2021 NFL Draft - Thoughts, musings, and Eagles grading (long)

stater02

Well-Known Member
Dec 28, 2007
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I nerd out over the NFL draft every year. I thought that this was an interesting year for many reasons, and figured I'd provide some thoughts that maybe you wouldn't read in the countless Monday morning review articles. I also wanted to wait a week to see where the UFAs sign, and to allow myself a one week cooling off period to remove some of the emotion. Also, I'm an Eagles fan, so I'll provide my thoughts on the Birds. Happy to do so for other teams if anyone has any requests.

Draft Winners: The consensus favorites seem to be the Broncos, Browns, Bears, Jets, WFT, and Chargers. I personally think the Browns and Chargers had the best drafts, but I'll give you a sneaky team whose draft I *really* liked: Detroit. Yes, Detroit. For the Lions, they didn't overthink anything. They took the right guys right where they should take them. Sewell (7) is a 10-year rock at LT, and a real piece to build off of. Levi Onwuzurike (41) and Alim McNeill are fantastic players, and provide an interior defensive line that will force runners to go outside the hashs. Cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (101) and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (112) may not have been top guys, but were highly rated players at their positions. A tier 1 WR was a huge need for the Lions, but you simply can't pass up a guy like Sewell when he's there for you. Maybe go get Julio Jones? Solid A grade for the Lions.

Draft Losers: Houston, Seattle, LA Rams, and San Francisco. The first 3 because they traded away picks to bring in experienced talent, and SF because they leveraged their future to move up to 3 and select a HiPo QB that looked great against weak talent.

Random musings...

1) Despite the Belichick and His Dog memes, the 2020 Virtual Draft mostly sucked. It was great to see fans back in 2021 at a live event, even if it was reduced capacity. The aura wasn't quite there, but it was a step in the right direction. VEGAS 2022 is going to be a lot of fun!

2) I felt bad for the city of Cleveland on night 1. The rain made it look MISERABLE. It reminded me of night 1 at the 2016 NFL Draft (Goff/Wentz year) in Chicago. We froze our butts off that evening. The weather rebounded and Day 2 was nice. Really showed off the beauty of Cleveland's waterfront, which showed well on TV.

3) Can we talk about The Chair? The NFL does some cool fan participation stuff, but that was just awkward. I'll give it some credit for the times where you could tell that the commish informed the fan of their teams pick before it was announced.

4) Regarding talent, there were 2 generational players in this draft: Trevor Lawrence and Kyle Pitts. Overall, this was not a deep draft. The fall off at some positions was especially noticeable, namely QB, WR, CB, LB, DI, TE. There was pretty good depth at EDGE and oline. And we see another year with a greater number of hybrid LBs that can shade into EDGE, or Safety, yet the top 3 or 4 MLBs were traditional run-stuffers.

5) Lots of guys getting drafted for what they did in 2019. Some of these guys are now 20 lbs heavier than their last playing weight. Most GMs will get a "free pass" again this year. It will be nice when we can have a full season and a combine.

6) This was supposed to be THE year of off-season QB shuffling, but 3 big names never found new homes prior to the draft: Rodgers, Garopollo, Watson. Imagine the impact to the draft if Jimmy went back to New England, or if Watson went to the Dolphins, and if Rodgers decided to go to the hapless Bears because they'd also let him host Jeopardy!

7) I simply cannot watch the ESPN coverage any longer. Kiper and McShay were always insufferable, but lately, their "inside info" is wildly inaccurate. Another trend that gets worse every year is the cut to a player minutes before he's drafted. You just know the control room saw the kid take a phone call, celebrate, and then they start showing you his feed like they are the great prognosticators. It's removed any and all mystery from the pick. The NFL Network isn't much better about this.

8) Goodell is a turd, but he makes a great villain and that dude has thick skin to take all of that booing. That said, I don't know if he was tired or what, but he seemed aloof and out of it on Night 1. I think he should concede his duties and come up with a new way to announce the picks.

My take on the Eagles draft...

The Eagles came into the draft with the most picks (11). Leading up to the draft, they gained a 3rd (84) this year from the Colts via the Carson Wentz trade, received a 4th (123), got a 7th (240) back from the 49ers for Marquise Goodwin moving on, and 2 compensatory selections (224, 225). And of course, as part of getting a 1st next year from the Dolphins, we swapped our 6th pick for their 12th pick (more on that later).

The Eagles made 3 draft pick trades during this draft. They combined their 1st (12th) and 3rd (84) to move up 2 spots in the 1st with Dallas (more on this later). They moved back 3 spots in the third round with Carolina and picked up a 6th (more on this later). Finally, they traded two 6th round picks to Seattle for a 5th round in next year's draft (more on this later).

Overall, the pre-draft trade with the Dolphins made sense. Howie is a f*cking moron most of the time, but he actually got this one right. Not only did the Eagles get a 1st rounder in next year's draft, but they still would have missed out on Pitts and Chase if we stayed at 6. Granted, they could have moved up for the right price, but I believe Smith was the guy they wanted all along. So, they still got their guy, and they picked up a 1st round pick in 2022. A "regular" college season and combine will allow for better player analysis and grading, so next year's picks will be much more of a "sure" thing. The Dolphins could be legit this year, so I expect this to net a pick in the 22-25 range. Not bad.

Pick 10 - DaVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Analysis: The Eagles got their guy. Fortunately, they found out that the Giants also wanted him (validated by the fact that they end up taking a WR at 20!) The Cowboys were very unlikely dance partners for the Eagles, but a 3rd round pick was too enticing for them, knowing that they could still land Parsons at 12. With Pitts long gone, and both of the top 2 CBs, Parsons was next on their board. From an Eagles perspective, a 3rd sure seems like a lot to give up, but this was the right move. If Smith was taken by the Giants, I think the Eagles end up trading with the Bears (who ultimately took Justin Fields), and that moves us back to 20, and we take Caleb Farley or Kwity Paye. Still, I would have loved this trade if they gave up a 4 and 6, or a 4/6/7 instead of a 3rd. There was plenty of really good LB, CB, and G talent available at 84 if we had kept that pick, not to mention the ability to move up.

The pick should have been: They selected the correct player.

Grade: A-, with only knock being giving up that 3rd. But Dallas had us over the barrel and we couldn't whiff on a WR again.

Pick 37 - Landon Dickerson, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Are the Eagles becoming Bama North? It took less than 24 hours for Howie to go from temporary hero to dunce. Dickerson is an absolute beast, a mauler. You hear things like, "the best offensive lineman in the class if he could stay healthy." If you're an Eagles fan, you immediately get flashbacks of Sidney Jones. Dickerson has had injuries each and every year of his time at Alabama, including both ACLs. He just cannot stay healthy, and an oft-injured lineman is the one thing that the Eagles already have an abundance of. Dickerson grades out as a Center in the NFL, which makes him the possible heir apparent to Kelce. He will likely see time at Guard this year. There is something to be said about 3 offensive teammates at Alabama playing together at the pro level. We could see some really nice cohesion from these guys. But I simply don't understand the selection of a guy who cannot stay healthy.

The pick should have been: There are SO many other options here that I like better. They could have traded back into the 1st to nab a much-needed CB like Newsome or Stokes. Even if you don't trade up, they had plenty of options at pick 37: Barmore at DI, Asante Samuel Jr at CB, Nick Bolton or JOK at middle linebacker, or literally any healthy lineman (Jenkins, Eichenberg, Little). My pick would have been Asante Samuel Jr.

Grade: C-. Center is not a huge area of need, and we have SO many other critical holes - namely CB and LB. But a D or F is simply too harsh because *IF* Dickerson can remain healthy, it's a steal of a pick.

Pick 73 - Milton Williams, DI, LA Tech

Analysis: Swing and a miss. This is a perfect example of Howie incorrectly thinking he's the smartest guy in the room. He trades back from 70 to 73 to pick up an extra 6th, knowing that there are two guys he wants, and he assumes he can still get one of them at pick 73. Wrong. Both guys get selected and they cannot find a trade back partner fast enough, so they select a DT that is far to light for the position and will get pushed around. You've probably seen the video of a very unhappy Tom Donahoe giving Howie the cold shoulder. And he should. He messed up here by gambling, badly.

The pick should have been: You stay at 70 and take a space eater in Alim McNeill. **** the extra 6th round pick. Who cares?!

Grade: F. This team needs instant contributors, not developmental players.


Pick 123 - Zech McPherson, CB, Texas Tech

Analysis: McPherson was a transfer from Penn State who left because he didn't see the field. He actually had a decent career at Tech, and PFF graded him quite highly at the position. He has slightly below average speed, and is going to struggle in coverage agains top NFL receivers. Depth is good, but the Eagles really needed several CBs, and they needed to take one earlier in the draft than the 4th round.

The pick should have been: In my "what if" scenario, we would have already filled out CB need with Asante Samuel Jr. Therefore, I would have moved up to take Jabril Cox at LB.

Grade: C+. He should see some playing time this season, but he won't offer anything special. It was an area of need, and depth is good.


Pick 150 - Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

Analysis: We saw Gainwell in person when Memphis and Penn State had an offensive explosion in the Cotton Bowl 2 years ago. Gainwell was the #2 back, scoring a touchdown and laying the wood to Micah Parsons on one play in particular. Gainwell should not have been on the board in the 5th round, but he slid because of opting out for 2020 and most teams had other, more pressing needs. Gainwell is being called a "steal" for the Eagles, and I'd agree that there's certainly potential for that. At a minimum, he should contribute right away, and is certainly a solid insurance policy should Miles Sanders miss some time with an injury. Gainwell isn't Sanders, but he very likely is an improvement over Scott and Howard. I expect him to go into the season as the #2 RB, and will see significant time this year regardless of Sanders health.

The pick should have been: You could argue that adding more LB and CB depth makes sense, but it's really hard to argue against picking a top 10 RB in the 5th. I believe this was ultimately the correct pick.

Grade: A-.

Pick 189 - Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC

Analysis: If I told you that the Eagles drafted a former 5-star recruit that played all 4 years at USC (3 as a starter), you'd probably perk up. If I also told you that this was a 317 lb, 6' 3" DT, you'd know he passes the measurables test for the position. And the fact that he was a former state champion wrestler certainly doesn't hurt. Despite the pedigree and physical attributes, Tuipulotu just was not as productive as he should have been. His fellow DT opted out for 2020 and was still drafted higher. Tuipulotu is a high effort guy, who loves to compete...he just doesn't win the battles often. He needs to work on staying low and gaining leverage, and he REALLY needs to improve his tackling. He struggles to get off blocks in time to stop a running back, and he needs to be much better about creating pressure on the QB. Tuipulotu has a ton of potential, but some bad habits that need to be coached out of his game. Ultimately, I think you get a two-deep DT player who is best suited for 1st and 2nd down situations due to his inability to impose his will and create chaos in the pocket.

The pick should have been: It's hard to argue against this one. Tuipulotu has significant potential and it's a good pick in the 6th round. Just don't fool yourself into thinking it's a huge steal. There's a reason he dropped this far.

Grade: B+

Pick 191 - Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina

Analysis: Eagles went back on the clock 2 picks later and grabbed Jackson, a dominant Sun Belt conference player who was highly productive in his Junior and Senior seasons. He was highly recruited by App State before ultimately signing with Coastal. Jackson has had some injuries throughout his college career, and it will be interesting to see if his productivity translates from a non-Power 5 school to the NFL. He was explosive in college, but may seem pedestrian when playing at NFL speeds.

The Eagles needed an EDGE. Graham is getting old, and both Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett are free agents after this year. After those guys, you have Matt Leo and Joe Ostman. Yikes. Given the lack of depth and possibility of losing the top 3 DEs after this season, picking an EDGE here makes sense. That said, it's difficult to get too excited about Jackson just yet.

The pick should have been: It becomes more difficult to nit-pick as we approach the end of the draft. Overall, I'm fine with the pick.

Grade: B-

Pick 224 - JaCoby Stevens, LB, LSU

Analysis: Finally a linebacker, right?! But wait, Stevens actually projects as a Safety. Roseman values tweeners, as they give him flexibility. The one area where the Eagles did an incredible job in the off-season was in convincing Anthony Harris to sign a 1-year "prove it" deal for $5M. Stevens adds good depth to both the safety position and outside linebacker. He is athletic and should be a solid contributor to special teams and will occasionally see the field in a nickel package.

The pick should have been:

Grade: B-

Pick 234 - Patrick Johnson, LB, Tulane

Analysis: Another tweener. Unlike Stevens, who projects as a S/LB hybrid, Johnson projects as an EDGE/LB hybrid. He'll be an off-ball linebacker, dropping into short coverage, and occasionally pressuring from the outside. The good news is that he was very productive at Tulane, and really came into his own during his senior year. He also had a very impressive Pro Day. Johnson is another hybrid that gives positional flexibility in today's NFL. The obvious question is can he be "good enough" in coverage, and is he strong enough to dominate in pass rush situations.

The pick should have been: I have no real issue with the pick, but Justin Hilliard and Dylan Moses were two alternative LB plays that I also liked here. There was still some solid talent available to add depth at CB or even WR. Marlon Williams or Austin Watkins could have been interesting WR plays, while Shakur Brown would have added some depth at corner.

Grade: B

OVERALL EAGLES GRADE FOR THIS DRAFT: B-. If they would have taken Alim McNeill at 70 instead of trading back to 73, this is a solid B+ draft for the birds. Heading into the season, Birds fans have to hope that Carson stays healthy in Indy so that 2nd round pick becomes a first, allowing for the team to trade up to take a top QB, or to have 3 picks to fill positions of need, which are most certainly going to be EDGE and CB, possibly also LB.
 
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Obliviax

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Aug 21, 2001
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Nice post...thanks.

The NFL really did it right. They are over-the-top and I didn't like the chair thingy but they really decked out CLE nicely. The weather was awful Thursday night and it has been a really beautiful spring; perhaps the best I can ever remember (as I cut the lawn three times a week). However, Saturday was really gorgeous.

Word is the NFL is going to do the drafts in cities that will never host a Super Bowl due to proximity and weather. Good move.

I got a kick out of the one coach having a framed photo of Goodall in his office. Pretty funny.

The Browns are ecstatic over the draft. The LB they got was what many people projected as their first-rounder for the Browns. So they ended up getting two guys of first-round quality for almost nothing. Plus, that LB fits the defense the browns will run next year. They want to have several, really fast, interchangeable parts at LB, S and DE. They'll like up in all kinds of places to confuse the QB then play accordingly once the ball is snapped. They are doing this to beat the mobile QBs
 
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stater02

Well-Known Member
Dec 28, 2007
365
354
1
The Browns are ectatic over the draft. The LB they got was what many people projected as their first-rounder for the Browns. So they ended up getting two guys of first-round quality for almost nothing. Plus, that LB fits the defense the browns will run next year. They want to have several, really fast, interchangeable parts at LB, S and DE. They'll like up in all kinds of places to confuse the QB then play accordingly once the ball is snapped. They are doing this to beat the mobile QBs

Thats JOK, the LB out of ND that I wanted the Eagles to trade up to take in the late second. Browns had THE best draft, period. A+. But that’s a universal take so I wanted to highlight a team that wasn’t quite getting it’s due.
 
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