April 29, 2023
On Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles added Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Steen and Illinois safety Sydney Brown. We'll find out in time how good each player will be in the NFL, but for now let's grade each move on the process of the acquisitions.
Steen played his entire college career at offensive tackle, but the Eagles announced him as a guard, which makes sense, given his short, 32 3/4" arms. It should be no surprise by now that if the Eagles take an offensive lineman with a high pick, that guy is going to have impressive athleticism. And, well, Steen does.
Here he is protecting the blind side of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Bryce Young. He's No. 54:
While the Eagles listed Steen at guard, Nick Sirianni thinks he has guard/tackle versatility, which certainly makes sense.
"Obviously we want to get him here and work with him and see what will happen next week at rookie mini-camp and get him in the building," Sirianni said, "but we think he has good flexibility. He's been able to play, and we feel like he can play both positions, and we'll see what happens."
Sirianni was also asked if Steen would have the opportunity to compete for the starting RG job that was vacated by Isaac Seumalo, who left in free agency.
"That's really a long way away," he said. "We don't have to make that decision for a while, but the best player will play at that position, and we feel like we have some good options, and the reason why we took him is because we feel good about him. Everybody in the building feels good about him. Yeah, it's too early to say that, but the best player will play, so I guess that kind of answers that question."
The favorite to start at RG for the Eagles in 2023 is 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens, but it appears that the Eagles aren't just handing him that job. He'll have to earn it.
But at a minimum, Steen will bolster the Eagles' offensive line depth, which took a hit this offseason. In 2022, the Eagles' second string offensive line looked something like this:
|Andre Dillard||Sua Opeta||Cam Jurgens||Josh Sills||Jack Driscoll|
There's a decent argument to be made that the Eagles' backups were as good as a small handful of other teams' starters. But that group has since been depleted. Jurgens (for now) is slated for a promotion to the starting lineup with Seumalo leaving in free agency, Dillard is gone, and Sills is on the commissioner's exempt list. Opeta was demoted during the season, and eventually released before being brought back on the practice squad. The only backup the Eagles could really feel good about is Driscoll.
In adding Steen, the Eagles now have more offensive line depth, but when you take a lineman with a top 65 pick, you expect that player to eventually start. Steen could start at RG if he upsets Jurgens in camp, or in 2024 and beyond if Jason Kelce retires and Jurgens slides inside to center.
Oh hey, surprise, the Eagles took another high-level athlete.
But Brown isn't just an athlete. He was a highly productive player for Illinois in 2022, making 60 tackles, 6 INTs (plus a pick-six), a forced fumble, and a fumble return for a TD. He makes plays, and he's a big hitter:
Brown often played up near the line of scrimmage for Illinois, which made him a difficult evaluation for some teams, who require their safeties to patrol the deeper areas of the field. Howie Roseman said that the Senior Bowl was instrumental in determining that Brown could handle deep responsibilities as well as being an enforcer in the box.
"When you look at Sydney, the way they used him at Illinois, they used him a lot around the box," Roseman said. "He would blitz, he'd cover a tight end, he'd play in the run game, so you kind of had an incomplete evaluation. Then the Senior Bowl, which [Senior Bowl executive director] Jim Nagy’s staff did a tremendous job with there, they gave us the opportunity to see him being a post player, playing in the deep path, playing one-on-ones, and you saw the athleticism, and I think that really helped complete our process.
"Sydney Brown was a passion player for a lot of people in this organization, he was a red star guy, and I think just a tremendous person with obviously really good athletic tools, leadership ability, and for us, just excited to get him in the building."
Wait, a "red star" player. What's that?
"That's a guy who kind of exemplifies what it means to be an Eagle, so it's great character, captain, testing numbers, intelligence, plays the way it should be played, practices the way it should be played," Roseman said.
"We sit there the day before the draft, we do that Wednesday, right? We did that Wednesday? We go around the room, and we give every scout a chance to stamp their red star on guys. Goes back, it's a long tradition, not only here but a couple of other places that people have been, and when we're looking at the draft board we have a red star on the guys, and Jeffrey Lurie a lot of times will go, ‘Hey, don't forget, and we're deciding between those two guys, that's a red star guy.’ I think for us, it gives our scouts a chance to really put their name on guys, and that gives them a lot of pride."
It's really not at all surprising that Brown would be viewed as a high character person, given that he made it to the NFL despite growing up in extreme poverty.
So to recap, Brown is athletic, productive, and he's a high character player. A lot to like. He'll have a good chance of starting as a rookie.
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