Philadelphia Eagles Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama – Round 2
The Eagles entered the 2021 NFL Draft needing some youth on the offensive line, and they were able to land a player with plug-and-play potential in Dickerson. After an impressive 2020 season, Dickerson looked NFL ready to step in at guard or center. His good size, strength and character suggest he was a very safe pick to turn into a quality NFL starter, provided he can stay healthy.

In pass protection, Dickerson is rock solid, showing superb fundamentals that make him a very technically sound blocker. Dickerson bends at the knee, maintains good leverage, avoids bending at the waist, and is very good at hitting combo blocks with guards. He is not the fastest or most athletic interior protector, but his skill-set limitations are masked by his intelligence and his natural ability to play the game. As a pro, Dickerson should be a well-rounded asset.

As a run blocker, Dickerson’s fabulous technique leads him to being effective even though he lacks heavy hands and is not a bulldozer who can over power defenders. While Dickerson struggles to knock defenders off the ball, he beats them to spots and ties them up by using excellent hand placement and using his large frame to seal them off from running lanes. Dickerson can get out in space and is adept at getting to his defender on the second level.

Philadelphia has enjoyed the play of Jason Kelce since 2011, but he and right guard Brandon Brooks are getting older, so it made sense for the team to add some youth to the inside of the offensive line. Dickerson is a safe player on the field and from a character standpoint, but he has major medical and durability concerns that make him a bit of a risk. Before long, I think Dickerson will turn into a quality starter for the Eagles, as long as he can stay healthy and avoid the season-ending injuries that plagued him during his college career.

2020: Davion Taylor, LB
2019: Miles Sanders, RB
2018: Avonte Maddox, CB
2017: Derek Barnett, DE
2016: Isaac Seumalo, C
2015: Nelson Agholor, WR
2014: Marcus Smith, OLB
2013: Zach Ertz, TE

Most Likely To Bust

Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech – Round 3
This was a tough decision because none of DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson or Milton Williams scream bust potential. They all, however, come with risk factors. Smith is skinny and undersized, as is Williams, and Dickerson had a number of season-ending injuries at Florida State and Alabama.

There are some good attributes for Williams (6-3, 284), and he was a late riser in the leadup to the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams is strong, has some athleticism, and showed interior pass-rush ability at Louisiana Tech. He has a lack of length, however, and could be a tweener for the NFL. Williams needs more pass-rushing moves to offset being sub-290 pounds and not being tall enough.

The Eagles also have two very good veteran tackles in Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, so in the immediate future. Williams is buried as a backup. Third-round picks are expected to start out as backups and develop into starters, and while Williams has that potential, it would not be shocking if he fails to translate to the NFL and falls short of being a quality starter. He might end up being more of a rotational backup in his career, and of the Eagles’ early-round picks, he looked like the biggest risk.

2020: Jalen Hurts, QB
2019: Shareef Miller, DE
2018: Josh Sweat, DE
2017: Rasul Douglas, CB
2016: Wendall Smallwood, RB
2015: Jordan Hicks, LB
2014: Josh Huff, WR
2013: Bennie Logan, DT

Potential Boom Pick

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama – Round 1
Even though the Eagles landed the player they wanted in Smith, it was a bit of an insult that the Cowboys chose for Smith to go to Philadelphia rather than New York. It indicates that Dallas is not afraid of Jalen Hurts, but Smith could help Hurts to be an improved passer in his second NFL season. Smith is a special receiver who is an absolute killer on the football field.

Smith (6-1, 175) is deadly, dynamic weapon who could has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. He has the speed to get vertical and can burn defenses deep down the field. Smith is a phenomenal route-runner who is very sudden in and out of breaks. Cornerbacks are practically incapable of running with him, and his fabulous route-running leads to him creating separation. On top of getting open, Smith is superb after the catch, possessing moves in the open field and a second gear to run away from defenders. Along with being a vertical threat, Smith should be a good third-down weapon in the NFL given his ability to get open on short to intermediate routes.

While he isn’t the tallest of receivers, Smith tracks the ball extremely well, and he uses late hands while high pointing the ball well to make catches over defensive backs. Smith is a versatile receiver who can run the route tree and line up at a variety of places. He has excellent feel and instincts to break off his route and get open for his quarterback when plays break down. One of the best words to describe a player in scouting lingo is calling him a “Killer,” and Smith earned that praise from team sources. He absolutely wrecked the opposition in 2020, dominating in brutal fashion. He is a winner and lethal on the football field.

Smith really is a complete package as a receiver and ready for the next level. It would not surprise if he hits the ground running and is emerging as a dynamic receiver by the end of his rookie season. The key to Smith panning out will be staying healthy, something that never was an issue in the past, and Jalen Hurts playing well enough to get Smith the ball. Ultimately, Smith could be a boom pick for the Eagles as long as they field quality quarterback play.

2020: Jalen Reagor, WR
2019: Andre Dillard, OT
2018: Dallas Goedert, TE
2017: Sidney Jones, CB
2016: Carson Wentz, QB
2015: Eric Rowe, CB
2014: Jordan Matthews, WR
2013: Lane Johnson, OT

Future Depth Player

Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis – Round 5
The Eagles made an excellent value pick with Gainwell in the fifth round. He absolutely dominated college football in 2019, showing off big-play ability and speed out of the backfield while serving as a dangerous receiving option. Philadelphia has its projected starter in Miles Sanders, but Gainwell could be an excellent backup who contributes in passing sets as well as serving as a change-of-pace runner. The Eagles do not have a clearly defined backup to Sanders, and Gainwell could earn that role quickly if he is able to pick up the playbook. While Gainwell may not have the size to be a three-down starter in the NFL, he could be a phenomenal No. 2 back who provides really good depth and contributes well as a backup.

2020: John Hightower, WR
2019: Clayton Thorson, QB
2018: Matt Pryor, OT
2017: Donnel Pumphrey, RB
2016: Alex McCalister, LB
2015: JaCorey Shepherd, CB
2014: Jaylen Watkins, CB
2013: Matt Barkley, QB

Walt’s 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

10. Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama – A+ Grade
The Eagles had a chance to trade up with the Falcons for CeeDee Lamb last year. They didn’t pull the trigger, which led to them squandering their first-round choice on Jalen Reagor. It seems as though Howie Roseman learned from his crucial mistake last year, making the jump over the Giants for the dynamic Alabama receiver. When Smith, known as the “Slim Reaper” dominated the college football playoff, I never imagined he would be the third receiver chosen in this class, yet here we are. The Eagles added a dynamic talent to their offense, which they sorely needed.

37. Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama – C Grade
Based on his ability alone, Landon Dickerson is worth this pick. He’s a very smart center with excellent technique. Unfortunately, he suffered countless injuries at Alabama, so he’s a major risk this early in the second round. He makes sense as an eventual replacement for Jason Kelce, but I would’ve tried to obtain Dickerson in the third round.

73. Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech – B+ Grade
The Eagles have a new regime, but they’re not done addressing the trenches. They lost talent at defensive tackle this offseason, and Milton Williams was a third-round prospect all the way, so selecting him makes sense. Williams has great upside, so I like this choice.

123. Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech – A- Grade
I had Zech McPhearson in the third round of some of my mock drafts, so I like this pick for the Eagles. They’re potentially filling a need with an athletic player, which was a must, given all of the receiving talent in their division.

150. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis – A+ Grade
There was some chatter that the Eagles would pick a running back in the second round, which would have been a dumb decision. This is a much better avenue to address the position. Running back wasn’t a need at all, but Kenneth Gainwell was one of the top players available, so he’ll be a nice insurance policy for Miles Sanders.

189. Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC – A+ Grade
It’ll be interesting to see why Marlon Tuipulotu fell in the 2021 NFL Draft. I had him in the third round, so this is amazing value. Tuipulotu also fills a need, given that the Eagles lost so much talent at defensive tackle recently.

191. Tarron Jackson, DE/OLB, Coastal Carolina – C+ Grade
Tarron Jackson was highly productive at Coastal Carolina, but level of competition is obviously a concern. Jackson is a medicore athlete, and I didn’t have him in any of my mock drafts.

224. Jacoby Stevens, S/LB, LSU – B+ Grade
I wasn’t sure if the team that drafted Jacoby Stevens would designate Jacoby Stevens as a linebacker or a safety. Now, we know. Jacoby Stevens is a tweener, but the Eagles needed help at both positions, so perhaps they’ll be able to mold Stevens into a quality player for them. I had Stevens drafted earlier, so this is a solid value.

234. Patrick Johnson, DE, Tulane – C+ Grade
Doug Pederson is gone, but the Eagles are still spending several picks to address the trenches. This is their third Day 3 pick spent on a defensive lineman. I didn’t have Patrick Johnson in my mock, but the seventh round is the time to scoop up priority UDFAs.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: A-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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