There are few spots on the field the Eagles care about more than the interior of the defensive line.
Both in free agency and through the draft, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has invested a significant amount in the defensive tackle spots in recent years, and there’s reason to believe he’ll continue doing so when this year’s NFL draft begins on April 28.
Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox are an elite pairing, but Cox, 31, is on a one-year deal after briefly being released in a salary-dumping maneuver last month and there’s room for another starter-level player to rotate in with the two proven veterans. Milton Williams, the team’s third-round pick last year, splits his time between defensive tackle and defensive end and figures to have a role in the rotation as well.
Whether the Eagles target a nose tackle or a three-technique defensive tackle, that addition could eventually replace Cox after spending their first season as situational rusher. If they add a five-technique (a lineman that lines up just outside the offensive tackle), they could work them in at multiple spots.
Here are some of the options at both spots in the draft:
The top guys
Jordan Davis, Georgia
This draft series has covered Davis pretty extensively, and for good reason. He plays a position the Eagles value highly and he’s got upside aplenty as a 6-6, 341-pound monster with legit athleticism at that size. There are questions surrounding Davis, mainly the fact that he played less than half of Georgia’s snaps and wasn’t typically on the field for obvious passing downs.
The Eagles will have better answers than the public on why exactly those two things were the case. His limited playing time could be a matter of conditioning, but most of the Georgia defensive linemen didn’t log heavy snaps because of the sheer talent the team had at each position. As far as his coaches deciding not to put him on the field for obvious pass-rushing situations, it could be indicative of his unpolished rushing style at this point. Davis projects as an immediate impact player against the run because of his strength, but he needs to take strides to translate his physical traits into effective pass-rushing ability.
If the Eagles answer those questions and covet Davis, they might have to move up to secure him. There are a cluster of teams in the spots just ahead of the Eagles that each have a need at defensive tackle, and it’s hard to imagine the Baltimore Ravens will pass on a player that fits their MO so well with the 14th pick.
Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Some analysts believe Wyatt is actually the best defensive tackle prospect to come out of Georgia.
The 6-3, 304-pound prospect has an explosive first step and projects as a twitchy three-technique defensive tackle at the next level. Wyatt is a more polished pass rusher and can still wreak havoc in the run game with his athleticism.
Some teams will be scared away because of off-field concerns with Wyatt, who was arrested in 2020 for “family violence.” The Eagles had him and Davis in for predraft visits, so they could have a bit of clarity on the 24-year-old’s character. Unlike Davis, Wyatt was on the field for pass-rushing situations, but both of the Georgia defensive tackles weren’t exceptionally productive. Wyatt had 2.5 sacks compared to Davis’ two.
Logan Hall, Houston
Whether you consider Hall a defensive tackle or defensive end doesn’t matter, he is one of the late risers in this draft class.
The 6-6, 283-pounder fits the mold of a five-technique defensive end who can also split time as a three-technique defensive tackle or even an edge rusher on early downs. The Eagles played Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan out of position at times, lining them up inside the tackle in a “4i” technique. Hall would take on that alignment comfortably and bring heavy hands and good speed to the defensive line while also affording Sweat more time on the edge.
Even though some teams might shy away from Hall because of his tweener status, he’s likely a first-round prospect whose range probably starts in the 20s. If the Eagles trade back, he could be a guy to watch.
Travis Jones, UConn
Some analysts have dubbed Jones the budget-friendly version of Davis. The 6-4, 325-pound defensive tackle has good length and athleticism to pair with his size and strength, and he’s more of an early Day 2 prospect than a surefire first rounder.
Unlike Davis, Jones isn’t quite fast enough to project as more than a nose tackle, but he should be a pretty good one in short order. He has room to improve as a pass rusher, but his ability to be stingy in the run game will be an appeal for teams looking for a gap plugger with upside to be more than that.