After trading back, what are the Eagles planning in Round One?
By Michael Obermuller
Right in the middle of quarterback Zach Wilson’s Pro Day last Friday, the Miami Dolphins decided steal some headlines when they traded the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, minutes later they made another deal, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. When the dust settled, the new draft order looked like this:
Philadelphia now sits 12th in round one, as they were able to take advantage of Miami’s urge to trade down, but not too far down. The three-team deal also netted the Eagles an extra 2022 first rounder, something they desperately needed to rebuild their cap-stricken roster.
As for the three anticipated draft picks in question, the Eagles pick is without a doubt the hardest to figure, and not just because it’s further down in the order. The Niners have already stated their intention to draft a quarterback with the No. 3 pick. The Dolphins are expected to take one of the top wide receivers at No. 6, or possibly receiving tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida. Philadelphia on the other hand, has the benefit of mystery on their side.
With many holes to fill, here are the top first round draft targets for Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.
3. Rashawn Slater, OT/G (Northwestern)
During their Super Bowl run, the Eagles offensive line was their greatest strength. Their rushing attacking plowed through the New England Patriots towards a championship, but it broke down after the 2017-18 season. Players like Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson are aging harshly, and injuries on the O-line have killed Philly in recent years. Rashawn Slater could be the perfect solution to this problem.
The former Northwestern Wildcat tackle is known for his versatility. Many draft scouts are projecting him as a guard in the NFL because of his size, or even a center if need be, but some still have him as a smaller tackle that relies on his athleticism and agility. The point is, Slater is intelligent enough to play pretty much anywhere on an offensive line, a major asset for a team like the Eagles that constantly has blockers miss time.
To start, Slater could help out on the left side, and possibly surpass failed first rounder Andre Dillard at left tackle, or fill-in Isaac Seumalo at left guard. Neither deserve a starting job in 2021.
2. Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State)
The top linebacker in the draft may not fall to No. 12, but if he does the Eagles should jump on the opportunity to grab him. Their linebacker core has been pretty terrible the last couple of seasons, mixing and matching journeymen like Nate Gerry, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards and more. No offense to any of these hard-workers who have fought their way up, but none have the talent of Micah Parsons.
The Penn State Nittany Lion is an explosive playmaker with a unique style about him. He’ll likely become a MIKE-backer in the NFL, but he has the speed and awareness to play any linebacking position. With Gerry gone, Philadelphia is projecting a starting LB crew of Edwards, Singleton and Genard Avery. Parsons has the ability to slot in above any of these players on the depth chart, accumulating 109 total tackles in 2019 (14 for a loss) with 5.0 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Honorable Mention: Jaycee Horn, CB (South Carolina)
Roseman could also stand to improve on his secondary. He traded for Darius Slay last offseason, and also signed safety Anthony Harris earlier this month, but this group is not complete. Assuming Patrick Surtain II is gone, Jaycee Horn may be the next best cornerback available (Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome II might also be options). The South Carolina alum is an aggressive press-coverage CB that is not afraid to mix things up with the opposing wide receiver. He would fit right in with Philly fans.
1. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)
This could also be teammate Jaylen Waddle depending on what other teams do (or even Rashod Bateman if there’s a run on the position), but the Eagles still need a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver more than anything else. DeVonta Smith is a pure route runner with sticky hands, a dream draft pick for any NFL quarterback. As a younger passer throwing to a combination of Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward Jr. and JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Jalen Hurts would be thrilled.
Alshon Jeffery was finally let go this free agency period, and DeSean Jackson has moved on as well. This wide receiving core has a lack of talent and experience. They could at least add one of those two in Smith or Waddle, the Alabama tandem that tore up college defenses. DeVonta had over 1,800 receiving yards in 2020, on 117 receptions. The speedy Waddle only played half the games, but totaled 591 yards off 28 catches.