Part one of a weekly series previewing the 2022 NFL draft.
Through nine weeks of the regular season, the Eagles’ draft stock is heading in a promising direction.
The chance to secure three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL draft is still alive and well, with Carson Wentz a few full games played away from reaching a sufficient snap count for the Indianapolis Colts’ conditional pick to convey as a first-rounder. The pick Miami sent to the Eagles last offseason is also shaping up to be a top-10 selection, although it got a boost with the Dolphins’ surprising Thursday night win against the Baltimore Ravens.
Right now, the Eagles are projected to have the sixth pick (via Miami), the seventh pick (their own), and the 14th (via Indianapolis). It’s an unprecedented amount of high-value draft capital for one team to have going into the offseason. Regardless of the route Howie Roseman takes with the picks, it’s going to be a “transformational” offseason, former Eagles GM Joe Banner said.
“I can’t remember any team having three picks that high in the same draft,” Banner said. “It creates incredible flexibility. It has the potential to affect the outcomes for the team in the next five to eight years. In both directions, if they waste the opportunity or if they maximize the opportunity. It will be a totally different team over the next five, seven, eight years, depending on what they do with these three picks.”
This year’s class is quite the departure from last year, which saw three quarterbacks go off the board in the first three picks and had five signal- callers gone by the end of the first round. The consensus is that it’s not as top heavy, and it favors the defensive side considerably, especially in the first round.
The Eagles have recently shown a stark preference for offensive players early in the draft (they haven’t taken a defensive player in either of the first two rounds since 2017). But it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the strength may force them out of that habit. Their defensive back seven’s lack of difference-makers has become apparent this season.
New defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme has left much to be desired, but it’s fair to point out the personnel he’s working with is a part of why the team is ranked 24th in defensive efficiency by Football Outsiders.
Still, as Banner explains, fans clamoring for the team to finally use a premium pick on a linebacker or safety shouldn’t hold their breath.
“I think you’re going to see them stick with position priorities and I think they’re smart to do that,” Banner said. “Teams that win the Super Bowl tend to have somewhere between a really good and totally dominant defensive line, some of them have good linebackers and some of them don’t. Everyone has at least a decent secondary, and some of them have better.
“The defensive line is what the entire defense needs as its foundation and they don’t have a defensive line that’s good enough to win in the postseason. They need to be dominant on the defensive line, and to do that they’re going to use high resources.”
Howie hits the turnpike
Roseman went across the state for Pitt’s prime-time game against North Carolina. Usually it’s a risky proposition to prognosticate exactly which players draw scouts to a game, but in this case it’s safe to assume Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett was at least part of the reason for Roseman’s visit. It didn’t hurt that UNC quarterback Sam Howell was a part of the deal, either.
Roseman’s attendance is noteworthy for a few reasons:
Roseman doesn’t typically go to games himself instead of sending someone from the scouting department.
The NFL teams represented at these games are public knowledge, and scouts and GMs sit in the press box, so Roseman was well-aware that his attendance wouldn’t stay quiet. He was even shown on the TV broadcast during the game.
This isn’t the first Pitt game the Eagles have attended, although the other known appearance by an Eagles scout was the Panthers game against Clemson. Even though the Tigers aren’t as dominant as in years past, they still have plenty of NFL talent.
Jalen Hurts’ play this season has been uneven halfway through what is effectively a one-year tryout as the team’s franchise quarterback, leaving room for the Eagles to explore their options at the position this offseason. That’s not to say Hurts hasn’t helped his case; he’s been extremely effective as a scrambler and has protected the football much better in his second year. He has missed on some throws, but he still has flashed some upside. Still, it’s to be determined whether it’s enough to keep the job.
Roseman was one of five general managers at the Pitt game, and it’s worth noting that all of the other four GMs are running teams without a long-term answer at the position.
The decision to either stick with Hurts, at least for next season, or target a quarterback via trade or in the draft is one of the biggest questions the team will face. But Roseman’s attendance at one of the top quarterback prospect’s games is important to remember going into the offseason.
College game to watch
Purdue vs. Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
A handful of top-50 prospects will be playing in this conference game. But the matchup that will probably be referenced most in the offseason is Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis against the Buckeyes’ offensive line, which features first-round hopefuls like right tackle Nicholas Petite-Frere and Thayer Munford, who just moved from tackle to left guard.
If Karlaftis makes it to the Eagles in the draft, the 6-foot-4, 276-pound lineman’s ability to play both on the edge and on the inside shoulder of the tackle could appeal to them as they seemingly try to build a more versatile defensive front.
The Eagles on Friday listed Josh Sweat and Andre Dillard as the only questionable players for their road game against the Denver Broncos. Sweat is in the concussion protocol, but was a full participant in practice and would be eligible to come out of the protocol Saturday if he doesn’t regress. Dillard suffered a knee injury during the practice session, landing him on the injury report for the first time all week. ... Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will miss the game against the Eagles after contracting coronavirus, according to several media reports Friday. The former Eagles offensive coordinator — and interim head coach for one game in 2013 — will hand over his play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Mike Shula.