Good afternoon. After an eventful first round in the NFL draft, the Eagles will be back with two more picks Friday night and two scheduled picks on the third day of the draft Saturday. We’ll have all your coverage on Philly.com.
— Zach Berman
My thoughts on the Andre Dillard pick, along with the thoughts of The Inquirer’s other beat writers, can be found here. It was a surprise pick in the sense that even the Eagles did not begin the day expecting to pick Dillard, whom they considered a top-10 player and the best offensive tackle in the draft.
The Eagles are committed to building along the lines — Howie Roseman has now spent seven of his eight first-round picks on offensive linemen or defensive linemen/edge rushers — and Dillard fits both the philosophy of the team and the value of the pick. They were not going to push need, but make no mistake: This is a potential long-term need at a premium position. Jason Peters is 37 and might be entering his final season. As intriguing as Jordan Mailata is, he’s played a few months of organized football. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai might be better as a swing tackle than a franchise left tackle.
As Joe Douglas learned from Ozzie Newsome, “What some people consider a luxury pick today may end up being a necessity tomorrow.” This is not to say Dillard will protect Carson Wentz’s blindside for the next decade — he needs to prove it on the field — but on the surface, it makes a lot of sense.
If you’re going to quibble with the Eagles’ first round, it would be this: This was the deepest class of defensive linemen in years, and the Eagles didn’t take one in the first round. This was mostly out of their control — 10 defensive linemen/edge rushers went in the first 19 picks — and it sounded like the Eagles did not want to sacrifice a second-round pick in a trade-up situation.
Montez Sweat went to Washington at No. 26, and the Eagles (and Dillard) will see him twice a year. That’s going to be the player he’s compared against as a potential pick. But the run on defensive linemen early kept the Eagles from being able to capitalize unless they would deal significant trade capital.
You can make the argument the Eagles should have steered toward a versatile offensive lineman such as Cody Ford who can play guard and tackle — that would help more short-term — but I’d disagree there. A legitimate left tackle is hard to find, and that’s the biggest long-term need on the line. If you have a chance to get one, that trumps someone who might be able to help more for a few weeks this year.
I also don’t have an issue with the trade. The Eagles weren’t going to get Dillard at No. 25 — not with the Houston Texans at No. 23 looking for an offensive tackle — so if you want the player, go get him if costs only two Day 3 picks. The Eagles could trade back and recuperate some of that value.
The Eagles have two scheduled picks on Friday night: Nos. 53 and 57. Where should they look? My guess is they come out of the night with an offensive skills player (running back or wide receiver), a defensive lineman, or a safety. Here are players at each position I’d watch:
Wide receiver: A.J. Brown, Ole Miss; Parris Campbell, Ohio State; D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss; Deebo Samuel, South Carolina; Hakeem Butler, Iowa State; Riley Ridley, Georgia
The player who intrigues me most on this list is Campbell, who ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the combine and had 90 catches for Ohio State. He’s a versatile player who can help the Eagles in space, and he has the speed to develop as a deep threat. There’s a lot to like about the Ole Miss receivers. Brown was so productive and should be a safe, high-ceiling pick with skills to develop. Metcalf offers a size-speed combination that doesn’t come around often.
Running back: Miles Sanders, Penn State; David Montgomery, Iowa State; Damien Harris, Alabama; Darrell Henderson, Memphis; Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
The player I like the most in this group is Montgomery, who I’d bet becomes a productive NFL starter. He doesn’t wow you with his athletic testing, but he was a tough, productive runner for the Cyclones who can help in the passing game and plays the position the way the Eagles like. It would be good news if Sanders fell to the 50s — he showed a lot of promise replacing Saquon Barkley at Penn State.
Defensive line: Dre’mont Jones, Ohio State (DT); Trysten Hill, UCF (DT); Jaylon Ferguson, La. Tech (DE); Chase Winovich, Michigan (DE); Zach Allen, Boston College (DE)
If you look at the way the Eagles play defense, there’s reason to be intrigued by Jones. He’s a penetrating defensive tackle who was first-team All-Big 10 last season at Ohio State and would give the team a long-term option at the position. Ferguson set the NCAA record with 45 sacks. It didn’t come for a major-conference school, but you can’t knock that production.
Safeties: Chaucey Gardner-Johnson, Florida; Juan Thornhill, Virginia; Taylor Rapp, Washington; Nasir Adderley, Delaware; Deionte Thompson, Alabama
The Eagles like safeties with cornerback backgrounds. Gardner-Johnson is a hybrid player who can help the Eagles in a few areas and has good size. Thornhill moved from cornerback, has impressive athletic qualities, and was productive as a three-year starter for the Cavaliers. Adderley, a Philadelphia native, also has a similar profile. This is a good Day 2 safety class.
Also, I bet the Eagles pick more than four times in the final six rounds. I can see them moving back a bit Friday to try to add more picks.
Washington State ran the ball with a running back about 200 times last season and it’s obviously a passing offense, so it’s a legitimate question. Dillard impressed the Eagles staff at the Senior Bowl with his run blocking and they believe he has the tools to develop in this area. I asked Dillard about this, and here’s what he said:
“I would say I am a very good run blocker. I would say that there are questions about my ability to run block just because I was not asked to do it a lot in college coming out of that Mike Leach offense. So it makes sense for people to have that question about me, but I can tell you with full confidence that I am capable of doing it just as well as the next guy and I am excited to showcase that some more aside from the Senior Bowl.”
Sure, as a player to develop. But he was never entrenched as the team’s future left tackle — he played four preseason games, and that’s all of his football experience. So it was not as if the Eagles needed to disregard left tackle because Jordan Mailata is here.
Maybe he proves to be better than Andre Dillard and becomes the left tackle. Maybe he doesn’t develop into a regular player. There’s a lot of time for that story to be written. This is an important spring and summer for Mailata.
I don’t think it happens tonight. Maybe they like someone in this class and think he can be a starting player, but I don’t think the Eagles are as focused on a base-down middle linebacker as the fans might be.