March 27, 2021
When the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting at pick No. 6 in the 2021 NFL Draft, we started to get to know a small pool of players pretty well.
First, there was the debate over whether to a take a quarterback, with North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Ohio State's Justin Fields serving as the most likely options in that event, or trading up for BYU's Zach Wilson.
Quarterbacks aside, there was obvious interest by most fans in LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase, the consensus top receiver in this class, as well as the two Alabama receivers in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. And then there were guys like Florida TE Kyle Pitts and Oregon OT Penei Sewell, who didn't fit needs, but might have been the "best player available" when the Eagles were picking.
With the Eagles trading back to pick No. 12, obviously that outlook has changed. Chase will be gone. So will Pitts. And Sewell. As will Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields, and probably even Bama QB Mac Jones.
If any of those players are still available at pick No. 12 (maybe Jones aside), then go ahead and take them. Barring that unlikelihood, let's take a look at the top 10 players thereafter who could be of interest to the Eagles.
• Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: Waddle's first four games before he got hurt on the opening kickoff in Game No. 5 against Tennessee:
If Waddle never gets hurt, does DeVonta Smith go on to win the Heisman? There are some who believe that Waddle's traits — namely his elite speed — will translate better to the NFL than Smith's. He'll likely be gone at this point, because of that speed, but would be a slam dunk if he's still there.
• DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: As mentioned already, Smith won the Heisman in 2020. On the season, he had 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs. He also had a 21.5 yards per return average on 11 punt returns, including a TD.
That elite production was nothing new for him. In 2019, Smith led Alabama in receiving yards and TDs, despite playing alongside Waddle, and a pair of first round picks in Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy.
|Alabama WRs: 2019||Rec||Yards||YPC||TD|
Smith is a smooth route runner, he gobbles up yards after the catch, he has great hands, and he can make spectacular catches in traffic. The concern that teams are going to have about Smith is his lack of size, as he only weighs 170 pounds, though certainly, he plays much bigger than his slight frame.
• Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: Some believe that Slater's best fit in the NFL will be at guard, which maybe would have made sense had Jason Kelce retired and Isaac Seumalo moved to center. Many believe he is a top 10 talent in this draft, so the Eagles would have to at least consider him at 12. However, if they drafted him, would there even be a starting job waiting for him his rookie season? This is a guy, along with USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, that the Eagles will hope other teams take before they pick at 12.
• Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami: Rousseau had 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2019, and then opted out in 2020. He's long (listed at 6'7) and gifted, but raw. He would be a high risk, high reward option at 12. After recent first-round whiffs, the bet here is that Howie Roseman would opt for a safer pick.
• Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan: Paye came in at No. 1 on Bruce Feldman's freaks list prior to the start of the 2020 season.
While Paye has elite athletic measurables and you can very easily see him dominating matchups on film, his production in the stat sheet his first three seasons at Michigan wasn't great, as he had 11.5 sacks in 28 career games. The Eagles believe that sacks in college translate to sacks in the pros, though it's worth noting that Rashan Gary was an athletic freak with pedestrian production, and my understanding is that the Eagles had him as a potential trade-up target in the 2019 draft, when he went 12th overall to the Packers.
• Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami: Phillips is a former five-star prospect (No. 1 in the nation, according to some recruiting sites) who initially enrolled at UCLA, but suffered multiple injuries, plus a moped accident that severely damaged his wrist. He actually retired at one point.
Phillips would eventually transfer to Miami and return to football, missing the 2019 season. In 10 games at Miami in 2020, with a lot to prove, Phillips had 45 tackles (15.5 for loss), 8 sacks, 3 batted passes, and an INT. He is long, athletic, and he plays hard.
All three of Rousseau, Paye, and Phillips would probably be slight reaches, but the Eagles highly value pass rushers, and they have a need there.
• Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Parsons is 6'3, 246 pounds, and he just ran an unofficial 4.39 at Penn State's pro day.
Every year, national guys publish mock drafts with linebackers headed to the Eagles, and every year we scoff at them, knowing that the Eagles don't value the position much, and they've gone over 40 years without taking an off-ball linebacker in the first round.
We don't know yet what Jonathan Gannon's defense will look like, but speculation is that it will look a lot like Mike Zimmer's in Minnesota. If so, the Eagles will need linebackers who are athletic in coverage, and can blitz the quarterback. Parsons can do it all. He's big, fast, he can cover, blitz, and he's solid against the run. He could make a difference in the Eagles' defense.
The bet here is that the Eagles will continue to pass on linebackers in round one, but Parsons would be a fantastic fit, and the Eagles should at least consider him.
• Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: Surtain possesses a prototype blend of size and athleticism, to go along with legit corner polish, being the son of former 11-year pro Patrick Surtain, Sr. He is also a willing participant in the run game, and a solid tackler. Like Waddle and Smith above, he would be a slam dunk pick at 12 if he's still available.
• Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech: Farley (6'1, 207) has similar ideal size as Surtain, but is thought of as an even more athletic corner. There are many who believe he is the best corner prospect in this class, but significant injury concerns could cause him to fall deeper into the first round.
• Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: Like Surtain and Farley, Horn has great size at 6'1, 200, and he is a physical press corner who could match up well against the league's bigger receivers. Also like Surtain, he has NFL bloodlines, as he is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn (of cell phone celebration fame).
As Ben Fennell points out, Horn is battle tested, he's versatile, and South Carolina asked a lot from him:
Go cover Kyle Pitts in Y-ISO..— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 22, 2021
Go cover Elijah Moore in Slot..
Go cover Devonta Smith w/no help..
...There are lots of cornerbacks in CFB, make sure you note what they're being asked to do! They aren't all given the same responsibility! @jayceehorn_10 pic.twitter.com/I0xHfEQAC4
I'd probably feel more comfortable with Horn over Farley.
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