The Eagles enter tonight’s NFL draft with the 21st overall pick.
Of course, there’s no guarantee they stay at 21 and recent history actually suggests they won’t.
As we prepare for the start of the draft at 8 p.m. tonight, our experts give their final thoughts on what the Eagles will do tonight:
I’m having trouble with the math. The Jets need a receiver. The 49ers need a receiver. The Jaguars and Raiders could use a receiver. And they all pick before the Eagles.
Maybe somebody slides down the board. Maybe Justin Jefferson or Henry Ruggs makes his way down to No. 21. Maybe the Eagles find a willing trade partner and muscle their way up into that 16-to-18 range and land Jefferson.
But the more I go through the scenarios, the more I keep coming back to the same conclusion: The Eagles could very well miss out on CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Ruggs and Jefferson, the consensus four best wide receivers in this potentially historic WR draft class.
It’s not like Howie Roseman to reach for a receiver if there isn’t one he likes at 21, and he could find the market to trade down a difficult one, since there might not be a lot of teams that feel there’s enough value at No. 21 to give something up to move up.
All of which means Roseman might be stuck at 21.
Which isn't a bad place to be stuck if you're willing to take something other than a wideout.
If the Eagles stay at No. 21, that could very well mean best available defensive player, and that could very well be Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.
We all know the Eagles haven’t taken a linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979, but these are extreme circumstances: 1) The Eagles have a tremendous need for a young playmaking linebacker, 2) Murray would be a terrific fit on this defense, 3) Roseman knows there’ll be good WR value either at No. 53 or in a trade-up scenario in the second round.
The notion that the Eagles never devote resources to linebackers isn’t totally true. When they won the Super Bowl, their primary linebackers were a 2nd-round pick that Roseman drafted in Mychal Kendricks and a veteran free agent making $7 million over two years that Roseman signed in Nigel Bradham.
If Roseman can’t get the wide receiver he covets, if the top four guys are gone and he doesn’t think Denzel Mims is worth a 1st-round pick, if he can’t trade up for Jefferson or down for Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk or Tee Higgins, if Roseman is serious about best-available player, then he has to go defense.
And if he’s still there, nobody makes more sense at No. 21 than Murray.
The Eagles need to get their receiver and the guy who has made the most sense to me for a long time is Justin Jefferson. Maybe they can sit back and wait for him to be available at 21, but I also wouldn’t rule out a modest trade-up to land the productive receiver from LSU.
I understand the knock on Jefferson, that he projects best as a slot receiver in the NFL. But this is a guy who can be a game-changer wherever he lines up at the next level. If that’s in the slot, so be it. It’s not like Jefferson is some purely volume slot guy. He averaged 13.9 yards per catch in 2019 but averaged 16.2 in 2018 in a different role.
The Eagles just need reliable, dynamic receivers and Jefferson fits that. And while his success in 2019 came in the slot, the Eagles will still play him both inside and outside.
And I understand that Jefferson played on a high-powered college offense, so you’re wondering how much of his success was a product of others. But with the season on the line, the Tigers went back to Jefferson over and over again.
SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia: 7 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD
Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal) vs. Oklahoma: 14 catches, 227 yards, 4 TDs
CFP National Championship vs. Clemson: 9 catches, 106 yards
And then at the combine, Jefferson ran a 4.43 and showed off an athletic profile worthy of a first-round pick.
The Eagles can’t make the mistake of thinking this is a deep draft at receiver and waiting to get one because of that. That’s the kind of thinking that has burned them before. That’s the kind of thinking that left them with Donnel Pumphrey in 2017.
If the Eagles have a chance to pull off a trade to move up into the teens and take one of the top four receivers in this class, they owe it to themselves and to Carson Wentz. The Eagles are building this entire team around their franchise quarterback and they need to bring him a receiver he can rely on and grow with. Jefferson can be that guy.
As recently as two weeks ago, I thought Henry Ruggs III to the Eagles was a pipe dream. Heck, maybe it still is. Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson were all far more productive in college, but 4.27 speed isn't something that can be attributed to scheme or level of competition.
Yet, the more you delve into how Round 1 could play out, the more it looks like Ruggs could fall to within striking distance of the Eagles' pick at 21. Most mock drafts project three quarterbacks, four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, a linebacker, two cornerbacks, plus Jeudy and Lamb ahead of the Alabama wideout. That's 15 prospects right there.
Ruggs could drop farther, maybe all the way to 21, but 16 (give or take a few spots) is around where I start to see a trade up as viable.
And, yes, I absolutely believe he is worth it.
Even if Ruggs was "only" a blazer, that's the direction the game continues to head. Just look at the 40 times on the receiving corps of the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Tyreek Hill: sub-4.3. Sammy Watkins: 4.43. Mecole Hardman: 4.33. Tight end Travis Kelce and and running back Damien Williams are fast for their positions, too, at 4.63 and 4.45, respectively. Patrick Mahomes is great, but how much easier is the quarterback's job when the offense can stretch and space a defense like that?
But Ruggs is more than simply a vertical threat. He has good hands. He creates separation underneath. He's tough. He can line up outside or in the slot. He returns kicks and can contribute on special teams.
I can easily see a team rating Ruggs as the top receiver in the draft, in which case, he's probably out of the Eagles' reach. Who knows, maybe they do prefer one of the other receivers anyway. Jefferson, for example is a good player.
If the Eagles are going to jump into the teens though, possibly sending as high as a third-round choice or even a pick in 2021, it should be for somebody with game-changing ability. In my eyes, that's Ruggs.
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