Everyone likes to publish draft grades immediately following the NFL draft, myself included.  It is a fun exercise in evaluating the thought process and analyzing the prospects selected by each team, but in reality, grades can’t be fully determined for years after the selection is made.  Today we are going to take a look at the Eagles 2020 draft class.

The Qualifiers

  1. Grades will be relative to the position they were drafted in.  For example, Jalen Mills was a 7th round pick and would get a very high grade because you don’t often expect a 7th round player to be a multi-year starter.  
  2. On my grading scale, a C would be considered an average pick.  Any grade above a C is a good thing while anything below a C is a bad thing.
  3. For the purposes of my grading, I expect 1st and 2nd round players to be starters, 3rd-5th round players to be role players, and 6th-7th round players to be special teamers or projects.

The Picks

1×21 WR Jalen Reagor

The Eagles defied conventional wisdom passing over Justin Jefferson and selecting the speedster out of TCU.  Reagor compiled 396 receiving yards and 1 TD on 31 receptions. He appeared in 11 games for the Eagles and missed 5 games due to injury.  Reagor struggled as a route runner and with the physicality associated with being an outside receiver in the NFL, particularly at the catch point.  He also struggled with eye discipline and failed to show the yards after catch potential that he was drafted for.  It is hard not to compare Reagor to Jefferson who, selected 1 pick later by the Minnesota Vikings, put up 1,400 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie season.  However, such comparisons aren’t entirely fair to Reagor who was both injured and played in a much lesser offense.  Nevertheless, there are 10 rookie receivers who amassed more yardage than Reagor, and 6 of them were available when Reagor was selected by the Eagles.

What I thought then

I’m giving the Eagles a C- for the selection of Reagor.  He was the WR8 on my board and I think he would have been available if the Eagles traded back.  The Chargers gave up pick 37 and 71 to move up to pick 23.  The Vikings gave up 25 for 31, 117, and 176.  The Packers gave up 30 and 136 for 26.  Would Reagor have been available at 37? Perhaps but it isn’t certain.  Would he have been available at 25 or 26? Almost without a doubt.

In a draft where I didn’t have much of a difference once you were past the top 4, it makes more sense to me to trade back to 37 and pick up a 3rd round pick or take one of the smaller trade backs and take an extra swing at the WR position.

What I think now

It is too early to consider Jalen Reagor a bust, but fans should be very disappointed in his play in season 1.  I have very little confidence that he will develop into a WR1 for the team, and they enter yet another offseason with receiver as one of their biggest needs.  

Grade: D-

2×53 QB Jalen Hurts

With glaring needs elsewhere on the team, the Eagles chose to select a backup QB mere months after inking Carson Wentz to a massive contract extension.  Hurts entered the Green Bay Packers game in relief of Carson Wentz and started the final 4 games of the season, leading the team to a 1-3 record while completing 52% of his passes for 1,061 yards, 6 TDs, and 4 INT.  He added 354 yards on the ground and 3 rushing touchdowns while fumbling 9 times.  

Inserted into a woeful offense, Hurts brought more function to the unit with his ability to escape from the pocket.  He showed the ability to throw sideline breaking routes with anticipation but struggled mightily when asked to throw over the middle of the field or when his first read wasn’t there.  He showed a major tendency to break the pocket in those situations rather than progress to his 2nd read.  

What I thought then

Your second pick needs to be a player that makes an impact, not a backup.  If you are going to take a backup at that pick, take one that makes sense like Lloyd Cushenberry to Matt Hennessy, both great C prospects who fit what the Eagles value at the position since 32-year-old Jason Kelce has openly contemplated retirement for 2 years.  That makes sense.  Drafting a backup for your 27-year-old franchise QB that you just signed a long-term $100+ million deal with does not…

Here is a complete list of moves that the Eagles have made this offseason to help Carson Wentz: drafting Jalen Reagor.  That is it.  Nothing else.  They are content to run it back with the same offense from last year, and that is inexcusable…

There were 2 players on my board with a 1st round grade left and 1 with a high 2nd round grade.  The 1st round grades went to CB Kristian Fulton and WR Denzel Mims.  The high 2nd grade belonged to S Jeremy Chinn.  Honestly throw a dart at the board and any of them would have been great values at that draft slot.

What I think now

The selection of Jalen Hurts was and continues to remain inexcusable at every level by the Eagles’ front office. Yes, he played the last 4 games of the season.  But if the team somehow anticipated that Carson Wentz would have a historically bad year then why did they pay him a massive contract? No revisionist history can justify the process that the Eagles used when they lit their 2nd round draft pick on fire just for the joy of watching it burn.  Even if Jalen Hurts becomes a long-term starter for the team (which I consider highly unlikely) the process around the pick is still indefensible. 

Grade: F

3×103 LB Davion Taylor

The Eagles desperately needed help at linebacker after losing Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill following the 2019 season.  In the 3rd round, they selected Taylor as a developmental piece for the group.  Taylor was seen as a massive project, having played very little football prior to being selected, and was largely unable to get on the field as a rookie.  He played only 32 defensive snaps: 11 against the Ravens, 3 against the Giants, and 18 against the Browns.

 What I thought then

I had a 5th round grade on Taylor and feel he was a reach, but he does have a lot of upside.  He is extremely athletic and proved it at the combine turning in a top 3 40 time among linebackers. He will slot in as a will linebacker for the Eagles and is a good enough player both in coverage and in run defense once he has properly diagnosed a play.  The problem is that he is very slow to diagnose plays.  He has almost no instincts for the game, but that stems from his lack of experience.  He played in only 2 games in high school and then went to a JUCO before transferring to Colorado.  He is the type of player that should be a quick study but he is going to have a lot to learn.  It is also worth noting that he is very undersized for a linebacker.

What I think now

When you enter the offseason with the worst linebacking corps in the entire league you should spend draft picks on the position.  However, when you spend a 3rd round pick on a player to play a position where there is so little talent on your roster, and then he is only able to play 3% of the snaps, that is an indictment of your draft selection. 

Grade: F 

4×127 S K’Von Wallace

For the first time in a long time, the Eagles addressed the safety position in the draft with the selection of Wallace.  He struggled to get on the field early in the year, playing only an average of only 4.8 defensive snaps per week for the first 11 games of the year.  However, he saw an uptick in his snaps in the final 5 weeks playing 16, 28, 23, 19, and 63 in the season finale.  Disregarding the week 17 game where the Eagles sat multiple players, Wallace averaged 21.5 snaps per week from weeks 13-16. 

What I thought then

Wallace is a player that I listed as one of my 10 best players on the board at the start of day 3.  He is a highly versatile defensive back who is more of a positionless player than a true safety.  It is worth noting that the Eagles are moving in the direction of acquiring more and more positionless players, but that is perhaps a topic for another day.  Last season at Clemson, Wallace took 396 snaps as a slot corner, 208 snaps in the box, and 96 snaps deep as a safety.  In coverage, his strength is playing the robber role in inverted cover 2, a role that Malcolm Jenkins notably struggled with, in 2019.  Wallace is likely a special teamer/sub-package defender in year 1 with the ability to challenge for the starting nickel role in year 2.  I would have been happy with Wallace in the 3rd round so I love him in the 4th.

What I think now

Wallace didn’t make the impact that I had hoped for in year 1, but I remain hopeful that he will thrive in that nickel/linebacker/box safety role that the Eagles like to utilize often.  

Grade: B-

4×145 OL Jack Driscoll

The Eagles selected another young, offensive lineman for Jeff Stoutland to groom in the 4th round. Driscoll would end up being thrown into the fire, playing 40% or more of the snaps in 6 games this season and playing 2 complete games in weeks 13 and 14.  He acquitted himself well as a right tackle and showed some real promise for the future for the Eagles before his season was cut short due to an MCL sprain.  

What I thought then

Driscol is your token day 3 pick for the Eagles.  He is an athletic lineman with potential that they will turn over to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, one of the best in the business, to try and develop… Driscol is highly athletic and projects favorably to a zone-blocking scheme.  His biggest weakness is his functional strength, the same weakness Andre Dillard had and even Jason Kelce had early in his career.  The bottom line is that the Eagles highly value the trenches, have one of the best OL coaches in the league, and lost a lot of that group to free agency this offseason so the Driscol pick makes perfect sense.

What I think now

Driscol held his own when thrust into games as a rookie and provides some much-needed stability to the right tackle position behind the oft-injured Lane Johnson.  He also has some offensive guard versatility, a considerable asset for the team considering how many games RG Brandon Brooks has missed over the last few seasons.  

Grade: A

5×168 WR John Hightower

Continuing the theme of SPEED the Eagles selected speedster John Hightower in the 5th round.  Hightower appeared in 13 games while playing at least 30% of the snaps in 6 total games.  He ended the year with 167 yards on 10 receptions with a catch rate of 34.5%.

What I thought then

Hightower is another small WR who can flat out run.  He has big-play potential due to his dynamic speed and can take the top off of the defense.  He struggles to track the ball at times and has problems getting off of press coverage.  He is a player who has the potential to develop if he can put it all together, which is really the best you can hope for this late in the draft.

What I think now

Nothing has changed for me after watching Hightower as a rookie, but you have to wonder if the evaluation has changed for the Eagles.  As the season wore on, Hightower played less and less and his snaps began to be filled by fellow rookie Quez Watkins.  Baring a disastrous offseason, Hightower will be back with the team next year and will look to carve out a bigger role for himself.

Grade: C-

6×196 LB Shaun Bradley

The Eagles took another shot at LB in local product Shaun Bradley.  Bradley played 76 snaps on defense as a rookie and recorded 15 tackles and 1 TFL. 

What I thought then

Bradley is probably my least favorite pick from day 3.  He was a 3-year starter for Temple and is a slow processor from the LB position.  His lack of instincts make him way too easy to block at the 2nd level and he struggles to shed blocks once engaged.  He is an okay athlete but I really don’t see him ever doing anything besides playing special teams.

What I think now

In the relatively small amount of time Bradley got on the field, I was impressed by what I saw from the rookie.  He doubled the snap count of fellow rookie Davion Taylor which is noteworthy.  Bradley still has a large hill to climb to become a starting linebacker in the NFL, but if there is a place he can do it it is in Philadelphia.  

Grade: B

6×200 WR Quez Watkins

Watkins made very minor appearances in the offense in weeks 5 and 6 before being inactive for the majority of the season.  Finally, in week 14 he was activated and given consistent snaps.  His best game of the year was against the Cardinals when he caught 3 passes for 40 yards and 1 TD.  Watkins ended the year with 7 catches for 106 yards and 1 TD.

What I thought then

The biggest hole the Eagles had entering the draft was WR.  At pick 200 taking a WR who ran a 4.35 at the combine is good value.  Will he ultimately make the roster? Probably not, but he is another cheap dart to throw at the board and see what sticks and I’ll never quibble with that.

What I think now

My view of Watkins is largely unchanged.  He showed some explosiveness on offense and it was a very low-risk pick. 

Grade: B+

 6×210 OL Prince Tega Wanogho

The Eagles took another flier on an offensive line prospect in Tega Wanogho.  He was inactive until week 17 when he played 2 snaps on special teams.

What I thought then

The Eagles grab the other OT from Auburn, which might be the first time a team has ever grabbed both OTs from one team in the same draft? I have no idea but seems like a fun stat for someone to look up.  Similar to his teammate, Wanogho is highly athletic and projects best to a zone-blocking scheme. He was generally evaluated as a mid to high day 2 pick but had knee issues throughout the offseason.  With the lack of meetings and medical checks, he slid down draft boards.  But in the 6th round, it is always worth taking a flyer on a high upside prospect with a medical red flag.

What I think now

Nothing has changed in my evaluation of Prince Tega Wanogho.  He was unavailable due to injury for most of the year and we never really saw him on the field.  

Grade: Incomplete

7×233 EDGE Casey Toohill

Toohill played 22 snaps for the Eagles in week 2 and failed to record any stats.  He was later waived to the practice squad and claimed by the Washington Football Team.

What I thought then

Toohill played both DE and LB for Stanford.  The Eagles have already said that they view him as a DE.  He is a good athlete who gives 100% every play.  Will need to add strength to be able to hold ground in the run game with his hand on the ground.  Is a project player at best, but that is really the only type of player left in the 7th round.

What I think now

You can’t expect a ton out of 7th round draft picks, but anytime you select someone with a draft pick and they don’t make it out of their rookie season still on the roster, it isn’t ideal.  That said, it happens all the time with 7th round picks so I won’t be too harsh here.

Grade: D

Final Thoughts

The Eagles made 10 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft.  According to my evaluations, 5 picks were graded as below average and 5 were graded as above average with only 1 A.  Most troubling of all, all 3 of their day 1 and 2 picks received a D- or an F.  

Coming into the draft, the Eagles were tied for the fewest draft selections made in the prior 2 years.  The roster was in desperate need of young talent that could make an immediate impact.  Instead of drafting that talent, the Eagles chose to take a backup QB and a long term project linebacker with their 2nd and 3rd round picks.  Even in the first round, they chose the player who was more of a long term projection in Jalen Reagor over the immediate impact and consensus best WR remaining in Justin Jefferson.

In a season where Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor were injured, rookie WRs Quez Watkins and John Hightower played very little.  In a season where the linebackers were atrocious, Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor rarely played.  In a season where defensive back after defensive back went down to injury, K’Von Wallace made no impact.

While none of these players’ career trajectories have been fully determined, the early returns on this class appear to have continued the long-standing tradition of stacking poor draft classes on top of each other.  However, unlike previous drafts, the blame for this one can fall on no one other than Howie Roseman as Joe Douglas was no longer a part of the decision making process.  

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