10th Overall Selection (Round 1, from Dallas): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: A
It’s easy to see why DeVonta Smith is a pitch perfect fit in Philadelphia. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor instantly become an intriguing pair for Jalen Hurts’ tryout season. They can both line up in the x and flanker positions. They can also line up in the slot and be used in jet motion. The Eagles weakness on the outside was a wide receiver who can beat tight coverage and get open. DeVonta Smith is the nuanced route runner that can play all over the field and help them target the intermediate area of the where they so desperately struggled. This is a guy who will thrive in motion at the next level, something the Eagles need to make a focus point for Jalen Hurts and the offense in 2021.
Stats to know:
- He set the SEC single-season receiving (1,856 yards) and touchdown (23) records.
- Devonta Smith saw 117 receptions and a catch percentage of 79.6%.
- According to Pro Football Focus, Devonta Smith had only 3 drops on 145 targets in 2020.
- In his 3 seasons at Alabama, DeVonta Smith saw 291 targets while only dropping the ball 6 total times.
37th Overall Selection (Round 2): Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
It’s also easy to see why Howie Roseman loves this kid. Here is a guy who played every position on the offensive line at Alabama. This level of versatility has always been a major priority for the Eagles and Dickerson brings a significant amount of talent and toughness to the offensive line. However, this is a guy with serious injury concerns. In the SEC Championship game against Florida, Dickerson tore his ACL. In five college football seasons, Dickerson suffered four season-ending injuries. He tore his ACL in 2016, missed nine games in 2017, and was forced to redshirt by an ankle injury in 2018. Regardless, this is a leader and ridiculous competitor. If healthy (and it’s a big IF), Landon Dickerson projects to be an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Stats to know:
- According to PFF: Career run-blocking grade in the 2021 Draft Class: Penei Sewell, Oregon: 94.8, Landon Dickerson, Bama: 93.9.
- Landon Dickerson’s run blocking grade was the highest among centers in 2020.
- He pass blocking grade was 19th best.
73rd Overall Selection (Round 3): Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech
If there was an Andy Reid pick, then this was it. It was a bit of a head scratcher considering who was available at the time at other major positions of need. In college, Milton Williams played in 3-man and 4-man fronts and shows he is comfortable moving all around the defensive line. This was a workout warrior and he put up some crazy numbers during his pro day. At the end of the day, the Eagles had to inject youth and toughness to their d-line and Milton Williams does exactly that. While he may be a little undersized, Williams’ versatility and ability to get to the QB makes him a clear fit alongside Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave.
Stats to know:
- According to PFF, he broke the record for highest single-season win rate (21.4%).
- He was 2nd in QB pressures by draft-eligible DTs last season (30) and had the 2nd overall grade in his class (90.8).
- He played 493 snaps and produced 30 pressures including 6 sacks, as well as 31 tackles.
- In last two seasons, he’s produced 30+ pressures, 6+ sacks and 30+ tackles.
123rd Overall Selection (Round 4, from Miami): Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech
Zech McPhearson went to Penn State before transferring to Texas Tech. He started each of Texas Tech’s 12 games in 2019 totaling 51 tackles, five passes defensed, while continuing his success on special teams blocking two kicks. The Red Raiders tasked him with a hybrid safety/linebacker role, which clearly made him an attractive prospect to Howie Roseman. He’s versatile, aggressive and shows a knack for making plays on the ball. He was one of the best zone corners in the country last season so clearly a strong fit for Gannons’ upcoming system.
On tape, McPhearson shows the ability to jam receivers and play physical despite possessing a small frame. He’s got solid speed, ball skills and football IQ. While this wasn’t the first corner on my list for day three at the time (Trill Williams, Tay Gowan, Rodarius Williams), the fit is very clear. You can see that he has quick feet and and fluid hips which will allow him to thrive in coverage. He can play outside, in the slot and even at safety. I expect Zech McPhearson to be a rotational corner or special teams contributor in 2021 for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stats to know:
- According to PFF, he was 4th in zone coverage grade since 2019 (86.2), 3rd highest graded CB vs Power 5 WRs since 2019 (90.0) and 4th in single coverage grade in 2020 (85.7)
- Zach McPhearson had a solid Pro Day including a 4.53 40 yard dash, a 41-inch vertical, a 130-inch broad jump, and a shuttle run recorded at 4.00 flat
150th Overall Selection (Round 5): Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Running back was an underrated need for the Philadelphia Eagles. Kenneth Gainwell was productive both on the ground and through the air in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. I immediately expect Gainwell to push as the #2 option behind Miles Sanders moving forward. I love his acceleration and he was a tremendous value pick in round five. We also can’t ignore how much Miles Sanders regressed in the passing game last season. We also have this clip of Kenneth Gainwell taking out Micah Parsons during the 2019 Cotton Bowl. Speaking sarcastically, as a non-Penn State and Dallas Cowboys fan, this completely sold me.
It’s not difficult to see why Nick Sirianni really likes in Kenneth Gainwell. Nyheim Hines was utilized as an elusive pass-catching back out of the backfield while Sirianni coached in Indianapolis. Hynes played a decent amount in 2020, garnering 392 snaps and playing 35.9% of the snaps last season. For comparison purposes, Boston Scott played 383 snaps and 33.9% of the snaps on offense for the Eagles in 2020. Look for Kenneth Gainwell to make some noise in the running back rotation along with Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Jordan Howard.
Stats to know:
- He was the only player in all of the FBS to gain at least 1,000 yards rushing (1,459) and 500 yards receiving (610) in 2019.
- Against Tulane, Gainwell posted the first 200-yard receiving/100-yard rushing performance since 1997.
- At his Pro Day, he ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash and leaped 10-1 in the broad jump.
189th Overall Selection (Round 6): Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC
Similar to Milton Williams, this was another surprise. However, when you looked closer at this guy as a prospect it became abundantly clear. Here is a defensive lineman that brings a lot of versatility to the defensive tackle position. Tuipulotu is mostly known as a stout run defender with the flexibility and athleticism to get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, this selection shares a lot of similarities with Landon Dickerson and medical red flags. Tuipulotu has a history of lower-body injuries and only played in 30 games for the USC Trojans.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder spent four years at USC and starting three of them. Overall, this is a solid prospect that Jonathan Gannon can work into his defensive line rotation. This was this selection I realized that Jonathan Gannon heavily prioritized the defensive line for his upcoming Cover-2 scheme. Dane Brugler for The Athletic had him rated 69th overall and 3rd DT in his rankings along with a a 2nd-3rd round grade. During Gannon’s time with the Colts, it’s important to note that he never prioritized defensive backs either. A lot of pressure has now been placed on Eagles coaching staff to develop talent, which is an area they have shown significant struggled with these last few years.
Stats to know:
- 104 tackles, including 15 for losses (with 8.5 sacks), plus 3 deflections and 2 forced fumbles in college career.
- He has appeared in 33 games in his career, starting 29 times.
- Tuipolutu put up 15 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 sacks over the last three seasons.
- This is the first time the Eagles have taken 2 defensive tackles in the same draft since 2006 (Brodrick Bunkley, LaJuan Ramsey).
191st Overall Selection (Round 6): Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina
The Eagles continued to address the defensive line by selecting Tarron Jackson out of Coastal Carolina. While he may be undersized, he is known for his high motor and plus strength and foot speed. He’s good at getting off the line showing good range and the ability to get leverage. Tarron Jackson projects as a rotational EDGE rusher alongside Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett. Brandon Graham is on the wrong side of his Eagles career. Both Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett are set to be free agents after this season. Like a lot of these picks, the Eagles are doubling down on player development which is a tad concerning considering their track record. Jackson is a raw pass rusher with high upside that will need to develop technique.
Stats to know:
- Three-year starter registering 195 tackles, 44.5 tackles for loss, and 26.5 sacks in 48 games.
- His 54-tackles and 8.5-sacks in 2020 made him a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award.
- According to PFF, Jackson was 1st in Pressures in the Draft Class (59), 3rd in overall grade (90.0) and 34th in run defense grade (79.2).
224th Overall Selection (Round 6, compensatory pick): JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
Considering the need, it’s incredible that the position wasn’t addressed until round 6. Not that it should surprise anyone considering the Eagles track record. Announced as a linebacker by the team, JaCoby Stevens played safety at LSU showcasing his ability to get to the quarterback and make plays on the ball. This is a pure athlete, who began his college football career at wide receiver. It’ll be extremely interesting to see what Jonathan Gannon has in store for him at the next level. My eyes will be all over this guy when mini-camp starts this May. How Gannon determines his fit in his scheme and how he develops his immense talent level absolutely has my attention.
Stats to know:
- He started all 10 games for LSU in 2020, tying for the team lead with 63 tackles (six for loss with three sacks) while also breaking up four passes and tying for third in the FBS with three fumble recoveries.
- He switched to jersey No. 7, which was previously worn by future pros Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, D.J. Chark, and Grant Delpit.
- According to Next Gen Stats, Stevens earned the highest production score of any 2021 safety (95) and tied for the best athleticism score (97).
234th Overall Selection (Round 7, compensatory pick): Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
The hybrid players on defense keep on coming for the Philadelphia Eagles. Patrick Johnson was a defensive end in college but like JaCoby Stevens, will making a position change at the next level. The Eagles quickly announced that Patrick Johnson will be a linebacker in midnight green. Also similar to Stevens, this is a prospect that’s adept at attacking and putting pressure on the quarterback. With Johnson’ selection, six of the Eagles’ final seven picks were made on the defensive side of the ball.
Stats to know:
- Johnson was a productive pass rusher in college, notching 24 1/2 sacks in his final three years with 6 forced fumbles and 39 tackles for loss.
- According to PFF, he was 26th in Pass Rush Grade (85.8) and 84th in Overall Grade (74.3).
- Only two players in all of FBS had 10 solo sacks. One was Patrick Johnson. His 67 sack yards were 3rd in FBS.
Overall Grade: B/B+
I absolutely love the first two picks. They did a very good job putting pieces around Jalen Hurts to ensure a smooth transition into his first year as starting quarterback. When it comes to the 2021 season for the Philadelphia Eagles, success will be directly tied to finding out what they have in Jalen Hurts. They helped their cause big time with DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson. The biggest question remains on defense, where a ton of pressure will be placed on Jonathan Gannon to develop some core pieces in 2021. Overall, I liked a lot more than I didn’t and I’m excited to see how some of the pieces to the puzzle are put together this season.