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May 03, 2022

What they're saying: The Eagles won the NFL Draft

Eagles NFL
042922NakobeDean Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Nakobe Dean

The Eagles don't have a roster with realistic Super Bowl aspirations, nor do they have expectations to advance anywhere near the big game next February.

They don't have an elite quarterback, they have a sophomore coach who is still finding his NFL footing, and they are still in need of a starting safety and cornerback.

There are a ton of questions surrounding the Eagles, both for 2022 and beyond, but there is a sense of optimism and an outpouring of praise heading the organization's way following what many have deemed to be a thoroughly successful NFL Draft.

Here's a look around the media landscape at some of the most interesting things being said this week, as attention slowly turns toward training camp and preparing for actual games in the coming weeks:

Winning time

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Who emerged as the biggest winner following the draft last weekend? Well, Marcus Epps and Zech McPhearson appear to be in line to start — for now — at safety and cornerback respectively (or at least have a realistic chance of doing so) after the Birds elected not to draft a player at either position. But there is no need to overthink it. Jalen Hurts has to be the biggest winner after the eventful last few days.

Jalen Hurts: The Eagles added Hurts’ best friend Brown in a trade. Aside from being his buddy, Brown also happens to be a 24-year-old Pro Bowl receiver who has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. Now Hurts has Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Quez Watkins, good running backs and a solid O-line. He has all the tools to prove he’s the franchise quarterback the Eagles hope he’ll be. [NBCSP]

For the first time in forever...

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

We'll hit NBCSP one more time as Reuben Frank hit on an interesting storyline over the past few weeks — that the Eagles are starting to actually put resources into their linebacking corps. Here's more:

And it’s not totally accurate that the Eagles haven’t made linebacker a priority. We all know they haven’t taken a linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979. But they’ve drafted eight linebackers in the second or third round just since 2000. Only two became regular starters – Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. 

All of which brings us to this year.

The Eagles signed Haason Reddick, who will rush the passer from the SAM linebacker spot. They signed Kyzir White, who played at a Pro Bowl level last year for the Chargers. They used their 3rd-round pick on Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, who was projected not too long ago as a 1st-round pick.

They’ve reshaped the linebacker position into one with speed, athleticism, physicality and talent.

Finally. [NBCSP]

Be aggressive

Ed Kracz | Sports Illustrated

Over at SI, Ed Kracz made 10 observations about the Eagles following the draft, and many of them range from the obvious (AJ Brown is awesome) to the analytical (look out for more 3-4 defense). But this take on Roseman seems warranted:

Aggression. Eagles fans sometimes don’t realize how lucky they are to have Roseman.

Who is as aggressive as him? Who draws the type of national media that were on hand for the first night of the draft, including NFL veteran scribe Peter King, than Roseman?

They all showed up with the expectation that the Eagles would do something, and sure enough, Roseman did, engineering the Brown blockbuster.

“Coach and I talk about this all the time, if we're going to be the same as everyone else, we're probably going to finish in the middle of the pack,” Roseman said during his pre-draft availability. “Sometimes you have to take risks and you have to stand out there and do something different than everyone else." []

It's a steal

Pro Football Focus

The guys at PFF made a list of the biggest steals on each day of the 2022 NFL Draft and not surprisingly, the Eagles third round choice of Nakobe Dean is among their selections. After he dropped shockingly into the Birds' lap, they overlooked lingering injury issues and took a chance on the star Georgia linebacker. Here's more from the football nerds at PFF:

Dean's draft stock has been in a tailspin since Thursday night, and it has nothing to do with his exceptional tape at Georgia. A source told PFF’s Austin Gayle that the off-ball linebacker reportedly put off shoulder surgery this past year, causing significant damage. On top of that, Dean has a pec and knee issue that raised red flags to NFL teams.

Assuming he’s able to regain full health — whether it be with or without a redshirt year — this could end up being the biggest steal of the entire draft.

Dean is one of the most instinctive players to come out of college in recent memory. And, in my opinion, he was the most important player in Georgia’s historically good defense this past year. Even head coach Kirby Smart called him the “Commander-in-Chief” of that group.

Last season, Dean product became the only off-ball linebacker in the PFF College era to earn a 90.0-plus single-season PFF grade in coverage and as a pass-rusher. The 5-foot-11, 229-pound off-ball linebacker racked up 31 pressures and 15 passing stops in 2021, top-10 marks among Power Five linebackers. He also ranked sixth in the Power Five in pass-rush win rate (22.3%), allowed a first down at the lowest rate among linebackers (13.5%) and didn’t surrender a single touchdown. [PFF]

Biggest steal of the entire draft? High praise...

Some superlatives

Josh Tolentino | Philadelphia Inquirer

The Inquirer compiled some designations for Eagles draftees, ranging from favorite pick (Dean) to pick with the highest ceiling (Jordan Davis) and a bunch more. We're highlight their pick for the team's most questionable pick, which happens to be the only skill position player the team selected last week:

Most questionable pick: Even after moving J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from wide receiver to tight end, the team added more depth when it selected Calcaterra on Day 3. Calcaterra joins a TE room that’s headlined by starter Dallas Goedert along with Tyree Jackson, Jack Stoll, Richard Rodgers, Noah Togiai, and Arcega-Whiteside. Jackson suffered a torn ACL during the regular-season finale, and his timetable to return remains unclear. With Jackson currently sidelined, there will be additional opportunities for others. Stoll emerged as an undrafted free agent last season and made his niche as a willing blocker.

So exactly where does Calcaterra fit in? He’ll have an opportunity to battle for the TE2 role, and could be unleashed in 12 and 13 personnel packages. During his lone season at SMU, Calcaterra caught 38 passes for 465 yards and four touchdowns. Calcaterra previously attended Oklahoma, where he was teammates with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Calcaterra might’ve been the top player on the team’s board at the time, but the Eagles concluded the draft without addressing the secondary. []

Top five

Dane Brugler | The Athletic

And finally, the entire Eagles draft class ranks as the fifth best according to Dane Brugler. That's not bad at all, considering they used a first round pick to trade for AJ Brown, an acquisition that doesn't register in these rankings. Brugler thinks the Dean pick is the best of the draft for Roseman and company, but he thinks it's their other linebacker who could wind up being a pick to winds up as a big surprise someday.

Day 3 pick who could surprise: Kyron Johnson, Edge, Kansas

A surprising combine snub, Johnson lit up his pro day (4.40 40-yard dash, 6.98 three-cone, 39.5-inch vertical) and continued to build upon the momentum he created at the Senior Bowl. Yes, he is undersized, but he will be a star on special teams while defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon figures out the best way to utilize his speed in the Eagles’ front seven. [The Athletic]

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