NFL Draft 2021: Eagles’ worst-case scenario survival guide

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Mike Mulhern
·4 min read
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What if Eagles end up facing this doomsday scenario at 12? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s draft night in Cleveland. The green room is emptying out in a hurry as the picks tick off.

Four quarterbacks have heard their names called: Trevor Lawrence (Jags), Zach Wilson (Jets), Trey Lance (49ers) and Justin Fields (Broncos). Uber-talented pass catchers Kyle Pitts (Falcons), Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals) and Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins) have found new homes that aren’t in the 215 area code. Top-rated offensive lineman Penei Sewell has given the commissioner a bear hug after being picked by the Lions. Patrick Surtain II is now a Panther.

The Eagles top options are down to Jaycee Horn and DeVonta Smith. The Cowboys and Giants are making the two picks directly in front of the Birds. Sweat pours. Anxiety grows. Then, predictably, the Eagles watch helplessly as their division rivals pluck the last two players that would fill immediate needs in Philly. Devastation sets in among the fan base, with no comfort found in the Dolphins 2022 first round pick acquired in the trade down from 6 to 12. This is doomsday.

Surely the Eagles are prepared for this scenario and have options in place. In fact, their draft board likely looks different than how fans view the available prospects. Howie Roseman said the trade down was predicated on knowing they have 12 guys they like. But who exactly is that 12th man? What would they do?

In this case, the fifth and final first round-caliber quarterback, Mac Jones, would be available. Despite the Eagles’ reluctance to give Jalen Hurts any verbal vote of confidence, drafting a quarterback seems unlikely (especially one Hurts was ahead of on the depth chart at Alabama). The phone lines would probably light up with offers from other QB-needy teams. The Patriots at 15 need one. But would Bill Belichick feel it necessary to jump the Chargers (13th) and Vikings (14th) who already have solutions under center? Doubtful.

Would the Eagles trade down with a division rival and allow the Washington Football Team (19th) to move up for Jones? Unlikely. What about the Bears? Would the front office be comfortable moving all the way down from 6 to 12 to 20? Chicago’s second-rounder (52nd overall) would do the trick on the trade value chart. Is that enough compensation knowing the players available at 20 will be even less enticing? It’d be a tough sell to a fan base that’s already on edge.

The next best option would lead to groans heard throughout the Delaware Valley. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater could play either guard or tackle at the next level. If he has to stay inside, moving down from 6 to 12 and being forced to use that pick on an interior lineman would seem like a major failure, barring an All-Pro caliber career. Slater also wouldn’t necessarily have a starting spot along the line at the moment.

There’s always the defensive line option. The Eagles have gone to that well often in the first round. Brandon Graham (13th in 2010), Fletcher Cox (12th in 2012), and Derek Barnett (14th in 2017) helped form a fearsome front that resulted in the only Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. There is a definite need to refresh in the trenches, based on age.

There are options on the edge, even if none are considered elite. Kwity Paye from Michigan is from the Graham mold and even from the same school, Michigan. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari offers the most pure pass rushing upside. Miami has a pair of edge rushers in Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau that could end up as first-rounders, but neither are projected that high.

I’ll briefly entertain the idea that the Eagles would take a linebacker. Micah Parsons is an athletic freak and the organization has shown a penchant for players from Penn State of late. Linebacker figures to be more important in Jonathan Gannon’s defense, but I doubt they view it as important enough to use a pick this high.

Perhaps there could be another surprise. Maybe they don’t see cornerback Caleb Farley’s back injury as a red flag or they reach for the next best receiver in Rashod Bateman. It’s possible they view Philadelphia native Christian Barmore as a Cox clone, a game-wrecker on the inside of the defensive line. Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has offered platitudes to the Philly faithful and is a jack of all trades on defense, albeit maybe without a true position.

If doomsday arrives, don’t be surprised. Be prepared. Consider this your survival guide.

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