NFL Draft primer: Eagles should hit defense hard, and don't forget about helping replace a legend

2023 record: 11-6, lost in wild-card round

Draft picks per round

1st round: No. 22
2nd round: No. 50 (from Saints)
2nd round: No. 53
4th round: No. 120 (from Rams)
5th round: No. 161 (from Buccaneers)
5th round: No. 171 (compensatory)
5th round: No. 172 (compensatory)
6th round: No. 210 (compensatory)

(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

Top needs

Offensive line

The 2024 offseason marks the end of an era for Philadelphia. The retirement of six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion Jason Kelce leaves a leadership void and a hole on the offensive line.

No rookie is going to step in and replace Kelce's locker room role. But somebody will have to take his place on the line. Third-year pro Cam Jurgens is the heir apparent at center. He'll slide over from right guard, leaving an interior line hole that Philadelphia could address in the draft.

The bigger priority lies in the back seven. The Eagles ranked 31st in the league last season in pass defense, allowing 252.7 passing yards per game. The secondary was exposed in Philly’s collapse from a 10-1 start to an 11-6 regular-season record and loss to Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Baker Mayfield torched the Eagles for 337 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 32-9 wild-card win.

The return of C.J. Gardner-Johnson helps, but not nearly enough. Upgrading the secondary is a must if Philadelphia intends to return to Super Bowl contention. The Eagles need linebacker help as well.

Jason Kelce has retired, so the Eagles' interior offensive line needs some fortification in the NFL Draft. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jason Kelce has retired, so the Eagles' interior offensive line needs some fortification in the NFL Draft. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Best first-round fits

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

Best Day 2 fits

Christian Haynes, G, UConn
Tyler Nubin, S, Minnesota
Javon Bullard, S, Georgia
Junior Colson, LB, Michigan
Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
Mike Sainristil, CB, Michigan

How they did last draft

The Eagles earned an A-plus. Jalen Carter was one of the steals of the draft after off-field issues caused him to drop to the No. 9 pick. He delivered with six sacks, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a touchdown to finish second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Nolan Smith failed to gain traction with zero starts and one sack in limited action after being picked late in the first round. Third-round offensive lineman Tyler Steen was a rotational player who could compete for the starting job in Kelce's absence. Third-round safety Sydney Brown and fourth-round cornerback Kelee Ringo both saw limited starts in Philadelphia's struggling secondary. There's opportunity for both if they can make a second-year leap.

Dream fantasy draft pick

Ricky Pearsall. The Eagles signed DeVante Parker but he’s only an option at “X” receiver and probably isn’t a lock to make the team. Pearsall, a Florida wideout, would give the Eagles some youth and inside/outside versatility. That would allow them to move A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith around the formation. I’m a fan of Pearsall’s game. He can separate at all three levels and has reliable hands. We’re not asking for much from any rookies here and they probably won’t be a fantasy needle-mover on their own. However, Pearsall could add some pop and positional flexibility to the offense in Year 1 and could develop into a top option if the team gets into a contract squeeze with Brown and Smith needing an extension down the road. — Matt Harmon