I am not normally the one who likes to be negative, especially after the NFL Draft. It’s my Christmas time, my favorite time of the year. The rosters for the upcoming NFL season are being set on live television. Hopes and dreams are becoming realized. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year. Having grown up a Philadelphia Eagles fan, there were many needs for the Eagles coming into the season.
The Philadelphia Eagles came out of the draft with a very media-friendly couple of first days. What I mean by that is that the players that they selected with their first two picks, DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson, were lauded by media scouts as legitimate prospects. Smith was often mocked in the first six picks, Dickerson as a first-round selection.
That’s exciting for fans. They’ve been hearing about these guys throughout the process and are familiar with them. People have probably seen Smith hoist high the Heisman Trophy and watched Dickerson snap the last couple plays in the National Championship with a torn ACL. He’s tough and an extremely likable guy. Smith, “The Slim Reaper,” is perhaps the most lauded wide receiver in college football since Desmond Howard.
That’s why I don’t mean to be negative, but there are glaring issues from the Eagles class that could pose potential problems in 2021 and beyond. People aren’t talking about them nearly enough.
Can DeVonta Smith’s frame hold up at the NFL level?
The Philadelphia Eagles traded up two spots with the Dallas Cowboys in the first round to nab the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. He’s coming off perhaps the most prolific season that a wide receiver has had in college football this millennium. There wasn’t a lot to not like about his game. He’s tough, scrappy, and yet so athletically gifted that he’s hard to track down.
The New York Giants were rumored to be targeting Smith at eleventh overall, which is why the Eagles needed to move to ten. He brings a face of familiarity to quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is presumed to be the starter coming into the season. Hurts played with Smith in Alabama when both players were backups. There is already good chemistry between them.
The biggest question about Smith is how well he will hold up at the NFL level with his frame. Nicknamed “The Slim Reaper” in college for his lack of size, Smith weighed into the Combine medicals last month at just 166 pounds. To me, there are two glaring questions here.
How do you scheme him?
Vogel’s DeVonta Smith Scouting Report
First, where does Smith slide into the Eagles scheme? To me, from a talent standpoint, Smith has X receiver potential, but he’s not there yet. Yet he’s not listed as the Z receiver on Ourlads projected depth charts. The X and the Z receivers are Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor, respectively. Smith is projected as the slot receiver. Did the Eagles really give up draft picks to a division rival to draft a slot receiver top ten? In a class that was loaded with slot receiver depth?
The Eagles don’t currently have a lot of reliable receiver depth. If Smith’s frame can’t hold up, what’s the plan then? This draft pick has a lot of risk to it – that is undeniable. I think that’s concerning. If he goes down, are you going to be alright with an undrafted free agent potentially coming up off the practice squad? Greg Ward Jr, perhaps? It’s not an ideal situation for the Eagles to be in if he’s hurt.
Can Landon Dickerson hold up for the Philadelphia Eagles?
Landon Dickerson is a fun dude. That much has been publicized as he’s become a professional prospect. When Covid-19 shut down Spring Training, Dickerson turned his garage into an Alabama training facility. Per Dickerson, 45 Alabama players worked out in his home. Dickerson is undoubtedly an incredible teammate and a fun person to be around, from doing cartwheels behind people interviewing to his infectiously tough personality, he’s known for being a “good dude.” This is good, as the Philadelphia Eagles need as many of these types of personalities around.
I loved Dickerson as a prospect. My scouting report on him is glowing. His size, his strength, and mobility are all valuable traits in the modern NFL. There’s not much to like about his game. He can play either guard as well as center, where he played primarily for Alabama.
Dickerson’s troubling injury history
Dickerson has a long and troubling injury history, which is tragic for a player of his caliber. He suffered a season-ending knee injury against Alabama while with Florida State and then torn his other ACL in the 2020 SEC Championship game against Florida. One could argue that this makes both knees stronger with modern technology, but that’s not completely proven and player-dependent.
Vogel’s Scouting Report on Landon Dickerson
If Dickerson holds up at the professional level, he has a chance to be special. There are not many prospects with his size and athletic ability combined. Still, it’s a big if for the Eagles to be taking.
What happened in the third round?
The Eagles went viral during the second day of the draft following the selection of defensive tackle Milton Williams. The Eagles draft room was shown after the pick. Normally, the scouts and personnel inside the room are celebrating their selection in the draft. In this case, the Eagles front office is shown almost panicking and exasperated.
Some people weren’t pleased with the Eagles pick, taking Williams off of the board with North Carolina State defensive tackle Alim McNeill still on the board. Judging by the lack of enthusiasm in the Eagles war room, it’s easy to assume many others inside the organization felt the same way.
Then, the Eagles next selection was taking cornerback Zech McPhearson from Texas Tech. Most analyst’s feel that this is a bit of a reach as well, especially with the other cornerbacks that were still on the board.
What was going on in the Eagles war room? Did the Draft Table personnel hijack the picks? It’s hard to take the direction of the Eagles seriously, especially since it’s unclear when McPhearson will be able to impact the field.
Potential in the late round picks
Taking a couple of edge rushers in Tarron Jackson and Patrick Johnson was smart, as the Eagles have been among the best teams at developing defensive line talent and utilizing it on the field. In fact, defensive line rotations were the key factor in winning the championship in 2017. Jackson and Johnson won’t see the field early but show much potential as guys who can become impact players.
Selecting JaCoby Stevens, the ROVER from LSU was a good selection too. Stevens is surprisingly athletic and could emerge as this season’s Jordan Fuller. The real question is if the Eagles have a plan to use him immediately. He’s a valuable sub in nickel sets; I think he could be the strong nickel. He was one of my favorite prospects in this class to study, so I think this is a high upside, low investment pick.
Philadelphia Eagles fans shouldn’t celebrate prematurely.
While the upside and potential are deep in this class, Eagles fans shouldn’t celebrate too early. This class, if it hits, could be the defining class that lifts Philadelphia to the forefront of the NFC East. I wish to stress in this article that this is a big “if.” With so much left to the unknown with injuries, the league becoming more physical in the trenches, and receivers getting bigger, the Eagles stuck with traditional values. They took fan favorites early over safer picks. The franchise you can point to who has done that in the past is the Eagles rival, the Washington Football Team, applauded almost annually by media analyst’s for their draft classes. See how well that’s worked out for them over the last fifteen years.
It’s currently unclear if Philadelphia sees itself as a contender for the division title this season. Between some of the roster decisions they have made and new head coach Nick Sirianni’s lackluster press conferences, vision is extremely blurred on this matter. I think that it’s a roster with a lot of uncertainty, but depth is across the board. The Eagles appear to be bracing for lots of injuries and are trying to build a deep roster across the board.
I think with quarterback Jalen Hurts at the helm, they will be competitive at the very least. Just hold your horses, Eagles’ fans. This isn’t a guaranteed franchise-saving draft class.