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April 28, 2023

What they're saying: Eagles establish 'Georgia North' with the Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith picks

The Eagles, understandably, have been looking to college football's most dominant defense for their first-round talent.

The Eagles made a move and then their picks, leaving the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night with Georgia pass rushers Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith at selections No. 9 and No. 30.

Howie Roseman and co. ended up not breaking too far from the mold, staying focused on the trenches, and gaining arguably two of the draft class' most-talented players as a result to add to an already loaded defensive front for the present and future. 

From high praises, to causes for concern, to the establishment of "Georgia North," here's what they're saying about the Eagles after the first round of the draft:

All Dawgs

Rodger Sherman | The Ringer

So if anything, the past two drafts have painted a pretty clear picture of where the Eagles are looking for high-end defensive talent.

Last year, they took Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean from a dominant Georgia Bulldogs defense, and on Thursday night, they went right back to that well again for Carter at 9 and then Smith at 30. 

The emerging joke that the Eagles are becoming "Georgia North" is definitely not without reason, but at the same time, it makes a ton of sense why Philly would choose to keep going there.

Wrote Rodger Sherman after Round 1:

The Philadelphia Eagles have hit on a strategy so simple that 31 other teams should’ve figured it out: What if we just take all the players from the most dominant defense in college football history?...

The Eagles were in the Super Bowl last year, but had the 10th pick in the draft as the result of a trade with the Saints last season. On Thursday, they decided to give up a fourth-rounder to trade with Chicago to move up from 10 to 9 … and I don’t think they’re going to miss the fourth-rounder, because they got Carter, who was regarded by some draft analysts as the best prospect in the draft (he was fifth on The Ringer’s Big Board). Carter’s stock fell over the course of a draft season in which he showed up to his pro day overweight, and pleaded no contest to reckless driving and racing charges for his actions on the night of a January car crash that killed his Georgia teammate Devin Willock and a Georgia football staffer. But anybody who has watched college football the last two years knows that Carter is a force of nature. I will never be able to get this play, where he picked up LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with one hand, out of my head. I’m told he was also good on all of his other plays, but I only ever think about the one where he picked up an opposing quarterback with one hand.

When the Eagles were on the clock again at no. 30, they picked Smith, 14th on The Ringer’s Big Board. Philadelphia now has four players from a Bulldogs defense that allowed just 10.2 points per game when Carter, Smith, Davis, and Dean were together in 2021. Maybe the Eagles can learn something from the Dawgs and win back-to-back (NFC) championships. [The Ringer]

And so it's in front of you, the play Sherman was referring to:

Straight As

Carter and Smith come with their concerns, of course, and for drastically different reasons, but from strictly a football perspective, you'll be hard-pressed to find any writer, analyst, or draft expert who isn't impressed with what the Eagles are putting together up front. 

Former Eagles scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah was "dumbfounded" that Philly somehow walked away with Carter and Smith both. 

Our own Jimmy Kempski wouldn't have believed that could happen leading up, and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was just not having a good time seeing who the Eagles picked. 

Wrote ESPN's Mel Kiper, who rated the Birds as one of Round 1's biggest winners:

Wow! The rich get richer. Philadelphia moved up one spot, trading Chicago a 2024 fourth-round pick, to get the No. 1 overall prospect on my Big Board. The Eagles are going to reunite Carter with former Georgia teammate Jordan Davis -- the two formed an outstanding interior duo in 2021. I love this pick. This team has the locker-room leadership to make sure Carter stays on track and plays to his potential.

Then the Eagles added another Bulldog late, getting my 12th-ranked player at No. 30. Smith missed half of the 2022 season because of a torn pectoral muscle, but he has rare physical tools. He flies off the edge. I thought he'd go much higher. Philly is putting together a defense filled with national champions -- it also picked up linebacker Nakobe Dean last year. This is a great start for the Eagles. [ESPN+, $]

And's Chad Reuter, who gave the Eagles an A- for their picks:

New Orleans gifted the Eagles the 10th overall pick in this year's draft via a trade last spring. GM Howie Roseman couldn't wait that long, though, trading a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Bears to move up to No. 9 and ensure Philadelphia landed Carter. A more versatile performer than last year's first-round defensive tackle, Jordan Davis, Carter is a force at 3 technique with excellent get-off and quickness. My enthusiasm for this pick was tempered by concerns about his off-field issues. Getting the speedy Smith to play behind Haason Reddick in the team's scheme was an easy call at 30, bringing yet another Georgia defender to the City of Brotherly Love. []
Finally, we go to Pro Football Focus, who awarded "elite" grades to both of the Eagles' first-round picks. 

First on Carter: 

Landing the No. 2 overall player on the PFF big board at Pick 9 is a huge win for the Eagles. Carter played 392 snaps in 2022 and earned a 92.3 PFF grade that led all Power Five interior defenders. He registered 32 total pressures from 273 pass-rushing snaps. The Eagles had to give up just a 2024 fourth-round pick to make this happen. [PFF]

Then Smith:

The Eagles land the 13th overall player on the PFF big board with the 30th pick in the draft. Philadelphia retools its defensive line once again with elite talent by adding Smith, who might be undersized at 238 pounds but earned a 90.0 PFF run-defense grade over the past two seasons and is an incredible athlete. [PFF]
If everything works out, a pass rush boasting Carter, Smith, Davis, Dean, Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and a still-effective Fletcher Cox?

Pray for Micah Parsons. He won't have to deal with them directly, but he might be wishing he was with them.

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