After losing Trey Burton to free agency and releasing Brent Celek, could the Eagles use their first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft to select a tight end?
Yes, according to a handful of NFL draft pundits. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper thinks the Eagles could end up selecting South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert with the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which takes place April 26-28 in Dallas.
"Zach Ertz and Goedert would form one of the best tight end duos in the league," Kiper wrote in a dueling two-round mock draft with his colleague, college football expert Todd McShay (who thinks the Birds could grab versatile Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch instead).
The Ringer's Danny Kelly also thinks the Eagles could snag Goedert with the final pick in the first round, calling the Jackrabbits standout "a dynamic pass-catching threat" that has "size, speed, and soft hands."
John Harris, a football analyst for the Houston Texans who contributes to the Washington Post's NFL Draft coverage, also thinks the Eagles could end up taking a tight end in the first round. But instead of Goedert, Harris has his eyes on Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki. He compared Gesicki to Eagles Pro Bowler Ertz.
"An Ertz/Gesicki combination wouldn't quite be of a Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez caliber, but, in a similar manner, the offensive possibilities would be endless," Harris wrote.
"I think I can fit in an offense like that," Gesicki told my colleague Jill Beckman at Penn State's pro day last month. "Also, Zach Ertz is one of the best in the business. I watched a ton of his film and watched the Super Bowl. … That's how I envision myself as well. It's going to be an exciting next five, six weeks, but we'll see how it all pans out."
Even though we're less than a month away from the draft, it's important to note just how rare it is for most experts to correctly predict how the first round will transpire. Kiper's third mock draft ahead of the 2017 draft, released in late March last year, ended up correctly predicting just one first round pick (Myles Garrett to the Browns). At the time, Kiper thought the Birds might select Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who ended up with the Raiders as the No. 22 pick (the Eagles ultimately selected defensive end Derek Barnett).
Just last month, Kiper thought the Eagles might select Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, a playmaker who goes by the nickname "Baby Beckham" because of comparisons with the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr.
That being said, here is a roundup of the players national media pundits think the Eagles could end up selecting in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft:
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
"My best comp for Goedert after watching him closely in 2017? Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. So this pick would mean the Eagles get a ready-made replacement for Trey Burton (and Brent Celek). Philadelphia showed last season that there are plenty of snaps available for multiple tight ends. Goedert is an adequate blocker who will be a threat as a pass-catcher. This is a great situation for him."
Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
"The Eagles are another team whose balanced roster gives them the chance to pluck the best available guy, and not pass on a corner with Oliver's potential in this spot."
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
"The world champs add a talented cornerback to an already strong defensive backfield."
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
"Local product, athletic freak who will create mismatches in the Eagles passing game and can replace Trey Burton on the depth chart. An explosive offense gets more dangerous."
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
"After losing tight end Trey Burton to free agency and releasing Brent Celek in a cap-savings move, one of the deepest spots on the Eagles roster has quickly turned into a need. Goedert is a dynamic pass-catching threat who could make a big impact for the defending champs right out the gate. He's got size, speed, and soft hands, and paired with Zach Ertz could give Philly plenty of options in two-tight-end sets."
John Harris, Washington Post: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
"The Eagles were tight-end rich in their run to the Super Bowl. But longtime Eagle Brent Celek was released and Trey Burton signed with the Bears. Zach Ertz is still in the fold, so drafting a tight end isn't exactly a necessity. Gesicki, though, is similar to Ertz in that he can play unattached as a receiver and excel in the Eagles' unique and varied offensive scheme. An Ertz/Gesicki combination wouldn't quite be of a Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez caliber, but, in a similar manner, the offensive possibilities would be endless."
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
"The run on cornerbacks continues with Jackson, who has elite speed and quickness, making him an excellent fit in the slot. With Patrick Robinson moving on in free agency, Jackson can step into the vital slot cornerback role in the Eagles' secondary, adding even more depth to a position that has gone from weakness to strength over the last two years."
Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football.com: Maurice Hurst, DE/DT, Michigan