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NFL Draft Grades: “[The Eagles] can’t keep getting away with this”

High praise for Howie Roseman and company.

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2023 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Has it sunk in for you yet? It’s not easy to believe the Philadelphia Eagles managed to land both Jalen Carter AND Nolan Smith in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. But it’s real and it’s glorious.

Now it’s time to see what the so-called “experts” are saying about these moves. Instant draft grades are hardly the be-all, end-all determination of whether a pick is actually good or not ... but they’re still fun to look at. Especially when your favorite team is getting a lot of love!

My grade (A+)

The night got off to a great start when the news came down that the Eagles were getting the No. 66 pick from the Arizona Cardinals in a trade settlement regarding Jonathan Gannon. It’s the best thing the former defensive coordinator ever did for Philly.

Things got even better when Carter was still available on the board at No. 9 and the Eagles merely had to give up a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears to get him. The Birds have plenty of selections in next year’s draft so that’s a pretty negligible cost to prevent another team from moving up and preventing Carter from going to Philly.

There are obvious off-field concerns to be considered when it comes to Carter. He fell as far as he did for a reason; some teams were said to have removed him from their board entirely.

But the belief here is the Eagles are taking a worthwhile risk. Carter is an incredible talent; that much is apparent from watching him play for even just a little bit. The Birds also had a big need at defensive tackle after losing Javon Hargrave.

It’s not unreasonable for the Eagles to think they’ve built the right organizational structure for Carter to thrive as a professional. The pieces are in place when it comes to a good locker room that features strong leaders. Of course, Carter must do his part to avoid trouble moving forward.

As if drafting Carter wasn’t exciting enough, the Eagles scooped up Smith at No. 30 when he reasonably could’ve been the pick at No. 10. Smith is a MF dog, no pun intended. His will to be great is apparent on the field; he plays with incredible energy and passion.

And it’s not like Smith is just a try-hard guy. We’re talking about an incredible athlete in the mold of modern pass rushers such as Micah Parsons and Haason Reddick. These types feel like an answer to the rise of quarterback mobility in the NFL since they have the ability to chase players down.

Carter and Smith project to be meaningful rotational contributors as rookies. They also have the potential to be foundational members of the Eagles’ defense for years to come.

Hard to say Howie could have done much better than he did on Thursday night. This was a home run outcome.

BGN community (A)

Eagles fans largely loved the team trading up for Carter. Some liked it more than they loved it.

The Smith pick was slightly more popular.

SB Nation (A for Carter, A+ for Smith)

On the field, Jalen Carter is the second best player in this draft class. His raw explosion, power and hand quickness are truly a sight to behold when he’s firing on all cylinders. The off the field issues are concerning, but in Philadelphia he has a good nucleus of people around him, including teammates at Georgia Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis. On the field, this is a perfect fit, allowing Philly to toggle between fronts on multiple occasions, and generate pass rush without blitzing. Carter should be an instant impact player.

The Eagles are just trying to recreate the 2021 Georgia defense, and that’s something I would do as well. Smith is a highly athletic pass rusher who is much better against the run right now than he is against the pass. He doesn’t have to play right away with Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat in the fold, and can rotate in and help create pressure without using blitzes. The Eagles got a steal. (A overall)

Analysis: New Orleans gifted the Eagles the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft via a trade last spring. GM Howie Roseman couldn’t wait that long, though, trading a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Bears to move up to No. 9 and ensure Philadelphia landed Carter. A more versatile performer than last year’s first-round defensive tackle, Jordan Davis, Carter is a force at 3 technique with excellent get-off and quickness. My enthusiasm for this pick was tempered by concerns about his off-field issues. Getting the speedy Smith to play behind Haason Reddick in the team’s scheme was an easy call at 30, bringing yet another Georgia defender to the City of Brotherly Love.

The Ringer (A for Carter, A+ for Smith)

The Eagles give up a fourth-round pick to move up one spot and get their guy, reuniting Carter with his former Georgia teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean. That makes Philly a near-ideal landing spot for Carter, who has faced much scrutiny during the draft process because of his involvement in a January car crash that killed a Georgia teammate and a recruiter and injured two others. (Carter pleaded no contest in March to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing.) Carter is my top-ranked interior defensive lineman and my no. 5 player overall—and makes the already-talented Eagles front a potentially dominant force.

They can’t keep getting away with this.

B/R (A for Carter, A for Smith)

Good teams make smart moves. The Philadelphia Eagles are led by a two-time NFL Executive of the Year in Howie Roseman. He knows value when he sees it, hence why he made sure to secure Carter’s service by trading up one spot to the ninth overall pick by giving up a future fourth-round selection to land arguably the class’ best overall talent. The Eagles’ defensive approach is predicated on coming at opposing quarterbacks in waves. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are aging. Jordan Davis’ injury last season helped lead to the signings of Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh. Carter can team up with Davis again and give the Eagles a dominant interior. Furthermore, the Eagles locker room and overall team culture are counted among the league’s best. Any potential concerns over Carter’s work ethic should be put to rest with his new team. The rich just got richer, because the Eagles know how to manipulate the draft to their advantage.

The explosivity seen in his testing translates to the field in his upfield burst and pop at the point of attack despite a lack of size. But he did miss seven games this past season because of a torn pectoral muscle. Also, his build and athleticism don’t necessarily impart a comfort level when working in space. Smith is lighting quick when asked to work laterally on stunts and blitzes. But he won’t add much regarding coverage responsibilities. Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman may be a two-time NFL Executive of the Year, but it doesn’t take a mastermind to build a roster by selecting multiple talents from college football’s back-to-back champions. Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean joined the team last year. The Eagles already chose Jalen Carter earlier in the first round. Then, Nolan Smith fell into the team’s proverbial lap with the 30th overall selection. While Carter can eventually replace Fletcher Cox, Smith is an edge to take over once Brandon Graham finally calls it a career. Technically, this year’s penultimate first-round draft pick is more in the mold of Haason Reddick, but the speed and ferocity Smith brings gives the Eagles yet another option in pressure packages. The combination of Carter and Smith is a home run of a first round for the Eagles. Everything from this point is icing on the cake.

The Athletic (A for Carter, A for Smith)

Howie Roseman, take a bow. By moving up one spot and giving up a 2024 fourth rounder, the Eagles grabbed one of the best interior defensive tackles in recent memory. The Eagles have the infrastructure to surround Carter and help him reach his potential, and Philadelphia is on track to maintain its defensive dominance. Carter was a force for both of Georgia’s national championship teams. Brugler describes Carter as possessing “exceptional play strength and body control” with “remarkable balance in space” and “strikes with natural power to stack, reset the line of scrimmage and disengage to make stops in the hole.” Thick and powerful, Carter (6-3, 314) has massive hands (10 ¼ inches) coupled with long arms (33 ½) and wingspan to match (81). He finished with six sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss on a deep Georgia defensive line. The only concern comes off the field. After weighing 314 at the combine, Carter was nine pounds heavier for Georgia’s pro days just two weeks later. While at the combine, Carter was charged and later pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in a racing incident that killed a teammate and Georgia football employee. He’s considered a popular teammate but immature at times.

Philadelphia has the best roster in the NFL, and it continues to scoop up defensive starters from two-time national champion Georgia. This time, the Eagles grabbed the electrifying Smith, who follows teammate Jalen Carter (No. 9 overall) and former teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean last year. No pass rusher in the draft boasts the speed off the edge that Smith presents. At the combine, he was disappointed with his 4.39 40 time, which was the fastest of any non-receiver/running back/cornerback. His 41 ½-inch vertical jump was the fourth highest. That athletic ability is rare for an edge rusher, even one on the small side like Smith (6-2 ¼, 238). Despite tearing a pectoral muscle that limited him to eight games last season, Smith recorded a pair of sacks and 12 hurries. He was an instrumental member of Georgia’s 2021 squad as part of one of college football’s greatest defensive lines. With nearly 500 snaps, Smith picked up seven sacks and 18 hurries with a rare burst off the edge.This was yet another a steal for the Eagles, who might break the NFL’s sack record next year.

Yahoo! Sports (A+ for Carter, A- for Smith)

Carter is the best player in the class. When he’s healthy, he is the most dominant player on the field from a physical and technical standpoint and will give a championship-caliber defense a championship-caliber player.

Smith is on the smaller size as far as edge rushers go, but it’s hard to find guys with legitimate 4.3 speed at pass rusher. Smith, Haason Reddick, Jalen Carter, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Jordan Davis? Good luck blocking that.

Landing the No. 2 overall player on the PFF big board at Pick 9 is a huge win for the Eagles. Carter played 392 snaps in 2022 and earned a 92.3 PFF grade that led all Power Five interior defenders. He registered 32 total pressures from 273 pass-rushing snaps. The Eagles had to give up just a 2024 fourth-round pick to make this happen.

PFF (“Elite” for Carter and Smith)

Landing the No. 2 overall player on the PFF big board at Pick 9 is a huge win for the Eagles. Carter played 392 snaps in 2022 and earned a 92.3 PFF grade that led all Power Five interior defenders. He registered 32 total pressures from 273 pass-rushing snaps. The Eagles had to give up just a 2024 fourth-round pick to make this happen.

The Eagles land the 13th overall player on the PFF big board with the 30th pick in the draft. Philadelphia retools its defensive line once again with elite talent by adding Smith, who might be undersized at 238 pounds but earned a 90.0 PFF run-defense grade over the past two seasons and is an incredible athlete.

ESPN (“Winner”)

Wow! The rich get richer. Philadelphia moved up one spot, trading Chicago a 2024 fourth-round pick, to get the No. 1 overall prospect on my Big Board. The Eagles are going to reunite Carter with former Georgia teammate Jordan Davis — the two formed an outstanding interior duo in 2021. I love this pick. This team has the locker-room leadership to make sure Carter stays on track and plays to his potential. Then the Eagles added another Bulldog late, getting my 12th-ranked player at No. 30. Smith missed half of the 2022 season because of a torn pectoral muscle, but he has rare physical tools. He flies off the edge. I thought he’d go much higher. Philly is putting together a defense filled with national champions — it also picked up linebacker Nakobe Dean last year. This is a great start for the Eagles.

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