Eagles-only 3-round Mock Draft: Philly trades back to fill a need, acquires future first-round pick
With the free agent frenzy largely in the rearview, it’s time to redirect our attention to the NFL draft.
The Eagles have two first-round selections in this year’s draft thanks to a prior deal with New Orleans, and we can expect GM Howie Roseman to maximize the value of his assets.
Here is my first crack at how I think the draft could play out for Philadelphia:
Draft Day Trade
Buccaneers receive: No. 10 overall, 2024 4th-round pick
Eagles receive: No. 19 overall, No. 153 overall, 2024 first-round pick
Roseman likes to wheel and deal on draft night, evidenced by his blockbuster trade for star WR AJ Brown last year. Tampa Bay has been increasingly linked to Kentucky QB Will Levis, and draft analyst Todd McShay believes they could be a potential trade-up candidate for the physically gifted signal-caller:
“Welcome to the post-Tom Brady era on the Gulf Coast. The Buccaneers drafted Kyle Trask in Round 2 in 2021 and signed Baker Mayfield to a one-year deal this March, but neither is a surefire solution to the sudden void under center. Trask has nine career pass attempts, and Mayfield is set to wear his fourth jersey in the past three years.
Levis has some stuff to work on — namely his footwork and turnover avoidance — but he has the physical traits to be a franchise quarterback. He comes from a pro-style offense, has a massive arm and can tuck and run with physicality. And with Mayfield and Trask on the roster, Tampa Bay doesn’t have to rush him into the starter’s chair right out of the gate.”
While many speculate that four quarterbacks could go in the top 10, Levis slides to #10 in this scenario, and the Bucs (who have nine picks at their disposal) pay up to get their guy, forking over an additional 5th-rounder and a future first-round pick in 2024.
The Eagles recoup some midround capital and continue the annual draft tracker tradition.
Updated 2023 Picks:
- R1, No. 19
- R1, No. 30
- R2, No. 62
- R3, No. 94
- R5, No. 153
- R7, No. 219
- R7, No. 248
Round 1, Pick #19: Brian Branch, S — Alabama
The Eagles did an exceptional job retaining key pieces of their No. 1 ranked pass defense from a season ago, most notably signing CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry to new deals. One free agent they couldn’t hang onto, however, was S CJ Gardner-Johnson, who (not without theatrics) signed a one-year deal with the Lions following a productive year in Philadelphia.
Roseman has since brought in veterans Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans to help fill the void, but both are likely stop-gap options at best. Alabama’s Brian Branch brings a similar playstyle as Gardner-Johnson and would be an immediate impact player for the Eagles.
“Plug-and-play defensive back with every ingredient necessary to become a high-performing starter early in his career. Branch has primarily handled nickel coverage at Alabama but has the range and instincts for single-high or split safety looks. He’s quick, fast and strong with the ability to match up with shifty slots, bigger possession receivers and pass-catching tight ends.
He’s urgent and has a mind for the game. He takes playmaking angles into the throwing lane but does have a tendency to play it a little safe from off-man coverage. There are areas where he can improve but no real weaknesses, which could make him one of the safest picks in the draft”. — via Lance Zierlein of NFL.com
Branch’s versatility allows him to flourish at every alignment regardless of scheme, from free safety to slot defender. Against the pass, Branch uses his combination of athleticism, range, and football IQ to get to any spot on the field. Against the run, he’s an extraordinary tackler who doesn’t shy away from contact — his 14 TFL in 2022 was the most by an Alabama DB in the Nick Saban era.
In their 90-year history, the Eagles have never drafted a safety in the first round; Brian Branch is worth breaking that streak.
Blessing the timeline with some Brian Branch highlights. Baller. pic.twitter.com/DMqieHgLA5— JC Cornell (@CornellNFL) April 1, 2023
Round 1, Pick #30: BJ Ojulari, EDGE — LSU
There’s no shot in hell the Eagles come out of the first round without addressing the trenches, and they could do far worse than BJ Ojulari here at No. 30 overall.
Philadelphia’s defensive line dominated on historic levels last season, tallying a franchise record 70 sacks thanks to a deep rotation that kept players fresh. Adding Ojulari’s pass-rushing arsenal to the fold may prove enticing to a front office determined to get back to the Super Bowl.
“Ojulari is a sudden, explosive athlete, with outstanding length, who can bend the edge with motorcycle lean, but also use his arms effectively in the speed-to-power game. Ojulari likely will transition to the NFL initially as a sub defense, edge pass rusher, but my sense is he will be drafted by a team whose base front is a 5-2, allowing him to develop as an edge player in that base front (much like a Hassan Reddick with the Eagles).”
“Ojulari is an edge-space player, but his pass rush traits and skill set make him a premium prospect as you project and transition him to the next level.” — via Greg Cosell of The33rdTeam
Ojulari totaled 16.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss across his three years at LSU and would fit right in as a rotational piece behind Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. Brandon Graham returned on a one-year deal, but he’s 34 years old, and the Eagles could use younger talent off the edge. If his production can match that of his brother Azeez, BJ Ojulari is well worth the investment.
#LSU EDGE BJ Ojulari (True Jr) has the traits and mindset to become a dominant pro. Says one veteran scout I spoke with: “It’s all there. His bend and quickness. I think he’s gonna be a star. He created havoc against quality SEC tackles. Quarterbacks feel his presence. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/tXTeFqgwiD— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) April 3, 2023
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Round 2, Pick #62: Zach Charbonnet, RB — UCLA
While Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs are the top running backs in this class, Howie Roseman likely won’t devote first-round resources to the position. UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet would be an excellent consolation prize.
“Charbonnet is a rocked-up back with very good size and strength. He is a downhill runner who displays excellent vision and patience when pressing the line of scrimmage. Charbonnet is at his best when working north/south and he is able to put his foot down and hit the hole with a full head of steam, as he is a powerful runner who is a build-to-speed player in the open field.
He has outstanding contact balance and arm tackle-breaking ability as he has such a strong lower body. For a bigger back, Charbonnet has a knack for making defenders miss as he is a patient runner who understands how to set up defenders with calculated and decisive cuts while not losing any of his acceleration.
While Charbonnet may not be the type of player you want to flex out in the slot and isolate as a receiver, his hands, and pass-catching ability are more than serviceable and there is no reason he can’t be a three-down back.” — via The Draft Network
Following Miles Sanders’ departure in free agency, the Eagles brought in former Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny to help fortify the backfield. Penny’s durability raises some concerns, however, and having Charbonnet along with Kenneth Gainwell to handle the workload could take an already dynamic offense to new heights.
Over his two seasons at UCLA, Charbonnet racked up over 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 27 total TDs.
CHARBONNET ALL DAY 🔥@zachcharbon puts @UCLAFootball on top! pic.twitter.com/9Tjy80tMTz— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 5, 2021
Round 3, Pick #94 — Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB — TCU
Although Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon is my favorite CB prospect, the aforementioned signings of Slay and Bradberry, along with the addition of Greedy Williams, lead me to believe the Eagles will address other needs early. But both starters will be over 30 years of age come September, and there’s no immediate heir on the roster. Enter Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson:
“Hodges-Tomlinson is an extremely athletically-gifted player with impressive man coverage skills. As TCU plays mostly man coverage in their defense, he is tested many times a game and his skills show greatly. His ability to stay square and mirror a receiver as they stem to try and open his hips is a credit to his footwork.
He is smooth in and out of breaks and is able to flip his hips with ease when necessary. His speed is a huge advantage to him, as he has the ability to quickly close the distance if a receiver has beat him and gotten separation. However, his eyes can get him in trouble, as he can get caught looking in the backfield for a run and give up the crack-and-go or other deep, double-move shots.
Still, he is extremely versatile and has played multiple reps at corner, nickel, and safety against high-powered Big 12 offenses. At the point of attack, when the ball is in the air, he is a high-energy competitor who has great ball skills to make a play and force a breakup.” — via The Draft Network
As noted above with Brian Branch, the Eagles value versatility in their defense, and that won’t change with new DC Sean Desai at the helm. Hodges-Tomlinson is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft, and his 21 forced incompletions in 2022 exemplify his knack for getting to the catch point.
His lack of size (5’8”, 178 pounds) could prove troublesome when defending bigger targets, but his scrappy competitiveness more than makes up for it. Hodges-Tomlinson allowed just a 34.6% completion when targeted last season en route to a National Championship appearance with TCU.
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson when targeted on 20+ yard throws:— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 8, 2023
❌ 24 Times Targeted
❌ 5 Catches Allowed
❌ 31.6 Passer Rating Allowed pic.twitter.com/nzkCcUbis1
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Great blog post! As someone who is not as familiar with the Eagles’ draft strategy, I found your breakdown to be very informative. Considering the Eagles’ history with drafting safeties, do you think there’s any hesitation with selecting Branch in the first round?
Howie knows what he’s doing and both Eagles 1sts Round picks will be in play. I’d rather c the 30th used to deal for a player…Brian Burns maybe. Either way we’ll c some solid picks but we PHI Fans would luv Bijan, it makes the Off even btr & screws DAL again!
Best pick from above is Branch, fills a need while being polished & can start Day 1.
Worst pick- not a fan of BJ or undersized CB