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April 30, 2023

Grading the Eagles' final 2023 draft haul

Handing out grades for the Eagles after the 2023 NFL Draft.

Eagles NFL
032223NolanSmith Kirthmon F. Dozier/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Carter (88) and Nolan Smith (4)

The Philadelphia Eagles entered the 2023 NFL Draft with six picks, including a pair of picks in the first round. They ended up making seven picks, and for the second straight year they traded for a veteran player. Let's grade each move that the Birds made this weekend, in chronological order.

Eagles gifted an upgrade in 2023 draft capital

Just before the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles improved their 2023 draft capital as a result of a settlement with the Arizona Cardinals, who had impermissible contact with then Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon in the days after the NFC Championship Game. 

They moved up from the the 94th overall pick at the back end of the third round to the 66th overall pick, in the front end of the third round. They sent a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Cardinals as part of the settlement. If you look at the draft value chart, the pick values are as follows:

Eagles get Cardinals get 
Pick 66 (260 points) Pick 94 (124 points) 
 5th round pick in 2024 (approximately 15 points) 
TOTAL: 260 points TOTAL: 139 points 

As Jeff McLane of the Inquirer pointed out, Gannon lied about the timeline of his hiring. We'll save that topic for another day.

We won't grade this move, but it's worth including for the sake of posterity.

Round 1, pick 9: Eagles select Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (6'3, 314)

The Eagles traded up from pick 10 to pick 9 to select Carter. The cost was a 2024 fourth-round pick. 

The evaluation of Carter as a player is easy. He's powerful, as you would expect of a 314-pound DT, but it's his explosiveness, speed, and change of direction ability that sets him apart, as most analysts believe he is the most talented prospect in this draft class. 

Against the run, he can anchor and two-gap, he can chase in pursuit from sideline to sideline, and he can smash single-blocks and make plays in the backfield. On early downs, he can help the Eagles allocate fewer resources toward stopping the run, and play coverage on the back end. 

As a pass rusher, Carter's stats aren't eye-popping (3 sacks, 3 batted passes, 2 forced fumbles in 2022), but it's clear to see that he has the ability in his body to get to the quarterback. Again, he can beat single blocks with raw power, but you can also get creative looping him around the edge because of his speed and explosiveness.

As far as scheme fit, Carter can play in any defense, as you can line him up anywhere along the interior, from tackle-to-tackle. I'm sure you've watched highlights of him by now, but in case not, here you go:

My favorite moment from the video above: 

Again, the evaluation of Carter as a player is pretty easy. Of course, he would not have made it to pick No. 9 if not for significant maturity red flags, most notably that he was at the scene of car racing incident in which teammate Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy were killed. Carter subsequently had an alarming pro day performance during which he looked sluggish and out of shape while running through drills. It will be the Eagles' ability to identify whether Carter can maximize his potential that will ultimately decide the success or failure of this selection.

"He didn't have the spring that he wanted to have," Howie Roseman said. "I mean obviously starting with that event. I think the event and the issues surrounding it, I think they derailed him this spring. The first thing he said to us was, 'You tell me what I need to do.' I think he's a proud guy, and he wants to show people what kind of player he is and what kind of person he is, but he's got to do that with his actions."

The Eagles have built a strong culture, which now begins with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, and is spread all throughout the locker room with veteran leaders like Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, and others. Roseman believes that the Eagles can rely on their veteran players to help guide Carter as he navigates life in the NFL.

"We have good people," he said, "and we have a good locker room, and [Chief Security Officer] Dom [DiSandro] told me today he had spoken to a bunch of our guys, and they embrace the opportunity to rally around each other and to rally around young players and to show them the way. I think that's what really legacy is about, and I think these guys understand that, and it makes me even more proud about our players."

Drafting a player at 9 with Carter's character concerns is a risk, but it's one that a team like the Eagles perhaps deserve the benefit of the doubt on, given the strong leadership in their building. A team like the Eagles can roll the dice on a troubled-but-talented player in the draft, whereas other teams might not have the same confidence that they can make it work.

Grade: A-.

Round 1, pick 30: Eagles select Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia (6'2, 238)

The Eagles could have selected Smith at their original spot at pick No. 10, and most wouldn't have blinked, given that Smith is arguably the most impressive athlete in the draft. He was the most commonly mocked player to the Eagles at 10 both by the local beats and the national media.

He ran an absurd 4.39 40 and vertical jumped 41 1/2" at 238 pounds. Spider chart goodness: 

But Smith isn't just an athlete. He was a physical run defender willing to set the edge so that his teammates at Georgia could collect tackles. He is also widely viewed as a player with sterling character and leadership skills who will be able to fit into any locker room.

Smith was commonly comped to Haason Reddick in the leadup to the draft, which led to some wondering, "Well if the Eagles already have the real Haason Reddick, why draft a guy with a very similar skill set?" The following includes some deeper insight into Smith's potential fit within Sean Desai's defense, from a week before the draft: 

In addition to being a common projection at pick 10, Smith was rated highly by most draft analysts. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network had him ranked 13th. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had him ranked 11th. Mel Kiper had him ranked 12th.

As the first round unfolded, Smith fell, and fell, and fell some more, until a point where the Eagles had to have considered trading up to grab him. But they were disciplined, and Smith somehow made it all the way to pick No. 30. Here's footage of Roseman watching Smith fall from pick 26 to 27 to 28 to 29 in the war room:

So why did Smith fall? Roseman was asked that question, and whether it was due to a medical red flag stemming from a pectoral issue that ended his 2022 season at Georgia.

"No, he's healthy with the pec," Roseman said. "I think when you get into the first round, some teams, you pick who you like and you pick what you're looking for there. It would be hard for me to kind of say what other teams are thinking, and I'm sure every team is happy who they got in the first round."

Certainly, Smith is undersized, and his lack of ideal production played a part. If he had a 10-sack season under his belt, there's no way in hell he'd have gotten out of the top 10-12 picks. His best season was in 2021, when he had 53 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and an INT. That's a good season statistically on a loaded Georgia defense, but there were other pass rushers like Iowa State' Will McDonald who had better production, and guys like Clemson's Myles Murphy or Iowa's Lukas Van Ness who have better size. In time we'll see who got the best player, but at pick 30 it's hard to view this as anything other than a potential steal for a player universally ranked in the top 15.

Grade: A.

Eagles trade back

While on the clock with their second-round pick (62nd overall), the Eagles traded back with the Texans to pick 65, and added a pick in the sixth round (188 overall), and a pick in the seventh round (230 overall).

Texans got Eagles got 
Pick 62 (284 points)Pick 65 (265 points)
  Pick 188 (15 points)
  Pick 230 (1 point)
284 points 281 points 

They basically picked up a couple of freebies for moving back three spots.

Round 3, pick 65: Eagles select Tyler Steen, OL, Alabama (6'6, 321)

Steen played his entire college career at offensive tackle, but the Eagles announced him as a guard, which makes sense, given his short, 32 3/4" arms. It should be no surprise by now that if the Eagles take an offensive lineman with a high pick, that guy is going to have impressive athleticism. And, well, Steen does.

Here he is protecting the blind side of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Bryce Young. He's No. 54:

While the Eagles listed Steen at guard, Nick Sirianni thinks he has guard/tackle versatility, which certainly makes sense.

"Obviously we want to get him here and work with him and see what will happen next week at rookie mini-camp and get him in the building," Sirianni said, "but we think he has good flexibility. He's been able to play, and we feel like he can play both positions, and we'll see what happens."

Sirianni was also asked if Steen would have the opportunity to compete for the starting RG job that was vacated by Isaac Seumalo, who left in free agency.

"That's really a long way away," he said. "We don't have to make that decision for a while, but the best player will play at that position, and we feel like we have some good options, and the reason why we took him is because we feel good about him. Everybody in the building feels good about him. Yeah, it's too early to say that, but the best player will play, so I guess that kind of answers that question."

The favorite to start at RG for the Eagles in 2023 is 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens, but it appears that the Eagles aren't just handing him that job. He'll have to earn it.

But at a minimum, Steen will bolster the Eagles' offensive line depth, which took a hit this offseason. In 2022, the Eagles' second string offensive line looked something like this:

Andre Dillard Sua Opeta Cam Jurgens Josh Sills Jack Driscoll 

There's a decent argument to be made that the Eagles' backups were as good as a small handful of other teams' starters. But that group has since been depleted. Jurgens (for now) is slated for a promotion to the starting lineup with Seumalo leaving in free agency, Dillard is gone, and Sills is on the commissioner's exempt list. Opeta was demoted during the season, and eventually released before being brought back on the practice squad. The only backup the Eagles could really feel good about is Driscoll.

In adding Steen, the Eagles now have more offensive line depth, but when you take a lineman with a top 65 pick, you expect that player to eventually start. Steen could start at RG if he upsets Jurgens in camp, or in 2024 and beyond if Jason Kelce retires and Jurgens slides inside to center.

Grade: A-.

Round 3, pick 66: Eagles select Sydney Brown, S, Illinois (5'10, 211)

Oh hey, surprise, the Eagles took another high-level athlete.

But Brown isn't just an athlete. He was a highly productive player for Illinois in 2022, making 60 tackles, 6 INTs (plus a pick-six), a forced fumble, and a fumble return for a TD. He makes plays, and he's a big hitter:

Brown often played up near the line of scrimmage for Illinois, which made him a difficult evaluation for some teams, who require their safeties to patrol the deeper areas of the field. Roseman said that the Senior Bowl was instrumental in determining that Brown could handle deep responsibilities as well as being an enforcer in the box. 

"When you look at Sydney, the way they used him at Illinois, they used him a lot around the box," Roseman said. "He would blitz, he'd cover a tight end, he'd play in the run game, so you kind of had an incomplete evaluation. Then the Senior Bowl, which [Senior Bowl executive director] Jim Nagy’s staff did a tremendous job with there, they gave us the opportunity to see him being a post player, playing in the deep path, playing one-on-ones, and you saw the athleticism, and I think that really helped complete our process.

"Sydney Brown was a passion player for a lot of people in this organization, he was a red star guy, and I think just a tremendous person with obviously really good athletic tools, leadership ability, and for us, just excited to get him in the building."

Wait, a "red star" player. What's that?

"That's a guy who kind of exemplifies what it means to be an Eagle, so it's great character, captain, testing numbers, intelligence, plays the way it should be played, practices the way it should be played," Roseman said.

"We sit there the day before the draft, we do that Wednesday, right? We did that Wednesday? We go around the room, and we give every scout a chance to stamp their red star on guys. Goes back, it's a long tradition, not only here but a couple of other places that people have been, and when we're looking at the draft board we have a red star on the guys, and Jeffrey Lurie a lot of times will go, ‘Hey, don't forget, and we're deciding between those two guys, that's a red star guy.’ I think for us, it gives our scouts a chance to really put their name on guys, and that gives them a lot of pride."

It's really not at all surprising that Brown would be viewed as a high character person, given that he made it to the NFL despite growing up in extreme poverty.

So to recap, Brown is athletic, productive, and he's a high character player. A lot to like. He'll have a good chance of starting as a rookie.

Grade: A-.

Eagles trade a 2024 third-round pick for the 105th overall pick (in the fourth round)

Before the start of Day 3 of the draft, there was going to be long wait until the Eagles first pick of the day, in Round 6. And then bam, it was announced that the Eagles had the third pick of the day after a trade with the Texans.

In recent recent years, the Eagles have been able to exploit a league inefficiency in regard to the value of future picks. The rule of thumb is that a pick in the following year's draft has a value of a round lower than the current draft, which in my view is stupid, but whatever. 

Because the Eagles had 12 picks in 2024 (or at least they did heading into this draft), there was a feeling that they might use some of those picks to boost their 2023 draft capital. A week before the draft, I asked Roseman how he balances using future picks to add to draft capital in the current year versus making sure he gets the appropriate value of those future picks.

"I think that the most important thing is the value of the player that you're talking about trading for with the future pick," Roseman said. "By that I mean if we're to be in the third round and we had a first-round grade on a guy, and we came to the conclusion that we would trade a next year [second-round pick], it would be based on the fact of the grade of the player and the caliber of the player.

"Again, not saying that we're going to do that, but I think it's more about every unique situation that you go into and that you look at. There won't be a situation where we'll be sitting there on day three if we kind of stand pat and we just say, ‘Hey, we've got to get a pick this year, so let's go trade our [fourth-round pick] for a [fifth-round pick].

"It'll be based on the value of the board and the value of the positions and the players that are available to us, if that makes sense."

Round 4, pick 105: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia (6'2, 207)

Obviously, the Eagles had a high grade on Ringo if the Eagles were willing to give up some value on a future pick, as noted above. Roseman confirmed.

"Ringo was a guy that stuck out on our board," he said. "He had a really high grade. He was a guy that we were considering at those picks when we picked in the third round."

Personally, I thought Ringo was going to be a late first-round pick, on the basic premise that he's 6'2, 207, he's tough, and he runs a 4.36. But he's not just "a traits guy." He's a good player. He uses his size to his advantage, both in press coverage, on contested catches, and as a tackler. He also has good awareness in zone coverage.

Over the last two seasons, Ringo had 76 tackles, 4 INTs, 15 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. On the downside, while Ringo is gifted with size and athleticism, the knock on him on the field is that he gives up too much separation at times in man coverage. But overall, as a player, there's just no way this guy should have still been available on Day 3. 

He reportedly slid due to character concerns.

It'll be interesting to see if we ever get more specifics on those "character/makeup questions." 

"We felt like this was a 20-year old kid who was a good kid, tremendous physical tools, and we really had an opportunity to develop him," Roseman said. "He doesn't have to come in here and be a superhero. He can learn. We think we have tremendous veterans at that position who can show the way, and he can come in in a role where he's learning, and there's not a lot of pressure on him, and he can develop.

"We believe in the player and in the person. I know there were reports. We watched the draft there in our draft room. We don't have a question about his work ethic. We don't have a question about his medical. For us, it just made some sense. We wanted to get him in the building. We thought getting him in the building and being around Slay and J.B. and Avonte, and obviously we have young guys at that position too that we like. We thought that would benefit us and him. We're excited to add him."

We'll see in time if Ringo's ambiguous "makeup questions" ever amount to anything, but as a player the tools are certainly there, and the Eagles will have plenty of time to groom him for an eventual starting role behind Slay and Bradberry, as noted by Roseman.

Grade (including the trade): B+.

Eagles trade for RB D'Andre Swift

The cost was a 2025 fourth-round pick and a swap of picks in the seventh round of the 2023 draft. The Lions got the Eagles' 219th overall pick, and the Eagles got the Lions' 249th overall pick.

The Lions selected Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round on Thursday, and the writing was on the wall that Swift would be on his way out. The Eagles pounced and struck a deal to bring Swift back to Philly, where he went to high school at St. Joe's Prep. 

When healthy, Swift has been a dynamic back for the Lions, both as a runner and a receiver. His stats as a runner:

 D'Andre Swift RushYards YPC TD 
2020 114 521 4.6 
2021 151 617 4.1 
2022 99 542 5.5 

And as a receiver: 

 D'Andre SwiftRecYards YPC TD 
2020  48 357 7.8 
2021   62  452 7.3 
2022  48 3898.1 

He has a very full highlight reel: 

Swift has the quickness and wiggle to make linebackers and safeties miss at the second level that Miles Sanders did not have over the last couple of seasons. 

"You can definitely see his ability to make people miss in space, and you saw that against our defense last year," Sirianni said. "He had some unbelievable runs against us last year, where you look at each other like man, that guy is hard to tackle. So, he has the ability to make you miss and also accelerate through the hole, which will serve us well in some of the draws that we run and some of the RPOs that we run.

"I don't know exactly how we'll use him perfectly with each individual run, you have to get your hands on him to see that, but also in the passing game, I think he's a dynamic playmaker that's done some things that we've done with guys in the past, with some of the different routes that he runs. But he has a great ability to read defenses out of the backfield, to separate from tight coverage out of the backfield, and has really good hands."

Swift has one year left on his rookie contract, and will count for $1,774,399 on the Eagles' cap in 2023, making him the most expensive running back on the team, lol. The foursome of Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenny Gainwell, and Boston Scott will count for a combined 5,240,640 on the cap in 2023, and collectively they cost a fifth-round pick (Gainwell) and a fourth round pick two years away (Swift).

Grade: B+.

The Eagles traded up

It was a two-for-one with, once again, the Texans.

Eagles got Texans got 
Pick 191 (13 points)Pick 230 (1 point)
 Pick 248 (1 point)
13 points 2 points 

Cool, whatever.

Eagles trade for a future pick

The Eagles then dealt the 191st pick from the Texans to the Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick in 2024. So basically they traded a couple of late seventh-round picks for a fifth-round pick.

Eagles waive DT Marvin Wilson

Poor Big Marv. Probably ordered a pizza and was just watching the draft, and then, "Oh no!"

Round 6, pick 188: Eagles select Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford (6'6, 231)

McKee has a strong arm, but has very limited mobility. In two seasons as Stanford's starting quarterback, McKee completed 63.2 percent of his passes on 7.1 yards per attempt. He threw for 28 TDs and 15 INTs in those two seasons.

In the leadup to the draft, there was some speculation that the Eagles could pick a quarterback, but most assumed it would be one with a similar skill set to that of Jalen Hurts and Marcus Mariota. Instead, they basically went with the complete opposite type of quarterback. A look: 

A scouting report, via Lance Zierlein of NFL Network

Long, tall pocket passer with better arm strength than arm talent as a passer. McKee throws with an unorthodox delivery that becomes even more irregular when he feels rushed. He can make all the NFL throws and delivers a tight spiral with good velocity on intermediate and deep throws to the field side. However, his heavy feet and a lack of agility limit his effectiveness outside of the pocket and make him a magnet for pass rushers when protection becomes spotty. McKee clearly improved his throwing process in 2022, but he might lack the decision-making and functional mobility to make it in today’s NFL.

McKee will likely compete with Ian Book for the Eagles' No. 3 quarterback job in training camp.

"He's intelligent, really knows his offense and made good, quick decisions with the football," Sirianni said. "So, we think he's a great decision-maker, has a big arm, and we think he's accurate. The things you look at with a quarterback, the first couple things that ever come to your mind when evaluating a quarterback are those three things I said and then ability to extend plays. He definitely has those first three things, and we're excited to work with him."

On multiple occasions, Sirianni has noted the four things he looks for in a quarterback, and he usually presents them in the same order:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Decision making
  3. The ability to create (via mobility)
  4. Above the line arm strength (can they at least make every NFL throw)

While Jalen Hurts struggled at times with traits 1 and 2 above, there was always a chance that he could improve in those areas, and obviously he did, drastically. He's now four for four. McKee will never possess trait No. 3 above, which will cap his ceiling, though obviously there have been plenty of quarterbacks who have succeeded without the ability to make plays with their legs.

We'll get a better idea in training camp how accurate McKee looks.

I think the preference for the Eagles would have been to select a quarterback with some running ability, like UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who went 140th overall, or BYU's Jaren Hall, who went 164th overall.

McKee will compete with Ian Book for the QB3 spot in training camp, and if all goes well, he'll win that job. If all goes really well, McKee will show that he is capable of being the No. 2 in 2024 and beyond. However, even in a best case scenario, if McKee has to fill in for Hurts at some point, the Eagles will be throwing out big chunks of their playbook that wouldn't make sense for a quarterback with no running ability.

I don't love the selection of McKee, but the 2020 draft taught me not to grade quarterback picks too harshly.

Grade: C+.

Round 7, pick 249: Eagles select Moro Ojomo, DT, Texas (6'2, 292)

Ojomo is a Nigerian-born prospect who played in 42 games at Texas. In 2022, he had 32 tackles (5 for loss), and 3 sacks. He is thought of as a stout run defender, and like the rest of the Eagles' draft picks this year, he has some athletic traits.

A scouting report, via Lance Zierlein of NFL Network

Naturally powerful defensive lineman caught somewhere between end and tackle. Ojomo is best-suited as a base end but doesn’t really have the get-off quickness to exploit interior blockers as an inside rusher on passing downs. He’s tight in his lower body, and his movements lack fluidity, but he can fight his way through blocks with upper-body power and a will to make it happen. Ojomo plays hard throughout the rep and will find production with his secondary effort, but he might cap out as a solid backup in either an odd or even front.

Some highlights: 

Ojomo was rated a lot higher than his 249th draft slot. Daniel Jeremiah, for example, had Ojomo as his 111th ranked player. Dane Brugler of The Athletic considered him a 4th/5th round prospect.

The Eagles are stacked along their defensive line, but Ojomo should give backups like Marlon Tuipulotu and Kentavius Street legitimate competition for a roster spot. Solid late seventh-round pick.

Grade: B+.

Undrafted free agents

The chart below shows a snapshot of the Eagles' reported signings, and their rankings/grades via Dane Brugler of The Athletic and Lance Zierlein of (H/t to Brandon Gowton for tracking all these UDFA reports down after the draft.)

Player Brugler Zierlein 
Eli Ricks, CB, AlabamaCB30 (6th/7th round) CB23 (5th/6th round)
Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU CB33 (7th round) CB42 (6th/7th round) 
Trevor Reid, OT, Louisville OT27 (PFA) OT27 (7th round/PFA) 
Ben VanSumeren, LB, Michigan State LB32 (PFA) LB39 (PFA) 
Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson WR49 (PFA) WR57 (PFA) 
Jadon Haselwood, WR, Arkansas WR41 (PFA) WR63 (PFA) 
Brady Russell, TE, Colorado TE38 (UDFA) Did not scout 
Ty Zentner, P, Kansas State P18 (UDFA) Did not scout 

We took a look at each of the above prospects individually here, but in my opinion this is a weaker UDFA group that the Eagles have had in other years. That makes sense, given how loaded the roster is. If an undrafted player has little chance of making a stacked team, his agent would be wise to direct him to sign somewhere else.

If there's one quibble, it's that the Eagles didn't find a better linebacker prospect. If there's one kudos to hand out, it's that they are finally giving Arryn Siposs some competition at punter.

Overall grade

In time, we'll see how all of these players pan out (duh), but as far as the process goes, it's hard to argue that Howie Roseman and the Eagles crushed this draft.

  1. They got the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft.
  2. The got an edge rusher worthy of a pick in the top half of the first round at pick 30.
  3. The selections of Steen, Brown, and Ringo are all quality prospects who represented good value where they were drafted, while also filling needs.
  4. They added a veteran (but still very young), dynamic running back for a very low cost.
  5. They still have 10 picks in 2024.
There is no team with a roster more ready for the 2023 season right now than the Eagles.

Grade: A.

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