The 2020 NFL Draft will be one of the most unusual drafts in history. Due to the pandemic, draftees are not able to visit with teams. The effect this will have on more risky prospects remains to be seen.
For the Eagles, it’s impossible to pinpoint Howie’s plans for the first round. The team currently holds the 21st pick but a trade is always possible. Howie does have a history of draft day shuffling, after all.
Roseman did this in 2018 when he traded the 32nd pick to Baltimore, a pick they would ultimately use on Lamar Jackson. I’m not knocking Howie for not selecting Lamar Jackson, I’m simply pointing out the pattern. The Eagles front office has seemed to be fine with a more patch-work approach/volume strategy than targeting singular game-changing players. Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside come to mind when thinking of this route.
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There are several positions the team could target on both sides of the ball. On offense, wide receiver is a heavy need. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they opted on taking an interior lineman. On defense, edge depth is needed and the secondary is far from a sure thing all together. Going safety can’t be ruled out, though I personally see it as more unlikely.
If you want my honest guess, I’m on the “take a receiver” train and think they’ll ultimately go this route. Whether they trade up for a guy they’re set on or take their chances in this historically deep class, it’s just simply been too long since the Eagles had a true, homegrown core receiver. The last Eagles wide out to record a 1,000 yard season was Jeremy Maclin.
Anyways, let’s focus on the options at 21. Here are six players the Eagles could select with the 21st overall pick.
Justin Jefferson, WR- LSU
Jefferson was the #4 WR on my top 10 recivers list. In most drafts, a player of his caliber could be considered top two or three at his position. But in a draft like this – with a stacked WR class – Jefferson might just be able to slip to the Eagles at 21.
Now, a-lot of mocks have him going to Oakland at 19. Oakland also has the 12th pick (19th pick is from the Khalil Mack trade), so they could potentially alter Howie’s plans.
With that in mind, you gotta remember that the draft is always about the quarterback position. This is a solid year for quarterbacks and we will likely see three go off the board within the top six picks. Utah State’s Jordan Love is also rising quickly on the boards and could go in the top 15 as well. If we see quarterbacks going fast, this will mightily help the Eagles snag falling guys such as Jefferson or others on this list.
Yetur Gross-Matos DE- Penn State
Gross-Matos is a relatively unknown name outside of Penn State and Big Ten fans. The junior started for two seasons at Penn State, totaling 17 sacks and 34.5 TFL.
Defensive line has always been a position where Howie Roseman values depth. Without the added help last season, we saw the effect on Fletcher Cox. Cox was not the same player in 2019 due to facing double teams a heavy amount.
Gross-Matos would be a solid pick for the birds to help with pass rushing off the edge. Mocks have generally had him in the 20’s, so the PSU product could be a target if the Eagles trade down a few picks, or if they don’t have a lot of options at 21. The question is, does this pick represent the best value for the team when other positions, like receiver, are in dire need?
Xavier McKinney S- Alabama
You can’t go wrong with selecting a defensive player from Alabama in the first round. Every year, Nick Saban is producing multiple first round players and often on both sides of the ball. McKinney is big for a safety at 6’0 ft. tall, but some critique his speed at a 4.6 forty. The Eagles tend to not overlook speed so much at safety, as the team liked to use Malcolm Jenkins a lot in the box on run downs.
If that’s still the route they wanna go, McKinney is a true play-maker. The junior from Roswell, GA forced 4 fumbles in 2019 and also had 3 interceptions, including a pick six. He’s the kind of guy that can come in and immediately play all three downs. He’s one of the top secondary players in the draft, so he could easily be selected before 21. If he’s on the board, however, there’s a chance he could be the best available player.
Patrick Queen MLB- LSU
Linebacker is always a weird position for the Eagles. The team let Jordan Hicks walk last offseason and have been content with a committee in recent years. Jim Schwartz runs a lot of nickel sets with five secondary players, so you don’t see the team with three traditional linebackers very often. Despite the signing of Jatavius Brown and Nate Gerry set to return, don’t rule out the team taking a linebacker in the first few rounds.
While many scoff at this idea due to the league’s devaluation of the position as a whole, there could be a scenario where the best player on the board is a linebacker. There have still been stud linebackers since the league has gone in this direction, linebackers who have made huge contributions on playoff teams.
Patrick Queen could be one of these guys. Queen sat in the shadow of Devin White for some time at LSU and cannot be slept on. He ran a 4.5 forty and was a havoc for opponents in his lone year starting for LSU. Most of LSU’s title credit goes to Joe Burrow and the offense, but Queen deserves praise as well. He was everywhere in two playoff games last season, totaling 16 tackles with four going for a loss.
Again, many expect the 21st pick to be used on a receiver. That said, if the best player on the board (by a large margin) is another position, look towards the aforementioned names.
Tee Higgins WR- Clemson
Higgins is being looked upon as the next best option for the birds if and when Jefferson goes off the board. A few other names include Denzel Mims from Baylor or Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. Higgins is a solid all-around receiver despite not having a ton of speed. He was WR1 on the national runner-up Clemson Tigers as well as in 2018 when his team won the title.
In two seasons, Higgins had 118 catches for 2,103 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has seen comparisons to A.J Green and even Deandre Hopkins for his catching ability. There are certainly better options for the Eagles, but if they get desperate for a wide receiver they might just take a flyer on Higgins with the 21st pick.
Denzel Mims WR- Baylor
The senior out of Baylor produced three consistent seasons starting in Waco. Over those three years, he hauled in 182 catches for 2,901 yards and 28 touchdowns. Mims has good size and speed at 6’3″ and running a 4.38 forty. There are certainly better wide receiver options for the first round but he’s moved ahead of Brandon Aiyuk who recently had core-muscle surgery.
Mims could be an option for the birds but it really comes down to who remains on the board. He’s likely to go at end of the first round, but depending on the direction of the draft he could be a steal with the 21st pick. The team could target him if they trade down but it’s unlikely unless Jefferson or Higgins are gone.