Grading the Philadelphia Eagles draft

Eagles draft Heisman winner DeVonta Smith

By: Alex Matteo

The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, naturally, we must dissect and nitpick every single pick each team has made. Today we will go through the Philadelphia Eagles’ draft and consider more than just the player selected. The why is just as important as the who at this stage.

Before the draft even started, General Manager Howie Roseman was already making headlines as the Eagles moved down from No. 6 to No. 12 while picking up the Miami Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick. The Eagles were involved in three trades during the NFL Draft.

Draft Day Trades:

  1. April 29, 2021 – Acquired a 2021 first-round pick (No. 10 overall WR DeVonta Smith), from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a 2021 first-round pick (No. 12 overall/LB Micah Parsons) and a 2021 third-round pick (No. 84 overall/DE Chauncey Golston).
  2. April 30, 2021 – Acquired a 2021 third-round pick (No. 73 overall/ DT Milton Williams) and a 2021 sixth-round pick (No. 191 overall/DE Tarron Jackson) from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick (No. 70 overall/T Brady Christensen).
  3. May 1, 2021 – Acquired a 2022 fifth-round pick from the Washington Football Team in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick (No. 225 overall/LS Camaron Cheeseman) and a 2021 seventh-round pick (No. 240 overall/DE William Bradley-King).

2021 Philadelphia Eagles Draft Class:

  • First Round
    • Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama (No.10)
  • Second Round
    • Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama (No.37)
  • Third Round
    • Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech (No.73)
  • Fourth Round
    • Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech (No.123)
  • Fifth Round
    • Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis (No.150)
  • Sixth Round
    • Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC (No.189)
    • Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina (No. 191)
    • JaCoby Stevens, LB, LSU (No.224)
  • Seventh Round
    • Patrick Johnson, LB, Tulane (No.234)

Grading the Picks:

Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama (No.10)

  • Philadelphia has made the mistake in the past of waiting for their guy to fall to them in the past but things were different this year. They leapt the New York Giants in a very surprising trade with the Dallas Cowboys to select 2020 Heisman winner Devonta Smith. As impressive as Smith’s Heisman campaign was, one could argue that his 2019 season was more impressive.  Smith led the team with 1256 receiving yards and 14 scores while having the second most receptions with 68. This was in an offense with 2020 first-round draft picks Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and eventual 2021 first-round picks Jaylen Waddle and Najee Harris. But, but Smith is only 166 pounds! That doesn’t matter too much to me if we are being completely honest. 

Smith is a game changing receiver who has shown to be versatile for multiple seasons on an absolutely loaded roster for Alabama. Smith is going to step into the WR1 role in Philadelphia and command close to 100 targets this season.

Overall Grade: A+

Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama (No.37)

  • The Eagles tend to draft players who they may not necessarily expect to be a starter Day-1. With an interior line consisting of Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks this may be the case again with Dickerson. Dickerson has all the talent in the world and is capable of playing all five positions on the offensive line. The only concern however is his health. Dickerson has suffered injuries to both ACL’s and ankles in his career. Should Dickerson stay healthy he has a very good chance to be considered a draft steal in the upcoming years with Kelce potentially retiring. 

With players such as Trevon Moehrig (S, TCU) and Asante Samuel Jr. (CB, FSU) being available the Dickerson pick is even more of a high risk high reward play.

Overall Grade: B

Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech (No.73)

  • In selecting Williams, Philadelphia moved back from Pick 70 to 73. Williams was a very productive player in Louisiana Tech in his final two years playing both defensive end and defensive tackle. In the two years Williams had 104 tackles, 19.0 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. With no significant defensive tackles besides Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave it made sense for Philadelphia to add to the defensive line room.

Williams is a play that screams upside. His pure athletic ability alone may get him time on the field.

Overall Grade: B

Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech (No.123)

  • To no surprise the Eagles addressed one of the worst secondaries in the league in the draft. The consensus around the Draft community was that Philadelphia would address the position much earlier in the draft. McPhearson a surprise Day-3 pick fell into the lap of the defensive back needy Eagles. Showing versatility to play both on the outside and in nickel, McPhearson should potentially be a viable corner to pair opposite from Darius Slay or in the slot.  

Overall Grade: B

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis (No.150)

  • After out producing Antonio Gibson in 2019, Kenneth Gainwell flew up potential draft boards going into the 2020 season. However, Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season he quickly became an afterthought in the draft process. In an offense expected to utilize multiple running backs, the Gainwell pick made a lot of sense for Philadelphia. With versatility in both the passing game as well as a rusher, Gainwell should immediately be in the 1B role to Miles Sanders.

Oh… Gainwell can also do this!

Overall Grade: A-

Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC (No.189)

  • At this point in the draft, it’s all about getting players who have either elite college production, or an elite athletic profile. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for Tuipulotu. In 30 games at USC, Tuipulotu had only 8.5 sacks and 15.0 total tackles for a loss. Expected to be a two-down player, Tuipulotu may not be more than a depth player if he makes the roster. In addition, there are concerns of back injuries in the past for Tuipulotu.

Overall Grade: C

Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina (No. 191)

  • Just two picks after addressing the defensive tackle position with Marlon Tuipulotu, the Eagles address the defensive end position with Tarron Jackson from Coastal Carolina. Jackson was a productive player for Coastal Carolina with 24.5 sacks 42.0 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles in his four seasons at Coastal Carolina. Jackson’s production stayed status quo his final two years in college which means he may have hit his ceiling as a pass rusher. With Brandon Graham going into his age 33 season and both Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat hitting free agency in 2022, Jackson should have a chance to make plays immediately.

Overall Grade: B-

JaCoby Stevens, LB, LSU (No.224)

  • With their third pick in the sixth round, Philadelphia selected JaCoby Stevens out of LSU. Interestingly enough they listed Stevens as a linebacker rather than a safety, the position he played in college. With size very similar to Jamal Adams (6’1” 212lbs), expect Philadelphia to try and use Stevens in a similar role as the former LSU standout. Will JaCoby Stevens be a player close to Adams? More likely than not no.  Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will have to scheme Stevens into roles for potential success.

Overall Grade: B-

Patrick Johnson, LB, Tulane (No.234)

  • Similarly to Stevens, seventh round pick Patrick Johnson is another player where Philadelphia plans on changing his position coming into the NFL.  At Tulane and throughout the draft process, Johnson was considered to be a 3-4 edge rusher in the NFL. The Eagles on the other hand, view Johnson as an off-ball 4-3 linebacker. With good college production and an elite athletic profile Johnson is a very low risk high reward given this point in the draft. Johnson is exactly the type of player you take a shot on late in the draft.

Overall Grade B

Final Thoughts

 Thankfully this year Howie Rosman did not overthink every pick and passed up value at each position. Philadelphia acquired an additional first round pick in 2022 potentially giving them three while addressing positions of need throughout the draft while taking value where they can. A far from perfect draft, but given the fact Rosman’s last Pro Bowl selection was Carson Wentz, it was a very pleasant change of pace.

Overall Grade: B

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