2021 NFL Draft: Seven first-round targets for the Eagles
The Eagles snapped their 4-game losing streak on Sunday and currently sit at 4-8-1, good enough for the #9 spot in the draft as it stands. Prior to Sunday’s upset against New Orleans, it looked as though the Eagles were packing it in and preparing to secure a top-5 draft pick. Jalen Hurts changed all that with a stellar debut and now the Eagles are just 1.5 games behind Washington in the division.
In last year’s draft, despite having multiple needs on the roster, the Eagles decided that drafting a QB in the 2nd round was the best use of their resources. The holes on the roster are as prevalent as ever this season and the Eagles can ill-afford to miss on another draft selection. Here are seven prospects that the Eagles should target in the upcoming draft:
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Chase opted out of the 2020 college football season, but he is still the top WR in this draft class. The LSU product has recently been compared to DK Metcalf and DeAndre Hopkins by veteran corner Patrick Peterson and he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award last season. Chase’s stat sheet from 2019 speaks for itself, and this was while sharing the field with Justin Jefferson:
- 84 receptions
- 1,780 yards
- 20 TDs
- 21.2 yards/catch
The Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor out of TCU with the 21st pick in last year’s draft. While it is early and he has shown flashes, Reagor hasn’t been the answer to what the team needs. In addition, Eagles WRs have combined for just 133 receptions this season.
With Howie Roseman reluctant to give up picks for proven talent at the position, it would benefit the Eagles greatly to draft the closest thing to a polished product in the draft. Ja’Marr Chase’s vision, hands, and body control could go a long way in repairing Carson Wentz, although he may be gone by pick #9.
Most 15+ yard plays in a single season since 2014:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 13, 2020
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (2019) – 46pic.twitter.com/nhLO5EPZdf
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
There isn’t a hole more glaring on the Eagles roster than the linebacker position. Luckily for the Eagles, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better talent than the homegrown Micah Parsons. At 6’3″, 245 pounds, Parsons doesn’t sacrifice any explosiveness for a player of his stature. Hardly ever missing tackles, Parsons is a strong run defender and could be one of the best standup linebackers to come out in recent years.
Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards have played relatively well for the Eagles this season, but I’m not sure if either of them are long-term solutions. Starting LB Nathan Gerry was picked apart by opposing offenses in his 7 games prior to injury:
- Allowed 27 catches on 32 targets
- 257 yards, 4TDs allowed
- 139.7 rating when targeted
The Eagles haven’t been able to rely on a linebacker since DeMeco Ryans in 2015. Plugging in a player like Micah Parsons in the middle of that defense would give them an anchor for the foreseeable future.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Eagles could really use a stud CB2 to play opposite Darius Slay and Caleb Farley fits the bill. He has the size and speed of a productive NFL corner and is most effective when in press coverage, which we all know Jim Schwartz isn’t a particular fan of. That isn’t to say he’s lackluster in off coverage, Farley has tremendous ball skills and is seemingly always in position to make a play downfield.
The Eagles don’t have many young corners waiting in wings after parting ways with both Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas last offseason. Opposing QBs have had a 108.3 rating when targeting Avonte Maddox this season so he doesn’t seem to be the solution either. Caleb Farley could help bolster the Eagles secondary while learning under Darius Slay for the next few years.
Caleb Farley missed his true FR season with an ACL tear & lost his mother to cancer in January. In his 1st collegiate game he had 2 interceptions & dedicated them to his mom. I’ll be cheering for @IamCalebFarley all season. pic.twitter.com/brnEnYp0HM— Maria Taylor (@MariaTaylor) September 6, 2018
Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Slater may be the most versatile lineman in this draft class, being able to play all 5 positions across the OL. He has strong tape against Chase Young in protection and possesses the raw strength to win matchups in the run game. Slater has started 26 games at right tackle and 11 at left tackle for Northwestern.
The Eagles are starting their 13th different offensive line in 14 games this Sunday and have allowed Carson Wentz to be sacked 50 times this season. Injuries to Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Andre Dillard, etc. have played a part in that. The carousel of lineman has allowed hidden gems like Jordan Mailata to be discovered and having a guy like Slater could help protect Wentz (or Jalen Hurts) for years to come.
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) August 21, 2020
• Second level climbs/accuracy (+)
• Highly efficient backside angles
• Initial punch/strike violence (+)
• Clean/depth on pass sets
• RT/LT versatility (++)
• Zone scheme fit pic.twitter.com/ZiNIND40uX
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
If the Eagles do miss out on Chase, DeVonta Smith would be a more than sufficient consolation prize. At 6’1″, 175 pounds, his size and raw athleticism are worrisome compared to other draft prospects. In terms of sheer talent, however, Smith could very well be the best receiver to come out of this class. The Alabama receiver has caught 83 passes for 1,327 yards and 15 TDs this season.
DeVonta Smith is an elite route-runner, a natural playmaker, and has consistent hands. He does a tremendous job catching the ball away from his body and possesses the perfect combination of burst and elusiveness in the open field. Smith may not have the ceiling of Ja’Marr Chase or even Jaylen Waddle, but he certainly has the safest floor and would be an immediate contributor for the Eagles.
Step 1 to repairing Carson Wentz: draft this man. pic.twitter.com/9mZ73fZjYz— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) December 6, 2020
Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
An interior offensive lineman is never going to be the flashy pick in the draft but it could be a productive one for the Eagles. With Brandon Brooks & Isaac Seumalo’s recent injury history, the Eagles could use the depth at guard. Davis is an intriguing prospect with the necessary size and power to match up with NFL defensive tackles.
At 6’4″, 315 pounds, Davis possesses impressive quickness and is stout in the run game, pushing his way to the second level with ease. The Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year is a reliable pass protector as well, being able to pick up blitzes with his quick feet. Taking Wyatt Davis would be a bit of a reach this early, but you can’t really place a value on protecting your quarterback for the next 4+ years. Davis allowed 0 sacks on 459 pass-blocking snaps in 2019.
Ohio State RG Wyatt Davis went huntin’ pic.twitter.com/FfbhvnCtRg— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) July 22, 2020
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
As noted above, the Eagles desperately need cornerback help aside from Darius Slay, who turns 30 in January. Nickell Robey-Coleman has been disappointing this season and is headed for free agency. Surtain is a patient cornerback and excels at forcing QBs to throw into tight windows, if they throw in his direction at all.
Surtain has outstanding instincts and ball skills, being able to locate the ball as well as fight through the catch point. He also has the necessary speed to keep up with top receivers. The one knock on Surtain’s game is that his tackling can be suspect at times, but that can be rectified with coaching. The Eagles defense has just 4 interceptions on the year and adding a player like Patrick Surtain can help turn that around.
Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II pic.twitter.com/t2vhkW4ezz— League Ready (@League_Ready100) May 3, 2020
Listen & Subscribe to The Philly Pod today:
Mandatory Credit: Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV