Good morning, folks. Well, Day 1 of the NFL draft is in the books and, for the second year in a row, the Eagles selected a wide receiver in the first round.
They leap-frogged over the Giants, trading a third-round pick to the Cowboys to move up from 12 to 10, and took Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver, DeVonta Smith.
Unlike last year, when they passed on LSU’s Justin Jefferson to take Jalen Reagor, Thursday night’s selection of Smith earned a fairly high approval rating from Eagles fans.
Aside from the fact that he weighs just 166 pounds soaking wet, he’s a fairly safe pick. He immediately becomes the best wide receiver on the team and will be a big help to quarterback Jalen Hurts, who played with Smith at ‘Bama.
“Smitty has tremendous versatility,” Nick Saban said Thursday in an ESPN interview. “He can play outside and get on top. He can play in the slot. He can do anything you want him to do in your offense.
“People talk about him only weighing 170 pounds. But I’ll tell you what. He’s one of the toughest guys in college football. He’s been very durable. I don’t think that should be an issue.”
Thursday’s trade leaves the Eagles with nine picks, but just two in Friday’s second and third rounds. Who could be some of the Eagles’ Day 2 targets? More on that below.
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Roseman says he won’t reach
The Eagles need a cornerback, and as fate would have it, Friday’s second round of the draft appears to be a pretty good place to get one.
“I think there is a really good group of corners in that second-round range,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “But they’re going to go fast. After that, it really starts to drop off. For those teams looking for corners, they’d better get on that ride early.”
Five corners went in the first round, including three of the final 11 selections: Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech (22), Greg Newsome of Northwestern (26), and Eric Stokes of Georgia (29).
Several more could go quickly Friday, including Asante Samuel Jr. of Florida State, Tyson Campbell of Georgia, and Elijah Molden of Washington. Samuel is the son of the former Eagle by the same name.
The Eagles own the fifth pick in the second round, which should be early enough to get one of the top available corners. They also have eight other picks they could use as trade currency if they feel the need to move up a couple of spots closer to the top of the second round.
But general manager Howie Roseman insisted Thursday night that the Eagles intend to stick to their draft board and will not let position need dictate what they do.
“Because of how many picks we have over the next two years, we really don’t want to get in a position ... we’ve made some mistakes in the past forcing picks and forcing positions,” Roseman said.
“We’ve spent so much time on this draft and so much time on this process and so much discussion on the players in this draft that we’re not going to reach. We’re going to take the best guys.
“We’re going to be sitting there Friday morning knowing we’re going to get a really good player [in the second round]. Maybe it’s at a position that can come in right away and fill a need. But maybe it’s just a guy that we know is going to be a part of the core of our team going forward as we climb the mountain again.”
Cornerback seems to be a situation where the Eagles’ positional needs mesh with their draft board.
Darius Slay is the Eagles’ only returning starter at corner. They let their other starting corner, Jalen Mills, leave in free agency. He signed with the New England Patriots.
One key question is what kind of corner the Eagles will be looking for. After trading for Slay last year, the Eagles became a heavy man-coverage team. But they have a new coaching staff and a new defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon.
Gannon spent the last three years as the cornerbacks coach with the Colts, who played mostly zone under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. If Gannon also intends to use a lot of zone coverage with the Eagles, which is likely, it changes the profile of the type of corner they’re looking for.
“Teams want to know whether a player can excel in their system, their scheme,” ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. “If it’s a corner, can that corner excel in the stuff they’re going to major in schematically?”
If Gannon does intend to play a lot of zone, Samuel would seem to be a perfect fit.
“He’s as good a zone corner as there is in this class,” Jeremiah’s NFL Network partner Ben Fennell said. “His size [5-foot-10, 180 pounds] might concern some. But he’s very physical.”
Another intriguing corner option, though probably not at 37, is Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph. At 5-11 and 197 pounds, he is bigger than Samuel and ran a 4.34-second 40 at his Pro Day. But he doesn’t have a lot of experience.
The LSU transfer played only about 750 defensive snaps in college and also failed multiple drug tests at LSU before he transferred, according to two league sources.
“He’s a big, tall, long press corner,” Fennell said. “A ballhawk. He’s just raw. He’s inconsistent. He’s done a lot of dumb stuff. He’s picked up a lot of personal fouls. He’s a very scrappy player. He has a lot of upside, but a lot of questions, too.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Eagles traded with the enemy Thursday night to move up and select a wide receiver in the first round. Les Bowen takes us through how and why it happened.
For the second straight year, the Eagles took a wide receiver in the first round. What does this year’s selection of Smith say about last year’s selection of Reagor? Jeff McLane analyzes the Eagles’ decision-making process.
EJ Smith tells us what exactly the Eagles are getting in Smith, their first-round pick.
Hard as this might be to believe, Marcus Hayes has an opinion on the Eagles’ first-round pick. And Roseman isn’t going to cringe.
Damichael Cole gives us the reaction of fans and a certain Eagles quarterback to the drafting of Smith.
Archbishop Wood grad Kyle Pitts made history Thursday night when he became the highest drafted tight end ever.
From the mailbag
If they drafted Hurts when they had Wentz under contract as a hedge, why not draft [Justin] Fields to increase your odds of hitting a Lamar/Cam ceiling? What kind of quarterback factory passes up the talent of Fields for a wide receiver, especially when good wide receivers will be available later in the draft? — Adam Hanno (@adamhanno) on Twitter
Thanks for the question, Adam. There’s a big difference between taking a quarterback with the 12th pick and taking one with the 53rd pick, which is where the Eagles selected Hurts last year. The primary motivation behind drafting Hurts was to have a capable backup in the event the oft-injured Wentz couldn’t stay healthy. it wasn’t to create a quarterback competition.
If the Eagles were convinced Fields was better than Hurts, I think they would’ve considered drafting him. Bottom line is they don’t know yet what they have in Hurts and they want to find out. They want to give him every opportunity to succeed this season, and that obviously included improving the team’s pass-catching arsenal.
This is not a throwaway season, but it’s not a let’s-make-an-all-out-push-for-the-Super-Bowl season, either. If it turns out that Hurts isn’t the answer, they have three first-round picks next year that they could use to move up and take a top quarterback. Or they could trade for one. Or sign one in free agency.