MATT SANTOLERI'S EAGLES SEVEN-ROUND MOCK DRAFT
This offseason surely has been one unlike anything we have ever experienced with the NFL.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has canceled every social gathering and entertainment event that can’t comply with the social distancing regulations that have been implemented.
This means no NBA, NHL, or MLB season and the loss of the NCAA March Madness tournament, that has been a high point of every sports fan’s year. The NFL has been the one the outlier, finding ways to operate as close to a business is normal as possible given the circumstances.
This has rubbed some fans and members of the league the wrong way, as many have wondered if pushing the draft back far enough so pro days, meetings, and in house medical analysis could be used to better evaluate prospects, would be the better course of action.
The league has pressed on and now a virtual draft will be held instead of the unveiling event for the NFL the draft in Las Vegas was previously scheduled to be.
This has meant that draft talk and analysis has been the one thing keeping NFL fans tuned in since the bulk of the big-name Free Agents have found homes by now.
So since the show is going on, and I have done basically nothing but engross myself in draft prospect film and analysis I thought it would be fun to pull up the a Mock Draft simulator and use the no-trade option to see how Eagles VP/GM Howie Roseman and company could use these eight picks they now hold in the 2020 Draft.
I used a predictive big board that gives you the most realistic experience with making these selections but obviously there could be guys who I select early that may go later or vice versa. Whether these guys are picked at these exact spots or not, the fit on the Eagles and needs they would address are undeniable.
FIRST ROUND PICK No. 21 Denzel Mims - WR – Baylor
In a perfect situation one of the top 3 guys in this year’s draft at WR (Jeudy, Lamb, Ruggs III) would fall to the Eagles at No. 21 but unfortunately, that just simply isn’t happening.
If the Eagles want one of those three is going to cost them significant capital to climb into the top 15 picks which they just cannot spare from the Slay trade and the picks lost from last years draft in the Dillard trade up last season.
This mock exercise isn’t going to include any trade ups but even if it did, Denzel Mims is a perfect pick at 21 to fill this glaring need, without it costing them anything extra. He has the extended catch radius that perfectly complements his great mitts and jump out the gym vertical ability.
Tied for No.6 in the vertical at almost 39 inches and posting a 4.38 40-yard dash. He’s an athletic freak and will bring the combination of big play ability of Jackson and reliable short to intermediate tough contested catches that Jeffery would win for Carson in years past.
Players like Justin Jefferson have been linked here too and while he will be a really good receiver in the NFL, I have concerns about his ability to play on the outside, which is what the Eagles desperately need. Even if Jefferson can eventually develop this ability, the Eagles lack of offseason moves at WR have hamstrung them into getting a year one contributor on the outside which Mims can be.
Questions about his route tree and if he can do more than what Baylor used him for exist, but work at the Senior Bowl and combine suggest he’s more complete than the tape has shown.
If Mims isn’t the pick, I’d probably reach a little for another guy who can work the outside and boundaries like Jalen Reagor or Brandon Aiyuk or better yet, try and trade down for one of those same targets.
SECOND ROUND PICK No. 53 Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
The team made a much-needed trade to acquire Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions to sure up their biggest weakness on defense this offseason.
Missing out on guys like Byron Jones, James Bradberry, and Chris Harris Jr in free agency forced their hand in giving up a third and fifth round pick in this years draft, which means they have less shots at figuring out who number two opposite of Slay should be.
Confidence in Maddox moving to the outside or guys like Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in general aside, they need more talented guys who can play in this defense. Cre’von LeBlanc and free agent Nickell Robey-Coleman should be enough to sure up the slot corner spot but do little to move the needle when it comes to CB 2.
This is where a guy who was rumored to be in the first round just a few months ago makes just too much sense. His ability to play CB for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide exposed him to a multitude of different coverage concepts and he routinely matched up with world class WR’s in the SEC.
He’s ready to contribute day one as a CB2/CB3 with developable ball skills and could potentially develop into Slay’s replacement as the number 1 when his contract in through.
You don’t ever want to be married to picking a specific position but the value of a CB at 53 even if Diggs is off the board will be tough to pass up. I expect either him, AJ Terrell, Noah Igbinoghene, Damon Arnette, Bryce Hall, or Jaylon Johnson to be here and think any of them would be fantastic picks at 53.
THIRD ROUND PICK No. 103
After the release of Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill departing in free agency, the cupboard is bare when it comes to linebackers on the Eagles roster.
Undrafted free agent from last year TJ Edwards has the most promising potential to be a contributor going forward in that Bradham role but Safety convert, and Schwartz favorite, Nate Gerry most likely still sits atop the depth chart.
Gerry has been a pretty good value for the Eagles since being drafted in 2017, but I simply don’t have the confidence in his ability to raise the play of the defense to where it was when Bradham was healthy and playing.
The other guys like Alex Singleton and Duke Riley are big question marks and Jatavis Brown, new addition via free agency, is locked into more of the WILL role vacated by Grugier-Hill.
This is where a guy like Logan Wilson just makes too much sense just outside of the top 100. A 52-game starter at LB for Wyoming after coming in as a WR, Wilson showed extremely polished tackling skills and range along with effective instincts to read and react.
He is more athletic and polished then Edwards was last year coming out and similarly had solid turnover production leaving Wyoming with 10 INTs, 5 FF, and 4 FR.
Coverage skills will have to improve at the next level but like Murray and Queen who will go over 60 picks sooner, he shows true potential as a 3 down starter but at a fraction of the cost.
FOURTH ROUND PICK No. 127 K.J. Hill – WR – Ohio State
The Eagles improved their team drastically taking Denzel Mims in the first round of this mock draft but to be frank, its simply not enough.
The situation with Alshon Jeffery could be to tenuous to ever see him back in the Eagles locker room again and even if he is back with team, he will miss significant time.
The Eagles already put to many eggs into the DeSean Jackson basket last season and another year older, coming off a season ending injury, makes it too risky to rely on him again in the same capacity. It’s too early to write off JJ Arcega-Whiteside going into his sophomore season, but like Jackson, he can’t be the guaranteed answer to the problem either.
This is where the double dip at WR early fixes this issue and gets Carson not only another toy in the chest but one that fits in mainly as a slot option to become his new Jordan Matthews type of reliable option.
He graduated the all-time leader in receptions for the Buckeyes with 201 and added 20 TD’s and over 2,300 yards over his tenure. He’s not the burner that Terry McLaurin was last year coming out of OSU but he’s a shifty and technically sound route runner who showed an uncanny ability to get open quickly.
Between guys like Hill and Florida’s Van Jefferson, the Eagles should be able to use this pick to get a guy who excels at this role in these mid rounds which is why I am more for the Birds going the Mims, Reagor, or Aiyuk route in lieu of Justin Jefferson who has those outside concerns.
FOURTH ROUND PICK No. 145 Anfernee Jennings – EDGE – Alabama
The Eagles have shown their philosophy on building a winning program starts in the trenches. Bringing in guys who have shown juice in the pass rush game from the interior of the line has been a focus the past two offseason acquiring Malik Jackson last season and signing Javon Hargrave to a three-year deal this offseason.
The attention now needs to turn over to the outside of the defensive line as Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger and Derrick Barnett still hasn’t outperformed the expectations of being a top 15 draft pick a few years ago.
Daeshon Hall showed some promise before his knee injury, Josh Sweat has shown he’s more than capable of giving them DE 3 push when given the opportunity, and Shareef Miller was essentially redshirted last season so there is nothing to be counted on there.
While bright spots exist, its still too many questions and not enough answers for a team that rode its pass rush rotation to a Superbowl three years ago. Jennings would be able to come in and give them sturdy production immediately with the upside to develop into a DE 2 at the next level.
He may lack some of the athletic upside of guys who will be drafted ahead of him, but he can come in right away with his polished power rush moves and strong frame to give them quality snaps.
Producing 13.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for a loss over his final two seasons for the Crimson Tide, he can play with his hand in the dirt or stand up which gives Schwartz some added versatility if needed.
FOURTH ROUND PICK No. 146 A.J. Dillion – RB – Boston College
The running game has been an area where the Eagles have found players to produce, while it being a bit of a rotating door since the departure of LeSean McCoy in March of 2015.
Players like LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Jordan Howard have been given an opportunity to be the bruising back types that would stand out as the No. 1 option in a running back by committee approach.
Miles Sanders proved he has the ability to do it all for the Eagles in that role last season and his upside in the passing game makes him the clear cut No. 1 going into 2020 with players like Boston Scott ready to take on the role vacated by Darren Sproles and Corey Clement.
Who knows what you have in Elijah Holyfield? He's young and raw bruising back type that was productive in college but lacked the athleticism to latch on immediately on an NFL roster, so the team has some work to do trying to avoid being a injury away to a calamity situation again in 2020 like they had in 2018.
Unless they are serious in the Fournette sweepstakes, they have the No. 32 overall salary given out to RB’s in the league which means they could afford to add more talent and not overdue themselves on a position becoming increasingly devalued.
A.J. Dillon from Boston College would fix this issue immediately and would be available in a spot not unlike where they drafted Donnel Pumphrey a few years prior and missing out on guys like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner, and Tarik Cohen who went in the second round or later, not to mention, Christian McCaffery and Fournette who went before the Eagles in the first round.
Low value but high reward potential as he averaged over 125 rushing yards and one rushing TD per game on 24 carries. He was an absolute workhorse but besides missing three games in 2018 from ankle injury, has been up to the task.
Leaving BC their all-time leader in rushing yards with 4,382 and rushing TD’s with 38, all while only playing three seasons. You couple his production with insane measurables that compare with Derrick Henry, including a 40 yd dash time that was 4.53 at the same weight Henry was at the 2016 combine of 247 lbs., and you’ve got the bruising between the tackles back Philly needs, for a fraction of the cost.
If the Eagles wanted someone with a profile that involves them more in the passing game I could see them looking a player like Antonio Gibson from Memphis but it will likely cost them an earlier pick then this to get it done.
Win-win scenario for Roseman and the Eagles between the two.
FIFTH ROUND PICK No. 168 Darryl Williams – Inside O-Line – Mississippi State
The Eagles have most likely said goodbye to a first ballot hall of famer and still quality tackle in Jason Peters and it was arguably the right thing for both parties.
Perfect world would see Peters retire as a Eagle but if he still believes he has quality football left in him, I believe he does, then continuing to play somewhere else works both sides.
As he latches on with a contender this season the door has been open for Andre Dillard to be the franchise LT they traded up in the draft for last season.
His play was mixed but I think airing towards him being a viable option even if concerns about his mindset after having to step in at RT seemed to get to him.
Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks have made three straight Pro-Bowls, first team All-Pro for Lane in 2017, and are built to hold down the right side of the line.
Jason Kelce is coming off his third straight season with First team All-Pro honors, from the center position, but rumors have swirled in three straight off seasons that he may be close to hanging them up.
Now after Halapoulivaati Vaitai has left for Detroit in Free Agency along with Peters, Isaac Seumalo, who played Center at Oregon State, has been entrenched in the Left Guard spot after immensely improving in 2019. Will he be the replacement for Kelce when he finally does retire, or will the team be looking to fill that center spot and leave him at guard?
That’s where the selection of a guy like Darryl Williams makes the most amount sense for the Eagles later in the draft. Adding to depth pieces like Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig, Iosua Opeta and Jordan Mailata, Williams will offer positional flexibility starting at LG in 2017 and 2018 and then sliding in as the starting center in 2019 for the Bulldogs as a senior.
Hard to expect someone drafted here to step in as an immediate contributor so keep your expectations low in year one but I see him as a developmental prospect that can move to different spots along the offensive line and be a swing lineman for cheap in the future with potential to take over in year three.
Scrappy and tough lineman who makes up for lack in physical tools with a high football IQ and leadership qualities.
In Jeff Stoutland’s hands I trust him to give the Eagles something in the near future.
SIXTH ROUND PICK No. 190 Tanner Muse – S/LB – Clemson
The Eagles brought back Rodney McLeod on a two-year deal and Jalen Mills on a one-year deal that supposedly has him stepping into the hybrid S/LB spot that was vacated by the loss of veteran leader and fan favorite, Malcom Jenkins.
The Eagles decided not to renegotiate the deal that Jenkins was playing on which made it so he could leave in free agency and rejoin the New Orleans Saints for a modest pay raise.
The decision was one that split the fan base as many, like me, wonder how they will replace his on the field leadership and off the field progressive message that resonated with so many throughout the city of Philadelphia.
The answer to filling this void on the field will be a collection of players like Mills playing safety from CB, free agent safety Will Parks, and maybe even Nate Gerry who played safety in college.
This is where a guy like Tanner Muse would fit so perfectly for Jim Schwartz as I see him as the player the team has always envisioned Gerry would become.
Playing the box safety role for Clemson mostly he logged 39 starts in 59 games showcasing his ability to attack downhill and put out pretty good coverage ability when necessary.
He could be a Swiss Army Knife type of player for the team rotating in between the Jenkins role and that of a more traditional WILL.
Versatility is key when drafting this late and so is special teams’ ability which Muse also presents for Philly.
He won’t have the upside of guys earlier in the draft but he fills a need for the team and unless someone like Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess, or Geno Stone fall this late, he’s the best value without attacking someone in the top 100 like Jeremy Chinn, Antoine Winfield J.R, or his Clemson Tigers secondary partner, K’von Wallace.
The need for Howie to hit on this draft class is as high as its ever been and with eight picks in the draft they have the capital to bring in quality talent that can contribute in 2020 and beyond.
As with any mock draft these players may end up going way earlier or later than I selected them, but I can confidently say I believe in their ability to make a difference for whatever team lands their talents.
Most people think they could try and bring in a low-cost back up QB of the future and address the tackle or interior defensive line as they are one to do every year, but I believe these needs to just be a bit greater.
Regardless of where they go in the draft multiple positions have needs currently and very soon that need solutions. Here’s to hoping at least a few of these guys hear their names called when Philly’s on the clock this weekend to solve those problems. *