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April 29, 2019

What they're saying: Carson Wentz should be a big fan of Eagles' draft haul

Eagles NFL Draft
jj-arcega-whiteside_042919_usat Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

New Eagles wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford) catches a touchdown pass against UCLA.

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books. The players have been selected. The grades have been handed out. Now, all that remains to be seen is which players live up to the hype, which are busts, and which come out of nowhere to shock us all.

For the Eagles, it was another small draft haul, as Howie Roseman and Co. took just five players for the second straight year, and four of those players are on the offensive side of the ball. Of those four, three could make an immediate impact on the team — tackle Andre Dillard (first round), running back Miles Sanders (second) and wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (second). In fact, the latter two are just outside the Top 10 in Offensive Rookie of the Year odds for 2019 according to BetOnline.ag.

Kyler Murray 5/2
Dwayne Haskins 7/1
Josh Jacobs 9/1
Marquise "Hollywood" Brown 10/1
Mecole Hardman 10/1
Drew Lock 12/1
T.J. Hockenson 12/1
Deebo Samuel 16/1
N'Keal Harry 16/1
Daniel Jones 18/1
A.J. Brown 20/1
D.K. Metcalf 20/1
Miles Sanders 20/1
Noah Fant 20/1
Parris Campbell 20/1
JJ Arcega-Whiteside 25/1
Damien Harris 33/1
Darrell Henderson 33/1
Irv Smith Jr. 33/1
Will Grier 50/1

With those two additions to the offense, Carson Wentz, who had his fifth-year option exercised by the Eagles on Monday, has an arsenal of weapons as good or better than any other team in the NFL. And that's good news for a quarterback looking to return to his MVP-level play from 2017, prior to the first of his two back-to-back season-ending injuries.

Unfortunately, the Eagles did little to improve their defense during the draft — and basically this entire offseason — which could put Jim Schwartz in a tough spot moving forward. We've already handed out our own grades and rounded up those from other outlets, so let's take a look beyond the grades to see what the local and national media are saying about the Birds' 2019 draft class.

Better by the day

Gregg Rosenthal | NFL.com

Over at NFL.com, Gregg Rosenthal pointed to the Eagles offense as one of the most-improved units in the entire league following this weekend's draft. 

Eagles' offensive depth: The potential trade of slot receiver Nelson Agholor never materialized. Instead of parting ways with a piece, the Eagles only added to their offensive arsenal with second-round picks Miles Sanders (No. 53 overall), a running back, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (No. 57 overall), a wideout. Sanders has a chance to end March trade acquisition Jordan Howard's run as the Eagles' starting running back before it even begins, while Arcega-Whiteside adds another possession threat for Carson Wentz to find in tight quarters.

The depth at running back, wide receiver and tight end (where Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert comprise the best duo in football) should give coach Doug Pederson a ton of play-calling options in the fall. Even the team's first-round selection (tackle Andre Dillard, No. 22 overall) was typical of the long-term thinking the Eagles are known for because he likely will begin his career on the bench behind Jason Peters. This is a group built to withstand injuries and create matchup problems in nearly any situation.  [nfl.com]

Fitting in

Michael Kist | Bleeding Green Nation

One of the Eagles new offensive weapons is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who uses his size and savvy to win 50-50 balls and out-jump defensive backs. He's going to be a nice target for Wentz in the red zone. But are they going to have snaps (and targets) for him in a deep receiver corps?

Arcega-Whiteside is in a similar mold of Alshon Jeffery, causing a mental logjam for those trying to envision how he fits. In the short term, those concerns are valid. The Eagles will have to find a way to work Arcega-Whiteside into the fold and even if Nelson Agholor is eventually traded between now and the deadline, the slot isn’t a likely option.

Regardless of if they come for the slot or the outside, there are plenty of snaps to gobble up. Even with DeSean Jackson signing and Mack Hollins returning there’s playing time to be earned. In all, there are 1,032 reps up for grabs if you go off of last years totals. If Agholor is traded before the season, that number skyrockets to 2,014.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

All about Wentz

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

As Dave Zangaro writes, this draft class was all about making life easier for Carson Wentz. 

When the Eagles used their first three draft picks on offensive tackle Andre Dillard, running back Miles Sanders and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, there was probably no one happier than Carson Wentz. 

And as much as Howie Roseman said the board just fell that way, you’d certainly understand if the Eagles gave it a nudge in that direction. Not just because the Eagles have an offensive head coach. But because at some point, either this year or next, the Eagles are going to give Wentz a mega-extension to lock in their franchise quarterback for the next five or six years. 

With Dillard, they made sure to protect that investment. 

With Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside, they gave Wentz even more tools to be successful.  [nbcsports.com]

One thing I don't think Dave mentioned that is worth pointing out is that even the selection of QB Clayton Thorson helps Wentz. If the Eagles didn't draft a quarterback, they could have been forced to sign a free agent with some pro experience to back up Wentz (and Sudfeld). Wentz just freed himself from the pressure of having Nick Foles behind him, so it's nice that they'll allow him to continue being the unquestioned leader of this offense going forward. 

That's what he said

Michael David Smith | ProFootballTalk

Prior to the draft, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the team was more concerned with volume of draft picks, willing to concede that the more chances you have, the more likely you are to pick a winner. Howie Roseman agreed.

Of course, the Eagles then went out and did exactly the opposite in the first round, moving up three spots (and trading away two additional picks) to grab Andre Dillard. 

In the first round, the Eagles gave up their fourth-round pick and their sixth-round pick to move up from No. 25 to No. 22 and select Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Far from trading down to get more picks, the Eagles traded up or stood pat.

Whether Dillard turns out to be a good enough player to make trading up for him wise remains to be seen, but the Eagles clearly diverted from the path they said they were setting out on. And it was the same last year, when the Eagles also made only five picks. Far from drafting for volume, the Eagles’ 10 picks over the last two drafts are the fewest of any team in the NFL. Next year the Eagles are expected to get third- and fourth-round compensatory picks and may be back in the volume game, but for the last two years their actual draft strategy has not matched their public proclamations.  [profootballtalk.nbcsports.com]

Wait, you mean a team said one thing and then did the other? Has that ever happened before?

Getting defensive

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

So without those extra draft picks, the Eagles stayed focused on the offense, and didn't do Jim Schwartz many favors. It was weird, considering in the lead up to the draft Roseman described this defensive line class as "historic." 

The Eagles did grab defensive end Shareef Miller in the fourth round, but to hear Roseman explain it, the run on defensive linemen at the draft allowed the Eagles to get great value elsewhere, which by all accounts, they did.

3. Jim Schwartz hasn’t gotten much help this offseason.

The only pick the Eagles used on a defensive player was a fourth-round selection on Miller.

“We did say, and I regretted it right after saying it, about the historic defensive line class,” Roseman acknowledged. “Thankfully all of you have reminded me countless times over the weekend, you guys are so forgiving,” he joked, “but I think really when you look at it and where guys went, it was.

“What it did for us is it pushed some guys down to us that maybe in a normal year on the offensive side of the ball, wouldn’t be able to get to our pick. We tried to take advantage of those opportunities. And then also when you look at today, a guy like Shareef, we think in a normal draft, that guy goes (Friday). Because so many teams took defensive linemen, we had an opportunity to get a young pass rusher we think we can work with and develop and has some tools in his body.”  [theathletic.com]

Not much has changed

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

So, where does that leave the Eagles defensive front heading into the 2019 season? Jeff McLane breaks it down and wonders if the Birds have enough there...

The Eagles shouldn’t draft for the coming season, but their defensive line, from this vantage point, doesn’t look much stronger than it did before the offseason. And they didn’t get younger. Roseman emphasized that player acquisition isn’t over. He may still have a defensive lineman up his sleeve. Perhaps, Ezekiel Ansah? But the roster, for the most part, is set.

And the Eagles’ moves up front on defense were solid, if underwhelming. They re-signed defensive end Brandon Graham and just, on Thursday, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. They acquired defensive tackle Malik Jackson and brought back defensive end Vinny Curry. And they said goodbye to defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and (essentially) defensive end Chris Long.

All-pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will anchor the line again. And defensive end Derek Barnett returns despite missing most of his sophomore season with a torn rotator cuff. But did the Eagles do enough to replace the 15 1/2 sacks and 50 quarterback hits that parted with Bennett and Long?  [philly.com]

'I couldn’t even put it in words'

Chris McPherson | PhiladelphiaEagles.com

The Eagles' lone pick on the defensive side of the ball, Shareef Miller had quite the weekend. The George Washington High School grad and Penn State defensive end is a lifelong Eagles fan, and on Saturday had his childhood dream realized. 

A Philadelphia native and die-hard Eagles fan, Miller watched his favorite team capture the Super Bowl with his grandfather, Emmitt.

"Watching that Super Bowl was a great moment for us and the city," Miller said. "Me and my grandpop cried because we used to always stress about the Eagles. It was a great feeling."

Miller is now a part of the team. On Saturday, the Eagles selected the former Penn State defensive end with the 138th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Miller was in Philadelphia with family and friends to celebrate the occasion. He even contemplated rushing down to the NovaCare Complex.

"It was surreal. I couldn’t even put it in words," Miller said of getting the call from the Eagles. "It still feels like a dream. I’m just so happy and just super excited and super blessed and super thankful that the Eagles gave me this opportunity to me, and just to be home too. It couldn’t be a better story."  [philadelphiaeagles.com]


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