Eagles Rookie Report Card: 2021 draft class has some great potential

Eagles rookies providing little to nothing on the field in their first season has become a bit of a trend over the past few seasons. But that hasn’t been the case this year.

While some rookies have yet to see the field, a handful of the Eagles draft picks have shown out through four games and they’e showcased the potential they possess.

With four games down, let’s take a look at each rookie and see how they’ve performed thus far.

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1st Round Pick: WR DeVonta Smith

Grade: A

It’s ben awhile since Howie Roseman nailed a first round pick. Through just four games, it’s clear that the Eagles have a star on their hands with DeVonta Smith.

He had his breakout performance in Week 4 against the Chiefs, racking up seven catches for 122 yards. He became the first Eagles rookie wideout to go over 100 yards receiving since Jordan Matthews back in 2014.

On the year, Smith has accumulated 18 receptions for 237 yards and one touchdown. He boasts an impressive 13.2 yards per reception, and most importantly, he hasn’t committed a single drop on 32 targets. If we were to nitpick, it would be nice to see his yards after the catch improve a bit. He’s only averaging 3.9 YAC per reception on the year. But, he is coming of his best performance in that category against Kansas City, where he totaled 37 yards of his production after the catch.

Smith is clearly the best wideout on the roster despite being a rookie, and he should only continue to improve as the year goes on.

2nd Round Pick: G Landon Dickerson

Grade: C+

Dickerson got off to a rough start when he was thrown into the fire against San Francisco in Week 2. In that game, the second-round pick allowed four hurries, five pressures, and one quarterback hit in just 20 pass blocking reps.

Since then, he’s steadily improved and is coming off his best outing to date. Against Kansas City, Dickerson started at left guard, as opposed to right guard where he was lining up the two weeks prior, and he did a great job. His PFF run-block grade on the day came out to 92.1, putting him in elite territory for the weekend. His pass blocking efficiency was at a career high as well, posting a 96.5 efficiency rate, per PFF.

With the numerous injuries to the Eagles offensive line, it appears Dickerson may play a lot more than expected in 2021. His growth from week to week has been commendable and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down. If it weren’t for two clunkers in his first two starts, Dickerson’s grade would be at least a B. By season’s end, his final grade may be even higher than that.

Third Round Pick: DT/DE Milton Williams

Grade: D

Many fans, including myself, expected Milton Williams to be a pivotal rotational piece for the Eagles defensive line this season. With his versatility, having an impact should have been expected. But he’s failed to live up to expectations thus far.

In 60 pass rushing snaps, Williams has yet to record a single pressure, quarterback hit, or sack. He’s only tallied six tackles on the year, and his PFF overall grade for the year sits at 35.9, 116th out of 119 qualifying interior defenders.

The Eagles defensive line as a whole has underperformed — Williams is far from the only issue. But if he can improve his play moving forward, it would undoubtedly help this defensive front get out of their funk.

Fourth Round Pick: CB Zech McPhearson

Grade: N/A

Zech McPhearson has only played two defensive snaps so far this season, so grading him is impossible. He’s been a mainstay on special teams, playing 87 snaps there. Still, he hasn’t recorded a single tackle on the year.

If one of the starting corners goes down with an injury, we may get our first look at McPhearson. But until then, he’ll likely remain exclusively on special teams.

Fifth Round Pick: RB Kenny Gainwell

Grade: A+

Kenny Gainwell is the diamond in the rough from this year’s draft class. He’s done a marvelous job backing up Miles Sanders. Last week, he out-gained the starter both through the receiving and rushing category. He also has more rushing touchdowns than Sanders on the year with two.

Through four games, Gainwell has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and he’s hauled in 13 receptions for 118 yards. As it stands right now, his 80.6 overall grade on PFF is the sixth-best among all running backs, and 91.2 receiving grade is third-best, behind only Christian McCaffrey and Cordarrelle Patterson.

He’s already a focal point of Nick Sirianni’s offense and he’s been arguably the most efficient rookie running back in the league this year. The sky is the limit for this young man and it’s clear that he has a bright future in this league.

Sixth Round Pick: DT Marlon Tuipulotu

Grade: N/A

Similarly to McPhearson, Marlon Tuipulotu hasn’t played enough to warrant a grade. He’s only notched 13 defensive snaps on the year. He’s at the bottom of the defensive tackle depth chart right now and that probably won’t change this season, barring some major injuries.

Sixth Round Pick: DE Tarron Jackson

Grade: C

Given the low expectations for Tarron Jackson this year, he’s done fine in his limited role in the Eagles defensive line rotation. Without Brandon Graham, his playing time has gone up in recent weeks — he tallied a career high in defensive snaps this past week with 19.

On 19 pass rushing reps this season, he’s only recorded one hurry. His production still isn’t there, but I’m excited to watch his development throughout the year. His playing time will more than likely continue to rise.

Sixth Round Pick: S/LB JaCoby Stevens

Grade: N/A

JaCoby Stevens is currently on the practice squad. The team is clearly in need of some juice at the linebacker position, so maybe giving Stevens a look would make sense.

Seventh Round Pick: LB Patrick Johnson

Grade: B-

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Patrick Johnson and that I believe he deserves more playing time. Inexplicably, he didn’t log a single defensive snap against Kansas City after seeing a career high in snaps the week prior.

The team has insisted on playing Genard Avery as the weakside linebacker. While he hasn’t been absolutely terrible in that role, he hasn’t played well enough to warrant playing over a potential future starter in Johnson.

Whether he’s rushing the passer or just playing close to the line of scrimmage as an off-ball linebacker, Johnson brings some real potential to the field. And considering how bad the Eagles linebacking corps has been this year, I see no reason to keep Johnson on the sidelines.

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