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April 28, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles 2020 draft grades

In each of the last two years, the Philadelphia Eagles only made 5 picks in the draft. In the 2020 NFL Draft, they made 10, and they left us with plenty to talk about. Normally we'd have grades up pretty quickly after the draft, but this year required extra digesting.

Round 1 (21st overall): Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (5'11, 206)

In 2019, Carson Wentz faced a burden that other quarterbacks around the league didn't. Once DeSean Jackson went down, the Eagles were left with next to nothing in the way of a deep threat, and their offense was forced to execute long, difficult drives that left Wentz with little margin for error. Any mistake, whether it be a penalty, a missed block, a drop, or the occasional errant throw, typically killed drives.

The onus was on Wentz to make play after play after play on each individual drive to slowly matriculate the ball down the field like it was 1960's football. It was an unsustainable way of playing offense in today's NFL, and once Wentz was knocked out of the playoff game against the Seahawks on a cheap shot, they were cooked.

Reagor is a player who can take pressure off of Wentz to put points on the board. He'll add a home run element, and should loosen up opposing secondaries, opening up the short to intermediate zones for guys like Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Miles Sanders, while also taking some pressure off of Wentz to be perfect. 

Reagor fits their biggest offensive need, by far, and he should also immediately contribute on special teams as a kick returner and punt returner. A look:

Reagor's fit with the Eagles is easy, as noted above. The next question is, "Was he worth the 21st overall pick?

There are two main reasons some believe he was not. To begin, his production wasn't on the same level as many of the other receivers in this class, though many have attributed that to TCU's poor quarterback play.

Jalen Reagor Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201733 576 17.5 
 201872 1061 14.7 
 201943 611 14.2 

Compare Reagor's numbers to a guy like Justin Jefferson's, for example, and it's not even close. In 2019, Jefferson had 111 catches for 1540 yards and 18 TD. He was as productive in one season as Reagor was over the last two.

However, Jefferson was a different kind of receiver. At the pro level, he'll be a guy who runs great routes against man and zone, working a lot out of the slot, and he'll be a high-volume target for his quarterback. The Eagles could use that as well, but they really lacked the speed element. Personally, I think Jefferson is the better player, but Reagor is the better immediate fit. (I'd have taken Jefferson.)

The other significant negative is that Reagor is prone to dropping the football, a common theme for many an Eagles receiver. Some statistical sites have Reagor with a very concerning drop rate as high as 16.4 percent. While he offsets those drops with some highlight reel catches that he shouldn't reasonably be expected to make, that drop rate must improve drastically in the pros.

Conclusion: The Eagles badly needed a receiver who can make plays, and they painted themselves into a corner to some degree by not signing a wide receiver in free agency. The first round unfolded favorably for them, as they had their choice of Jefferson and Reagor, choosing the latter.

It'll be fun to compare those two players' careers as they evolve, but it's hard to find much fault with taking a player who can take some pressure off of Wentz by making a few plays on his own.

Grade: B 

MORE: NFL Draft Roundup: Was Reagor the right pick? | What they're saying: Did the Eagles reach for Jalen Reagor? | Highlights, scouting reports and more for Eagles first-round pick Jalen Reagor

Round 2 (53rd overall): Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (6'1, 222)

When Jalen Hurts' name flashed across the screen as the Eagles' second-round pick, the near-unanimous reaction was something close to, "What the ****?"

It wasn't because Hurts isn't worthy of a second round pick. For example, I had him going to the Steelers with the 49th overall pick in our second-round mock draft. The player is fine. The fit is odd, to put it mildly.

Teams that draft second round quarterbacks do so because they either missed on one in the first round, or they have an aging and/or declining vet at quarterback, and they want to begin grooming one for the future. You know, kind of like what I had with the Steelers taking Hurts in my Round 2 mock noted above.

A team like the Eagles, with a 27-year-old quarterback who is easily one of the 5-10 best players in the league at his position, who the team just signed to a massive contract extension, is not at all a prime candidate for a quarterback that early in the draft.

As such, a whole lot of mental gymnastics have gone into figuring out why the Eagles would make this pick. Some of the more common theories:

The Eagles can flip Hurts for a better pick down the road if he pans out. Or, you know, they could have just taken a player with their already high pick in a loaded draft, and saved themselves the time and effort.

He's more than just a quarterback. He's going to play some sort of role similar to Taysom Hill in New Orleans. Except that doesn't make sense. To begin, Hurts is a good athlete (so is Wentz, by the way), but he's not a running back, or a receiver. To train him as either would take away from the time he needs to develop as, you know, a quarterback. And sure, maybe as a running back, there's no real learning curve, but he's not going to be putting his head down and crashing into linebackers. He's not going to be better in that role than the running backs or receivers already on the team. It's just an absurd notion, in my view.

And then there are the ridiculous projections. Adam Schefter, for example, suggested that the COVID-19 outbreak might make backup quarterbacks more valuable, should the starter get infected, lol. Even more absurd have been some of the emails I've received, most notably one that suggested that Wentz maybe informed the team that he wants to take a year off to be with his child. It's times like these I'm thankful that I'm a writer, and not a WIP radio host.

To me, Hurts' role with the Eagles going forward is simple. He's the backup quarterback, and depending on how much time the Eagles will have this offseason in training camp and other offseason workout activities, he might not even be that in his rookie season. There's a realistic scenario in which Nate Sudfeld will be the No. 2, and Hurts will be inactive on game day. Think that's crazy? We'll see as this summer plays.

The only good argument for the Hurts selection is that backup quarterbacks are important. Consider the Eagles' team history:

2019: Wentz takes a cheap shot in the playoffs, goes out of the game, can't return, and I know we're not allowed to say bad things about Josh McCown, but he was bad in that game and easily the biggest reason they lost.

2018: Wentz goes down with a back injury, and Nick Foles leads the Eagles past the Bears in a playoff win, then fizzles the following week.

2017: Duh.

The McNabb years: In years that McNabb got hurt, some years they were prepared with a good backup and had success (Jeff Garcia, for example), and other years they folded faster than Superman on laundry day (Mike McMahon).

And then if you look around the league, you see a few teams each year that maybe wouldn't have had their season wrecked had they been prepared with a good backup. Take the Jets, for example. With Sam Darnold, they were 7-6. Without him, they were 0-3 with a -61 point differential. Adam Gase looked like one of his parents just died when he had to announce that Darnold had mono.

Or look at the Steelers. They went 8-8 with Mason Rudolph and that sucky duck hunter dude. Give them a legitimate backup, and they're in the playoffs with a chance to do some damage. On the positive side, the Titans were prepared with a good backup, and they damn well almost made it to the Super Bowl.

But ultimately, the backup quarterback spot is one in which there really aren't many best case scenarios. The only way they'll be worth the investment is if something bad happens to the starting quarterback, whether that be poor performance or injury. As such, the Eagles didn't have a good answer when presented with a question about what the upside of this pick is.

Even if Hurts is good (which certainly isn't a given), and he gets an opportunity to play, success on the field could lead to division and distractions off of it, as some players may favor Wentz, while others may favor Hurts. It's a Pandora's box that the Eagles might ultimately wished had never been opened. And again, that's only in a situation in which Hurts is good.

Conclusion: I do wonder if there's some kind of mathematical formula that factors in Wentz's injury history, the importance of the position, and the expected number of games won or lost based on the projected number of snaps a backup has to play over the course of a season. If so, there's maybe an argument that a backup like Hurts is a sensible pick.

What can never be factored in, however, is emotion. Sure, the team spoke with Wentz before making this pick, but is he happy about it privately? Will Hurts be happy being a backup behind a 27-year-old franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future? And again, how will teammates react if Hurts is forced into action, and he raises doubt over who the better option is?

In my view, the upside of this pick has limits, but the downside could be really bad.

Grade: D 

MORE: Highlights, scouting reports and more for Jalen Hurts

Round 3 (103rd overall): Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado (6'0, 228)

Taylor hasn't played much football, as religious beliefs kept him off the field until his mother finally allowed him to play in college. As such, he's a project, though he is one with very good athletic measurables.

He fits the Eagles' type of linebacker, as he has similar size/athleticism traits as guys like Kamu Grugier-Hill, Duke Riley, and Jatavis Brown. A quick highlight reel:

At a minimum, Taylor should be an immediate special teams contributor, with a chance to grow as a player in the regular defense over time. He's an intriguing prospect, but the third round felt early for him, given his lack of experience playing football. 

 Davion TaylorTackles (TFL) Sacks INT FF-FR 
 201857 (10) 0-2 
 201972 (8) 0-1 

As you can see, in his career at Colorado, he didn't have a single INT or FF.

It's worth noting that two picks after Taylor was taken, the Saints traded four picks for pick No. 105. I guess Sean Payton just wanted to take Day 3 off? Anyway, the cost for that pick was a 4 (130 overall), a 5 (169 overall), a 6 (203 overall), and a 7 (244 overall). Roseman confirmed in a conference call that the Eagles had the same offer.

That seems like a nice haul, but it would have been a loss on the draft value chart:

 Eagles' pickSaints' picks 
 Pick 103 (88 points)Pick 130 (42 points) 
  Pick 169 (22.6 points)
  Pick 203 (9 points)
  Pick 244 (1 point)
 TOTAL: 88 pointsTOTAL: 74.6 points 

I don't blame the Eagles for not doing that deal, but I do wonder if Taylor would have been there at pick No. 130, in which case the Eagles would have gotten their guy, plus three free picks.

Conclusion: Taylor is a high upside play, which is fine, but it's at a position where the Eagles could've used an immediate contributor.

Grade: C+

Round 4 (127th overall): K'Von Wallace, S, Clemson (5'11, 206)

Wallace has some of the "positionless" qualities the Eagles are striving for in their secondary, in that he played safety and slot corner for Clemson. He had a productive 2019, making 72 tackles, with 2 sacks, 2 INT, and 10 pass breakups. 

He's an aggressive, heady player who would make sense in a Malcolm Jenkins-like role. In the short term, he's an out-of-the-box special teamer who could complete for No. 3 safety / big nickel / dime LB snaps. In the long term, he has starting potential. A look:

Prior to the draft, on paper, the Eagles' safety spot didn't look very inspiring. Rodney McLeod is coming off a bad season, but the team hopes that being another year removed from an ACL tear will yield better results. Opposite McLeod is Jalen Mills, who will be sliding into Jenkins' old role as a do-everything guy. That's a lot easier said than done.

The team did add a young safety in Will Parks to the group, instead of opting for an old head in the mold of Andrew Sendejo or Corey Graham. And then there's Rudy Ford and Marcus Epps, who both stunk in their first year with the team in 2019.

Wallace comes from a program that played in more than their share of huge games, and he should compete for playing time Year 1.

Conclusion: This was a great pick that combined value, positional need, and scheme fit. It wouldn't stun me if Wallace started at some point this season.

Grade: A-

MORE: Highlights, scouting reports and more for safety K'Von Wallace

Round 4 (145th overall): Jack Driscoll, OL, Auburn (6'5, 306)

Driscoll is an athletic lineman, with guard-tackle versatility, who may also work out at center for the Eagles. As you can see, he can move, but the common sentiment in scouting reports is that he doesn't move defensive linemen, and he'll need to add some strength at the next level.

The Eagles needed depth at tackle and guard, so it certainly makes sense to add one who can do both.

Conclusion: I hadn't (and still haven't) studied Driscoll yet, but the Eagles have done a great job over the last decade finding offensive linemen, so we'll defer to their success there.

Grade: B

Round 4 (146th overall): Trade

The Eagles traded out of this spot, moving back to pick No. 164, and landing a 2021 fifth-round pick in the process. That is good value.

However, the team that traded up was the Cowboys, who selected Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz with that pick, prompting many an Eagles fan to scream, "THE EAGLES JUST GAVE THEM A STARTING CENTER!!!"

It's a sentiment that surprises me. We all agree that's good value, right? Like, if, saaaayyyy, the Colts traded up with the Eagles, and the Eagles got the same deal, you'd be happy with this trade, right?

So what does it matter if the trade was with a divisional rival? If the trade helps you, and you think you're getting the better end of the deal, it's all the more reason to trade with a rival. Hell, if you don't trade back with them, someone probably would have.

So, relax. It's the 146th pick. He's obviously not a prized prospect.

Round 5 (164th overall): Trade

At the 164th overall pick, the Eagles traded back again, this time just nine spots to pick No. 173, picking up a seventh round pick (227) from Miami in the process. Fine.

Round 5 (166th overall): John Hightower, WR, Boise State (6'1, 189)

Hightower was a JUCO transfer with only two years of experience at the D1 level. His numbers:

John Hightower Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201831 504 16.3 
 201951 943 18.5 

As you can see, Hightower has a good yards per catch average. However, he has a slender frame, so there will be concerns about his ability to beat press coverage at the next level. He ran a 4.43 at the Combine.

Here's a highlight reel, where you can see his speed:

Hightower will be the first of many Day 3 lottery tickets spent on speed receivers.

Conclusion: Sure, why not? If you're going to commit to adding speed, then go for it here in the fifth round.

Grade: B 

MORE: The Eagles' remaining holes to fill, post-draft, and who can fill them

Round 5 (173rd overall): Trade

The Eagles traded this pick and the 227th overall pick gained earlier from Miami, and turned it into picks 196, 200, and 233 overall.

In other words, with the pick the Eagles traded to Dallas, they ultimately ended up with the following:

• LB Shaun Bradley

• WR Quez Watkins

• LB Casey Toohill

• A 5th round pick in 2021

Round 6 (190th overall): Eagles trade for 49ers WR Marquise Goodwin

To land Goodwin, the Eagles moved back 20 spots in the sixth round.

Goodwin is one of the fastest players in the NFL, or at least he was, so again, his skill set fits the Eagles' biggest need, though he has chronic knee issues. Goodwin ran a 4.27 at the 2013 NFL Combine.

He had his best season in 2017, when he caught 56 passes for 962 yards and 2 TDs. His career yards per catch average is 16.6. 

The cost of moving back 20 spots in the sixth round was basically nothing, and then after landing him, the Eagles were able to lower his salary from $3,950,000 to $1,350,000, with an additional $1 million in incentives, per Mike Kaye of

Conclusion: Essentially, the Eagles will get a free look at Goodwin in camp, and if they like what they see, they'll have him for one year, very cheap.

Grade: B+

Round 6 (196th overall): Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple

Bradley had 249 tackles, 3 INTs, and a couple of forced fumbles over the last three seasons. He ran a 4.51 40 at the Combine.

Throw another speed linebacker on the pile.

Conclusion: It feels like the Eagles strategy at linebacker and receiver was to take a bunch of speed guys with upside, and hope that some pan out, which is fine. At least with the linebackers they have a floor as special teams contributors.

Grade: B-

MORE: Eagles 2020 draft grade roundup

Round 6 (200th overall): Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Mississippi (6'0, 185)

After adding Reagor, Hightower, and Goodwin, the Eagles bought one last speed receiver lottery ticket in Watkins, who ran the second-fastest 40 among receivers at the 2020 Combine. They will all of course join DeSean Jackson.

Watkins had solid production at Southern Miss, particularly in 2019:

 Quez WatkinsRec Yards YPC TD 
 201723 337 14.7 
 201872 889 12.3 
 201964 1178 18.4 

Here's Watkins in action:

Like we noted with Hightower, the challenge for Watkins will be beating press coverage at the pro level, but he obviously has big league speed. New wide receivers coach Aaron Morehead will have his work cut out for him.

Conclusion: I am fully on board with their "just add speed receivers in bulk and see what happens" strategy.

Grade: B+

Round 6 (210th overall): Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, some were projecting Wanogho as a possible first round pick. Leading up to the 2020 Senior Bowl, Wanogho's knee was red-flagged, and he was not allowed to participate. He clearly fell because he is a medical risk, but if healthy, he is a steal at the end of the sixth round. Here he is against Georgia:

Wanogho has experience on both sides of the line, and would fit in nicely as a swing tackle.

Conclusion: I love this selection. If you have surplus of picks, which the Eagles did after several trades, this is exactly the type of gamble you should make.

Grade: A-

MORE: Analyzing the Eagles' 2020 undrafted free agent class | What they're saying: The Eagles got faster, but did they get better in the 2020 NFL Draft?

Round 7 (233rd overall): Casey Toohill, DE, Stanford (6'4, 250)

In 2019, Toohill had 57 tackles (11.5 for loss), 8 sacks, and a forced fumble. The Eagles are clearly drafting him for his plus athleticism.

It would appear that Toohill, for now, is just a pass rush specialist, and he'll need to grow as a run stopper. Toohill could find a home for a year or so on the Eagles' practice squad while he builds strength.

Conclusion: Yeah, by all means, this late in the draft just take the guy with sick athleticism and try to develop him.

Grade: B+

MORE: Analyzing the Eagles' 2020 undrafted free agent class

Overall thoughts

The selection of Reagor at 21 won't be for everyone, but he fits the Eagles' biggest need, and should help take pressure off of Carson Wentz. He's also a fun player, which maybe gets lost a bit in the analysis. If you would have preferred Justin Jefferson or some other receiver, that's fine, but there's no reason you can't enjoy Reagor. 

Obviously, the Hurts selection will be hotly debated for years, with the majority falling on the side of "bad pick," for now anyway. Most will focus on that selection when evaluating this class as a whole, which is understandable.

Otherwise, throughout the Eagles' entire draft, one objective was crystal clear -- Get faster and more athletic. I applaud them for that strategy, as the roster was becoming old, and very slow.

Overall, if you took all the players in this draft, and metaphorically shook them up like you were playing Boggle, having no idea who was drafted where, or where trades may have been made, it's a decent haul, in my opinion, as Roseman did strong work on Day 3 to make up for the extremely questionable Hurts pick.

Overall 2020 draft grade: C+

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