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May 29, 2022

Mailbag: Our Eagles 'hindsight' draft, and the best steals / worst reaches in the 2022 draft

Eagles NFL
030822MalikWillis Robert McDuffie/USA TODAY Sports

Malik Willis

We haven't had an Eagles chat in a while, but I still had some good questions in my email, as well as from the last time I solicited question on Twitter. So here's a mailbag if you're opposed to enjoying gorgeous weather on Memorial Day weekend.

Question from Barber Mike: I know you didn't like the value of the Cam Jurgens pick in the second round. If the Eagles had drafted Jurgens in the third round and Nakobe Dean in the second round, would you have been critical of their draft?

I would first like to say here that I really liked the Eagles' draft, even if I did quibble a bit on the resource allocation of a center (not an indictment on Jurgens specifically) in the second round. But yes, if the Eagles had taken Dean in the second round and Jurgens in the third, you probably wouldn't have heard a critical peep out of me. I was recently looking at the draft and deciding who I would have taken at each spot if I were the GM, and I landed on this:

Round 1: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia: I had Davis in my final Eagles-only mock draft, and I thought it was perfectly logical to trade up to 13 to go get him the way the first 12 picks played out. I would have done the same thing the Eagles did here.

Round 2: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia: While I thought there was a decent chance Dean could slide into the second round, I did not think he would be available at pick 51. When he was just sitting there at 51 begging to be taken by a team with a linebacker-starved defense, I couldn't believe the Eagles passed on him. Obviously, it all worked out.

Round 3: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty: The Eagles could've groomed Willis behind the scenes as the No. 3 in 2022. In 2023, he would at least be their No. 2 when Gardner Minshew leaves in free agency next offseason, or sooner if they felt comfortable enough with Willis to trade Minshew this season. Willis' high upside would've been more than worth the value of a third round pick. Personally, I think he is a better prospect than Jalen Hurts was when he came out in 2020, and it doesn't make sense to me that he fell to the third round.

Round 6: Jamaree Salyer, iOL, Georgia: Salyer played all five OL spots over the course of his career at Georgia and would have been a cheap replacement for Nate Herbig with some starting upside. I should note that I would not have traded up for Kyron Johnson. I'd have just stuck at pick 188, and kept my seventh-round pick.

Round 6: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson: Ross was a star for Clemson as a true freshman in 2018, when he had 46 catches for 1,000 yards (21.7 YPC) and 9 TDs in route to a National Championship. In the National Championship Game against Alabama, he had 6 catches for 153 yards and a TD. He has good size, and he uses it well, boxing out defenders on in-breaking routes, and winning 50-50 balls down the field and in the red zone. He also shows good hands at times, though he will have occasional concentration drops. 

Normally, Ross would be thought of as a first-round pick. However, he came with significant injury risks. In his sophomore season in 2019, his production fell off some (66-865-8), and in 2020, he missed the entire season with "congenital fusion in his spine," a condition he has had since birth, but only found about after getting x-rays on what was thought to be a stinger. Ross was cleared to play in 2021, but he only had 46 catches for 514 yards (11.2 YPC) and 3 TDs. He was a very difficult player to project, and he ended up going undrafted. But I'd have taken a shot on him.

Round 7: Jeffrey Gunter, SAM, Coastal Carolina: Gunter had 17 sacks the last three seasons, and he had decent testing numbers at the Combine. If you watched Coastal's game against BYU in 2020 "Mullets vs. Mormons," you saw that Gunter (cough) plays with an edge.

While we'll talking about the draft, I have typically listed my biggest steals and reaches of the draft whenever I've released my "Hindsight Draft." So let's do that here, too.

Biggest steals:

  1. Kyle Hamilton (pick 14), S, Ravens
  2. Andrew Booth (pick 42), CB, Vikings
  3. Nakobe Dean (pick 83), LB, Eagles
  4. Malik Willis (pick 86), QB, Titans
  5. Perrion Winfrey (pick 108), DT, Browns
  6. Calvin Austin (pick 138), WR, Steelers
  7. Justyn Ross (UDFA), WR, Chiefs

Biggest reaches:

  1. Travon Walker (pick 1), DL, Jaguars
  2. Drake London (pick 8), WR, Falcons
  3. Tyler Smith (pick 24), OL, Cowboys
  4. Cole Strange (pick 29), OL, Patriots
  5. Tyquan Thornton (pick 50), WR, Patriots
  6. Joshua Ezeudu (pick 67), OG, Giants
  7. Velus Jones (pick 71), WR, Bears

Question from Fritz Gheen: What will Haason Reddick be tasked with specifically? It's a new position for us and I'm not entirely sure all that it entails. How often rushing, in coverage etc. And how often on the field?

First, let's look at the Eagles' notable interior or edge pass rushers who have been in the league at least two years, and how many sacks they have had the last two years:

Haason Reddick 23.5 
Josh Sweat 13.5 
Javon Hargrave 12 
Fletcher Cox 10 
Brandon Graham 
Derek Barnett 7.5 

Based on that, one might conclude that Reddick is the Eagles' best pass rusher. And, well, he probably is. Therefore, at a minimum, I expect Reddick to be rushing the passer on pretty almost all obvious passing downs.

As far as specific tasks, I think we're still trying to guess what the Eagles' defensive scheme will look like in 2022. They added a bunch of players who are good fits for odd-man fronts, so it's likely we'll see an increase on those types of defensive looks. We'll get a better look in training camp.

In Carolina's defense a year ago, Reddick played 852 snaps. 438 (51.4%) of those were rushing the passer, 341 (40.0%) were against the run, and he dropped into coverage on 73 snaps (8.6%), according to PFF. So on passing downs, he rushed the passer 85.7 percent of the time. I think that's a good estimate for his usage in Philly.

A season ago, Genard Avery was the team's top SAM linebacker. Avery's usage in the passing game for the Eagles was a little more of a 50-50 split, as he rushed the passer on 88 snaps, and dropped into coverage on 86 snaps. However, unlike Avery, Reddick is actually, you know, a good pass rusher, so it would be dumb not to primarily use him as such. There's no need to overthink it.

As for how much playing time he'll get, Reddick played 854 out of a possible 1088 snaps for Carolina last season, or 78.5 percent. He's capable of playing a lot of snaps, stamina-wise, but I think 78.5 percent is unlikely in Philly, as the Eagles have better depth than the Panthers, and Reddick may not play as much on short-yardage run downs.

Question from Tony Weiss: Have you ever seen a team trash a player as persistently as the Colts have trashed Carson Wentz? They're still going after him! It's incredible. That man made some serious enemies in that building.

It's funny that even when Jim Irsay isn't specifically talking about Wentz, he's very clearly talking about Wentz.

Question from Tamás: I'm an Eagles fan (duh) and my wife is a Packers fan. Sometimes I wonder if that's a good pairing but I think it is - they haven't both missed the playoffs in forever, they play each other fairly frequently, the fanbases don't hate each other... What do you think is the best couples' rooting interest if one of them is an Eagles fan, and just in general? I guess this is more relevant if you don't live near a franchise (we're from Hungary so we can pick whichever team we want 😊) but it could still be fun.

In recent years, Eagles fans have been spared some bad outcomes in the playoffs by the Packers. By that I mean, the Packers have consistently dispatched of the Eagles' divisional rivals in the playoffs. Since the 2014 season, they have beaten the Cowboys twice, as well as the Commanders and Giants once each. They have often served as the lesser of the evils for spiteful Eagles fans.

Last year the Packers became easier to root against after Aaron Rodgers was purposely deceptive about his vaccination status, and then once his dishonesty was brought to light, he began spreading disinformation about COVID. I know I'm supposed to be a "big J" journalist and whatnot, but I'll admit it was satisfying watching Rodgers be one-and-done in the playoffs last season.

A pairing of two NFC teams just doesn't work for long-term couples rooting interests. While your Packers/Eagles marriage has worked so far, at some point even conference rivals will form bitterness between them, as the Eagles have with many other NFC teams not in the NFC East, such as the Saints, Buccaneers, and others. There are also plenty of fans of other NFC teams not in the NFC East that hate the Eagles, most notably Vikings fans. At some point the Eagles and Packers will butt heads again.

I think it's ideal if one partner is an NFC team fan, and one is an AFC team fan. A season ago, the Titans should have been every Eagles fan's second favorite team, given the stakes for the picks acquired from the Colts for Carson Wentz. The Titans controlled the AFC South from start to finish last season, which helped keep the Colts out of the playoffs, helping the Eagles. They even swept the Colts, and to top it off, they then traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles!

The Patriots are the exception, of course, since they very likely cheated in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. But the cheaters aside, if you're looking for former player or coach attachments, the Jaguars (Doug Pederson), Chiefs (Andy Reid), or Colts (Nick Foles, if he eventually gets to play) make sense as current ideal pairings. 

Question from Killakow: What’s one roster move you would make if you were Howie Roseman and the league announced tomorrow that every team would now be allowed to deploy Multiball for one play per game next season?

What Killakow is referring to here is that there would be two footballs on one play per game, and the offense would get to pick the best result of either ball on the field. I've given this question a lot of thought, as there's a lot to consider. If the league implemented this, every team would have its own separate Multiball playbook. 

I started this exercise by trying to determine the most high-leverage situations where I would even use my once/game Multiball opportunity. I determined that it would be near the end of either half with the ball anywhere between both 40 yard lines. I'd probably be saving it for 3rd or 4th downs. 

Basically, I would be drawing up a lot of plays in which I'm deploying two quarterbacks. I'd be looking to take a deep shot down the field with one ball, while attacking the shorter to intermediate areas of the field with the other, typically on the opposite side of the field from the deep ball where the defensive numbers are compromised, whether that's with designed runs, screen passes, or two-man routes.

If my deep ball is completed, or if I'm able to draw a DPI, great! I've set myself up for a touchdown. If my more conservative ball is the one that I'm keeping, then I'm at least in field goal range, ideally. But the idea here is to make sure I'm using my Multiball in situations in which I'm going to add points that I otherwise likely would not have.

So then the question becomes, what roster move would I make? Well, I'm happy with my quartet of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and Dallas Goedert for these plays, and obviously, my O-line is stacked. I could maybe argue for a quarterback with better arm strength than either Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew for the deep ball, but what's available?

The deep ball / short ball approach is the one that I'd most fear defensively, and I think the safety position is one that would be crucial for defending the Multiball, so I'd be doing everything I can to trade for Jessie Bates.

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