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2023 NFL Draft was franchise-altering for the Eagles

The Eagles set themselves up for the present and the future in the 2023 Draft.

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Eagles and Howie Roseman had a monumental task ahead of them this offseason. The only thing harder than getting to the Super Bowl and winning it is getting back to the Super Bowl after losing it the year before. In the wake of their loss to the Chiefs, the team faced massive roster and coaching staff turnover. Things looked bleak, but Howie Roseman took the challenge head on. With the 2023 NFL Draft now in the books, it feels like the Eagles are faring the winds of change as well as they could be. The Eagles’ draft was a monumental feat and its impact should be felt early on.

Let’s take a look at the new members of the team.

Jalen Carter, Defensive Lineman, Georgia

#1 Overall Player, #1 Ranked Defensive Lineman

Pro Comparison: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

Jalen Carter has a chance to be a very special player early in his career. Carter has been a standout player on the Bulldogs over the last two years. Even on a defensive line comprised of Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt, Carter regularly looked like the best player of the group.

With Walker, Davis, and Wyatt off to the NFL, more focus was put on Jalen Carter. Early season rumblings of character issues combined with a lower body issue to really shake the spotlight around Carter. Carter played through injuries late in the season to help Georgia to its second straight championship. Despite not playing at full strength, Carter was a force at times.

Questions around Carter’s character intensified once he was implicated in a street racing incident that led to two deaths. A devastating tragedy begot by truly horrible decisions. It is clear that serious, and valid questions, about Carter’s maturity caused him to fall in the draft. The Eagles clearly felt they could offer Carter, who turned 22 in early April, unique organizational stability. With the strength of their locker room, it is easy to trust them.

On the field, Jalen Carter should be an instant impact contributor in this defense. He has the quickness and technical prowess to thrive as a penetrating defensive tackle in even fronts. He can take advantage of space eaten up by Jordan Davis to punish interior offensive linemen and generate pressure up the middle. He also has the upper body strength, anchor, and awareness to play as a two-gapping lineman. His versatility and disruptiveness make him a great chess piece in Sean Desai’s defense. A healthy rotation of Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, Jalen Carter, Fletcher Cox, Kentavius Street, and interior snaps for Brandon Graham means the whole line will be staying fresh and ready to go.

I expect Carter to see over 35% of defensive snaps and be a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Nolan Smith, Edge Defender, Georgia

#7 Overall Player, #3 Ranked Edge Defender

Pro Comparison: Micah Parsons

The Eagles doubled down on Dawgs in the first round, adding Nolan Smith with the 30th overall pick. Smith, projected by many as a top 20 pick, fell in the draft due to a few factors. For one, Smith missed the second half of the 2022 season due to a pec injury. On top of that, Smith is very small for an edge defender (6’2”, 238 pounds) and failed to ever produce at a high level in college.

These are reasonable concerns, but there are some key traits with Smith that are absolutely worth betting on. When it comes to production, Georgia’s defense mostly wants their linemen to control the line of scrimmage instead of constantly attacking upfield. A lot of the pressure in Georgia’s defense came from blitzing linebackers (see: Nakobe Dean in 2021) and that was afforded by how dominant the line was at eating up space. Turn on the film with Nolan Smith and, despite his size, you will see him consistently setting the edge against much bigger lineman. He has great power for an edge player of any size, let alone a sub-240 pounder.

His athleticism is truly rare at the position and that, combined with his size profile, means Sean Desai could deploy him from anywhere. He could be a hand in the ground rusher on third and long, but he could also blitz from all over the formation and drop into coverage as an off-ball linebacker. The Eagles don’t need him to be a true edge defender. They already have that in Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. They need Nolan Smith to be a weapon on defense, and I expect that is exactly how he will be used.

Tyler Steen, Offensive Lineman, Alabama

It was kind of a given that the Eagles would draft an offensive lineman at some point in this draft. With Lane Johnson in the later stages of his Hall of Fame career and the right guard spot newly open, the Eagles needed an influx of youth in the trenches.

Tyler Steen feels like a perfect player for Coach Jeff Stoutland to mold into a high level contributor. Steen played 30 games at Vanderbilt before transferring to Alabama to play left tackle. Steen has a massive build at 6’6” and 321 pounds and athleticism to thrive on an island at tackle.

Due to shorter arms, Tyler Steen figures to slide inside to play guard. This will be a bit of a project. Steen’s struggle as a blocker comes from inconsistent leverage as a taller player. At guard, leverage becomes much more important as you play in a phone booth against shorter defensive linemen. Pad level will be key for Steen to succeed at guard, a big but doable adjustment for the experienced lineman. Here the Eagles take a big swing on a highly athletic, well tested offensive lineman and he will likely start sooner than later in his career.

Sydney Brown, Safety, Illinois

#64 Overall Player, #3 Overall Safety

Pro Comparison: TJ Ward, Denver Broncos

The Eagles had a big need at safety this offseason. CJ Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps exiting left big holes on the defense. The team has some intriguing guys on the roster in Reed Blankenship, who played very well as an undrafted rookie, Terrell Edmunds, a former first round pick in Pittsburgh, and Justin Evans, who has been a decent role player during his career. What the group is missing is a surefire playmaker. Someone who can set the tone and create turnovers from all over the field.

Enter Sydney Brown.

In 40 career games at Illinois, Sydney Brown picked off 10 passes, forced four fumbles, made 10 TFLs and scored three defensive touchdowns. Brown is a highly athletic player and is 206 pounds of pure muscle packed into a 5’10” frame. He is unafraid to make big plays against the run and can cover any level of the field with his athleticism.

His best work comes closer to the line of scrimmage where he can play as a slot defender or even a nickel linebacker. He has the speed to cover receivers and running backs out of the backfield, the physicality to handle bigger pass catching tight ends and the fearlessness to instincts to be a plus run defender. Brown is an aggressive defender, which can lead to lots of feast or famine when looking for big plays. Tempering that aggression will do a lot to make him a consistent force in the right defense.

In Philadelphia, Brown should compete for a big role early in his career. He could be an excellent nickel defender in Sean Desai’s defense and should eventually be a full time strong safety.

Kelee Ringo, Cornerback, Georgia

#14 Overall Player, #2 Overall Cornerback

Pro Comparison: Sauce Gardner, New York Jets

Kelee Ringo had one of the more surprising draft weekend falls of just about any player in the class. Ringo was projected by many as a first round talent as recently as last week. Reports of medical and character red flags circulated over the weekend, potentially explaining why the two time national champion fell to the fourth round.

The Eagles’ front office said they found no issues with Ringo’s medicals or off-field profile, making themselves comfortable with what feels like a luxury pick. After all, the Eagles have two excellent starting cornerbacks in James Bradberry and Darius Slay. With those two locked in at the two outside cornerback spots, that gives Kelee Ringo a great chance to learn from two of the best corners in the game.

At only 20 years old, Kelee Ringo was one of the youngest players in the 2023 class. His age is surprising considering his physical profile. At nearly 6’2” and 210 pounds, Kelee Ringo has a big, muscular frame for a cornerback and he is unafraid to use it. Kelee Ringo is a physical, bullying defender who can engulf receivers at the line and erase them from the passing game. This combines with his track speed to make him a natural perimeter defender.

Ringo’s struggles mostly come from lack of experience. Skilled receivers can force him to bite on fakes and he can get handsy and let fundamentals break down when the ball is in the air.

Kelee Ringo has enormous upside, but there is clearly room for him to grow. On the Eagles defense, he can be brought along slowly and develop his tools behind Slay and Bradberry. I expect Ringo to step into a starting role by the 2025 season.

Tanner McKee, Quarterback, Stanford

#138 Overall Player, #8 Overall Quarterback

Jalen Hurts has missed three games due to injury in two seasons as a full-time starter. Over those games, the Eagles offense went 1-2, with both losses coming last season. While the goal should be to keep Hurts healthy for a whole season, realistically he will miss some games due to his playing style and how the team uses him. Thus, having decent back quarterbacks is crucial.

Marcus Mariota was brought in to be QB2 next year, but the third quarterback slot is still pretty open. The Tanner McKee pick gives the quarterback room another young guy to possibly develop and compete with Ian Book for QB3.

Tanner McKee has some obvious traits to get excited about. He is extremely well built at 6’6” and over 230 pounds with an NFL caliber arm that can hit any window at any level of the field. At his best, he is a very good pocket passer. He tested well at the combine, but that athleticism does not show up much. He has a hard time creating outside of the structure of an offense and is not much of a mobile threat.

He is a game manager type, which is all you could want from a backup quarterback.

Moro Ojomo, Defensive Lineman, Texas

#131 Overall Player, #13 Overall Defensive Lineman

The Eagles defensive line was a strength last year and the front office is clearly dedicated to keeping it that way. Moro Ojomo is an athletic defensive lineman who thrived at Texas due to a quick first step, long and strong arms, and a relentless motor. Ojomo had 30 career starts at Texas and that experience shows up with his field awareness.

Ojomo is a bit lighter, weighing in under 300 pounds. He figures to be more of a subpackage player and deep rotational presence. The Eagles have a loaded defensive line room, so Ojomo faces an uphill climb to make the roster. However, having a player of his caliber at the bottom of the depth chart means stiff competition in the preseason among the younger defenders.

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