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April 26, 2020

What they're saying: The Eagles got faster, but did they get better in the 2020 NFL Draft?

Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles added 23 new players over the last four days (10 draft picks, 12 UDFAs, one trade) and there is little doubt the team got a whole lot faster.

They added two of the fastest wide receivers in the entire draft class as well as Jalen Reagor in the first round, whose 40 time in his pro day was much better than his average performance at the combine. They added athletic members to the secondary and linebacking corps, including a Temple linebacker who ran a 4.50 40-yard-dash.

The team was slow and old last year. The 2020 version of the Eagles will most assuredly be younger and quicker.

But did the team do enough to bolster the defense and to provide Carson Wentz with potent weapons on offense?

With the dust still settling around the NFL after a marathon of news (during a desert of sports action due to COVID-19), Eagles fans and the entire football world will be talking about the implications of the draft for weeks. 

Today, we set out to find out if sportswriters indeed believe the Eagles did get better. Here's what we found:

Most improved?

Daniel Jeremiah | NFL Network

In an interview we found posted on PhiladelphiaEagles.com (which was thoughtfully transcribed by BGN's Brandon Lee Gowton), the NFL Networks' draft guru was asked which team had improved the most over the last few days. Of course, since it was on the Eagles' own website, the answer was more than complimentary toward the Birds. Still, it's nice to hear and gives some perspective on the draft class as a whole.

I think when you look at the Philadelphia Eagles, a lot of criticism there with the pick when you go with Jalen Hurts, I thought it was a little bit early for Jalen Reagor, but I thought what they did in Day 2 and Day 3, they added so much speed to this team. That was their goal. They wanted to get faster. And they brought in four receivers, one via trade in [Marquise] Goodwin. But when you bring in guys like [John] Hightower, who can fly, we know Jalen Reagor can fly, Quez Watkins is a 4.3 player, they just added so much juice to this offense. And that was the missing ingredient. And so I like what they did. [NFL Network]

Second worst

Nate Davis | USA Today

In the coming days we'll have full breakdowns of draft grades for the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East, but in order to provide a full picture of what NFL writers are saying, we decided to include part of just one for you here today. Over at USA Today, Davis gave the Eagles the second worst grade of all 32 teams, a D+, with only the Texans (F) getting a worst mark.

GM Howie Roseman built a champion, so difficult to question his (often sage) moves. But the visceral reaction to this draft ... not good. WR Jalen Reagor in Round 1 when Justin Jefferson was sitting there (and when sixth-rounder Quez Watkins can provide the speed aspect Reagor does)? Second-round QB Jalen Hurts is tantalizing, but can he execute game plans built for Carson Wentz? And when you could've taken, say, Fromm later and used that second-rounder on a better defensive player? Finally, assuming the remainder of Goodwin's contract seems like another dubious decision. [USA Today]

Overkill?

Zach Berman | The Athletic

Speaking of Goodwin, the former 49ers receiver that the Eagles acquired via trade (they swapped sixth rounders), there is some question out there as to why the addition was necessary, especially considering the Eagles drafted three burner wide receivers. He is injury prone and carries a relatively high salary — so why did they make the move? The Athletic's Eagles team debated the trade this weekend, and here's a part of that conversation from Berman:

The Eagles want speed, and Goodwin has world-class speed (literally — he competed in the 2012 Olympics). So it’s understandable why they had interest. And the cost was minimal; they moved down only 20 spots in the sixth round. The trade makes sense and it’s worth seeing what he has, but this doesn’t mean you should go buy a Goodwin jersey. He’s played only 20 games the past two seasons, and totaled 35 catches in that span. Goodwin was productive in 2017, although that’s his only season with more than 500 yards. He’s 29 and injury-prone. Expectations must be kept in perspective.

The Eagles might determine that, with three speedy rookies, they don’t need to carry Goodwin’s $6.45 million salary this season. Or they might not feel comfortable having so many inexperienced wide receivers and want Goodwin for his field-stretching ability. That answer will come this summer (assuming there’s training camp/preseason). [The Athletic]

Sleeper

Zach Berman, Bu Wolf | The Athletic

We'll stay with The Athletic for one more, as their NFL team went through each team's draft haul and picked out a best, worst and sleeper pick. The Eagles best pick, according to the site, was their first rounder Reagor, and their worst was, no surprise, Jalen Hurts taken in the second round (more on him in a bit). Here's a look at their sleeper pick from the 2020 Eagles draft class:

Wallace. A versatile defender who played safety, cornerback and nickel while starting 36 games at Clemson and appearing in a school-record 59 games, Wallace should be in position to find early playing time with the Eagles. He fits the “positionless” trend the Eagles have sought in the secondary and tested in the 96th percentile athletically. The Eagles have questions at safety after letting go of Malcolm Jenkins, re-signing Rodney McLeod (who turns 30 next month) and trying a patchwork solution of signing Jalen Mills and Will Parks to one-year deals. Wallace could soon be in line for a prominent role.

Quantity over quality?

Andrew Kulp | NBC Sports Philadelphia

If you didn't watch or follow the draft live, you may be unaware of how the Eagles arrived at 10 total drafted players (they entered the event with eight). Well, they took the 146th pick, a fourth-round compensation pick gathered after they didn't re-sign Golden Tate last offseason, and made a trio of trades with the Cowboys, Dolphins and Bears that would essentially become four 2020 picks plus a fifth rounder in 2021. This fueled the Eagles' late push to add all that speed in the later rounds of the draft. The decision to do this, at least according to NBCSP's Kulp, was a smart one that will give Roseman a better chance of hitting on at least one of these picks. He gave their Day 3 performance an A- grade.

I suppose you could argue trading with a division rival isn't a good idea, especially considering Dallas turned around and took its new presumptive starting center, Tyler Biadasz. Presumably, there were also superior prospects to be had at the end of Round 4 than those remaining in the sixth and seventh.

But a better way of looking at it is the Eagles began the day holding one lottery ticket -- a late fourth-rounder is far removed from a surefire NFL player, if there is such a thing -- and turned it into four.

Then they proceeded to use three of those lottery tickets on three of the fastest players at their respective positions: Bradley, a three-year starter at linebacker and special teams ace for Temple; Watkins, whose 4.35 40 time was the second-best among receivers in his class; and Toohill, a pure pass-rusher made for the wide-9.

If even one of the three pans out, it was a successful trade -- and there's still a fifth left next year. [NBCSP]

He's only human

Jeff McLane | Philadelphia Inquirer

As promised, we couldn't finish this article without delving back into the nationwide fascination that is the Eagles taking quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. We've done a lot on this completely unexpected and nearly inexplicable decision already, but the Inquirer's McLane wrote a column on it we thought was worth taking a look at. For all the benefits Hurts could offer the team — he is athletic, can throw and can ultimately develop into a starting caliber NFL QB — the simple fact that the team is welcoming a season (or more) of questions from the media about the organization's commitment to Carson Wentz is mystifying. Why bring more controversy towards a player who has dealt with much more than his fair share already? 

Wentz will likely say all the right things once he does hold a news conference. He is seemingly of great character and has already dealt with career setbacks – the most significant being season-ending injuries the last three seasons.

But he is only human. While few could fault the Eagles for having contingencies in place should Wentz suffer yet another injury, the addition of Hurts could suggest to him that the team lacks full confidence in his durability.

The drafting of the former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback was so far outside the box that Roseman was asked if Wentz – who has endured knee, back, and head injuries the last three years – was indeed currently healthy.

“Carson is 100 percent,” Roseman said. “He is a Pro Bowl, young quarterback that we’re totally excited about. The decision to draft Jalen Hurts is independent of Carson Wentz. This is about who we are, what we believe in, and what we think this player is about. Period.” [Inquirer.com]


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