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Top 5 First Round Draft Targets for the Philadelphia Eagles

Christmas Day err the NFL Draft is only a few days away! That means it is time to breakdown my top 5 targets for the Philadelphia Eagles and their #12 selection in the NFL Draft. Disclaimer! Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase are not on this list due to the low probability that they are available when the Eagles are on the clock.

#5 Rashawn Slater

This is a guy with the ceiling of franchise left tackle at the next level. Rashawn Slater didn’t play a single snap during the 2020 college football season in order to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. The first thing to know about Rashawn Slater is that he brings tremendous versatility. This is not your prototypical starting tackle prospect. Rashawn Slater thrived in all areas on the offensive line in college. That kind of versatility immediately makes him an intriguing fit in Philadelphia considering the o-line’s injury history and it’s make up within the next couple of years.

The Eagles love lineman that can get to the second level and Rashawn Slater has tremendous athleticism to do so. There are questions about whether or not he would be better at guard than tackle. The good news? The Eagles are currently at ground zero of a full rebuild. Howie Roseman has made it very clear that it’s not about 2021. If there is one positive on this team, it revolves around Jeff Stoutland. Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks never reached a Pro Bowl before being coached by Stoutland. Since then, they made a total of of nine Pro Bowls with Jeff Stoutland. Stoutland getting the opportunity to mold a big time asset for the Eagles down the road seems to me like a no brainer move in the first round.

Top 5 Stats to know about Rashawn Slater:

  • Rashawn Slater career pass-blocking stats: Pass-blocking snaps – 1,312, Sacks allowed – 5
  • Slater received a grade of 90.1 from Pro Football Focus in 2019.
  • He allowed a pressure on just 0.64% of his snaps in 2019, which is crazy considering Penei Sewell allowed a pressure on just 0.76% of his snaps. 
  • He allowed only one quarterback hit in 2019.
  • Slater only gave up 5 pressures in 787 total snaps and was an even better as a run blocker. According to Pro Football Focus he had run-blocking grade of 89.1, which was 1.7 points higher than his pass blocking grade.

#4 DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith was unbelievable for Alabama last year, performing as a deep threat while also getting it done between the numbers. This is a guy whose slant routes routinely become 20 plus yard gains immediately after the snap. Smith’s run after the catch ability is rarely matched, and he’s even a home run threat on simple bubble screens, something the Eagles significantly struggled with in 2020. DeVonta Smith projects best as a “Z” receiver at the next level. A lot of people speak negatively regarding his slender frame, but I don’t buy it. This guy is a playmaker through and through.  

It’s easy to see why DeVonta Smith would be a pitch perfect fit in Philadelphia. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor would be the perfect recipe for a successful Jalen Hurts in 2021. They can both line up in the x and flanker positions. They can 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 an excellent route runner that can play all over the field and help them target the intermediate area of the where they so desperately struggled. DeVonta Smith 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 Eagles offense this season.

Top 5 stats to know about DeVonta Smith

  • Here are the stats from the 4 games Waddle/Smith played together pre-injury:
  • Jaylen Waddle: 25 rec, 557 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Devonta Smith: 38 rec, 483 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • 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.

#3 Jaycee Horn

Jaycee Horn’s vision and football IQ are off the charts. His elite feel for the game combined with his very good short-area quickness makes him a perfect fit for Jonathan Gannon’s defense. At his pro day, Jaycee Horn ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and a vertical jump of 41.5 inches. There is no doubt that Jaycee Horn has the height, speed, and physicality to be a standout outside corner in the NFL.

With more safety help over the top likely in 2021, Jonathan Gannon will surely have his corners playing more aggressive. Enter Jaycee Horn, whose elite ball skills and alpha mentality will instantly make him a fan favorite in Philadelphia. This isn’t Jalen Mills. Jaycee Horn’s fierce intensity and toughness on the field are just as much backed up by his terrific play. With Darius Slay and Jaycee Horn locking down the outside spots, I could easily see Jonathan Gannon’s defense transitioning to more of a cover 3 scheme in 2021.

Top 5 stats to know about Jaycee Horn

  • Only 3 cornerbacks have entered the draft between 2016 and 2020 with a higher chance of making a Pro Bowl within their first 3 seasons than Horn (27%): Marshon Lattimore (31%) and Denzel Ward (29%) both made the all-star game in Year 1 (Next Gen Stats)
  • According to PFF, Jaycee Horn only allowed eight catches in 239 coverage snaps in 2020.
  • SEC CB leaders in passer rating allowed (min 20 targets): – Eric Stokes – 34.3, Jaycee Horn: 54.9, Patrick Surtain: 57.0
  • Jaycee Horn at South Carolina’s Pro Day: 4.37 40-yard dash, 41.5” vertical, 11’1” broad jump
  • Horn also put up 19 reps on the bench press.

#2 Patrick Surtain

If the Eagles are to trade up, I think the odds are that Howie Roseman has circled Patrick Surtain as this year’s draft. Like Penei Sewell and Trevor Lawrence, this is about as close of a sure thing you’re going to get in the 2021 draft class. Given Howie Roseman’s history and struggle with identifying elite talent at the top of the draft, Patrick Surtain to the Eagles makes a ton of sense. Surtain’s measurements are very good, standing 6’2, 208 pounds and running a 4.41 40-yard dash and 39 inch vertical jump during Alabama’s pro day.  

Due to COVID-19, there are a lot of unknowns about the 2021 NFL Draft. Even Adam Shefter recently reported that medical information is not adequate prior to the start of the NFL Draft. What we do know is that new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has to be in love with Patrick Surtain, who thrived in both man and zone coverages at Alabama. It’s no secret that the Eagles must hit on their 2021 first rounder. Patrick Surtain is one of the safest picks in the top 12 and possesses potential to be a Pro Bowler in year one. He’s that good.

Top 5 stats to know about Patrick Surtain

  • According to PFF, he had the highest grade of any FBS cornerback during his sophomore and junior seasons.
  • While he typically thrives in press coverage, Surtain was incredibly impressive down the field his senior season where he allowed only one reception of 25 yards or more.
  • According to PFF, Surtain played the most defensive snaps without a penalty committed this season (916) while allowing 6 penalties the season prior.
  • He’s an improving tackler who has only missed 11 tackles during his 3 years at Alabama.
  • Surtain was targeted only one time per every 10 coverage snaps and allowed a reception every 25 coverage snaps (#1 in the country).

#1 Jaylen Waddle

In today’s NFL, speed kills. Even though Jalen Reagor is kind of a similar wide receiver, this continues to be a major area of need for the Eagles who were near the bottom of the league in terms of explosive plays in 2020 (6%, 28th).  The potential playmaking duo of Jalen Reagor and Jaylen Waddle would take a lot of pressure off of Jalen Hurts in 2021. Jaylen Waddle got off to a ridiculously fast start during his junior season, finishing with 28 catches for 591 yards and four touchdowns in six games.

With his speed and agility, Jaylen Waddle would add a huge boost to Nick Sirianni’s offense. If healthy, Waddle’s presence alone will open up the intermediate passing game for Dallas Goedert who is projected to soon take in the reins as the #1 tight end on the roster. Waddle would also provide a major boost to the Eagles special teams where he averaged 19.3 yards per return and two  scores. Jaylen Waddle is number one on my Eagles big board due to his ability to stretch the field with his elite speed that will keep defenses guessing.

Top 5 stats to know about Jaylen Waddle

  • Waddle is an elite playmaker: In the last 2 seasons, 673 of his 1,109 yards have come after catch. 
  • In 2020, Jaylen Waddle had 4 100-yard games along with 15 explosive plays.
  • He can hit you anywhere on the field with elite alignment versatility. 329 deep receiving yards, 360 single coverage receiving yards and 467 slot receiving yards.
  • According to Pro Football Focus, he only dropped one target on 29 catchable passes last season, while averaging 10.1 yards after the catch per reception, third-most in the FBS.
  • His 4.4 average receiving yards per route run was also the third-best FBS mark.