We are a day out from the 2021 NFL Draft and there’s no doubt is this the strangest lead-up to a draft yet. With a modified offseason that limited team and media access to prospects, it’s hard not to feel like so much is up in the air. For the Eagles, this offseason has so many directions it has already gone in and so many more yet to go. Here are some league-wide bold predictions for this NFL draft and a few specific to the Philadelphia Eagles.
1) 49ers take Trey Lance
A lot of speculation has swirled around about who is going at the third pick and I think the team is going to take a shot on Trey Lance. Kyle Shanahan has a history of success with guys like Matt Ryan and Jimmy G, but winning in the NFL now requires betting on quarterbacks with the most upside. The success of dynamic physical talents like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson in recent years signals it makes more sense to chance the highest upside players than try to play it safe. Besides Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance has the highest upside of any passer in this class. His size, arm strength, and care with the ball is stunning. Yes, it is a big gamble but the payout could mean championships for Shanahan and Company.
2) Surprise quarterback in the first round
This quarterback class is shaping up to be really great with Trevor Lawrence a lock for first overall, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance set for being top 10 picks while Mac Jones and Justin Fields are almost certainly going in the first round. Where the latter four quarterbacks go is a bit more of a question mark than Trevor Lawrence, but there’s no question teams see them as first-round picks. If there is a run on the five passers in the first half of the draft, teams like New England, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, or Washington could consider a developmental starter early in the draft. Kellen Mond? Davis Mills?? A few names have been floated as surprise first-rounders and there could be a shocking sixth signal-caller drafted on Thursday.
3) The Eagles make two picks on Thursday
The Eagles have accumulated a ton of draft assets during this offseason. With 11 picks this year and potential three first-rounders next year, Philadelphia has a ton of ammo to be aggressive in a draft loaded with talent at critical positions. The Eagles desperately need difference makers at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where this class is strong. Does the team make a splash in the first round by moving back in to secure premium players at both positions? How does a Jaycee Horn/Rashod Bateman first-round sound? What about DeVonta Smith/Greg Newsome II? They have to make a big change with this draft class and Howie Roseman has never shied away from big moves.
4) NFL teams (mostly) disregard DeVonta Smith’s weight
A few months ago, DeVonta Smith was a popular choice for the first receiver off the board. And for good reason. The Heisman winner had one of the best wide receiver seasons in college football history in the toughest conference in the country. Smith’s small size has rattled media perception and NFL teams at the top of the draft might follow suit. He will fall further than most expected he would back in December, but I think a team will realize he is likely an exception to the rule and make sure he doesn’t fall out of the top 15. Hopefully not past 12…
5) Pitt dominates Day 2
University of Pittsburgh quietly has one of the best classes in this draft. Jaylen Twyman, Patrick Jones II, Rashad Weaver, and Paris Ford are as good a quartet of prospects as most schools in this class have. Despite lack of on-field success the last few years, expect all four players to come off the board between rounds 2-3.
6) Notre Dame almost has an entire offensive line drafted
The Fighting Irish have been known to churn out some high-quality offensive line prospects and this year is no different. Liam Eichenberg might be a first-round pick while Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey, and Tommy Kraemer will go in the middle to late rounds. Another impressive showing by the coaching staff over in South Bend.
7) Spencer Brown is the second-highest drafted non-FBS player
Trey Lance being the first FCS player drafted is a sure thing. The question is who from the lower ranks of college football will come off the board next? Dillon Radunz, who played with Lance at NDSU is a popular selection. However, Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown might go way earlier than anyone expects. NFL coaches love rare athletes and Brown is uniquely gifted at 6’8” and 320 pounds. I wouldn’t be shocked if a team like Oakland or New England takes a shot on him early on Day 2.