One of my favorite things to do after the NFL Draft each year is to go back and look at what anonymous scouts were saying about players prior to them being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles.
This post features quotes from various football personnel people, mainly by way of The Athletic’s Bob McGinn’s annual must-read pre-draft series. There are a few quotes provided by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein as well.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what league insiders had to say about the Eagles’ additions from the 2021 NFL Draft.
Smith was the third receiver selected in this year’s draft behind Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle. McGinn’s polling had Smith ranked as the second-best player at his position.
First scout: “When (Henry) Ruggs and (Jerry) Jeudy came out last year, I said the best football player was Smith. Those guys went top 15, but now I don’t know if DeVonta will go top 15 when push comes to shove because he’s 170 pounds. He is rail-thin. Bama was 21 points better than everybody they played. It was a perfect world, and I think life will be a little tougher than what it was this past year.”
Second scout: “I don’t worry about his size. We got (small) guys up here that kick everybody’s butt. Guys are 190, 200 on pro day and they’ll play at 185, 179. They get up here, their diet changes. The way the rules have changed, especially at receiver, those guys aren’t getting heavy collisions anymore. It’s 7-on-7 ball half the time.”
Third scout: “If you were just picking people to play football in the backyard, he’d be the first pick every year. He is skinny, but he’s so good. He is strong. Every year he just improved.”
Fourth scout: “He is really a smooth, fluid athlete. It’s almost effortless. He’s tiny at 170, but he doesn’t get knocked around. He doesn’t get rerouted against press coverage.”
Here’s Zierlein’s contribution:
NFC area scout: “He may be a bean pole, but he won’t fail. He won’t fail off the field or on the field. Those coaches rave about how he is wired and how much football means to him.”
This right here is part of why I’m so high on Smith. Extremely talented, productive, AND driven. This is what I’m talking about when I reference BWE (Big Winner Energy). This dude is locked in and wants to win.
Here’s another quote on Smith via Albert Breer that we shared over the weekend:
Rival NFC executive: “We asked all the SEC guys who the best player they played against was over the last couple months. All of them, every one, said DeVonta. And the Bama guys all said, ‘He’s the best football player I’ve ever been around.’
It’s no surprise to see that Alabama people think highly of a player from their own program ... but that’s a bold and meaningful statement! There’s no shortage of competition for the best Crimson Tide player.
Dickerson was the first center selected in this year’s draft. McGinn’s polling had Dickerson ranked as the best player at his position.
First scout: “If you’re trying to re-establish a culture, he’s everything you want as a person. He’s real. He’s just nasty. Only problem is the multiple surgeries he’s had.”
Second scout: “He’s an oversized man in the middle. He’s got a lot of intangibles and leadership, toughness and all that. But he’s had three season-ending injuries in four years. For teams that run a wide-zone scheme, he’s really not a fit.”
Third scout: “Not a good athlete, on the ground a lot. I don’t like his stiffness. I don’t like this and that. But he’s a guy I want on my team. He’s my type of guy even when I look at him as an athlete. Fortunately, you’re not going to be able to work the guy out.”
Fourth scout: “It’s a wonderful story … but he’s not that good. He’s been hurt his whole life, and he’s limited athletically. Does the guy have any talent? No. Just a guy.”
The Eagles are certainly a team trying to re-establish a culture, so Dickerson is a pretty logical fit in that regard.
Interesting to see that the scouts weren’t unanimously sold on his talent. Many have posited that Dickerson merely needs to stay healthy. If he’s not as “special” as Howie Roseman suggested he is, that’s a big problem.
Here’s a much more effusive quote provided by Zierlein:
NFL executive: “I love him. I know some people around the league think he’s still under the radar, but I doubt that. He reminds me of Mountain from ‘Game of Thrones’. Just big and strong and tough.”
Any snakes in the Eagles’ locker room don’t stand a chance with Dickerson around.
Williams was the fourth defensive tackle selected in this year’s draft. McGinn’s polling had Williams ranked as the sixth-best player at his position.
First scout: “That was absurd. Unbelievable. But … he plays like a workout warrior, not a football player. Limited instincts and block recognition. Gets washed (out) at the point of attack. Has to be on the move. Limited pass-rush plan and moves.”
Second scout: “Carolina took Vernon Butler from there late in the first round (in 2016), and he never did anything. This kid is better than Butler. He’s got everything you’re looking for, but he doesn’t play hard. He flashes, then he takes three or four plays off. But (after) the (pro-day) workout, somebody’s got to grab him in the second.”
Third scout: “We don’t know where to put him. He’s kind of an end, a 5-technique. He’s a great kid, and if he’s willing to work at it, he has a lot of traits to potentially develop. He could be the surprise of this class.”
The thing about Williams getting washed out is something I noticed while watching him more. He has upside but this is hardly a finished product we’re talking about.
AFC area scout: “He uses his hands really well, which makes his size less of a problem to me.”
McPhearson was the 18th cornerback selected in this year’s draft. McGinn’s polling had him ranked as the 17th best player at his position.
McGinn didn’t have any scout quotes to offer but he did have McPhearson listed as the “unsung hero” of all the corners.
Spent three years at Penn State without playing much but graduated with a degree in labor and employment relations. Moved to Lubbock, Texas, as a grad transfer and produced as a two-year starter. He has adequate height/weight/speed (5-foot-11, 193, 4.50), a 40½-inch vertical jump, strong leadership skills and a love for the game. He also completed his master’s degree at Texas Tech in interdisciplinary studies.
“A love for the game” was definitely a theme from this year’s Eagles draft. They wanted to acquire players who they can count on to work to get better.
Gainwell was the ninth running back selected in this year’s draft. McGinn’s polling had him ranked as the sixth-best player at his position:
First scout: “He’s like the kid Dallas took in the fourth round two years ago — (Tony Pollard). I thought he was better than Tony Pollard.”
Second scout: “After [Travis] Etienne he’s probably the best receiver. He’s a lot like Alvin Kamara. Only this guy’s faster. More of a straight-line runner.”
Third scout: “At worst, he could give you something as a backup runner and on third down. He’s slippery. He’s one of those guys who could end up being a really good pro. He’ll go in the third or fourth and end up becoming a starter.”
Fourth scout: “I didn’t see a guy that could really bust and run through contact, which you’ve got to be able to do unless you can manufacture space for him.”
A faster Alvin Kamara?! Sign me up.
More from Zierlein:
NFC scouting director: “They do a really good job of finding backs that work in that wide stretch stuff they do, but I don’t know if he’s going to translate if he doesn’t find a scheme that keeps him in space.”
Tuipulotu was the 13th defensive tackle selected in this year’s draft. McGinn’s polling had him ranked as the 10th best player at his position:
First scout: “True ’50’ front nose tackle. He’s a big, strong, tough guy who brings attitude to your (defensive) line room. I just don’t see a guy that can generate sacks.”
Second scout: “At the Senior Bowl, he was on the ground a lot. He did a lot of dancing at the line. Didn’t really show much push.”
Third scout: “Plays hard, has zero pass rush. Straight-up nose tackle.”
Seems like MT might be more of a two-down player.
More from Zierlein:
AFC West Coast scout: “He’s going to do all the right things, be very accountable and he’s a good teammate.”
Another good locker room addition.
Jacksonwas the 23rd defensive end drafted and he was 28th in McGinn’s polling. No scouting report was provided.
Stevens was unranked in McGinn’s polling.
Johnson was unranked McGinn’s polling. Zierlein did offer some insight on him:
AFC personnel director: “I like him. He comes for combat every snap, but you just wish he were a little longer.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Jonathan Gannon deploys Johnson. He was projected as a 3-4 edge rusher but the Eagles have him listed as a 4-3 off-ball linebacker.
UNDRAFTED ROOKIE FREE AGENTS
McGinn’s polling had Newman as QB12. 10 quarterbacks were selected in this year’s draft.
First scout: “At Wake Forest he reminded me of Jordan Love. He’s a big-time athlete and has a strong arm, but he wasn’t accurate.”
Second scout: “He said he wouldn’t have been prepared properly to play and be successful. Never got on the field with (Georgia) coaches because of COVID. He has the ability. He can run the ball. But I’m not sold on this kid.”
Newman has some talent. It’s up to the Eagles’ coaching staff to help get something out of him. It’d be a big win if he can develop into a quality backup.
McGinn’s polling had Awosika as OG11. 13 guards were selected in this year’s draft.
McGinn’s polling had Grimes as WR21. 36 receivers were selected in this year’s draft.
McGinn’s polling had Stoll as TE19. 11 tight ends were selected in this year’s draft.