The NFL Draft is often a twisting menagerie of suspense, elation, and disappointment, certain to create strong opinions from experts and the fanbase long before any of the college prospects selected have pulled a single shoulder pad with your favorite team’s laundry on top of it.
The days and weeks and months leading up the Draft offer no shortage of storylines and expectations and, for your Philadelphia Eagles, that storyline centered around general manager Howie Roseman. How would he approach this draft? Would he learn any lessons from previous seasons? Would he continue to waste draft capital on luxury picks for the future, or would he select impact players early who can help right away?
It was a mixed bag for the embattled GM. It started off with a bang, went a bit sideways on Friday, and ended with a flurry of picks in rounds 5-7, many if not most of whom will not end up being starters or even serviceable backups, especially in Rounds 6 and 7.
With that being said, here are five “winners” and five “losers” from this weekend’s NFL Draft for the Birds.
First, Roseman’s decision to trade down from No. 6 to No. 12 was justified when Kyle Pitts and JaMarr Chase went off the board at Nos. 4 and 5. Second, once Patrick Surtain II, Jalen Waddle, and Jaycee Horn were taken ahead of pick No. 10, Howie astutely used his extra third-round pick to trade up with the Dallas Cowboys and pull Devonta Smith out from under the New York Giants’ noses. In essence, Roseman traded Waddle and a 3rd round pick for Smith and a first-rounder next year.
That’s a heck of a move.
With the selection of Smith, Roseman tacitly acknowledged he needed to do things differently this year. He did not reach for a player who fits a certain “scheme,” nor did he pass over a potential generational talent like D.K. Metcalf or Justin Jefferson once again. While stardom in the NFL is not guaranteed for Smith, he was the best chance of landing that superstar talent at No. 10 and gives the fanbase a new potential superstar to get excited about, while also filling a huge need on the roster.
After the first round, it seemed Roseman had bought himself a little time, and some grace, from Eagles fans.
The Eagles could have grabbed Justin Fields at No. 12. They could have stayed put, kept their extra third-rounder and taken the former Ohio State star if they didn’t feel Hurts was going to progress into a solid QB in 2021. Sure, they’ve also spent a good deal of time loading up on draft capital next year to go after a QB either in free agency or in next year’s draft, but for this year, Roseman and the coaching staff all but assured him he would be their starter.
The selection of Smith also brings in one of the best wide receiver talents to come into Philadelphia since DeSean Jackson was drafted, and being former teammates with Smith at Alabama can only be a good thing for their rapport. In the second round, the Eagles selected another former teammate of Hurts, oft-injured center/guard Landon Dickerson, a mountain of a man who, if healthy (and that’s a big if) could take over for Jason Kelce as soon as 2022, providing real protection for Hurts.
Finally, in Round 5, the backfield received a potential boost with Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell, a sleeper pick most draft experts believed was a steal for the Birds at No. 150 overall. All in all, the draft really couldn’t have gone any better for Jalen Hurts.
It was expected the Eagles would spend a Day 1 or at least a Day 2 pick on a cornerback, but instead, they went offense with Smith and Dickerson. Both moves may prove to be prescient but, in the here and now, the lack of a starting-caliber cornerback from this draft is concerning. They waited until the fourth round to grab Zech (pronounced Zach, by the way, so go figure) McPhearson, but he’s expected to be in the mix for the slot corner spot, or maybe the No. 4.
That’s good news for Avonte Maddox, who has struggled as the No. 2 corner on the depth chart behind Darius Slay. It was hoped the addition of a new cornerback in the draft would allow him to move back inside, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards, at least not yet. As it is, Maddox remains the No. 2 corner in Jonathan Gannon’s defense.
NFC East Wide Receivers
The Dallas Cowboys still have Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Washington added Curtis Samuel to go along with Terry McLaurin, and the Giants’ wide receiver room is loaded, headed by Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and their first round pick Kadarius Toney.
Slay is still pretty good, but to call the rest of the Eagles' secondary suspect would be putting it kindly. The wideouts in the NFC East should have a field day when they’re playing the Birds.
No one thought the Eagles were going to address linebacker in the first round or even on Day 2, and they didn’t. However, the linebacker room may be in better shape than some would imagine. Free agent Eric Wilson is a legitimate starting middle linebacker and Alex Singleton is a strong tackler. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary to the Eagles punting linebacker in the draft is second-year man Shaun Bradley, who showed glimpses of solid play in his rookie season.
After seeing too many long pass plays being given up by Eagles LB, Shaun Bradley in coverage was a thrill to watch against the Saints.— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) December 17, 2020
He played limited snaps but made a big difference!#Eagles pic.twitter.com/LKVYtQDt2q
It sure looks like he’s going to get a chance to see the field more in 2021.
Yes, Howie Roseman emerged as a “winner” after the first round, but his second and third-round picks were questionable.
Dickerson has a chance to be the team’s franchise center for the next 5-7 years, but the pick also has a huge chance to blow up in their faces. Here’s a guy who had only one season in college in which he played the whole year without getting hurt, his junior year in 2019. In his other four seasons he suffered a season-ending ACL injury on his right knee, a season-ending ankle injury the following year, he played just two games with a high ankle sprain in ‘18 and last year tore his ACL (in his left knee) in the SEC Championship Game.
The Eagles and their medical staff are hoping that was just a catastrophic run of bad luck, but it’s a huge risk to take at No. 37 overall. And for a team with as many holes as the Eagles have, it once again felt like a luxury pick that a team close to the Super Bowl would make, not a team that went 4-11-1 last season.
Then in the third round, the Eagles traded out of pick No. 70 and moved down three spots to No. 73 in order to draft defensive tackle Milton Williams. He was a productive player in college, with 10 sacks in his last 23 games, and can also play some defensive end, but cornerback Aaron Robinson was sitting there at No. 70, a speedy corner with decent size who could have been selected in that spot. Instead, Roseman traded down and watched the Giants jump in front of them and take that corner.
Perhaps Zech McPhearson will turn out to be the better player and Roseman will be proven right, and perhaps Dickerson will stay healthy and be the stud first-round talent he was expected to be before he got hurt. Howie’s 2021 draft pretty much depends on it.
There was a lot of speculation the Eagles’ long-time tight end and Super Bowl 52 hero was going to be traded (one report said “it’s going to happen by the end of the draft for sure”) but apparently, Roseman didn’t find any takers willing to meet his price.
Unfortunately for Ertz, it means he’s still in a place he probably doesn’t want to be, on a team without much of a chance to win this year, sharing touches with a younger, more effective player in Dallas Goedert. It’s not ideal and, chances are, he will be dealt at some point. But Ertz was probably hoping it was going to be this weekend.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside/John Hightower/Quez Watkins
With the addition of Smith, all of these guys could be gone next year, and almost certainly two of them will be.
Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, and Travis Fulgham are the top four on the depth chart. Will the fact Arcega-Whiteside was taken in the second round two years ago earn him another season as the No. 5? Would they want someone with a bit more speed, like Hightower, in that spot? And what even is Quez Watkins?
By now, almost all of you have seen this exchange from Day 2 of the draft in the Eagles War Room.
That’s right, Eagles Senior Football Advisor Tom Donahoe obviously wasn’t happy with how the third round shook out after the Eagles traded down and bypassed Robinson for Williams, and it feeds into recent reporting about rifts between the front office and the scouting department.
Roseman acknowledged at the end of the night that there are always disagreements and that some scouts have their favorites and sometimes feathers get ruffled, but this was not a good look for Donahoe or Roseman. It’s likely just unfortunate timing that it all got caught on TV but it shines a light on a process that may still not be 100% optimized.
The addition of Gainwell could have the biggest impact on Scott, who has spent the last two seasons as Miles Sanders’ No. 2. Scott’s a nice little player but doesn’t have the speed or athleticism Gainwell has, and it’s highly possible the Birds’ fifth-round pick will see a lot of action this season, at the expense of snaps for Scott. With Jordan Howard back in the fold, either he or Scott will be on the outside looking in for either a roster spot or touches once the season begins.