The NFL Draft is still a little over 13 weeks away—that’s over a quarter of the year for those counting along—but for the 28 teams sitting at home during this weekend’s conference championship games, the draft and offseason can’t come soon enough.
For an Eagles team at the pivot point of re-tooling and contending, this April’s draft will go a long way in determining how soon—or if—their core mix of aging veterans (Johnson, Kelce, Slay, etc…) and young talent (Sanders, Smith, Goedert, etc…) can contend. With ten picks and three first rounders at his disposal, Howie has more than enough ammo to make a difference come April.
1 (15) Devin Lloyd
The Eagles have needed help at linebacker for years, and while Nakobe Dean is the name you’ll hear more often, I would argue that Lloyd is the better fit as an every-down field general. He’s long, athletic, bursty, and slips off blockers with ease. He’s efficient sifting through the mess and finishing tackles, and has the instincts/football IQ to boot. Despite concern over his ability in coverage, he’s proven to be at least capable dropping into zone, though smart teams will use him as a rusher on passing downs as much as possible.
1 (16) Ikem Ekwonu
Offensive line, NC State
I don’t believe that Ekwonu will last until 15/16, but it’s not impossible. If the Eagles plan to run it back with Hurts under center in 2022 they would be wise to lean into their already elite running attack. Ekwonu is meanest run blocker in the class and has the versatility to kick outside to tackle—possibly replacing Lane Johnson in the future. This doesn’t fill an obvious need, but the rich get richer in the trenches with a no-brainer BPA pick.
*TRADE* Eagles receive 28 overall & 2023 first round pick, Lions receive 19 overall & 2023 fourth round pick
The Lions still own LA’s first rounder in 2023 and used this opportunity to move up for a quarterback (Carson Strong). This would be considered a coup for Howie, but it’s not unlike deals that he’s pulled off in the past.
1 (28) Roger McCreary
McCreary checks just about every box imaginable and will likely see his stock rise accordingly as April approaches. Loose, smooth, quick, you name it; he pairs elite athletic traits with sound technique to make for the second most complete corner in the class. His size is only average but isn’t a hindrance in press coverage or the run game (where he’s as willing and physical as anyone in this range). He shouldn’t be available at 28, but with a strong cornerback group it can’t be ruled out.
2 (51) Devonte Wyatt
Defensive tackle, Georgia
I was considering a trade here, but with Wyatt sliding down the board I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add immediate help along the interior of the d-line. The Georgia product pairs elite get-off with the length/strength to control the LOS in two-gap responsibility. He’s explosive, powerful, and bendy—the full package athletically. I have a first-round grade on Wyatt, but tackles aren’t always valued as such, making a slide to 51 possible (though unlikely).
3 (83) Kerby Joseph
Joseph only has average size and athletic traits, but a combination of elite burst and high-level instincts give him the range to make plays in centerfield and run the alleys with authority. Though relatively inexperienced until last season, he posted 57 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries on the way to First Team All-Big Ten honors. He has the ideal skillset to replace McLeod at free safety sooner than later, and would be a safe pick at this range of the draft.
4 (121) Dameon Pierce
Running back, Florida
Pierce checks all the boxes at running back—he’s thick, bursty, good vision, excels in pass protection, and is capable as a receiver. While he lacks upside as a true lead back, he should step into a committee from day one and provide real value. If the Eagles choose to move on from Jordan Howard this offseason, Pierce is a plug-and-play replacement.
5 (152) Dontario Drummond
Wide receiver, Ole Miss
Drummond is a big-bodied slot receiver who works well setting up and working out of breaks to consistently win over the middle of the field. Without plus speed or athletic traits his ceiling is capped; but reliable hands, good technique, and a nose for run-blocking make for a stable option between the numbers (something the Eagles passing attack lacks).
5 (160) Cole Strange
Howie likes to stockpile bodies for the interior line, and Strange is an experienced small-school guard with an odd build (6’6” 300 lbs.) but nice set of tools. He pairs plus athleticism, quick feet, good bend, length, and a high IQ to make for an intriguing project. Though a guard by trade, given his traits he could realistically develop into an option at center or tackle if need be.
*TRADE* Eagles receive 2023 fifth round pick, Jaguars receive 164 overall
The Eagles don’t have a fifth round pick next year and will likely look to delay one of these slots (152, 160 or 164) into the future.
6 (207) Jelani Woods
Tight end, Virginia
Woods is a hybrid TE/WR who would make a good understudy to Dallas Goedert. Measuring 6’7” 275 lbs., he’s a dynamic receiving threat both before and after the catch, and can be a real weapon on the goal line. Following three unproductive seasons at Oklahoma State, Woods transferred to Virginia and earned 1st Team All-ACC honors, recording 598 yards, 8 TDs, on 44 catches (11 games).