Parth Shukla’s Mock Draft 1.0
With the NFL Combine approaching quickly with the Draft in succession, the time has come for Eagles fans everywhere to imagine their favorite college prospects joining their beloved NFL franchise. In part 2 of our Mock Draft Monday
Below is my theory as to what the Eagles should do in April to ensure the team is gearing up for an eventual title run.
For this draft activity, I utilized all the picks available to me. In reality, I expect the Eagles will move out from one of their first-round selections this year to push one out to next year.
I fully believe the Eagles should give Jalen Hurts the 2022 season to prove himself. Given the various holes that already exist on the roster, there is no quarterback prospect in this draft worth using one of the team’s premier picks on. Should he not turn out to be the franchise quarterback, two first-round picks in next year’s draft would set the Eagles up very nicely to trade up and select one of the top quarterback prospects in the class of 2023.
Round 1 – Pick 15: Andrew Booth (CB), Clemson
Booth is an electrifying prospect who has gone somewhat under the radar with Stingley and Gardner garnering (sorry) more attention recently. Given that Steven Nelson was on a one-year deal and all the remaining corners on the roster are either developmental prospects or better suited for the slot, there is a glaring need at outside cornerback. Andrew Booth, a cornerback from Clemson, both sticky in coverage and tenacious in run defense could be the perfect fit for the hole on the roster.
Although Booth is someone who thrives in man coverage, there is reason to believe that with his work ethic and natural talent, he can begin to gain a better understanding of his positioning in zone coverage. Especially given the fact that he could learn from one of the premier corners in the league in Big Play Slay – who coincidentally is also a corner that is natural in man coverage but has learned to thrive in zone. Booth truly sticks out as a tackler in this class. His physicality and willingness to fly around pops off the film and represent the aggressive style he always plays with.
While Gannon could also always adjust the scheme given a new influx of talent suited for different styles, there is no reason to believe that Booth cannot learn to thrive in a zone scheme as well.
Regardless, Booth is an alpha personality who gives the defense a much-needed boost on the outside, opposite Slay as well as a young defensive leader for the future.
Round 1 – 16: Tyler Linderbaum (C), Iowa
Seeing Linderbaum drop here is about as automatic as a pick can get for Howie Roseman. The Eagles’ philosophy of building through the trenches could continue here with the drafting of Jason Kelce’s eventual replacement.
While Kelce is assumed to be playing next year, he has speculated about his career numerous times in the past couple of years – so it has surely dawned upon the team that his illustrious Hall of Fame career is coming to a close in the near future.
What better way to replace Kelce, than with Linderbaum who is as close to a clone of Kelce as one can get in terms of size, play style, and play demeanor. With a year of tutelage under Kelce and Jeff Stoutland, Linderbaum could step in and allow the Eagles league-leading rushing attack to have continuity.
Due to the nature of the Eagles’ run game, much of the responsibility falls upon the center. Having a high-level prospect with Linderbaum’s athleticism and knowledge of the game at the position is of utmost importance if the Eagles want to continue to implement one of the most advanced and diverse running games in the league.
A combination of Mailata, Dickerson, Linderbaum, Seumalo, and Johnson is sure to keep defensive coordinators up at night.
Round 1 – Pick 19: Nakobe Dean (LB), Georgia
The Eagles’ lack of talent at linebacker has been clear to even the casual fan. Given the way the league is trending, with increases in play-action, RPO, and modern passing attacks in general, this has become unacceptable. With the Eagles retaining Jonathon Gannon, one has to wonder if Howie Roseman will be more inclined to draft a linebacker in the first round, something the team has not done since 1979.
While drafting a linebacker early has not been Roseman’s traditional draft philosophy, the defense Gannon runs could thrive with a linebacker who can do everything at a high level and be the heart of the defense – both emotionally and physically. Nakobe Dean is exactly that. An absolute alpha on the field and the heart of the tenacious Georgia Bulldogs National Championship (gags) winning defense. The 2021 Butkus Award Winner (awarded to the best collegiate linebacker in the nation) thrives in zone coverage while being a natural in the run game and would be the perfect piece to insert into the heart of the defense alongside ascending TJ Edwards.
Dean is at his best when he is playing downhill with an unshakeable pursuit and aggressive hands. While he lacks traditional size, he more than makes up for it with his speed, athleticism, and most importantly – his processing. He has room for growth in terms of shedding blocks and not allowing hands on him as linemen make their way up and try to block him, but there is no reason to believe he can’t improve in this aspect.
While I flirted with the idea of taking Utah’s Devin Lloyd here, the questions he has in pass coverage give me pause. While he can play the pass, his absence of fluidity at times in coverage, is concerning for a defense like Gannon’s. Although Lloyd excels rushing the passer, I don’t know if he’s the perfect fit that Dean is.
Overall, Dean stepping in absolutely changes the face of the defense and makes a weakness of last year a strength for the future.
Round 2 – Pick 51 Jalen Pitre (S), Baylor
The Eagles, very obviously, had a deficiency on the back end of their defense last year. While the trio of Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and Marcus Epps played relatively fine this season, the clear lack of athleticism and youth at the position is glaring. Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are both free agents on the wrong side of 30, even if one or the other were brought back they would only be a stopgap option at this point, and the future of the position must be addressed in some way.
Enter: Jalen Pitre, a defensive coordinator’s dream chess piece, and a 2021 AP All-American First team member at the safety position. Pitre played all over the field throughout his college career, seeing time at FS, SS, ILB, and OLB. Given this past versatility, Pitre’s unique perspective of the field and defense has strengthened his already natural feel for where the ball is going – which allows him to thrive as a robber safety in pass coverage or as a downhill run-defender.
Pitre’s strong tackling ability paired along with his natural feel for the ball would immediately help shore up the backend of the Eagles’ defense while infusing youth and athleticism that could lead to more big plays coming from it.
Round 3 – Pick 83: Alec Pierce (WR), Cincinnati
As much as it pains me to say, #JJAWBREAKOUTSZN is officially over. The J.J. Arcega-Whiteside experiment lasted at least 3 years and produced a strong blocking wide receiver. With the loss of Travis Fulgham and Alshon Jeffery, the need for a bigger-bodied receiver who could win jump-balls and make difficult contested catches became apparent. While DeVonta Smith is undoubtedly the #1 receiver for the team and a future All-Pro, a bigger and stronger piece to compliment his shiftiness and Quez Watkins’ speed is sorely needed.
Alec Pierce can do just that. A senior receiver on the Cincinnati team that captured everyone’s hearts on the way to a College Football Playoff berth, Pierce was crucial to their success. In addition to being a strong and willing blocker, Pierce possesses high-quality route running abilities as well as a good feel for zones which allowed him to average 17 yards per catch in collegiate career.
Due to his versatile skill-set, Pierce is a receiver who can be kept on the field with heavy personnel and still be depended upon as a receiver. Pierce played basketball throughout high school and the influence it had upon his game is clear in his natural hands and ability to make plays not just “above the rim” but throughout his generous 6 ‘5 catch radius.
Pierce’s spectacular ball skills, high football IQ, aggressive play, and route-running style look to be the perfect fit in between Devonta and Quez.
Round 4 – Pick 122: Dameon Pierce (RB), Florida
Dameon Pierce may be one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft (I promise it’s not JUST because he played for the best college football team out there). Watching Pierce play is honestly a joy and truly makes one wonder how Dan Mullen managed to keep him off the field. Pierce plays with phenomenal energy and strength.
As corny as it sounds, Pierce truly is a guy who just loves the game. Whether it be taking handoffs or blocking for the quarterback, Pierce approaches every assignment with power and gusto. While he is not the most explosive player, his discipline and the ferocity he utilizes as a runner allow him to consistently create positive yardage. His zero fumbles last year also prove that he has strong ball security and takes taking care of the ball seriously.
The Eagles were at their best last year when they had a running back who would take the ball, get downhill, and utilize holes created by the offensive line without bouncing around too much. For this reason, it was no coincidence that some of their best games came with Jordan Howard at running back over Miles Sanders, who tends to dance around behind the offensive line and not get the easier short gains. While Sanders has the obvious big-play ability, his inability to stay on the field or maintain consistency as a runner leaves the Eagles running back room feeling unfinished. While rookie Kenneth Gainwell had a strong rookie campaign, the need for a bigger and stronger backfield mate is clear.
Pierce can fit in the Jordan Howard mold given his superior ball-carrier vision, decisiveness as a runner, and his willingness to be a nasty blocker. While Pierce was not used much as a receiver out of the backfield, he has showcased natural hands and a competent route tree for his position.
Round 5 – Pick 153: Jeffrey Gunter (EDGE), Coastal Carolina
With Derek Barnett’s likely departure and Brandon Graham coming off an Achilles tear, the Eagles need reinforcements along the defensive line, especially at edge rusher. Jeffery Gunter may be the solution to this problem.
The former teammate of rookie Tarron Jackson, Gunter is a big-bodied edge defender who takes charge of the run game by utilizing his exceptional strength at the point of attack and consistently setting the edge. Gunter also utilizes strong hands to control offensive lineman, which bodes well for his ability to develop into more of a pass rush as his career continues at the next level.
While he isn’t the most polished pass rusher at this point, his natural speed and power show his potential with the skill and it is definitely something he could master while learning from some of the best in the business along the Eagles’ defensive line. To start his career, he could be a strong rotational piece on early downs with the potential to evolve into a three-down player with more experience.
Round 5 – Pick 161: Charlie Kolar (TE), Iowa State
The Eagles in years past have become a team that very much utilizes 12 personnel and the versatility that comes with it. Keeping two tight ends on the field with Jalen Hurts allows for optionality of them blocking for the run or going out for a pass, keeping defenses on their heels. The emphasis upon the tight end position has allowed the offense to stay versatile and in these packages. With the departure of Zach Ertz, the ascendance of Dallas Goedert, and the unfortunate late-season injury for project tight end Tyree Jackson there is a clear need for a young tight end on the roster besides current third-stringer Jack Stoll, especially if the Eagles would like to continue to run 12 personnel as much as they did last year.
Charlie Kolar is a 6’6 target out of Iowa State. The former Cyclone is not going to wow anybody with his speed or explosiveness but rather with his incredible hands. Since 2019, Kolar has only dropped 3% of passes thrown to him. Kolar could step in and immediately be the TE2 in the Eagles 12 personnel as well as be a threat in the red zone given his size and natural hands.
While he is still raw as a prospect in terms of the nuances of blocking and route-running, his size is absolutely enticing. Given his effort on the field as a blocker, there is no reason to believe he will not improve – especially under the watchful eye of Jeff Stoutland.
Round 5 – Pick 165: Thomas Booker (DT), Stanford
Booker is a massive interior defensive lineman who can slide in next to Milton Williams as the reserves for Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Booker has been versatile throughout his career and has played all along the defensive line. While he has thrived at the various positions, his lack of size and explosiveness leave him as a tweener best suited to play on the interior of the defensive line.
His explosive first step allows him to gain an advantage on opposing offensive linemen and force them to play from a disadvantage right off the bat. While this first step is an obvious advantage it has also allowed Booker to get away with not having stellar technique when it comes to countering offensive linemen after they get their hands on him in the run and pass game. However, there is no reason to think that learning under two Pro-Bowlers at his position cannot fix that given his natural gifts and high-level motor.
Booker’s athleticism and high football IQ should allow him to become a rotational piece along the defensive line very quickly and possibly evolve even more with due time and effort.
Round 6 – 192: Justyn Ross (WR), Clemson
Justyn Ross may be one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. Ross, the one-time #1 recruit out of Alabama, may drop in the draft due to his having missed the 2020 season to have surgery for a congenital fusion condition relating to his neck and spine.
Looking past his injury history, Ross possesses a tantalizing combination of size, hands, and a spectacular vertical. Ross could be a receiver who would fit with Devonta and Quez similarly to Alec Pierce in the sense that he would infuse some much-needed size (Ross is 3 inches taller than Pierce) and strength in the receiver room.
Ross is a quick and natural route-runner with a strong understanding of leverage and how to flip a defensive back’s hips. Utilizing this, Ross creates tons of room for himself in the short and intermediate areas of the field. While he is not a vertical threat, he has strong ball skills and can make jaw-dropping high-point catches on the sideline or in the red zone. Simply put, even when Ross looks covered, he is open.
Given the dominance of Clemson receivers in recent years, this would be a flier I would feel comfortable taking at this point in the draft as I truly feel that Ross has a chance to join the illustrious list of former Clemson Tigers to dominate at receiver in the NFL. Although he struggles with occasional focus drops – his big-play ability, hands, and size look to be a good fit for the retooled receiver room.
Round 6 – Pick 204: Matt Hankins (CB), Iowa
Matt Hankins is a fiery–but undersized–corner from the University of Iowa. While he lacks size, he more than makes up for it in attitude and instincts. Hankins is a very willing tackler who is not afraid to meet the runner head-on.
He is a strong zone coverage player, with the agility to play back on routes but still aggressively make a play on the ball. Hankins is sticky in man coverage, however, his lack of size can become made apparent when playing against more physical receivers.
Hankins’ size, attitude as a hitter, and natural ability in the deep-third make him an ideal pick at this point in the draft to learn under Big Play Slay and gain some size and hopefully eventually take the position across from Andrew Booth Jr.