April 05, 2023
On Tuesday we published our fourth Philadelphia Eagles-only mock draft of the offseason. If you missed that, go read that first, please and thank you. Done? Cool. Today we'll take a peek around at some of the national guys and see who they have going to the Birds at 10th and 30th overall.
Pick 10: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa: Van Ness has the arm length and footspeed to dominate off the edge, and I love the versatility that comes with his game. He's arguably even more effective rushing the passer as a 3-technique. Philadelphia lost Javon Hargrave and only re-signed Fletcher Cox to a one-year deal, so I could see Van Ness and Jordan Davis wreaking havoc from the interior. GM Howie Roseman loves building up the trenches, and Van Ness can make an immediate impact there after 14 sacks over two seasons at Iowa.
I still think Texas running back Bijan Robinson would be interesting in this offense, even though that isn't a position Roseman prioritizes early in the draft. He's a top-five talent in this class and fits seamlessly in this run-heavy offense. But Kenneth Gainwell looked solid at the end of last season, Rashaad Penny will be a big contributor if he stays healthy and they could still add a veteran like Ezekiel Elliott.
- MORE EAGLES
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- Ranking the Eagles' positional needs in the 2023 NFL Draft
- Mailbag: Might the Eagles make an A.J. Brown-like trade with one of their first-round picks?
Pick 30: Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State: Let's double-dip on pass-rushers for the Eagles in Round 1 (they landed Van Ness at No. 10). It was one of the team's biggest strengths last season with an NFL-high 70 sacks, but Philly could use more depth there. Brandon Graham re-upped with the Eagles, but he's 34 years old. Robert Quinn might be out the door after the midseason acquisition last November.
With long arms and plenty of explosion, McDonald hunts quarterbacks. He picked up 27 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss over the past three seasons and could be a Day 1 contributor as a rotational pass-rusher before developing into a starter off the edge to replace some of the aging players in this unit.
Pick 62: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M: The Eagles lost Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, so there are some gaps at safety (though Philly did add Terrell Edmunds). Johnson might be the best pure safety in the class, with a great ability to read the offense and the footspeed to close on the ball. The on-ball production should come; he has the traits but only picked off one pass in college.
#JimmySays: McDonald is a player that I have profiled in our prospects series in each of the last two seasons, and I like him as a pass rusher, but he is 6'4, 239, and struggles holding the point of attack against the run. I view him more as a SAM linebacker in the Eagles' defense than a replacement for Graham. He'll also turn 24 in June. He is not a first-rounder, in my opinion.
I do like the Antonio Johnson selection in Round 2. I mean, I had him there, too.
Also, Todd, my man... let it go with Bijan.
Pick 10: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern: Skoronski immediately steps into the right guard spot and offers swing tackle value if the Eagles need him to play outside at some point.
Pick 30: Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech: White has the frame to take over inside for Fletcher Cox in the future as well as the athleticism to be a big power end who can develop into a run-stopper with rush abilities.
#JimmySays: Guards don't often get picked in the top 10. It has happened four times in the last 10 drafts:
• Quenton Nelson, 6th overall, 2018
• Brandon Scherff, 5th overall, 2015
• Jonathan Cooper, 7th overall, 2013
• Chance Warmack, 10th overall, 2013
Like any other position, you can hit (Nelson, Scherff) or miss (Cooper, Warmack). And when you hit big, with perennial Pro Bowl players like Nelson and Scherff, how much impact are you really getting from that position? Maybe Skoronski can play tackle in the NFL, and maybe he'll just be a really good guard. I just can't get on board with drafting a guard with a top 10 pick, and Skoronski isn't such an elite prospect that I'd make an exception for him.
Pick 10: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa: The Eagles brought back Brandon Graham on a one-year deal, but how much longer does he have? Van Ness is a player scouts love. He is strong and powerful, but never started a game at Iowa. The upside is there.
Pick 30: Brian Branch, S, Alabama: They lost both safeties in free agency, which is why this pick makes sense. Branch can play a lot like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who was a big part of their defense last season. Like Gardner-Johnson, Branch can do a lot of things.
#JimmySays: So I guess Van Ness is the new popular Eagles pick. Oh, and hey, I finally had a chance to watch him. The verdict... "Meh." He hustles his ass off, he has some highlight reel bull rushes against top offensive line prospects, he tested well at the Combine, and he had inside-outside versatility in college. That's all great, but there are just too many red flags for me:
Van Ness is an intriguing prospect, but there are just too many projections for me. If he can develop a wider pass rush repertoire, and if he shows that he can win at times with speed around the edge, and if he continues to get stronger and can thus hold up against much bigger players on the interior, then yeah, sign me up. But when you're picking at 10, you want a player you're confident will be an impact player in the NFL without having to count on a bunch of "if's."
Pick 10: Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia: The Eagles have to replace defensive line talent from free agency. In this NFL mock draft, I decided to go back to Athens, Georgia to nab edge rusher Nolan Smith. The explosive, physical, and bendy defender would bring leadership and game-changing potential to this defensive front. Pairing back up with former teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, Smith has everything you want in a three-down edge defender.
Pick 30: Brian Branch, S, Alabama: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson reportedly overvalued himself along with his agent. Brian Branch has the ability to fill that void left. Branch is a safety that can play in two-high safety coverages but specializes in playing in the nickel versus the run and pass. Leadership and high instincts go a long way, and Branch has them both.
#JimmySays: Smith is an extraordinary athlete, and as Damian mentions, is a high-character guy that I think the Eagles' staff will love. I hadn't put much stock in the idea that the Eagles already have two players from one of the best college defenses ever, but I do think that there is something to these guys having a lot of experience playing together already.
Pick 10: Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia: Even with Brandon Graham returning alongside Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick, there's no such thing as too many premier pass rushers for Howie Roseman. Smith's usage at Georgia made his ability to rack up sacks somewhat of an unknown, but his top-tier speed and agility combined with his tenacious style suggest he'll make bigger waves in the NFL as he's utilized in more favorable manners.
Pick 30: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State: James Bradberry and Darius Slay's returns push cornerback down the list of short-term concerns for Philadelphia, but it's worth keeping an eye on the future given that the two starters will be 30 and 32 this season, respectively. A ball hawk to his core after recording 14 interceptions (including six pick-sixes) at Mississippi State, Forbes could be an understudy early and learn how to properly channel his aggressiveness in the pros before taking on a starting role.
#JimmySays: Forbes is as skilled as any corner in this draft, but he's 166 pounds. If the Eagles think that he can add like 5-10 pounds of muscle while he understudies, then sure, go for it.
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