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Eagles mailbag: Answering some final questions before draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
We made it!
After months of speculation, rumors and countless mock drafts it’s finally draft day. The Eagles have the No. 12 selection in Round 1 tonight and then have 10 other picks over the final two days of the draft. And, of course, Howie Roseman is going to wheel and deal along the way.
I asked for some questions yesterday and I’m answering several here today as we wait for tonight:
I generally agree with you that there figures to be a good player left for the Eagles at 12 and that’s why they traded down to that spot. They had to feel a certain level of comfort being there because there’s no guarantee they’d find another trade partner (up or down) if they didn’t like that spot on draft day. So they obviously went through scenarios before that trade down from 6 and determined they’d feel good taking a player there.
If I had to guess about a trade up, I could see it for a player like Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase. If one of those top pass-catchers begins to slide for whatever reason, perhaps the Eagles would pounce. Let’s say the Falcons don’t take Pitts and he begins to stumble. We know he wouldn’t make it all the way to 12, especially not with Dallas in front of the Eagles. Or let’s say the Dolphins surprise everyone and choose Jaylen Waddle over Chase at 6 and then the Eagles could go after him without giving up that first-rounder next year.
That’s the key. The Eagles aren’t going to erase the previous trade-down to move back up. That wouldn’t make any sense. So if the Eagles target a player and that player is there at 8 or 9 and they can move up without losing one of those firsts next year — they would probably be able to — then it’s in play. But I think Pitts or Chase are the two who make the most sense. The other remaining players might grade out too similarly for the Eagles to move up … although I’d probably do it for Patrick Surtain II. Not sure they would.
It is absolutely a difficult and unusual year for the scouting community and it could lead to more surprises in this draft than we’ve seen in many years. There are so many hurdles to get over this year:
1. No combine: All the numbers are wonky and it’s impossible to know how much to trust these inflated pro day results. Getting everyone in Indy was great for comparison sake. It also allowed teams to meet with players in person. Doing all these meetings virtually was tough. At least teams were able to get some guys with medical question marks to Indy for tests. That was a big deal.
2. No in-person visits: In a typical year, teams are able to host prospects on in-person visits, which go a long way in determining whether or not they’re going to pick them. Sometimes teams pick guys who they don’t bring in for visits and sometimes teams even do that on purpose because they’re paranoid. But meeting a player in person, especially in your own building, is super beneficial. Instead, teams had to do virtual meetings with these players. And teams are really relying on their relationships with college coaches and programs to learn about the character of these prospects.
3. The opt-outs: If I had the opportunity to ask one more question at the Eagles’ pre-draft press conference, it would have been about how the team views those players who opted out. Obviously, there’s less tape on those players, which is a problem. While players had every right to do so for the health of themselves and their families, I wonder how some teams will view those players after missing a year of football. Heck, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert admitted they prefer prospects who didn’t opt out.
It just doesn’t mesh with what I understand about how the Eagles view the quarterback position. Maybe they’d be opportunistic and take Justin Fields if he falls to them at No. 12, but if they like Fields that much, why the heck wouldn’t they stay at 6 or even try to move up from there to take him?
I guess it’s possible that the Eagles have changed their stance on the QB position in the last five years, but remember how aggressive they were to get Carson Wentz? They were sitting at 13 and made two bold moves, giving up a ton just, to ensure they got their guy. I don’t think QB is a position where the Eagles should or will be opportunistic. For the Eagles, it’s about identifying and pouncing at this position. You can afford to get cute at some other positions. Why draft a guy at 6 you can get at 12? But that changes when we’re talking about quarterbacks. So I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but something’s just not lining up for me there.
I like Patrick Surtain II more and that’s not a knock on Jaycee Horn at all. Because I think Horn has a ton of potential, but he’s just a little more raw than Surtain. When I look at Surtain, there’s just no downside; I’d be shocked if he isn’t a good pro. Remember, this is a position where we see a good percentage of busts.
Surtain is big and long, but also athletic. He’s technically proficient at everything, a student of the game, mature, everyone at Alabama raves about him. To me, Surtain has a high floor and a high ceiling. And even if Horn becomes a great player — and that’s possible — I don’t think he has a ton more potential than Surtain to make the risk worth it.
Surtain is one of the safest picks in this draft and that’s not a bad thing.
You already know what the justification would be: “We build through the lines.” The Eagles haven’t tried to hide that throughout the years. This is a tricky year to get away with that rationale, though, because they have much more glaring needs at other areas and the value of an OL or DL might not line up with where they pick at No. 12.
I don’t think it’s that crazy. This is another relatively deep receiver class. And unlike cornerback, where there’s a desperate need, the Eagles have some talent at WR. They have young unproven players like Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Quez Watkins, John Hightower, Greg Ward Jr. and even J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Now they also have a head coach who is a former receiver and a former receivers coach. So would it be that crazy for them to think they can get more out of that young talent this season with a new staff and new scheme?
To be clear, I think there’s a real chance the Eagles use the No. 12 pick on a receiver, either DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle if one of them is there. But if they don’t, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Eagles wait if the value doesn’t line up in the second round.
I’ll give you names at several positions I like who might be available in Day 3:
QB: Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
RB: Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
WR: Jaelon Darden, North Texas
OT: Larnel Coleman, UMass
OG: William Sherman, Colorado
DE: Janarius Robinson, Florida State
DT: Jaylen Twyman, Pitt
LB: Tony Fields II, West Virginia
CB: Tre Brown, Oklahoma
S: Christian Uphoff, Illinois State
Seems like a safe bet to me.
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