NFL Draft 2021: Would Eagles take a lineman in the first round?

Dave Zangaro
·7 min read
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Eagles mailbag: Would Eagles take a lineman with No. 12 pick? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

We’re getting closer to the 2021 NFL Draft and that’s pretty exciting.

So it should be no surprise that’s where we start today:

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Based on the Eagles’ history in the first round, we probably haven’t been talking about this possibility enough. Earlier this week, I took a look at the Eagles’ picks since 1970 in the first round and it should come as no surprise that they’ve taken a ton of linemen.

Of the 43 players the Eagles have picked in the first round in the modern era, 25 have been either offensive or defensive linemen (58.1%).

To be clear, this obviously wouldn’t be a very popular outcome this year. Fans are looking at cornerbacks, receivers and even a linebacker and the value and need at those positions clearly lines up. But there will be some linemen available who fit too.

On offense, if Penei Sewell from Oregon or Rashawn Slater from Northwestern are there, the Eagles should at least think about it. Those two are considered to be the top two offensive linemen in this class and would be at least good to decent value picks at the 12 spot. Sewell will be a tackle at the next level, while some think Slater would best fit at guard. It seems more likely Sewell will be gone by then.

What would it say about the Eagles if they took an offensive lineman? Well, taking a tackle would mean they don’t necessarily think they have their future left tackle on the roster in either Jordan Mailata or Andre Dillard. Taking an offensive tackle in the first round in two of the last three years would be tough for fans to swallow but wouldn’t be that outrageous knowing what we do about the Eagles’ philosophy. And with Slater, he has the ability to play guard, so if the Eagles need to move Isaac Seumalo to center next season, they’d have a guy to plug in.

On defense, it might be a stretch for the Eagles to take a lineman at 12. But if there’s one player who might fit, it’s Michigan’s Kwity Paye. Again, this wouldn’t be a very popular pick. But the Eagles value edge rush and their situation isn’t stable for the future. They have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat in 2021 but none of them are guaranteed to be long-term solutions. Paye was a productive player at Michigan and will be a first-round pick. He seems like the kind of player the Eagles like taking but this would also be an unpopular pick.

I don’t necessarily think the Eagles will take a lineman in the first round, but with 11 picks and several in the first few rounds, it would be surprising if they didn’t leave this draft with at least a couple good prospects in the trenches.

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A corner double-dip in the first round? That would be pretty surprising, but I get what you’re saying about Caleb Farley. He’s considered by many to be perhaps the most talented corner in this draft but might slip because of injury concerns about his back. And maybe the Eagles go 2002 and take back-to-back corners to start a draft like they did with Lito and Sheldon but it’s unlikely.

The part of your scenario that does make sense is a possible trade up back into the first round. The Eagles have a ton of ammo to move up from 37 back into the 20s to take a second first-round pick this year and they’d be able to do it without giving up any of their future first-rounders. So I think that part is very possible; I’m just not buying the double dip at corner that early.

With that said, I do think the Eagles might take two corners. But I’m thinking one in an early round and another one in a mid or late round.

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The Eagles just signed Eric Wilson and Jordan Howard a few days ago, so I don’t think it’s safe to assume they’re finished in free agency just yet. They will still add a couple players. The two names at corner you give — Steven Nelson and Brian Poole — make sense. Nelson is one of the top remaining free agents available and Poole has played for Eagles DBs coach Dennard Wilson before. As far as Goodwin, it would need to be a minimum deal without guaranteed money. But the fact that he’s jumping again might mean he’s not fully invested in football right now. Not sure.

In any case, the Eagles shouldn’t worry about needs for the 2021 season as they draft. And the fact that all of their signings to this point have been one-year deals shows that. The Eagles aren’t going to pass on a linebacker because they have Wilson. They’re not going to pass on a safety because they have Anthony Harris. In a weird way, signing players to one-year deals makes sense for a rebuilding team because it gives the Eagles the freedom and flexibility to draft BPA.

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From a strictly football perspective, it makes a ton of sense. Watson is just entering the prime of his career and is an absolute stud of a quarterback. He’s one of the best in the league and the Eagles also have the trade ammunition to pull off that big of a trade. So I’m not surprised they’re interested.

But obviously the legal situation with Watson has put any possible trade on hold. The Eagles have reportedly been monitoring this situation but I guarantee other teams are as well. No team is going to trade for Watson right now as civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault continue mounting. There are a lot of layers to this and the Eagles will always do their due diligence.

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This is a really tough question because the Eagles were pretty damn close to both in 2020. I think having the offensive line healthier in 2021 will help the Eagles but there are too many questions about the rest of the talent on the roster, including at QB, and the new coaching staff.

Meanwhile, I think the rest of the division has gotten better. Washington has had a good offseason. The Giants might have overpaid for some guys but they did too. And at least Dallas will have Dak Prescott back.

I think either outcome is unlikely for the Eagles but if I had to pick one of them, I’d go with a top five pick.

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