The Philadelphia Eagles draft picks heading into the 2021 NFL Draft put this team in a good position to land young talent. Given the franchise will be restrained from spending thanks to cap space issues in the next two years, it will be key for general manager Howie Roseman to nail the Eagles draft picks.
With Nick Sirianni taking over as head coach in Philadelphia, and Carson Wentz being traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Roseman and team owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear they’re going in a new direction even in taking on a ton of dead cap money by dealing Wentz away.
The moving off of Wentz fueled speculation that the Eagles weren’t necessarily ruling out a quarterback near the top of the 2021 NFL Draft. That is, until a huge trade with the Miami Dolphins led to Philadelphia moving down to 12th overall and collecting an extra first-round pick in 2022 in the process.
Whether it was the result of Week 17 tanking or not, the Eagles draft picks and specific position create an intriguing scenario that could reshape the franchise this offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles draft picks: Round-by-round targets in 2021 NFL Draft
Entering the offseason, the Eagles hold the No.6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s an ideal situation for a team that has needs but could also use a quarterback, with this spot offering plenty of flexibility to trade up for a new signal-caller or capitalize on a potential run of QBs to take the best pure talent available on their board.
If the top three or four quarterbacks come off the board early, a top-five overall prospect will be available for Philadelphia. But, if someone like Trey Lance slides to the sixth spot, the Eagles could either roll with Hurts, trade down and acquire more picks in a deep class, or simply grab Lance as the QB of the future.
Let’s examine some round-by-round targets for the Eagles in the first three rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft.
First round, 12th overall: Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech), Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama), Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
Jaylen Waddle sat out more of the 2020 college football season than he played, and is still viewed as a top receiver prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. That is how dominant he’s looked in three years at Alabama. Overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith in 2020 and by two first-round picks in Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs the previous season, Waddle didn’t get to show off all that he can do, because the Crimson Tide’s offense was simply loaded with playmakers.
Waddle is therefore the classic case of becoming a better pro than college player. He could be a perennial Pro Bowl receiver in Philadelphia, making all kinds of plays as an elite speed threat for the Eagles. But we’re not talking about a mere track star. Make no mistake, Waddle is a complete prospect who could hear his name called before Philly goes on the clock.
If Waddle is off the board, the Eagles could turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Darius Slay held his own as the No. 1 cornerback, but opponents attacked Avonte Maddox relentlessly. Farley excels in man coverage, with a physical style that would pair nicely alongside Slay. Put these two together and passing against this secondary becomes a lot more difficult.
There is depth at cornerback in this draft class, though, and Farley’s recent back procedure is causing his stock to take a hit. However, he’s clearly the best prospect at his position otherwise, so if he’s still there at 12 and his medicals check out, the eagles would have a hard time passing on him.
Finally, in the case of Parsons, he’s the type of playmaking linebacker that doesn’t come around very often. There’s nothing he can’t do on the football field from any linebacker position. It just might be too rich to take someone at Parsons’ position this high unless he proves to be a Luke Kuechly type of player, which he has the potential to be, yet that’s a big ask for anyone.
Second round, 37th overall: Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue), Alex Leatherwood (OT, Alabama), Tyson Campbell (CB, Georgia)
When healthy, Rondale Moore is the most dangerous player with the football in his hands. He played in just seven games over the past two years due to lower-body injuries, but his 2018 season was absurd. As a true freshman, Moore racked up nearly 1,500 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns. Plays like this show how explosive he is with the football. Sirianni’s offense needs playmakers in open space and Moore fits that perfectly.
If the Eagles are truly going to help Carson Wentz return to his former glory, improving the offensive line is crucial. This team received the fourth-worst mark by PFF for pass-grade efficiency (83. Finding a center to replace, but don’t look past offensive tackle. Andre Dillard, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has been a bust to this point. Lane Johnson, for as dominant as he plays, struggles to stay healthy. Leatherwood brings experience at multiple spots, handled himself well in pass protection at right tackle and offers upside. The versatility and talent might even make him a first-round pick.
We’ve already mentioned this team’s need for a cornerback. If one isn’t grabbed in the first round, a Day 2 pick must be devoted to upgrading at this spot. Campbell can start on the outside and fit well for a team that likes to press their corners at the line of scrimmage. While he isn’t clean in man coverage, some NFL coaching could quickly mold him into a No. 2 cornerback.
Third round, 70th and 85th overall: Jevon Holland (S, Oregon), Jabril Cox (LB, LSU), Paulson Adebo (CB, Stanford), Sage Surratt (WR, Wake Forest)
Cornerback isn’t the only need in Philadelphia’s secondary. At least one of the Eagles draft picks will be spent on a safety. There really isn’t another choice. We saw how much this team missed Malcolm Jenkins in 2020. While his leadership can’t be replaced, Holland brings similar versatility. He can line up in the slot, serve as deep safety, or help play near the box to stop the run. He brings all the tools to contribute to every aspect of the game.
Cox transferred to LSU From North Dakota State seeking to prove himself against the highest level of competition. He did just that with the Tigers this past season. A 6-foot-4 linebacker, he brings plenty of athleticism to the table. He explodes once he recognizes the play, flying to the football and blowing things up. He is a reactionary player who needs coaching, but that will come at the next level.
Surratt chose to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, a decision that shouldn’t impact his draft stock too much. In 2019, with Jamie Newman at quarterback, Wake Forest’s top receiver finished with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He brings nice size (6-foot-2) and strong hands to the table, with skills that might pair well with Jalen Reagor.
Philadelphia Eagles mock draft
One of the best parts of the offseason is putting together mock drafts and simulating through different scenarios. With the help of The Draft Network’s 2021 NFL Draft simulator, we did that with the Eagles draft picks.
- First round, 12th overall: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
- Second round, 37th overall: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
- Third round, 70th overall: Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
- Third round, 85th overall: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
- Fourth round, 124th overall: Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo
- Fifth round, 151st overall (via DAL): Adrian Ealy, OT, Oklahoma
It was always in this team’s best interest to trade down. That’s something that makes sense to take advantage of and it helped us strengthen the Eagles draft picks situation in our mock draft.
Moving down from No. 6 to No. 12 overall, we have a tough choice between Waddle and Farley, but we grab our top cornerback in the end.
For all the reasons we highlighted, Farley will fit into this Iggles defense perfectly. He proved himself at the college level as a shutdown cornerback and we expect him to be a Pro Bowl player in the NFL. Plus, he might get more opportunities for interceptions with opposing quarterbacks trying to test him early in his career.
In Round 2, we land Moore, a perfect fit for Sirianni’s offense. He’ll be moved around in motion, given the football on reverses, bubble screens and quick passes. Sirianni will find every way possible to get Moore the football in open space and good things will come as a result. Thanks to the trade with Miami, our simulation managed to get both Cox and Holland on the Eagles, which would be such a huge win and fill two clear holes.
While Miles Sanders could explode next season, don’t forget the Colts used multiple running backs. Patterson comes from a smaller program, but consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus rushing yards and 14-plus touchdowns is absurd. He’ll be a strong No. 2 back in this offense, delivering explosive runs late in games when the defense is tired and Philadelphia is creating holes for him to burst through.