Eagles

Eagles pass on QB, load up on defense in latest mock draft

Eagles

It wasn’t long ago that it looked like the Eagles were going to have three picks in the top 10.

A lot has changed since then.

Because while the Eagles are still in line for three first-round picks, those picks are considerably less valuable than they were not that long ago. If the 2021 season ended today, the Eagles would have picks 10, 11 and 21. Still the potential to be a historic haul.

The big question remains about the quarterback position and it’s not an easy one to answer. But if the Eagles go into next season with Jalen Hurts as their starter, they will be able to use these three picks to bolster the team around him. They can really add some much-needed talent to their defense.

That’s the way I have it playing out for now:

1. Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

For a long time, it was looking like Kayvon Thibodeaux was the consensus No. 1 pick but that consensus is gone. Because how could you watch Hutchinson this year and not make him the top pick? He’s such a dynamic player and Lions get to keep him in state as a cornerstone of a franchise that desperately needs to turn things around.

2. Jaguars: Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

No matter who the coach is next season — I can’t imagine it’ll be Urban Meyer — the Jaguars will still have Trevor Lawrence. Things haven’t gone to plan for Lawrence in his rookie season but he was considered a generational talent for a reason. So it’s important for the Jags to do everything they can to protect him. The 6-7, 350-pound Neal will do just that.

 

3. Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

Thibodeaux doesn’t slide too far. Why would he? The Texans could certainly use a quarterback but if they’re not sold on this crop, then they can still land a guy who might be the overall best player in this draft. And Houston needs any and all help they can get.

4. Jets: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

The Jets have two picks in the top seven, which is another chance for Joe Douglas to turn around a floundering franchise. New York needs some help in its secondary and Stingley is the best corner in this class. He missed time with a neck injury but as long as his medicals check out, he’s an easy top 10 pick.

5. Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Giants have tried to shore up their offensive line in recent seasons but it’s still very much a work in progress. That progress would be given a nice boost if they pick Ekownu out of NC State. Ekwonu is 6-4, 320 and has some guard-tackle versatility, which would help him fit into the picture for the Giants no matter what else happens. The Giants will have some options with this pick, especially because they’re going back-to-back.

6. Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

It is pretty early for any team to draft a safety but Hamilton is good enough that his transcends his position. He’s 6-4, 220 and can cover like a corner and fill the field from sideline-to-sideline. Aside from the top two edge rushers, you can make a case that Hamilton is the next best defensive player in this class.

7. Jets: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

The Jets took Alijah Vera-Tucker last year and Green offers some similar versatility. Green played right tackle for the Aggies this season but some think his best fit at the next level will be guard. Having two versatile players like that as cornerstones of the offensive line, along with left tackle Mecki Becton, gives the Jets plenty of options moving forward as they plug and play the rest.

8. Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The first QB off the board! Although there’s a very good chance we see the first QB come off higher and we see more than one in the top 10. No, it’s not considered to be a great crop of quarterbacks in this class but there are some QB-needy teams and the Panthers are at the top of that list. They tried Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker and even Cam Newton this season. They need a franchise guy and Pickett could be it. Pickett is older than a lot of prospects but he’s more polished too.

9. Falcons: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Mississippi State

 

Widely considered to be the top defensive tackle in this class, Leal would be a scary complement to Grady Jarrett on the inside of that Falcons’ defensive line. If Leal turns out to be as good as some suspect, having two tackles of that caliber on the inside could be fun. Jarrett is having a down year but pairing him with a player like Leal would mean only one of them could be doubled.

10. Eagles: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

The Eagles need to add a defensive end and they have their pick of a couple good ones. Ultimately, I have them picking Karlaftis over David Ojabo from Michican, but either would be a fine pick at No. 10. With Karlaftis, they get more of a sure thing, but a player who also has a very high ceiling. Karlaftis is 6-4, 275 pounds and moves very well for a guy considered by many to be a power rusher. He also plays incredibly hard all the time.

In 2022, the Eagles will bring back Josh Sweat but Derek Barnett is set to become a free agent. And then they’ll also likely bring back Brandon Graham, but he’ll be 34. It’s clearly time to replenish at the very important defensive end position and adding a player like Karlaftis would do that.

11. Eagles: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

I know, I know. The Eagles won’t take a linebacker in the first round. They just won’t do it. They haven’t done it since 1979. But they also haven’t had three first-round picks either. So maybe this year, they’d be willing to bend their no-linebackers precedent to land the best off-ball linebacker in this class, the leader of one of the nation’s best defenses.

The Eagles don’t really have any sure-thing long-term answers at the linebacker spot. They will bring back T.J. Edwards next season but he’s limited. And we’ve seen flashes from former third-rounder Davion Taylor but not enough to really know what he is. We know what Dean should be. He has Pro Bowl potential and could really solidify the middle of the Eagles defense.

12. Vikings: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan

The Eagles better hope they picked the right edge rusher because here come the Vikings to pick the other one. The Vikings got the right receiver a couple years ago after the Eagles took the wrong one. So the Eagles have to hope history doesn’t repeat itself. As far as the pick, Ojabo isn’t as polished as Karlaftis but he was a force working opposite Hutchinson in 2021. And he’ll give the Vikings a player to replenish a position where they need it.

13. Saints: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

I have a suspicion Corral will be off the board before this pick — I like him more than Pickett — but the Saints would be happy if this worked out. This would be a decent landing spot for a first-round rookie quarterback and there’s a lot to like about Corral.

 

14. Raiders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

The Raiders can sit at 14 and get the top receiver in the draft? That’ll do. Las Vegas has a few needs but they need a difference-maker at receiver, especially after they had to move on from Henry Ruggs.

15. Steelers: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

There’s a pretty good crop of cornerbacks that should go in this first round and maybe Booth is still available, maybe he isn’t. But it’ll be fascinating to see how this crop plays out over the next five years. Booth (6-0, 195) is just a really good player. He’s athletic, aggressive and has ball skills.

16. Broncos: Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State

At 6-5, 310 pounds, Cross has proven himself as a top-notch pass protector in the SEC. He’ll need work to gain mass and improve as a run blocker but he has the potential to be a very good player. And the Broncos have a clear need for a starting right tackle opposite Garett Bolles.

17. Bengals: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Lloyd is one of the more fun players in this draft class. He’s long at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and can absolutely fly and cover a ton of ground. It’s not the biggest need for the Bengals but Lloyd is the type of player that will make them overlook need.

18. Browns: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Veteran JC Tretter will be 31 when next season starts and it will be a contract season for him. So center isn’t an immediate need for the Browns, but they can take Tretter’s replacement with a player in Linderbaum, who is arguably worth a much higher pick. The problem for him is that centers rarely get taken in the top half of the first round.

19. Washington: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Opinions are really split on Willis and that’s understandable. There was a time when folks thought he could be the top quarterback in the draft and maybe that’s still a possibility. But if he slides and Washington can sit back and take him this late, they’d probably sign up for that. It’s hard to imagine Washington taking a real step forward without a franchise QB.

20. Bills: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Bills have Stefon Diggs returning next year but there are question marks after that. Emmanuel Sanders is set to be a free agent and Cole Beasley will be 33 by the time next season starts. So it would make sense for the Bills to replenish the position and give Josh Allen another weapon.

21. Eagles: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Eagles already took two defensive players, but let’s go back to that side of the ball. There are plenty of first-round corners in this class so it’s really about preference. Gardner has been incredible for Cincinnati this season. According to PFF, he has played 448 snaps in coverage and gave up just 17 completion for 117 yards and no touchdowns. Gardner (6-2, 188) would also be a fit in zone and man coverage. His nickname is “Sauce,” which is also awesome.

 

In 2022, the Eagles will have Darius Slay back in the mix but will need another starting cornerback with Steven Nelson set to hit free agency. Maybe that starter could be 2021 fourth-rounder Zech McPhearson but adding a player like Gardner is more of a sure thing.

22. Dolphins: Trevor Penning, OL, Northern Iowa

A lot like the Giants, the Dolphins have tried to fix their offensive line and it just hasn’t worked. That unit is still not very good. So they go back to the draft to select Penning from Northern Iowa hoping that will fix the problem. If the Dolphins are ever going to really give Tua Tagovailoa a chance to succeed (or if they want to protect Deshaun Watson) they need a better line.

23. Chargers: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

The Chargers could use some help on their defensive line and drafting a versatile player like Walker would probably help. At 6-5, 275 pounds, Walker has most recently played on the edge but that came after he slimmed down. He had previously played as a defensive tackle. But the fact that he can play both spots should intrigue the Chargers, who need to improve their DL and their 31st-ranked run defense.

24. Lions: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Sure, the Lions could have used their No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback. But if they don’t think there’s one worthy of that spot, then they can wait. Will Howell be there at 24? Not sure, but it’s certainly possible. It’s hard to figure out how this QB class will shake out.

25. Ravens: Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

At 6-6, 330 pounds, Davis has been a one-man wrecking crew for Georgia’s top defense all season. Davis is more of a nose tackle and because of that he hasn’t put up major pass rush numbers, but he simply ruins games for opposing offenses. After a mini slide, the Ravens would be happy to grab him and use him to replace Brandon Williams and greatly improve their run defense.

26. Cowboys: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

The Cowboys already have Trevon Diggs on one side so they can draft another corner to start on the other and really solidify that secondary for years to come. Along with Gardner, McCreary was the other corner on the AP All-America team.

27. Chiefs: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Another first-round corner who could potentially go higher than this. According to PFF, Elam has given up just 19 catches for 191 yards this season.

28. Cardinals: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

I didn’t want to leave the first round without a running back, although it’s possible it goes that way. Still, the Cardinals could use a dynamic runner like Walker. If he shows he has pass catching ability during the pre-draft process, it’s not wild to think of him as a first-round pick. Even if he doesn’t have that ability right now, he’s a heck of a runner.

 

29. Titans: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Julio Jones has missed time this season and if the Titans was a younger big-bodied target, they can take Burks, who comes in at 6-3, 225 pounds.

30. Buccaneers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

The Penn State standout has a good shot to be a first-round pick. Dotson is undersized at 5-11, 184 pounds, but he’s an electric player. And landing with the GOAT in Tampa Bay would be fun.

31. Patriots: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Patriots aren’t known for drafting first-round receivers and the last time they did, it hasn’t really worked out. But they clearly have something cooking with Mac Jones and it’ll be important to make sure the young quarterback has some weapons going into his second season. Olave is coming off a terrific season for the Buckeyes and would fit that role.

32. Packers: Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina

In a good class of pass rushers, Enagbare has kind of flown under the radar, but he’s very good. Enagbare (6-4, 265) had 44 tackles, 7 TFLs and 4.5 sacks this season. The Packers don’t have a huge need at edge rusher right now but they have some interesting financial decisions coming up at the position.

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