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August 26, 2019

Mailbag: An early look at the Eagles' biggest draft needs in 2020, and more

In our Eagles chat on 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.

Question from Taco J: Could you make a list of 2020 draft needs, based on what we know now. I know that sounds super early, but I think it could be nice to see what changes during (and after) the season.

I would rank them like this:

1) Defensive end: This remains unchanged from a year ago. Derek Barnett is the only young edge rusher on the team you can feel good about as a long-term answer. Barnett aside, there are already concerns about depth at DE this year, and Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry will both be 32 next year. Even if some of the younger guys prove to be consistently productive in 2019, which isn't super likely in my opinion, the Eagles still need to continue filling the pipeline with edge rusher talent.

2) Safety: This one is pretty straightforward. Rodney McLeod is a free agent in 2020, and Malcolm Jenkins is entering his 11th season in the NFL in 2019. Jenkins is under contract for the 2020 season, but he is obviously not happy with his deal, and certainly won't be next year either if nothing gets done between now and next offseason. I would say that safety is potentially a more dire need than defensive end, but I'll put defensive end first because of the importance of the position.

3) Cornerback: Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Cre'Von LeBlanc are all set to become free agents during the 2020 offseason. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones (sort of - he'll likely be a restricted free agent, but that's a little too much to explain here) will be free agents in 2021.

4) Wide receiver: Yes, the Eagles are loaded at receiver right now, but they may not be during the 2020 offseason. Nelson Agholor is more likely to leave in free agency than he is to stay, in my opinion, and then there's the matter of Alshon Jeffery's contract situation, as his cap number will be $15,975,000 in 2020. Absent a very productive season in 2019, Jeffery could be asked to re-do his deal, or potentially be moved. And then there's DeSean Jackson, who will turn 33 in December. Adding J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft was smart, and they'll need to continue to add more young talent at wide receiver.

5) Center/iOL: Jason Kelce has pondered retirement in the past, and the Eagles don't have a backup center developing behind the scenes to take over whenever Kelce calls it a career. The Eagles maybe view Isaac Seumalo as a potential heir-apparent at center, but they'll still need interior offensive line help anyway, and ideally that guy could also play center.

Question from Papale86: Is there a role on offense this year for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, besides as an injury replacement? He looked great against Baltimore.

As the roster currently stands, the Eagles are loaded with offensive talent at wide receiver and tight end, obviously, which will make it difficult for J.J. to get on the field a lot. That said, I do think there's a role for him. He has impressed as a route runner, a blocker, and his reputation coming out of Stanford was that he had great hands (which he also showed in camp). 

I think an obvious place where he can contribute is in the red zone, because of his blocking and contested catch ability, but I also think they'll try to sprinkle him in sporadically throughout the game. It's unlikely to me that DeSean Jackson is going to play close to 100 percent of the snaps. His snap count sweet spot might be around 70 percent at his age, and size. J.J. and Nelson Agholor could perhaps divvy up those extra snaps, depending on the situation.

Question from 89tremaine: I don't understand why some have complained about the relative lack of draft picks over the past two years. This year there is a fourth- and a fifth-round pick that are unlikely to make the team and the Eagles only had 5 picks. If they had more (other than the Tate trade), it's unlikely they would have made the team as well. Thoughts?

As we noted in out draft grades way back in April, the Eagles are tied with the Titans for the lowest number of picks made over the last two years:

Team 2018 2019 TOTAL 
Bengals 11 10 21 
 Colts11 10 21 
 Ravens12 20 
 Vikings12 20 
 Seahawks11 20 
 Packers11 19 
 Rams11 19 
 Patriots10 19 
 Washington10 18 
 Cardinals11 17 
 Broncos10 16 
 Giants10 16 
 Eagles5 5 10 

While I don't think that's going to hurt them much right now on a Super Bowl-contending team loaded with quality veteran players, it is a trend that cannot continue for long. Drafted players are extremely cheap when they are on their rookie contracts for four years, and are typically essential to building a deep roster.

In August, ESPN ranked teams around the league by their under 25 talent, and the Eagles were dead last. While I'm not sure I'd agree with that ranking, I would certainly agree that don't have youth in volume.

For now, while they are Super Bowl contenders, it's fine. In a few years, it may not be.

Question from thomasnumbafive: What are your thoughts on the Bruce Hector for Rudy Ford trade?

To begin, the Eagles will be losing a player in Hector that they didn't need. Hector had a nice camp in 2018 as a UDFA and made the team, but he got leap-frogged by guys like Treyvon Hester (last year) and Hassan Ridgeway this year. At best, he was the team's sixth DT, and little more than a practice squad player on a team that is loaded at defensive tackle.

As for Ford, did I watch all of his special teams tackles, you may ask? Sadly, yes, I did. Obviously, those are all going to be positive plays, but I liked what I saw. He was typically one of the first guys down the field on kick coverage, and he not only beat jams as a gunner, but he also put distance between himself and the jammer when he got free and was able to sprint down the field after the returner. He may make the team as a specialist on teams.

Question from Guido Merkens: How many games is Kamu expected to miss? Will he possibly go on IR?

He has a Grade 3 MCL sprain, which is a 6-8 week injury, per Dr. David Chao: 

That injury occurred on August 3, so he's three weeks into the healing process already. He'll be five weeks healed for the home opener Week 1. If they were to IR him with a designation to return, he wouldn't be available until Week 9, so no, he'll just stay on the roster until he's ready to play. If the timeline above for recovery is correct, that will likely be anywhere between Week 3 and and Week 5.

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