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September 03, 2023

Mailbag: Eagles might have a banger rookie draft class

On the rookies' summers, the trick to drafting a QB, and more.

Eagles NFL
090223JalenCarter Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles DT Jalen Carter (98)

A few days ago, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter or whatever it's called now. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part II of a two-part mailbag (Part I here). Let's just get right to it.

Question from @sunset_shazz: Every year fans get irrationally exuberant about rookies. You see them up close every year and thus can be more objective. Doesn’t it seem like this year was a banger? Other than Kelee Ringo (who just turned 21), everybody seems to be on a nice trajectory.

We reviewed each of the rookies' summers a week ago, and yes, I would agree that six of the seven rookie draft picks would get "stock up" grades, with Ringo being the only rookie pick who didn't perform up to expectations relative to his draft slot. 

Jalen Carter was the No. 9 overall pick and Nolan Smith was also taken in the first round, so their play was under the microscope, and they pretty clearly lived up to expectations and perhaps then some. Meanwhile, Tyler Steen looks like he'll be in the league for a long time, Sydney Brown showed intriguing traits, Tanner McKee was impressive in the preseason games, and Moro Ojomo was consistently disruptive.

I took a look back at the Eagles' draft classes going back to 2013, which was the first season I covered the team full-time, and in my opinion there wasn't a draft class that had as good a summer collectively as the 2023 class.

Question from @KingpinLionO: With the falling out of Trey Lance and the uncertainty of Anthony Richardson, what is the chance teams start to take more experienced quarterbacks in the draft? Is the balancing act of talent and high experience the most sought out thing right now? 

Bill Parcells used to have rules for drafting a quarterback, which prioritized experience:

  1. Be a three-year starter
  2. Be a senior in college
  3. Graduate from college
  4. Start 30 games
  5. Win 23 games
  6. Post a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio
  7. Complete at least 60% of passes thrown

Guys like Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, and Dak Prescott fit the above criteria.

Guys like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford, on the other hand, did not check many of the boxes above.

The reality is that in the NFL if don't have a good quarterback you have little to no chance to compete for a Super Bowl, so you better get one. And if you're a GM hellbent on limiting the pool of quarterbacks you draft to those who are (a) awesome and (b) have a lot of college experience, there's a good chance you're going to be waiting around for a long time until the perfect situation falls into your lap.

Lance is an extreme example, in that he only had 318 career college pass attempts. You may see teams be more cautious about spending premium draft capital on quarterbacks that raw. But generally speaking, no, in non-extreme cases I don't think you'll see teams shy away much from quarterbacks who don't have ideal experience.

Question from @Boston__Sucks: More sacks: Haason Reddick or the Georgia players combined?

Ooh, that's a good one. So it's Reddick vs. Carter, Jordan Davis, Nolan Smith, Nakobe Dean, and Kelee Ringo.

I think Reddick has double-digit sacks in him again this season, but his thumb injury concerns me a bit. Give me the five Georgia guys.

Question from RHamberger14: Who’s the more underrated superstar nationally - Josh Sweat or Dallas Goedert?

Broken record alert: I think Lane Johnson is arguably the most underrated player in the NFL, so he tops any "underrated" list for me. As for Sweat vs. Goedert, it's probably Goedert. Sweat made the Pro Bowl in 2021 when he probably didn't deserve to, while Goedert is often left off of "top 5 tight end" lists.

Question from @JulieChovanes: Do you see any NFC team even close to the Birds? Who is your NFC sleeper if there is such a thing?

I think the Eagles very clearly have the best roster in the NFC, and there's a pretty good argument to be made that it's the best in the NFL. The Cowboys and 49ers both have their share of star players, but I also think that they each have some obvious glaring holes at some important positions. The first NFC Hierarchy of the season will be published tomorrow morning, and spoiler, the Eagles will be in the No. 1 spot.

As for potential "sleepers," I like the Seahawks to give the Niners a legitimate challenge in the NFC West.

Question from @LocalPalaceMan: Better set of 1-2 corners - Dallas or Philly?

Darius Slay and James Bradberry are a formidable duo, but the back half of Slay's 2022 season was concerning. I would probably take Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore over them.

Question from @IrishIggles: What do you envision Albert Okwuegbunam's role being?

He'll very likely be a gameday inactive initially who will become the No. 3 TE if Goedert, Jack Stoll, or Grant Calcaterra go down. If he's consistently stacking days in practice and earns the right to play on gameday, then he could in theory leapfrog Stoll and/or Calcaterra, but I wouldn't have high expectations.

Question from @phillyphan036: In honor of the Eagles' new tight end, give me your power rankings of top 5 or 10 Eagles players all time with the hardest names to spell or pronounce.

I don't think I have a top five, because I can learn the weird names pretty quickly. I have Okwuegbunam down pat already. Halapoulivaati Vaitai... no problem. Olamide Zaccheaus.. child's play. It's the players with names that can be spelled a number of different ways that give me trouble. Anyone named Shepherd / Sheppard / Shepard are a problem, and then guys like DeVonta Smith make the spelling of players' names like Davante Adams more difficult to remember.

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