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May 04, 2020

Mailbag: The 2020 Eagles 'hindsight' draft

Eagles NFL
042320JustinJefferson Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports

Justin Jefferson

In our Eagles chat last Friday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Mike: Who would you have taken at 53 instead of Jalen Hurts?

I'll do you one better than that. I'll give you my full "hindsight draft," AKA who I would have taken at each spot where the Eagles picked.

21: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU: Jalen Reagor is a better fit for what the Eagles need immediately, but I thought that Jefferson was the better player.

53: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa: Epenesa wouldn’t fit the Eagles’ athleticism theme of this draft, but he is a very skilled, powerful, productive edge rusher who would’ve gotten significant snaps in his rookie season on the second line opposite Josh Sweat.

Note: Apparently the Eagles would have taken either Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins or Southern Illinois S Jeremy Chinn.

103: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State: You’re probably not losing a whole lot of athleticism going from Davion Taylor to Davis-Gaither, but in Davis-Gaither you’re getting a more seasoned coverage linebacker who actually made a lot of plays instead of merely showing the potential to make them.

127: K'Von Wallace, S, Clemson: I loved the Wallace pick, and wouldn’t change it.

145: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia: Hall no doubt fell because of medical concerns (his 2019 season was cut short), but his ball production (21 PBUs) was outstanding in 2018. This is a gamble I’d have been willing to make on a bigger corner (6’1, 200) who has the same good traits that Rasul Douglas had (size, ball skills, physicality), but with better long speed.

• Also, I would have still done the deal with the Cowboys, in which the Eagles moved back 20 spots and picked up an extra fifth round pick. I couldn't care less if they drafted Tyler Biadasz, if I'm the Eagles. 

168: Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah: The way that I conducted this exercise was to go one pick at a time and select each player, trying to block out and/or ignore how the rest of the draft played out. With Anae on the board this late, it would have been easy to go back and take someone other than Epenesa in Round 2, but obviously, that would be cheating. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to plan to double up on defensive ends in this draft, but Anae (30 sacks the last 3 seasons) would have been too good a value for me to pass up in the fifth round.

196: Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss: I like Watkins more than John Hightower, and thought both guys would be available here.

200: Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State: Hodgins is a big receiver who catches everything. I’d like him as a guy who can put pressure on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at the X spot.

210: Prince Tega Wonogho, OT, Auburn: Loved this gamble by the Eagles, and wouldn’t change it. 

233: Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU: Sullivan played wide receiver and tight end at LSU, and I like him as a much higher ceiling version of Josh Perkins.

Question from Doug Pederson's water bottle: Which WR do you think is the most likely to play in the slot next year? Do they like Ward that much?

There are different ways that can be analyzed, in terms of fitting skill set to position. By that I mean the top receiver who fits the typical "X" position traits who will definitely be on the 2020 roster is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but the Eagles obviously shouldn't just hand him a starting job. The top "Z" receivers are DeSean Jackson and Jalen Reagor, but Reagor isn't just going to be a backup to Jackson if he shows he can play, and Jackson sure as hell isn't riding the bench if he's healthy.

Ultimately, I think they'll put the best three receivers on the field. As such, I think the camp battle to watch in that sense is Arcega-Whiteside vs. Ward. If Arcega-Whiteside earns a starting role, then maybe it looks like this:

X: Arcega-Whiteside
Z: Jackson
Slot: Reagor

If Arcega-Whiteside disappoints...

X: Reagor
Z: Jackson
Slot: Ward

Of course, the above assumes that one of the other receivers on the roster doesn't have some sort of monster camp and surprisingly earns a starting role, which I guess is possible.

Question from Tony: What are your thoughts on Sidney Jones's performance last year? Can he compete for the #2 CB spot?

Sure, if Jones clearly outplays Avonte Maddox in camp, then I do believe he can earn that job. However, he has an uphill climb. In the playoff game against Seattle, Jim Schwartz was more comfortable with a lineup that consisted of Jalen Mills, Maddox, and Cre'Von LeBlanc over any lineup that included Jones or Rasul Douglas. Jones and Douglas didn't see a single defensive snap in that game. That's telling.

I think the two late-game plays that Jones made against the Giants and Cowboys were encouraging last year, but his challenge will be to stay healthy and consistently make those kinds of plays. He has to change Schwartz's mind about him.

Question from Kephas: The Eagles picked up Derek Barnett's fifth year option. Do you think he ends up signing a second contract with the Eagles?

Ooooh, this one is going to fire up the comment section, but yes, I think they'll look to get something done with him next offseason, assuming he stays healthy and has an uptick in production.

Question from Jalen Megahertz: Hurts seems to be different from what the Eagles seem to have targeted for QBs. He's smaller than Wentz, Sudsy, Clayfoot Thorhead, most of the guys you predicted they might be interested in. Any significance?

Yep, just when you think you have their "type" pegged, sometimes you don't. The Eagles mostly stayed consistent with the types of players they picked at other spots, like linebacker (smaller, athletic guys), mid-round offensive linemen (athleticism/versatility), the safety they drafted could also double as a slot corner, etc. 

But Hurts, at 6'1, is something of a departure from the taller quarterbacks they seem to target, though it's worth noting that he isn't a small guy. He's pretty well put together at 222 pounds.

Question from Nick S.: What's your read on why Lamb fell so far, relative to public perception? Did teams see something worrying that we all missed?

I wondered the same. In my view, he was the best receiver in this class, but the NFL obviously felt differently, since he was the third receiver taken.

Every year, longtime Packers reporter Bob McGinn (now with The Athletic) has some pretty in-depth scouting reports on most of the big name prospects. The scouts quoted within tend to be very snobby about their analyses, nitpicking the crap out of each player. Lamb was the top prospect in McGinn's wide receiver group, and yet, you can see plenty of nitpicks in the second half of McGinn's entry on him:

Compared by one scout to Chad Johnson. “You throw the ball up, he’s coming down with it,” said one scout. “He’s got courage. He has better feet than (Justin) Jefferson. I had no idea he could run as good as he did. He’s a great kid on top of it. He’s a no-brainer.” A third-year junior from Richmond, Texas, he “catches the crap out of the ball,” according to another scout. “Great hands. He runs 4.48, which is way fast enough. He runs really good routes. He can go against press and off.” Finished with 173 receptions for 3,292 yards (19.0 average) and 32 touchdowns. “Just a competitive and strong guy,” said a third scout. “Almost an Anquan Boldin-type of receiver. I don’t think he’s a superstar. Lamb kind of maximizes what he has.” Jumps were pedestrian: vertical (34 ½ inches, 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump). So was the bench press (11 reps). “They scheme him up a lot,” said a fourth scout. “Bubble passes. He comes flying around in motion and catches it. It’s like watching the CFL. If you think you’re just going to line him up as a classic X or Z and he’s going to run a full route tree, no. He’s a work in progress, too.” Scored 12 on the 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test. “He’s wildly overrated,” said a fifth scout. “I don’t see an overwhelming trait. A lot of people point to his run after the catch, but I think you have to evaluate the guys trying to tackle him. He’s playing against some really bad Big 12 defenses. You’re just not going up against NFL people in that league. I’m just not a big believer in his skill set transitioning.”

The other scuttlebutt about Lamb is that he has a minor medical flag, which makes some sense, since he missed a game during the regular season in a huge game against Baylor that was non-specifically categorized as a "medical issue. " He also apparently likes to party.

The following excerpt from the Senior Bowl is from Walter Football, but Charley Campbell does nice job, and I certainly believe a scout told him this:

Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is known to be a good kid, according to NFL scouts and to sources around the Sooners program. They all say he is a really nice person and a good teammate. With that being said, Lamb has developed the reputation for being a huge partier, and team sources feel that is going to be a challenge for him in maintaining focus depending on where he goes.

"[Lamb] definitely shouldn't go to a place like Miami, or Tampa Bay. That could be Michael Clayton all over again," said one scout. "I'll put it to you this way. He would be awesome in Green Bay."

Lamb is probably going to get hit with a lot of questions about this during the combine and pre-draft interviews. Teams like him as a person, but depending on which team drafts him, it may want a plan in place to keep him focused on not partying too much in his down time.

Dallas isn't Miami or Tampa, but the Cowboys have certainly had their problems with players who like to party.

Again, I believe Lamb is the best receiver in this class, and whatever nitpicks there were about him didn't dissuade the Eagles from trying to trade up for him, unsuccessfully. I think when we look back in 10 years he'll be the most productive of the bunch. In other words, I'm just trying to answer the question posed here on why he may have fallen.

Question from RKotite: What's the plan at LB this year? Not that I don't like the LB draftees, but neither feels like they'll be a starter on D (or major contributor) this year. Heck the Temple kid might not even make the team. Is there a FA or someone likely to get cut the Eagles should have their eye on?

They could still add someone, but for better or worse, I think they like Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. 😬

Actually, as long as we're on the LB topic, I'm debating between looking at T.J. Edwards or Darius Slay next in the "Eagles new player (or upgraded role) series." Who would you prefer?

Next "Eagles new player (or upgraded role) series" profile

Question from Chris: If there even is a training camp, who is your early favorite for the infamous Na Brown award?

UCF RB Adrian Killins. Speed guy. He should look great before they put the pads on.

Comment from Micky: Maybe the Eagles have some concerns about Andre Dillard, but if they were really concerned would they not have addressed it in the draft, free agency, or brought JP back by no? The lack of action tells me this is an exaggerated offseason story.

OK so let's assume the stupid media and their fake news is just trying to exaggerate a story and be jerks to a nice kid for no good reason. 

Even if that's the case, the Eagles did draft two offensive tackles, and JP is still available, right? Also, the Eagles have had opportunity after opportunity to definitively say that Dillard is their starting left tackle, and they haven't done it, all while consistently keeping the door open for a Peters return. Their actions say that they have concerns about him.


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