While most Eagles fans are expecting Howie Roseman to focus solely on the defense in the upcoming NFL Draft, this is Howie Roseman we’re talking about. The guy who hasn’t drafted a defensive player in the first-round since Derek Barnett in 2017, and just two total over the past ten years.
The Eagles defense wasn’t great in 2021, but they also weren’t downright terrible. A handful of young players developed into suitable starters this past season and they have several more young players waiting in the wings heading into 2022. After watching how the Eagles went out this year and the offensive showcases on display in the postseason, there’s no doubt that Howie will look to bolster his offense this offseason.
That’s not to say Roseman won’t look to add any defensive players — he will have a good amount of cap space to sign free agents. But the draft has always been where Howie looks to find his future offensive stars, and I don’t see it playing out much differently this time around.
With that said, let’s jump right into our latest first-round mock draft for the Eagles.
15th overall, WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
There’s a portion of this fan base that will lose their shit if the Eagles select another wideout in the first-round of this year’s draft. This would make it three years in a row where Roseman spent his first selection on a receiver. If they only had one first rounder to play with this year, I’d certainly be one of those fans. But with three, any position is on the table, and adding Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson would go a long way in finally shoring up this wide receiving corps.
Standing at 6-foot, 192 pounds, Wilson has prototypical NFL wide receiver size. As a former basketball player, his lateral quickness and ability to high point the ball is evident on tape.
Wilson also possesses crisp route running ability, which makes him a threat at any alignment. He can play the Z position just as effectively as the slot. Not to mention, Wilson has some of the best big play ability in this entire draft class. He’s a certified playmaker no matter where he lines up, making him an alluring prospect for an Eagles offense that just doesn’t have that right now.
Adding Wilson’s versatility and playmaking ability to a wide receiver room consisting of DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins would cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. With Wilson, the Eagles could very well have the best young wide receiving corps in the NFL. If Howie has the chance to make that happen, he’ll certainly consider it.
16th overall, C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum has been a popular name on our first-round mock drafts, and for good reason. Jason Kelce may not be done just yet, but his retirement is looming and the team doesn’t have a clear succession plan in place. Landon Dickerson was supposed to be that plan, but with his emergence at left guard, it’s hard to imagine the team forcing him inside to center and throwing away all the chemistry he’s built up with left tackle Jordan Mailata.
Linderbaum is one of those rare center prospects that transcends a typical assessment of the position. He allowed just two sacks over the course of his three-year collegiate career and posted the best run blocking grade (96.6) of any lineman in the nation according to Pro Football Focus.
Placing Linderbaum in a position where he won’t be forced to start right away, with a coach like Jeff Stoutland overseeing his development, along with a handful of Pro Bowl players to help guide him, would pay huge dividends for his career.
After the retirement of Brandon Brooks, Howie will most definitely look to add depth to his line. Linderbaum provides that now, while also providing All-Pro upside once Kelce hangs up the cleats.
19th overall, CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
While corner may not be the biggest need facing the Eagles defense this offseason, it may be the one positional need they value the most entering draft night. Florida’s Kaiir Elam has all the physical traits you want to see in an NFL corner.
Standing at 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Elam is a long corner who can cause issues for any receiver he faces on the outside. During his 2021 campaign, Elam only surrendered 18 catches on 33 targets for 165 yards, all while facing the best talent the nation has to offer in the SEC.
In coverage, Elam looks the part. He possesses fluid hips, has good eye discipline, and forces receivers to make contested catches on almost every target. His ball skills really jump off the tape as well. Elam does an excellent job at attacking the football and fighting through receivers’ hands to break up passes.
The only downside to Elam’s game is his tendency to get a little too handsy with wideouts. He was called for seven penalties in 2021. Nevertheless, seeing that type of physical toughness is always welcomed and it’s something that can be ironed out at the next level.
With Steven Nelson likely to hit the open market this offseason, Elam would be a solid replacement opposite of Darius Slay on the outside. And eventually, he could become the Eagles No. 1 corner once Slay departs.