Round 1, Pick 13: Georgia DT Jordan Davis
The Eagles coveted Davis so much, they traded a stash of Day 3 picks to leapfrog the Baltimore Ravens in order to get him.
Any evaluation of the 6-foot-6, 341-pound prospect moving forward will be tied not only to the price they paid to secure him (picks No. 15, 124, 162, and 166), but also with his performance relative to the player the Ravens picked after he was taken: Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
If the Eagles’ bet is right, Davis will be a force against the run right away and will eventually translate his impressive movement skills into pass-rush productivity. He was the anchor on a smothering Georgia defense last season, but only played 25 snaps per game and wasn’t typically on the field for obvious passing downs. Part of his low workload was due to the loaded Georgia defensive line rotation, but his conditioning was an issue as well.
When he’s on the field, he’ll give Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon the flexibility to run a multiple front with a nose tackle who commands frequent double teams. His ability to clog multiple gaps will balance out light boxes, which the recent wave of analytics-driven defensive coordinators like Gannon prefer to use.
If Davis improves his conditioning and develops reliable pass-rushing plans, the Eagles would enjoy another decade of elite defensive-tackle play whenever Fletcher Cox moves on. He possesses the rare blend of size, strength, and speed that executives should covet in the first round.
Even if he doesn’t, Davis projects as a useful, if not limited, player at the next level. There’s a world where Hamilton goes on to be an impact player at safety and Davis is confined to an early-down role in a rotation, but Davis’ upside, along with the Eagles’ successful track record valuing trench players is enough to justify the rationale.
Round 2, Pick 51: Nebraska C Cam Jurgens
The Eagles have enjoyed nearly a decade of elite center play and they’re doing their darnedest to increase the chances they don’t experience a drop-off anytime soon.
At 6-3, 303 pounds, Jurgens is an exceptional athlete who can get up to the second level and challenge linebackers in the run game. He’s an ideal fit for the Eagles’ zone-running scheme and should be able to maintain the Eagles’ balance of massive guards flanking a nimble center once Jason Kelce moves on.
He compares so favorably to Kelce that the 34-year-old praised his new protege shortly after the selection was announced.
Even though Jurgens seems like an optimal fit, there’s certainly a question of resource allocation when you look at the Eagles’ first two picks. There’s a legitimate chance neither Davis nor Jurgens plays significant snaps as a rookie as they wait for beloved veterans to vacate starting spots.
What if Kelce wants to play two or three more seasons? This could turn into an Andre Dillard-Jason Peters situation, which is the cautionary tale of drafting an heir apparent too hastily.
The Eagles drafted Landon Dickerson in the second round last year under a similar guise to the Jurgens selection, and he ended up starting 13 games and should be a starter next season. The difference is Dickerson is proficient at three spots, whereas Jurgens has the physical profile that lends itself exclusively to center.
Oklahoma edge rusher Nik Bonitto and Nebraska defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt, each of whom could have been immediate contributors while also offering long-term upside, went within 15 picks of Jurgens. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the Eagles had tried to trade back from 51 to recoup some of the picks lost in the Davis trade, but Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said there was a lull in trade activity around their pick.
With such glaring holes remaining at cornerback, safety, and even edge rusher to a lesser degree, it’s easy to wonder if the Eagles could have filled a need more effectively here. If Jurgens ends up being Kelce 2.0, I suppose it won’t matter as much.
Round 3, Pick 83: Georgia LB Nakobe Dean
Only time will reveal whether the teams reportedly scared off by the medical evaluation of Dean’s pectoral injury were justified in passing on the linebacker.
Roseman was bullish about Dean being healthy on Friday. Does the Eagles’ medical staff know something other teams didn’t?
If the naysayers are correct, the Eagles used a third-round pick on a 5-11, 229-pound linebacker with durability issues. If they’re wrong, the Eagles got one of the most talented players in the draft with the 83rd pick.
Dean was the catalyst of one of the best college defenses in recent history. If Davis was the anchor of the smothering Georgia defense, Dean was the one steering the ship. He didn’t test during the predraft process because of his lingering health issues, but he was an explosive, sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker with exceptional instincts in college. The Butkus Award winner had 72 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions last season.
Although he’ll still share the field with Davis, Dean won’t have the luxury of playing behind a defensive line as dominant as Georgia’s. Whether he can take on NFL interior offensive lineman effectively remains to be seen, but this is a terrific upside play in the third round.
Dean has a chance to be the difference-making linebacker the Eagles have lacked for so long. Even if his injury problems persist, the process that led the team to this selection was still a sound one.
» READ MORE: Eagles brass excited to land linebacker Nakobe Dean
Round 6, Pick 181: Kansas LB Kyron Johnson
Johnson profiles as a capable special-teamer with a little upside as a SAM linebacker.
He reportedly ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at 6-foot, 230 pounds, which is plenty fast for both of his potential roles. The Eagles let special-teams ace Alex Singleton walk in free agency, and Johnson can help make up for that loss.
On defense, Johnson will have Haason Reddick as the example for how someone with his physical profile can overcome size disadvantages to become an effective pass rusher. If he’s a special teams contributor, it’s fine value for a sixth-rounder.
Round 6, Pick 198: SMU TE Grant Calcaterra
Calcaterra is an intriguing late-round prospect with good route-running ability at 6-4, 241 pounds.
He had 38 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns in SMU’s pass-happy offense last season and was a starter at Oklahoma before that. Unless you’re taking one of the top tight ends in the class, it makes sense to try to find them in the later rounds by taking plus athletes at the position regardless of polish or production.
Mounting concussions during his time with the Sooners compelled him to retire from football for one season, which is a concern. He’s also not much of an inline blocker.
The risk of Calcaterra having a short NFL career is there, but the flier on a smooth mover is well worth that risk in the middle of the sixth round.