We made it through the NFL combine, which means the NFL draft is rapidly approaching.
NFL teams will have free agency, beginning next week, to fill some holes but then all eyes will turn to the draft.
With that in mind, here’s my latest crack at an Eagles-only mock draft:
1-15: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
It’s no secret that the Eagles are in need of pass rush help and there will be plenty of options in this draft, especially given where the Eagles’ three first-round picks line up. Late last week, I listed Ojabo, Georgia’s Trayvon Walker, Purdue’s George Karlaftis and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II as the top options in their range. There’s something about Ojabo that I can’t shake. He has just one season of college production under his belt and it came playing opposite Aidan Huthinson, who might be the best player in this class. But Ojabo was no slouch either.
In 2021, Ojabo had 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Ojabo was born in Nigeria but spent a lot of his childhood growing up in Scotland. We bring that up because he hasn’t been playing football for his whole life and because of that he still has a lot to learn. Ojabo had the ability to win with his athleticism and natural talent in college but he needs to keep developing. If he does, his ceiling is as high as anyone’s in this draft class.
1-16: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Maybe the Eagles really will never take a linebacker in the first round ever again but I think Lloyd has the type of ability and versatility that might be enough to buck that trend in a year where the Eagles have three first-rounders. Lloyd didn’t run as fast as I expected at the combine (4.66) but I also don’t expect him to slip too far. There was talk of him being a top 10 pick, so maybe that time will just drop him into the Eagles’ range.
While Georgia’s Nakobe Dean might be the better player right now, Dean is smaller and can’t rush the passer in the same way as Lloyd. Sure, Dean can blitz but the Eagles could utilize Lloyd as an edge rusher at times. That’s not to say he’s going to turn into Micah Parsons and be able to play linebacker and edge at an All-Pro level, but Lloyd could fit in several different positions in Jonathan Gannon’s defense. And having a game-changing player in the middle of this defense would make a world of difference.
1-19: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Even if Jason Kelce returns for the 2022 season, he won’t play forever and the Eagles have a unique opportunity to replace him with a center who has All-Pro potential and who has been compared to Kelce plenty, especially during this pre-draft process. Linderbaum met with the Eagles at the combine in a meeting that was led by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. If Stout goes to the Eagles and tells them that Linderbaum is the guy to eventually replace Kelce, it’s hard to turn that down. And it might hurt to not get an immediate payoff for a first-round pick but if there’s any year the Eagles can deal with that, it’s in 2022, when they have three first-rounders.
There’s always a debate about how early centers should get drafted but after watching the difference Kelce has made over the last decade in Philly, the Eagles shouldn’t worry about that too much. Yes, the Eagles got Kelce in the sixth round in 2011 but a lot of that was concern about his lack of size. Kelce’s success in the NFL proves that undersized centers can make up for that perceived shortcoming if they have certain athletic traits. In fact, that can end up being a positive. Linderbaum fits that perfectly and there would be no two people on the planet better equipped to teach him how to play in the NFL than Kelce and Stoutland.
2-51: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Opinions on Elam are really split. There was a time not too long ago when he was considered by many to be a slam-dunk first-round pick. But Elam has been slipping out of first-round mock drafts more and more in recent months after a tougher 2021 season. In fact, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has Elam as his No. 50 prospect. Could Elam be gone before the Eagles get on the clock in the second round? Yeah, that’s very possible. But there are a lot of good corners in this draft so it also wouldn’t be too shocking to see him slip, even after a 4.39 at the combine. The Eagles could also land Elam with a trade down from 19 or a modest trade up from 51.
3-83: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
There are so many good receivers in the draft every year that some really dynamic players end up slipping deeper into Day 2 for various reasons. If you’re concerned about the Eagles’ ability to find the right receiver in these rounds, I get it. But Tolbert could be available because of his small school status even though I think he dispelled that at the Senior Bowl. Tolbert dominated in college and could be the Eagles’ long-term starter opposite last year’s No. 10 pick. Adding Tolbert to a receiver group that already includes DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins could be dangerous.
4: Nick Cross, S, Maryland
At the combine, Cross made the most of his week, wowing with a 4.34 and impressive jumps. That likely vindicated his decision to come out as an underclassman. But he’s also not a finished product just yet and there are several other safeties in this class who are likely hear their names called. Right now, he clearly has the athleticism but needs to pair that with better instincts.
5. Isaiah Thomas, Edge, Oklahoma
The Eagles biggest need entering this offseason is at the edge rusher position so the ability to double up in a later round shouldn’t be dismissed. And at 6-5, 266, Thomas also offers some flexibility if the Eagles want to play him some inside like the Sooners did at times. His best position is still on the outside as a 5-tech but the Eagles can slide him inside in certain situations too. Pretty good upside for a fifth-round pick.
5: Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
This is a particularly good tight end class in 2022, so there will be opportunities to snag one with a Day 3 pick. Turner (6-6, 246) is already a pretty good receiving tight end but needs some work as a blocker. Although, I was impressed by what he was able to show at the Senior Bowl this year.
5: Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan
If the Eagles want a big, bruising back to pair with Miles Sanders, then Haskins (6-2, 228) would work. The only event he did at the combine was bench press and he killed it with 27 reps to lead all running backs. Haskins had an ankle injury so didn’t run in Indy but keep an eye on his pro day on March 18. By then, that ankle should be all healed up and he’ll have a chance to prove he’s more than a battering ram.
6: Otito Ogbonnia, DT, UCLA
The Eagles value the Senior Bowl and Ogbonnia was one of the many defensive tackles who had some wow moments during that week in Mobile. At 6-4, 324 pounds, Ogbonnia would be a big (literally) addition to the middle of the Eagles’ defense. Definitely known as more of a run-stuffer, Ogbonnia doesn’t have star potential as a pass rusher but could grow into a rotational role as a 1-technique as a two-gapper, although he has experience in multiple fronts.
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