The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and the Eagles made 9 total selections. Let’s dive in and break down the selections from day 3. If you missed the breakdowns of day 1 and day 2, be sure to check those out too.
Round 4 Pick 123 – CB Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech
The Eagles finally addressed the cornerback position with their first pick on day 3, selecting Zech McPhearson. McPhearson started his career at Penn State before transferring to the pass-happy Big XII for his final 2 seasons. McPhearson is an instinctual player at the position and was primarily used in an off-coverage zone scheme at Texas Tech. He is used to playing in a bail technique where he sits in off-coverage and then turns his back to the line of scrimmage and runs with the receiver. He is slow to click and close on routes developing underneath them when he is square to the line of scrimmage, which is an area he will have to grow in the Eagles cover 2 heavy scheme.
Highest-graded CBs vs power five WRs over the last two seasons:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 8, 2021
1. Patrick Surtain II, Bama – 91.3
2. Derek Stingley Jr, LSU – 91.0
3. Caleb Farley, VA Tech – 90.0
3. Zech McPhearson, TTU – 90.0 pic.twitter.com/Tjk1z4dXhb
Who I would have selected: iDL Tommy Togiai
Round 5 Pick 150 – RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
In the 5th round, the Eagles turned to the offensive side of the ball with the selection of Kenneth Gainwell. Gainwell has limited starting experience which is actually a positive in my book. Running backs have a notoriously short shelf life, so drafting one who has a lot of tread left on the tires is a positive. Gainwell was used as both a running back and a receiver for Memphis, with running plays and screens out of the backfield and even some slot alignments. He is very elusive with the ball in his hands and ran a 4.47 40 time at 201 pounds. He recorded 51 catches in his 1 year as a starter and brings good pass protection skills to the table.
Nick Sirianni loves to use his running backs in the passing game and Miles Sanders struggled in a major way last season in that area. He was 2nd in the NFL in running back drops and saw regression as a pass blocker as well. Gainwell is an excellent value in the 5th round and will bring more versatility to the Eagles backfield.
Who I Would Have Taken: RB Kenneth Gainwell
Round 6 Pick 189 – iDL Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
The Eagles turned back to the trenches with the selection of Marlon Tuipulotu. Tuipulotu is a bit undersized for the interior defensive line and there are concerns about his ability to anchor against power run blockers at the NFL level. His hand usage is great and he displays good body control and agility. He is a good run defender and displays an above-average bull rush in the passing game.
Tuipulotu was a good value at pick 189, but not for a team that has already drafted a defensive lineman and has major needs at linebacker and in the secondary.
Who I Would Have Picked: iOL Trey Hill
Round 6 Pick 191 – EDGE Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina
Jackson was a productive player for Coastal Carolina over the last 2 seasons, notching 18 sacks and 26.5 TFL in that time. His top trait is his hand usage, typically landing the first strike on offensive linemen and showing the ability to get off of blocks quickly to attack. He doesn’t have the athleticism to consistently win off of the edge, but his strength will allow him to be more productive on the inside.
Not to sound like a broken record, but with needs all over the secondary and linebacker position groups, the Eagles select their 3rd defensive linemen of the draft.
Who I Would Have Picked: CB Tay Gowan
Round 6 Pick 224 – LB/S JaCoby Stevens, LSU
Stevens was a 5-star recruit that played both WR and S in high school. In college, he focused in on the defensive side of the ball and played more of a safety/linebacker hybrid role. His play speed is very slow, and he finds himself in the position of being an undersized linebacker with below-average strength or an oversized safety who is too slow for the position. The broadcast listed him as a safety but the Eagles have announced him as a linebacker.
The Eagles needed a linebacker but the one they drafted isn’t truly a linebacker and their penchant for converting people to the position hasn’t faired too well in the past.
Who I Would Have Picked: CB Kary Vincent Jr.
Round 7 Pick 234 – EDGE Patrick Johnson, Tulane
Johnson projects as a 3-4 OLB at the NFL level. The Eagles don’t play a 3-4, so it will be interesting to see how they use Johnson. He is at his best when he is able to rush from a stand-up position, and would be considered undersized as a 4-3 defensive end. His college tape does include reps as an of-ball linebacker, but it isn’t his primary usage. Johnson has a nose for the football and always seems to be around the ball carrier and making tackles.
Johnson is a really good value pick all the way in the 7th round, but I’m unsure exactly how the Eagles are going to use him.
Who I Would Have Selected: EDGE Patrick Johnson
The Eagles Trade With the Washington Football Team
The Eagles also made a draft-day trade, sending two 6th round picks (225 and 240 overall) to Washington for a 5th rounder next year. I think the trade makes a lot of sense for a team that had so many picks in a draft that was not considered deep on day 3.
Overall Thoughts on the Draft
This pretty well sums up my thoughts on the draft. The Eagles, once again, doubled down on covering their lack of talent in the secondary and at linebacker by just drafting a bunch of defensive linemen. For all that Howie wants to point to that being the model that won the Super Bowl, it simply isn’t. The 2017 team had Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, and Nigel Bradham at linebacker while the secondary was composed of Jalen Mils, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, and Malcolm Jenkins.
One one side of the equation, the Eagles are rebuilding and they should take the best player available no matter what. They can afford to take big risks. On the other side of the equation, players develop by actually playing in games. The Eagles have created a huge log jam on the defensive line and made very risky bets on their top 3 selections: Devonta Smith (size), Landon Dickerson (injuries), and Milton Williams (size).
Considering that the Eagles were the worst team in the worst division in the history of the NFL last year, I expected them to come out of the draft with more than 1 starter. Perhaps Dickerson will end up starting or seeing the field a lot. Maybe Williams will push for heavy usage in the defensive line rotation as well. But it is hard not to walk away feeling underwhelmed by the Eagles’ usage of resources, especially when 4 of the 9 selections are defensive line players.
That said, I am very excited to see DeVonta Smith on the field and I think that Zech McPhearson could push for a starting role early. I also really wanted the Eagles to take a running back and Kenneth Gainwell was high on that list. All in all, it will be interesting to watch these players progress through training camp and into their rookie season.
- 1×10 – QB Justin Fields
- 2×30 – LB/S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
- 3×73 – CB Paulson Adebo
- 4×123 – iDL Tommy Togiai
- 5×150 – RB Kenneth Gainwell
- 6×189 – iOL Trey Hill
- 6×191 – CB Tay Gowan
- 6×224 – CB Kary Vincent Jr.
- 7×234 – EDGE Patrick Johnson