Well, the 2021 NFL Draft has officially drawn to a close, and the Eagles made off with quite the haul. Howie Roseman, Andy Weidl, and Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters for the final time of the weekend on Saturday night and recapped some of their decisions, spoke about the guys they took on Day 3, and once again discussed Landon Dickerson’s potential despite his injury history.
One thing was very clear, the Eagles drafted a lot of guys who were team captains in college, and a majority of the picks were guys they saw and met with at the Senior Bowl. Weidl used these two points several times when discussing the team’s excitement for the new additions.
Howie opened by talking about how appreciative he was of the coaching staff and the scouting staff, as well as the medical and training staff for getting information on prospects when it wasn’t always readily available. He noted that when they see the full group, it’s humbling how many people have a hand in the whole draft process.
“I think when we start talking about this draft, I know you guys are going to talk about the things that, maybe, you look at our depth chart and see that we didn’t address, but we wanted to stay true to our board. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t drafting for need, that we were drafting for what we felt is the long term interests of our football team, and I think anytime we were in the draft room over the last couple days, Andy can confirm this, we went back to that. We went back to where the guys were on the board, and making sure that we weren’t missing opportunities to get players that were higher graded.
We don’t start playing until September. There’s a lot of work to be done on this roster — that’s an everyday process, that doesn’t end today, and it won’t end really until the trading deadline, when we have opportunities to add to this team. So, we’ll continue to try and do that, we’ll look forward to those opportunities, and just really appreciative and thankful of what we did this weekend with the people we did it.”
Here’s what else the three had to say:
On Landon Dickerson
Howie was reminded that last year he mentioned that hope is not a strategy for dealing with injuries, and was asked how Dickerson was different with his significant injury history. He reiterated what he talked about on Friday night about relying heavily on the medical and training staff, but also not wanting to be risk-averse while knowing that injuries happen.
The GM went on to say that they felt like Dickerson is a unique player, and quoted Coach Stoutland who acknowledged that the lineman is an unusual player and personality and is someone they like to help bring along some of the other linemen on the roster. Howie was adamant that Dickerson was a guy they wanted to bet on and is special enough to be worth the risk.
On the Day 3 picks
Weidl said that they were excited about the guys they got on Saturday, and of the six guys they drafted, three are former team captains. Four of the six they were able to see in person at the Senior Bowl, and spend time with them. He echoed Roseman’s thought’s on Zech McPhearson falling to them, with Weidl calling it outstanding and exciting.
“We like him. We like his versatility. His ability to play outside, his ability to play inside. His ball skills, his football intelligence. He’s a team captain.
Kenneth Gainwell, running back from Memphis. Explosive. He was an opt out guy this year, but in 2019 he rushed for over 1,400 yards, he had over 600 yards receiving. His contact balance, his hands, he’s a guy that we really liked and we’re fired up about.
Tarron Jackson, another guy we got to see at the Senior Bowl and spend some time with, from Coastal Carolina. Team captain, lot of negative plays, we got to interview him down in Mobile and watch him practice for the week, and we’re really comfortable with the person. We got to bring him back here and hand him off to Howie and Coach and the staff, and they took it from there in terms of spending their time with him.
Jacoby Stevens, you know, LSU guy. Played safety, he played linebacker. We saw him down in Mobile, he played linebacker. Again, another guy we were fortunate enough to spend time with in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and take advantage of that opportunity. He’s a guy that — he’s a very productive blitzer, he’s a productive tackler, he’s tough, he’s physical, and he’s a guy we’re excited to add.
And then finally, Patrick Johnson, a linebacker from Tulane. He’s a two-time team captain. He’s made a lot of negative plays in his career there. He’s strong at the point of attack, he’s got some edge rush ability. We think he’s going to be a good fit in Coach Gaines scheme. We were really excited to end the day with that pick.”
Howie pointed out that Weidl didn’t mention Marlon Tuipulotu, and he went on to talk abou the defensive tackle from USC and another guy they saw at the Senior Bowl. Weidl said Tuipulotu had a really strong week in Mobile and he’s a really heavy-handed guy, can play the run, and get off blocks.
On Kenneth Gainwell
Sirianni was asked about comparisons for the running back, and whether he was a Nyheim Hines type of player. The head coach pointed out that they wouldn’t Gainwell in quite the same way because no two players are exactly the same, but that Hines is a good comp.
“We like a lot of the things that Kenneth can do. He does have a little bit of the things that you’re saying right there — the ability to go outside and win one-on-one outside against the linebackers, against safeties, to come out of the backfield and be able to do that as well. But then again not always having to do that with him.
He’s shown that he’s been really good in protection aspects of it as well and that every time he’s going in it’s not a pass play right to him. So, he can protect. He can run the ball. I think that’s a good comparison.”
On the collaboration process
Weidl was asked about whether he felt his voice was heard this year in the draft room and how things were different his second year running the scouting department. He quipped that the biggest difference this year was that they got to be together in the room and have that in-person dynamic.
“We all have a voice and Howie does a great job listening to everybody. I think that’s the key in my role too is just being a good listener, listening to scouts, listening to coaches, and the conversations and communications that we have daily are outstanding, and it’s key.
With this draft class here, the nine guys that we took, six of our nine picks are team captains. Six of the nine guys are at the Senior Bowl. Just the constant communication from when we were in Mobile daily talking about the players down there, who is performing well, interviews. You’ve got to stay on top of it.”
Howie chimed in about how every decision isn’t clear-cut and that there are different aspects with each pick from the coaching staff, scouting staff, and medical staff as well. They try to balance all the different factors to make good decisions. He later noted that they’re not going to necessarily make everyone happy, but at the end of the day, their job is to do what’s in the best interest of the football team.
On waiting to draft a CB
Howie circled back to saying that they wanted to stay true to their board, and that’s what they did through three rounds, even if it meant waiting a bit longer to take a cornerback.
“Listen, we’re always going to build this football team and we’re going to start with the line of scrimmage. Right or wrong, as long as I’m here, that’s going to be the priority. And I think the great things about the two guys next to me is that’s what they believe too. And you could say it all you want, but it better show in your actions. If we have an offensive lineman or defensive lineman sticking out on our board and they’re the highest guy, I promise you we’re going to take them. You saw that in the last couple of days.
I’m sure there’s some people sick and tired of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles take linemen but that’s how we won a championship and that’s how we’re going to win another championship.
So for us we weren’t going to get into a situation where we were going to force a position. We promised ourselves that, and those weren’t the conversations in the third round either. In the third round we feel like we’ve got a guy who is explosive and twitched up and has great character and can play inside or out. And he can get after quarterbacks. And that excites us. That’s why we picked Milton Williams. Towards the end of the third round, we saw another player sticking on our board and that was Zech McPhearson.”
He went on to say that they were wondering whether they should trade up to get McPhearson when he was still available, and they were eager to draft him because of the player he is, not just because he is a corner. As far as addressing the CB position, Howie pointed to times in the past that they filled roster needs up until the trade deadline.
“I promise you and the fans we’ll do whatever it takes at any time of the year to improve the roster.”
On Zach Ertz
Howie was asked about Zach Ertz several times, and he acknowledged that the TE is a good player and good person, he’s still under contract, and isn’t a guy in the twilight of his career — he’s still in his prime. They know the type of player he is and have to do what’s best for the team. Right now he’s on the roster, and if and when that changes, he’ll let everyone know.