More Sports:

May 01, 2022

Grading the Eagles' final 2022 draft haul

Eagles NFL
043022JordanDavis Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles DT Jordan Davis

The Philadelphia Eagles entered the 2022 NFL Draft with 10 picks, including a pair of first round picks. They ended up only making five picks, but they were able to add some difference makers along the way.

Let's grade each move that the Birds made this weekend.

Round 1: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Assuming he stays healthy, Davis' floor will be that of a run-stuffing nose tackle on early downs. There's little doubt that he'll be at least that, whereas other prospects are a little more "boom or bust." As long as injuries don't derail him, Davis is virtually guaranteed to have a long NFL career as a rotational run down defensive tackle because of his sheer size and strength, again, at a minimum.

Of course, if that's all he becomes, then that is not the profile of the player that you're looking for with the 13th overall pick. There are some who point to Davis' underwhelming seven sacks over his 37-game college career, which is a reasonable concern.

The Eagles believe that Davis is more than just a run-stuffer. 

"I think when you see a guy with that type of size, athleticism and explosion who loves to play the game, he did what they asked him to do in their defense," said personnel chief Andy Weidl, when asked if Davis can affect the passing game. "He fit the bill. He made them strong in the middle of the defense. But you saw the lateral quickness, you saw the range, you saw the ability to get down on the line of scrimmage and run down running backs and hawk down quarterbacks. So, we think he has it in his body, the explosion in his body. We're excited to get him in here and get him in our program."

We've covered Davis' athleticism at length, but humans like this just don't exist in nature.

I mean, the guy is 341 pounds and he ran a faster 40 time than some running backs and wide receivers. When Weidl says, "We think he has it in his body, the explosion in his body," that's an understatement.

As for doing "what they asked him to do," Davis did a lot of two-gapping at Georgia. What's that mean? The short-short explanation is that it's a technique in which the defensive lineman engages with the blocker, and he is responsible for the gap on each side. When the defender identifies which gap the play is heading toward, he is tasked with getting off that block and helping make the play. Davis is an outstanding two-gapper against the run. When you watch him play, you'll see a lot of this:

Over the years, we've become accustomed to watching defensive linemen attack up the field, whether that be in Jim Schwartz's or Jim Johnson's schemes. Eagles defensive linemen have mostly been tasked with one-gap assignments, trying penetrate through the line of scrimmage and creating disruption in the backfield. Under Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles do both.

Georgia's scheme was partly responsible for Georgia's defensive linemen not putting up huge numbers statistically, while the linebackers behind them did. It's why you saw Georgia have three players in Davis, Travon Walker (No. 1 overall), and Devonte Wyatt (No. 28 overall) get picked in the first round despite a lack of gaudy numbers. 

But if given more opportunities to create disruption as opposed to just controlling the line of scrimmage, Davis is certainly capable. For example: 

But even if he doesn't do that 👆 on a regular basis, Davis will require double teams, which will give his defensive line teammates one-on-one opportunities across the board. He will also push the pocket, limiting the ability for quarterbacks to step up to avoid the outside rush.

Another reason for Davis' lack of impressive numbers was that he only played a little more than 25 snaps per game for Georgia in 2021, which is a separate concern in and of itself. On the one hand, Georgia had an embarrassment of riches along their defensive line, which allowed them to rotate their linemen in and out of the game, keeping everyone fresh. However, Davis himself even admitted that his conditioning could have been better after an SEC title game loss to Alabama last season.

Credit him for being honest about himself as a player, but obviously, the Eagles are going to want him to be in optimal shape as a pro. Early in his career with the Eagles, he'll be part of an outstanding rotation on paper that will include Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Milton Williams, so he should have time to get his stamina where it needs to be.

As for his personality, Davis is widely regarded as a well-liked teammate.

"I think even more so from the workout was how he was with his teammates, watching him down there, watching him interact, the personality come out, the teammate he was and how players were drawn to him and how authentic he was and the personality," Weidl said. "We brought him in here also on the visit, and we felt the same way in the comfort level with the player and with the person."

As for the cost to move up, it wasn't cheap.

 Eagles gotTexans got 
 Pick 13 (Jordan Davis) Pick 15
  Pick 124
  Pick 162
  Pick 166

"I think first, you have to think about where those draft picks are and the hit rates on those draft picks," Howie Roseman said, when asked about the six picks allocated to landing Davis and Brown. "All draft picks are not created equal. It's not like we gave up six first-round picks. I don't think that's necessarily fair to just say six picks. It's where they are."

That's true, however, the 2022 draft is regarded as a very deep one, so parting with a bunch of mid-round picks isn't ideal. Certainly, Roseman wouldn't downplay the third round pick he acquired from the Saints a few weeks ago.

Ultimately, the Eagles have a strong desire to be dominant in the trenches, and Davis brings good baseline value with a chance to be a special player.

Grade: A-.

A.J. Brown, WR, formerly with the Titans

First, let's be honest in pointing out that the Eagles traded for A.J. Brown because they whiffed so badly on the draft selections of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor. If either of those players had panned out, the Eagles would have used the 18th overall pick on something else, whether that be on a rookie prospect, a trade back, a trade for some other player, etc. 

It's not unlike when Roseman traded for Darius Slay after Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas did not live up to expectations in Philly.

Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, the more important analysis here is... HOLY CRAP THE EAGLES GOT A.J. BROWN!!!

In our final Eagles-only mock draft, we had the Birds selecting Treylon Burks, a big-bodied, yards-after-catch machine who would perfectly complement the smooth route-running DeVonta Smith and the speedy Quez Watkins. The most common pro comparison for Burks? A.J. Brown! Ironically, the Titans selected Burks with the 18th overall pick they acquired from the Eagles.

Had the Eagles just taken Burks, they would have hoped that he became A.J. Brown. By trading for A.J. Brown, the Eagles instead just got the real A.J. Brown. #Analysis. 

The big difference is that the real A.J. Brown costs $25 million per season, while the "we hope he's A.J. Brown" guy will be on a cheap rookie contract for four years. Your preference may vary, but after all the Eagles' misses at the wide receiver position over the years, maybe just getting the real A.J. Brown is the better move.

Looking ahead, a major positional weakness is now a strength. Smith and Brown have a chance to become one of the best wide receiver duos in the league.

There is downside. Brown's rugged style of play puts theoretically puts him at higher risk for injury, but ultimately I respect the big swing by Howie.

Grade: A-.

Round 2: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

For the second consecutive year, the Eagles drafted a successor for Jason Kelce in the second round. Last year that distinction went to Landon Dickerson, who played center, guard, and tackle during his college career at Florida State and Alabama. This year it's Jurgens, who started at center in all 31 of his games played in Lincoln.

There were two centers linked to the Eagles in this draft — Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, and Jurgens — mainly because they reminded draft experts of, well, Jason Kelce. Jurgens is a somewhat undersized but highly athletic center, as shown here: 

He is also a prospect with a little nasty to his game. You can get a little taste here:

So, you can see why he drew some comparisons to Kelce.

Can Jurgens help immediately?

If he were drafted by some team in immediate need of a center, sure! Jurgens is probably an out-of-the-box starter. And the reality is that teams don't select centers in the first or second round of the draft and have them sit. Here's a list of every center drafted in the first or second round of the draft the last 10 years, and how many games they started as rookies:

 YearPlayer Pick Rookie starts 
 2021Landon Dickerson, Eagles 37 13 (at guard) 
 2021 Josh Myers, Packers62 6 (Week 1 starter, injured Week 6, went on IR)
 2021Creed Humphrey, Chiefs 63 17 
 2020Cesar Ruiz, Saints 24 
 2019Garrett Bradbury, Vikings 18 16 
 2019Elgton Jenkins, Packers 44 14 
 2019Erik McCoy, Saints 48 16 
 2018Frank Ragnow, Lions 20 16 
 2018Billy Price, Bengals 21 10 
 2018James Daniels, Bears 39 10 
 2017Ethan Pocic, Seahawks 58 11 
 2016Ryan Kelly, Colts 18 16 
 2016Nick Martin, Texans 50 0 (injured in training camp, went on IR) 
 2015Cameron Erving, Browns 19 
 2014Weston Richburg, Giants 43 15 
 2013Travis Frederick, Cowboys 31 16 

That's for good reason. When teams draft running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, or safeties, those guys don't have to be starters to get playing time. They can rotate in. 

At quarterback, the offensive line, kicker, punter, and long snapper, the starters typically don't sub out of games. Obviously, there is no shortage of examples of teams drafting quarterbacks and having them sit initially, but it doesn't often happen along the offensive line, and it's particularly rare at center.

It's worth noting that when the Eagles drafted Dickerson last year, he could not be penciled in as an immediate starter either. However, he had more positional versatility than Jurgens, and the oft-injured Brandon Brooks was a projected starter. It felt likely that Dickerson would play substantial snaps as a rookie, and as it turned out, he did. 

It is certainly possible that Jurgens could play guard if need be, but he does not have any guard experience, at all. The Eagles also already have robust depth along the interior of their line (including at center, by the way), so even if the Eagles think Jurgens can play guard, he might not be their choice in-season to be the first guy off the bench should Isaac Seumalo or Dickerson go down.

Jordan Mailata Isaac Seuamlo Jason Kelce Landon Dickerson Lane Johnson 
Andre Dillard Nate Herbig Cam Jurgens Jack Driscoll Le'Raven Clark 
 Brett TothSua Opeta Jack Anderson Kayode Awosika  

Last offseason, the Eagles were coming off a 4-11-1 season and nowhere remotely close to Super Bowl contention. If the Eagles were in that kind of situation this offseason, I may not protest quite as much. This year, you can squint hard and see a path through a really bad NFC. The ability to contribute immediately is only one piece when evaluating prospects. There's no doubt that the draft at its core is about the future, but certainly it's also nice when you can see early results.

Jurgens' path to playing time may only come via a Kelce injury. As a reminder, Kelce has started in 122 straight games, which is second-best in the NFL among all active players. It is assumed that Kelce is playing in his final season in 2022, and then he'll hang up his cleats. Of course, the same was assumed this time last year, and Kelce decided to come back for another season. If Kelce decides next year that he'd like to play one more year, does anyone think the Eagles will tell him no?

So how long exactly will it be that Jurgens sits during the four-year window of his rookie contract?

But he was the best player available!

When I took to Twitter to point out some of the reasoning against taking a center in Round 2 when the team already has a Hall of Fame center on the roster still playing at a Hall of Fame level, a common response was something to the effect of, "But Jimmy, you always say the Eagles should take the best player available and then when they do you bash them, you dirty scumbag hypocrite piece of garbage."

Jurgens may very well have been the best player on the Eagles' board when they picked, but it's not as if he was some sort of prospect where anyone was saying, "Good Lord, how is this guy still available?" He got picked in the vicinity of expectations, or maybe a slightly earlier at pick 51.

 Draft analystJurgens' overall ranking 
Dane Brugler, The Athletic 49 
 Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network58 
Mel Kiper, ESPN 67 
ProFootballNetwork 87 

The Eagles' interest in Jurgens was known well before the draft. Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork even reported as early as Sunday that "Sources say Jurgens does not get past the Philadelphia Eagles’ 51st pick at the latest." It feels a little bit like the Eagles made their minds up well in advance that Jurgens was going to be their pick at 51, almost no matter what.

The Kelce stamp of approval

Kelce enthusiastically endorsed the pick, and even helped scout Jurgens.

"This is my favorite player in the draft," Kelce said during Bleacher Report's draft coverage. "I'm not just saying that because we picked him. The Eagles have been using me to evaluate some of the centers coming out and of all the guys that I've looked at, like for the past 2-3 years, out of all the guys that compare the most to myself, this guy is him.

"He is so athletic, so fast. You see him out in space, he runs. He's a natural athlete. You see the fluidity. He played tight end, a position convert. He's only been playing offensive line for two years...This guy is a freak athletically. He has the best chance to be a difference-maker at the center position. I like this kid a lot. I really do."

When fans were reassured by the center god himself, all worries about this prospect went out the window. Hell, the Eagles may have stumbled onto a new draft day strategy to win over fans. Just have a legend at the prospect's position stamp their approval, and any immediate blowback is gone. Safety? Call Brian Dawkins. Linebacker? Get Jeremiah Trotter to NovaCare, stat! (I'm kidding here, mostly. I do believe Kelce when he praises Jurgens because he legitimately loves him as a player, and not just because the Eagles picked him.)

I'll just conclude this section by noting that trying to find a carbon copy of Kelce does have its potential pitfalls. It took Jason Kelce years to become the legendary Jason Kelce that we know today, and along the way, there were rough years during which a decent number of fans would have wanted Kelce replaced. Drafting a prospect who is "the most like Kelce" will no doubt leads to expectations that, you know, he should be the next Jason Kelce, and fast. If he's not great immediately, there could be unfair criticism of this kid that wouldn't exist anywhere near as much in other cities.  

Our own Nick Tricome has more on the Kelce-Jurgens lineage.

Final thoughts on the Jurgens selection

Ultimately, if there's a smooth, seamless transition from Kelce and Jurgens is very quickly a great player, then the above quibbling will no doubt seem silly, in hindsight. And if Jurgens can play guard immediately, potentially even replacing Seumalo in the lineup, then forget everything I said above.

Anything short of that, and it's really not a great use of resources. 

Grade: C+.

Round 3: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Dean patrolled the middle of the field in Georgia's smothering, national championship defense in 2021. He's undersized, and while he did not work out at the Combine or Georgia's pro day, he's explosive on tape. Dean can cover running backs out of the backfield and blitz in the passing game. Against the run, he can either slither through blocks and make tough tackles in the box, or in pursuit outside of the tackles.

Dean is a three-down linebacker who can bring juice to the Eagles' defense in the middle of the field, where, oh by the way, they got destroyed in 2021. He was considered by many to be a first-round talent, but he unexpectedly fell to the third round because of injury concerns, specifically a pectoral injury.

So how debilitating will this pec injury be?

"He has a pec injury that does not require surgery from our doctor," Howie Roseman said Friday night. "He's going to be on the field this weekend. We don't anticipate missed time now. He'll come in here and take a physical, and we'll double-check all those things.

"Listen, I think I called our doctors three, four times to see am I missing something. We brought him in. Am I missing something? Because obviously this guy is way higher on our board, and we were considering taking him at – we talked to him before today because he was a consideration (in Round 2), and that's what we got."

Dean no doubt fell because of the injury, but also because he's small.

Fortunately for the Eagles, Dean doesn't play small, and in my opinion, getting him in Round 3 is an absolute steal.

Grade: A.

Round 6: Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas

At the start of Day 3, there was a long wait for the Eagles' first pick, in the fifth round, at pick 154. When the Birds were on the clock, they traded out, prolonging the wait, and getting a pair of picks (188 and 198) from the Jaguars in return.

They then traded up from pick 188 to pick 181 to draft Johnson.

Johnson is a unique prospect who was used both as an off-ball linebacker and as a pass rusher at Kansas. He'll likely play the SAM position in the Eagles' defense.

Johnson is 6'0, 231, and he ran a 4.40 40 at Kansas' pro day. He had his share of moments at the Senior Bowl, flashing impressive athleticism in pass rushing one-on-one drills. Here he is working against first-round pick Trevor Penning:

And here he is owning third-round pick Abraham Lucas:

His athleticism: 

In 2021, Johnson had 63 tackles (8.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Assuming he makes the team, he'll likely contribute immediately on special teams, and could even get some opportunities backing up Haason Reddick.

The SAM position is an interesting one to watch this season. In 2021, the Eagles only had Genard Avery and Patrick Johnson, a pair of players who were not worth playing. With a stud pass rusher in Reddick now playing in that spot, we'll see how much more Jonathan Gannon features that role. And if Reddick goes down, the Eagles will need a backup capable of filling in.

Grade: B.

Round 6: Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU

Calcalterra is a smaller tight end at 6'4, 241. He ran a 4.62 40 at the NFL Combine and has decent athleticism.

Heading into this draft, the tight end position was a sneaky, underrated need. Nick Sirianni ran his fair share of 2-TE sets in 2021, and his No. 2 TE only had four receptions. The Eagles could use a more well-rounded TE2 who can be a threat as a receiver. The Eagles believe that can be Calcaterra, who caught 38 passes for 465 yards and 4 TDs.

Calcaterra comes with a serious injury history (concussions) and he even briefly retired to become... 😱... a firefighter!

Because the Eagles traded away a big chunk of their mid-round picks to land Davis and Brown, they missed out on some better tight end prospects earlier on Day 3 of the draft. Still, Calcaterra should be more of a factor in the passing offense than Jack Stoll was in 2021.

Grade: B-.

Overall grade

If I told you before the draft began that the Eagles landed A.J. Brown, Jordan Davis, and Nakobe Dean, plus three other picks, and they didn't give up any of their picks in 2023 or 2024, you'd have probably signed up for that, right? It's hard to add three potential difference makers in one draft, but that's what Howie Roseman put himself in position to do with the ammo that he had acquired. 

While I don't agree with the process of the Cam Jurgens selection — and I believe that the Eagles could have turned this draft from a standup double into a home run with a better second round selection — they did likely secure Jason Kelce's eventual replacement. There just won't be any immediate gratification with that pick.

Still, Brown instantly makes the Eagles' offense significantly better, and Davis will help put opposing offenses in third and long situations, even if he isn't a stud pass rusher from Day 1. Dean was a potential third-round steal.

Overall grade: B+.

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | @thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader