Three picks for Philadelphia.
Mock draft season has already been in effect since the Philadelphia Eagles’ season ended but it has truly hit another gear now that the Super Bowl is over. Todd McShay’s latest mock draft for ESPN+ has the Philadelphia Eagles sticking and picking at all three of their first-round selections, which probably isn’t very realistic. Regardless, let’s take a look at his projection.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) — Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia
The Eagles have a chance to get a whole lot better in a short period of time here; this is their first of three picks in the next five. Buckle up, Philly fans. Let’s get started with Dean, who is my No. 6 prospect. He does it all, from using his speed and sideline-to-sideline range to match with running backs in coverage, to blitzing through gaps and pressuring quarterbacks, to stopping the run and wrapping up ball carriers. His motor never stops, and his instincts make him a true game-breaker. The Eagles have taken just one linebacker in the first round over the past 40 years (Marcus Smith in 2014), but the middle of their defense covets someone like Dean.
Obligatory: ‘The Eagles haven’t drafted an off-ball linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979!’ comment. (C’mon, Todd. Marcus Smith was an edge rusher; he doesn’t count.)
With both Dean and Devin Lloyd potentially available to the Birds, it feels like that streak has a non-zero chance to be snapped this year. One can envision Jonathan Gannon looking for his version of a play-making leader like Darius Leonard to add to his defense.
It’s going to be hard to believe Howie Roseman is drafting a first-round linebacker until it actually happens. Perhaps a linebacker who offers legitimate pass-rushing juice — not exactly like Micah Parsons, since that’s a tall ask, but somewhat comparable to that dynamic — would change how Philly typically values this position. Or, if not that, one would think think they’re looking for a linebacker who can regularly generate turnovers in the form of interceptions and/or forced fumbles.
Will they value Dean highly enough to take him? He did have six sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles playing for the national champions. There are some concerns about his size, however.
Note that Lloyd was not available in this situation because McShay had him going at No. 9.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND) — Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
An NFL team has never taken college teammates with back-to-back picks, but the Eagles’ pass-rush was atrocious, and Walker is incredibly disruptive. Philadelphia’s 29 sacks were 31st in the NFL last season, Derek Barnett is a free agent, and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are both north of 30 years old. Plus, Graham is returning from an Achilles injury. Walker, meanwhile, is a power-based edge rusher who keeps getting better. It’s time to stock the pass-rush cupboard a bit.
If the Eagles don’t take an edge rusher in the first round, it will be a MAJOR upset. The talent is available for them and it’s a position they highly value. It’s also an obvious need with Derek Barnett likely leaving in free agency and Brandon Graham, coming off an Achiles injury, about to enter his age 34 season.
Walker doesn’t profile as the type of edge rusher the Eagles should be looking for, though. Look at this description from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:
Walker is a big, rugged run-stopper with the playing style and body type to play 3-4 end. He consistently outreaches blockers and takes control at the point of attack, and sets firm edges despite playing with limited knee-bend. He plays with violent hands, sluggish feet and all-day aggressiveness. He has quick-shed ability to make plays near his gaps but lacks lateral quickness to play with desired range. He won’t be considered a skilled or threatening rusher from any alignment but can plow his way forward to find occasional success. He’s effective against the run but is likely to be a one-way player who comes off the field on passing downs.
Walker had 3.5 sacks in his first 16 games for Georgia before logging six as a junior in 2021. Six sacks is what the aforementioned Dean had as a linebacker.
Hard to love the Eagles going with Walker when the likes of Jermaine Johnson, who is coming off a 11.5-sack season, and David Ojabo, coming off an 11-sack season, were still on the board.
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
So no quarterback change via the draft. I think the Eagles stick with Jalen Hurts unless they find a way to make the massive deal for a big-name QB. But Hurts could use another target, even after Philadelphia drafted receivers in the first round in each of the past two drafts (Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith). The only team to take a first-round receiver in three straight drafts was the Lions in 2003-05, but consider that the Eagles were 25th in the league last season in pass-game yardage — and 30th when reduced to just wide receivers.
Burks has 6-foot-3 size, great hands and a wide catch radius. He’d be a mismatch in the slot for coach Nick Sirianni and has the ability to tack on extra yards after the catch with smooth acceleration upfield. Burks, Nakobe Dean and Travon Walker make for a great draft class.
Lance Zierlein’s NFL comp for Burks is “A.J. Brown (with more wiggle).” Yes, please. Though they obviously have a big-bodied pass-catcher in Dallas Goedert, they could still really use a good prototypical X receiver to pair with DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins.
Overall, it’s hard to feel like this mock is super realistic. The Eagles probably won’t make three first-round selections in the 2022 NFL Draft because they’ll either trade for a veteran quarterback or trade down to acquire a first in 2023. Again, it’s also hard to merely assume the Eagles are finally taking a linebacker.
But, hey, it’s just one of many mock draft scenarios that are fun to discuss.