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April 07, 2020

What they're saying: Who will Eagles target in NFL Draft? Will they trade up for a WR? Trade back?

Or will the Birds surprise everyone and go after a different position in the first round?

Eagles NFL

The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching — it's just over two weeks away — and with free agency coming to a screeching halt in the last week, now seems like as good a time as any to shift the focus of our "What They're Saying" posts. 

And the good news for Eagles fans is that with no other sports going on, there's a lot to talk about when it comes to the Birds' plans heading into the NFL's first virtual draft. 

Will the Eagles draft a wide receiver in the first round like so many people expect? Will they trade up to get their guy? Will they trade back in order to get an extra pick given how loaded the class is at WR? Or will they surprise us all and go with a different position in the first round? And, if so, who might they target instead and what receivers will still be available in the second round?

Of course, as we wrote yesterday, the Eagles still have time to add a free agent wideout before the draft, but today we'll get into all the above questions and more in this week's Eagles draft edition of What They're Saying...

Movin' on up down

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

Over at NJ.com, Mike Kaye took a look at the idea of the Eagles trading up for wide receiver in the first round, like CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy, who are at the top of this deep wide receiver class. Currently, the Eagles have eight picks in this year's draft and — given Howie Roseman's comments this offseason about wishing to get faster and younger — it's a safe bet that the Eagles intend on using most, if not all, of them. 

That's why, in Mike's opinion, "the Eagles are more likely to trade down than deal up the board." Here's why:

Packaging their first- and second-round picks (and maybe more) to land a wide receiver in a super deep class seems like an awfully poor use of resources. Yes, Lamb and Ruggs can change the offense, but so can the likes of Jefferson, Mims and Reagor if the coaching staff develops them properly.

The Eagles put themselves in this position by not signing or trading for a veteran wide receiver. While they like their current group more than anyone on the outside (writer’s note: literally anyone), Roseman has still acknowledged that wide receiver is still a need.

The Eagles need to draft a wide receiver early. That prospect needs to be able to create separation -- whether through speed or route-running prowess -- and have trusty hands, two traits that eluded the position group last season. The Eagles can get that player without trading up.  [nj.com]

Second (round) chances

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

If the Eagles do in fact trade back, or simply decide to go after another position in the first round (more on that in a bit), the question becomes which wideouts will be available in the second round for Philly? Because, as the roster sits right now, especially in light of today's news that the Birds have been trying to move on from Alshon Jeffery as far back as last October, the wide receiver position needs some help. And waiting past the second round could lead to the Eagles drafting a guy who not only more likely to be a bust, but also less likely to be able to contribute in his rookie year, which is when the Eagles will need him if they hope to content in 2020. 

Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia recently took a look at a handful of receivers who might be available for the Eagles in Round 2. Let's take a look at two of the names, both of whom have been linked to the Birds this offseason. And at this point, what wide receiver hasn't?

Tee Higgins, Clemson

The 6-4, 215-pound Higgins could go earlier, but there are going to be some pretty good receivers dropping into the second round. Higgins may be the best of that bunch. There are enough concerns about Higgins’ lack of top-end speed and ability to separate from elite NFL corners to make him a risk in the first round. But at 53 or even trading up into the 40s? He'd be terrific value.

K.J. Hamler, Penn State

Seems to already be an Eagles fan favorite. He’s only 5-9, 180, but an explosive playmaker who can turn a short pass into a big gain. All that’s going to keep him out of the first round is his size and small frame. Can he hold up against physical NFL corners? Intriguing prospect who could be there at 53.  [nbcsports.com]

Draft stock dipping?

Nick Shook | NFL.com

Another name mentioned by Roob in the above post is Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk. He's been projected by some to go as early as late in the first round, but news came down on Tuesday that Aiyuk underwent core surgery recently (which was done by noted Philly-based surgeon Dr. William Meyers). And that could cause Aiyuk to slip a little bit, possibly allowing Roseman and the Eagles to target him in a later round. 

The Arizona State wide receiver and possible first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft underwent a core-muscle surgery Tuesday, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported, per sources informed of the situation. The surgery, which was performed by noted surgeon William Meyers, is to fix an issue Aiyuk has been dealing with for the last few months.

With OTAs delayed indefinitely and deliberations continuing on how to conduct the offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Aiyuk is afforded some time to recover while not facing the pressure of missing out on on-field activities  [nfl.com]

Mims the word

Brandon Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

According to, well, Denzel Mims himself, the Eagles are one of the teams showing the most interest in the Baylor wideout. Mims is projected to go somewhere in the late first round or early second round, but with so many receivers expected to be picked in that range, how these picks shake out is anyone's guess.

At the very least, it appears the Eagles are interested in the 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver, so he's definitely a name to watch.

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the teams showing the most interest in Denzel Mims ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. At least, that’s what the Baylor wide receiver indicated during a recent interview on KRZI’s Matt Mosley Show.

Q: Are there about three or four teams that have shown interest more than other teams?

MIMS: “It’s really been, like, six or seven teams that’s been showing a lot of interest. I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately. And so right now I’m trying to see who’s going to draft me. [...]”

Q: If you don’t mind sharing, can you tell us the teams you’ve talked to the most doing this process?

MIMS: “Have to say the Eagles and the Bills … the Bears, Colts, and the Jets, Cowboys, Rams, and the Titans.”

Does it mean anything that the Eagles were at the top of his mind? Tough to say. But we do know that Philadelphia’s scouting department recently had a FaceTime meeting with Mims, per Justin Melo of Music City Miracles.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

Going a different way

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

And finally, let's take a look at which players the Eagles could select in the first round if they don't go with a wide receiver. In addition to the two names below, one of whom local fans should know from his time at Penn State while the other is currently Todd McShay's pick for the Eagles in his latest mock draft, ESP listed entirely defensive players, including Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, who our own Jimmy Kempski recently mocked to the Eagles

Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State: Of all the names that could be called at No. 21, this could be the one that sends the fanbase into the biggest tailspin. It shouldn’t. Gross-Matos was an extremely productive pass rusher at Penn State, totaling 17.5 sacks and a whopping 37 hurries over the last two seasons. Gross-Matos is an elite athlete at 6-foot-4 with long arms and great burst off of the line of scrimmage. He was strong against the run as well, totaling 34.5 tackles-for-a-loss the last two seasons. Roseman correctly places high value on the defensive end position and taking a chance on an edge rusher is a smarter bet than a better prospect at linebacker. Gross-Matos has a little bit of bust potential, but also has extremely high upside and could end up being a steal at No. 21 with the right coaching. [...]

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU: The Eagles haven’t placed a ton of value in the linebacker position, but Queen falling to them at No. 21 might be the exception. Queen is one of the quickest and most athletic linebackers in the draft, falling in line with the Eagles’ clear plan this offseason of adding speed to their defense. Queen proved to be strong against both the run and pass last season for LSU, finish with 12 tackles for a loss, three sacks and giving up just one touchdown in coverage. Queen could be the playmaker the Eagles have lacked in the middle of their defense over the last few years.  [94wip.radio.com]

Would any of these guys excite Eagles fans? Probably not as much as a wide receiver, but if the Birds turn around and are still able to get a highly-rated receiver in the second round, which is definitely a possibility, then fans might come around on this pick.

Still, after all the resources the Birds spent on their defense in free agency, it'd be nice to see them place the focus on offense during the draft, at least early on. 


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