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April 12, 2022

The Eagles need to draft players from the SEC

Eagles NFL
032022JordanDavis Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Georgia DT Jordan Davis

I've seen enough draft blunders to last a lifetime. The Eagles, like every NFL franchise, make mistakes in the draft, but it feels even more magnified as of late with several high-profile whiffs.

These names have become infamous to Eagles fans. Andre Dillard. JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Jalen Reagor. Though it's not a shot at who these dudes are as people, it's unmistakable that they have simply not panned out in the pros and it makes the Birds' decision to draft them downright infuriating.

The mental gymnastics that Eagles fans and draftniks did with these picks are hilarious (and sad) in retrospect. Reagor's numbers at TCU weren't eye popping. "His quarterback is bad" was the reasoning for that. Maybe that was true (what poor kid got thrown under the bus for Reagor not being legit?), but if a dude is getting drafted in the first round and playing against Big 12 defenses, his pure athleticism and skill should be enough to overcome any QB deficiencies.

As has been made clear by Reagor's play in his two pro seasons, I'm not quite sure all the blame falls on that TCU quarterback.

There's the case of Arcega-Whiteside too, a 2019 second-round selection for the Birds. JJAW was billed as a"contest-catch" specialist akin to Alshon Jeffery. Any wideout who's given props for his ability to "get up and get it" is now a major red flag for me. What I know think of when I hear talk of guys being jump-ball threats is that they can't get separation at the college level, which means they will get even less separation at the pros.

Again, that line of thinking for a player going against Pac 12 defenses is eye roll worthy three years later.

Another Pac 12 name drafted in 2019 was Dillard. I can't speak to Dillard's mentality or who he is in the locker room, but the buzz about his makeup was concerning almost immediately once he came to Philly. That's to say nothing of what he's done (or, more, accurately, what he hasn't done) on the field. Trying to slow down Everson Griffen is a lot harder than whatever Dillard was doing at Washington State. Who could've foreseen that happening?

What I'm ultimately getting at is that the Eagles don't need to overthink things. Just draft players from the SEC. Really. That's it. Do that and the team's hit rate in the draft will improve exponentially. Look no further than what the Eagles did in 2021: Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson, the franchise's first two picks in last year's draft, were studs as rookies. Two guys who played at the premier collegiate program in the whole sport and played against the toughest competition in the country are good NFL players. Shocker!

Look at Jalen Hurts. Sure, he might not be the Eagles' franchise signal-caller for the next half-dozen years, but to get a winning record and playoff appearance with a second-round QB is a pretty dang good return. He battled at 'Bama! It's no surprise he has the guts for this.

The Eagles, despite that entertaining playoff run in 2021, have holes kind of everywhere other than most of the spots on the offensive line. They can (and should) go after any position where talent can be added. They should triple-check their scouting reports if it's not a guy from the SEC though.

Armed with two first-round picks, there are an ample amount of star-caliber SEC players the Eagles could grab. Georgia had the best defense I've ever seen in my two-plus decades watching college football. I expect those defenders to be good at the next level to say the least. Need wideouts? Alabama can't stop producing talent there. A draft where the Eagles come away with Jameson Williams and Jordan Davis after Day 1 is the equivalent of Howie Roseman smashing a grand slam onto Pattison Avenue.

The draft is obviously an inexact science. Selecting a player from the SEC could result in, say, Derek Barnett ending up in midnight green. I'm okay with that though. Barnett was uber-productive at Tennessee, played against great competition and was young for his class. It was good process even if Barnett hasn't quite turned out the way the Birds envisioned.

Williams. Davis. Derek Stingley Jr. Nakobe Dean. Lewis Cine. Kaiir Elam. Treylon Burks. Demarvin Leal. Quay Walker. Dameon Pierce. Take a few of those guys on the first two days of the draft and the Birds' prospects going forward will be soaring high.

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