The NFL Draft is set to kick-off on Thursday night, and the Eagles have a total of 8 picks, beginning with 21 overall. Given the fairly tight cap reality of having a franchise QB finally being paid as such, it’s vital that the front office hits on their picks this year—something they’ve generally struggled with the past few years.
Round 1 (21 overall)
Justin Jefferson WR, LSU
The most likely outcome is that the Eagles move this pick—whether that be up or down really depends on how the board shakes out. But if Justin Jefferson is available, which was the case in this mock, you can pencil him in at 21.
Jefferson is as safe a prospect as they come, and while he wouldn’t quite be a star on his own, he’s the type of player that can be a star in the right situation. The Eagles should be prioritizing receivers who can separate consistently and win in contested situations, and Jefferson can do both.
His 4.43-speed doesn’t blow you away but he’s a precise route-runner with the requisite combo of quickness and size that allows him to routinely win in coverage. Pair that with impressive ball skills and it’s easy to understand why he’s considered such a high-floor, instant-impact prospect.
I’m not sure I would be sold on Jefferson in a vacuum, but considering he’ll be paired with Carson Wentz, I’m pretty confident we’ll get the best version of him.
Seattle receives 53 overall
Philadelphia receives 64 and 101 overall
The Eagles are in a funky spot of the board at 53 and I think moving this pick is just as likely as moving 21—the team needs to add another top 100, and I figured I could move back to 64 and still grab one of the players I had my eye on at 53.
Round 2 (64)
Willie Gay Jr. LB, Miss. St.
I was torn between Troy Dye (Oregon) and Willie Gay Jr., and decided to roll with the higher upside player. Gay is a freakishly explosive athlete with a daunting combination of speed and power. He posted a 4.46 40-yard dash, the longest broad jump, and second highest vertical of any linebacker at the combine; his draft stock has risen accordingly.
His performance at the combine was easy to anticipate for anyone who saw his albeit limited playing time in college, as his athletic traits are rare for a player of his size and physical nature. He’s an unrelenting tackler with the sort of thump that ball-carriers can’t forget, and the sort of closing speed fit for the pros.
He may have fit better as an outside linebacker a few years ago, but his skillset is essentially what you’re looking for in a modern middle linebacker. He’s a fast, rangy backer who does a solid job in coverage and has the tools to improve there even more.
Because of his relative inexperience for a player entering the draft he does have processing concerns, but any team should be willing to develop those given his age (22) and physical profile.
Had he not spent most of his junior season suspended for cheating on exams and punching his teammate then he might be a first round pick—and any team that considers him will have to grapple with those red flags—but he has as high of upside as anyone linebacker prospect in recent memory.
Tennessee receives 103 & 127 overall
Philadelphia receives 93 overall
Tennessee has an 81 picks gap in between selections, so they’re a prime candidate to move down ten spots to pick up another mid-fourth rounder.
Round 3 (93)
Nick Harris IOL, Washington
The “drop off” in talent that evaluators often speak off occurs right around the 80-95 range, and this is the range the team should look to add a pick in.
Here’s what I wrote about Nick Harris earlier this month:
Harris can play both guard and center, and has the sort of functional athleticism the Eagles love out of their lineman. He plays great in space, has sound footwork/hand technique, and possesses an advanced understanding of leverage and angles that allows him to compensate for physical limitations.
He profiles better as a center for the Birds because of his high IQ and ability to execute blocks in space, but he would hold up fine at guard as well. He could stand to get a touch stronger, but what he lacks in brute strength he makes up for with good balance and a tenacious on-field demeanor.
Round 3 (101)
Kenny Robinson S, W. Virginia / XFL
Kenny Robinson was dismissed from the West Virginia football team last season, and chose to compete in the XFL to support his family in lieu of lucrative transfer offers at the college-level. He was able to show off his pro-ready skillset against a higher level competition than the Big-12, and his stock is arguably higher as a result.
Robinson profiles perfectly as the free safety of the future to eventually replace McLeod, and he can come in and compete for a sub-package role right away. He has outstanding coverage skills (7 picks in two seasons at WVU; 2 picks in five XFL games) and is a legitimate playmaker on the back end—he’s an absolute hawk with great instincts and closing speed.
He’s not the best in run-support, and his overall game isn’t really suited to play near the LOS, but he’ll be a plus anywhere you put him in coverage, and is the type of player QBs will learn to avoid sooner than later.
In today’s NFL, Robinson is an obvious asset, and he’s leaps and bounds better than the other safeties in this tier of the Draft—I’ll argue he’s a better prospect than some of the safeties being discussed at 53.
Round 4 (145)
Devin Duvernay WR, Texas
Devin Duvernay is making his third appearance in these mock drafts and he seems to be a popular mid-round pick among Eagles fans in general.
Duvernay could fill a really nice role as a WR3/4 out of the slot for the Birds offense. He’s a former Texas state high school track champion in the 100m, and while he’s shorter/stockier than you would expect, he has excellent long speed and if you give him a crease he’ll burn you after catch.
He‘s best utilized as a vertical threat where he’ll mostly demand safety help, and slanting behind linebackers in RPOs and other situations where you can get him moving vertically with the ball in his hands. He’s not a fit in every scheme but he‘d have a clear role in Doug’s offense.
While he mainly profiles as a slot receiver, he has the physicality and speed to play on the outside as long as he can improve his release and develop his route tree a little.
Round 4 (146)
Josh Kelley RB, UCLA
One of these two consecutive picks are a good candidate to be packaged in a trade or moved by itself to pick up a fourth in next years draft. Nonetheless, I decided to stay put and add the perfect complementary back to Sanders and Boston Scott.
Josh Kelley is a north-south runner who runs well behind his pads and does a good job wiggling through tight seams to pick up extra yards. He didn’t have much to work with at UCLA and still managed to produce—2,300 yards, 24 TDs in two seasons.
He doesn’t have high upside but he could certainly be the short-yardage back the team relies upon to get the tough yards that Sanders and Scott aren’t necessarily built for.
Round 5 (168)
Quintez Cephus WR, Wisconsin
I went with three wide receivers for the first time, and Quintez Cephus is truly a steal at this point in the draft—though given the depth at the position it’s not surprising that’s he’s available.
Cephus isn’t going to blow you away athletically (4.7-40 at the combine is rough), but he’s a tall, physical receiver who can really climb the ladder (38.5 inch vertical). He’s a seasoned route-runner who does a good job of boxing out defenders and winning contested catches.
He profiles perfectly as a possession receiver on the outside running digs, slants, comebacks, etc.. where he can use his NFL-ready release to challenge press coverage from day one.
It’s ridiculous that a player like this is around at 168, but again that’s a testament to the depth of the class. Cephus will hang around the league for a while if he can contribute on special teams.
Round 6 (190)
Dalton Keene TE, Virginia Tech
When I see how Kyle Shanahan uses an H-back—dating back to his days in Atlanta, and now with Kyle Juszczyk in San Fran—or how Andy Reid has used one throughout his coaching career, I’ve always thought Doug Pederson would be wise to utilize one in his offense.
Dalton Keene is as versatile as they come, capable of lining up at fullback, in-line tight end, or flexed out in the slot. At 6’4” 255 he runs a 4.7-40 and is a decent enough athlete to execute blocks in space and be a difficult cover for linebackers.
His strength is only average but he’s a high-energy player who thrives off physicality, and will be an instant mismatch for whatever offense wants to use him.
WR, LB, IOL, S, WR, RB, WR, H-back.
That checks all the boxes, and I’m fairly pleased with the level of talent accumulated.