Finally, the moment you have all been waiting for is upon us. After countless scouting profiles, podcasts, and full first-round mock drafts, I am finally ready to peer into my crystal ball and tell you exactly how the 2021 NFL draft will playout for the Eagles.
Of course, that is all in jest. Mock drafts are a valuable tool to see how the board falls in different scenarios, but chaos is always the rule on draft day. So why even read mock drafts? Because they’re fun! And they give you information about various players, particularly day 2 and 3 players that you may have never heard of. So let’s get into it with my final mock draft of the season!
Round 1 Pick 20 – CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
When pick 12 rolled around, the board didn’t exactly fall the Eagles way. Both Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn were gone at CB and Sewell and Salter were gone at OT. Devonta Smith was still on the board, but so was Mac Jones. So, the Eagles pick up the phone and broker a deal with the Chicago Bears to receive pick 20 and a 2022 1st rounder in exchange for pick 12 and a 2021 7th rounder.
While many fans would be devastated with the decision to trade back, I have previously made the case for a draft focused on the defense and fully believe the Eagles are targeting a cornerback in the 1st round.
This trade gives the Eagles even more ammunition for next year and still allows them to select a high-level cornerback in Greg Newsome.
Newsome is a highly athletic CB with ideal length and size for the position. He is more quick than he is fast and was utilized in a lot of zone coverage at Northwestern. His ability to click and close on underneath routes makes him a good fit for the Eagles cover 2 scheme. He is a plus in run defense where his aggressiveness and length blend together perfectly. A very intelligent player, Newsome processes what is happening on the field quickly and should transition to the NFL as an outside corner opposite Darius Slay easily.
Round 2 Pick 33 – S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
The Eagles trade up from 37 to 33 with the Jaguars in exchange for a 6th round pick to snag the top safety prospect in the draft. The Eagles need help at the safety position for both now and in the future with Jalen Mills gone and Rodney McLeod coming off of yet another injury. Moehrig can walk in and be a day 1 starter for the Eagles who have now significantly upgraded their secondary with their first two selections.
Moehrig was most frequently used as a single high safety by TCU where his athleticism allowed him to cover from numbers to numbers. He is a high IQ player who was responsible for aligning the TCU defense based on shifts and pre-snap motion. He has great skills at the catch point as evidenced by his 7 career interceptions and is effective at disrupting passes he is unable to bring in. Shifting to more of a split field scheme will be an adjustment for Moehrig, but one he is easily capable of making.
Round 3 Pick 70 – TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
The Eagles look to the offensive side of the ball for the first time with the selection of Freiermuth. It is possible that Zach Ertz will remain with the team in 2021 but it still seems unlikely. Freiermuth would step in as the TE2 for Nick Sirianni’s offense which used two tight ends at a high rate when he was in Indianapolis.
Freiermuth is a receiving threat at the position but doesn’t have a ton of experience blocking. He has very little experience lining up in-line as a blocker, but his primary value won’t be in blocking to begin with. He has great hands and is a good route runner and provides another target for Jalen Hurts to work with.
Round 3 Pick 84 – LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan
The Eagles must upgrade the linebacker position via the draft and they get their upgrade with McGrone. McGrone projects best as a MIKE linebacker and has relatively few starts under his belt. There is projection required for McGrone as a player after starting only 15 games at Michigan. But he has all the physical tools needed to be a playmaker at the NFL level. in 2019, McGrone was a monster on the field, but in 2020 he didn’t appear to process and trigger as quickly. It could have been related to what he was asked to do schematically or to the fact that he was playing with a cast on his hand. Nick Sirianni will love the competitive fire that a guy like McGrone brings to the table. He needs to continue to develop in coverage but there is no reason to believe that he can’t make an immediate impact for the Eagles.
Round 4 Pick 123 – WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
The Eagles add another offensive player named Jaelon in the 4th round to bolster the WR corps. Nobody knows exactly what to expect from Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham in 2021. But the team knows exactly what to expect from Greg Ward Jr. and it simply isn’t good enough. While reliable, Ward isn’t a playmaker out of the slot and is dreadful as a return man.
Darden fits naturally into the slot where his elusiveness and explosiveness after the catch makes him a threat on screens and manufactured targets. He needs development as a route runner on the short to intermediate area of the field, but he thrives on vertical routes from the slot. He also has extensive experience on special teams and offers a day 1 upgrade for the Eagles there.
Round 5 Pick 150 – EDGE Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State
Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger and Derek Barnett still hasn’t had the breakout that you would like to see from a former first-round pick. Josh Sweat showed a lot last season, but you can never have too many EDGE players.
Kaindoh is huge at 6’7″ 247 pounds. He has long arms and a big stride that helps him get the edge against opposing tackles. He isn’t very technically sound and struggles to rush with a plan, probably stemming from only starting 10 games at the collegiate level. In the running game, Kaindoh has the size and strength to be effective but struggles to read and process blocking schemes.
He has an extensive injury history that has held him to 10 career starts and less than 400 snaps played in every season. Kaindoh has a high upside as an edge defender if he can stay healthy and become more technically sound. His upside makes him well worth a flier on day 3.
Round 6 Pick 189 – CB Tre Brown, Oklahoma
Tre Brown started 51 games for Oklahoma, all at outside cornerback. He is an aggressive player who loves to initiate contact both at the line of scrimmage and at the top of route stems. Brown will have to reign in his grabbiness or risk being heavily penalized at the next level. With his lack of size and upper body strength, Brown struggles at the catch point, especially in the intermediate and deep areas of the field. He is able to read and react to plays in front of him quickly and isn’t afraid to fly downhill in run support, although his size leads to struggles in that area. Selecting Brown requires some projection from the Eagles, as he was primarily deployed in man coverage on the outside in college and would be asked to play zone coverage in the slot in the NFL. However, with the struggles of Avonte Maddox, bringing in competition for the slot position is advisable and it is possible that Maddox’s best position is at free safety.
Round 6 Pick 225 – iOL Bryce Hargrove, Pittsburgh
The Eagles love to take day 3 offensive line prospects to turn over to OL guru Jeff Stoutland. With Jason Kelce approaching the end of his career and Brandon Brooks coming off of his 2nd straight Achilles injury, iOL could become a need down the road.
Bryce Hargrove was a 2-year starter at Pittsburgh and started 27 consecutive games to end his college career. He is strong and aggressive at the point of attack in the run game and has great technique in the passing game. Prone to panic if he can’t overwhelm opposing rushers with his power, Hargrove needs significant development but projects as a potential starter at guard down the road.
Round 7 Pick 234 – WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois
The Eagles don’t have anyone locked into being their starting X receiver. JJAW has shown almost nothing in his 2 years in Philly. Travis Fulgham showed potential for a month in 2020, but he fell out of favor with the former coaching staff and didn’t show enough to keep the Eagles from taking a flier on another potential X.
Imatorbhebhe eats up yardage with long strides and has worked vertical routes and back-shoulder throws with a lot of success at the collegiate level. He has good hands and frequently wins contested-catch scenarios. He is very limited with the ball in his hands but is capable of breaking tackles or constantly churning his feet forward while smaller defenders struggle to drag him down.
What I Don’t Like About This Draft
Not majorly addressing the front 7 – The Eagles have major needs at LB and it wouldn’t hurt to add an iDL into the rotation as an eventual Fletcher Cox replacement. Only selecting 1 LB and 0 iDL players isn’t the direction that I thought the draft would fall, but the fall of Freiermuth changed my plans.
Not adding a sure-fire offensive talent – Given the depth of wide receivers in this draft, I was comfortable trading out of pick 12 instead of taking DeVonta Smith. But when Trevon Moehrig fell to the start of the 2nd round, I had to have him. I like the additions of Freiermuth and Darden, but neither are sure-fire contributors in year 1.
No running back – I wanted to snag a running mate for Miles Sanders on day 2 of the draft but, again, Moehrig falling changed the equation. Then I pivoted to some day 3 targets I like but they all were off the board before I was comfortable taking them.
injury risks – The Eagles have been one of the most injury-prone teams in the NFL over the last 3 seasons. Taking a LB in Cameron McGrone and an EDGE in Joshua Kaindoh with significant injury concerns might not be the safest approach, but both players offer significant upside and slid some in the draft due to those concerns. For a team looking to retool, I decided to take value where I could get it and not get too conservative with risky players. However, that decision could come back to haunt me in the long term.
What I Like About This Draft
- The trade back – A lot of fans might not like the decision to trade back, but I think it’s a great call. Moving back and still picking up a player at the biggest position of need in the first round is a win and netted me the Bears 1st round pick in 2022. The Eagles would now be in a position to hold four 1st round picks next year in a draft that is considered much safer due to the presence of a combine and a full 2021 NCAA season. The extra ammunition allows the Eagles to evaluate Jalen Hurts in 2021 and then either make the decision to build the team around him in 2021 or go get the QB1 in the 2022 draft. It’s a win-win to make this move since the Eagles aren’t threats to make a run this year.
- Bolstering the defensive secondary – The duo of Greg Newsome and Trevon Moehrig makes the Eagles secondary better than they have been in years. With Slay and Newsome outside and McLeod and Moehrig over the top, Avonte Maddox and Tre Brown can duke it out for the starting slot position. If Maddox loses that battle, he can compete with K’Von Wallace for that 3rd safety role.
- Pass catching threats – Although we didn’t grab a sure-fire pass catcher, they add great potential weapons at TE and in the slot while adding a great value X receiver in the 7th round. I had no intention to grab 2 receivers given the number of 2nd-year players the Eagles will have at the position, but Imatorbhebhe was too good of a value to pass up.