Jeff McLane 👍
When grading the draft, it’s best to avoid judgment based primarily upon one’s own evaluation of a prospect, or even the collective opinions of others. I lack enough expertise to assess whether Jordan Davis will be a productive player in the NFL, and even the professionals stand about a 50-50 of getting it right in the first round.
But I can evaluate the Eagles’ process based upon reporting and institutional knowledge of the league and whether trading up two spots and taking the defensive tackle at No. 13 was a sound decision. I believe that it was.
It’s possible Howie Roseman could have stayed at No. 15 and played the odds that Davis would have been available. But the Ravens, who were one of three teams to bring the Georgia product in for a pre-draft visit, and have a history of drafting similarly-skilled nose tackles, may have stood between the Eagles and Davis. Roseman likes to gamble, but jumping Baltimore took the risk out of the equation.
The general manager had to give up a fourth-rounder and two fifths, and the Ravens wasted little time taking Kyle Hamilton at No. 14. But the guess here is that if the Notre Dame safety was the best remaining player, Roseman would have traded out of No. 15. Hamilton may prove to be the better pick. But drafting a safety as high — one with questions about speed — would have gone against the Eagles’ long-held philosophy about positional value.
There have been exceptions to the rule, of course, and I’m not here to defend an approach that hasn’t always been consistent. But Roseman’s track record on trading up into the top 13 speaks for itself. And the 6-foot-6, 341-pound Davis was too freakishly athletic to pass on. He has a skill set that translates to any scheme, but he should be able to step in and start from Day 1 as the nose in Jonathan Gannon’s odd-man base front.
Drafting for scheme fit, especially in the first round, can often backfire on teams. But Davis’ presence in the middle of the Eagles’ defense will have a domino effect on personnel. Too often Gannon was forced to move edge rushers inside as 4i-technique defensive ends lined up on the inside of the offensive tackle. Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Tarron Jackson weren’t best suited to execute the hybrid read-attack principles, and got overwhelmed at times. Davis allows for Javon Hargrave to fill one of those roles along with Fletcher Cox with the first unit, and Milton Williams with the second.
That’s some major meat up front. The Eagles struggled to stop the run early last season and sometimes had to sacrifice a man in coverage for help in the box. But Davis, in theory, should give Gannon an extra safety deep on obvious run downs. If you thought the first-year defensive coordinator called too many two-deep zones, wait till you see what is likely to happen this season.
The Eagles couldn’t have expended as much on Davis unless they thought he was capable of being an effective pass rusher. There is always projection, but he wasn’t on the field much on third downs in college. There were several reasons for that. Georgia’s defense was stacked. The Bulldogs often didn’t need Davis in those situations, and when he was out there, he was often tasked with eating up blockers to free others. Georgia also blew out several opponents, which resulted in fewer snaps.
Davis’ weight remains a legitimate concern. He came in out of shape last season, which partly affected his snap count. But the 22-year-old doesn’t seem to be lacking in motivation. He received plus grades in terms of character. There will be a learning curve when it comes to the pass rush. But even if he never reaches 10 sacks in a season, it’s hard to not see Davis at least consistently pushing the pocket and forcing quarterbacks off schedule.
EJ Smith 👍
Davis figures to be a handful against the run pretty much right away in the NFL thanks to his combination of size, strength, and athleticism. Where things go from there will determine whether the Eagles made the right decision trading up two spots in the NFL draft to select him.
Let’s break things into three scenarios.
Scenario one: Davis continues to struggle with conditioning, plays a limited number of snaps and never translates his strength and movement skills into effective pass-rushing production.
Scenario two: Davis gets into shape enough to be a three-down player and settles in as a force against the run with moderate pass-rush productivity, but not enough to always be on the field for obvious passing downs.
Scenario three: Davis gets in shape and becomes the type of difference-making player who demands double teams both against the run and the pass. He’s a double-digit sack producer who opposing teams have to account for on every snap.
Scenario two is the most likely, with scenarios one and three having about the same probability.
If Davis does top out as a run-stuffing nose tackle who can’t get to the quarterback, there’s still some value in that. Obviously it’s not first-round value, but at the very least there’s some return on investment. It’s also impossible to ignore the player taken by the Baltimore Ravens one pick after Davis: Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. If Hamilton lives up to his label as one of the best players in the draft while Davis struggles, it will look especially bad considering that the Eagles traded ahead of Baltimore to secure him.
Still, if Davis reaches the potential his size, arm length, and speed give him as a pass rusher, he could become an All-Pro. As is the Eagles way, the chance at an All-Pro defensive tackle is more important than the chance at getting one at safety.
While we wait to find out if Davis can reach that ceiling, he’ll offer Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon the flexibility to use multiple fronts and more light boxes, which is the way the league is going defensively.
When you weigh the potential upside, the immediate gain, and the high-ish floor, it’s hard to quibble with this selection.
Josh Tolentino 👍
The Eagles surrendered the No. 15 pick, a fourth-rounder, and two fifth-rounders to move up two spots and select Davis with the No. 13 pick. The trade allowed the Eagles to catapult the Ravens, who were one of three teams that hosted Davis for a top-30 visit. Giving up four picks to jump one team in the draft order is quite a haul, but the Eagles identified Davis as the top guy on their board well ahead of the draft. Considering the team worked ahead of time in setting up a trade for receiver A.J. Brown, that meant the Eagles were no longer interested in drafting one of the top receiver prospects, which essentially left them to address the defense with their top pick.
Roseman favored defensive line over secondary, and drafting Davis makes a lot of sense as the team prepares to eventually replace long-standing veteran Fletcher Cox, who is returning on a one-year deal and turns 32 in December. Fellow interior defensive lineman Javon Hargrave is also entering the final year of his contract. Davis was an impact player for the nation’s best defense. He swallowed up gaps in the run game, and garnered the attention of double teams from opposing offensive linemen. While at Georgia, Davis often told his teammates during huddles, “Two on me, somebody’s free.”
Boasting a massive frame at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, Davis emerged as one of the most athletic prospects in this year’s draft class. He ran an astonishing 4.78-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. His athleticism should help him flourish with the Eagles, who are hoping to transform Davis into a bona fide pass rusher. In order to uncork his true potential and ceiling, the Eagles will need to help develop Davis into a three-down playmaker.
It’s a bit wild to consider that the Eagles’ top selection, whom they gave up four picks to acquire, might not start immediately. But Davis appears to possess all the tools needed to blossom into a stud anchor in the middle part of the defensive line. His long-standing relationship with position coach Tracy Rocker is another added benefit.