While the Birds made a splash at the 2021 NFL draft by trading up and selecting Heisman winner DeVonta Smith with the tenth pick, he was far from the only new addition to their roster. Find out more about the Eagles’ selections, and what they might bring to the field next year, below.
Round 1: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama (10th overall)
DeVonta Smith was a highly decorated player during his time at Alabama. In addition to winning two national championships with the SEC powerhouse, he also became the first wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991 to take home the Heisman Trophy. He accomplished that feat recording over 1800 yards to go along with 23 touchdowns. The Birds are hoping that firepower will translate to the NFL as second-year quarterback, and fellow Alabama graduate, Jalen Hurts could use a speedster like Smith.
His skinny body frame has earned him the nickname “The Slim Reaper” but it also scared away some NFL teams during the draft as two receivers went before Smith. He will look to prove those teams wrong and bolster the Eagles receiving core alongside Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham.
Round 2: C Landon Dickerson, Alabama (37th overall)
The Birds decided to go right back to Saban’s school in round two with the former Alabama center. Dickerson has been considered one of the best offensive line recruits in the country since he came out of high school. Unfortunately, a slew of injuries during both his time at Florida State and Alabama didn’t allow him to play as much as many scouts hoped. Without such an extensive injury history he certainly would have been a first round selection.
His fit in Philadelphia is expected to be the eventual successor to Jason Kelce. However, he could see immediate playing time as a result of his versatility. Dickerson started at least one game at every offensive line position during his time at Alabama. This pick was a risk as a result of the injury history, but it could potentially pay huge dividends.
Round 3: DT Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech (73rd overall)
The Eagles third round pick was acquired from the Carolina Panthers. They used it to pick their first defensive player of the draft, Milton Williams. It was clear from the reaction among the top Eagles’ executives that not everyone was on board with the pick, but I think Williams has the athletic upside to show he was worth Roseman’s confidence. In the 22 games he played at the DT position across the last two years he registered 10 sacks along with a highlight reel of tackles-for-loss.
Round 4: CB Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech (123rd overall)
The Birds used their fourth round pick, which was acquired from the Miami Dolphins, to make steps toward shoring up their porous secondary with Zech McPhearson. McPhearson gives them versatility in the secondary as someone who can spend time covering receivers both on the outside and in the slot.
Cornerback was a dire need for the Eagles so it’s a good thing they invested draft capital in the position. However, fans would have liked to see this be addressed a little sooner than round four. Either way, McPhearson projects to be a solid pick and he will have an opportunity to compete for playing time right away as a rookie.
Round 5: RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis (150th overall)
In round five Roseman and company decided to add another running back to their backfield stable. Gainwell is more of a mystery than most at his position since he chose to opt out of the 2020 college season. However, Gainwell was incredibly productive during his 2019 campaign, totalling over 2000 all-purpose yards as a threat both as a runner and receiver.
The Eagles already roster a few capable pass-catchers out of the backfield, and recently decided to add another. Still, I think this is a solid pick because running back routinely is a position where depth is a necessity. Additionally, Gainwell was projected to be taken much higher than the fifth round value the Eagles got out of the pick.
Round 6: DE Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina (191st overall)
Round 6: DT Marlon Tuipulotu, USC (189th overall)
Round 6: S/LB JaCoby Stevens, LSU (224th overall)
Philadelphia wound up with three selections to make in the sixth round and opted for defense with all three of their selections. Their first two choices, coupled with their third round selection of DT Milton Williams, shows a strong commitment to their defensive line moving forward. Tuipulotu represents another serious value pick by the Birds as almost every expert had him going earlier. His speciality is his ability to win at the point of attack and push force offensive linemen back, resulting in the opposing quarterback not being able to comfortably step up in the pocket. Meanwhile, Jackson is a high-motor power rusher who makes up for his slightly smaller size with ferocious hand-fighting ability. He figures to begin his career by backing up Brandon Graham.
JaCoby Stevens looks to be between positions. He can exist in the NFL as either an undersized linebacker or oversized strong safety. A tell about where the Eagles plan to use him might be their announcement of him as a linebacker when making the selection. The Birds have had their share of failed attempts to convert safeties to linebackers over the years so hopefully this process goes more smoothly.
Round 7: LB Patrick Johnson, Tulane (234th overall)
The Eagles last pick in the 2021 NFL draft was also devoted to defense. Linebacker Patrick Johnson could just as easily be classified as an edge rusher. At one point in 2020, he led the entire nation in sacks, though he eventually finished in a tie for third place. Since he is too small to play defensive end in the NFL, this will be another conversion job for the defensive coaches of Philadelphia. However, it is expected that outside linebackers will have plenty of blitzing opportunities in Jonathan Gannon’s scheme.