The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (12)
Round 2 (37)
Round 3 (70)
Round 3 (84)
Round 4 (123)
Round 5 (150)
Round 6 (189)
Round 6 (189)
Round 6 (224)
Round 7 (225)
Round 7 (240)
Philadelphia Eagles Offense
By Rich Hribar
Nothing the Eagles did a year ago was particularly successful, especially in the passing game. For the season, the Eagles checked out of 2020 30th in the league in expected points via their passing game.
Starting Carson Wentz through 12 games, the Eagles had just a 40% successful passing play rate and averaged 6.1 yards per passing play. The final four weeks with Jalen Hurts, that dipped down to a 37% success per passing play with a spike of 6.6 yards per passing play.
With Wentz traded, the Eagles brought in Joe Flacco as a veteran signing and the team traded down out of their original pick at No. 6 overall. The early signs all point to the Eagles giving Hurts at least 2021 to audition for the full-time job after selecting him in the second round last season.
Hurts was last in the league in completion rate (52%), but also last in expected completion rate (55.5%) as he had the highest depth of target (10.1 yards downfield) of all quarterbacks last season. Connecting on some deep shots, Hurts did lead all rookie passers in yards per pass attempt (7.7 Y/A) from a clean pocket, something the Eagles should have more of this season.
As a bonus, the 272 rushing yards for Hurts in those starts were second in league history for a quarterback over his first career four starts behind Lamar Jackson. Hurts was not on a winning team in playoff run to close his rookie season, but a lot of the questions people cited for Jackson coming out of his partial rookie season are being thrown around for Hurts this offseason.
The Eagles still may add another rookie contract quarterback to the mix for competition and contract depth, but if that happens it will be from a lower-tiered rookie.
The Eagles were ninth in the NFL with 2,027 rushing yards and tied for 16th with 16 rushing scores, but their quarterbacks accounted for 31.1% of their rushing yardage and 50% of their rushing scores.
2019 second-rounder Miles Sanders missed five games due to injury, but still showed off his upside per play with touchdown runs of 74 and 82 yards. Sanders improved as a runner, but took a step back as a receiver out of the backfield in 2020, as he was able to secure just 28-of-52 targets (53.8%). Sanders had some self-induced drops (eight), but also was dead last in catchable target rate (71%) among backs with more than 20 targets. Sanders caught 9-of-13 targets from Jalen Hurts after just 19-of-39 from Carson Wentz.
Sanders still has two more years on his rookie deal, while both Jason Huntley and Adrian Killins were 2020 rookies with low-leverage commitments. Direct backup Boston Scott has been a fine relief player and spot starter the past two seasons. He is only under contract through this season, but is a restricted free agent after this season. The team also brought back veteran Jordan Howard. Considering the direction the Eagles are moving in re-shaping this roster, it is hard to see them using anything but a late-round pick on running back depth if they draft the position at all.
Greg Ward Jr.
Even though the Eagles selected three wideouts in the draft last year and another in the second round the year prior, this roster still is chasing production from the position.
The Eagles’ wide receiving unit combined to finish 30th in the league in receptions per game (10.4) and 29th in yardage per game (130.1). The Eagles only targeted their wideouts on 53% of their pass attempts, which was 29th in the league and were 30th in the league in success rate on those targets (47%).
Greg Ward led the team in targets (79), receptions (53), and touchdowns (six) in 2020 while off-the-street pickup Travis Fulgham led the team with 539 yards.
First-round pick Jalen Reagor missed five games due to injury and when on the field, caught just 31-of-54 targets for 396 yards and one touchdown. Catching just one pass for 55 yards in his season debut Week 1, those 55 yards ended up as a season-high. With Jalen Hurts, Reagor caught 12-of-21 targets for 174 yards in their small sample together as rookies.
The Eagles are still in a position where they need talent at wide receiver despite their recent swings in the draft at the position.
Only the Raiders targeted their tight ends more than the Eagles last season at 30% of their passes, but as has been the running theme so far, they still struggled through the air as those targets resulted in a 52% success rate (21st) and 7.1 yards per target (15th).
Dallas Goedert missed five games due to a calf injury, but has managed to raise his receptions and yardage per game in each of his seasons in the league to go along with his yards per catch. Goedert enters 2021 in the final year of his rookie contract.
What also hurt the Eagles is that Zach Ertz completely hit a wall. After seeing his efficiency begin to dwindle in 2019, the bottom fell out for Ertz in 2020. Playing in just 11 games, the 30-year-old tight end ended up posting just 3.3 receptions for 30.5 yards per game with just one touchdown, contributing career lows with 9.3 yards per reception and 4.7 yards per target. His 6.5 targets per game were his fewest since 2014, his second year in the league. Ertz is still on the roster, but has been rumored to be a potential trade candidate all offseason and we may see him actually moved during the draft.
With Goedert’s contract status expiring and Ertz being potentially dealt, the Eagles are still wide open to selecting a tight end despite a gaggle of names at the back end of the roster.
LT: Andre Dillard/Jordan Mailata
LG: Isaac Seumalo/Iosua Opeta
C: Jason Kelce/Jake Juriga/Ross Pierschbacher
RG: Brandon Brooks/Nate Herbig
RT: Lane Johnson/Jack Driscoll
No team was as jammed up across the offensive line last season to the degree of the Eagles. Football Outsiders had the Eagles with 57.1 adjusted games lost due to offensive line injuries. The next closest team (Dallas) was at 46.4.
Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles prior to the season while 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard missed the entire season as well with a biceps injury. To tack on, Lane Johnson (nine missed games) and Isaac Seumalo (seven missed games) each spent time on injured reserve during the season. By the end of the season, the Eagles used 14 different offensive line combinations.
Projected starters in Johnson, Brooks, Dillard, and Seumalo are all under contract through at least the next two seasons while the team retained starting center Jason Kelce on a one-year deal this offseason, who will turn 34-years-old this November. Brooks has been a name that has come up in trade rumors, but coming off of his injury (with multiple other significant injuries over the past year-plus) and sizeable contract, there needs to be some maneuvering to get there.
Just getting their starting lineup back healthy is a major stride for the Eagles, but the only depth they have signed beyond 2021 is last season’s fourth-round pick Jack Driscoll while still potentially needing a replacement in 2021 for Brooks and a future replacement for Kelce in 2022.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Javon Hargrave was a big free agent signing last offseason and was arguably better than could have been expected. He was sixth among defensive tackles in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate and 10th in pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions. Though that only led to 4.5 sacks, it did open some things up for Fletcher Cox, who had 6.5 sacks and the 15th-best pressure rate among defensive tackles.
Cox will turn 32 years old this season but still has more than enough juice to be a disruptive interior defender. He also still has 2022 on his contract, so it’s not as if the Eagles need an immediate backup plan, especially with Hargrave on the roster, who just turned 28 years old in February.
For as much that went wrong for the Eagles defense last season, getting pressure wasn’t a concern. Philadelphia ranked fourth in pressure rate, according to SIS. Brandon Graham, of course, played a big role there. Graham was 32nd among edge defenders in pressure rate and 21st in total pressures, per SIS. Derek Barnett ranked 40th with just under half the defensive snaps played. Josh Sweat was 98th among 124 qualified edge rushers last season and barring an addition, the former fourth-round pick will have to step into a bigger rotational role.
A big loss on the line was Vinny Curry, who spent the past two seasons and a high-impact rotational end for the Eagles. Curry only played 28% of the defensive snaps, but was 19th among edge defenders in pressure rate.
With how often the Eagles have rotated their defensive ends in the past, it’s likely something will be added to the depth chart during the draft.
Linebacker is a potentially philosophical battle between the organization’s view of the position and how new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was brought up with the Colts. Gannon was the defensive backs coach in Indianapolis but the Colts’ coverage schemes relied on great range from linebackers such as Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke. The Eagles, well, they don’t have anything close to that.
Given the lack of movement in the free agent market, it appears the organizational view might be the winner — though it doesn’t necessarily take premium investment for the position. In Indianapolis, Leonard was a second-round pick and Okereke was drafted in the third.
Perhaps the most interesting name here is Genard Avery, who the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick for before the season, will convert to linebacker. This is likely a position where the Eagles throw as many bodies as possible at the problem and hope something sticks.
UPDATE: Literally seconds after this posted, the Eagles announced they signed Eric Wilson to a one-year deal. Wilson played 96% of the snaps for the Vikings in 202o and comes from a scheme Gannon coached with the Vikings as a defensive assistant from 2014-2017.
The Eagles made a big swing to bring in Darius Slay via trade. That didn’t work out too well in Year 1. Slay ranked 124th of 142 cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap (which adjusts for touchdowns and interceptions). Avonte Maddox moved to play a lot of outside corner. That didn’t work out too well, either. Maddox ranked 133rd of those 142 corners. Those are the top two returners from the 2020 squad.
A scheme change away from Jim Schwartz will likely help, but even if both Slay and Maddox bounce back, there’s not much behind them. The Eagles either need a slot corner or a starter outside if Maddox is bumped inside.
This could easily be where the Eagles go in the first round, should they feel a player such as Jaycee Horn is worth it. But according to data from Grinding The Mocks, it’s more likely for the Eagles to go that route on Day 2 than at pick No. 12.
Jalen Mills played better in his switch to safety than he did at corner, but he was allowed to leave in free agency. That’s not much of an issue since he’ll be replaced by Anthony Harris, who signed on a one-year/$5 million deal in free agency. Harris was one of the league’s best safeties during the 2019 season and even with a step back in 2020, he’ll be a huge improvement over what was back there last season. But with just one year on the deal, he’s not a long-term answer.
Rodney McLeod played 79% of the defensive snaps and remained a plus player in the secondary with most of his snaps coming deep in 2020. McLeod will be 31 years old in June and only has 2021 remaining on his contract.
There is some intriguing young depth here. Marcus Epps played mostly special teams but flashed potential when he got on the field for defensive snaps. K’Von Wallace was a do-it-all type safety for Clemson but the 2020 fourth-round pick didn’t get on the field often until late in the season.