NFL Draft 2021: Eagles' need for interior offensive line is pressing

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Reuben Frank
·4 min read
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How the Eagles should address interior o-line in the draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only the most hard-core draftniks care about guards and centers. It’s a lot more fun talking about cornerbacks with Olympic speed and wide receivers who catch everything thrown their way. Nobody ever marvels at offensive linemen’s 40 time.

But for the Eagles, the interior of the offensive line is an underrated need as we head toward draft day.

Maybe not quite up there with corner or wideout. But it’s close.

Jason Kelce is 33, about to start his 11th season and going year-by-year at this point. Any season could be the last of his brilliant career. Brandon Brooks turns 32 this summer and is coming off a series of serious injuries, including last year’s blown out Achilles that ended his season before it began.

They're two of the best in the business, but we're getting to the point where the Eagles have to think about their replacements.

Even Isaac Seumalo is going into his 6th season already. Seumalo, a 3rd-round pick in 2016, is the only interior lineman the Eagles have drafted in the first three rounds since the Fireman Danny catastrophe in 2011.

The Eagles do have some young depth along the interior offensive line.

Nate Herbig, undrafted out of Stanford in 2019, started 12 games at the two guard spots last year and wasn’t bad. Sua Opeta, a second-year pro out of Weber State, started two games and did OK. Jack Driscoll, a 4th-round rookie out of Auburn, started four games at right tackle but can play guard as well. Luke Juriga, undrafted last year out of Western Michigan, spent last year as the backup center and got the handful of snaps when Kelce briefly left the Browns game last November.

So there are options, but nobody knows how good any of them are. Herbig at least showed he could be a capable backup, but whether the Eagles project him or any of the others as a long-term solution in a post-Kelce and Brooks world remains to be seen.

There’s a notion that Seumalo would move to center when Kelce retires, but he’s due to be a free agent after the 2022 season so his future is up in the air as well. And if the Eagles do keep him they may keep him at left guard anyway.

All of it means the Eagles need to consider bolstering the interior of the offensive line in the draft, and the place to do that is generally the middle rounds.

Consider the top Eagles’ interior linemen of the last 20 years. Brooks, Seumalo and Evan Mathis were all 3rd-round picks, Todd Herremans was a 4th-round pick, Kelce was a 6 and Jamaal Jackson, Artis Hicks and Hank Fraley were undrafted.

If the Eagles don’t make any more trades, it seems most likely they’ll go corner and wide receiver (in whichever order) at No. 12 and 37. That would leave two 3rd-round picks and a 4th-round pick – No. 70 and No. 84 in the 3rd round and No. 123 in the 4th round – to address the interior of the offensive line.

You might get lucky and land a Kelce in the late rounds and once in a generation you might take a Shawn Andrews in the first round, but the sweet spot for interior linemen does seem to be the third and fourth rounds.

Here’s a look at five interior linemen who could make sense for the Eagles:

Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma [6-4, 300]: Humphrey was a three-year starter at center for the Sooners and this past season was named the Big 12 Conference’s offensive lineman of the year. Didn’t allow a sack in three years in Norman, blocking for Kyler Murray in 2018 and Jalen Hurts in 2019.

Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin Whitewater [6-3, 320]: Meinerz was unheralded until a monster performance at the Senior Bowl. Although he played at an NCAA Division 3 school, he dominated at the Senior Bowl and really put himself on the draft map. Meinerz hasn’t played since the fall of 2019.

Wyatt Davis, Ohio State [6-4, 310]: Could be gone by the time the Eagles are up in the third round, but if he drifts down to 70 would make a lot of sense. Eagles fans would love his mean streak. His grandfather, Willie Davis, was a Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the Vince Lombardi Packers.

Kendrick Green, Illinois [6-4, 315]: Arrived in Champaign as a defensive tackle but moved over to offensive line at the urging of then-Illinois coach Lovie Smith. Has experience at both guard and center. Compared by NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein to Seumalo.

Ben Cleveland, Georgia [6-6, 345]: Only a one-year starter for the Bulldogs and probably needs to shed a few pounds to play in the NFL but an intriguing guard prospect who plays past the whistle. Likely Day 3 pick and will need a year working with Jeff Stoutland but could develop into a starting-caliber NFL guard.

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