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NFL Draft Grades: One expert says the Eagles had the league’s best class

High praise for Howie Roseman and co.

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CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After the NFL Draft each year, there’s a lot of talk about draft grades are dumb and unfair. I don’t really agree! It seems pretty reasonable to judge the process behind these selections based on the information we have at the time. In what world do we only ever wait to see how things fully play out years down the line in order to make judgments on them?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how various experts around the interwebs are grading the Philadelphia Eagles’ class. (My own Eagles draft grade is still coming up at BGN, if you were curious and waiting with bated breath.)

Consensus

The following roundup shows the Eagles in the middle of the pack with the 17th highest GPA. The Eagles finished bottom five last year in this same model.

The Athletic

Dane Brugler didn’t hand out letter grades but he did rank all the draft classes. He put the Eagles all the way at the top at No. 1! Interestingly, he included two of the Eagles’ less popular picks in his reasoning:

Favorite pick: Landon Dickerson, OG/C, Alabama

The Eagles had no shortage of candidates here, which is the main reason they are No. 1 on my list. But Dickerson gets my vote because of his combination of high-end talent at any of the interior line positions and his impact in the locker room. His injury history is troublesome, but well worth the risk.

Day 3 pick who could surprise: Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech

This was a tough choice between McPhearson, Gainwell and Tuipulotu, but the cornerback is the pick because I thought he went widely underrated throughout the process. The Penn State transfer looks comfortable in both man and zone and shows outstanding fluidity and toughness to mirror receivers.

Sheil Kapadia did hand out letter grades and gave the Eagles a straight B.

Only the Eagles could have a draft where they pick a fan favorite in the first round and then follow it up with a controversial fist-pound in the draft room on Day 2. Howie Roseman deserves credit for knowing he had to get ahead of the Giants for DeVonta Smith in the first round. Landon Dickerson in the second offers upside, but I don’t think the Eagles should’ve taken that gamble so early in the draft, given that four of Dickerson’s five college seasons ended with injuries.

The Eagles stayed true to their word about wanting to draft for volume, selecting nine players overall, and fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell has a chance to immediately carve out a role.

I agree with Sheil about the risk associated with the Dickerson pick.

DraftKings Nation

Our friends over at DK Nation gave the Eagles a B+

The Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly made the smart pick in the first round and did not reach with the selection of DeVonta Smith. The reigning Heisman Trophy addressed an immediate need for Philadelphia and gives an explosive playmaker for Jalen Hurts.

After that, the Eagles made the trenches a priority on Day 2, which many fans were not happy with because they have holes at linebacker and cornerback. But in Round 2, they took offensive lineman Landon Dickerson and in Round 3 took Milton Williams.

On Day 3, they finally grabbed a cornerback in Zech McPherson, who was ranked the fourth-best boundary cornerback by Football Gameplan’s Emory Hunt. In the fifth round, they added running back Kenneth Gainwell, who could be Nyheim Hines in Nick Sirianni’s offense. For their last few picks, they drafted DT Marlon Tuipulotu, EDGE Tarron Jackson, SAF JaCoby Stevens, and EDGE Patrick Johnson.

Pro Football Focus

The Eagles got a B- from PFF.

Day 1: The Eagles need elite players at many different positions, and they get one by initially trading down but then trading up to take DeVonta Smith. The Heisman Trophy winner immediately becomes the best receiver on Philadelphia’s roster. All Smith did last season was produce a 94.9 PFF grade with 23 touchdowns. He can play either wide or in the slot — it doesn’t matter. His diminutive size may have scared some teams off, but he has shown he can get open against anyone.

Day 2: If it weren’t for injuries, Landon Dickerson would be a high first-round pick and one of the best offensive linemen in this draft. But multiple ACL injuries caused his stock to come with a significant medical red flag. Taking that gamble in the second round is a lot smarter than doing so in the first. The Eagles can look for him to replace Jason Kelce long-term and maybe find a starting spot at guard in the meantime.

Williams is undersized on the interior. However, he showed at a historically impressive Pro Day that he has the athleticism necessary to win at that size in the NFL. He took a big leap forward this past season, improving his PFF grade from 72.6 to 90.8 from 2019 to 2020. The Eagles are set at starter between Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, but Williams adds to the depth inside following the loss of Malik Jackson.

Day 3: The Eagles are getting incredible value for Patrick Johnson, a player ranked 92nd on PFF’s Big Board. He is a nice technical player but needs to create consistent value by showing up to play on every down. When he’s on his game, he is a very good player.

I’m excited to watch the Eagles (hopefully) use Smith all over the formation. Nick Sirianni said the plan isn’t just to keep him at one receiver position.

Interesting to see PFF so high on the Eagles’ final pick.

ESPN+

Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Eagles a B+.

With a new coach, 11 picks entering the draft — the most in the NFL — and a depleted roster, it’s clear that this team is headed for a rebuild on the fly. I never bought that the Eagles would try to draft a quarterback in Round 1, and they’re going to give Jalen Hurts the chance to win the job long-term. That means they need to put Hurts in position to succeed.

Injuries and ineffectiveness led to Eagles receivers combining for 2,082 receiving yards last season, the third-fewest in the league. Former sixth-round pick Travis Fulgham was their leading pass-catcher. So even after taking Jalen Reagor in Round 1 last year, I have no problem with Philly again targeting a first-round receiver, particularly with the top corners off the board. I was surprised Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (12) was still on the board when the Eagles traded up above the Giants to get him. Smith is my top-ranked receiver and is No. 3 on my Big Board. He is one of the best route runners I’ve studied over the past 20 years. He can be a special player, and he’ll make life easier for Hurts. (The Eagles did have to give up the No. 84 pick to move up with Dallas, a steep price with a divisional rival.)

Both of Philly’s Day 2 picks made my list of favorite prospects. Center Landon Dickerson (37) tore his ACL in December, but he would have been a clear first-rounder if he was fully healthy. He likely will play guard with Jason Kelce still on the roster. Milton Williams (73) has some upside as a 3-technique tackle, and he plays hard. I love both of these kids.

Kenneth Gainwell (150) has some juice as a runner — nearly 1,500 yards in 2019 — and is my sixth-ranked running back. Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu (189) is likely a two-down player as a nose tackle, but he could replace Javon Hargrave in 2022. JaCoby Stevens (224) is a versatile safety who was asked to play all over the field for the LSU defense.

The Eagles are positioned to make a real run in next year’s draft because they own the Dolphins’ first-rounder — they moved back six spots in Round 1 this year — and are likely to get the Colts’ first-round pick if Carson Wentz plays 75% of the snaps and they make the playoffs. I don’t know how good they’ll be this season with Hurts under center, but they’re one of the most intriguing teams in the NFC. Smith could be rookie of the year.

Heading into the draft, Kiper did literally say that Dickerson was his favorite center prospect and Williams was his favorite defensive tackle prospect. So, no exaggeration there.

Definitely agree that Gainwell has some juice. I don’t know about Tuipulotu as a future starter.

I’m all about Kiper putting DeVonta ROY into the universe.

The Ringer

The great Danny Kelly gave the Eagles a B+.

The Eagles sent Dallas a third-round pick to move up two spots in the first round and select Smith, but that seems worth it: They come away with a big-time playmaker and the no. 1 receiver for their offense. Philly doubled down on Alabama players by nabbing Dickerson, who should bolster the interior of their line right away. I’m intrigued by Gainwell, as the fifth-round pick could complement Miles Sanders and become a pass-catching threat in space. And on defense, the Eagles did well by nabbing Williams and Tuipulotu. The former has the tools to emerge as a subpackage rusher early in his career.

NFL.com

Chad Reuter joins Brugler among those highest on the Eagles’ 2021 draft class. The former gave the Eagles a straight A.

The Eagles became the first team in 16 years to use back-to-back first-round selections on receivers when they traded up two spots to pick Smith (they selected Jalen Reagor 21st overall last April). Smith is an outstanding talent who could very well prove worthy of sending their division-rival Cowboys a third-rounder for the two-spot swap. Dickerson was selected as a guard and could be center Jason Kelce’s replacement in a year or two, though his injury history made him a bit of a risk as a top-40 pick. Williams’ athleticism had earned him a spot in the third round. He’ll give Philly some needed depth at defensive tackle.

They found the nickel corner they needed in McPhearson early in the fourth, then found value in the fifth round with a slasher, dual-threat back in Gainwell. Trading sixth- and seventh-round picks this year to Washington for a fifth next year was shrewd, if for no other reason than the fifth-rounder will play as a better trading chip if they need to make another move down the road. With Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett set to hit free agency soon, they were smart to nab Jackson in the sixth round. Stevens is a strong tackler and leader who could play linebacker or safety in the NFL.

The historical context about the Eagles double-dipping on receivers speaks to both 1) Smith being impressive and 2) Reagor underwhelming last year.

McPhearson has nickel experience but it seems more likely he’ll be playing on the outside, right? The Eagles have some nickel options. They do not have boundary options.

The trade for Washington’s 2022 fifth-rounder was a very smart pickup. Great job by Howie.

NBC Sports Edge

Thor Nystrom had the Eagles earning a straight B.

The Eagles’ punking Gettleman in Round 1 was high comedy. It had to feel especially sweet for Philly to get the last top-tier receiver and leave the hated Giants to panic-reach on the limited utility of Kadarius Toney. A strong Day 2 followed, with good value found on both Dickerson and Williams.

The Williams pick produced the most hilarious moment of draft weekend, when Howie Roseman’s run around the war room for congratulatory fist-bumps hit a snag when he offered knuckles to senior scout Tom Donahue, who was seething in rage away from his colleagues who had clearly disagreed with his alternate suggestion for the Williams pick. Donahue exchanged terse words to a visibly confused Roseman. Incredibly, the exchange was caught during a live ESPN look into the Eagles war room.

Don’t tell Donahue, but I’m with Roseman on the Williams pick. Either way, Philly picked up the pieces and made a pair of nice mid-Day 3 picks in Kenneth Gainwell and Marlon Tuipulotu.

The Giants did well for themselves by trading down but, yeah, they still missed an opportunity to acquire a truly special talent in Smith.