There was a lot of pressure on me leading up to my selection for the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 10 pick in the annual SB Nation NFL writers mock draft.
In 2021, I made the case for DeVonta Smith. The Eagles traded up to get him.
In 2022, I made the case for Jordan Davis. The Eagles traded up to get him.
Howie Roseman is clearly reading Bleeding Green Nation and heeding my advice. So, who should I steer him towards in the 2023 NFL Draft?
The answer to that question ties into what I think the Birds will do with their first selection. I could be wrong ... but I think the Eagles are going to take one of the following three Georgia players with their first pick:
- DT Jalen Carter
- OT Broderick Jones
- EDGE Nolan Smith
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Carter’s draft stock given his off-field concerns. But even if the Eagles are comfortable with drafting him, the thinking here is that he won’t really be available to them. He could conceivably go high as No. 5 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Detroit Lions selected him at No. 6 in this mock exercise.
So, assuming Carter doesn’t fall to Philly’s range, that leaves Jones and Smith. The former might be a more likely pick than some realize. As discussed at length in BGN Radio podcast Episode 316, there was buzz at the NFL owners meetings about the Eagles going offensive line with their first selection.
Unless the Birds are uncomfortable with Cam Jurgens taking over for Isaac Seumalo at right guard (maybe not impossible?), they don’t have an immediate need for a starter. But the team is currently thinner than they’d like to be when it comes to depth. Who is the backup left tackle with Andre Dillard leaving? Jack Driscoll has played there but they might like to do better and he’s a free agent after 2023. Otherwise they’re looking at ... Brett Toth, who missed the entire 2022 season?
While Jordan Mailata is entrenched as a long-term starter on the left side, Lane Johnson has openly discussed looking to play “maybe two more seasons” after 2022. He previously considered retirement in 2021 when he needed to step away from the team during the season.
And even putting ‘need’ aside, the Eagles simply believing in drafting offensive linemen. They’re well aware that two of their worst seasons during the Roseman tenure came when their line cratered. They also don’t want to count on being able to pay OL talent big money in free agency.
Jones, who doesn’t turn 22 until May, is very athletic and boasts intriguing upside. He lacks experience with 15 of his total 19 starts coming last year. But that won’t matter as much to the Eagles, who can be more patient in developing him, as it could to teams that want him to be able to play right away.
But Jones is not the pick in this activity. I instead went with Smith.
For as much as the Eagles value offensive linemen, they’re also wont to invest premium resources in their pass rush.
There are some questions about how Smith projects to the NFL considering his size. But he’s only an inch shorter and eight pounds lighter than Micah Parsons’ listed measurements from the NFL Combine. Smith’s actually an inch taller than Haason Reddick and just two pounds lighter. There’s reason to believe he can follow in their footsteps and utilize his elite athleticism to wreak havoc as both a pass rusher and run defender.
There’s also reason to believe in his character. The Eagles have made good bets on prospects like this in recent years. Jalen Hurts is a dog. DeVonta is a dog. Those are just two examples of dudes you do not want to bet against. They ooze Big Winner Energy. By all accounts, Smith checks all the boxes in that regard. Just look at the intensity and passion he plays with. He’s fearless. That’s a guy you want on your team.
This pick would immediately fit in as part of the Eagles’ pass rush rotation. Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Nolan Smith? That’s a pretty good group.
Scouting report via NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:
Lower weight class edge defender with the toughness to mix it up with bigger players. Based purely upon his sleek but smallish frame, one might expect him to be more effective as a rusher than run defender but the opposite is true. Smith is hard to move off of his spot due to his technique and leverage, and he can be disruptive when firing into gaps. He can get off the mark as a rusher, but lacks the counters and contact balance to consistently assault the pocket at a high rate. Smith falls below the size standards some team might have for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he plays team-first defense with quality technique that should help him translate to the pros.
Spider graph via Mockdraftable:
Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook are projecting the Eagles to focus on a defensive lineman/EDGE player with the team’s first pick in the 2023 draft, and that player could very well be Nolan Smith.