed, and instincts, he pushed his way onto the field as a freshman under Nick Saban and never looked back. Surtain has played well in 2020, with a few hiccups against Tennessee illustrating his lack of elite speed and twitch, he projects as a press-man cover corner at the next level. Surtain has 37 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 1 INT, and 1 forced fumble on the season.
NFL Comp: Jalen Ramsey
Round 2, Pick 38: Wyatt Davis (G) (Ohio State)
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 315 lbs
Going into 2021 the Eagles have serious concerns to address on the offensive line. Not only did they suffer an unprecedented number of injuries in that area, they now have an ageing core and a lot of inexperience behind it. Wyatt Davis was a bull in the ground game for the Ohio State Buckeyes, with some inconsistencies in pass protection. He was just recently awarded with NCAA 1st Team All-American Honors. Davis is technically sound with good footwork and upfield mobility. If Kelce is due for retirement soon, and the Eagles view Seumalo as their center of the future. Davis can slide in at either guard position.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Zeitler
Round 3, Pick 70: Jabril Cox (LB) (LSU)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 229 lbs
Prior to the announcement of Jim Schwartz' impending departure, I never would have mocked an LB to the Eagles this early. That said, with a new defensive scheme possibly incoming, the position has major need, as it's currently populated by a handful of late round picks and undrafted free agents. Jabril Cox out of LSU played his first 3 college seasons at North Dakota State, earning 2018 and 2019 FCS All-America 1st Team, and helped lead the Bisons to three consecutive FCS National Championships. Cox transferred to LSU to play out his senior season, and has stood out in a good way under head coach Ed Orgeron. He is described by Joe Marino of TDN as "long, athletic, fluid, quick, and explosive. Can run, chase, and close distances rapidly." Cox has 58 tackles, 1 sack, 3 INTs, and 5 pass breakups on the season.
NFL Comparison: Zach Cunningham
Round 5, Pick 146: Caden Sterns (S) (Texas)
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 205 lbs
The Eagles have a pressing need at safety. Rodney McLeod resigned on a 1 year contract prior to the 2020 season, and while he played well, he is finishing his year on the IR. Jalen Mills also returned on a 1 year deal, hoping to transition to safety from corner, but injuries in the CBroom forced him to split playing time, and he's been average at best overall. 2020 4th rounder K'Von Wallace has not seen much field, so there's reason to believe Mills will return on a similar deal. That leads me to the pick I have Phily taking in the 5th round. Caden Sterns is a free moving and coverage versatile safety who can play both man and zone. He's lined up at both deep center, and in the box for the Longhorns. Sterns has played well in 2020 despite missing some time due to injury, and decided to end his season early to prepare for the draft. Sterns has 62 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INTs, and 4 pass breakups on the season.
NFL Comparison: Eddie Jackson
Round 5, Pick 150: Justyn Ross (WR) (Clemson)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 205 lbs
While missing on D.K. Metcalf for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Justin Jefferson for Jalen Reagor may go down in draft pick history, the Eagles did stick to their guns and load up on fast running deep threat receivers in 2020. This time, they take a tall playmaking wideout from Clemson, who has 66 catches, 865 yards, and 8 TDs on the season. Justyn Ross is a thick, physical receiver who showcases strength and route running. Ross is coming off an injured season where he had surgery to mitigate stinger issues in his shoulder. He would be a steal in the 5th round, and the perfect possession style receiver to take over for Alshon Jeffery.
NFL Comparison: Amari Cooper
Round 6, Pick 184: Joshua Kaindoh (DE) (Florida State)
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 247 lbs
Defensive end isn't the biggest of needs for the Eagles with both Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, and Josh Sweat returning for 2021. That said, Vinny Curry is unlikely to return, and Genard Avery and Shareef Millers were both misses, so some depth is warranted. Joshua Kaindoh is an absolute unit at 6'7", with natural athleticism in bunches. The problem is he had a hard time getting on the field due to injury, as he's coming off a season ending leg injury from 2019, that leaked into 2020. Kaindoh would be a sixth-round project, but he's a good speed rusher who's also adept in run defense. If he adds more weight and strength at the next level, he could be a solid contributor in an edge rotation.
NFL Comparison: Carlos Dunlap
Round 6, Pick 218: Austin Watkins (WR) (UAB)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 203 lbs
Another receiver pick to round out the room pending the departures of both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. By way of JUCO, Austin Watkins put together a solid season for the UAB Blazers in 2019 hauling in 57 receptions for 1092 yards and 6 TDs at a whopping 19.2 yards per catch. He's a fluid route runner with size to box out opposing defenders, and good ball skills. He had an unproductive 2020 season due to poor QB play, and has noticeable struggles creating separation with speedier DBs. Not much risk in a 6th rounder, and Watkins could pan out as a worthwhile contributor on offense.
NFL Comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Round 7 Pick 227: Miller Forrestall (TE) (Alabama)
Height: 6'5 | Weight: 244 lbs
In recent years the Eagles front office has been less hesitant to part with franchise pieces, such as Malcolm Jenkins in 2020, Jordan Hicks in 2019, so on and so forth. While I don't perceive it happening, there's a rumbling of possible trading or not re-signing Zach Ertz, who is a free agent after this coming season. That would put the Eagles in the position of not having two great tight ends for the first time in 7 years. Dallas Goedert is a future pro-bowler, but behind him is Richard Rodgers (FA), and the unknown entities of Jason Croom and Caleb Wilson. Miller Forrestall isn't going to be a world beater coming in the last round of the draft, but he has good speed for his size, understands a complex playbook, and has experience as a blocker. Can't ask for much more than that out of your backup tight end.
NFL Comparison: Dalton Schultz
Round 7 Pick 253: C.J. Verdell (RB) (Oregon)
Height: 5'10" | 205 lbs
The Eagles have a fantastic 1-2-punch in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. There are some question marks regarding the other depth RBs, but you can never have too many options in the run game. C.J. Verdell is a sufficient athlete, with adequate speed as a power north south runner. Verdell offers good vision, footwork, and instincts inside. He has experience as a receiver out of the backfield, and would be an ideal complimentary change of pace back in the NFL. Cons, he lacks elusiveness in open space and isn't well-versed in pass protection. Probably best used as a short yardage back.
NFL Comparison: Malcolm Brown