When Mel Kiper published his first 2021 mock draft around this time last month, it wasn’t a certainty that the Philadelphia Eagles were going to trade Carson Wentz. But they did. And, accordingly, you would imagine Kiper changed his pick for the Eagles in his newest mock for ESPN+. Which he did. But not exactly how you might expect ... since it’s still not a quarterback.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
After trading away Carson Wentz, 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts tops the Eagles’ quarterback depth chart. And my feeling is that he has earned a chance to start in Week 1 next season and try to be Philly’s long-term answer, even though he completed just 52% of his passes last season. The Eagles have major salary-cap issues, and this is not going to be a one-year rebuild for new coach Nick Sirianni. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re picking in the top 10 next year as well. Drafting Chase here will allow a better evaluation of Hurts in 2021; he’s a true No. 1 wideout with a high ceiling. After opting out of the 2020 season, Chase will get a chance to work out for teams at LSU’s pro day on March 31, and there’s a chance he could wow scouts and coaches there and end up as the No. 1 receiver in this class.
There’s a decent chance that Chase won’t even make it to No. 6 so it’d be pretty exciting to get him at this spot. Former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah recently ranked him as the second-best prospect in this year’s class:
Chase is a dominant player on tape. He lined up both outside and in the slot at LSU. He defeats press coverage with a combination of foot quickness and upper-body strength. He creates separation off the line of scrimmage and he can also find another gear when the ball is in the air. He is a clean route runner. He won’t gear down in traffic and has very strong hands to pluck and play through contact. He attacks 50/50 balls and consistently wins. Chase is at his best after the catch. He routinely breaks tackles and can make defenders miss, too. He did have a couple drops when the ball was on his back hip but I have no concerns about his hands. Overall, I love Chase’s attacking style of play and see him as a faster version of three-time Pro Bowl selectee Anquan Boldin.
Wow. An opportunity to get an even better version of BOLDYN (sic) in Philly?! Sign me the heck up.
But ... can the Eagles really afford to pass on a quarterback at No. 6? Before we delve into that question, I should note that Kiper already had two passers off the board by Philly’s pick. Here’s the entire top five, for context:
1) Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2) Atlanta Falcons (projected trade up) — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
3) Miami Dolphins — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
4) New York Jets (projected trade down) — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
5) Cincinnati Bengals — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Kiper has three straight quarterbacks going off the board after the Eagles pick Chase with Justin Fields to the San Francisco 49ers (via trade up) at No. 7, Mac Jones (!) to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8, and Trey Lance to the New England Patriots (via trade up) at No. 9.
From everything we’ve heard since the Eagles traded Wentz, quarterback is expected to be in play at No. 6. That’s not to say it’s a lock to happen but you can hardly rule it out.
The feeling here, as I wrote on Wednesday, is that the Eagles should only pull the trigger on drafting a quarterback if they feel like he offers elite potential. The objective can’t be to merely upgrade on Hurts. Forcing a pick on the third quarterback (at best) to go off the board while passing on a potential blue-chip player would be hard to stomach. The talent-deprived Eagles really need to add an elite prospect, almost regardless of position, at No. 6.
With that said, I’m good with how Kiper’s latest mock played out for the Eagles. I’m intrigued by Fields and Lance at six but I lean towards preferring the combination of Hurts and Chase.
What say you?
Grade Mel Kiper’s mock draft pick (Ja’Marr Chase at No. 6) for the Eagles
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