The 2021 NFL Draft is a little over 24 hours away. Can you believe it?
Anticipation has been growing steadily over the past few weeks and it’s beginning to hit a fever pitch. Some fans are anxious due to Howie Roseman’s lack luster draft history, while others are choosing to be a bit more optimistic this year — though that group is much smaller than the former.
The Eagles have several immediate needs facing them as they enter draft night. Cornerback and wide receiver are the consensus top needs among the fan base, while positions like linebacker, defensive line, and offensive line could also use an injection of youth.
In preparation for the big night, let’s take a look at the top-7 most likely choices at 12th overall for the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s NFL Draft.
Click here to read our latest Eagles 7-round mock draft.
7. Micah Parsons, PSU linebacker
If Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons happens to fall to the Eagles at 12, he’ll more than likely be the best defensive prospect remaining. That doesn’t mean Roseman will opt to take this PSU product, though. In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that Parsons will be the selection at 12th overall.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the odds for Parsons being the Eagles first round selection are +900. That obviously doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t take him — Jalen Reagor’s odds to get drafted by the Eagles last year were +1000, according to PointsBet. But we all know by now that this team doesn’t put a ton of value in the linebacker position.
If Roseman didn’t go out and sign Eric Wilson this offseason, then the discussion about taking Parsons at 12 would be more warranted. But as it stands right now, Parsons coming to Philly is a long shot, even if he’s on the board when the Eagles are on the clock.
6. Kwity Paye, Michigan EDGE
Based on what we see from the oddsmakers, it wouldn’t seem like Kwity Paye to the Eagles is realistic. Paye’s odds to get selected by the Eagles is currently at +1000 on FanDuel. But as we know, the Eagles pride themselves on building through the trenches.
Paye is among the best edge rushers in this class, and it’s more likely than not that he’s available at 12th overall. Not to mention, the defensive ends position on the Eagles could use another body. It’s obviously not the biggest need facing the team, but that hasn’t deterred Howie from going with an defensive/offensive lineman with his first round selection in the past.
When the team selected Derek Barnett in 2017, Brandon Graham was a solidified starter, and they had just signed Chris Long that offseason. In 2019 when the team selected Andre Dillard in the first round, Jason Peters was already penciled in as the starting left tackle.
Since 1999, the Eagles have selected eight defensive lineman with their first round pick. Over the past three decades, the Eagles have had selected in the top half of the first round 13 times. Each of those selections have been at either quarterback, offensive line, or defensive line.
Paye isn’t the most ideal selection here, for obvious reasons. But he’s certainly in play at 12th overall if he’s available.
5. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern OT/OG
For some of the same reasons I listed above, selecting Northwestern’s standout offensive lineman Rashawn Slater at No. 12 is not out of the question. The reason I place him a bit higher than Paye is simply because he would be an obvious upgrade at the left guard position over Isaac Seumalo.
While he’s listed as an offensive tackle on NFL.com, many scouts believe Slater has the ability to play guard as well. And play it at a very high level. Here’s an evaluation on Salter’s versatility from The Draft Network:
But Slater’s ceiling is likely lowest on the edge and the further into the heart of the line he transitions, the higher his potential is to become a perennial Pro Bowl player and potential All-Pro candidate in my eyes. Slater has tremendous cutoff abilities and clean, patient footwork working space and the necessary functional strength to hold his own on the interior. The position flexibility he offers ensures he can be a part of any NFL offensive line’s combination of best five players to start up front from Day 1.
Slater would start at left guard from day one if the Eagles select him, while also being flexible enough to play either tackle position if Lane Johnson or Jordan Mailata/Andre Dillard get banged up. He provides a ton of value for any team, especially for the Eagles who already put a lot of value in their offensive line as it is.
FanDuel currently has +1000 odds that Slater is selected by the Eagles. Considering how great of a prospect he is on top of Roseman’s love for the big guys up front, that’s a pretty good bet in my eyes.
4. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama WR
The Eagles like speed, especially at the wide receiver position. Jaylen Waddle is the fastest wideout in this draft and possesses great big play ability.
It’s unclear if Waddles will even fall to the Eagles — many NFL Draft analysts have started placing him ahead of DeVonta Smith as the second-best wideout in this draft, behind LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase. Teams like the Dolphins, Lions, Panthers, and Giants could all take Waddle before the Eagles are on the clock. Despite that, oddsmakers have Waddle’s odds to get drafted by the Eagles at +430, tied for the second-highest odds of any prospect in this draft class.
Aside from corner, wideout is the biggest need for the Eagles entering draft night. If Waddle’s there for the taking, Roseman will surely consider taking this speedy Bama wideout.
3. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama CB
According to FanDuel, Patrick Surtain has the highest odds to become an Eagle Thursday night, +300. But I just don’t see him slipping all the way to 12. Unless one of the cornerback needy teams has a higher grade on South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, Surtain will more than likely be the first corner taken in this year’s draft.
The two most likely destinations for Surtain are Denver at 9th overall and Dallas at 10th overall. If he gets past Denver, I can’t imagine the Cowboys letting an opportunity like that slip away. They had an historically bad pass defense last season and they just don’t have any legitimate talent talent in their cornerback group, aside from Trevon Diggs who they selected in last year’s draft.
If he happens to slip past the Broncos and Cowboys, the Eagles will have no other choice but to take Surtain. But for the reasons I stated above, I just don’t think it’ll happen. But hey, I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong on this one.
2. DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR
A lot has been said about DeVonta Smith’s size (6’0”, 166 pounds), but I don’t put a ton of stock in measurables when the player has been absolutely dominant against the best competition in college football.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has never let his size take away from his game. He plays bigger than his size and his lengthy arms have been an asset throughout his collegiate career. Smith does a nice job creating separation off the line of scrimmage with his arms, and as the best route runner in this year’s draft, he creates even more separation when he’s one-on-one with a corner down the field.
If you think his size will truly hinder him when facing NFL talent, just take a look at his film against South Carolina in 2019. He was primarily covered by Jaycee Horn in that game, the most physical corner in this year’s class. Smith hauled in 8 receptions for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns in that contest.
Smith has also never dealt with serious injuries during his collegiate career, something that usually plagues smaller players. From 2018 to 2020, Smith suited up in every single game for the Crimson Tide. His counterpart, Jaylen Waddle, who is starting to rise over Smith on most draft boards, is coming off a year in which he played only six games due to a broken leg.
If Smith is available at 12, Roseman shouldn’t hesitate on taking him. That is of course, if this next prospect isn’t available at 12…
1. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina CB
If Jaycee Horn is there at 12, he has to be the pick. Corner is the biggest need for the Eagles and Horn is the best cornerback prospect outside of Surtain in this draft. He’ll be an impact player for the Eagles from day one.
While I did take a shot at Horn in my section on Smith, that game was from two years ago and Horn has taken the lessons learned from that season to improve his game in 2020. During his final year at SC, Horn looked like a much more natural corner. His awareness improved and his hand placement on receivers allowed him to feel where the receiver was going at all times.
He’ll need to be careful with how much he uses his hands at the next level, but if there’s one thing that’s set in stone for Horn as a prospect, it’s that he’s adaptable and easy to coach. Joining the Eagles and being under the tutelage of Jonathan Gannon, someone who’s made a name for himself developing cornerbacks in the NFL, would be a huge blessing for Horn.
Coaching has a huge impact on young players and I’m sure Gannon would love the opportunity to develop such a promising cornerback like Horn.
If all goes according to plan and there’s no trading up or down from the Eagles, I think Horn is the most likely first round selection for Philly.