The Eagles drafted Nebraska center Cam Jurgens with the 51st pick in the NFL draft Friday in an attempt to fortify their long-term depth on the interior offensive line.
Jurgens, 22, was a three-year starter at center for the Cornhuskers after switching positions from tight end and projects as the heir apparent for Jason Kelce. The 34-year-old Kelce is on a one-year contract and has contemplated retirement each of the last few offseasons.
At 6-foot-3, 304 pounds, Jurgens compares favorably to Kelce in size and athleticism. He ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash, and his 1.71-second 10-yard split was 90th percentile. His size and 33-inch arms will keep him from being able to stick anywhere but center, but the Eagles were likely encouraged by his extensive time spent at the position.
Kelce’s been participating in a draft live show on Bleacher Report’s social media accounts the past two days and was on air when the Eagles took Jurgens. Kelce had effusive praise for the team taking Jurgens, noting that the Eagles have asked him to scout center prospects to help find his eventual replacement the last few years.
“I knew we were taking him,” Kelce said. “This is my favorite player in the draft. I’m not just saying that because we picked him. The Eagles have been using me to evaluate some of the centers coming out, all the guys that I’ve looked at — for the past two, three years, out of all the guys I compare the most to myself, this guy is him.
“He is so athletic, so fast, you see him out in space, he runs, he’s a natural athlete. You see the fluidity, he played tight end, a position convert. He’s only been playing offensive line for two years; 4.92 40, 1.7 [10-yard split], 7.19 three-cone. This guy is a freak athletically. He has the best chance to be a difference maker at the center position. I like this kid a lot, I really do.”
With Kelce still in the fold for at least another year, Jurgens will spend his rookie season backing him up and receiving his mentorship. Kelce hasn’t missed much time in the last few years, but there’s also a chance Jurgens could slot in at guard in a pinch despite his smaller frame.
Jurgens said he and Kelce had a long conversation during his pre-draft visit with the team and the two struck a quick bond over a shared appreciation for cattle ranching.
“We talked for quite a while,” Jurgens told reporters over a Zoom call. “It was actually in the O-line room with [Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.] He was quizzing me, we were going over the plays, and Jason Kelce walked in. We were talking about the offense and what I can do and how I could fit in.
“He started talking about how he got some cows, he was learning how to be a cattle rancher. Shoot, I grew up on a cattle farm, and that’s what I grew up around. We started talking some ranching and football and how we can help each other learn. It was just a great convo.”
The Eagles have now addressed both the interior offensive and defensive line with their first two picks, taking Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis 13th overall Thursday night.
They chose Jurgens over a handful of other defensive prospects that were potential targets, although they addressed a long-term need at linebacker by taking Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean with their next pick. Dean was originally considered an option for the Eagles in the second round after he unexpectedly made it out of the first round, but medical concerns led to him sliding all the way to them with the 83rd overall pick.
It’s the second consecutive year the Eagles targeted an interior offensive lineman in the second round of the draft over needs in their defensive back-seven. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has long valued depth along the offensive and defensive lines and took Alabama center/guard Landon Dickerson with the 37th pick last year.
The decision to draft Dickerson, even as he was recovering from a torn ACL, paid off at least last season. The 6-6, 330-pound lineman missed training camp because of his knee, but went on to start 13 games for the team at both guard spots.
When Dickerson was drafted, the assumption was he’d have a chance to be Kelce’s eventual replacement at center, but he actually projects as Brandon Brooks’ replacement after the veteran guard announced his retirement earlier this offseason.
Jurgens noted Nebraska O-line coach Greg Austin, a former Eagles assistant offensive line coach from 2013-15 under Stoutland, uses terminology similar to the Eagles’.
“A lot of the stuff I did at Nebraska, the stuff I was taught, especially the terminology was very similar to what they do,” Jurgens said. “Greg Austin came from that system. [Stoutland’s] his guy, that’s his mentor.”