2021 5-Round Eagles Mock Draft: The Slim Reaper falls to Philly
The Eagles land a Heisman Trophy winning prospect for the first time since 1965
After months of speculation about what the Eagles will do with their first-round draft pick, Howie Roseman is set to answer all questions on Thursday night. Roseman currently finds himself as the target of disdain for a majority of the Eagles’ fan base, and for good reason. His highly publicized and abysmal draft record should not have many fans feeling comfortable that the Eagles will end up with the best player on the board. Howie simply does not operate that way.
And as much as I’d like to tell myself that this year will be different and that a prized cornerback or wide receiver will be coming to Philadelphia, I really can’t trust Howie’s decision making in the draft. The Eagles might end up targeting Michigan’s edge rusher, Kwity Paye, with the 12th overall pick, and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me. However, assuming that Howie doesn’t try to outthink the entire league for once, here’s how I think things will shake out in the 2021 NFL Draft.
*Mock Draft done via PFF Mock Draft Simulator
Round 1 (#12): WR Devonta Smith, Alabama (6-0, 166 pounds)
After all the conversations regarding the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, you either believe that Smith is too skinny to be a productive receiver at the next level, or you’ve bought into the hype and think he can be a game-changer for any NFL offense. I fall into the latter category. College numbers and production typically don’t translate into NFL success, but a high football IQ and understanding of offensive concepts do. Steve Sarkisian, Smith’s offensive coordinator during his historic 2020 season at Alabama, told Bama Insider:
“What Smitty brings to the table is he’s a very smart football player. This guy’s got a very high football IQ. He’s a guy that understands the game big picture. Not just in one position or another. He recognizes coverages really well. So it’s allowed us to move him all over the field. Whether it’s in the slot, isolation type plays, in bunches. The reality of it is, he knows why we’re calling what we’re calling, and what we’re calling those things for.”
With Jalen Reagor expected to move to the slot next season, adding DeVonta Smith’s versatility and speed to stretch defenses should help with Reagor’s development. Regardless of the amount of draft capital spent on wide receivers last year, the Eagles still lack elite speed and dynamic weapons that have to be accounted for on every down. Despite the weight concerns, I believe DeVonta Smith has the route-running pedigree, high-end speed paired with reliable hands, and, most importantly, a high understanding of the game to make him a problem for defenses to contain for years to come.
Round 2 (#37): CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern (6-1, 190 pounds)
In my opinion, this year’s cornerback class is much deeper and more talented than the wide receiver group. If Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn are off the board by the 12th pick, the Eagles should have no problem finding a potential starter with an early second-round selection. Ideally, I would have Asante Samuel Jr. in this spot, but I think he will end up being a late first-rounder. The other cornerback who I ranked just below Asante Samuel Jr. is Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II.
Another high IQ player, Newsome displayed an excellent understanding of route concepts and keen awareness in Northwestern’s zone-heavy coverage. The 6-foot-1 defensive back also fits the height and length requirements that Eagles defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, utilized with his secondary in Indianapolis. With Darius Slay under contract for the next two seasons, it seems appropriate to address the cornerback spot across from him with a pick in the first three rounds. The NFL remains a pass-first league, and Slay has proven to be one of the most successful corners in today’s game. Bringing in an intelligent prospect like Greg Newsome who can study under Slay would not only benefit the secondary in the short term but secure a position of need during this “re-build”.
Round 3 (#70): LB Jabril Cox, LSU (6-3, 233 pounds)
This one might be a stretch. I could easily see a team targeting Jabril Cox in the late second round, but he could fall into the Eagles’ lap with the 70th overall pick. I have a dynamic wide receiver and second cornerback as my top priorities in this year’s draft, but the linebacker unit remains unproven and needs more playmakers.
Jabril Cox’s collegiate career is a perfect example of his work ethic and the development of his talents. After winning three straight national titles for North Dakota State, Cox transferred to LSU and thrived against much tougher competition. The 6-foot-3, 266-pound linebacker is arguably the best coverage defender at his position in this year’s class and fits the mold of a modern NFL linebacker. Out of all 2021 draft prospects, including defensive backs, Cox recorded PFF’s second-highest grade for a slot defender (91.3), trailing only Washington’s Elijah Molden (92.2).
Alternate: LB Pete Werner, Ohio State (6-2, 238 pounds)
Round 3 (#84): IDL Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech (6-3, 284 pounds)
With the Eagles holding two picks in the third round and Zach Ertz still on the trade block, I could see Howie making some sort of move on Day Two. He could end up packaging one of these picks plus Ertz to acquire more draft assets or move up to take a player that may have fallen more than expected. Assuming they stick with both of these picks, the next logical need would be getting younger in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Milton Williams is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players in the draft. Aligning primarily as a 3-4 defensive end for Louisiana Tech, his size and violent play style made him a force against the run. The 6-foot-4, 278-pound wrecking ball showed ridiculous play strength against mostly undersized competition. Williams consistently absorbs and dismisses blocks with ease while keeping his eyes in the backfield to make big TFLs. The Louisiana Tech product still needs to develop a “go-to” pass rush move to have consistent success against NFL linemen as he can’t rely solely on his brute strength at the next level. However, Williams’ athleticism and versatility make him an intriguing developmental prospect on Day Three.
Alternate: IDL Alim McNeill, NC State (6-2, 317 pounds)
Round 4 (#123): IOL Kendrick Green, Illinois (6-2, 305 pounds)
The Eagles offensive line continues to be one of the biggest enigmas on the team. On paper, their three Pro-Bowl starters along with Isaac Seumalo and either Jordan Mailata or Andre Dillard sounds like a formidable unit. However, two of those Pro Bowlers are coming off significant injuries while the other is in the twilight of his career. Jason Kelce has been the heart and soul of this team for ten years now, and while it’s hard to imagine the squad without him, the Eagles better start planning now.
A durable three-year collegiate starter, Kendrick Green pops on tape and reminds me a lot of the previously mentioned Jason Kelce. His lateral get-off and downfield speed help him demolish defenders at the second level. Green’s 93.6 run-blocking grade on outside zones (via PFF) is one of the highest among offensive line prospects and perfectly fits the Eagles’ running style. The 305-pound juggernaut also developed into a premier pass-blocker by his junior season. Green didn’t allow a single sack last year in 238 pass-blocking snaps. His versatility to play both guard and center gives the Eagles flexibility to try out both him and Isaac Seumalo at center whenever Jason Kelce decides to hang up his cleats.
Alternate: IOL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater (6-3, 320 pounds)
Round 5 (#150): RB/WR Demetric Felton, UCLA (5-9, 189 pounds)
At this point in the draft anything can happen as I don’t see any other glaring needs for the Eagles to address. Day Three comes down to targeting players that suit your team’s system or guys who can provide an immediate impact on special teams. One of my favorite prospects throughout the draft process that fits both of those conditions is UCLA’s dynamic weapon, Demetric Felton.
Felton flashed onto my radar at the Senior Bowl where he practiced as a full-time wide receiver. The undersized back turned heads in Mobile by showcasing his blazing speed and precise route running all week long. He burnt just about every defensive back in one-on-ones and showed little to no rust with his technique as a slot wide receiver. The 5-foot-9, 189-pound weapon can also crank out yards in the running game. He put on weight to be an every-down back for his senior season and rushed for over 100 yards in three of UCLA’s six games, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Felton’s contact balance and elusiveness stand out in his running style as he broke 36 tackles on 132 carries last season. Nick Sirianni loves to use elusive pass-catching running backs to create mismatches on offense. Because of his versatility, I think Felton could be a prime candidate to fill the “Nyheim Hines” role in Sirianni’s offense.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY