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April 18, 2022

The Eagles' top 10 options with their first round picks

Eagles NFL
041722KayvonThibodeaux Chris Pietsch/USA TODAY Sports

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Each year, we lay out the Philadelphia Eagles' top 10 options with their first round pick, and we have found that while the player they have picked has occasionally been surprising, their base strategies have been predictable.

For example:

• In 2021, we had the Eagles drafting a wide receiver (option No. 2), with DeVonta Smith as the most likely Eagles pick, but were off on the notion that one of the top three guys (Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Smith) would make it to pick 12 (stick-and-pick was option 1). Kudos to Howie Roseman for reading that better than me.

• In 2020, it felt rather clear that the Eagles were going to pick a wide receiver, and they did, though obviously the wrong one.

• In 2019, we correctly diagnosed that the Eagles were likely to trade up (option No. 1). They picked who they thought would be Jason Peters' successor (option No. 8).

• In 2018, it felt like a year to trade out of the first round (option No. 1), and that's what they did, eventually picking a tight end (option No. 7).

• In 2017, we were a little more specific, and had the Eagles staying put and drafting Derek Barnett as option No. 3.

Now that we've taken that little trip down memory lane, let's look at the Eagles' top 10 options in 2022.

10) Will Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton fall?

Hamilton is an absolute stud of a safety prospect with size, ball skills, athleticism, and smarts who some have as a top three player in this draft. However, because he plays a devalued position — and because some scouts clocked him at 4.7 in the 40 at Notre Dame's pro day — there's a thinking that Hamilton could fall in the draft.

Hamilton has no earthly business falling to the Eagles' at pick No. 15, but if he does, the Eagles shouldn't overthink it. Just take the potential perennial All-Pro who oh-by-the-way also happens to fill a major need. 

9) Offensive line?

One of the strange early themes of mock draft season was that a lot of draft analysts had the Eagles taking interior offensive linemen in the first round. That never really made any sense, even before Jason Kelce decided to return for the 2022 season. The Eagles are loaded with versatile talent on the interior of their line, with Kelce, Landon Dickerson, Isaac Seumalo, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta, and Jack Anderson.

Drafting Andre Dillard in the first round a few years ago and having him sit behind Jason Peters was a debatable decision, but justifiable given the importance of the offensive tackle position. But drafting an interior offensive lineman in the first round and having him sit until he's needed? Why? The Eagles have quality starters and proven depth. What's the rush? 

At offensive tackle, the Eagles may very well have the best OT pairing in the NFL in Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson. They also have depth in the form of Dillard, Driscoll, and Le'Raven Clark.

The only scenario that I can see the Eagles taking an interior offensive lineman in Rounds 1 or 2 is if they have serious concerns about Seumalo's ability to stay on the field, which I suppose is a reasonable enough fear. But even then, with the Eagles' aforementioned depth, there's no guarantee that a first-round interior lineman would even start as a rookie.

8) Our yearly linebacker conversation

It is repeated endlessly during every Eagles draft season that Philly hasn't selected a linebacker in the first round since 1979. When the Birds still had three first-round picks, it felt a little bit like that drought could finally end, or at least drafting a linebacker felt more likely than a typical draft in which the Eagles only had one first-round pick.

Now that they have traded one of those three first-round picks, a linebacker feels unlikely, as always. While the Eagles could still have interest in a guy like Utah's Devin Lloyd or Georgia's Nakobe Dean, the better linebacker values could be found in Rounds 2 or 3, where a decent number of linebackers could come off the board. Some of those players could include Bama's Christian Harris, Wyoming's Chad Muma, Montana State's Troy Andersen, Wisconsin's Leo Chenal, Georgia's Channing Tindall, and Oklahoma's Brian Asamoah. 

7) The quarterback conversation is probably off until next year, right?

Could the Eagles select a quarterback in the first round of 2022 draft? Sure, if there's one they really love. However, it feels unlikely they really love guys like Liberty's Malik Willis or Pitt's Kenny Pickett, or they would have tried to use their 2022 first-round picks to get them instead of trading one of them away. 

Should Willis fall to pick 15, the Eagles would have to consider taking him. He's actually a lot like Jalen Hurts in many ways, in that he's strong runner, a good leader, and an inaccurate passer. However, he possesses more upside than Hurts because he has better arm talent. Meanwhile, Pickett is regarded by many as the best quarterback prospect in this class, but his ceiling isn't thought to be particularly high.

If guys like Ole Miss' Matt Corral or Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder are still there in the second round, I could see them as appealing developmental options for the Eagles, but it feels unlikely they'll still be around.

The 2022 NFL Draft will likely come and go without the Eagles adding a strong challenger for Hurts' starting job this season, but as always, you can never rule out the quarterback factory.

6) Stick and pick, and reach for a need

Two popular Eagles picks in mock drafts are Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt and Washington CB Trent McDuffie.

Wyatt is a quick, disruptive interior player who impressed at the Combine, but his career production leaves plenty to be desired and he turned 24 last month. If the Eagles trade back and take a player like Wyatt, great. But at picks 15 or 18? Probably a reach.

McDuffie is a good player, but I believe that the dropoff from cornerbacks like Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley to him is substantial. If you're going to invest in a cornerback in the first round, spend the third-round pick to go up higher in the draft and go get one of the top two guys. If the cost is too high and McDuffie is the best player on the board when you're on the clock, trade out. If a 5'11 corner with two career INTs is who the Eagles ultimately end up with, particularly at pick 15, that would be a pretty big disappointment.

5) Take the unicorn 🦄

During last year's draft season, TE Kyle Pitts was labeled as a "unicorn," or a player with extremely rare and unique size/skill attributes. Normally, you would never take a tight end fourth overall, but the Falcons did with Pitts because he was such a rare, exceptional talent.

Jordan Davis could be that guy in this draft. At the NFL Combine, Davis had a jaw dropping performance for a man his size. It's crazy that a 6'6, 341-pound man is even capable of running 4.78 40, but that's what Davis did.

I wouldn't normally advocate for a run stuffing DT in the first round, but we're talking about the most athletically gifted defensive tackle ever here: 

He's the second-highest athletically graded player, behind only Calvin Johnson.

There's a reasonable enough expectation that Davis can develop as a pass rusher, but even if he never becomes a guy who puts up big sacks numbers, he can still be effective in the passing game. He is a player that centers will not be able to single block, so he'll at least provide one-on-one matchups across the board for his defensive line teammates against the pass when he's doubled. Against the run, if you plop this dude down in the middle of the line, thus allowing Jonathan Gannon to commit fewer resources toward stopping the run, he would make a lot of sense in the Eagles' defense.

This is the type of player that teams pass on and regret it for life.

4) Trade back

If you read our "trade up, trade back, or stay put" column last week, you already read this, but if not we'll copy and paste for your convenience.

When the Eagles still had three first-round picks, one of the common assumptions was that the team would try to trade back and pick up an extra first-round pick in 2023, when better quarterback prospects could be available. We pointed out the unlikelihood of such a scenario, barring some other team out there making an idiotic trade, and, well, Howie found his idiots in the Saints, who forked over a bounty of picks for one of the the Eagles' three first-round picks.

Could they trade for yet another 2023 first-round pick?

They should try! There are currently five teams with multiple first-round picks in 2023:

  1. Lions
  2. Texans
  3. Seahawks
  4. Dolphins
  5. Eagles

There's a decent chance that all five of those teams could be looking for a new quarterback in 2023. If the Eagles were to somehow land a third first-round pick in 2023, they could be in a position to out-maneuver those teams for draft positioning in a potentially loaded quarterback class.

But again, they'd have to find another team like the Saints willing to make a moronic trade, which feels unlikely.

One popular trade-back scenario could be with the Chiefs, who hold the 29th and 30th overall picks in 2022. After trading Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, Andy Reid can use another wide receiver. There should be a few very good ones to choose from either at picks 15 or 18, but there is likely to be a significant dropoff to whoever might still be available at pick 29.

The draft value chart says that the Chiefs' 29th overall pick and the 50th overall pick (from the Dolphins) would be near-equal compensation. Alternatively, the Eagles could look to try to further bolster their 2023 draft bounty.

The other team rumored to want to make a big move up is the Lions, who hold the 32nd and 34th picks. If they were to trade up for a quarterback to, say, pick 15, the Eagles could add some extra picks while also eliminating a competitor for a quarterback in 2023.

I believe Roseman would absolutely be interesting in trading back again for the right price.

3) Take a receiver for the third consecutive year

The consensus is that there are five receivers at the top of this draft, in whatever order you prefer. They are Ohio State's Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama's Jameson Williams, Arkansas' Treylon Burks and USC's Drake London. If the Eagles just stay at pick No. 15, there will almost certainly be a good wide receiver prospect available. 

We'll call this the "safety school" option. If the Eagles can't trade up for a stud prospect at edge rusher or cornerback, or if a no-brainer offer to trade back doesn't present itself, the Eagles could very well just grab another receiver, and that would be perfectly fine. They still have a pretty obvious need there.

2) Trade up for a cornerback

If the Eagles had a chance to make a reasonable trade up to select cornerbacks Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn during the 2021 draft, my understanding is that they would have preferred those players over DeVonta Smith. They could be looking to make a similar move up for a corner this year, with Cincinnati's Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and LSU's Derek Stingley serving as the two most likely targets.

Gardner is a 6'3 corner with 33" arms and a 4.41 40 who can match bigger receivers' size and run with fast guys, while Stingley was an absolute star as a freshman in 2019 who helped LSU win a national championship, but has since given teams reason to have some concerns.

Gardner would likely require the Eagles to trade up a little further than they'd have to for Stingley, but both would be immediate plug-and-play corners at CB2, and eventual replacements for Darius Slay as the CB1.

1) Trade up for a defensive end

And finally, the quarterback conversation aside, it's been clear all offseason long that edge rusher is the Eagles biggest need. The addition of Haason Reddick helps, but the Eagles need to continue to add young, talented pass rushers. 

After first-round prospect David Ojabo tore an Achilles at his pro day, the likelihood that the Eagles would have the opportunity to select an edge rusher worthy of the 15th overall pick decreased sharply. If they feel that players like Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux or Florida State's Jermaine Johnson are potential impact players, then the Eagles could perhaps try to get up into the 8-12 range to secure their guy. 

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