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February 26, 2023

Daniel Jeremiah talks Eagles draft ahead of the NFL Combine

Eagles NFL
022622DanielJeremiah Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah

On Friday, former Philadelphia Eagles scout and current NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah spent a couple hours answering questions from reporters about the NFL Combine and the 2023 NFL Draft. Many of those questions were about the Eagles. I was interested to read through his thoughts on the Birds, so maybe you are too? 🤷‍♂️ 

Here's what Jeremiah said, and I'll throw in my two cents as well.

The Eagles have spent so long without taking a cornerback in the first round. Just wondering if there were reasons why this year could buck that trend and why Devon Witherspoon might be a good candidate for it?

Jeremiah: Yeah, I just think Witherspoon is a stud. I think having been in that building and seen Asante Samuel there, I think you could make an easy comparison there with just the playmaking ability, take the ball away. We'll see what James Bradberry ends up doing in the offseason. I imagine he is probably going to get paid somewhere. So if they don't resign him, there's going to be a need there as well. There's a zillion free agents they have to navigate around, but that's one I would think would be hard to retain. 

And I think, you know, if you are where the Eagles are right now, your thought process going into a draft is — it's not the division anymore. It's not even the conference. It's what do we have to do to win a Super Bowl, and what do we have to do to get off the field when we're going to have to go up against Patrick Mahomes or whoever else is coming out of the AFC, be it Joe Burrow, Josh Allen. Those are the guys you are going to have to go through to win a championship. In that game they couldn't get off the field, and I think they've got some really good pieces up front. 

I think finding somebody on the back end that could take the ball away, that could help their cause as well. So that's kind of my thought process there. Everything is about winning a Super Bowl and trying to beat these elite quarterbacks, and you do that with pass rushers and corners.

#JimmySays: The Eagles haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round since Lito Sheppard in 2002, but it's not as if they don't prioritize that position. It's certainly higher on the priority totem pole than positions like running back, linebacker, and safety, to name a few.

It is also my understanding that the Eagles had heavy interest in a cornerback in the 2021 draft, when Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain were selected eighth and ninth overall, respectively. They then pivoted to DeVonta Smith, and, well, that ended up working out just fine. In the 2022 draft, they had interest in Derek Stingley and Sauce Gardner, who went third and fourth overall, respectively.

Would the Eagles take a corner with a premium pick? In my opinion, yes.

The Eagles have shown a willingness to trade up and maneuver up and down the draft board. If they were to move back, say, to 14, 15, that range, who is a guy that you think would fit them? Also, how much value does that 30th pick have for them this year? 

Jeremiah: Yeah, I think that 30th pick is great. I think there's tremendous value there in that pick. When I look at trading back to 14 or 15 and places that they could go, I mean, you kind of get out of that first group of edge rushers. Iowa DE Lucas Van Ness, you could see him there. I think there's a chance he could be gone by then, but at that point in time I would feel good about turning in that card. 

Any of those three corners were there I would feel great about it with Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter, or Witherspoon, somehow made it there. Those would be home run picks. Those are some of the guys that I would think in a trade-back scenario that could make some sense there.

#JimmySays: That's my early prediction on what the Eagles will do in this draft — trade back, and land one of those three cornerbacks.

Oh, and Bradberry is as good as gone.

I want to talk about that 10th pick and what value you think that has, specifically to other teams? Are there any teams that you may think want to get into that top 10 pick, and if the Eagles maybe can get rid of that? 

Jeremiah: Yeah, that's a good question. When you look at the draft order, I mean, it all comes down to quarterbacks usually. That's where the trades take place. If one of those top four quarterbacks make it to 10 and then I guess you could always call the Saints back and see if they want to dance again if you would be interested in that. I don't know. Try and see a team that might want to come up for a quarterback there. 

There's always a sneaky team that you have to keep an eye on quarterback-wise. Maybe it's the Vikings who want to have somebody develop and be ready to go. Who knows? Yeah, I mean, I think you would be open to listen there if you are the Eagles, but if there's an edge rusher there that you have highly rated as much as they value that position, you know, I would think they probably would stick and pick if that were the case.

#JimmySays: Jeremiah mentioned "one of those top four quarterbacks." He's referring to Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Kentucky's Will Levis, and Florida's Anthony Richardson. If one of those four quarterbacks make it to pick 10, the Eagles could be in a position of strength to maximize the value of a trade back. And if all four of those guys get taken in the first nine picks, then the Eagles will land a top 6 positional player on their board, at worst.

Jeremiah noted the Saints and Vikings as teams that could maybe make a move up. The Titans (11), Commanders (16), and Buccaneers (19) make sense to me as well. The Ravens (22) could be another team to watch depending on how the Lamar Jackson drama shakes out.

Go back a year to the Eagles taking Jordan Davis. Going back to your evaluations that you could have seen going into his rookie year where it might have been a struggle or difficult because he played limited snaps at Georgia? Weight I think was an issue for him a little at times and just adjusting to the NFL. With all those great traits, but maybe not as many snaps or experience playing the game, is there something there that you could have maybe seen him not having a very impactful rookie year? 

Jeremiah: Well, I think he went from a team with a crap ton of talent in college to a team in the NFL with a crap ton of talent, so they rolled all those guys through. They kind of divvied up those reps. Maybe that's why you didn't see as much pop or as much production from him. But, I mean, golly, they have such a deep group there, and it's one of the reasons why they went to the Super Bowl. 

I'm still bullish on him. I think he is going to be really, really good. Obviously I think he is still learning how to use what's in his body. It's all there. He has all the ability in the world. I think he just needs to play. He gets out there and plays more, I think you'll see that start to emerge. But it was somewhat like that in college where you'll see flashes, and then kind of, okay, where did it go? With guys like that and defensive linemen, it's not always instantaneous either. It's a different game. 

Even when you are in the SEC, as great as that conference is, it's different when you are playing against grown men every week, and I think you'll see him grow and continue to develop. I mean, you see it every year. Look at Quinnen Williams early in his career and he just gets better and better and better and better. I think you'll see Jordan Davis be a better football player next year.

#JimmySays: We covered this very question in more depth on Saturday.

You know the history (of the Eagles and the running back position in the first round). You talked a little bit about Bijan Robinson before. What do you think his floor is?

Jeremiah: He is impossible to peg where he could end up going. I think he is one of the four, five best players in the whole draft. I know the Eagles' history and they don't take linebackers and running backs in the first round, but I'm looking at a team  it's hard to find a team that has put together a better roster than the Eagles. I don't think there is one. I think that San Francisco has done a really, really good job, and I think they're right there with them. I look at them as a team that traded resources and obviously dedicated a lot of money towards Christian McCaffrey, and I saw what Christian McCaffrey did in that offense where they already had a bunch of good players and how he took it to a whole other level. 

I think, man, I know, I know, I know Howie doesn't take running backs. I know Howie doesn't take linebackers. But when you look at that offense with Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, and all of a sudden you drop in Bijan Robinson into that mix, holy moly. That would be fun to watch. He is a special, special player. One of the best backs we've seen in the last several years. So to answer your question, it doesn't help anybody, but I have no clue where he is going to go. I just know I think he is one of the best players in the draft.

#JimmySays: If Robinson is still available at pick 30, then sure, go get him. That would be a steal, in my opinion. (Someone else will take him before he falls that far.)

But there's no way the Eagles are taking Robinson at 10th overall.

With the Eagles' second first round pick at No. 30, I think you mentioned earlier its tremendous value. Is that because you can see them trading back, maybe getting some extra picks in rounds four, five, and six, not to mention a second rounder? If so, who are some of the guys in the second round that would interest them?

Yeah, I mean, I think if you are not going to take a running back there at 30 and you want a running back, you can trade back. Again, we're under the assumption that you are going to lose your running back in free agency in Miles Sanders. If we want to play that game, you trade back on that one. If you collect an extra third round pick in this draft, I think you are going to get a starting running back. You can get a really good player. 

Tyjae Spears from Tulane. You have Kendre Miller from TCU. Israel Abanikanda from Pitt has big-time juice. Those are just a few names. If we want to put a number on it, the running back group is really deep. I have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. I have got 13 running backs that I gave top three round grade. Those are starter level players, which means not all those guys because of the value of the position are going to go in the third round. Some of these guys are going to go in the fourth and fifth round this year. You are going to get good players. 

The other back from Texas, Roschon Johnson is a good player. 225 pounds. He has speed. Gosh, you can use him in a kickoff game as well. That's one of those scenarios where if you are trying to collect an extra third, fourth round pick, I think this year there's real value. Especially if it marries up with one of your needs. Tight end, running back. If you need tight ends and running backs, to me the sweet spot is the third, fourth round because I think you're getting a second round type player in a traditional year. They're really, really good.

#JimmySays: The Eagles don't have any picks in the fourth, fifth, or sixth rounds. I can't imagine Howie Roseman just sitting around doing nothing for the first four or five hours on Day 3 of the draft. A trade back with one of their first round picks feels very, verrrry likely.

How do you find that teams navigate the draft differently when they are a contending team as opposed to building a contending roster?

Jeremiah: Yeah, I mean, I think when you get to different places of trying to get your foundational pieces in place, and then it's obviously a lot easier. Once you have the quarterback in place and then once you have a couple of those building blocks in place, it's a lot easier to find those other pieces. 

So you want to eliminate as many of the reject players from your group as you can, have competent NFL players. Then once you reach the point that you have a competent team, you have to have blue players, you have to have difference makers, and you have to have eight to ten of them. I think that's kind of the way of doing it. I think most teams are going to start at quarterback and then the foundation pieces up front on the offense and defensive line, and that's where you are. 

Man, you look at teams like the Chiefs, look at teams like the 49ers, look at teams like the Eagles. The Eagles basically redshirted a draft class last year. They had so much roster depth, and they're going to lose a bunch of free agents and have guys ready, waiting in the wings to come right in there. Then you look at some other teams and kind of like where the Bears are right now. Gosh, you are just trying to get a competent group out there. So you have to kind of crawl before you walk.

#JimmySays: We'll have a story soon on the young, unproven players who the Eagles need to make a jump in 2023. But the point here is well taken. When you have a roster devoid of holes, you can take a patient, best player available approach and not have to count on rookies to fill key roles.

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