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May 04, 2022

Projecting first-year roles for each of the Eagles' five rookie draft picks

Eagles NFL
050422NakobeDean Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Nakobe Dean has a pretty good chance of starting as a rookie for the Eagles.

In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected five players, some of whom are likely to get playing time as rookies. Here we'll look at each of the Birds' additions, and project their roles as rookies.

Round 1: DT Jordan Davis

Much has been made of Davis' snap counts in 2021, when he averaged a little over 25 snaps per game for Georgia. Was he a run-down player only? Was a lack of stamina an issue?

Howie Roseman contends that Georgia was not involved in many close games during the 2021 season, often blowing out their opponents. In order to keep Georgia's young defensive linemen happy (or at least happy enough not to transfer to another school where they might play more), Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was quick to pull his starters to allow his young players to get playing time and stay invested in the program. However, when games were a little tighter, Davis was a full-time player.

There are some mild concerns about Davis' conditioning, which is to be expected of a 341-pound man. Davis himself even admitted that his conditioning could have been better after an SEC title game loss to Alabama last season. Credit him for being honest about himself as a player, but obviously, the Eagles are going to want him to be in optimal shape as a pro. 

Early in his career with the Eagles, Davis will be part of an outstanding interior lineman rotation that will also include Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Milton Williams.

Fletcher Cox Milton Williams Renell Wren  
Javon Hargrave Jordan Davis Marlon Tuipulotu Marvin Wilson 

In other words, Davis likely won't be asked to play a high volume of snaps as a rookie. Still, there's no question that he will contribute, and the Eagles' four-deep rotation should keep Davis, Hargrave, Cox, and Williams fresh during individual games as well as throughout the season. 

Round 2: C Cam Jurgens

The Eagles selected Jurgens to be Jason Kelce's eventual replacement at center, and as we pointed out when we graded the Eagles' draft, he would be a rare first- or second-round center not to start as a rookie. Over the last 10 years, 14 centers have been drafted in the first or second round, and with the exception of one player who missed his entire rookie season with an injury sustained in training camp, they all started as rookies.

The Eagles think that Jurgens is good enough that he's worth the wait. In the meantime, can Jurgens also play guard while he waits for Kelce to retire?

"Yeah, we think that he has good position flexibility, and kind of similar to Landon last year of being able to play center and guard," Nick Sirianni said. "As you saw last year, we drafted Landon. He had the C by his name, but obviously played really good for us at guard. We feel the same way with Cam, that he has that position flexibility. Obviously, he has the C by his name first, but yeah, we're hopeful, and we know that he can do both."

Of course, that's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Dickerson played center, guard and tackle in college. Everyone knew that he had positional versatility, while Jurgens' ability to play guard is pure projection. He started 31 games in college, all at center. Are the Eagles going to attempt to cross-train Jurgens at guard, or will they allow him to focus on what they drafted him to be, which is their long-term center?

Additionally, Jurgens would be quite light for a guard. At 6'2 7/8" and 303 pounds, he would be in the 10th and 16th percentiles at height and weight, respectively, relative to other NFL offensive guards. A counter-argument might be that he is similarly sized to Isaac Seumalo, who is 6'4, 303. However, Seumalo struggled mightily against power early in his career, and it took him several years to adjust to the strength of NFL interior defensive linemen. Would it even be worth cross-training Jurgens at guard and putting him in a position to fail early in his career?

The Eagles' offensive line depth chart looks like so:

Jordan Mailata Landon Dickerson Jason Kelce Isaac Seumalo Lane Johnson 
Andre Dillard Sua Opeta Cam Jurgens Jack Driscoll Le'Raven Clark 
 Brett Toth Jack Anderson Kayode Awosika  

The bet here is that Jurgens won't play unless (a) Kelce gets hurt, or (b) the Eagles become light on guards and Jurgens has to fill in as an emergency option. This is probably where we should also note that Kelce has started 123 consecutive games for the Eagles.

Round 3: LB Nakobe Dean

Dean unexpectedly fell to the third round because of injury concerns, specifically a pectoral injury. So how debilitating will this pec injury be?

"He has a pec injury that does not require surgery from our doctor," Howie Roseman said last Friday after the Eagles drafted Dean. "He's going to be on the field this weekend. We don't anticipate missed time now. He'll come in here and take a physical, and we'll double-check all those things."

The Eagles considered taking Dean in the second round, but their prioritization of the trenches led them to select Jurgens. They were then fortunate that Dean somehow fell to pick No. 83, where the Eagles gladly swooped him up.

If Dean is indeed healthy and he's a full go for the 2022 season, it's hard to imagine him not being able to beat out T.J. Edwards for the starting MIKE job. Edwards has been a tough, instinctive linebacker for the Eagles, but his athletic deficiencies will always limit his ceiling, particularly in the passing game.

For now, we'll pencil in Dean as a starter.

MIKE Nakobe Dean (if healthy) T.J. Edwards Shaun Bradley Christian Elliss 
WILL Kyzir White Davion Taylor JaCoby Stevens  

Edwards would likely still have a role in the Eagles' defense, but it would probably be limited to a handful of early downs, and special teams duties.

Round 6: SAM Kyron Johnson

Johnson was a relative unknown at the Senior Bowl who stood out in one-on-one drills. His performance there left an impression on the Eagles' scouting department.

"He is an explosive pass rusher," said Andy Weidl. "He gets off the ball exceptionally well. He's got edge speed. He's a natural-leverage guy, can convert speed to power. He can win three ways. He's excellent on stunts. He plays with energy. He's been an outstanding special teams player, 17 career special teams tackles. He shows up there. A lot of positives with him and at the Senior Bowl, he took on some of the top tackles and put them on their back with his pass-rush ability, so you see that. It was just a great opportunity to get a guy who can add to the rush game."

Weidl noted Johnson's 17 career special teams tackles. With Alex Singleton moving on to Denver, Johnson is a player who can help fill that void on kick and punt team coverage. He ran a 4.40 40 at Kansas' pro day, so, you know, he'll get down the field fast.

Johnson was used both as an off-ball linebacker and as a pass rusher at Kansas. He'll play the SAM position in the Eagles' defense, and will be the immediate backup to Haason Reddick if he can beat out Patrick Johnson in training camp.

Haason Reddick Kyron Johnson Patrick Johnson Joe Ostman 

Johnson likely won't get much playing time in the regular defense early in his career as long as Reddick stays healthy.

Round 6: TE Grant Calcaterra

Nick Sirianni ran his fair share of 2-TE sets in 2021, and his No. 2 TE (Jack Stoll) only had four receptions. The Eagles could use a more well-rounded TE2 who can be a threat as a receiver. The Eagles believe that can be Calcaterra, who caught 38 passes for 465 yards and 4 TDs in 2021 at SMU.

Calcaterra is a better receiver than Stoll, but Stoll is a better blocker. We'll call Calcaterra and Stoll TE2a and TE2b.

 TEDallas Goedert Grant Calcaterra / Jack Stoll Tyree Jackson Richard Rodgers 
 TE (cont.)J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Noah Togiai   

Ultimately, whoever gets the most playing time at TE2 isn't likely to light up the stat sheet, as they'll be the fifth option on any given pass play. Calcaterra and Stoll will probably contribute on special teams as the upbacks on the kick return unit.

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