Correct me if I’m wrong (wouldn’t be the first time) but I feel like most Philadelphia Eagles fans would like some combination of a wide receiver and a cornerback with their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. That’d be an ideal outcome considering they’re the two biggest positions of need on a roster full of holes.
Such a scenario does not play out for the Birds in Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft. The ESPN analyst instead has the Birds going defense with both of their first two selections, starting with a cornerback at No. 12 overall:
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Eagles traded out of the top 10 and moved to No. 12, which essentially took them out of the quarterback race. They could also miss out on the top wide receivers; I suspect they would jump at Waddle if he made it here. Just looking at this roster, though, corner should be a priority, and they’d have their pick of all of them if the board shakes out this way. Surtain is the most fundamentally sound defensive back in this class.
And here’s how the board shook out to get to this point:
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2) New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
3) San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
4) Miami Dolphins (projected trade up): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
5) Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
6) Atlanta Falcons (projected trade down): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
7) Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
8) Carolina Panthers: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
9) Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
10) New England Patriots (projected trade up): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
11) New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Definitely annoying to see the top three wide receivers go off the board. Especially with Chase still being available at No. 6, where Philly was once set to pick. But, hey, the Eagles get their choice of cornerbacks thanks in part to the Dallas Cowboys moving down.
So, is Surtain the right choice over Horn? The two players are similar in a number of ways. They’re both SEC cornerbacks with NFL bloodlines as sons of former players. They account for the top two relative athletic scores at their position.
Patrick Surtain II is a CB prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.97 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 7 out of 1755 CB from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 28, 2021
This is currently the highest #RAS for a CB in this class using official numbers. Should end up 2ndhttps://t.co/RipxvSq3hz pic.twitter.com/Z2g0L23cFb
Their statistics are comparable. Surtain had 116 total tackles, four interceptions, 24 passes defensed, and four forced fumbles at Alabama. Horn had 101 total tackles, two interceptions, 23 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles at South Carolina.
With no obvious gap, there’s disagreement about which player is better. Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey, for example, wrote about how Horn is CB1.
For me, Horn’s faults at the college level aren’t sustainable; thus, they won’t cause him any setbacks in the NFL. His confidence is palpable. The traits are on display in each drive, and his competitiveness sticks out like a sore thumb. There aren’t ten better players in this draft than Horn, who has spent this offseason training with some guy named Jalen Ramsey. Knowing Horn is ready to play right away and has the ceiling to be a superstar, there won’t be many, if any, better options at No. 12.
Daniel Jeremiah, meanwhile, thinks it would be an easy decision for the Eagles to turn in the card for Surtain. He has the Bama corner as his No. 10 overall prospect, ahead of Horn at No. 16:
Surtain has an ideal blend of size, speed and ball skills. He’s at his best in press coverage. He doesn’t consistently re-route receivers, but he avoids false steps and has plenty of speed to stay on top versus the vertical passing game. He will struggle at times versus smaller/quicker pass catchers. Like most big corners, he lacks top-flight short-area quickness. He has good eyes from off coverage, though. He identifies route combinations and makes aggressive plays on the ball. He is tough to fill versus the run and he’s a reliable tackler in the open field. Overall, Surtain is a very similar prospect to Marlon Humphrey when he was coming out of Alabama. I envision similar success for Surtain at the next level.
Others, like Tommy Lawlor, are more skeptical about Surtain’s game.
The consensus top corner, but I’ve got concerns. Had a great Pro Day, but that athleticism doesn’t always show up in games. Gave up long TDs vs Florida and Tennessee. Watch him vs Ohio State and Chris Olave runs by him multiple times. That’s a concern for me. Maybe I’m focusing too much on some negative plays, but the more I watch Surtain, the more nervous he makes me.
Corner at No. 12 seems reasonable in this specific mock since the realistic alternatives are probably Rashawn Slater and Kwity Paye. In general, though, I wonder if Jonathan Gannon’s background suggests the Eagles can get more out of less at corner.
Speaking of Gannon, I’d imagine he’d be happy with the Eagles going defense again at No. 37.
Nick Bolton, ILB, Missouri
The Eagles signed Eric Wilson to a one-year deal, but Bolton could be their long-term middle linebacker. He’s great against the run — he had 195 tackles over the past two seasons. This is a step toward turning around the Philly defense under new coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who was with new coach Nick Sirianni in Indianapolis as the cornerbacks coach.
The Eagles are definitely going to need to take at least one linebacker at some point this year. Is No. 37 too rich for an organization that devalues the position? Maybe not when you consider where the likes of former Gannon associates Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Darius Leonard were selected. The value here could be right with Bolton ranking as Jeremiah’s No. 33 overall prospect:
Bolton is a slightly undersized linebacker with excellent speed and explosiveness. He has the lateral quicks to avoid blocks, fill and chest up running backs. He has stopping power as a tackler. He improved his take-on skills as the 2020 season progressed. He has big-time lateral range because of his burst/speed. He needs to improve as a zone dropper in coverage, though. He is late to anticipate and fill throwing windows. He’s much more instinctive in the run game. However, he does have the athleticism to match up and mirror tight ends. He is a dynamic blitzer. Overall, I love Bolton’s speed and energy, but he does need to improve in zone coverage. If he polishes that aspect of his game, he could emerge as a top-tier starter at the next level.
Really just tough not to improve the offense at all to this point. The Eagles already gave the defense a boost to some extent in free agency with the Anthony Harris and Eric Wilson signings. The offense has to wait until Round 3 at earliest, barring a trade up? Don’t love that.
Grade Todd McShay’s two round mock (Surtain II, Bolton) for the Eagles
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