With three first-round picks at their disposal, the Eagles could set the course for their franchise in the upcoming draft.
Many fans and pundits expect Howie Roseman and the Eagles to focus on the defensive side of the ball early and often in this year’s draft. Which is fair, but Roseman has typically drafted offensive players in the first-round. The last defensive player Roseman drafted in the first was Derek Barnett in 2017. Since he was handed his GM duties back in 2016, Barnett is the only defensive player Howie has drafted in the first-round.
He could flip the script this year given the amount of defensive needs facing the Eagles and the outstanding defensive prospects expected to be available when the team’s on the clock. But it’s not a given, and this first-round mock draft reflects that.
In this first-round mock iteration, I traded back from 19th overall to 22nd overall with the Las Vegas Radiers. In return, I was also able to snag a second-round pick for next year.
Let’s get into it, starting with 15th overall…
15th overall, C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
With the retirement of Brandon Brooks and the eventual retirement of Jason Kelce on the horizon, the Eagles will undoubtedly look to replenish their offensive line this offseason. Taking a center this high is pretty rare, but Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is a rare prospect.
Pro Football Focus ranked Linderbaum as the best center in college football over the past two years and it’s not hard to see why. Though he doesn’t have as much versatility as someone like Landon Dickerson, he’s a polished center prospect who projects as a high level starter at the next level. He possesses rare athleticism for the position, similar to Kelce, which would make Linderbaum the natural heir apparent to the Eagles legend.
Linderbaum is elite in just about every facet of the game. If he’s on the board when the Eagles are on the clock, there’s a good chance Linderbaum ends up being the selection.
16th overall, CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing 195 pounds, some scouts have projected Washington’s Trent McDuffie as a nickel corner in the NFL. But his tape and overall ability says otherwise. He played nearly every defensive snap at outside corner during his collegiate career.
McDuffie posted the highest grade for any corner in the Pac-12 this season and allowed just 44.4% of the passes thrown into his coverage to get completed. The former high school track star is one of the most explosive cornerbacks you’ll ever see at the collegiate level. He has a quick-twitch that allows him to break on balls at a rapid pace, along with fluid hips that help him stick with receivers in coverage.
With Steven Nelson expected to walk in free agency, the Eagles will once again be in the cornerback market this offseason. Rather than finding another stop-gap option, it would make sense for Howie to finally allocate legit draft capital to the position. Darius Slay isn’t getting any younger and Avonte Maddox is limited in what he can outside of the nickel.
McDuffie can start from day one and would be a welcomed addition to the Eagles secondary.
22nd overall, QB Malik Willis, Liberty
*Trade* Eagles receive 22nd overall pick, 2023 second-round pick — Raiders receive 19th overall pick
This is where it gets interesting. While I don’t believe the Eagles will look to the draft for an immediate solution at quarterback, taking a more developmental prospect that can sit a year behind Jalen Hurts is certainly in the cards. The Niners pulled a similar maneuver last year, although they actually had to trade up for Trey Lance.
Liberty’s Malik Willis won’t be ready to start from day one, but his physical traits are so alluring that I don’t think Howie will be able to help himself. Willis has arguably the strongest arm in this entire draft class and he’s easily the best running quarterback in this year’s crop. He still has a lot of work to do when it comes to reading defenses and accuracy, but he’s a good enough athlete to overcome those downfalls and develop them.
Willis is a gun slinger by trade. In 2021, he amassed 19 turnover-worthy plays, but he managed to couple that with an astounding 36 big-time throws. To me, he looks like a Josh Allen prototype. That’s high praise to be sure, but make no mistake, Willis is just as physically gifted as Allen. It’ll be up to his NFL coaches to get him to that level.
If he were to come to Philly, there would be no pressure for Willis to start right away. Hurts can guide the ship for however long it takes Willis to develop his game. As much as this draft is about the here and now for Philadelphia, Howie has made a living at planning for the future while also competing. Willis can be the future of the franchise if he’s drafted here, while also serving as a solid backup behind Hurts until he’s ready.